Pilates is something I’ve always been interested in but never tried for a variety of excuses. Too expensive. Not outdoorsy enough. Machinery looks intimidating. Yadda yadda yadda. Either way, pilates has mostly been a sight fascination to me and nothing more.
Until I enjoyed a Lowell’s Herb Co. sativa-forward, hybrid pre-roll and walked in to a pilates studio to learn something.
The first thing I learned was about sticky socks. No one told me about sticky socks. Apparently, in pilates, because you’re feet are on round metal bars and leather pads they can slip, you can lose balance and injuries result. As such, students wear sticky socks, which can either cost upwards of fifteen dollars or you get to wear free used ones.
I opted for the used option and, in my elevated state, fumbled foolishly to fit myself into socks with specific toe sleeves that were too small for my own. Sticky socks now barely on, I approached my reformer as if I had stepped into a construction site and the socks were my ill-fitting steel-toed boots, separating me from inevitable disaster.
The hardest part about learning pilates for the first time is being comfortable on the reformer. The hardest part about learning pilates for the first time while high is how to even get on the reformer in the first place. This is exacerbated by the fact that I’m 6’2”. I can’t speak for all studios, but it appears as though reformers weren’t really made for people over a certain height. I struggled to position my head in the little carved out section and fit my shoulders under the pads while my feet reached out for anything solid to latch onto.
After what felt like two hours of futzing, looking around, and moving color-coded springs and widgets, I was finally in place, on my back, moving my arms in concentric circles with feet in the air and feeling an aggressive burn in my abs that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.
In the beginning, it felt as though I was in one of those post-war PSAs about the benefits of eating a salad after vigorous, machine-oriented calisthenics. Where all the men wear high shorts, tucked in tanktops, and drive to a suburban high school in a sleek, new Mercury with all their friends. Which may be due in part because it is an exercise born out of that generation. But it’s foundation rests so heavily on the bedrock of basic human movement that whatever I felt emotionally quickly subsided to, “Wow, this is hard.”
The great part about this kind of high is that the little kick in the pants from the sativa, plus the meditative relaxation from the indica, allowed me to be energized and focused. It didn’t drag down the body like when I went climbing, and I wasn’t having manic, anxious thoughts.
In fact, as I got the hang of the machine and the movements, I felt as though I was more present than usual while exercising. Part of that could be due to the nature of doing something hard and risky for the first time – either focus or injure yourself. The other part could be that I was high and, well, being high helps with being in the moment. A third could be the emphasis on breathing that’s inherent to the workout.
Every form of exercise I’ve done has stitched together moving and breathing.
I swam in college, where you must match movement to breath or you’ll drown. I boxed, where you have to breathe when you throw a punch because it leaves you the most vulnerable. In turn, if you get punched with air in your lungs it doesn’t feel very good at all. In yoga, like pilates, every movement has an inhale or an exhale with it. In climbing, the first “trick” is to breathe when you reach for a new hold. In weightlifting, you can give yourself an aneurysm if you don’t exhale while maxing out.
Pilates, like all physical exercise, requires that marriage of breath and movement. That simple level of focus on something so involuntary immediately brings me into a more present state of mind. It’s a literal moving meditation. About halfway through, in the meat of it all, the only thing I could think about was breathe in, breathe out. Inhale. Exhale.
By the time the hour was over I had a bad case of jell-o legs and an insatiable appetite. The next day, I’m wearing the familiar and comforting tight pull of sore muscles like a prized blanket – something I had earned.
Is Pilates going to be my thing? Probably not. Would I do Pilates again while high? Absolutely. Highly recommend.