My friend, her husband, and I stared for a long moment at their Mini, parked at the curb.  “I’ll sit in the back,” I volunteered, and commenced to fold myself pretzel-like, retreating backwards, surprisingly graceful, into the tiny space in the rear.  “I wish I were that flexible!” said my friend, who is several years my junior.

“It’s because I do Pilates,” I answered, a little smugly. Here let me say: I am not the athletic type. In fact, I consider most sports fairly dangerous.  For exercise I walk, and take a Pilates mat class, where, for the most part, I can lie flat on the floor and there seems little risk of injury.

Pilates is a series of low-impact movements and exercises that improve posture and increase core strength, flexibility, and balance – all extremely important abilities to those, like me, of a certain age.  If you were to observe a roomful of folks doing Pilates exercises it wouldn’t look like they were doing very much – no jumping about, no flapping or jiggling.

But when you have done an hour’s worth of Pilates, your muscles announce their existence quite forcefully.

Like yoga, Pilates engages both the body and the mind, emphasizing concentration, centering, control, and breathing.  Originated by Joseph Pilates, in Germany in early 1900s, Pilates exercises help build muscle strength, and endurance in the legs, abdomen, arms, hips, and back. Emphasis is placed on spinal and pelvic alignment.  The Pilates system allows for different exercises to be modified in range of difficulty; intensity is increased over time as one’s body adapts to the exercises.

When I first began Pilates nearly 10 years ago, I was surprised to find that I liked it; it’s the only exercise routine I have been able to stick with for more than a few weeks. I found Pilates challenging and engaging – in contrast to other workouts I have tried where I found myself easily bored.  Because I travel a lot, I don’t go to class as often as I should, but once back into the routine, I notice how much better I feel almost immediately– more energetic, more cheerful, more balanced in both mind and body. More flexible.
And maybe a little smug.

There are many places to take Pilates in the Salem area; I study with Sara Hillman at Indigo Wellness Center, Downtown.  Sara teaches straight Pilates on Monday and Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. and a Pilates/Yoga Fusion class on Saturday at 9:45 am.  For more information you can access the website at  Pilates is listed under the Yoga schedule.