“You know Farida, one day you’re going to be a great teacher because you’re starting from the bottom. And you’re learning everything the hard way.” This (or some variation of this) was said to me during one of my first Pilates lessons with my first teacher.
My journey through Pilates was not that of a graceful ballerina with rocksolid discipline beginning her second career. My journey through Pilates has been painful, awkward, humiliating, and stressful. Things that my clients are able to pick up in a matter of months took me years and years. I saw the looks of disappointment on my teachers faces. They invested so much into a relentless daydreamer who could not seem to push herself…and live up to her potential.
Now before you say “Wow Farida! Sounds like a fun time! Sign me up for that!” Know that my journey through Pilates has also been life changing, empowering, and very rewarding.
As a child much like Joseph Pilates…I spent most of my time outside jumping, running, twisting, climbing, and exploring the limits of what my body could do. I never questioned. I just arrived ready to explore…whole and filled with limitless energy.
In adolescence I became completely disconnected from my body. The only relationship that my body and I had was one of contempt. At night I squinted in the mirror and could see only a stranger. A stranger with a big butt, and huge boobs. I looked like the hulk compared to the tiny little thing I always knew myself to be. I wasn’t overweight at all…but that didn’t matter. My body and I were enemies…roommates forced to bunk up together.
When you become disconnected from your body…you become a prisoner. You live in a flesh prison. You fight with your body everyday. Pilates gave me back my connection to my body. I learned to listen to my body, work with my body, and push myself safely. Most important was the physical freedom I got back…being able to move in ways I did when I was a kid.
Five years ago I took a break. After years of Pilates, belly dancing, barre and hula hooping I stopped everything. No exercise at all. I was going through a BIG break up. My life was upside down and for the first time ever, I craved stability. I started working a desk job…sitting eight hours a day. I’m grateful that I did it, because it taught me to be grounded, work hard, and commit to something for once…but for the first time in my life I felt real debilitating chronic pain.
Sciatica…burning, searing through my buttocks, hip, and the back of my leg. Sometimes it was too hard to even stand up. Some days I cried at my desk while looking at the computer screen. My body and I were not only disconnected, we were enemies again.
Anyone who has chronic severe pain can tell you that it changes you. You become an angry, grumpy, tired shell of a person. Everyday tasks and interactions become torture. You lose your joy, your spirit, your dreams (“Who has time to dream? I can’t even get up the God damn steps or put my pant legs on!”)
I decided after two and some change that I was going to start teaching again, part time. But who wants to take lessons from an angry limping Pilates instructor? So I forced myself to jump back in, doing advanced exercises and working out hard. The pain worsened. I pushed and pushed stubbornly for a long time. Things continued to worsen. I was 29 and I felt ancient. So I had to start from the bottom again.
This is when I learned one of the biggest lessons of my life. Success is about showing up. Everyday. My pain severely limited what exercises I could do. My workouts were short…but I was consistent. I showed up to the studio everyday and went through my basic routine. I treated myself like I would a client.
Two months later, I was pain free.
I’m teaching full time again. I’ve been pain free for sometime and in much better shape. But being far away from other classical teachers in Pilates Siberia, I get lazy. I end up doing a little here and there…the bare minimum…but I want to challenge myself. I want to up my game! So this year I’ll be doing the “Return to Life Challenge”. Just as Joe did, I’ll use myself as an example of what Pilates can do.
Everyday for the next year I will do Joe’s mat workout from his book Pilates’ Return to Life through Contrology…I will post pictures and updates here on the blog weekly. Any exercises I can’t do I’ll leave out or modify. I’ll work to progress myself using the Pilates apparatus just as I would for a client.
*Just a disclaimer…this is not a challenge I recommend for anyone who is not very experienced and not being over seen by a good instructor. So don’t try this at home! Get thee to a good classical studio!
(I’m gonna flow like Joe.)
I can’t wait to share my progress! I did Return to Life this morning between clients and it felt good! Next week I’ll post my first real update with photos. I’ll do my best to be real, raw, and candid.