Life Lessons I’ve Learned through Pilates


JACKIE PARDY

Hello fellow pilates enthusiasts. Many of you know me at Retrofit as a client, a student, an instructor and as a familiar face in their promotional materials. I’d like to share my experience and thoughts about pilates with you.

My very first class at Retrofit was in 2009 and from that point on, I was hooked!  After 5 years of regular attendance, I decided to enrol in the teacher training program. At first, it was to enhance my own personal practice. Then, after being laid off from my full-time job, I decided it was time to live the dream, do what I love and turn my passion for pilates into a career.

I traded in my corporate wardrobe for yogawear. I bought the manuals, studied anatomy, logged the required class time, self-practice and practice teaching hours for all levels of mat and reformer. It was months of living and breathing pilates before I tested out and passed. Finally, I was a certified pilates instructor!

I taught full-time for 3 years before reducing my hours in order to deal with a family health crisis. Today I am once again working in my former profession.  You could say I’ve come full circle and am back to enjoying pilates as a participant, but with an added layer of knowledge and deeper awareness of my own physical and mental well-being.

Training and becoming an instructor has not only enriched my personal practice of pilates but has also taught me valuable life lessons.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone

The human body is a most remarkable thing. Everything is connected and nothing works in isolation. Life is like that too. We are all connected, and the interconnectivity of our lives has never been more challenged. Be aware of the connection between what’s going on around you and your health. Take a deep breath. Feel your ribcage expand front to back, side to side, and then exhale like you’re blowing out a candle…

Agility

You’ve probably heard the Joseph Pilates quote ‘You’re only as young as your spine is flexible’. In pilates, we strive to improve our agility so that we can move with more ease. Agility is equally important in life. But how do you become more agile if you are naturally stiff? Practice. Learn to stretch, whether its to touch your toes or reach for the sky.

Balance

Balance is important. It helps us remain upright and avoid injury. It allows us to stay in control, to stay safe, to have equipoise. We need balance not just in our bodies but in our lives, too.  Between work and play. Emotionally and physically. In our relationships. Sometimes life throws us challenges that knock us off balance. A job loss. A family crisis.  A pandemic! We teeter, we even fall, but this is what I’ve learned from pilates: you can improve balance. You can get back to balance. And here’s an interesting one:

instability can help train us for better balance, by firing up our stabilisers. Get the metaphor? (maybe a bit too deep!)

Endurance

Change can happen, if you stick with it long enough. You really can transform yourself  but it doesn’t happen overnight. I learned this by seeing my own body transform as well as my abilities as an instructor. It takes time but the investment pays off.

Mind Body Connection

No doubt, as a pilates client you have been asked to visualize your ribcage as an accordion, or your shoulder blades as slippery bars of soap. Pilates instructors love using images. Why?  Because images help you connect mind and body. This mind body connection is also important in life.  Your physical health is connected to your mental health.  Pilates has taught me to be aware of the mind and body connection in my daily life, not just when I’m on the mat.

Pilates has played an important role in my life. It has been my recreational exercise routine, my life-raft after losing a job, my profession at a transitional time in my life.  Becoming a pilates instructor has taught me many life lessons. Whether I’m teaching or taking a class, pilates is still my passion, my community of support, and those principles of pilates that I learned in teacher training continue to guide me not just through exercise but through life.

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