Zen And The Pilates Method
Back in the early days of my training in the Pilates Method (1987-88) I was fortunate to be able to study with all the Pilates Elders and their protege’s. Each or them told the same story of how Joseph Pilates studied and eventually based his work on Yoga, Zen, and ancient Greek and Roman exercise regimens.
Whatever the real truth turns out to be, we can’t deny that every Pilates Mat exercise is a Yoga asana, and we certainly do our share of push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and leg-lifts (calisthenics), and we share the same mindfulness and “oneness with the movement” that you will find in Zen.
Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), who was peerless in swordmanship, and brilliant in painting, calligraphy, sculpture, and metalwork, said that “all Ways are one” If the Pilates Method is practiced not only to gain immediate results, but to perfect human being, it can become a Way, and lead to harmony in both the person and society.
In Zen there is the principle of Shin Ki Roku Ichi which can be translated as the oneness of mind, energy, and body, or mind and body made one through breath. When this concept is fully grasped, tension and relaxation, calmness and alertness are correctly balanced. One’s entire being enters the work which will exhibit graceful power and beauty whether it be a swordcut in fencing, a character in calligraphy, or the Pilates Method.