“Writing on the mat” is a project that I’m currently working on to explore how Pilates and writing may benefit each other – you can read more about the project by clicking here. If you’re a Pilates instructor, I’d be really grateful of your answers to my short questionnaire (please click here).
Each day, I’ll be writing ‘on the mat’ for 10 minutes, doing 20 minutes of Pilates, then writing for a further 10 minutes. I’ll post extracts here, and note my themes and observations. I want my research to be an interactive process, so please feel free to comment after reading.
Day 1 – Before Pilates
As those who know me are aware, I have been going through a difficult and emotional time lately. I’ve been coping well – keeping busy, sociable and cheerful – but today represented my first real “mope”, and I didn’t like it! My writing shows an uncomfortable tension between ‘coping’, ‘suppressing’ and knowing the difference:
“I am deliberately suppressing my strength, because I know I have it within me to get myself up and brush myself off. But it seems that I ought to ‘let myself go'”
The language here is so loaded – it seems that stiff-upper-lip-ism with an undertone of Heat magazine judgement is the first thing to flow from my pen. And yet, it was an obligation to be more emotional, rather than less, that was weighing down on me. Keeping calm and carrying on seemed almost like the passive option:
“I can feel myself being held upright by my own structures, my ‘self-care’, and also the care of others”
Is it possible to cope too well? Do I fear my emotional responses? Perhaps it’s no wonder, when “giving in to emotions”, “letting myself go” and “wallowing” all sound more like becoming a hippo than an emotionally healthy woman…
I noted that 20 minutes had passed very quickly, meaning that I spent most of my time on stretching. Of course, one advantage of a class (rather than home Pilates) is that somebody else manages your time – in that sense, you can relax. On the other hand, stretching felt good, and it was empowering to make my own choices:
“I could immediately feel how tense and off-balance I was – I needed to reconnect with my body and I trusted myself to be able to do that. As I stretched, I could feel my muscles releasing as though they had been encased in some kind of brittle crust. Whilst this was happening, I gave no thought to what I had previously been writing about”
So, despite my doubt about how to handle my emotions, I did feel able to ‘prescribe’ the right things for my body – it was quite reassuring to know that I can look after myself. The stretches seem analogous with a ‘release’ of emotions, but in fact they provided a distraction from my emotional concerns.
I was surprised to find that it was when I moved to more challenging, strength based movement, that my mind began to drift:
“I found that I was going back to conclusions that I had already made [about personal issues]… and beginning to accept and trust those conclusions”
Perhaps my mind is just lazy – it concentrates on the body when stretching, then drifts off when things become more physically challenging. However, it also seems that I am better able to confront my emotions when I feel strong. Just as in day-to-day life, I need structure and safety – not release and relaxation – in order to confront emotional issues. Finally, concentrating on the strength of my body helped me to think of myself as strong – once again, I was empowered to trust in my own decisions.