Kerry Washington is gracing Women’s Health South Africa cover in the new year. Donning just a simple white tank-top, and strategically ripped jeans, Washington shares details on the mood-boosting, body-firming, life-balancing benefits of the wellness regimen she swears by.

From Women’s Health:

Kerry’s explanation for why she’s so tuned in to the body is simple: “I’ve never met anybody who’s taken Pilates and doesn’t understand their own body better afterward,” says Kerry, who had her first session, with Gleyzer, after she pinched a nerve in her neck and shoulder area while working out with “a very famous” Hollywood trainer. “I lost feeling in my right arm, and it scared the crap out of me.”

Ever since, Pilates has been the centerpiece of Kerry’s fitness repertoire, which also includes dance classes, Gyrotonic training, hiking, and the elliptical machine. Because Pilates decreases stress as it increases strength, Kerry finds the hour-long sessions to be efficient workouts that aren’t punishing. “You don’t even want to be in your own body when [you] show up at the gym—I didn’t for years,” says Kerry, who battled body-image issues in the past. “As women, we live in this culture where it’s like, ‘You have to fix this.’ Pilates has allowed me to be focused on my appearance and my health in ways that are not abusive or critical.”

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