Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

Without veering too far afield from the subject of our beloved Pilates method, I would like to confess my dirty clean little secret.

I adore dry brushing.

I've been dry brushing my skin for years.

If you're new to Joe Pilates' philosophy on the proper way to bathe, you don't know what you're missing.

It feels good and it's good for you!

It makes my skin feel so soft and smooth.

Wait there's more…

Dry brushing has become mainstream in recent years.

However, most articles and images you'll find on the subject suggest a brush with a handle so all parts of the body are “easily accessible.”

Joe Pilates ups the ante for us here with even more benefit. Can you imagine him making anything “easily accessible?”

Joe observed that “only a minority [of individuals] really achieve thorough cleanliness.”

From Return to Life:

The correct technique to use in accomplishing this highly desirable result is to use only a good stiff brush (no handle) since this type of brush forces us to twist, squirm and contort ourselves in every conceivable way in our attempts to reach every portion of our body which are otherwise comparatively easy to reach with a handle brush.

Of course he wants us to “twist, squirm and contort.”

Joe Pilates insists on a brush without a handle – no easy feat – giving us all a flexibility goal.

How flexible do we need to be?

We must be sufficiently flexible for our daily living: therefore we must be able to reach and clean every part of our bodies with the no handle brush.

Swoon…So demanding 🙂

Benefits of dry brushing

From Return to Life:

The use of a good stiff brush as described stimulates circulation, thoroughly cleans OUT the pores of the skin, and removes dead skin too. The pores of your skin must “breathe” – they cannot do so unless they are kept open and freed from clogging.

Dry brushing the skin benefits our health as well as our appearance. Regular practice of a thorough brushing leads to:

  • improved skin appearance and texture, minimizes the appearance of cellulite by distributing fat deposits more evenly
  • improved circulation and lymph flow
  • an invigorating experience for your skin!
  • relief of stress
  • exfoliation of the skin
  • improved digestion and kidney function (Yesssssss!)
  • improved flexibility when using a no handle brush

It's good to have goals…

I once observed an Olympic-caliber volleyball player apply sunblock to the center of her upper back.

The center. Of her upper back.

I am not blessed with the long arms of a volleyball player. But I wasn't even sure arms could do that.

My upper back and shoulders have a tightness that I work very diligently to alleviate. (Repetition est mater studiorum.)

When I saw the volleyball player apply her sunblock I had a new goal:

I shall work to reach the center of my upper back with my ‘good stiff brush.'

What I wouldn't do for a good stiff…BRUSH.

For a while I couldn't find a stiff brush without a handle.

So I had a handle at first. I got a Japanese Body Brush.

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

And it was okay. Well I thought it was perfect until I knew better… as you can see I pretty much destroyed it.

Why do I still have it to photograph?

Tangent Time!

Soon it must go.

I've just read an amazing book that is taking my belongings to task. If you're a fellow control freak (and if you're reading this post I suspect you are) check it out:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

End of tangent…

Finding Perfection

This is the best no-handle brush I have found.

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

I found mine at a beauty supply store and at CVS for $6.49.

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

There are many options, but I do suggest you try it out to see if it is to your liking.

I tried one brush that had no handle, but it had VERY soft bristles. Too soft for my taste.

Oh I like a good scratching…


Just building up the courage to write a post on Pilates and digestion…which may never see the light of day.

Dry Brushing Technique

I am told Joe Pilates would interrupt a client's post-workout shower to instruct them in the proper techniques of cleaning themselves.

Although I make a point of staying out of my clients' showering experience, I have a few tips to share with you:

  • Use your ‘good, stiff brush' on dry skin before entering the shower.
  • Begin at the extremities and use long strokes that brush toward the heart.
  • Be gentle on delicate areas of the skin: the face, genitals or any areas with irritations or abrasions.
  • I usually brush for 5-10 minutes. Until my skin feels invigorated and alive.
  • I also have a bristle hair brush that feels good on my scalp – so as not to skip anywhere.

Since I've got my goal of reaching the center of my upper back – this is really the only place it's hard for me to brush thoroughly – I spend some time passing the brush from one hand to the other behind my back.

The internal shower + an external one: It's addictive!!

Joe Pilates promoted his method of exercise as an ‘internal shower' for the body.

From Return to Life:

Your blood will flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology [Pilates] exercises.

This is the equivalent of an ‘internal shower.’

[Pilates] exercises drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies…

As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, [Pilates] exercises purify the bloodstream and whip it into instant action.

It's truly a remarkable aspect of his system: the stimulation of the center, the organs, the viscera.

It's a Stomach Massage Series for the whole body keeping your insides in tip-top working order and ready for optimum performance.

My Pilates workout plus the health and hygiene encouraged by Joe's dry brushing philosophy work together beautifully: the workout keeps me in great condition and all my twisting, contorting and squirming as I dry brush lets me know how I'm doing.

Has my body found more balance? How is the center of my upper back doing?

Smooth skin and a supple body: priceless! Thanks JP.

From Return to Life:

Your skin will soon respond most gratifyingly to this perhaps seemingly “Spartan-like” treatment and acquire in the process a new, fresh, glowing appearance, and develop a texture smooth and soft to the touch.

So brush away merrily, and heartily too!

More Kool-Aid please 🙂

Big fans of of Joe's dry brushing techniques?

Share your experience in a comment below.

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