Introverts and Pilates: A Perfect Match

I’d been hearing about this book for a while (and just checked it out from the library) so when I saw that the author gave a TED talk, I was eager to watch.  As I am forever drawing links between Pilates and my life as a whole, I got to thinking about why Pilates is such an ideal form of exercise for introverts.  One of my tried and true clients is a self-professed introvert and she’s been giving me some insights into this topic as well.

One of the characteristics about Pilates that I first noticed when I started teaching is that it has a repetitive aspect to it.  Even though the system is made up of several hundred exercises, the way to approach it is to do a (mostly set) sequence of exercises.  From day to day there are certainly little changes that get made for a wide variety of reasons, but mostly it’s a set sequence.  It is a practice which has many connotations, in this case I’m focusing on the mental aspect of it.  While the same sequence is performed regularly, the experience of it is never the same.  Because the body is never exactly the same.  But in order to recognize the subtle differences from day to day, a person must be turned on mentally and focused inward.  If Pilates is just moves, then it will get boring really fast.

I learned this because I had some clients who did get bored and so I was constantly grappling with their experience, trying to understand why they were bored.  I, on the other hand, was never bored.  I continue to be surprised with what I learn every day with Pilates, be it in my own practice or in my teaching practice.  And I am constantly amazed at how this work that in some ways is so simple can constantly draw me into new ways of seeing bodies and experiencing my own body.  While I don’t really know for sure, the conclusion that I eventually reached about these folks who get bored with Pilates is that they are engaging with the work at its most outward levels.  As I already pointed out, at that level, the work is fairly repetitive and it seems like no big deal.  But layer those moves onto a precise and continuous flow of internal coordination and wow, you’ve got something special on your hands.

Which is why I think introverts can grasp the magic of Pilates a little quicker than extroverts.  If a person comes to Pilates with a comfort with the internal terrain of their body, with the inner workings of their mind, with a quietness of soul, then Pilates offers layer upon layer of material for exploration instantly.  On the other hand, if a person is more comfortable in the outer, social arenas, they will be more likely to initially engage with the moves and the apparatus rather than with their own inner workings.  True, the moves themselves, and the apparatus are pretty cool and so they are a great “hook” into the work.  And I am not in any way trying to get in between any person and their relationship to Pilates.  We are each a unique balance of so many characteristics, introvert and extrovert being just one of many spectrums that we all fall upon.

This is more just to offer another way of understanding Pilates.  We all have a bit of introversion in ourselves.  If, upon beginning a Pilates workout or lesson, we remind ourselves to let that part of ourself fully express itself, we will get just a little more juice out of our Pilates workout.  And in doing so enjoy it all the more.

Here’s to embracing your introverted self – even if it’s just a wee bit – with Pilates!

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