This week’s been long and I’ve taught a lot more than usual which can be exhausting. Last night I got home at 9:30 barely ate dinner because I was so tired, watched a little tv, fell asleep on the couch and later crawled in bed. I prefer not to live like this but with the nature of the biz, my work fluctuates quite a bit. I could barely move this morning, ie: my body felt like LEAD, and I was dreading getting to the studio for an 8am client. Little did I know that that hour of teaching would be with one of those rare gems that comes along every once and while and reminds me why I do the work that I do.
Turns out my client’s mother had passed away this week and her funeral was yesterday. My first thought was “Why is she here? What a taxing week she must have had. Most people would cancel to stay home and grieve,” and then I realized this was part of her process, to go about her every day life and to show up to Pilates bc this is what she knows, this is how she heals. She told me the people at the studio are her gurus (I was subbing for another teacher) and now I know why. As the hour progressed and I learned more about my client it turns out she has been through what I and most of us would consider some of the most traumatic experiences one could be dealt in life. Surprisingly, she is a positive bright light, full of inspiration, adoration and true wisdom.
I spend my days with clients (the majority used to be women but these days it’s men and women) that live the New York City “keeping up with the joneses’” lifestyle (mostly the women mind you). Nothing is ever enough, a $40,000 Chanel Bag or a new Porsche will solve only a few day’s worth of problems before the dreaded feelings of emptiness set in. And quite often I go home wondering why I do what I do when there is much more money to be made in other industries. Then I get angry at the choices I’ve made in my life and wish I could just be a “normal” person and feel satisfied with the standard things in life a lot of people my age have at this point…a steady job, a husband, dog, white picket fence…you get the idea. I constantly beat myself up “what is wrong with me? why don’t I feel fulfilled? So and so’s husband just bought her X, Y and Z…if only I had…” and then this ray of sunshine client pops up and I realize I too have chosen a different lifestyle because at the end of the day these material things don’t matter. What matters is that I am living from MY truth, core, center…whatever you want to call it (no pun intended!!) My client is a message from the Universe that somehow someone can go through all that she has been through and live in this world today as a positive force, a lightness, an essence of what is truly important in life. She is an artist and it’s clear that she makes art to heal, I have no doubt about this. She, the woman who wears baggy t-shirts, has unruly hair and is not “beautiful” by society’s standards is beautiful to me. She values her life and practices gratitude that she is alive and living life to it’s fullest today without material things. She is my new hero.
Awesome Article re: the Psoas
I can’t stop reading this article (see below) and sending it to my clients. I’ve read it about 5 times. I think it’s such a great way to describe the sometimes “mysterious” functions of the psoas and why getting to know the psoas and learning how to release it is so very important.
For those of you not familiar with the Psoas (pronounced SOAZ)…you have 2…
“One on each side of the spine, each working independently yet harmoniously, the psoas attaches to the side and toward the front of the 12th thoracic vertebra and each of the lumbar vertebra. Moving through the pelvis without attaching to bone, the psoas inserts along with the iliacus muscle in a common tendon at the top of the femur. “(the thigh bone) – See more at: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/170#sthash.YMDfqJZJ.dpuf
Even if a client has no interest in learning about his or her body and how it functions (some clients who come to me simply want to exercise) I always sneak in psoas exercises so that I can get to know what’s tight and weak and what needs releasing or reawakening. Although, as the article suggests, the psoas is directly linked to emotional well-being so as a trainer I have to be acutely aware of this and the possibilities that can come with Psoas work…
“Whether you suffer from a sore back or anxiety, from knee strain or exhaustion, there’s a good chance that a constricted psoas muscle might be contributing to your woes…
Along with improving your structural stability, developing awareness of your psoas can bring to light fears long locked in the body as unconscious physical tension. Intimately involved in the fight or flight response, the psoas can curl you into a protective fetal ball or flex you to prepare the powerful back and leg muscles to spring into action. Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system. As you learn to approach the world without this chronic tension, psoas awareness can open the door to a more sensitive attunement to your body’s inner signals about safety and danger, and to a greater sense of inner peace.
I don’t know about you guys but I like the idea of a greater sense of inner peace… Every time I take a spin class (or TRX which I tried this wkd) I can’t help but wonder how many people who are not participating in yoga or Pilates (although many exercises in Pilates over use the Psoas which is subject for an entire blog entry itself and why it’s best to work one on one with someone well trained) or some kind of stretching (sufficient stretching, not the 2 min’s at end of class, you know who you are…) or deep muscle tissue massage on a fairly regular basis will soon have major injuries due to the shortening of their psoas, hip flexors and quadricep muscles. It’s common sense that any repetitive motion can cause injury and this my friends, is where I come in!! Pilates, by standards is a set of movements to help you strengthen your core and gain flexibility, but my dears, it is much much more. It is about finding efficiency so that EVERYTHING you do comes with ease. For those of you who do not like to exercise but force yourselves to, imagine only having to do cardio 2 times a week because your muscles fire more efficiently due to training in Pilates, therefore burning more calories during the session and after? Athletes, imagine shortening your race times and preventing injuries or soreness after an intense training session or race…
“You may discover that you’ve been doing many poses by contracting your core, instead of relying on your skeleton for support and allowing your more peripheral muscles to organize around a toned but flowing and spacious center.”
This is my favorite (well, I like it all) part of the article. Your skeleton has a purpose and the more you rely on it instead of your psoas, the “freer” your body and mind will be. (plus you just learned a pretty cool Scrabble word)
5 stars. Love love love this video. Great for introducing the Principles of Pilates to anyone and everyone. Highly recommended for my clients diagnosed with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis. Love that you can choose to do the entire sequence or just a few sections if you are limited on time.
5 stars. Love this video because it flows easily, instructor is pleasant and you can choose 20 min’s, 30 min’s or 36 min’s. Going to yoga class is a huge commitment and I tend to have a decreased attention span when doing a dvd at home. This one I will definitely do again. Great for mom’s who have limited time.
4 stars. Different and fun, although could do without the 100′s of butt lifts so I fast fwd through them. I gave this 4 stars b/c if you’re not a mover it’s a bit complicated, several of my clients couldn’t follow the floor sequence on their own. If you work out a lot and want something new to try at home, definitely try this video. If you don’t own weights you can use soup cans. If you own ankle weights, try adding them to the entire sequence or just the ab sequence. Have fun!
4 stars. I think. Have to confess I watched this video instead of participating…only because I couldn’t get over how long her limbs are and how her body is like gumby. My fav part is when she says let’s stretch our hamstrings and leans back and pulls her leg to her head. Hahaha. 95% of my clients struggle to get their leg to a 90 degree angle! I like the set of 4 15 min series, I don’t like her talking at the beginning, I just want to move. This kind of reminded me of Tracy Anderson on Xanex, it’s similar but toned down a bit, which I think I prefer. There is also something sexy, graceful and sophisticated but yet young-hearted and playful to working out alongside MaryHelen. I would probably do this video again (and actually work out!), although the ballet thing for me is tainted by such dark stuff that happened when I was in this world (think Black Swan) it is sometimes hard for me to even watch!
Losing Weight in time for Summer
Summer has arrived and I am trying to drop the 5 lbs I put on over the winter. Unfortunately, eating croissants daily on my trip to France caught up with me! After years of dancing and working with numerous body types, losing weight is still a mystery to me.
What I do know is that there are no quick fixes. (atleast that last) For me, weight loss really has to do with finding balance in my life. I think the majority of people I talk to about weight loss have said they have been their ideal weight when they were happy. Or was it they were happy because they were at their ideal weight?
Many clients ask me what I do to lose weight and how often I do Pilates. I tell them it changes on a weekly basis. It really depends on where I am mentally and what my body needs. Sometimes what my body REALLY needs is rest. Other times it needs long walks or yoga, maybe a spin class or Pilates. Oh, and Zumba, how could I forget Zumbaaaa! These are all activities I enjoy and if I stop looking forward to them I don’t go. It is a waste of my time and serenity.
It is easiest for me to lose weight when my mind is at peace. In an ideal world this means I am getting enough rest, exercise and eating well. I am balanced enough to be able to make room for my emotions on a daily basis, not stuff them in and have outbursts at the most inconvenient times. (those poor customer support rep’s at Cablevision)
I think the biggest ingredient to this balance is compassion. Compassion for myself, my limits, needs and desires. I have spent much of my life doing what I think I am “supposed to do” and in the end it has not been sustainable. That’s a lot of wasted energy and to quote the Black Eyed Peas, “Where Is The Love?”
It’s really all about nurturing my body. When my body feels safe and knows it is being take care of it can let go of the extra fat it’s holding on to for protection whether it’s mental, physical or spiritual.
That is why choosing an exercise I enjoy and that makes me happy is key in helping me shed the weight in a realistic way.
What I like about Pilates that I continue to reiterate is that it is a body mind spirit form of exercise. It helps us become more in tune with our bodies and our needs. Our culture is not set up to embrace this. For me, living in NYC the messages I tend to receive are about “reaching the top” “you will never be enough” and “don’t stop until you get it”! So it’s ok to ignore myself until my health suffers and I’m overweight or can’t sleep because I have so much anxiety and am completely disconnected to what it could be and where it is coming from?
No can do Wall Street.
Is yoga bad for you?
This topic seems to be a bit controversial lately. The New York Times and New York Magazine recently published articles (see below) about the widespread growth of yoga in America. It seems to be popping up everywhere lately and is a topic that I believe needs to be talked about.
Personally, I go through phases where I enjoy yoga and phases where it doesn’t feel right. And while I support any form of exercise that helps us get in touch with body, mind and spirit, I also can’t help but wonder if our egos are getting in the way of the benefits of yoga.
Over the holidays I took yoga classes while visiting family down South. I thought I would feel good afterwards even if I wasn’t familiar with the studio or their particular teaching style. As a dancer I’m pretty confident in my body.
It was like going to Paris and eating a big mac at McDonald’s. The rooms were packed with men and women in their Lulu’s sweating to death to pop music while the instructor barked instructions such as “three point!” and “cheetah!” You guys, WTF is cheetah?! Do they even have cheetah’s in India?
Just googled it and apparently they do but they were extinct for 60 plus years due to hunting (not yoga )
The majority of injuries I see in my clients are from yoga. This is not because it is an inherently unsafe practice, but because in our culture, we have not been taught, from childhood, to perform backbends and stand on our heads. Most of us sit at desks all day.
My point being is that I spent $20 on this heated yoga class over the holidays that left me feeling like absolute crap the rest of the day. Since when did yoga become about pushing yourself to the extreme in a stinky 100 degree room? (this was not Bikrim) And why did everyone in the class seem to be okay with it?? Oh, and I don’t know about you guys, but if the creator of a yoga practice is still alive, I often question this. Just sayin’… But go ahead and pay $5,000 for your certification while he’s alive!!
I’m not okay with it, but I’m scared to be a minority. Perhaps after more people read articles like these, I won’t be. The main reason I think about the dangers of pushing too hard in American Yoga is because it brings up questions for me about my own teaching practice. If I’m too easy, people won’t come back. If I push too hard, they could get hurt. How do I find the balance?
Truth is, I’m not interested in kicking anyone’s ass, not even mine anymore. Mentally and spiritually it does not help me move forward in life. It sucks the energy out of me. Like a Piranha. (no pun intended for those of you familiar with the term Prana) It completely fries my nervous system. But how come yoga classes are packed to the nine’s and no one complains? In fact, they buy unlimited passes and keep going back to twist their bodies into pretzels. I’m not knocking the fact that an eastern practice has become popular in our western culture, but why must we make it an Americanized “type A” exercise in will and endurance? At what point does one realize the integrity of the practice has been lost?
And on a deeper level, why are we constantly seeking approval outside of ourselves? Isn’t yoga about going within, not about what my teacher says or has or does. How does our culture continue to manifest unmindful behavior in a method with one simple purpose?
I do admire the drive of people, but to get hurt and be sidelined isn’t worth it. Besides, finding balance is harder than it looks! Perhaps humility and wisdom can be found in the process.
There’s no better day like today to express my gratitude for all the blessings in my life. Besides the obvious things (easily overlooked some days), a roof over my head, fresh food and water, clean clothes, transportation, friends and family…
I’d like to thank my clients, for they are my teachers. They teach me how to have patience and gratitude. They help me to pause and remember what I truly value in life: my health, my family, a human connection, and the ability and desire to grow.
Thank you to all of you who show up in my life. I am truly grateful.
“Self-criticism stirs up negative emotions like anxiety and self-loathing, and we’ll do whatever we can to get rid of them… When you criticize yourself, you undermine your self-confidence, which is a huge part of motivation.”
Exactly what I try to practice and preach. See link below:
Today’s entry is going to be a light one. Somehow I have acquired a
subscription to US Weekly. (or one of those celeb magazines that
deeply enrich our world and our minds) I was procrastinating one day
and opened up to a section featuring Kim Kardashian on her honeymoon.
She looked fabulous. And guess what?! She’s not ultra skinny and she
works out quite a bit (atleast that’s what the tabloids say). What’s
interesting is that her butt is still HUGE. HUGE. Therefore
proving that you can tone and firm and lose weight all you want to but
proportions ALWAYS stay the same. There is NO such thing as spot
training. As much as I loathe the whole Kim Kardashian thing I have
to say it’s pretty cool that society is accepting of her non model
body type. Perhaps curves, eating, and self acceptance could be “in”. 9/27/11
A blog entry…
I’ve made a commitment to myself to write atleast one blog entry a week. My deadline was Monday morning (it is now 4pm Wednesday). In the past I would have berated myself for not meeting my expectations, sticking to my standards, etc. Though today, I am dealing with the grief of watching my father kill himself with alcohol. Grief, anger, sadness, rage just about covers the emotions I rollercoaster to and from all day and in my sleep. Oh, and anxiety too. Only problem is I’m not in control. So where does this leave me? Well, I can tell you first off it does not inspire to write about the latest Pilates move that’s going to give you “rock hard bikini abs”. In fact, it makes working out seem frivolous and vain. BUT…what I do know from experience is that Pilates and other mind body forms give me a foundation to be present and take these curve balls with more ease one minute at a time, one day at a time. Of course I’d love an hour to myself, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Some days it means working out with a client, 15 mins alone on my machine, walking to and from a client or stretching in between. Today I don’t have the energy to move my body as I am fried emotionally. BUT these little moments I have of being aware of my body, my breath, my spirit, my mind, my health, my strength and weaknesses are the result of years of discipline, dedication and practice. Pilates teaches us to listen to our bodies, and if that seems too esoteric, all you have to do is listen to me. That is what I am here for and I express gratitude every day for the opportunity and space to pass it on. 7/27/11
After a weekend of pure bliss mixed with aggressive, impatient New York drivers in the Hamptons this act of awareness has been on my mind. Is this a value we’re born with or taught?
1. showing kindly awareness or regard for another’s feelings, circumstances, etc.: a very considerate critic.
2. carefully considered; deliberate.
3. marked by consideration or reflection; deliberate; prudent.
I grew up vacationing in places with one grocery store and a Dairy Queen. A treat was considered a walk to the Dairy Queen. I hate to knock the Hamptons because I love it out here but EVERYTHING is accessible. How does one vacation? How do we slow down enough to “show kind awareness or regard for another’s feelings, circumstances, etc.”.
This is where working one on one with clients helps me constantly practice the act of consideration. From the way we greet each other to the actual nitty gritty of our routine, each movement is “carefully considered and deliberate”.
For me, this is the foundation of building a sound mind and a sound body. Coincidentally, this was Joseph Pilates’ vision as well.
Below are examples of what I consider inconsiderate and considerate. (no pun intended!) 7/18/11