What does it take to progress to the next level in your Pilates practice? As cliché as it may sound, it is the mind-body connection. The biggest obstacle to progress in Pilates is not lack of strength or flexibility, but lack of control and concentration. In order for there to be control, the mind has to be engaged.
I have heard it said “Wherever you are, be present.” This is as applicable in a Pilates workout as it is in life.
At the basic or beginner level you are placed in safe, albeit challenging, positions. You have the time to think about lengthening your spine, drawing your abdominal muscles in and up and tightening your seat. Your body is well supported by the mat or apparatus and you are not going anywhere. If you fall, you are not going far.
With time, and patience, and mastery of the exercises that at first seemed so difficult, you will be introduced to new exercises that challenge your endurance, strength and balance. Initially these exercises may seem a little scary, but if you hold fast to the principles you have already learned and stay focused, your mind will process the instructions you are being given and lead you through the movements to the best of your abilities.
Train your mind to remain an active participant through your workouts by learning the order of the exercises, especially in Mat work and on the Reformer. Transition from one exercise to the next with as few movements as possible, being efficient and to the point. Remember to breathe! Ensure that you are ALWAYS aiming for a two-way stretch with a strong centre. Do this and you will find yourself seamlessly progressing through the levels.
What’s more, once you know what your body should be doing through each exercise, your instructor will be able to devote more time and energy to helping you get the most out of it instead of simply teaching you the order of movements.
Start at the Beginner level, master it, but don’t dwell there. Take what you learn there and challenge yourself to rise up to the next level. The fun is just about to begin!