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Working Your Back

How good is Pilates?

Pilates Requires Patience

After my first two sessions with Kim, I noticed that my stomach muscles were sore -- but I didn't notice any changes in my back. Why not? It takes time, says Larkham. The "magic" of Pilates doesn't happen overnight. In fact, she says, it takes most novice Pilates students about six weeks of twice-weekly sessions to notice a difference in how they move and for the subtleties of their movements to become second nature.

At first, the constant thinking -- OK, pull your navel in here, keep shoulders loose and down, pelvis in neutral position, and so on -- was mentally exhausting. There's no slacking off here: My eagle-eyed instructor noticed every nuance of my muscle movement and made sure that my form was flawless.

I can tell that the moves I'm doing are more effective than the crunches I've done in the past. Mind you, I haven't yet morphed into a lithe Pilates poster child. But I'll keep working at it and look forward to trying some of the more tortuous-looking equipment at the studio.

In just a few sessions, Pilates has taught me to be more aware of my body. The other day as I sat at the computer, I caught myself pulling my navel back toward my spine and attempting to create a little smile where my paunch resides. It's this sort of heightened awareness of everyday movements that will, I hope, keep my back trouble-free. The Pilates method is getting into my system, and -- with equal parts hard work and good luck -- I'm anticipating a future that's both pain-free and spinally sound.

Elizabeth Krieger is an associate editor at WebMD.

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