November 29, 2017

Is Pilates a spiritual path? – Part 2

by Reiner Grootenhuis

Last week, we began to examine Joseph Pilates’ claims about the Pilates method being a “complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit” but we stopped short of any final conclusion as to it being a spiritual path or not.

How breathing stops the mind’s chatter

When I started my practice of Zen meditation, I was asked to count my breaths until 10. At the beginning, I was told to inhale and count 1 while breathing in, and then exhale with 2, inhale with 3…. After I mastered this step, I had to exhale with 1, inhale stillness, exhale with 2, etc.  I will spare you the next steps of this process.

It sounds easy but when you try it, you will find out quickly that it isn’t, since your mind starts wandering around. What do we do in Pilates? Let’s say we start on the Reformer. Many of us inhale while we press out in the first foot-work position and exhale while we come back. And while we do this we count for ourselves 1, and so on. Sounds very similar.

As I tried to learn more about Zen meditation, I also found that breathing and concentration were strongly related. Katsuki Sekida describes in his book Zen Training that “… we could control thoughts occurring in the brain by dint of holding our breath. That control and inhibition of thought came from this opposed tension in the abdominal muscles and diaphragm.” (Second edition 1975, p. 56)

Now this sounds quite a bit like Joseph Pilates, doesn’t it?  In Your Health, he wrote this about breathing:

The first lesson is that of correct breathing …  They must be properly instructed how to draw the abdomen in and out at the same time holding their breath for a short time. Then they should also learn how properly to fully deflate the lungs in exhaling.


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Reiner Grootenhuis

profil-verkleinertBesides obtaining a diploma in psychology and an MBA, Reiner Grootenhuis has studied the healing and martial arts of the Southern Shaolin Monastery Weng Chun. He completed the training as a Pilates instructor for Pilates mat and equipment at the Pilates educational academy BASI® (Body Arts & Science International). He is the founder and operator of the largest Pilates forum worldwide, pilates-contrology-forum on Facebook, which includes 8000 Pilates instructors. At the beginning of 2012, he opened the pilates-powers Studio in Tönisvorst. Since 2014, he has been offering his own Pilates education program. In the same year, Kathy Corey appointed him a member of the Board of Directors of the Pilates Heritage Congress, which takes place every two years in the hometown of Joseph Pilates. Since January 2016, he has been studying the finesse of the method within the Kathy Corey mentor program which he successfully completed in July 2017.

In 2015, he published the first publicly available German training manual on the Wunda Chair and in 2016 the first book about the Arm Chair. He has been an author for the only German Pilates magazine, for the Pilates Style magazine and also the new international Pilates print magazine Pilates4you.