Earlier this week, I was rummaging through old files on my computer and I came across this little interview from a studio I used to work at. Something they might have published in their newsletter. The studio closed over a year ago, but I am still teaching Pilates, 6 years later.
As tempting as it was to edit it, I have decided to leave my responses as is (save for a couple typos). I can’t say that I would answer the questions exactly the same way now, but there is still a lot of truth in there.
Read on, if your curious about my thoughts on teaching Pilates back in 2012 or so…
Please tell us about yourself and what people, influences, events or desires led you to Pilates as a career?
I first heard about Pilates when I was studying English at Reed College. This was in the late 90’s when it was finally becoming mainstream. After reading about Brooke Siler and her book The Pilates Body, in a magazine, I went out and bought a copy of it. So that’s how I got my start – teaching myself the basic mat repertoire with a book. It’s a really good book.
Fast forward to 2006 and I had just moved back to the US after teaching English in Barcelona for a year, and I took my first Pilates class taught by a live instructor. It was a semester-long Dance Conditioning course at City College of San Francisco. In addition to really learning and understanding the repertoire, this class also required that we study anatomy, keep a journal of our progress, and create our own Pilates sequence as the final project. After the last class of the semester, I ran into my professor in the locker room and we had a conversation that went about like this:
Professor: “Keep up with the Pilates, you’re really good at it.”
Me: “Of course, I love it.”
Professor: “You should think about getting certified then.”
Up until that moment, it never occurred to me that I could or should pursue a “fitness” career. It wasn’t long, however, before I was researching my options to pursue this path. About 8 months later, I had left my position as an ESL teacher in the city and was hired at Core Pilates on 17th (now Core Pilates and Physical Therapy) as the Studio Coordinator. Right away, I started their certification program, Pilates Academy International, and after completing All Populations Mat and just half of the All Populations Reformer training, I was invited to join the staff as an Apprentice Instructor. I haven’t looked back since.
Why do you love Pilates?
So many things, but what I find the most fascinating is the almost sneaky way you get stronger and how even the most basic exercises can stay challenging even with years of practice. There’s something about the movements that help you tap into your body’s natural intelligence. The first time you try something, it may feel almost impossible. Then after a few attempts, your body figures it out and you can do it. It doesn’t stop there, though. Once you think you’ve mastered the movement, there’s always a way to further refine your technique. On top of that, I always feel amazing after a good session. Taller, stronger, and full of energy, who could say no to that?
What does your Pilates practice mean to you, personally?
There’s a quote I read recently on Twitter, “Good Pilates changes your body. Great Pilates changes your life.” My personal practice is a way to stay in touch with my body and what it needs, to challenge myself and connect to my true strength. More than anything, Pilates has allows me to come in to my best self. What we now tend to call our “Core,” Joseph Pilates called the “Powerhouse.” So maybe it sounds a little woo, but for me practicing Pilates is time to cultivate a sense of inner strength that unites, to use another Pilates-ism, “Body-Mind-Spirit.”
What is the most common misconception that people have about your line of work?
That we get to work out all the time. The more hours I teach, i.e. work other people out, the less time and energy I have for my own practice. The effort it takes to cultivate that practice is completely worth it, however, because my body, mind, and teaching are all stronger and more grounded for it.
What’s the best part about teaching Pilates?
Witnessing clients have those breakthrough moments. I love to see the look in their eyes shift when suddenly feeling the true work of an exercise they initially thought was easy. Or conversely, finally unlocking the secret of an exercise they always found challenging. It’s a joy getting to be the person that guides them to those moments.
What is the best thing Pilates can do for someone who has never tried it?
It really depends on what they are bringing to the Mat (or the Reformer) etc. In that sense, there is something for everyone, but let’s be clear – it’s not actually Pilates (the method) that does anything. It’s the person practicing Pilates that gets to create and experience the miracles. If you do Pilates, you can develop stability in hyper-mobile joints that are prone to injury. You can open up areas of the body that are constricted. You develop body-mind connection in a world where we so often forget that our (physical) head is connected to our body. You can create a sense of power where there is weakness and grace to balance brute strength.
After someone’s first class I usually say one of two things: “Don’t worry, it gets easier.” Or “Don’t worry, it gets harder.” The longer I do Pilates, the more I find both things are true.
What do you hope your students get out of your classes?
I want them to feel connected to their bodies in a way that allows them to “feel” the work in both dramatic and subtle ways and I want them to leave class feeling strong and energized. Sore abs and glutes are also high on my list.
What is your favorite *non* Pilates workout routine?
I don’t like to “work out” as much as I just like to move. I recently became credentialed to teach TRX® Suspension Training, so there’s that. I also love Yoga and all forms of dance. And walking – I would walk everywhere if I could.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Days where I don’t have to set my alarm. Though can’t say I feel guilty about it – I’m trying to move away from feeling guilty about pleasure. Good sleep is necessary and I love to be able to wake and sleep according to what my body needs.
What music is on your ultimate Pilates playlist?
I’m one of those weird people who prefers my Pilates without music. Each Pilates exercise has its own rhythm and music can interfere with that.
What’s your favorite after Pilates snack?
Depends. I love almonds and fresh fruit. I also love Bi-Rite Ice Cream. No matter what the snack though – just like Pilates – it should be about quality, not quantity.
What is one thing you love about teaching at CORE?
The clients! They inspire me. So many wonderful folks that like to work hard and really delve into the work on different levels.