Thursday, August 24th 2017

The Pilates ‘body-rush’

Pilates can be as spiritual an experience as yoga. One teacher’s spontaneous guided meditation at the end of class

Nicole Pilates

BY PAUL KAIHLA — People often talk about the “body-rush” they feel after doing pilates, and I experienced a long-lasting wave of that after a class this weekend.

There was this swirl of energy and aliveness in my body, and elation in the mind. It doesn’t happen for me every time. A lot depends on the presence of the instructor and who is in the room.

At the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco we have Nicole Tesson, a dancer by training.

To me, dancers like her are a step ahead of a lot of us in their spiritual evolution because their whole discipline is devoted to bridging the Cartesian division between mind and body.

The dance profession, by the way, preserved pilates for the rest of us, during decades of relative obscurity after Joseph Pilates introduced it in the 1930s in New York (to dancers in George Ballanchine’s and Martha Graham’s companies). Pilates finally became a fad among the beautiful people in L.A. in the 1990s, and now it’s a staple in the training repertoire of virtually every professional sports team in America. But dancers remain the first and foremost apostles of pilates.

The reason I think it’s also a spiritual practice is because it literally works on the core of your being, the muscles and tissues deep in your torso and that wrap around your bones. It takes so much attention to isolate these muscles that you can only do the movements if you totally withdraw your awareness from work-a-day thoughts. The movements bring you out of your mind and into your body — into a quasi-meditative state.

Nicole brought us all the way into one at the end of our class with these words that she later said, “just came out of my mouth”:

Bring yourself back into your breathing.

Enjoy your breathing . . .

Feel the weight of your body melt into the mat.

Let the inside fall to the outside,

and the outside, fall to the floor.

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