By Cathleen Rodgers

Anyone who practices the Pilates method regularly has come to recognize the amazing benefits and effects on the body. Improved posture, an increase in flexibility and strength, better breathing, enhanced focus and concentration…these start in the studio and carry over to our outside worlds. Joseph Pilates carefully curated his Pilates Method in order to restore our bodily systems, which he believed were often neglected in lieu of our busy lifestyles and changing societal values. By developing complete control of our mind-body-spirit connection through the practice of Pilates (previously referred to as “Contrology”), we can live a better life.

While the routine practice of Pilates is important, there are other things people can do to transform their lifestyle. Written by Joseph Pilates himself, the famous Return to Life outlines the original Matwork exercises and Joe’s philosophy on life. After all, “It would be a grave error to assume that even Contrology exercises alone will remake a man or woman into an entirely physically fit person…”

So what else did Joe recommend?

Proper diet: In order to maintain a healthy body and have energy for exercise, one must fuel their body with nutritious food. And yes, the KIND of food does matter. Joe believed that eating healthy foods in reasonable portions was essential. He considered overindulgence to be “both foolish and dangerous,” and that we should be careful to guide our eating habits based on how much fuel we truly need for our lifestyle.

Sufficient sleep: No one functions well without enough rest. The body needs sleep to recover and restore itself day to day, regardless of one’s level of physical activity. Sleeping in a cool room with good ventilation is ideal, and we shouldn’t surround ourselves with mounds of blankets and pillows—the simpler the better, apparently. Relaxing at “fixed intervals” throughout the day is also important to maintaing fitness levels.

Fresh air + sunshine: “Breath properly, walk correctly, and swing along briskly” in order to invigorate your day. Joe believed that the ultraviolet rays of the sun give us life and cleanse the body as it falls on our skin. Fresh air is a far better alternative to the stale indoor air we are exposed to. Better yet, we should wear looser clothing so that this air and sunshine can better be absorbed into our bodies.

Healthy weight: Carrying too much extra weight could be a burden on one’s organs according to Joe, particularly around the heart, producing “needless fatigue.” The reverse is also true—not enough body weight yields low energy and danger to the organs. Optimum function of the body is best achieved at a normal, healthy weight throughout one’s life.

Dry brushing: Many of us bathe daily, which Joe believed was unnecessary. Instead, Joe claims that a “good stiff brush” should be used daily to yield best results in healthy and clean skin. This dry brushing practice opens the pores (essentially through exfoliation) and stimulates circulation in the body. By clearing out our pores, our body can “breathe” and our skin will renew itself better than ever, without the daily bath or shower.

Exercise mastery: When learning the Pilates method, one should never rush through the process. Instead, Joe emphasized the importance of truly mastering each set of exercises with complete control before tackling new ones. Thus, our practice of the method has a strong foundation from the very beginning, and we will see results faster.

As we can see, the Pilates method of exercise must go hand-in-hand with the Pilates philosophy on life in order to achieve greater well-being. The method transforms the mind and body; these other factors are daily maintenance of oneself. They work in tandem to bring balance and good health to people. Just doing one or the other simply isn’t enough to reach peak wellness. If we were to fully embrace this Pilates philosophy on life, I imagine we would be living like the legend himself.