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How the mind shapes the body

ArrowPilates - How the mind shapes the body
ArrowPilates - How the mind shapes the body

‘Man should develop his physical condition simultaneously with that of his mind’. One of the many quotes by Joseph Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method. This one in particular forms the base of whether an exercise is ‘just done’ or done with intent.

Watch and copy

Pilates should not be demonstrated. Clients are expected to use their mind and flow through a series of exercises with intent and purpose. I notice in my studio and the classes I teach that that is a challenge for a number of people. Especially in big group sessions people are used to seeing a teacher doing the exercise and copy that. Whether they do this with intent is questionable since they are not really engaged.

Another example whereby intent is forgotten are the Pilates videos on YouTube. If you are lucky the teacher has finished a proper program and has sufficient knowledge of the exercise. But even if not, you as the viewer might think while watching; ‘Looks interesting and doable so let's give it a try ’. However what might look easy on the screen may not be the right exercise for your body.

And more importantly you are not actually using your mind when watching it so you won’t be doing anything with intent.

Fear blocks

Sometimes the mind takes over the body. An overactive brain can stop you from doing an exercise. You could have had an injury and when you start moving again your mind switches on its protective mode and may brace your body. Or you are one of those people wanting to know all the pieces of each movement and understand why you do them before you move.

In my studio I experience clients who flow really well but have fear to go that extra bit further. Usually going all the way back on the one of the apparatus or going upside down in an inversion. During the Advanced Seminar in Auckland I realised that I have fear for doing a hand stand. My body can do it but my mind is saying no. I did experience a teenage trauma at the school gym where I was forced to roll over on a trampoline and nearly broke my neck. It didn’t happen and I was fine but the fear was installed in my brain.

Having fear for not doing something physical is your body telling your mind; ‘hold on, that might be dangerous, best not do it’. And so, you brace, start sweating and you don’t move at all. Understandable but sometimes a bit of a shame. Because your body can actually do it and with the right guidance you will be able to execute it nicely.

You can do it

In Pilates we should use the mind together with the body. It won’t happen in the beginning, especially as most people do not have much body awareness when they start doing Pilates. So give it time, build up trust in your body, your teacher and before you know it you will be doing that really difficult exercise that you thought you could never do. I will let you know when I achieved my first hand stand.

‘The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.’


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Marco Dingemans is a qualified Classical Pilates instructor and Studio Director of ArrowPilates


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