Pilates and Body Image

How does Pilates effect ones Body Image?

When I began Pilates I was extremely critical of my body and my weight.  As a dancer the goal was to keep my dancer bodyand that look no matter what it took.  Trying to maintain that “image” has had a long standing emotional effect on me. 

Fast forward to 3 years into opening The Pilates Movement I had stopped dancing and my body began to change, significantly.  I was not exercising nearly as much as I was when I was a dancer,  but I was still eating as if I were still dancing.  I started gaining weight and developing curves in my body that werent there before.  I actually really enjoyed it!  I finally had breasts and a butt!  I thought this is wonderful.  However, the critical dancer in me was always trying to find a way to sabotage the positive body image I was having.

The scale was my enemy.  I would get on it and immediately feel depressed that I wasnt at my dancer weight.  After feeling this way for a long time it was clear that I needed to change my thinking behind all of this.  I was still in the target weight for my height.  Not overweight, just not at the low end of the scale.

As we often hear change your thoughts, change your lifeI had to change my thoughts about my body.  So how did I get there? I started looking at all the amazing things my body allowed me to do.  I began to realize that although I was thinner and weighed less when I was dancing, I was hurt all the time and spent a lot of time in physical therapy.  Now my body was strong and vibrant.  It allowed me to do things that I never thought possible. 

I began by finding one thing about my body that I loved and celebrated that.  I would use affirmations such as I love my eyes.   Soon enough it was easy for me to find more than one thing about my body that I loved. 

Personally I have used Pilates to connect to my body and to work on any injuries or areas of my body that needed strengthening and conditioning.  Im very careful to not to try to spot treatwhich we all know is not possible for everyone.  Pilates has given me such confidence within myself that I even opened a business at age 29 to spread the message!

Teaching Pilates and Students Body Image

I love teaching Pilates.  It 100% is my true calling.  It’s important to communicate with your instructor how you are feeling in the present moment and if you have any goals you are working towards.  This helps the instructor design a workout for you.  Most likely they have an idea of how they want the session to take shape.   That idea most likely will shift and change as you open up and get deeper into the workout.

Sometimes when I ask a student about their goals, the student will use it as a way to beat up on themselves and express all of the things they hate about their bodies.  This is the complete opposite of my intention and what I believe Pilates can do for someone.

The wonderful thing about The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is that it is a body, mind and spirit workout.  What does that mean?  It means that the mind connects to the body through movement and through movement and breath we connect to our spirit. 

Pilates teaches students to connect to their bodies in a healthy way.  Pilates is for all different types of bodies.  My goal as a Pilates instructor is for you to connect to your body and therefore to your spirit through movement.  Joseph Pilates developed the exercises and the apparatus in such a way that not much needs to be said about connecting to the spirit.  It happens organically.  When you connect to your body with a regular consistent Pilates practice you gain self confidence, strength, flexibility, better coordination, increased circulation, better nights sleep and your body will change (for the better).

My experience has shown me that as the work begins to really enter into ones body, mind and spirit they begin to love and accept themselves more.  But what about the percentage of people who do the work and that shift doesnt take place? 

I started to realize that sometimes I do not have the tools to reach this client.  Pilates instructors know how to do it through movement and teaching.  So what do you do when the movement isnt helping someone connect to their spirit?

I brought this up with a long time client and friend, Dr. JoAnn Magdoff and asked her for help with this.  How can I understand what it is people are feeling and how can I help them?  We spoke about this many times and she helped me personally understand what is going on and how to handle it when Im in this situation.  I asked her to write a special piece for all of you and for my blog.  I really hope this resonates with some of you. 

In good health,


Pilates and Body Image

By JoAnn Magdoff, LCSW, PhD

I don’t think any of us can be mindfully present in a Pilates class if we repeatedly feel negative about the body we have today. Feeling uncomfortable with your body-self distracts from being connected to your Pilates practice. It prevents you from letting the class encourage a different, more positive experience of working to make your body more responsive, stronger. It would be hard to feel badly about yourself if you were positively engaged while doing Pilates!  As a psychotherapist, I encourage positive attributes about the individual or couple that they have already shared with me. That gentle reminder is usually  enough to summon up a part of themselves they can hold onto to feel more positively about who they are.  I am not suggesting that everyone feel “fabulous”; few of us feel that way most of the time. But we can learn to accept and enjoy whatever we can do, whomever and wherever we are that day, in each class.

The world we inhabit is unkind to aging and to the appearance of it. Our culture, and how it presents women, has a narrow bandwidth of what beauty is. But I think being able to love and accept yourself has deeper roots than not feeling somehow perfect, or perfectible. Many women have grown up in critical environments, at home with parents, siblings, or in the world with friends, teachers people with whom we work. Some women are criticized in adult life for how they look by their partners explicitly or implicitly. We may internalize patterns of self-deprecation that feel natural and familiar to us. If we start feeling like we arent seen for what we can do, who we can become,  we may find loving ourselves, or even enjoying what we are doing in class, whether or not we are terrific at it,  to be a difficult challenge.

Dont give up! Between psychotherapy and body-work, like the Pilates we are doing, we can begin to understand where our particular bad feelings about how we look and how we feel about our bodies came about. Being in a Pilates class is a process – like therapy is. With thoughtful exploration, talk and experience, together we can begin the process of co-creating, building  a different, affirmative way to experience yourself and your body.

If you’d like to work on this with JoAnn Magdoff she can be reached at:

Email:  magdoff@me.com

Office:  212-744-0225

Cell:     917-923-4185

Office address:  3 East 65th Street

                          Suite 1-A

                          New York, N Y 10065

Website:  www.joannmagdoffphd.com

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Jennifer RuggieroPilates and Body Image

What are the differences between Pilates & Yoga?

What are the differences between Pilates & Yoga?  Why would you choose one over the other?   Why would you practice both?  Can you practice both safely as you age?  What if you have a neurological disorder or musculoskeletal condition?  Listen to Jennifer Ruggiero’s interview given by Joe Tatta on Blog Talk Radio to find out the answers and more!

Click here to listen to the interview on Blog Talk Radio

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Jennifer RuggieroWhat are the differences between Pilates & Yoga?

My Journey with Pilates

I first discovered Pilates in 1994 while I was attending SUNY Purchase as a dance major.  I attended Purchase from 1994-1998 and while I was there we had a Pilates Studio downstairs in the dance building.

Pilates was introduced to me as a freshman, in 1994 during my Anatomy class.  As a dance major, the majority of my academic classes were in the evenings from 7pm-10pm and I danced all day from 9 am or 10 am until 5pm or 6pm.  It was a very challenging schedule.  By the time my Anatomy class came at 7pm, I was exhausted, physically and mentally.  My teacher recognized this in all of us as well.   He changed our class so that we learned academic Anatomy from 7-8:30pm and then from 8:30pm-10pm learned either The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning (mat work only) or Massage Therapy.

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Jennifer RuggieroMy Journey with Pilates

Pilates and the Spirit

Hello.  Here it is.  My first blog submission.  When thinking about the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning, one thing that I see everywhere (including my own logo) is a mind, body and spirit form of exercise.  I’ve been wanting to write about the spirit part for a long time.  I feel that for the most part, the majority of teacher’s and clients have the mind and body part.    Where is the spirit part?  I’ve often struggled recently on how to fit this into my own teachings.  I find that most clients just want to work out and have a hard enough time connecting the mind and body together, how can I get the spirit involved?  Will they be open to it?

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Jennifer RuggieroPilates and the Spirit

Mat vs Tower Classes

Mat vs Tower Class | Is One Better than the Other?

Often students ask the question “What is better, mat or tower?”.  Another question is “Which is harder, mat or tower?”.   They are different.  One is not better than the other.

As history states, Joseph Pilates first created the mat series.  Recognizing that the work was difficult and to help his students with his work, he created the Pilates apparatus.  The apparatus was created to do some of the work for you.  The Pilates apparatus helps you find your muscles, helps to give you awareness and teaches you how to use your body so you can do the mat work more efficiently.  Joseph Pilates  called his method of body conditioning, Contrology.  He worked with students one on one for a few sessions and then they were left on their own.  He had charts all over his studio with pictures of the exercises and clients would follow the charts if they forgot what came next.  Of course there were teachers there, and some students worked privately, but it was very much like a gym.  They would come into the studio as if it were a gym and do their series that he taught them.  He would teach his students new things when he felt they were ready.

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Jennifer RuggieroMat vs Tower Classes

Finding the Right Teacher

We’ve all been there including myself.  A teacher you’ve been working out with for what seems like forever is leaving the studio or gym you train at.  You go into a panic thinking to yourself, “oh my, what am I going to do now?  No one will ever know my body like this person did.”

Do not panic.  You will find another teacher that understands you and your body and your needs.  Pilates Teachers and Personal Trainers all move on for various reasons as do most employees of any industry.

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Jennifer RuggieroFinding the Right Teacher