I was brand new to Pilates when I came to EpicSelf HQ. I’d heard about it before but I thought it was just 1990s SoulCycle. I thought it was a popular celebrity fitness trend so I never gave it much thought. When I saw Yoga/Pilates fusion classes were a part of the Epic Living Academy Fellowship curriculum I was open to trying it. I was ready to embark on my journey of 4 weeks with pilates and yoga.

My first yoga/pilates fusion class with Amber was a whirlwind. I had no idea what I was doing. The moves were similar to some yoga asanas in appearance but required completely different muscle activation. Amber was giving cues to activate one part of my body and another was moving. I knew anatomically where the muscles were but my mind-body connection wasn’t yet strong enough to actually move the correct muscle.

Pilates opened me up to a different level of mind-body awareness. We’ve been practicing the yoga/pilates fusion for 3 weeks now and I feel very strong. I have more control over my ribs, serrates anterior, and my pelvis. I’m able to breathe deeply and rinse the air from inside of me. But most of all I’m able to focus on the smaller more delicate muscles. I’m very athletic and even cheered in college but I’ve been working on being more graceful in my practice. It’s easy for me to just put my body in a pose because of my cheerleading flexibility, but pilates called for a deeper muscle awareness than my yoga practice previously had.

We’ve been practicing outside in nature and yesterday on the ocean. A natural background immerses you in presence because you can hear the birds chirping, you see butterflies, you feel the breeze, you smell the ocean. All of these elements remind you that there is more to this life than you. Its easier to relax into a pose when you’re being cooled by the wind and listening to nature’s sounds. You learn new levels of balance when the sand is sliding under your feet in Tree pose. Being rocked by the waves in child’s pose during SUP yoga forces you to be present because if your mind drifts you may fall off your board. SUP yoga was very challenging because all of the muscles had to work together. Luckily these last 3 weeks prepared me and I felt strong and steady in my SUP yoga practice (until the lunge series came and I fell off multiple times lol).

The strength I’m gaining is helping me with my long standing body image issues. For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with my physical appearance. I’ve placed so much value and worth in how my body looked on a daily basis. I’ve used food and all kinds of pharmaceutical means to control my body. For years I never cared how I felt, my focus was always on how I looked. I’ve gone through some difficult personal times this year and have put on extra weight. I’ve been compassionate with myself because of the emotions that caused the weight gain and retention, but now I’m ready to be free from it. Pilates is making me feel stronger than ever because I see my daily strength and body awareness improvements both on the mat and with the apparatuses. I’m seeing myself shed the excess weight but its a more slow and controlled process than my old regimen of 3 weeks of high cardio and low to no food.

I can notice my increased strength in my yoga postures as well.  I can stand strong in Crescent lunge and my hips are aligned in Warrior 2 and. I’ve always preferred Yin Yoga and traditional Hatha to Power and Hot yoga styles because I like a slower and more contemplative practice. The pilates fusion adds more challenging elements into the practice but doesn’t take away from my concentration and focus. I’m happy to be learning a new discipline that so forcefully combines breath and movement. I thought yoga was the only mind-body workout but I’m happy to be introduced to something new. For more on how to use your mind and body in connection click here!