I recently met a man in his early 60s who, after asking me what I did for a living, wrapped his hands around his waist and joked that he would need to lose a few pounds before he could consider coming to see me.

Before I could respond, the conversation shifted in the group. It wasn’t the first time I was left feeling a bit deflated and in need of defending the benefits of Pilates.

Over the years, images of those who do Pilates have primarily focused on one body type: thin, purportedly fit and female. Magazines devoted to Pilates. Active wear manufacturers and marketers. Social media entrepreneurs. Fitness videos and Internet streaming channels. Thin females doing Pilates abound!

Don’t get me wrong. Some amazing Pilates students and teachers I’ve encountered fit this profile. But the vast majority of Pilates teachers and students I’ve learned from and been inspired by do not fit this mold.

And with good reason. Pilates is designed to help us connect with and move better in our bodies. It is not designed to prepare us for careers in Cirque du Soleil despite what you might see trending on Instagram.

Blazing new trails in the Pilates community

Of course, there have always been people fighting the Pilates body myth but I’m finding within the Pilates field a revolution taking place that is turning stereotypes on their heads (literally!). Take this interview on Pilates Unfiltered between Pilates professionals Jenna Zaffino and Anula Maiberg. Or this feature on Anula Maiberg in Pilates Style magazine.

There are also students and teachers in the field who are shining a bright light through social media and educational programming on the medical benefits of Pilates (not the typical fixation on the bikini body we usually see in the media). See spinal cord injury conqueror Theo St Francis and MS patient and Pilates pioneer Mariska Breland.

I am always in search of  people who inspire me in my movement practice and individuals like those above are in my Instagram feed. I encourage people to stop comparing themselves to others (it’s a no-win proposition) and help break the myth that there’s a body archetype for any movement practice.  

Choose a new path.