One of the most valuable offerings of a Pilates workout is the ability to clear your mind, but so many people never take full advantage of this benefit. They enter the studio and bring with them all the things they need to do, the things they have just done and the tremendous pressures of everyday life. Whenever a student shows up at the studio and I can “see” the baggage they are carrying, I tell them to “leave it at the door.”
Joe Pilates encouraged us to bring our minds to our workouts. All his underlying principles incorporate focus and require us to be completely present in our work. One of the main principles of Pilates, of course, is concentration. When we use the mind to guide the body, the work is never executed on autopilot. A centered mind is needed for a centered body. Joe Pilates stressed using five aspects of our mind: intelligence, intuition, imagination, will and memory. When you fully engage your mind, you free it.
With that in “mind,” let me share a few things I do for both my clients and myself:
1. Leave it at the door: When entering the studio, I tell myself that I have chosen to be here and am committed to the time. There is nothing I can do about all the other things, and they will be there when I get done. (And if they’re not, well, then, that’s even better!)
2. Find a focus (intelligence): I know what I am lacking in my workout. For example, if your teacher is always telling you to squeeze your bottom, then that would be a great place to focus when you are working.
3. Go with your gut (intuition): If you are truly present in your workout, you will know which exercise suits you and what ones do not. Every day your body is in a different place. Some days we are full of energy, some days we are not. Honor the place you are in that day and adjust accordingly during your workout.
4. Find a way to let go of outside pressures (imagination): I have a fellow teacher who keeps an empty basket by the studio entrance and has her clients mentally deposit their baggage there.
5. Keep bringing yourself back to focus (will): As you work, your focus may drift, so keep bringing yourself back to where you are and challenge yourself to build your focus with each lesson.
6. Make yourself learn the order of your workout (memory): Learning the order of your workout has many benefits. One is that it helps to keep the mind sharp by using and developing your memory. One first-generation teacher told me that Joe would tell him to do Reformer, then do everything he knew on the Cadillac, then on the Wunda Chair, and so on.
Remember: When you bring your mind to your workout, you free yourself from the pressure of everyday life. This allows you a break—to breathe, regroup and be able to approach life with a fresh, clean and clear vantage point. It helps to teach you to be present; in the now. Your workout is your moving meditation.
So the next time you enter the studio, remember that this is your time for you. It’s one short precious hour to lose the stress of the day, so “leave it at the door.”