I felt inspired to look at Joseph Pilates’s 9 Pilates Principles as the ultimate culmination of body, spirit, and mind. While the principles may seem abstract, their integration is anything but. A true testament to applying the principles are their transformative power at an integral level.
I’m a type 1 diabetic and have bounced around the proverbial fitness scene with a trailing A1C and equally capricious blood sugars to show for it. It wasn’t until a full-time switch to teaching and training did I find a balance, a reality made apparent by my blood sugar management coinciding with a physical manifestation of the principles. But, the principles are not a “be all end all” to diabetes management either, and I am humbled everyday by the journey that is a Pilates practice, not an end result. I offer a reinterpretation of Joseph’s principles through the lens of a Pilates practitioner with diabetes. I hope it will help others understand and learn more about living and thriving in my daily life.
In a single breath, we have the power to stretch, release stress, and to feel expansive. The diaphragmatic rhythm of our inhales and exhales, however unconscious, is the rhythm that supports our physical movement and mental acuity throughout the day. I\t’s why I like to spend even just a couple minutes of class to restore normal breathing. The focus of the principle is two fold: 1) It promotes management for stress, improves blood-sugar regulation and gut function, and helps balance hormones. 2) It also just plain feels good.
Concentration isn’t staying focused exclusively on the exercise at hand, it also means a single-minded focus on you. Give yourself this time to care for your body, to regain awareness for what is going on inside. So often as an individual living with diabetes, we can feel at a complete disconnect with our body, while at the same time all we’re focused on is our body: how are our sugars today? What is our insulin sensitivity today? Do we feel stressed? Pay attention instead to how you feel within this space. Now. In this moment. Pay attention to who you are, not just how well you’re doing.
Doesn’t it always seem to come down to mind over matter. No one knows control better than someone living with diabetes. It is the back breaking work of staying healthy. You are forced to be more intuitive, to know how your body responds. The mind is a powerful thing, and your ability to harness your well honed sense of control, both in the studio and out, makes your efforts and the Pilates movements all the more profound.
I cannot think of how I’d survive day to day without a strong foundation: my close family and friends, my Diabetes Educator and NP I see every 3 months, my occupation, which is also my self-practice, bringing me joy and enlightenment each day. From this strong, stable, and still flexible center of my life I can be a capable, healthy individual. I like to think if you find your center in Pilates, you find your center in life.
Nothing in life is perfect. And, there’s no way you will always maintain an optimal A1C. The body, just like life, has imbalances. But we still strive to do things well, tying together our ability to focus, strong sense of control, and discipline to stay aware, which becomes the practice and definitiveness of your Pilates journey. It may be the one thing you realize that day.
Balanced Muscle Development
It is not the singular execution of carb-counting or bolusing or even a balanced diet that improves our health, but the cooperative and devoted practice of each and every part of being someone living with diabetes. With time it becomes second nature and living in good health is just another daily activity, like brushing your teeth.
Our daily blood-sugars develop a movement pattern that flows, they aren’t pin-points on a graph or like darts on a dart board, but instead are a smooth and graceful fluctuation of readings throughout the day. You have a pattern. You have a rhythm. What’s more, yours is different from mine, just as we each come to the studio at different places in our Pilates practice. Remember that and show compassion and kindness towards yourself, reducing the added stress placed on your body.
Whole Body Movement
We are individuals. Healthy individuals. Unique individuals. We happen to be living with diabetes. True, the maintenance and care of type 1 diabetes is integrated into our minds, our routines, and how we orient our lives. But, it is not our purpose, it does not define our body or our potential, and it does not dampen our spirit. It fundamentally affects our whole-body experience but also simultaneously provides clarity and guidance towards creating a life of balance.
Relaxation Stress has a negative effect on our blood sugar management, adversely impacting the adrenal system. Long-standing stress levels can really change our quality of life! Learning to release unnecessary tension in our bodies is so important. The trending “self-care” or “work-life balance,” while not new to Pilates, is just another example of developing an understanding of how much effort is needed to naturally, easily, and satisfactorily accomplish all our varied daily tasks. The studio time, whether it’s an hour, or half-hour, is for you. Take it. Relish it. Relax into it. And, by all means develop it in such a way for you to take wherever you go in life!
Photo Courtesy: @puremovementpilates and @cal.brooke