Students of a Pilates Teacher Training Explore Pilates’ Animal World
Joseph Pilates observed animals as he developed his method.
He says in his book return to life, “true rhythm and control is observed both in domestic pets and wild animals – without exception.”
We were standing around the front counter at The Pilates Studio when we decided to create the following video. At first we were laughing and joking and sure that we were to entertain you, but then as we looked further into the idea that Joseph Pilates observed animals as he was creating his work, we thought of something else. He created exercises like the dolphin exercise not because he wanted to strengthen the posterior chain of all humans but because he saw the beauty of a dolphin moving through water. He was recognizing the beauty in the world and wanted to return that beauty to the movement of human beings.
Sometimes when Students of a Pilates Teacher Training are studying movement we get caught in the minutia of the moment. The hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip, which releases the hip flexors through reciprocal inhibition. Of course we can’t forget the stability created by the anterior oblique sling, which is initiated by pushing the palms of the hands into the vertical bars of the trapeze table. It is this stability that allows the lumbar spine to articulate through each segment into flexion and so on and so forth. But what happens when we watch a dolphin move? How do our bodies feel? What if we could move like a dolphin? What if we let our mind’s eye travel to the ocean where a pod of dolphins is gliding through the water playing?
The cat lady in me was heartened when I read on the Internet “It has been said the Joseph Pilates thought that the cat was the supreme animal.” Of course the Internet said it so it must be true.
But let’s think about the budding industry of cat videos. What if Joseph Pilates was onto something? It may be yet another way in which this brilliant man was ahead of his time.
After all, He did write, “Your body will be as supple as a cat.”
The beauty of animal movement is something that every one of us has admired in some way at some point. Whether it is the gait of a dog chasing a truck, the breadth of the blue heron’s wings, or the precision of a swimming penguin. Marveling in the movements of animals is not new to us. However, accepting the fact that we are animals too, and imagining that we can be animals that move with the same agility, precision, and stealth of our very favorite animal heroes might be an interesting way of exploring movement.
What if we tried to imagine, “Why did Joseph Pilates call this exercise the elephant?”
When we think of the classic Pilates repertoire. How many exercises were named after animals? What might the inspiration have been? And then what might happen when we place playful hats on our heads and embody the animals that are the namesakes of the exercises? We might just find an excellent way to further our exploration of this movement! And who knows it might be entertaining and a little bit silly too.