As I move within site of 50, I’ve been thinking about expectations for my own Pilates practice. I am lucky to work with Portlanders of all ages – 16 to 80-plus years young – and as a teacher I’m in a perpetual state of evaluating what is safe and nourishing movement for each of them.

Trying to think objectively and ask those questions of my own practice – what is safe and effective for my body – is challenging at times. The older I get the more often I ask myself if my enthusiasm for doing advanced Pilates work is well-placed.

Are advanced exercises still helping me reach my long-term goal to be an independent and mobile person in my 60s, 70s and 80s?

While my personal practice and philosophy about Pilates is sure to continue to evolve as I get older, two answers have emerged from this self-reflective inquiry in my late 40s:

FIRST, every time I step into the studio as a student, I’m asking myself with greater scrutiny to reflect on the benefits of advanced exercises. I no longer do Snake and Twist on the Reformer simply because it’s a great challenge. I do it with a mindset of evaluating the physical demand it asks of me – for example, how it addresses shoulder and pelvis stability; how it inspires the body to spiral and lengthen through rib cage which, truth be told, is a source of frustration for me sometimes.

SECOND, I’m passionate in my belief that mindfulness separates good Pilates students from great students. Advanced work inspires a deeper attentiveness and flow that nourishes me mentally and brings me joy

The short answer for me is that advanced work strengthens the mind and body connection … at least for the time being. 

I tell my students if something doesn’t feel right before, during or after an exercise to say something.  I too will listen for signs in my body when I need to back off my advanced practice and focus on other ways to celebrate the mind body connection. (They do exist!)

I respect that what feels like a worthwhile challenge today may feel unnecessary or counterproductive tomorrow.

But, for now, my Snake and Twist live on.