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Pilates, Pace, and Persistence: Unraveling the Wisdom of a Chinese Proverb


As a seasoned Pilates teacher , I've often encountered individuals who have tried Pilates but dismissed it as 'too slow.' I've also been faced with recent fascia research suggesting that this connective tissue responds better to faster movements. At the crossroads of these debates, I often recall a venerable Chinese proverb: "Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.


Pilates, much like this proverb, underscores the value of mindful progress over rushed performance. This traditional Chinese wisdom encapsulates a principle that is central to my teaching and practice in Pilates: the journey is more important than the destination. It's not about the speed with which we get there, but the consistency of movement, the alignment, the engagement, and the mindfulness that we bring into each session.


There's a common misconception that 'slow' is synonymous with 'easy.' In reality, slower movements in Pilates require the practitioner to maintain a level of control, precision, and mindfulness that is uniquely challenging. Slowness in this context doesn't indicate a lack of progress; it's a testament to the depth and quality of the progress being made.

Addressing the topic of fascia - a web-like layer of connective tissue that wraps around our muscles, bones, and organs - recent research indeed suggests that faster, dynamic movements can enhance fascial health. However, it's essential not to overlook the fact that Pilates has always incorporated a range of movement speeds, from slow and controlled to quick and dynamic. Pilates, in its comprehensiveness, doesn't neglect any part of the body or any aspect of movement, fascia included.


As we age, the balance between slower, controlled movements and quicker, dynamic ones becomes even more critical. Aging bodies might not respond to fast, high-impact exercises as they once did, but standing still is not an option either. We must keep moving - carefully, mindfully, and persistently.


Pilates offers this delicate balance. The slow, controlled movements build strength, flexibility, and balance while protecting our joints, making it a safe choice for older practitioners. The quicker, dynamic movements incorporated within the practice can stimulate our fascia and enhance our overall mobility and function.


To those who have dismissed Pilates as 'too slow,' I'd encourage revisiting the practice with a fresh perspective. Reflect on the wisdom of the Chinese proverb: the value isn't in speed, but in avoiding stagnation. Progress, no matter how slow, is progress nonetheless.

We need to respect our bodies and listen to their wisdom. Sometimes, they might call for slow and controlled movements, other times for quick, dynamic ones. As we grow older, striking the right balance is key to maintaining our physical health and vitality. Through a balanced Pilates practice, we are neither going too fast nor standing still - we are continuously moving forward, one mindful step at a time.

As teachers and practitioners, our role is to guide that journey, fostering a sense of achievement and progress at every stage. In the words of Joseph Pilates, "Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour." And in the spirit of the Chinese proverb, let's keep moving, slowly but surely, towards our goals.

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