Is Pilates Okay for Catholics?

MR asks: “I’m wondering about Pilate. Is this exercise okay for Christians?”

Yes, Pilates is not based in any particular religion and is a popular form of resistance exercise. However, Christians need to be wary of classes where instructors incorporate New Age practices.

The origin of Pilates was a man named Joseph Pilates whose fitness ideas were rooted in yoga, Zen meditation and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimes. He was also very committed to what has become a popular New Age concept known as the power of positive thinking, a movement that eventually morphed into the New Age’s Human Potential Movement. This movement is a spin-off of the New Thought movement of the 1900s in which people believed that if the mind could conceive it, a person could achieve it.

While Pilates itself is neutral, the problem is that the fitness industry is heavily infiltrated by New Agers, which means you’re bound to encounter instructors who incorporate New Age concepts into their pilates workouts. Some do it openly, such as in Yogalates or Pilates with Chi. Others are more covert about it and employ more subtle suggestions such as introducing eastern breathing techniques or seemingly innocent visualization exercises.

In one of the more outrageous cases I’ve read, one instructor of a children’s pilate workout told her class she wanted to help them “develop a relationship with the inside of your body.” Thankfully, a parent was standing in the back of the room and raised the roof over it.

Christians who are interested in incorporating pilates into their fitness regime should be willing to work out more than just their muscles. Their powers of discernment will also have to be put to the test. They must educate themselves on the difference between eastern and western meditation techniques as well as the risks associated with altered states of consciousness, visualization and other trance induction practices that are likely to show up in mainstream yoga and pilates classes.

For those who just want to exercise and not be bothered with all this fuss, forget pilates. Having been a fitness instructor for many years, I can tell you that the best resistance exercise continues to be the use of free weights (particularly if you’re post-menopausal). Nothing even comes close to this as far as building strength and shaping the body. Tubes and bands are also excellent choices and offer the same benefits as pilates.

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