by Devra Swiger
Debunking myths is all the rage these days. It seems articles appear on a near daily basis crushing yet another long held belief. Pilates has been around long enough to have also established some of its own folklore. The fact of the matter is that within each myth there may lay a kernel of truth that often becomes greatly exaggerated. So let’s clear up five big misunderstandings regarding Pilates.
Myth #1: Pilates is for dancers
Sure, Pilates is for dancers but it is also for non dancers or people with two left feet. One of the reasons Pilates was first associated with the dance community was that Joe Pilates had a studio in Manhattan that was close to many well known dance companies. Because of this, Joe built a solid reputation for being good at ‘fixing’ dance related problems. However, in addition to dancers Joe Pilates had lots of other clients including boxers, athletes and housewives.
Another reason why so many non dancers are intimidated by Pilates and feel they need to know how to pirouette before signing up is that many Pilates teachers come from the world of dance. For a non dancer that can be intimidating. The fact is Pilates is good for all bodies. It’s just as good for baseball players who don’t know first position from first base.
Myth #2. Pilates is too easy
This is the one myth that really gets me. I’ve heard it many times and I usually hear it from people who spend a lot of time at the gym. “I tried it once and it seemed more like something for older ladies,” said a female runner I know. After a little digging, I discovered she had tried it once at a big gym with mass produced classes.
There is also a market for DVDs where Pilates is performed next to a lovely fountain or at a scenic beach consisting of 20 minutes of leg lifts and pelvic tilts. This is not Pilates. Pilates if taught properly, is not easy. The sequencing of the exercises, the focus on the deep abdominal muscles, the transitions, the springs, the flow; none of it is easy. Pilates is hard!
Myth #3. Pilates is for women
This myth is somewhat related to myth #2 and it has everything to do with the marketing of Pilates.
Until relatively recently, most pictures of people doing Pilates were all svelte women with their leg extended straight over the head. Most men would see that and say: “Forget that. Give me some weights.”
The funny thing is that Joe Pilates had men in mind when he developed his method. He had many women clients as well, but it was the men he expected at his studio. The work was hard, intense and very masculine.
Myth #4. Pilates is for rich people
Well this one is a bit harder to debunk because private Pilates classes tend to be expensive. Group classes are considerably less expensive but the student doesn’t get the attention to detail that one would get in a private session. However, in this day and age of Groupons there are deals to be had. New studios sometimes offer promotions and more established studios frequently have programs where you can try Pilates for a discounted price. Also, if one looks at Pilates as a way to stay healthy, fit and mobile for many years then the classes really pay for themselves. Who wants to spend money on physical therapy, drugs and doctors?
Pilates can be thought of as an insurance policy for the body – spend now, save later.
Myth #5 Pilates will make me look like a supermodel
Well if this myth were true and I could guarantee these results, I’d be writing this article from my villa in the south of France.
The origins of this myth are none other than our celebrity obsessed culture. Yes, celebrities do Pilates and yes celebrities are usually stunning, but they would be stunning no matter what.
Pilates does help keep them looking fabulous and keeps them moving better and helps with back pain etc. but they were beautiful long before they stepped on a reformer.
If people believe they will look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model after 10 sessions, they might just be disappointed.
I once had a client who came to me saying that Oprah said on TV that Pilates would give her a long lean body.She was 5’2 and at least 160lbs. She took one session with me, paid her money and left looking very sad. Now if she had stuck it out a bit longer, I suspect she would have seen some great results but her expectations were far too high.
In every myth there can be some truth but there can also be a lot of misinformation. To sum it up, Pilates is a challenging workout for both men and women, dancers and non-dancers and although it may cost a bit more than a gym membership, it is well worth it in both the long and short term.
About the Author: Devra Swiger is the owner of Ab Pilates in Huntington Beach, CA. She started teaching Pilates in 1999 after 6 years of teaching fitness. She became certified with Polestar Pilates, Colleen Glenn, PhysicalMind and also apprenticed with a classically trained instructor in Charlotte, NC. Since that time she has studied with both classically and contemporary trained teachers. She is currently studying with Jennifer Kries in San Diego, CA. In addition to Pilates, Devra loves yoga, dance, cycling and running.