The Pilates Mind-Body Connection – Unconscious vs. Conscious Awareness for Pilates Training & Life!

by | Sep 16, 2010 | Pilates | 4 comments

How much time throughout the day do you spend consciously aware of what you’re doing? Is it a couple of minutes, an hour, or most of your day?  Or is it hardly ever?

A few years ago, I was working with one of my Pilates students, who had been training with me for quite a while, but never seemed to remember anything that we were doing.  He had a routine, but I had to  tell him every little detail, from the name of the exercise to how to do it, breath patterns, and equipment set up.  Every workout felt like we were starting from scratch – he acted like he’d never seen the exercises before – and this had been happening on EVERY exercise for years!

While I usually am very patient with my students, one day I had a moment of utter frustration…  and blurted out, “You know that Pilates is a mind-body exercise program, and using your mind means that you should know your exercises and the order you do them in for  your Pilates workout program!”

He looked at me and said, “But I’ve always exercised so that I don’t have to think.” (As was obvious by our “Groundhog Day” experience during our Pilates sessions)

But think about how many people  you see walking, running, swimming, lifting weights, or other fitness activities with their headphones on tuned into their music or favorite TV show with no awareness of body mechanics, support, or efficient movement technique.

And then something miraculous happened…

He came to his next Pilates session with a notebook in hand.  It took us 3-4 training sessions to write out his program.  He would do an exercise, then stop and take notes – the name of the exercise, repetitions, any particulars that he needed to pay attention to, and spring/equipment set up.  Writing things down, helped him pay attention.  He went home and typed his notes into the computer, and I think he may have actually studied his list in-between sessions!  In no time, we were progressing much faster- because he actually recognized exercises and we could move more quickly through the basics for a warm-up, and focus our attention on new exercises and new goals.

I was so proud the day he started participation in our Open Gym program.  Safe and confident to participate in solo workouts with his Pilates exercise list in hand, further assisted the learning curve for conscious awareness during Pilates.  And this awareness began to creep into his running, swimming, and other workouts.  Yippee!!!  When you pay attention to what the body is doing, you have the opportunity to improve your technique.

If I think back to my first Pilates lesson.  The exercises looked easy, but once I started, the realization of how much I had to think and strive to coordinate, breath and body movement, and I became consciously aware that I wasn’t quite as strong or flexible as I thought I was!  It seems that most of my clients have a similar experience, in noticing how much they don’t notice when standing still, breathing, or doing other fitness activities.

I firmly believe that Pilates training is a springboard for increasing conscious awareness in all aspects of Life!

What we notice about our body, brain, and habits during Pilates, gives us an opportunity to improve these same habits during other moments of life, whether it’s at work, driving the car, doing chores around the house, or during sport activities, and other non-Pilates workouts.

Pay attention and make conscious decisions for everything you do.

See how quickly you’ll reap the rewards of your thoughtful conscious awareness to reach your goals and enjoy the benefits of  living  life to the fullest!


Drop me a comment!  What areas of your life do you want to improve your consciousness?  What steps are you going to take to help make it happen?

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


  1. Tina Felluss

    I really like the connection made between pilates and consciousness. “The body tells all.” As we become more attuned to that mind/body connection, we gain greater access to the deepest parts of ourselves.

  2. Benita Ortic

    VRy exciting you just read the idea

  3. Mark

    Actually Aliesa…..with the utmost respect to you…….your title is incorrectly worded…..

    It isn’t ‘unconscious’ but rather ‘Subconscious’.

    If people were unconscious, that would make them not awake….as in passed out, in a coma, not coherent, etc.

    I just don’t understand why this is such a HUGELY improperly misused word?!

    Otherwise, thank you for your article 😉

    • Aliesa George

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comments & tweaking my vocabulary! I’m thinking about (and demonstrating) an example of working through the Conscious Competence Learning Matrix as outlined in the PMA Pilates Certification Exam Study Guide.

      When I think of unconscious – even though they might not be in a coma…there is truly no awareness about what someone is doing, or who is actually in charge of sending the messages to the muscles to make the right action happen. For all of us, the long-term goal should be to move from unconscious incompetence, through conscious incompetence, to conscious competence, and hopefully some day arrive at place where subconsciously things just work right without extra thought or effort. Funny though… the PMA manual lists this phase of the learning process as Unconscious Competence! Which to me means not having to think or be aware and they body automatically performing exercises or tasks correctly with minimal effort.

      HA!!! There’s going to be a whole lot of Pilates teachers causing you some frustration in the use of the word “unconscious” vs. “subconscious!” I appreciate your comments – always something to learn, think about, and help me grow!

      Have a GREAT Day!



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