Pilates: Empowering Yourself for a Lifetime

I have been exercising most of my life. As a former athlete, dancer and current Pilates Instructor, my physical abilities always have been front and center in my focus. For most of my life, I have needed to stay in performance shape. Formerly I worked toward this goal by spending hours a day in a dance studio, gym or on a practice field. Now, as a fitness instructor, I am no longer performing or competing but I continue to set fitness goals for myself. I want to set a good example and motivate my students as my teachers have motivated and inspired me.

Pilates at 57I am dedicated to being physically fit, to being in the best possible shape I can be. I do this not just for appearances, but also for my overall health, mental well-being and safety. As I rapidly approach my mid-fifties, I no longer need to be in peak performance shape, but I do want and need to be ready for all the things I want to accomplish or anything that comes my way. I want and need to remain active and moving for a lifetime. I want to not only live with “spontaneous zest and pleasure,” but to be ready to jump out of the way of an oncoming bus if needed. Pilates has given me endless ways to stay on that path.

My quest to remain active has given me the confidence to try and allowed me to still be able to slalom water ski (got up first try this summer), achieve level one in a Parkour class, learn to surf, take kite surfing lessons, keep up with my 12-year-old, and fly on silks in an aerial class. I credit my Pilates practice for keeping my body agile and strong enough to try and enjoy all of these activities in my fifties. The one event that I feel has most proven to me that I’ve maintained my fitness in my fifties is a specific day when I needed to call on my body in an emergency.

The summer I turned 50 my husband was undergoing chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The treatment left him fatigued and queasy most of the time but he was determined to enjoy a bit of summer. We took an afternoon dinghy ride up the Choptank River to one of our favorite spots, a somewhat isolated shoreline and sandbar. With us were my son and step-grandson (both age 8 at the time) and my stepson (age 30). We beached the boat and went exploring. A few minutes into our walk I looked back at the boat, which was now drifting from the beach and floating about 100 yards into the Choptank River.

If that boat got away we were stranded. Cell phones were on board. My husband did not have the energy, and the two eight-year-olds looked to the adults to rectify the situation.

My stepson and I ran. I passed him, (I am not a runner). I ran into the water until it was too deep to run. I swam (I am not the best swimmer) as fast as I could and caught up to the drifting boat.

pilates_82I called on my body in an emergency and it came through. While a bit of adrenaline helped, I totally credit my Pilates practice for getting me to that dinghy.

It has been years since spending those hours in the gym, on the field or in a dance studio. But I do practice Pilates daily. If my schedule doesn’t permit me to do a full work out, I always make it a priority, first thing in the morning, to do at least a 15-minute Pilates mat.

It is inevitable as we age that our bodies and abilities change, but knowing I can do something physically challenging in an emergency motivates me. It also gives me a sense of responsibility to maintain that ability as long as possible. My practice of Pilates is my path to doing so. It is an empowering method of exercise for a lifetime.
I also still want to water ski when I am 80…

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“To achieve the highest accomplishments within the scope of our capabilities in all walks of life we must constantly strive to acquire strong, healthy bodies and develop our minds to the limits of our ability.”  -Joseph H. Pilates

~Author Lesa McLaughlin is the owner of Excel Pilates DC, the first Pilates studio in Washington, DC. Lesa’s experience is that of a Master teacher.  She has worked with clients for 20 years in The Pilates Method Of Body Conditioning. She was certified as a teacher in The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning by The Pilates Studio in New York in 1995 under the tutelage of Romana Krowsanavska.

10 Reasons You and Your Body Will LOVE Pilates

Joseph Pilates was a health enthusiast, entrepreneur and inventor who cared deeply about the maintenance of the body, mind and soul. He developed Contrology (now commonly known as Pilates) as a means of keeping every part of you in sync and well fit. His methods today have gained worldwide popularity. By doing the original Pilates method, you and your body will be left feeling better than ever. Here are just a few reasons why:

1.You gain self-confidence and consciousness of the power you have to reach your goals. By focusing your physical and mental energy on each individual part of the body as you go through each movement, you’ll find yourself more centered and more aware of your abilities. The consistent development of strength and flexibility as well as your uniformly developed body will keep you confident in your ability to reach your goals.

2. Garner grace and poise from corrected posture. Pilates exercises focus on strengthening postural muscles, while gaining more supported mobility of your spine. By gradual and focused realignment, those who practice Pilates will naturally gain better posture. In addition, your lifted posture combined with your increased confidence allows you to garner a grace in movement that people dream of.

3. Happiness and increased pleasure in life from aligned body, mind and spirit. Many of our internal struggles in life have to do with your mind thinking one thing while your body feels another. Sometimes your spirit may long for things that your body can’t physically do or your mind can’t fathom even trying. Life becomes amazing when all these are in sync. By revitalizing your body both internally and externally, you widen the possibilities of what you can do. As your mind focuses on being in tune with your spirit especially while being physically fit, you will find the confidence and capacity to make the desires of your spirit come true.

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”
-Joseph Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology

4. Develop the ability to make clear and well-balanced decisions from a well-developed mind. Pilates focuses on both physical and mental capacities of the mind. By increasing blood flow through all parts of your body, replenishing fresh air into your body and reactivating some otherwise dormant neurological cells, your brain is constantly developing to its full ability, allowing you to better use it particularly when you need it most.

“The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.” -Joseph Pilates, letter to clients, 1939

5. Gain mental control over every part of your body. The focused isolated exercises in the Pilates movements will allow your brain to reawaken the neurological receptors that are otherwise usually so dormant that they seem impossible to use.

“Ideally, our muscles should obey our will. Reasonably, our will should not be dominated by the reflex actions of our muscles.” – Joseph H. Pilates

6. Develop increased flexibility and corrected body alignment. According to Joseph Pilates, your age isn’t about the number of years you’re alive nor is it about the way you feel. It’s about the functional ability of your body to maintain its proper usage. Your spine and muscles are key to the structural maintenance of your body. Pilates movements will help you develop the proper form and flexibility to keep you youthful for a lifetime.

7. Gain thorough and well-balanced muscle development. The Pilates method focuses on developing not just the outer (often more visible and bulky) muscles but also the smaller more dormant muscles that you wouldn’t usually use.

8. Give your body proper organ maintenance. Maintaining your organs is something many don’t thing about but should.  We place millions of things into our bodies that can cause stress to our internal organs; the biological and genetic effects of our bodies shift the proper use of our organs; the body has an uncanny knack for messing up on its own sometimes. With increased blood flow and better oxygen levels from the breathing exercises in accordance with the Contrology movements, your organs consistently will be revitalized, refreshed and ready to do what you need from them.

9. Gain a lightened spirit from less normal stressors. With all of the great benefits you will gain from practicing Contrology, you will gain a lightened spirit from having less of the normal stressors that affect most people’s everyday lives.

10. Reserve energy for a greater life to live! By doing each revitalizing movement and rejuvenating your body and lungs on a consistent basis, you develop the ability to use less energy for normal day-to-day actions. Instead of ridding itself of the energy you gain, your body will maintain reserve energy that can be used for more play and ultimately lead to a greater life!

Excel Pilates DC was the first classical Pilates studio in Washington, DC. Located in the Brookland area of NE DC, Excel has been committed to the power and depth of the original Pilates Method of Body Conditioning, a highly evolved and in-depth program that originated from the work of Joseph H. Pilates for over 15 years. We strive to share with and inform clients of the power of the original Pilates Method by offering apparatus and mat sessions at an affordable rate, with experienced professional teachers in a safe environment. Find more information about us at excelpilates.com.