Holy fuck, Pilates. That is a whole lot of hurting going on. It is just rolling around on your back, mostly, but imagine rolling around on your back in the most painful way possible. Now, set yourself on fire. And that, my friends, is Pilates. I’m going back on Friday! Because I like to punish myself; because I need a hobby; because, goddamn, I want to get good at it. And I was very, very bad at it. No, really. No, for really really. I must’ve done some things right, because I’m still a little shaky, six hours later, but it was pretty much, unsurprisingly, an hour full of fail.
Luckily, it was just me and one other person who has been doing Pilates for about four years, and then the instructor, so I had lots and lots and lots of personal attention drawn to my failures. I got there early, threw my stuff into a locker, and then padded into the studio and looked around confusedly. The instructor instantly recognized my expression, which pretty much boiled down to “Ack!” and was very kindly and welcoming. I repaid her kindness by saying, “Hi! I fall down a lot.” And then she was the confused one.
“Do you have inner ear problems?” she said. “No…” I said. “I was kind
of joking? I was just trying to say that I am really uncoordinated, and
not very good at this kind of thing.” “Fine, fine,” she said. “You’ll
be okay. You’re lying down a lot.” And I wanted to tell her no, no–you
don’t understand. But she was setting up my mat and towel and telling
me about her feet and how she used to be a dancer and then explaining
to me about muscles and the other student walked in, and suddenly she
was talking about transdermals and tucking and curving and keeping one
leg straight while spinning the other leg in circles and blowing on a
kazoo and tweezing our eyebrows and I had no idea what was going on.
See, my body is made up of separate parts. Each of these distinct
parts, they are rugged individualists. Discrete, unconnected, divided,
long lengths of baling wire and border patrols on the very clearly
delimited borders of each proud and slightly retarded nation. There is
no trade, there are no talks, the borders are closed and everyone’s
minding their own business. And then, the United Nations steps in and
says pull your shoulders down your spine and your legs are fully
extended and your plumb line is straight as an arrow and your feet are
flexing, now pointing, now flexing, now pointing and you’re not
breathing! Start breathing! Breathe in! Breathe out! Pointing and
flexing! You have to point and flex and no, clockwise with the
circles, and it’s your left hand on your left ankle and then I cried.
I can’t do this! My body doesn’t cooperate! If I concentrate very, very
hard, I can maybe–maybe–keep the one leg extended and directly below my
hip flexors while the other leg points to 12 and 3 and 6 and 9 and 12 but oh god, please don’t ask me to flex my feet and if
you ask me to breathe? Everything is going to go straight to hell. I
can’t breathe when my entire body, vibrating with the effort of keeping
all the parts going at once in a barely-controlled flail–and that is
really what it is. Not Pilates, but a wild thrashing in a Pilates
studio–because if I breathe, I might actually explode.
I don’t think the instructor really believed me, when I assured her
earnestly that I really wasn’t coordinated and I was going to have a
difficult time. She said that I’d be totally okay, and that it is hard
at first, but everyone figures it out eventually. Even if you’re clumsy
at first, things smooth out as you start to pick up the principles.
This is all very solid and very true advice, for sure. For people who
are actually capable of that walking/talking/chewing gum trick. Which,
seriously, I am not capable of. She did not believe me, and thus, the
mounting bewilderment in her voice as she gave instructions, and watched
me totally, completely and one hundred percent fail to carry them out.
“Your left hip–no, your left hip. No, your left hip. Right, okay, now,
across the body. No, across. No, up and across, up–across! Up and
across, right, and you want to keep your toes pointed, and your other
leg extended directly below your hip and keep your plumb line straight
and–oh, no. Toes. Your toes. Pointed. And…all right, we’ll move on.”
I flummoxed her. She tried! I tried. She said don’t worry about it,
it’ll come to you (and the subtext was even you) and I did some things
right, and I am feeling it. Oh boy, I am feeling it, in my legs and in
some of those muscles I didn’t quite catch the name of, and in my
heart. It feels good in my heart, because even in the face of the
massive breakdown of my physical coordination, I did not actually
explode, and I kept going, and I am going to keep going because I
really, really hate totally sucking at things.