Week 6: Opposition and Growth
Last week I had mentioned that though Pilates is so difficult, at least you are able to take a short rest in
between exercises. Learning the Pilates method is never-ending; it changes and evolves due to science
and teacher perception of what Joseph Pilates designed (since it was mostly intuitive). Let me stand
corrected. As I was doing some online reading, I came across this: “Part of the work on the reformer is to
strive for smooth transitions between each exercise. As you do so, you find that connecting one exercise
to the next smoothly, becomes an exercise in itself. Your body never gets a rest.” Completing the
transitions properly (and gracefully) is still a lot of work for me. And I know now that if I am doing them
correctly, it should be work. Alycea Ungaro of Real Pilates NYC once said in a Pilatesology© video that
your muscles should never turn off during a session. This has stuck with me and I try to keep it in the
forefront of my mind during a session.
I’m still having trouble with remembering the names of all exercises that I’m completing. This week, I
was asked to complete a variety of new exercises – I’m learning them so fast that I don’t remember who
or when they were taught to me! But, some additional related reading is helping me learn more during
This week, I think I passed a hurdle. We took mid-way photos. The difference in muscle tone is amazing!
It’s not huge, but to me, it is noticeable. My posture, although it was not bad, is even better. Joseph
Pilates’ age-old saying that we have quoted earlier: “In ten sessions you’ll feel the difference, in twenty
you’ll see the difference and in thirty you’ll have a whole new body” is ringing true so far. I feel the
difference immediately after every session and it carries me through until the next. I have completed
approximately 18 sessions within the past six weeks. It’s hard to imagine what a little more work over
the next month will accomplish.
I also surprised myself with knowing (somewhat) the order of the advanced Pilates reformer. Well, I
mean the beginning. I haven’t quite made it entirely through in one session yet as when we explain and
correct exercises, we take a little bit more time that we would if I didn’t need that correction. I am
getting there! Part of the order, from which I’ve practiced in the past, is changing. From the beginner to
intermediate to advanced reformer, exercises tend to be in different order, or some are replaced
altogether. So getting a hang of that has been a challenge, but trusting your instructors to walk you
through makes it attainable. While a goal is to eventually be able to run through the reformer series
without cues, part of what makes Pilates so great is that teacher-student connection. They see things
that I cannot see or sometimes cannot feel. They push me to do things that I say I cannot do but
complete. They get sincerely excited when I do accomplish a new exercise or do one I know correctly, in
alignment and with flow. The hands-on teaching also sets this method apart; it helps to bring so much
more awareness to your body than I’ve ever experienced within physical exercise before.
Fast forward to the end of the week – On Thursday, Erin had me work on the classical mat for the hour.
What always amazes me about Pilates is the attention to opposition. You push, you pull; you contract,
you lengthen. Some days you are a ball of sweat, others you don’t break a sweat at all. Some days you
feel worked, others you don’t feel as though you did much at all. And some days you feel as though you
progressed, and others you feel as though you just can’t get it. Thursday was a tough day for me. I didn’t
break a sweat, though I did get into my lower and upper abdominal muscles deeply. I worked on the
control between exercises (like the series of five). But for a while, we stopped to focus on and correct
my feet. I have weak ankles due to many sprains, and my left ankle was sickle-ing during Pilates stance.
We worked with the Theraband to strengthen my ankles and to work specific muscles outside of my calf.
This resulted in various foot and toe cramps that I painfully worked through. At the end of the session,
we focused on standing foot work. Again, while I wasn’t breaking a sweat, it took tremendous focus to
keep aligned. I realize that I have a lot of work, still, to go to access and build specific muscles in my body
to assist in my success of the Pilates method. So all in all, while I went home slightly discouraged
because my ankles have a mind of their own, I’m more determined than ever to correct that and prove
to myself that I do have the ability to reach my goal.