"I was lying with my husband in bed the other day after sex, and he suggested we send you some flowers."
A few years ago, I was working with a client who I'll call Amanda. After a few months of working together, I noticed that Amanda was starting to have a particular look about her that had become familiar to me after years as a Pilates instructor. It was the look of a very satisfied woman. Amanda had been turned on to Pilates' dirty little secret.
Pilates makes sex better.
Pilates instructors take this for granted, but most don't advertise it. I am not exactly sure why. Perhaps there is a sense that doing so would be like announcing on a first date that you can get your legs behind your head; better to let it be a pleasant surprise somewhere down the road.
Practicing Pilates makes sex better for some obvious reasons. It makes you stronger and more flexible. It makes you feel more confident about your body by focusing on what it can do and not what it looks like, but it helps you have a smokin' body anyway. Let's be honest; for a woman, feeling hot yourself is as much of a turn on as thinking your partner is hot. Knowing your ass looks great in a pair of jeans goes a long way as an aphrodisiac. However, even a healthy dose of narcissism is not enough to fully explain why Pilates makes sex better for women and their partners.
The real secret is that Pilates strengthens your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles in your pelvis that support your bladder and uterus. The bottom layer of muscle wraps around your vagina, anus and urethra. If you have ever tried to squeeze your partner's penis during sex, you are contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor. Learning how to consciously control these muscles allows you to increase sensation during sex by getting a good grip, so to speak. The pelvic floor muscles also contract involuntarily during orgasm. The stronger these muscles are, the more intense the orgasm. Knowing how to relax these muscles is important too. If you want to maneuver your way into some of those crazy positions you see in sex books, or simply spread your legs really wide for those who prefer more tried and true methods, then you need to be able to relax the pelvic floor. Many women find that knowing how to contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles during sex allows them to have more control over when they reach orgasm.
If you go to the bookstore and buy one of those sex books or any book about orgasms (don't forget to wink at the 20 year old kid behind the checkout with a smirk on his face), it will recommend doing Kegels. Kegels are simply isolated contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises were named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, an OB who came up with them as a way to prevent incontinence during pregnancy. Doing Kegels will also help you have stronger orgasms. However, Kegels alone are a bit limited.
Pilates has become so popular over past decade because it simply works better than most fitness regimes at creating functional strength and flexibility. One of the main reasons for this is that in Pilates, we rarely isolate muscles. Even a seemingly simple Pilates exercise, when done effectively, is using the entire body. Pilates works better because this is how the body actually functions in everyday life. Even opening a door is a complex negotiation amongst the muscles of the whole body, not just an isolation of the muscles of the arm to turn and pull. Kegels are great, but they merely exercise the pelvic floor in isolation. In order for the pelvic floor to reach optimum strength and flexibility, it needs to be exercised in movement. For sex, it's not enough to know how to contract the pelvic floor when you are sitting on a chair concentrating on nothing else. You want to be able to give your partner a good squeeze when you are on your knees with your back arched with one hand gripping the headboard.
So the next time you see a girlfriend who has recently started taking Pilates, you will understand why she seems to have that perpetual grin.
My favorite flowers are calla lilies just in case anybody is wondering.