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.
Last night in my advanced class I found myself searching for the words to explain something pretty important while leading an exercise- in this case, the Roll-Up (see video above). I realized after I got home that I was actually going into detail about one of the Six Pilates Principles: Flow. Flow can be defined as: moving smoothly, without tension, stiffness or jerking. When you move with flow it is a GREAT feeling- as though your body is both under your control and also doing it's own thing, strong and supple. It's something dancers seem to do without effort.
So how can YOU learn to move with flow?
If you are injured, in pain, or feeling stiff this may seem virtually impossible. I want to tell you that it is available to everyone with a little practice. The lady in the video above is named Clare- I worked with her when I lived in England and she had a frozen shoulder for over a year while I was teaching her. She was frequently in pain. Does she look like she's in pain in the video? Is she stiff, tense or jerky in her movements? Definitely not! She is moving through the movement with flow. Believe it or not, this is as much a mental challenge as a physical one.
Here's my go-to guide for learning to move with flow:
Trust your body, and truly believe that your muscles can do what you are asking them to do.
Relax and let the movement happen.
Repeat: You don't have to force it.
In the modern world, we often treat our bodies as vehicles that need to be forced from one position to another. We push and pull, with extra stiffness and tension developing in unrelated areas as a result. When I used to run (before I did Pilates) I always felt like I was simply dragging my body around. This heavy, uncooperative beast was forced along with me, but there was no joy in it. It felt like punishment. "Come on, stupid body, keep going, let's keep running and burn those calories" would go through my head at regular intervals. My breath was short and choppy, my shoulders hurt, and it was most definitely not a flowing movement. Now when I run, my shoulders are relaxed and my body remains in place over my legs, strong and upright. My breath is deep and smooth. I swing my arms with ease. Learning to move with flow is not only better for your body, it also makes moving more enjoyable. Watch any child run and you can see this physical joy in movement. They don't have to force it. You don't either!
Do you feel like you are dragging your body around with you? Let me help by teaching you to move with flow.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or send me an email.
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.
Happy New Year to you! I wish you and your family a SPECTACULAR 2017!
With the start of a new year there is traditionally a time of reflection, and goal setting. This year I have a lot to be thankful for; I live in a new, beautiful house (that's all my own- wow!), my son is getting older, and my husband has a new job that he loves. My business is taking off and I am meeting and working with such lovely people. It's easy for me to write my goals this year, because life has been good to me, and I'm grateful. If you are writing goals of your own, there's something I want you to consider first and I feel it is very important. It's the kind of language that you use to write them. Let me explain.
I can see it everywhere now. Posts on Facebook, blogs, emails, ads. The fitness industry is leveraging the "New Years Resolution" craze to whip up more customers. The language of the fitness industry is often the language of shaming. Cajoling. Assumptions. Mostly shaming though. Things like "Finally do something this year about that spare tire" or "Get beach body ready!" or other similar sentiments. These kinds of phrases assume that you already don't like yourself, that you are powerless to change on your own, and that you subscribe to socially accepted ideas of beauty and fitness. In my experience, shame is a terrible motivator. It simply doesn't work long term and you are miserable when you fail.
We tend to absorb what we read everyday. That means when people write their resolutions, they often echo these ideas. Here's an example:
So I am proposing a new language of goal setting this year. No shaming language allowed! Instead use the positive language of compassion, of understanding. How about, instead of the above, we have ones like this:
Those ones don't involve shame as a motivator. And I truly believe that you will achieve a healthier, longer term result with this kind of mindset. This is my greatest wish for you in 2017, to ditch the shaming language and learn to use positive language for your resolutions.
If you are looking to try a fitness class this January, I would love to meet you and teach you all about Pilates. I hope you will discover that Pilates is the exercise system for you and that you want to keep practicing. But if it isn't, then fair enough! At least you came out and gave it a shot.
Classes start January 9th and run for 6 weeks. I hope to be meeting you then!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please feel free to reply with any comments. I'd also love to hear your positive goals for 2017! I'll be sharing this idea on fb today so you can also pop on there to join in the conversation.
p.s. My resolutions are below... did I mention cookies before? LOL
Old Man starts Exercising, Writes Blog. Part 9:
You Snooze, You Lose.
So I missed my Tuesday Pilates class with Diane Archer of Compassionate Body Pilates this week. Recall that I also missed my last Friday’s 1 on 1 and thought it would be a good idea to take to the Skys and enjoy a trampoline fitness class on Sunday.
It would be reasonable to say that I missed the Tuesday class because I was sore from tramping around, but that would be a lie. I didn’t miss the class for that; I missed the class because I went out to dinner with the Girl.
I know having had made it to my advanced years without back problems is a real blessing and I should not be tempting fate by becoming overly aggressive in my activities where my back may be at risk. Luckily, The injury in the lower part of my back subsided after a couple days and I don’t expect any permanent damage.
Today’s 1 on 1 was an eye-opener. My core strength was still pretty good, but my balance wasn’t as good as it has been. The week between classes was too long without exercise and my body was all too able to show me that.
My body also showed me that the trampoline had engaged muscles that I didn’t even know I had. Didn’t know I had them until I was running through my exercises with Diane, that is.
You know that feeling when you literally rack your chest coughing and it feels like a vice is closing around your chest? Well, I was stretching and breathing and then, “Hey”.
Then during an arch it felt as if my spine was fused. I am not the most flexible individual, but during simple bends and twists my ribs and spine let me know they were there and they were not happy.
So two things to take away. Tuesday nights at Kully’s on St. Paul is a lot of fun and don’t join in a fitness boot camp.
I can see how one might enroll in a course of fitness that is far above their level and then after suffering an injury decide that maybe fitness is not for them. I get it.
But fitness is for me. I just have to learn not to get cocky and to take things slowly. It took a couple lifetimes of neglect to become this fabulously out of shape so I should treat myself to a long and not-to-hard regimen of slowly progressing activities suitable for a man my age.
That or give up entirely.
By Dan Willis
*P.S. Note from Diane- Just a little reminder for you Dan- anytime you are thinking of skipping a session, watch this clip :)
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog: Part 7
Getting into Pilates with Compassionate Body Pilates and Diane Archer was a roll of the dice. Without any notion of what was involved or why it was appropriate, I jumped in with both feet.
It was proved pretty early on that I didn’t have to know anything; that Diane was the expert I needed.
To outline, in no uncertain terms, why you should be doing Pilates with Compassionate Body Pilates and Diane Archer:
You will live better, longer.
I know that is a pretty big claim to make, but I have learned that flexibility, balance and muscle strength are key indicators of longevity.
You can read more about a simple test here.
Sometimes simple answers can tell us a lot about complex problems and it makes sense to me that working my body for these three indicators of well-being is a good thing.
The word “morbidity” describes the opposite of flexibility, balance and muscle strength. It describes the production of disease. The more morbid you are in your elder years the crappier your life will be.
“But, Dan”, I hear you say, “Smoking may take 10 years off my life…but it’s the LAST 10 years.”
And of course, if that is actually your attitude, “God Speed to you my friend, God Speed”.
But if that kind of thinking is wrong to you, like it was to me, and you are thinking about flexibility, balance and muscle strength, Compassionate Body Pilates by Diane Archer is a great place to go.
Here I am at Week 7 and am already feeling the benefits.
A peaceful feeling begins to wave over me even before I take my first warm-up breaths. With Diane’s easygoing attitude and constant encouragement present at every session, it is enough to say “Hello” and already I start to stand a little taller.
After all, my Coach is in the room.
I am really starting to relax after the set of roll downs we do, dropping the chin to the chest and leaning forward as we try and feel each vertebrae, reaching for the ground.
Moving on to some balance moves, I am surprised at how I am able to do multiple rotations on one side without falling over and how the other side is not as good. Room for improvement on both sides for sure, but I never new that my balance was different on each side until today.
Then we are going to stretch out some of our bits.
Here the “Rolling Ocean-wave” breaths turn to harder and more forceful inhalations, and, harder and deeper exhalations because with every breath I take, I am compressing part of my core as well as moving into the stretch, compressing it more.
I picture myself as being in a dangerous accident, pinned in a crevasse at the Glen. With no room to spare I am yet able to draw breath, affirming that bar other, life-threatening injuries, I am not giving up the ghost today.
Gently prodded back to reality, I find myself doing some simple squats. I inhale to bend knees and raise arms to shoulder height, and then exhale to rise up to the start position. Bum out, knees behind feet.
This time I am not rolling up a wall, leaning into a ball as I squat. I am progressing in strength and as I do Diane makes my tasks a little harder. Each time I return to an exercise I can mark my progress now by how much harder Diane makes it. This time I am squatting in the middle of the room.
I make it harder for myself sometimes too. When I am balancing my pelvis over the little roly-poly pilates ball (not the actual name), rolled back in a shoulder arch, I lift my hands to make it harder. The arms come up almost by themselves. Diane noticed, and then made me do that on the next three exercises. Breathe.
As I experience progress with my balance, muscle strength and flexibility I notice something else. There is a shrinking possibility of morbidity as I breathe through the class.
I get stronger, my production of disease gets weaker.
By Dan Willis
Director Media and Sales Publicita Online Marketing
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.