I really should do Pilates – But let’s drop the “should”

People often tell me: “Oh that’s so cool you teach Pilates and Yoga, I really should do Pilates/Yoga but …..”, or “Oh, I would love to do Pilates/Yoga but I can’tbecause I am not flexible or strong enough”. The simplest reply would be that one does not have to be flexible or strong to do Yoga or Pilates. The strength and flexibility will develop over time with practice. It’s just like going to school. I did not start school with knowing how to read, write, and do Maths perfectly. That was the reason for going to school; to learn it there. Same thing with Pilates and Yoga. The point of attending a class is learning and practicing how to do it. 

Yet, it actually is not that simple, because these statements reveal so much more. “I should” or “I can’t” reflects the believes of a person, which is not only connected to Yoga or Pilates.

I should, but…

Let’s start with the “I should, but….”. I feel as though should connotes that we feel obligated to do something. In most cases we might not want to do it or know we are not going to. This then sets us up for feeling guilty or ashamed for not doing what we “should”. The result is a negative feedback loop. These feelings prevent us from taking actions that would get us out of them.

Additionally, using the word should signals that we are trying to live up to an external idea, which may not be our truth. In other words, we are trying to be or do something that is not authentic and true for us. In this sense, should is very dis-empowering. Whatever we should be doing does not arise out of a sense of autonomy and agency over our own actions. So, how can we step into our power? How can we make decisions that feel authentic for us and leave us feeling good about ourselves?

Reframe the should

We could first change the world should to describe more accurately what we are really feeling and thinking. This allows us to explore what belief is underneath this should. Oftentimes, when I get deeper into conversations with people about why they think they should be going to a Pilates class or do Yoga, they suddenly say things such as; “I feel like it would be good for me, but I am afraid of ….”. This is a common theme I see; should often conceals fear. It may be difficult at first to be honest with ourselves about this fear. Yet, once we have seen it for what it is, a belief we have that may not necessarily be true, we are suddenly empowered to make a choice. 

So we can then reframe the should and the fear. We could say something like “Even though I am afraid I won’t be any good, I will try this Pilates class and see how it goes” or “I am not sure if this is for me, but I will take this Yoga class so I know whether it is for me or not”. Simply changing the way we talk and think about something gives us more agency over our own actions. We are put back in charge of our own lives. 

And you might find that Pilates and Yoga are really not the right thing for you. But at least you have tried it and you now know from experience and you don’t let external or internal ideas of what you need to be doing dictate your life and your emotional state.

I can’t…

What about the “can’t“? Similar to shouldcan’t is very dis-empowering. It signals that we hold beliefs about ourselves that may not be true. “Can’t” very rarely states a fact. Especially if we have never tried, we do not actually know whether we can or not. 

To change the “can’t” to allow more freedom and step back into our power, we can again re-phrase and re-frame. I have found that sometimes when I say I “can’t“, I am actually feeling that I don’t want to. If we have freed ourselves from the ideas of what we should and should not be doing, it all of the sudden becomes a lot easier to be really honest with our “can’t”sand say if we do not want to do something. The truth is always empowering because it allows us to make a conscious choice.

To give you an example…

In a Pilates class I taught a while ago in Vienna, there was a very energetic, dynamic and radiant woman in her mid to late 50ties, who attended regularly. She had been doing Pilates and all forms of exercise for years. You could tell she loved it and at some point she started dragging her husband to class. His doctor said that a few of his ailments could be improved with regular exercise.

One look at the husband’s body language was enough to know that he did not want to be here in this class at all. Not surprisingly, he kept saying to me “I can’t“. Well true, there probably were certain exercises that would not have been healthy for his body at that point, but what he was really saying was “I don’t want to do this”. 

But, we have a choice

If this man would have honestly said exactly that, two options would have emerged for him. First, he could have done it anyways. Just because we do not want to do something, it does not mean we cannot or will not do it. We might not always want to get out of bed in the morning and rather sleep in, but we do it anyways, especially when we have a full day ahead, or a dog that needs to go for a walk or children that need to be taken to school.

So, we might not want to do Pilates or Yoga at first but if we think it may have certain health benefits for example, we can at least give it a try. And worst case scenario we really do not like it but then we are free to find something else we like better. At least we have tried, and are again empowered to make our own decision. 

The second option would have been to say “I do not want to do it and I do not want to try”. We are not obliged to try anything if we do not want to. What is more important than pleasing a significant other or a Pilates instructor (or anyone else) is feeling empowered, trusting in our own choices, and being true to ourselves.

It’s up to you

Of course, as someone who spends a lot of time teaching and doing her own practice, I could give a hundred reasons why Pilates and Yoga is good for you and  I could assure you that your body is capable of so much more than you think. However, all a teacher can really do is invite, encourage, and inspire. The rest is up to each of us individually, and making conscious decisions, born out of what is currently true for us. The key to standing in our own power is to keep seeking that truth, investigating our believes and remaining open to change. The way we speak, act, and move will reflect out empowered choices.


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