Pilates: Not Another Fitness Fad
15th August 2018
As you enter the studio, on the right, there is a framed photograph with one of Joseph Pilates’ most famous quotes:
"In 10 sessions you'll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you'll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you'll have a whole new body."
This is a bold claim! You can see why it’s used by Pilates studios the world over to attract custom. Complete physical transformation in just 30 classes? Sign me up!
When I first read this, alarm bells started ringing in my brain. "Here we go again," I thought. "Yet another form of exercise where the focus isn’t about health and wellbeing but about something as boring and unimportant as physical appearance". In a world where we’re conditioned to be dissatisfied with just about everything we have, from our belongings to our own physical looks, no wonder the prospect of a "whole new body" is an effective marketing tool.
However, I decided to silence the alarm bells, reserve judgment and keep an open mind. And I’m glad I did. Here’s why…
First of all, we need to think about this quote in the context and time period in which it was said. Joseph Pilates was born in 1883. He endured various illnesses throughout his childhood, including asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. You can see why he endeavoured to improve his physical health. And his dedication to exercise really paid off – he transformed from sickly child into gymnast, skier, boxer and diver.
Next, fast forward to World War 1. Pilates worked as a caretaker and nurse in an internment camp in England with fellow German nationals. Here, he dedicated himself to improving the lives of the many inmates who were left with illnesses and physical injuries because of the war. He did this using his new method ‘Contrology’, which helped to re-build their strength, ease their pain and transform their potentially immobile or severely damaged bodies into bodies which functioned again.
So, his statement about achieving a "whole new body" certainly wouldn’t have had the connotations it does today. Instead of "a whole new body" in the superficial sense, Pilates’ "whole new body" meant a body that was pain-free, fatigue-free, strong and capable of things it wasn’t before: rehabilitation and transformation in a more holistic physical sense rather than just a surface-level one.
What’s really refreshing is that is this philosophy that is upheld at Bälans. You don’t hear words like bikini body, bingo wings, beach ready, summer bod, spare tyre, muffin top, love handles or mummy tummy here. At Bälans, Pilates is about helping all sorts of people to get their bodies working for them. Pilates helps mothers, pre- and post-birth, people with joint pain, back pain, runners, cyclists, aerial gymnasts, people with multiple sclerosis, people with arthritis, people going through the menopause and even little people like baby Albie who has hypotonia (poor muscle tone) caused by Prader-Willi Syndrome.
Over the past two months, I’ve been happy to see that Bälans isn’t here to transform the bodies of clients purely so they can look good and ‘hit the beach’ with confidence. That might be a nice side effect of practising Pilates, but I don’t think it’s the core goal. Instead, Bälans is here to help people work their bodies so that they feel as good as possible and can be used to enjoy life to the max.