Walking into a Pilates studio can conjure a sense of intrigue, curiosity, and dare I say, kinkiness. Fuzzy straps, chains, trapeze, and an assortment of metal springs against a sleek wood finish look straight out of Fifty Shades of Grey. In addition to the sexy setting, there are the Pilates movements themselves: inversions, pumping arms accompanied by percussive breathing, boxes and barrels to be straddled, and plenty of suggestively arched backs. It’s no wonder that Pilates has a somewhat erotic reputation.
In addition to the racy aesthetic, the method’s focus on every exercise engages and strengthens the pelvic floor and its surrounding musculature. Those muscles are the ones that make sex more pleasurable for partners of all genders. Precision, stamina, focus, control: all of the qualities that lead to stellar Roll-Ups and Long Spine Stretches just happen to be a boon in the bedroom, too.
The activation and relaxation of the pelvic floor brings blood flow and circulation to the area resulting in stronger, longer orgasms for all parties involved. Orgasms provide relief, pleasure, and collagen, hence the famous “afterglow.” Keep in mind there are at least 12 types of orgasms and they don’t all involve penetration. Pilates can help you explore those erogenous zones.
Better sex with a partner is a worthy goal, but it’s not the only way that Pilates enhances intimacy. With studies showing 50 percent of women have a low sexual self-image and feel stressed, embarrassed, or unhappy with their sex lives, there is a need for healing through connection, acceptance, and self-love. This pertains to men as well and non-binary individuals. A Pilates practice can foster a connection to one’s physical body, increasing self-awareness and confidence that can translate to your relationships, whether it’s feeling better naked or knowing what types of touch are most pleasurable (and what types are not for you).
There are many anecdotal stories of people making life-altering decisions soon after embarking on a Pilates journey. Pilates improves posture, which makes us stand taller and project a sense of confidence. Gains in strength translate to increased energy and more ease everyday activities. Pilates leads to feeling more comfortable in your own skin and fills us with gratitude for what our bodies are capable of. All of these changes help cultivate intimacy with the self. This intimacy can take the form of experimenting with self-pleasure, communicating needs and desires to others, or simply taking pleasure in our bodies.
Movement improves mood, reduces stress, and optimizes oxygen flow, just like good sex. Building endurance and strength through a Pilates practice enables you to hold positions longer and try new ones. The connection of the inner thighs to the low abs can enhance sexual pleasure.
While Kegels (the name for a set of exercises that work the pelvic floor muscles) have been a hot topic in sexual health for years, working these muscles in isolation isn’t as effective as once thought. With pelvic engagement, the same kind of exercise that Pilates teachers use to help both men and women enhance their lives.
You don’t need to be a contortionist or dancer to have great sex, but a little flexibility goes a long way. Strength is equally important in the bedroom. A strong core, coupled with strong and supple limbs, allow us to hold ourselves up using our arms or to avoid back and neck pain during sex.
In chapter three of 'Caged Lion', author John Steel recalls Joseph Pilates candidly telling him that he made the exercises mimic sexual movements. Of course, in the 1950s and 1960s, it was taboo to draw attention to this. Even today in a culture that uses sex to sell everything from laundry detergent to blue jeans, frank discussions of sexual pleasure and health are relegated to behind closed doors.
Sexual health is part of overall health. Our sexual health affects our mental, emotional and spiritual health, not only our bodies. Our pelvis and our sexual organs are the base or foundation of our structure, housing the spine like the roots of a tree. It is our seat of stability, creation, safety, and survival. Is it a coincidence that Joseph Pilates’ method foregrounds this area of the body, and that all of his movements emanate from this region? Knowing all that we know about how ahead of his time he was, in movement as well as in his thinking, it’s safe to say that it is not.