Strength grows in stillness: How NOT moving can make us stronger

“Pilates isn’t about what’s moving. It’s about what’s NOT MOVING.” And with that, my Pilates teacher trainer gave me a totally different way of looking at Pilates.

Her point was to help us understand the stability factor inherent in Pilates. NOT moving one part of your body while another part moves requires the not-moving part to be strong enough to hold still – to be able to hold its own against other moving parts.

It can be a tricky thing as an exercise professional – a teacher of movement – to ask students to focus on not moving. Even more challenging is to help them understand, and maybe even believe, that the stillness is as important as the movement.

We equate movement with strength because we can see something happening. We see a runner’s legs move, see a weightlifter’s muscles contract. So when something is still, we don’t see strength.

As a Pilates teacher, I have come to see things differently. I know that even though I can’t see them, muscles deep inside our bodies have to work really hard to provide stability within movement. I know the hardest thing I can ask students to do is to move one body part without moving anything else. I know strength grows in stillness.

I see that now as a metaphor for my life outside of the Pilates studio. My life, and probably yours, too, is full of movement – working, caring for the people I love, driving here and there and back again, and doing all of the mundane chores that keep my household humming. There is always something to do, and yet, I have found that I feel better if I allow myself time to NOT do.

It’s hard to avoid the pull of movement in exercise and in life. And yet, I know it makes me stronger. So this year I’m working to find more stillness in my life – in the Pilates studio and out. I hope you’ll join me.