A Whole Lot o’ Pilates

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Ever since my wife got on this Pilates kick, I’ve been slowly getting sucked into the “fad”.

Turns out it’s really not so much of a fad. I’m always suspicious of anything that gets “popular”. I know that’s unfair, but that’s the way it is. But as I learn more, I’m getting the feeling that there really is nothing new in this Pilates stuff. I guess that kinda makes sense, since after all, it was invented sometime around the 1930’s or 1940’s, by a guy who was born in 1880! I’ll try to explore some of my own examples of “why this is nothing new” in a future post. (But I’ll probably forget to do that. :-()

Today I had a private session with a “Master Instructor”, over at a great Pilates studio in Madison, NJ called Mind Over Movement. If you’ve ever done such a thing, you can probably understand why I count today a good day as a result. But… if you’ve never had a private session with a fabulously talented Pilates instructor – well, I can only say that you are missing out on an important part of life.

Or so I now believe. Since I am being bitten by the Pilates bug. Big time.

You see, I am one of the most conservative people you are ever going to meet, and that makes me a stubborn mule about certain things. It means I sometimes act like a know-it-all, and sometimes shrug off new ideas. I tell myself that I have good reasons – after all, the ideas I currently hold dear had to fight their way in past that same wall of conservatism, so they tend to be pretty robust and worth-holding ideas.

But here’s the thing. I spend an hour with someone who barely knows me and that person tells me things about my posture, strength, and flexibility that are so spot-on they immediately strike a chord. I can’t say that I always understand them or the implications of the advice or instruction on the first try – many of these pearls of wisdom I have had to hear a half dozen times before they have finally started to really settle into my mis-aligned head. But it’s almost embarrassingly obvious in retrospect.

Here are some of my quirks, which I’ve lived with for over 40 years and never before thought of as a quirk or a problem:

  • My shoulders turn inward, far more than they should.
  • My knees turn outward, far more than they should.
  • I am bow-legged.
  • I can easily touch my toes, but I cheat in ways that “normal” people wouldn’t ever notice.
  • I’m really not particularly flexible in any of the good ways, even though I always seemed to be the only guy I knew who could easily touch his toes and get into a Lotus posture. Again, it turns out that I sort of  “cheat”.
  • I grew up thinking that these were the only muscles in the body: biceps, triceps, shoulders, lats, traps, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, pecs, and abs. And that terrible misconception shows, in that nearly all of my movements are completed using just these “larger” and more “prominent” muscles and groups, to the terrible expense of my smaller and now quite undeveloped millions of other muscles scattered around my body. The result of this is that I am generally not very “grounded”.

This is all my layman’s analysis of the situation, of course. The actual “Master Instructor” lingo and analysis is far more interesting and helpful!



I Must Have Been Raised By Whales

Typically, I breathe about once per hour. I’m only partly kidding. I breathe the way a whale does, except whales are supposed to breathe that infrequently.

Since childhood, I’ve known that I’m a “bad” breather. I was diagnosed with asthma at an early age, given an inhaler, and told that I had a problem.

Within a few years, still at an early age, I had self-diagnosed myself with “hysterical asthma”. It was clear to me that my problem was controllable, without medicine or kid-gloves.

How did I know? Well, for me it was clear because:

  • The benefits of my inhaler only lasted about five minutes.
  • A one-hour yoga session yielded benefits that lasted many hours.
  • I typically “clench” a lot and then gasp for air.
  • When I think about it, I breathe much better.
  • And, my Pilates instructor is always telling me, “There needs to be more breathing.” Her mentor is always telling me similar things.

And when she says that, I rise, whale-like, and take a massive gulp of air, then go back to ignoring my lungs.

Also, I am not breathing right now. I am writing, which takes precedence.

All I Need to Know About Mental Health I Learned From Riding Airplanes

All things considered, my personal life is FAR more complex than my work life, and still, the big majority of my time outside sleep is devoted to work. It’s okay mostly, but frequently I realize that there is an important part that I haven’t dealt with in a while, where problems start to crop up and I end up having a lot of low-grade stress. Sometimes it goes on for a while before I realize what’s happening.

When I get that feeling I always think of the advice they give on airplanes, where they remind you to put on your own oxygen mask first before trying to put someone else’s on for them. And then, stupidly, I go ahead and hand out oxygen masks to others while gasping for air myself!


Relaxation is important, as is oxygen.