Another day, another abject humiliation at the hands of my new gym membership: I took my first Pilates class today. Or, I tried to anyway.
The instructor seemed nice enough, particularly at first, and she was sure itty-bitty, which I guess is some sort of testimony to the effectiveness of the class.
There were three of us, not counting the instructor, in a small room. And these flat machines that featured resistance cords and a middle platform on which you'd kneel or lie or whatever. Joseph Pilates originally designed his machines to help veterans rehab after World War I. They are also commonly used by dancers who need to be both flexible and strong. Exercises were essentially repetitive, controlled movements emphasizing stretch, range of motion and using your own body weight (with the resistance cords' help) to deepen stretches and ranges.
All this was done to New Agey music that I think was supposed to be soothing but made me slightly homicidal. I can see the appeal of the discipline even from the few exercises I was able to complete successfully. I could feel the stretching, the depth of muscle contraction as I worked along in my first-timer, uncoordinated way.
The trouble started when we quit lying flat on the platform and began balancing on it. One exercise required us to place one knee on the platform and link a cable to our other leg. The non-kneeling leg was then to kick back behind us as we balanced on the platform knee. Of course, the platform would move on its track as the free leg moved back and forth.
It was during this exercise that I fell off the machine for the first time. I was fine as long as the instructor was next to me with one hand on my shoulder and the other on the small of my back. But the minute she stepped away, I toppled crazily over, a whir of arms and legs. Undaunted, I popped back up, laughed it off (I am a bit clumsy) and tried again. And fell again.
After that, I decided perhaps that specific exercise wasn't really happening for me. So I waiting 'til the rest of the class moved on to the next one. At which point I fell a third and final time. I was done.
I told the instructor as I was leaving that while she'd been very nice and all, I really didn't think Pilates was for me and thanked her for her help.
"Well, yes, it seems very hard for you," she said. "It's a hard discipline."
"Well, sure, but my falling OFF THE MACHINE isn't really helping matters."
"Hm," she said. "Well."