I woke up the other day after having, well, a powerful dream. In this dream I was teaching a new class, with new people in what looked like your typical living room. There were only 3 people in the class- no sweat really, for me, after having taught for so many years. Only, this time, the class did not go as I expected.
Every time I started to walk around, they started walking too.
Every time I stood up, they stood up.
They mimicked my every movement, exactly.
And every time I tried to explain that they needed to stay put and do what I said, instead of copying my movements, it was like they didn't hear me.
This is not the first time I have experienced this kind of thing happening with new clients, only, it usually isn't quite so overwhelming! Even in my dream I was more puzzled than irritated. It's my responsibility to teach them, and if they don't get it, it's something I'm doing wrong. That's what I believe about teaching. So I paused, and I thought for a moment. How could I get them to understand me? So I sat down on my mat, and they sat down too. I looked at them, and I said:
"Usually I don't stop a class like this but I feel I need to make something clear to you now. In my classes, I'm here to be your guide. I am here to watch what you do, and help you do it the best way you can. Sometimes that means I'm walking around you to see where your shoulders are in relation to your hips. Sometimes I'm looking at your knees, or your feet. Sometimes I am seeing if moving one part of your body means you are tensing up somewhere else. I'm seeing how your body works together, and which parts are holding you back from moving freely. I don't usually explain this because I worry you might feel nervous, or concerned about "doing it wrong." Under a spotlight, if you know what I mean. I can only explain why it is I am doing this, and to reassure you that this isn't about judgement at all. It's about compassion toward your body. I want to be aware of what your body is doing- what it's been through, what it needs to feel better. I watch to see what areas might hold pain or tension so I can help you find ways to relax them. I have the highest respect for your body- in fact, for every body I have ever worked with. It is a miracle to me how bodies can change, move, grow and adapt to any situation. The fact you are here means that you also care about your body. You care what happens to it. You want to show compassion to your body too. But maybe you don't know how. So I'm going to help you figure it out. And I help best by watching, explaining, and occasionally, placing my hand on you so you can feel what is happening too. I don't believe I'd be helping you very much by simply moving in front of you, and expecting you to follow along. I might as well be on a DVD then. You're not going to change overnight, but you will feel a difference soon. You will be sitting at your desk at work, and suddenly, you will feel the ache in your shoulders. You will sit up tall and relax your shoulders. Or, maybe you will be picking your child up off the floor. And you will stop, and think to yourself, I'm going to engage my core before picking you up. This is the amazing power of pilates. If you can muddle through this beginning, and not worry too much about doing it wrong, and simply keep trying your best and allowing me to watch and correct, this is what will happen to you. It will improve your life in so many ways. "
And then I woke up.
I thought it was important to share this message with everyone. It was a powerful moment in my dream. A message from my subconscious.
I want to add that it may be that you are uncomfortable being in a class like mine. I offer private sessions too and sometimes that helps people gain a bit of confidence, and get to know me before taking the step of joining a group class. Or, maybe this kind of exercise class isn't for you. My way of teaching isn't for everybody. But I can't change how I work- because I believe it works. I have seen it work, over and over again. If you want to start and give it a try so you can see for yourself, please get in touch.
Have you discovered the power of Pilates in your everyday life? I would love to hear about it if you want to share in the comments.
I've been thinking about writing this blog post for a long time- years, even. It's about an issue that comes up for me fairly frequently, and it's not external- it's coming from the deepest, darkest part of my soul. It's the feeling that I don't fit the mold. That I don't look how a Pilates teacher is supposed to look. And the nagging, incessant worry that it will affect my business. I rationally understand that this isn't the case at all- the evidence is before my very eyes when I go teach a class, every day. People aren't looking and judging me all the time, they are attending my classes and enjoying them. But emotionally, I hold on to fear and worry about it, far more than I care to admit. But I am beginning to realize that it's time to come out of the closet about my fear and share it with you all.
I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a former client of mine last week at a networking lunch. She has decided to make a life change and become a yoga teacher. I'm really pleased for her and think she's going to be a fantastic teacher, and I want to help her in any way I can. So we chatted about life as an entrepreneur and about our shared connections in Niagara. And then she told me a story that made me shudder inside. A story about how someone reacted when my friend announced her change of career. This person was rude and dismissive about how she didn't look like a yoga teacher. Now, I'm fortunate because I've mostly been having this conversation in my own head and not had anyone say anything about it to my face. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to face this from someone else, and publicly too.
To be completely open here, the reason I don't think I look the part is because I am carrying some extra weight around. I'm not going to make excuses here or rationalize why that's the case. The fact is, the choices I have made in my life have led me to this place in time, and, honestly, most of the time I am pretty happy in my own skin. I have made exercising a regular part of my life and I love how it makes me feel. I feel strong. I feel like I can do so many things with my body, and that's awesome. I have a lot going on in my life and yet I've made exercise a priority. That's something to be proud of. Managing my diet too seems a step too far for me, at least in the present. I am not ruling out a change there at some point, just that I only have so much energy and time to commit, and I'm at my limit now.
But all that aside, I can't help but wonder why I can't get past this idea of "looking the part." Is it simply conditioning by the media? Is it the scared little girl inside that remembers being teased for being chubby? Is it just a general fear that I will be the one responsible for my own perceived failure? Whatever the reason is, I hope by writing this blog I can begin the process of setting it aside and moving on. Life is too short to hold on to fear, especially when that fear is entirely unfounded.
I am a Pilates Teacher.
I am overweight.
I am a good teacher.
I love helping people get stronger.
I can do amazing things with my body.
All of these things are true. That's me, out there for all to see.
Do you ever feel like you don't "fit the mold"? Please feel free to share in the comments or shoot me an email with your story. Let's not let fear hold us back from being our best selves.
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.