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Pilates as an Embodied Practice

Pilates was initially developed as a somatic or embodied practise in which movement is performed consciously. In other words, a person focuses on the internal experience rather than the action's external appearance or result. Embodiment, then, is all about our bodies in the present moment – listening instead of demanding. Think of it as an experiential or felt sense versus a cognitive analysis. 

Joseph Pilates' intention was to develop a daily program that would supplement the lack of natural physical demands in modern society. Often, we put ourselves in "task performance mode" to get things done, which makes us armour up our bodies and forge ahead. However, if we perform mindfully, we can become healthier in a holistic way – body, mind, and spirit. 

Essentially, Pilates is the antidote to our “daily grind.”

Gaining Control

If you are looking to incorporate a more embodied practice to your movement, you first need to acquire control. Like Pilates advises, "…purposely acquire complete control of your own body [to] progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."

Control tends to have a rigid connotation. As for myself, I interpret it to be a sense of our body in space. I'll ask questions like what part of the body is moving or still? Can you lift your leg and remain centred and unmoving through your torso? What is the position of the torso and limbs? Is there a gripping or bracing of the body that's interfering with the connection to the ground and taking us off of our centre?

Often, the emphasis is placed on exercise performance and voluntary muscle activation without feeling into the body to sense where the movement is coming from. When we control our movement and move in a coordinated way, we can ensure the muscles' proper development.

My interpretation of the exercises is that they challenge us to establish a position and move the body in such a way that we're aware of what's moving and what's still. 

Remember, the outcome is to be healthier in a holistic way instead of just burning calories or building bigger muscles. Real change comes with an embodied approach.

"Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and lose all the vital benefits of their value."

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