Exercise, Food & Healthy Living
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Pilates Reformer: A Dancer’s Best Friend or Torture Device?

When I arrived at the dance studio for my modern dance class, my instructor informed me that I was the only student that day.  So he suggested a private Pilates session instead.  “Sure, I can do planks,” I thought.  Plus, this sounded like a wonderful opportunity to get a group class rate for a private training session.  Count me in!

He led me into the Pilates studio where (to my shock) there weren’t any mats, exercise balls or open space wooden floors, but rows and rows of what appeared to be torture devices.  My instructor took in the horrified look on my face and chuckled.  “That’s a common reaction,” he said. “Not to worry, I’ll walk you through everything step-by-step.  This machine is really good for building up your core dance muscles.”

[Now, I should pause and say that, although I have danced before–and actually started dancing at a very young age–I took a nine-year hiatus after undergrad . . . and I was in a sitting position for most of it (office/desk jobs, studying for law school, etc.).  My arches have since collapsed and I’ve lost a good amount of flexibility.  So for all intents and purposes, I am back to considering myself a beginner dancer.]

This was most certainly not your average mat Pilates class at a gym (the only type of Pilates I had ever really been aware of).  I immediately understood what my instructor meant by “strengthening your dance core.”  Most of the moves we did on this machine were dance poses on your back–which doesn’t make it easier lol.  I was often in relevé, plié first position, an upside down arabesque, etc.

Going through the systematic exercises, it was readily apparent that this machine was not going to let you cheat your way out of using your core.  I could already feel muscles that I had no idea I even possessed I hadn’t engaged in a long time.  My instructor developed a sly expression stating, “I know you’re thinking that I’m just coming up with ways to torture you, but I promise, I didn’t make this up!”  Well he may not have been thinking about torture specifically, but that Joseph Pilates sure as hell had a dark side.  I knew I would be hurting something awful the following day.

Side note: If you’re anything like me and have extremely long limbs, but a very short torso, these exercises will take some extra effort–it’s a lot of weight for a small torso to carry.  However, when you get it right, it looks absolutely beautiful!  Enough to invoke some limb envy.

Since this was my first time trying this workout, I didn’t take a video or pictures (I may have been doing the exercises completely incorrectly, anyway).  But if you would like to get an idea of the type of exercises I did on this contraption, check out the video below by Pilatesology:

Kids, don’t try this at home.  Even though the video says “beginner,” the girl in it is clearly advanced!

If you do decide to give this workout a whirl, don’t be alarmed by the wobbly, jellyfish-limbs feeling post workout.  That means you did it right!

If you’ve done Pilates reformer, or are thinking about doing it, sound off below on your experience. Has your core indeed gotten stronger? If you’re a technical dancer (ballet, jazz, modern/contemporary), has this improved your dancing? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Peace, Love, and Live Life Full,

P.A.

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