The first time I encountered Pilates was through an online video that showcased a woman effortlessly exhibiting strength, balance, and flexibility on the reformer and cadillac. As I watched her graceful movements, I knew I was nowhere near it–I couldn’t even reach my toes. However, Pilates turned out to be the perfect workout to help me achieve my fitness aspirations of being strong, flexible, and graceful.
Created by Joseph Pilates, Pilates is a holistic exercise system inspired by his diverse physical experiences as a boxer, soldier, gymnast, and martial artist. It revolves around building a strong core and working the body's deep stabilizing muscles, promoting mobility, flexibility, and strength.
My first experience with Pilates was in Germany, where I attended one of the physical education classes offered at Berlin’s Humboldt University. The efficacy of the exercises was evident from the start, but I soon realized that a group setting wasn't the ideal fit for me. I craved a more personalized training experience, one where I could forge a meaningful connection with my coach, someone who could truly understand and guide my progress.
When life led me back to Manila amid the pandemic's tail end, I met ONELIFE founder Tanya Maria Aguila, and I’ll always count that chance encounter as a turning point in my fitness journey as well as the way I live my life.
I was hooked from the very first class, and it didn't take long for me to become a regular. Initially, I committed to one session a week, but the transformative effects on my body soon convinced me to double that frequency.
What to expect at a Pilates session
During my first session, my coach conducted a thorough assessment of my balance and strength. But what truly impressed me was the personalized approach—she utilized a special scale to track essential metrics like weight, BMI, visceral fat, and skeletal muscle. We repeated this assessment every ten sessions. This meticulous monitoring of progress has been instrumental in helping me stay focused and motivated.
With each session, I witnessed progress. It can sometimes be slow and incremental but I noticed how they add up. From having the tightest hamstrings to now having the ability to reach my toes and from having a hard time lifting my legs while lying down to lifting my full body weight, I was astounded. At 30 sessions in, I found myself doing pull-ups on the cadillac while my legs rested on a trapeze. It was a feat I never would have imagined achieving before embarking on this journey.
“Pilates works so effectively and efficiently,” Tanya said when asked why Pilates is well-loved around the world. “If you have a very busy lifestyle and are always on the go, the fact that you can achieve all these goals in a 55-minute session is what most love about Pilates.”
Pilates’ unique effectiveness lies in its ability to produce results without overexertion and excessive sweating. “It’s kind to your system and builds you up rather than breaking you down. It is a common misconception that good workouts only happen when you feel exhausted, spent, drenched in sweat,” Tanya added. While Pilates may appear to be a lot of just plain stretching from an outsider's perspective, internally, the exercises engage all your systems, connecting and balancing for strength. Each session leaves you feeling refreshed and energized.
What are the different types of Pilates?
There are different types of Pilates but the most popular ones would have to be mat and reformer.
Mat Pilates uses body weight for resistance. However, you may also incorporate resistance bands or Pilates balls. This makes it an ideal at-home workout. For those who wish to start slow, Tanya assures that mat Pilates can also be practiced at home without the need for equipment. However, it’s best to get guidance from a professional Pilates coach before embarking on doing the movements by yourself. A coach can also help determine areas you need to focus on or whether one’s posture is correct while doing the exercises.
Reformer Pilates uses a specialized machine called a reformer. The reformer has a sliding carriage that is connected to springs and straps. This allows for a variety of resistance levels and movements. It can target all the major muscle groups of the body.
At ONELIFE, the focus is on another type: Clinical Pilates is done with the instruction and guidance of physiotherapists and can also be done with various equipment. The reformer offers a deeper stretch, along with other equipment like the chair, the ladder barrel, the tower, and my favorite: the cadillac. To see results, her advice is to practice two to three times a week.
How Pilates can change your relationship with your body
Tanya's encounter with Pilates was a game-changer. “Pilates really helped lay down the foundation for great body awareness, which allowed me to move and carry my body well, through all my changing seasons (motherhood included), without discomfort and pain,” she shared. “Because of Pilates, I’ve learned to truly love my body–in all its uniqueness, and I’ve also learned to trust it and embrace the many different things it enables me to experience and do.”
Why I choose to continue my Clinical Pilates sessions
I not only enjoy the transformative workouts through Clinical Pilates but also the sense of community that permeates the studio. We’re all there for different goals, living our lives in different seasons. Some come to rehabilitate an injury, some are getting ready for birth and motherhood, while some–like me–are there for general fitness. Despite attending separate classes with our own coaches and equipment, a quick hello and chat with other women before or after sessions create an uplifting camaraderie that brings us all together.
As ONELIFE celebrated its 10th anniversary, the way Pilates has helped Tanya through her various life seasons is a testament to how she and her team aspire to be there for other women as well. Having one of the largest teams of licensed physical therapists and internationally-certified Pilates coaches in the country, ONELIFE combines Pilates, Physical Therapy, and Functional Training to deliver a truly holistic experience.
Personally, I also love how it makes my everyday movements a lot more graceful. It seems that the mindfulness practice we go through as we do Pilates gets translated to everyday life and I’m definitely all for it.
One of my friends from the expat community once told me that going to a fitness studio can sometimes feel like intruding into an already established clique, especially if you’re someone from a much lower fitness level. But that’s not the case at ONELIFE. Its inclusive environment and welcoming atmosphere have always made me feel at ease and inspired me to continue my transformative fitness journey.