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Pilates: They say it gets easier

By Leah Berkenwald

Section: Opinions

October 21, 2005

This semester, in an effort to get in shape, I enrolled in Pilates. I guess I was expecting some sort of Tae-bo type workout for my abs. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised with what I found.

There we were, a class of misfits belly up on yoga mats, with one leg held taut in the air by an elastic band. An entire class of legs trembling in the air, the elastic bands (which look like dental dams for giants) stretching and snapping from our hands. The mellow opera music swelled and crescendoed, and seemed to turn the struggle to keep our legs straight into a Rudy-esque drama reaching its great moment of glory.

Watching my instructor do scissors, was unnerving. She is able to lay on her back with one leg on the floor and the other completely bent backwards towards her head- all while wearing a fanciful outfit I wouldve worn to a nice restaurant. Not even her perfect blonde braid came loose. Consider the contrast: Me, my head reaching up to see what I should be doing, both legs bent, my feet pointing in all the wrong directions… not exactly your picture of grace.

I dont know about you, but being able to have your ankle painlessly resting next to your ear is WRONG! Where did my instructor learned such unnatural movements? Certainly not here. This Boston. We Puritans were not built for hip rotations! Our bodies were built for sports like hunting and kneeling in church, and occasionally, very private and repressed sex. This sort of exercise is pure sin! It belongs in LA, not Boston.
After the first week, I was convinced that Pilates was not a harmless new exercise fad, but actually a deviant form of ritualistic masochistic torture performed by witches to appease the demons of health and sports. After a couple weeks of pilates classes, my fear of the occult has begun to dissipate, but my confusion has only grown.

At our last class, we were instructed to lie face down, and lift a ruby off the floor with our belly button. With instructions like these, its important not to get lost in your internal monologues which end up a little something like this:

Lift a ruby off the floor… okay. Does this mean I have to lift my entire stomach off the floor? Can skinny people do that? A little presumptuous if you ask me. And why are we lifting rubies? Why a ruby? Couldnt I lift a pebble or a gumball? How did she ever come up with a ruby? Of all the gems why not diamonds. Well I guess they would be too small Oh my god! I think Im lifting my stomach off the floor! No, wait, back spasm.

While Im glad that my pilates instructor knows her anatomy, I really dont think medical terms are necessary when you are trying to get someone to raise their leg. By the time shes finished explaining the entire exercise, Im still trying to figure out where my androdoximorophus muscles are. Because I think I was supposed to contract them while breathing in and imagining sparks shooting out the top of my head. Or was that breathing out?

The most confusing instructions are the breathing ones:

Breathe in to contract, breathe out to stay, breathe in to release, move your (No) shoulders down and (breathing) inward and knit (allowed) your ribs together (during) while you imagine (this) pushing your (part.) legs against springs, breathe out (Whew!) to extend, breathe in for nothing, and contract again.
First of all, breathe in for nothing? Breathe in for nothing? And more importantly, nothing? What about living! Thats certainly not nothing.

For me, Pilates is two hours a week specially reserved for not knowing what the hell is going on. But strangely enough, its growing on me. And hey, maybe we need that sort of thing in our lives.

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