How feeling uncomfortable makes you stronger

"Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable," I said.

I was teaching a challenging sequence in a group mat class, and as my own body was wobbling and trying to find stability, I could see that my students' were too. I wanted to provide some encouragement: "You're wobbling. I'm wobbling. It's ok." More than that, I wanted them to spend some time in that unbalanced place and feel the changes they could make to regain their balance. 

That sentence replayed itself in my head over and over after class. I found myself thinking: "Who is going to come to my Pilates class to be uncomfortable on purpose?" Maybe, I conceded, I'm doing this all wrong.

The truth is, both in mat classes and private Pilates training, I intentionally put my students in challenging positions. I ask them to relax their upper bodies and breathe while their deep abdominal muscles shake with exertion. I add resistance to one leg but not the other and ask them to move both legs equally. I put a wobbly ball underneath them and suggest that they balance on it -- keeping their trunks still while their legs move. And I do it all to make my students stronger.

When our bodies work to find balance in an unstable environment, we recruit the deep muscles in our abdominals, backs and sides. In Pilates we focus on those muscles -- creating a strong and balanced powerhouse as the center of a strong and balanced body. When I teach, my goal is to help students find deep muscle connections and proper joint alignment and then use those things to try to find a "comfortable" balance in an uncomfortable position.

Let's face it: daily life puts our bodies into uncomfortable positions. We carry our children, sit in front of computers, shovel snow in winter and bend over to garden in summer. Through Pilates, I want to give my students the tools they need to feel stronger in those situations. So while they may be uncomfortable in Pilates class, they will be more comfortable in life.