How Not to Begin an Exercise: Words of advice from a personal naysayer

It is a never ending struggle. I will be laying on the reformer, or more likely, standing in front of that chair, and my instructor will explain what she/he would like me to do. And then, before I begin the exercise, I nay-say in my own head. More specifically, I literally say "what the f**k" to myself before I even attempt the exercise. Talk about a self fulfilling prophecy. Thinking this never fails to make me feel like I have done something wrong, even if I haven't. 

I would like to think that this is an internal struggle that we have all endured at one time or another in our Pilates practice. I mean, Joe created some crazy equipment and then designed some even crazier things to do on said equipment. (He made the first magic circle out of a keg ring for goodness sake). So, in the interest of solidarity, I am here to talk about not stopping yourself before you even begin.

I have tried to adopt a motto of suspended disbelief when I come into the studio. The disbelief I am talking about is that of "how the hell do they expect me to make my body do that?" It is something both novices and masters alike struggle with. "And why is that?" you might ask. Why do even the most physically fit amongst us inevitably find themselves saying "what the f**k" when faced with a new exercise?

The obvious answer is that Pilates is hard. Hard in the best possible way something can be hard, but hard none-the-less. New (and old) exercises can be intimidating. Learning how to target certain muscle groups, align your breathing, and keep everything doing what it needs to do during an exercise is hard.

There are two other important, and less obvious, reasons why this personal nay-saying happens in Pilates practice. These reasons stem from the mind body relationship that is so important to Pilates.

First, the body. The body does not lie. A good instructor will read your body almost like they are reading your mind. They will know when you have stopped thinking about what one body part is doing, stopped using something in favor of using something that is easier, or not breathing. Your body gives you away, whether you want it to or not. And when that happens, and they "call you out" for not giving your all to an exercise, that can lead to even more self-judgement (although that is totally not your instructors intention).

More importantly, the mind. What your mind is doing during an exercise is just as important, maybe more important, than what your body is doing. Mental patterns manifest in movement in expected and unexpected ways. Approaching an exercise with the "what the f**k" attitude will undoubtedly manifest in some weird ways in your physical actions. It will keep you from reaching your full physical potential in an exercise.

You can test this theory any time. Lay down and clear your mind. Now try to do a simple exercise, perhaps something from a swan #moveit, while thinking the whole time about how hard it is, how you are probably going to do it wrong, how you suck at this whole Pilates thing. Take a break, watch a Dolly Parton music video, eat some chocolate. Now lay back down and try the exercise again with a positive, open or at least neutral mind. Feel the difference?