Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday, June 29: Pilates, test drive

I guess you are supposed to like Pilates, because a lot of people like Pilates and it makes you strong and strengthens your “core,” but so far, it just seems like high grade donkey training to me. The particular person who taught the mat class I went to even calls her work Mind/Body Pilates, but all the “mind” I saw, was keeping up with a bunch of different contortions, all with the same relentless aim: strengthen your ‘abs.”

Abs slabs, what’s the big deal? If you are a dancer and have to kick up your leg high into the air, I can see the need. If you hate yourself unless you are pencil thin and hard bellied, I can see the reason. I hear Tiger Woods uses Pilates. Okay, to keep in shape for millions a year, fine, and still, I felt like I do when I go to a yoga class where the teacher whips everyone into shape with the attitude: hard effort makes hard bodies and hard bodies are good bodies. I felt demeaned, as if the meat of me was all that mattered, as if I was being trained like a horse or a dog. Ugh. ( By the way, Marlie, though she can do extremely advanced yoga poses, is one of the few teachers in town who doesn’t turn her teaching into a sado-masochistic tool, while not letting her class be a too easy to learn anything class, another temptation.)

Hard bodies make sense if come by honestly, carrying water up a hill, or hand weeding a garden (though here: leave more weeds than you pull, they are good for the soil, usually good for to eat, and good for the oxygen, and they help keep the ecology balanced), or walking across town, or backpacking in the mountains. But to push yourself to pain for an hour and call the burning “good” and the pain “good” because it will toughen you up, ugh.

Feldenkrais could use some classes that focus on strength. But even without that, the ideas of going slowly, of learning, of variation and experimentation, or discovering from within, could all be applied by anyone who wanted to get stronger in a kind and intelligent way.

Hopefully, Marlie and I will develop a blend of yoga and Feldenkrais for such a purpose. Or Pilates could be taught with far more attention to paying attention to all of the Self, and to rests for the brain to integrate what is being learned, and lots slower, so something can be learned. Cranking through anything, and you might get strong, but you sure aren’t going to get smarter, and I like my body/mind work to really include the mind, so I end up both more intelligent and more connected to myself all at once.

Oh, well. I’ll go a couple of more times and then ask if the teacher wants to learn how to teach this in a kinder more intelligent way. She probably won’t, but it’s worth a try.


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