The jade plant I keep at my Pilates studio in NW Portland attracts a lot of attention and compliments. I started tending to this plant about six years ago — a small shoot at the time — and it has steadily grown to include admirable thick stalks with beautiful small, young leaf buds.

As I watered her the other day, I took a moment to take in all I’ve accomplished in her care. It reminded me a lot of how I’ve approached my Pilates practice.

Be patient.

It has been a labor of slow, quiet love that has allowed my jade plant to flourish. Mother nature cannot be rushed – nor can our bodies. Mindful movement is a patient practice that, over time, leads to strong, healthy bodies.

Learn from mistakes.

I learned over time that sometimes my pruning efforts were too aggressive and I threw off the symmetry of the plant. In other cases, I was too protective and allowed the plant to move in directions that ended up doing more harm than good.

As intentional as my snips have become over time, I have on occasion chosen the wrong shoot to cut. My plant has let me know through stalks that veer in unbalanced directions.

So goes my Pilates practice. I have over-recruited muscles and felt an undue soreness the next day. I have overstretched tendons, ligaments and tissue that have aggravated autoimmune-related inflammation in my body. At every turn, I take note in an effort to not create an imbalance in my body.

Be intentional.

As with careful pruning, intentional movement will get you to the place you need to be – safely, successfully and with a deeper appreciation for our bodies. My Pilates practice has not been a process of running headlong down a track but graceful meandering through a path that includes deep breath and thought for my body placement. (Okay maybe not always gracefully, but I try.)

Keep having conversations.

I admit to talking to my jade plant. I ask her how she is feeling. If she’s staying hydrated enough season to season. Is she too hot or cold sitting at the window?

Pilates allows me to keep a conversation going with my body. I’m checking in with myself throughout each exercise and noting how my body feels differently after a session. This can help avoid mistakes outlined above as well as help me become more in tune with my body.

Identify the activities and approaches in your life that have helped you stay balanced (or identify the places and people in which you’ve witnessed it) and translate those admirable practices and principles into your fitness work. See how it shifts your perspective about how you work and what results you see.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and self-accepting practice!