I have been trained, and I train others, in several different methods of exercise. During my career as a masseuse, I was often called upon to help people deal with pain that resulted from a lack of core strength in their bodies. Most times, when combined with stress, these ailments of the body could become debilitating. While I felt privileged to have people call on me in their times of need, I also felt somewhat frustrated when, after a short respite offered by my massages, the pain would return.
I had a notion that exercise could be a way to help strengthen my clients in order to prevent recurrences of injuries. This investigation led me first to Pilates and strength training.
What is Pilates? Here is the textbook definition:
“Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates, a physical-culturist born in Mönchengladbach, Germany, in 1883. He developed a system of exercises during the first half of the twentieth-century which were intended to strengthen the human mind and body. Joseph Pilates believed that mental and physical health are inter-related.
He had practiced many of the physical training regimes which were available in Germany during his youth, and it was out of this context that he developed his own work, which has clear connections with the physical culture of the late nineteenth-century such as the use of specially invented apparatuses and the claim that the exercises could cure illness. It is also related to the tradition of “corrective exercise” or “medical gymnastics” which is typified by Pehr Henrik Ling.”
For my purposes, what Pilates does is offer people the ability to strengthen and stretch their bodies from their core. In other words, many times, back pain can be caused by weak stomach muscles. Strengthen the stomach; relieve the pressure on the back. Hip pain can be caused by leg misalignment, or an uneven gait. Work on the legs, cure the hip pain. And so it goes.
The other instance of repeated pain and illness had to do with stress. In my field, I work with people who have high-powered positions in the community, in their corporate cultures, or even within the athletic communities. Not only are these people constantly going from one project to another (carrying big burdens), but they rarely take the time to stop and relax.
We now know that stress gets stored up in their bodies, right down to the cellular level. Pilates, if they took the time to work with me, would help them somewhat. Unfortunately, the stress building up in their bodies served to take away some of the benefits of exercise. That is when I began to learn Tai Chi. It is a gentle, movement-based exercise; it serves to refocus and clear the mind, while also stretching and working various muscle groups.