I've been doing yoga for years, 15 to be exact, and I'm 200 hours certified, which means I can teach. I lived in an ashram and studied the practice of Hatha yoga and I love it. So, when I took my first Pilates reformer session, it was quite different than the mind/body practice of yoga I was used to. At the time, I had also taken a 60-hour Pilates teacher training course but nothing was like that first, and subsequent 29 classes, on the Pilates reformer.
Both Pilates and Yoga are therapeutic and, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be flexible or strong to start either. That's the gift the practice gives you. The breathing, the movements and the flow are all different. Yoga opens and expands, while Pilates tightens and lengthens. Yoga is closed mouth breathing; Pilates breath goes in through the nose and forced out through mouth as your muscles contract. They are complementary, but different.
A friend's fiance and her business partner opened a studio in DC and I was invited to give it a try. I was familiar with mat Pilates practice and had done one session of Pilates on the reformer, but, to me, it was a new way to workout. I'm used to the "no pain, no gain" mentality. If you aren't dripping in sweat and so sore the next day, that walking and lifting your arms is a challenge, then it's not considered a workout. Pilates is the complete opposite.
Thank goodness for my teacher's patience -- after each class I'd say "are you sure that 5 reps are enough? I'm not sore. Are you sure this is working?" Literally. For the first 10 sessions. And kindly, she would say, (I'm paraphrasing here) "Yes. Pilates strengthens and lengthens the muscle, rather than breaking it down and rebuilding. Pilates uses the weight of your body. Lifting heavy weights creates soreness in your muscles, because it's their way of telling your body they are healing and building. That's what creates the larger muscle."
Every time I left class I was happier than I was when I walked through the door, even on days when I walked through in a good mood. The practice, based on Classical Pilates but with a twist, is different each and every time I went back. Some days, we were on the reformer the whole 50 minutes and others, we would use the wunda chair. I call step ups on the high chair the "soul crusher" because by the end of the exercise, I was wiped out. Thankfully, they always came at the end of my session. I learned more about my body. I discovered that one leg is longer than the other and my glutes are really weak, which was ultimately causing my hip pain. I realized how much I overcompensate and use other muscles to take the work off the weaker ones. I never knew that such small movements could, literally, be so defining.
Kinesis, the studio, is my happy place. I'm early for all of my sessions, a sure sign that I want to be there. I look forward to the practice and seeing the improvements. I never thought I would find an exercise that I would enjoy to this extent, especially when it's one so far removed from the fitness space in which I grew up and identify with the most -- hours + hours of cardio and swimming.
After my first session, we took my measurements. Lissette, one of Kinesis' owners, shared with me the Pilates Promise :: "In 10 sessions you will feel the difference. In 20 sessions you will see the difference. And in 30, you will be on your way to having a whole new body." She told me that I would lose inches, even if I was in great shape. So, I took her up on the challenge and committed to 30 Pilates sessions, recording my measurements along the way. After 30 sessions, without dieting or doing a ton of cardio, I lost a TOTAL of 11 inches from all over my body! ELEVEN! Here's the breakdown of what I lost -- 1.5 in my chest, 1.5 in my waist, 3 in my hips, 1.25 in each thigh, 0.5 in each calf, 0.5 on each upper arm and 0.25 on each forearm.
I was shocked. This was after I had been told I can no longer run (more on that later) so I wasn't doing a ton of cardio training, after I ate most of an Easter cake single-highhandedly and basically, changed nothing else in my life. My clothes fit better and I feel more toned. We're going to take measurements again after 40 sessions and for the next few weeks, I plan to up the cardio and go back to making healthier food choices to see if this has a greater impact.
I can't say enough about how pleased I am with the results and they way I feel. If you're in DC, book a session with Lissette or Alma at Kinesis. If you've been a reader of Genuine Joy for awhile, you know that I rarely promote anything and when I do, it's because I fully believe in, back it wholeheartedly and love the product, exercise or person. Life changing sounds so dramatic, but in this case it's accurate. Why? Because I love my body again and I have these two lovely women to thank. I'm officially a Pilates devotee and I'll let you know what session #40 brings.