Is it possible that after 18 years of teaching Pilates as a certified teacher, plus ALL those years before while a student as a teen dancer, I am falling back in love with Pilates all over again?
I'll be honest. I didn’t love Pilates when I started. In fact, I hated it. There were many days I used to come home from my sessions feeling totally dejected and end up in tears. Facing all your inabilities, weaknesses and years of compensation both in movement and body was not an easy task to dual up against at the oh so vulnerable and insecure age of 13. But after I was given a toolbox of new muscles and movement patterns, learned to override compensations and built-in flaws both in body through movement, and after hours of grueling Pilates with a teacher I had come to both love, respect and trust…I knew Pilates was going to be my new bestfriend.
Now I never really fell OUT of love. My teaching went through MANY stages not only on a personal level (on how I was perceived and how I perceived myself) but on the what, how, why and more of the how to teach so many varieties of clientele. From the 84 year old lady who’s knees still tolerated the high bar as she would tell me how she used to shoot groundhogs from her front porch with a shotgun in one hand and a martini in the other…to all my pre and post moms, pre/post and avoiding surgery clients, to my athletes and avid golfers…and everybody in between including my 13 YO daughter after her ACL and meniscal repair! Sometimes I was creative. Sometimes I could push, some days I closed an eye. Sometimes I felt like I had most of the answers, most days I knew I had limitations. And a grand portion of the time I was constantly trying to find ways to maximize my client’s abilities and push them to keep improving, keep growing, keep learning more about their body and movement, and keep loving Pilates like I still do all these years later.
So how is it that I’m rediscovering Pilates exercises?
In November 2018, I finally took a mobility training course that I had spent over two weeks studying for and months playing with in my personal practice. I replayed videos over and over again so I could type up notes. I began doing additional research on motor learning and immersed myself into this new arena because it seemed to me, despite thinking my bestfriend was my BAE, this mobility training was my missing link.
Now its not like what we learned in the course had never been heard of or discovered before. In truth, much of the science and research behind the reasoning for many of the how, what and why’s of the program are from the discoveries made on motor learning in neurophysiology. But the exercises, progressions and most importantly the results were so perfectly formatted and laid out I discovered a whole new language, movement processing and even way of teaching. It was like seeing a relationship therapist for movement. I came back excited and curious about all the information and tools I had just been armed with and the best thing I knew I could do was to start sharing these with my bestfriend and integrating them into our lifelong relationship.
So why does mobility training have such a profound affect specifically for Pilates? I was always working around modifications, always switching things up trying to progress when we hit road blocks, whether of body discrepancies, injuries or movement or mind disconnect. Now not everyone believes in modifications, but I was always working to improve my client’s living and levels of fitness through their body not just trying to make an exercise fit. We addressed postural corrections and replaced some movement patterns with better ones. My clients made giant strides anyone would see as successful. But there were still these road blocks and missing pieces that still required props and modifications.
I started to realize Pilates didn’t have joint specific articular rotations - not just linear forward/back, in/out movements, but moves actively taking each joint through ALL its end ranges in all its capacities. I had to step back and away to brush up on basic physiology, observe the biology of now modern humans, address stretch reflexes, question WHY there are compensations and what capacity means for each exercise. And I had to let go and reboot the idea about how the body communicates with the mind instead of the mind always overpowering with a set of movement patterns that may or may not always work.
Now before you blow your Pilates top, let me assure you learning these things truly allowed me to embrace MORE of Pilates, certainly not less of it. Old road blocks are replaced with opportunity to create more ranges, more movement options, more control, more Pilates exercises as they were intended. The scapula that felt permanently retracted finally sits flush to the ribcage and can protract with arm movement, better able to tackle harder movements. And better yet, pain from external circumstances in my client’s lives no longer had permanent residence in their body.
And it doesn’t stop there. While preparing for the annual celebration of Joseph Pilates’ Return to Contrology matwork, March Matness, I read his explanations of each exercise (as I do at this time every year) with my capacity building lenses on. Looking at the capacities needed for each joint for each exercise opened up new movement possibilities to do the exercises better and with the intentions set forth specifically in his book and body of work. New movement doors opened.
If you need MORE ranges, more control, more of anything you have to get out of those repetitive movement patterns and create new ones. Create ranges that aren’t there with specific work not just in the range you keep repeating because of the design of the exercise. There’s a whole lot of physiological and neurological benefits to offering joints complete articular health and movement variability, but the simple idea that you can continue to progress your exercises is itself a perfect seller. Rediscover the same exercises and how awesome it feels to live in a body and mind that communicate clearly and with more freedom.
Why do I mobilize? So I can do more Pilates and everything I love better and teach others to do the same.
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