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Pilates: What is 'it'? 

“As Pilates teachers—because we first had to experience ‘it’ in our bodies, and now wish to transfer that knowledge to others—we recognize that the expression of ourselves now is not the same as when we started then. Since then, we have been attempting to explain this experience that goes beyond learning and teaching mere physical exercise.” 
~ Excerpt from Chapter Eight of The Pilates Path to Health: Body, Mind, and Spirit. 

Very often I am asked what motivated me to write The Pilates Path to Health: Body, Mind, and Spirit. The incessant notion that kept me in the inquiry to pursue writing the book, is expressed in the excerpt above. This was the common denominator among the teachers and practitioners I had spoken with. An often, unspoken sense, that something big was happening that had not been articulated or put into words before. During our conversing, when words were at a loss, a simple gesture of pointing to the heart was concurred back as, “Yeah, I get that.” 

So, what is that? Or, for our purpose here, what is it?  Is it personal, collective or a universal experience? One lens we might look through, is from Wendy Le Blanc-Arbuckle, my mentor and Foreword Author, who’s words inspired me to write the book regarding the purpose that drives our practice. She suggests, “…that we discover our own inner wisdom, our ability to self-heal and reconnect with the vital forces that constitute our true nature." Wendy holds a perspective that a “bio-intelligent” or life-intelligent way of being, is a path toward our innate healing ability and purposeful living. Can a kind of "one for all and all for one", a felt sense of self, from single cell to whole being, be an indicator of this potency in our Pilates practice and teaching? 

On November 4th, 2016, I attended the ground-breaking inaugural conference, Consciousness and Healing Initiative summit, co-sponsored by UC San Diego and Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), where scientists, PhD's, M.D.'s, healers, artists and social entrepreneurs shared their research, clinical perspectives, and innovations in consciousness and healing, from cells to communities. 

A myriad of health care professionals, both allopathic and naturopathic practitioners attended. All apparently interested in learning about the scientific and real world application of consciousness and healing practices. For this author, the words consciousness and healing are synonymous with Pilates’ Contrology. 

To summarize the keynote of the conference—what is becoming more evident in scientific mainstream thinking about the true nature of health—and what reflects my notion that Pilates can be a necessary component to that end: 

" A key ingredient in the recipe for advancing the evolution of human health is self-empowerment, which can only emerge with a clear recognition of one’s own capacity for healing ...(and) suggests that what we have viewed as discrete systems are in fact parts of a larger, holistic network that guides an organism’s homeostasis. We propose that such a network... a field of energy and information that reflects and guides the homeodynamic regulation of a living system, and as such influences and is influenced by consciousness." —extrapolated from Biofield Science and Healing: An Emerging Frontier in Medicine. 

According to the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI) “Evidence increasingly indicates that our internal state, which includes our level of conscious awareness, can lead to substantial changes in biology that influence our health and to consider that these internal states are as real and as powerful as the molecules that they affect.” 

The Pilates Path to Health journeys the reader, through the outcomes of others, who encountered biological shifts in their physiology that impacted aspects of life and living, toward a way of being, previously uncharted. 

This empirical evidence (as Pilates teachers, what we experienced and now see in others) is echoed from the congress attending the CHI summit and its presenters, expressing that, “…consciousness, regardless of how one defines it, is essential to guiding our wellbeing, and that the scientific exploration of consciousness will lead us to breakthroughs that will impact not only healing and healthcare, but how we understand and appreciate the interconnections between us and our planet.” 

What also was purported from the CHI summit is that, “Healing had many meanings for different people. For some, it meant no longer having a physical illness or coming to a deeper wisdom that helps one manage illnesses or other difficulties in life. For others, the journey of healing simply reflects the joyful process of becoming more whole— in body, mind and spirit.” 

The Pilates Path to Health content is built on this notion and unfolds the meta physical and interconnectedness of outcomes that are distinctions of Pilates being much more than mere exercise. 

CHI believes that, “instead of simply studying the disease process and focusing on symptom reduction, we need to understand the heart of healing from multiple perspectives. By furthering our deep understanding of healing, from both a scientific and experiential level, we can empower ourselves and others to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.” 

This was the mission, message and intention of Joseph Pilates’ work, nearly a century ago! That a coordinated trinity of body, mind, and spirit was tantamount to a unified being and a world whole as one. This is the hallmark of what Joseph Pilates’ philosophy initiated and emphatically embodied in his Method, passed on to his apprentices, and now on to us. 

As we move through the 21st century our ability to solve problems will be pushed to the limits and the familiar systems that are no longer working, will fall apart against the pressure of change. What is evident here is that our paradigm of health care today is shifting from a reductionist view of a human object to be fixed or trained, to a deeply intelligent organism that knows how to heal itself and can impact the world. 

Perhaps, Wendy’s perspective lends credence to this shift, and what may be at the heart of our teaching that puts whole body movement in the forefront of what can evolve human health—a recognition of one’s own capacity to heal. The resulting outcome of such an approach to whole being health can cultivate a more cooperative humanity being less critical of self and others. 

Presently, a shift in consciousness is needed and evident in the world as is. The book is a literary excursion of how that shift can be influenced through a Pilates experience—one person, thought and movement at a time. 

It is known, and had been written, that Joseph Pilates said, “If the men from the U.N. cannot do my first five exercises, how could there be world peace.” 

So… What if the practice of Pilates was a path to embrace ourselves in ways that is conducive toward world peace? What if “it” can influence our cells into a vital, compassionate community capable of healing a world? 

As we improve our connection to health through our deeper understanding of healing and consciousness, Pilates becomes a meaningful pursuit toward something better. Not only does our life improve—what is possible expands.