An interview with a “former” self…

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…

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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.

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Tensor Fascia Latae: What’s In a Name? By Any Other Would It Feel as…Tight?

Read my latest offering on the Yoga Tune Up@ blog and you might just re-evalutate why you feel the need to mash your IT Band on a foam roller.  Source: Tensor Fascia Latae: What’s In a Name? By Any Other Would It Feel as…Tight?

5 reasons why I’m excited to teach Yoga Tune Up®…

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Last September, after 7 intense in-class days, a 7 page test, an essay (which is now on the Yoga Tune Up® blog), and a mountain of context grids and anatomy homework, I became a Licensed Yoga Tune Up® Practitioner.  Here I am a year later still stoked to be part of this community of movers and shakers. Here’s a few reasons why this is awesome for me, but more importantly, for my students:

1.  It’s eye-opening: As Yoga Tune Up® founder Jill Miller often says, this practice reveals our body’s “blind spots.” These might be areas where we are weak or restricted, but very often they are places that we just can’t quite feel. Being able to actually sense your body is one big step forward in learning how to appreciate your body.

2. It’s great for every body: How many practices do you know that are actually built upon fine tuning each pose for the individual practicing it? Take the seemingly simple Downward Dog. This a pose you might encounter 20 (million) times in a regular Vinyasa class as you flow from plank to high lunge to standing and back again. For some lucky people this might feel great, but for those of us with tight shoulders and hamstrings, it’s hardly a resting pose. Instead of treating Downward Dog as a mere linking pose, a Yoga Tune Up® class will break it down into manageable pieces that will deepen your strength and mobility. Or as one of my students said after class, “My shoulders are tired, but feel loose.” Tired – meaning she worked hard, but loose, meaning free and comfortable. And that’s ultimately my goal as a teacher – to get my students to work hard in a way that makes them feel great.

3. It’s seriously playful. Does your practice involve poses called “Propeller Arms” or “Dancing with Myself”? Do you get to “Body Surf” around the studio on a blanket? It’s not that I think that fun is better than serious, but I love how mixing the irreverent with the sacred making for some great learning and a great time.

4. It’s not just about yoga: Even though it’s called Yoga Tune Up®, the principles of this practice make it applicable to almost any movement modality. Good alignment is good alignment. I came to this training as a Pilates teacher with a so-so personal yoga practice, but I take what I learned in this training into every session and class that I teach – whether I’m teaching a private, a large group class, or even just myself.

5. The Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls: If you’ve heard about Yoga Tune Up® before this blog, you know why I’m saving the best for last. These grippy, pliable rubber pain erasers help you massage away layers of tightness and soreness from your own muscles and joints. It’s not just that the various sizes help target each area of the body so precisely that makes these balls amazing, it’s that they put your body care back into your own hands (or feet). Jill Miller put it best: “Self-care is the new health care.”

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Curious to try out this practice for yourself, check out my current class schedule. See you on the mat!

New Day, New Time: Semi-Private Pilates at Satori

Hey Pilates peeps!

My Semi-Private Pilates Mat Class at Satori is rocking over to Tuesday and Thursday starting August 20th.  The time will also shift from 12 to 12:15.

I know, so many changes — but this means no class cancellations on holiday weekends (yay!) and more open changing rooms to make your transition from work to class and back again, easy and efficient.

Photo by Alli Novak, May 2010

Grasshopper by Alli Novak, May 2010

What stays the same? My personal blend of humor, nuance, and deep body knowledge applied to the Pilates method, the super small class size (no more than 6 students) and all the personal attention that comes with it. You’ll explore your body through movement and leave class feeling longer, stronger, and more energized.  Sign up online here or call (415) 618-0418 to book your spot.

I’m a POP! Star…

Open Leg Rocker Stretch

Photo by Alli Novak, http://www.luzography.com

Pilates on Page that is ;) Starting this month, this awesome little studio in Hayes Valley will be my new Pilates home and I’ll be available Monday through Friday for private and duet sessions.

Take advantage of their First POP! offer of a single private for $55 or 4 privates for just $250 (new clients only) – you can book directly with me here. I’ll also be adding a group class or two to the mix. Feel free to make your requests known in the comments section.

Hope to see you POP! in soon ;)