Pilates is often marketed as the workout that anyone can do. "Pilates is for everyone. No matter your shape, size or physical condition. Pilates will change your body!" We have all seen the infomercials and zoned out to home shopping channels enough to know that unitards are a uniform for the elite. Will Pilates change your body? Yes. Will Pilates give uniformed strength and muscular balance? Yes. Is it for everyone? I dare to go against rhetoric and say NO.
It is not the physical challenges of Pilates that exclude patrons. It is the mind body connection that has been lost over generations coupled with increased stagnation of the body in space. We don't move as much. We don't think about moving. We don't relate moving to a conscious practice. Exercise has become that thing to take your mind off all that other stuff or a moment to yourself to 'think'. Yet when I see people throwing joints around on the elliptical while plugged into headphones and staring at the tv, it is hard for me to believe they are 'thinking' about anything. Effective Pilates requires a constant conversation of the mind to the body. The choreography is exact and modifications specified. There will be benefits even slopping through a Pilates workout and just going through the motions. It is still moving. However, to reap the full body results the mind must become the strongest muscle telling the body to follow.
I love transforming a gym addict into a Pilates junkie but it is easier said than done. It is not only the mindlessness associated with the gym but the psyche that bigger is better. The more weight lifted the stronger the muscles and the better they will look. That is true for the most part. Yet I argue that if you can bench press 200lbs but are so tight you can't lift your arms over your head to put your own shirt, your imbalances will eventually get the best of you. It is the necessity to calm down and internally focus that pushes many away from Pilates. Gym addicts are generally not excited by the idea of holding up a four pound bar while sitting in neutral spine and hearing nothing but the sound of their breathing and their heartbeat in their teeth. Oh, don't forget the sound of the equipment rattling as they shake up a storm from muscles re-organizing!
It is not just increased sedentary lifestyles and the take over of technology that have depleted many of body awareness. Pain is a huge cause of disconnect from the mind and body. The brain will figure out a way to orient the body in space so that it can just keep going until it can't anymore. Chronic or acute, pain diverts and destroys neuromuscular connections. Pain is always the body's way of telling the brain something is wrong and the brain responds. Pilates can save lives when practiced therapeutically but a client psychologically attached to their pain is the ultimate teacher's challenge. Pain can rob someone of their identity over time. Fear is also a huge part of pain. New movements or even simple every day tasks are feared because no one wants to be in more pain than they already are. I don't want to even go down the road of how western medicine would rather x-ray, cut and medicate. That is a whole different topic. A client dealing with pain must be ready to take back control of their body to get gain back control of their life. Many times they are not ready or prepared for how hard that will actually be. Pilates does not sugar coat what needs to be done and not everyone responds positively to the method.
Pilates is not a weight loss regimen. It is is still the biggest misconception that walks into my studio. Pilates is an excellent addition to the physical aspects of weight loss but will not deliver mind blowing results on the scale. There is not enough cardiovascular challenge in the beginning phases of the method to cause dramatic weight loss. Pilates will begin toning and strengthening muscle from day one. Those that flock to Pilates solely for miraculous weight loss will be disappointed and most likely head over to the nearest spin studio.
Client retention is every instructor's priority but it is misguided to believe that one thing is for everyone. Pilates necessitates the client be present, receiving, patient and realistic about the control they have over their body in space. Simply not everyone is willing. It is certainly attainable by all but social, psychological and personal issues can easily stand in the way. As a teacher, I do everything I can to help a body in front of me but I can not force Pilates onto or into them. They must open the door and willing walk through themselves.