In this day and age of “one size fits all”, Pilates actually does! On the personal side, I came to Pilates as a 30 + year old professional dancer searching for something that would ease my back pain and help me to sustain my career. I started training with a fellow dancer and Pilates instructor who later became my Pilates mentor. We started with all of the Pilates classic exercises based on Joseph Pilates's theory of emphasizing concentration and control while integrating flexibility, strength, precision, breath, flow of movement, which develops an awareness between the body and the mind. Because I was young and fairly fit, being a professional dancer, I progressed quickly and my training regimen became more aggressive, including handstands on the ladder-back barrel, inverted hanging exercises from the Cadillac and forward roll like movements that took me from a standing position to directly lying down on the reformer. It did exactly what I needed for my back and career, improving strength in my abdomen (relieving my back pain), increasing the much-required flexibility a dancer needs, enhancing overall (especially upper) body strength, giving me more balance control, creating more “body awareness”, and teaching me the importance of breathing and breath control.
It is now 29 years later; I have retired as a dancer (which has left me with some ”not so great” hips) and have been a Pilates instructor for about 20 years. Do I still hang upside down from the Cadillac? Well, not so much. But out of the estimated 400 + Pilates exercises, there are plenty of them for me, along with the rest of my baby boomer comrades, to do.
Over the years as a trainer, I have had clients ranging from a 15 year old with Osgood-Slaughter Disease, pre and professional dancers, a client with Parkinson’s’ disease, a mural painter with a frozen shoulder, 80 year old clients trying to get strong and more mobile in order to maintain their independence, as well as the everyday person just trying to get or stay in shape. With one very adaptable exercise system, I have accommodated them all. Yes, my 15 year old client made it through the trials and pain of his disease, my dancers did go on to have great careers performing and my painter continues to paint. Could I stop the Parkinson’s from progressing? Of course not, but I can assure you it kept my client mobile for a longer time than the doctors thought, resulting in a much greater quality of life. My octogenarians did not go out and start running marathons, but they were able to maintain their daily beach walks and give up using canes for balance and become active in fighting for the rights of senior citizens.
So as I, along with a large portion of the American population, age and cannot do all of the things we did in our thirties, a lot of us are not ready to sit in our rocking chairs. I feel and know from personal experience and a professional perspective how important it is to keep our bodies strong and flexible not only for physical health, but mental health as well. I also know that with Pilates, it is never too late to start exercising and setting goals for a healthier life style, regardless of your age, abilities or limitations.