What was the thing that held me back from first trying Pilates when my doctor recommended it?
Fear that I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t flexible.
My doctor Karen specialized in treating cerebral palsy, and inflexibility is something that most people who have it struggle with. I realize now, after all this time, that she recommended I do it because she believed that I could do it and that it would help me.
She wasn’t wrong.
She recommended it to me in November 2007, and I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t that for people who are already flexible? There’s no way I would be able to do that.’ I didn’t try it until nearly a year later. My massage therapist told me that getting massages was a waste of money if I didn’t go to the gym. I didn’t like the gym, and I was awful at sports like basketball and tennis, and swimming often exhausted me. There happened to be a Pilates studio right up the road from the massage therapy clinic, and I went there and never looked back.
I realized right away that Pilates could be adapted for my disability, and that it was the thing that would help me become more flexible. I am more flexible now, since I trained to be a Pilates instructor, than I have ever been in my life. Flexibility isn’t required to start Pilates classes. Pilates is what makes you more flexible, especially when you do it regularly and stay consistent.
I had a client recently enquire about Pilates classes. She was in her early eighties and had chronic pain as the result of a hip fracture. She said she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do what I asked of her. I told her I felt the same before I tried Pilates, and that’s what had held me back from even starting. I knew exactly how she felt, and I know how common this assumption is: that Pilates isn’t doable unless you’re already strong, fit, and flexible.
I specialize in patient, slow, beginner-friendly classes. I love helping people who are just starting out to feel comfortable with Pilates. The whole reason I became a Pilates instructor was to help people who didn’t think they could do Pilates believe that they were capable of it.
Here are three ways Pilates helps you to become more flexible:
Strength is the foundation of everything. Strength gives you a solid foundation to be able to stretch and improve mobility and flexibility. We get you grounded first with strengthening exercises, and then we progress on to stretches that can help you with flexibility.
Pain and stiffness in your body can come from tightness and dryness in your connective tissue, your body’s structural system. When we do fascial work with props like foam rollers, stability balls, and resistance bands, we hydrate the tissue. This leads to pain relief that’s often quicker than taking a painkiller, and it helps to increase flexibility in the body.
How did the ballerina dancing in Romeo and Juliet learn all those jumps? How do gymnasts stick their landings? How do swimmers and high jumpers beat their best times? By practising. A person who makes something look easy has trained and practised for years and years to get to where they are today. They grow when they put the work in, and the same is true for you in your Pilates practice. I didn’t become flexible overnight. It took years of hard work and dedication for me to be where I am now, in my own Pilates practice and in my career as an instructor.
Lots of my clients say to me, ‘You’re so patient.’ Many other instructors have told me the same. I work with you to help you get to where you want to be, whether that takes five weeks, five months, or more than a year. The most important thing to keep in mind with Pilates is that consistency is the only way to make progress and then to maintain it.
I don’t judge you if you come into class and are stiff, inflexible, and in pain, because that’s exactly where I was at the beginning of my practice. I want to help you to get better, feel better, and feel safe and comfortable in your body. When you struggle with exercises, we either break it down into manageable steps or we find another exercise that serves the same purpose but might be more doable. Pilates is infinitely adaptable, which is why it’s so brilliant, and I love coming up with different ways to help you.
I see challenging classes as an opportunity to learn. I learned, very early on in my career, from one of my mentors, that I would learn the most from a difficult class. Don’t be intimidated if you present with injuries, pain, scars, or weakness, or you use mobility aids. The harder the class is for me, the more I learn new ways to help new people, and I am able to stay calm under pressure because I love helping others and learning new ways to problem-solve.
Book a class with me if you struggle with flexibility and I can get you sorted.