Baby Boomers and Pilates

by Risa Sheppard

I am a baby boomer, and I am proud of it. I was born in July, 1953, in Los Angeles, CA, and will be 58 this year. How did that happen? We have zero control over when we are born and, unless you have a secret the rest of the world does not know about, no one is exempt from getting older. In fact, I believe that it is a privilege to age. Consider the alternative: When someone passes on at an “early age,” we cry that that person left us so young. And yet, the day before, we may have been criticizing the lines on his forehead, or the muffin top above her waist. We complain about it, obsess about it, hate it, fight it, get depressed about it, but, at the end of the day, it is inevitable. It’s not like Jane Smith will stay her age forever, or Joe Blow grows younger each year, and you are singled out by the universe to be one of the few to grow old and die. All that being said, what does being a baby boomer have to do with Pilates?

As the largest population group in history, it has a lot to do with Pilates. The United States Census Bureau considers a baby boomer to be someone born during the demographic birth boom, between 1946 and 1964. I am amused when people talk about the effect boomers have on the economy. Well, in 2011, the economy is the boomers! There are 75 million of us—that is a statistical reality. What are we spending our money on? Us! Our health, youth and staying young with whatever that takes. Whatever is being sold to keep us young and fit, we are buying it.
Why are baby boomers gravitating toward Pilates? Simple; it keeps you young. And we baby boomers are determined to stay young.

“You are as old as your spine is flexible,” Joseph Pilates once said.

The number one complaint among boomers is feeling stiff, all the time! They wake up stiff, and go to bed stiff. Being on a computer all day, working, and living life in general is stressful, and their bodies take the punishment. Plus, the number of years of physical pounding, old-school aerobics, running, or just plain being a couch potato has taken a toll. We thought it would never happen to us, but guess what? It did—and still is.

In Pilates, we strive for a spine that is flexible, articulate and strong. No matter your age or abilities, a spine that can bend forward, backward, side to side and rotate is a young spine. And we can keep it young into our 90’s and beyond. To articulate the space between the vertebrae is the best way to stay healthy, pain free and flexible. We must keep the spine loose and lengthened. Hence the mantra, “one vertebra at a time” that we use to cue Roll-Downs. We must imagine our spine long and lean, like a beautiful string of opulent pearls. This allows all the nerves to freely flow throughout the canals. We keep the musculature in proper alignment with our skeletal system so that the nerve endings do not compress into the muscles. We breathe deeply and fully to allow oxygen to freely flow though out the body, and facilitate the movement. We are so used to using just the front of our bodies; the back rarely moves into extension.

Constant use of computers keeps our shoulders rounded and the spine constantly flexed. It’s as if you are one-dimensional instead of three.

I remember as a young teenager only tanning the front side of my body because I had no awareness of my back! As we age, ignorance of our back side kicks us in the butt, so to speak, and we experience stiffness and pain throughout our bodies.

As boomers, our goal is not to be on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine, or to have the hottest body at the beach. We want to be comfortable, to look and feel good, and have the feelings we experienced back in the ’60s and ’70s when the world was our oyster. Good news: It still is. Only now we are older and wiser! We appreciate all that we have worked so hard for, and we are not going to let our bodies be the last to enjoy what life has to offer.

Life for us Baby Boomers is just beginning.


5 Responses to Baby Boomers and Pilates

  1. Nancy Stringfellow says:

    This is a well written explanation of the Baby Boomers, and I am included in this group. I love hearing what Joseph Pilates says about the flexible spine. I wonder if there are gentile pilate’s classes in my area, Vienna, VA. I have taken a gentle
    yoga class and love that as well; and would like to get back into it. Learning the breathing aspect is one of the best things one can learn from this class.

  2. Dear Nancy,
    Love to hear from other baby boomers! Thank you. I don’t know of other studios in VA, but you can catch my DVD on my website, and it is very good for the spine and flexibility.
    Thank you again!

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  4. Marquis Segovia says:

    My grand mother is a baby boomer. I think that baby boomers have enjoyed a great deal during their prime years. :;*;’

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  5. Twanda Rippel says:

    Almost exactly nine months after World War II ended, “the cry of the baby was heard across the land,” as historian Landon Jones later described the trend. More babies were born in 1946 than ever before: 3.4 million, 20 percent more than in 1945. This was the beginning of the so-called “baby boom.” In 1947, another 3.8 million babies were born; 3.9 million were born in 1952; and more than 4 million were born every year from 1954 until 1964, when the boom finally tapered off. By then, there were 76.4 million “baby boomers” in the United States. They made up almost 40 percent of the nation’s population.;

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