As a fitness instructor for over 18 years, I can say that I have taken all sorts of movement classes, and taught quite a few different fitness formats back in my early days (I definitely remember teaching classes called “butts & guts,” “cardio lunch blast,” or “pump it up.”). After integrating Pilates (at first, just mat classes) into my instruction tool kit, I realized how much I loved the focus on the body as a system or unit, and not necessarily the isolation of one muscle group during a workout. For me, it just clicked!
One of the most popular questions I receive during Pilates sessions is: where am I supposed to be feeling this? This is not exactly a question that has one answer and can be a bit tricky to navigate. There was a time where I most likely would name a specific body part and leave it at that. The result would either be a client looking satisfied as that was their result. However, more often than not, it would result in a perplexed face, or even one of disappointment as that was NOT where they felt it, or they feel nothing at all.
Here are a few thoughts on why this question deserves more than just a body part answer:
1) Pilates is a whole-body, integrative method of movement
In general, Pilates is taught as a movement method that incorporates yes, the core, but also how it relates to the head, limbs, hands and feet.
2) Every client’s experience is different. Someone may easily connect with feeling a specific muscle group, while another may not; one client may be stronger or weaker in one area, and connect differently. Cues also land differently with clients, which effects how they may connect with their bodies.
3) Not “feeling” an exercise in a specific cued spot isn’t necessarily a bad thing: sensations may vary day to day and what may have felt like a major “butt kick” one day, may not be as intense the next time around; you could be getting stronger, hitting a plateau, or maybe feeling less inflammation that day. So many factors could play a part!
My point: when approaching your Pilates routine, perhaps consider the idea that your workout is designed to be this fixed experience, where you are always expected to feel body part xyz, but instead, a well-rounded routine that may have an overall focus or theme that day, but never an expectation of how you as the client must experience it. That’s why Pilates is indeed a journey for the individual, instead of an exact destination.