By Amit Younger
Over the years I have participated in many discussions regarding the benefits of doing Pilates at home vs. taking guided classes in a Pilates studio. I think all Pilates teachers and devotes know that home practice would benefit anyone - whether you take classes in a studio or not; experienced or not; whether you “do it exactly correctly” (whatever that means) or not… but sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly why.
So let’s talk about why it is SO good to practice Pilates at home, on your own. And for the sake of this discussion let’s assume that it makes no difference what medium you are using (online streaming, DVD or a book). It is the fact that YOU are in charge and YOU are accountable that makes the difference.
Responsibility is a great word and a key word in Pilates. Key word in any endeavor to make changes to your own body and to your self in general really. How tempting is it to go to a guided class thinking - “right, I have been in charge of X Y and Z all day… now my teacher is in charge… they will tell me what to do and how to do it and when to do it…and I’ll just follow their lead and do as I am told”? Well… trouble is that it does not really work this way. In order to benefit the most from this amazing method one has to be responsible for their own practice. I didn’t make it up… really!! That is how this method was handed down from Mr. Pilates himself. But in today’s world it is easier for the client to say- “guide me” and equally easy for teachers to say “OK, I will… rather than say - Well, actually… YOU need to be in charge of your own workout; I’m only here to help and guide you in the process”. Home practice puts you at the helm- you are in charge of what is going to happen here- how long the class is going to be and at what level, how many times you are going to stop in the middle of the class (for whatever reason) and more importantly- how focused, precise, attentive and centered you are going to be. And that is a great thing!!
When you are in charge of your choices and in charge of the outcome then the process you are going through benefits you much more. And I would claim that this is a big part of what makes Pilates a mind-body method; your mind does not get sharper by following instructions and repeating movement patterns mind-less-ly. Your mind gets sharper by following instructions carefully with attention to detail. It gets sharper by owning the movement experience and having an understanding (intellectual and visceral) of what it takes to be successful in performing those movements. And this is why this process is so very beneficial to so many other areas of our lives- because the skills we acquire and improve on with every session will be there in every thing that we do in life.
And this is also why you will never “get it wrong” when practicing on your own. Because the essence of what you are doing is there - it is the fact that you have chosen the right level class for yourself and you have chosen to do it to your timescale and you are there following the class to the best of your ability that makes the difference. There is no “perfect” in Pilates. There is only ever “the best you can do it right now”. And if that is what you are doing and as long as there is no pain or discomfort… then you are fine. And guess who is in charge of making sure there is no pain or discomfort… yes, you’ve got it right… it is you, whether at home or in the studio- it is always you.
I know it is difficult to find the right time to exercise at home and I know it is difficult to motivate yourself to do it. It is always true and it probably applies equally to all other activities as well. So here are a few tips that will keep you motivated and will help you make home practice a success:
- Make the financial commitment. When people sign up for classes at my studio we always encourage them to pay for up to 40 classes in advance. When you make this kind of commitment you are more likely to find a way to make it work and since within 40 classes you will most definitely see the results you will be much more likely to sign up for 40 more. The same works for home practice…
- Make the time commitment. Make an appointment with your virtual teacher to a time of the day that works for you and do NOT cancel or change the appointment. Emails, house chores and any errands can wait! If it makes you feel good then it is worth the time invested!!
- Classes don’t have to be 60 minutes long. Any length of class will benefit you, but do make sure not to take only 10 minutes classes. Try 30 and 45 minutes as much as you can and 60 minutes at least once every few weeks.
- Pace yourself. In the words of the great Joe Pilates: “Patience and Persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor”
- Put a system in place. Following a pre-planned program will help you commit to the process.
Follow these tips and you will not only benefit greatly but will also enjoy the process and the outcome tremendously!! And if you take studio classes I promise and guarantee that those will become so much more profound as well with your home practice!!
Enjoy the ride :)