On Becoming a Student Again
“Oh, you teach Pilates? It must be so great to work out all the time.”
Anyone who’s taught Pilates (or any other discipline in which the students’ need for hands-on instruction and verbal cueing outweighs your personal workout goals) knows how laughable that statement is.
Yes, teaching 15-20 hours a week for almost seven years was a nonstop workout, but not one you’d think.
My days were spent pushing and pulling on clients, changing springs, lifting and moving heavy equipment, rushing to get to the bathroom and shove a snack down my face in the five minutes between classes, and pushing my own emotional needs aside to take on the baggage of others.
And for a really long time, I loved it. I loved connecting with students, helping them through injuries and pregnancies and life changes and athletic achievements; watching them master exercises they struggled with in the beginning or try a higher level class and soar; seeing the light bulb moments in each class as they grasped a new movement or concept or understood an old one a new way. I loved being a de facto therapist, of the physical and mental variety. I believed in the way Pilates had transformed my body and mind and wanted to share that with others.
But along the way, my own joy for the practice got lost.
It wasn’t that I didn’t try. For a long time, I attended several classes a week in addition to a private session. Then I started to resent going to “work” on my off days or staying before or after my own classes to get a workout in. I got bogged down in marathon training and my transition to writing from PR and sometimes, a quick series of five or set of arms with my sculpt class would be all I did for the week. And my body and brain both suffered for it.
A couple of years ago, I started taking privates and semi privates at a different studio to get some separation between work and play, but I constantly found excuses not to go. And when I was there, I was too exhausted to reap the benefits of the session or constantly thinking about how I could use something I learned in my next class instead of using that time to focus on myself.
Last year, I took a break from teaching because I knew my studio was closing. Classes were being cut, numbers were down, the energy had changed, and I had no desire to go down with a sinking ship.
But I missed it. I missed the routine, and worse, the sense of identity at a time when I was struggling with everything else in my life. I’d been a fairly competitive runner, but was running on empty and constantly struggling with energy and my health and a body that was no longer interested in jutting up against that ragged edge of hard work that had turned into overtraining. Sure, I had my writing, but if there’s anything I’m less confident in than my running, it’s my writing. It was a constant comparison game and instead of feeling confident and secure as I was in teaching, I was in a constant state of paralyzation from the nonstop pitching, nagging self-doubt, and inevitable rejection.
Teaching had always been my confident place. I knew no matter the time of day, how little sleep I got, how bad my run was, or whatever went on in my life, I was a damn good teacher every single time I stepped into a classroom.
So I started teaching again. I picked a studio near my house, a different style than my training, but convenience and a youthful clientele and roster of friendly, eager teachers won me over.
At first, I loved being in the classroom again. Meeting new faces, mentoring teacher trainers, learning new skills, watching people conquer new skills or concepts.
But secretly, I missed the days when Pilates was MINE. When it’s what I did to feel better about myself, recover from my runs, disconnect from the world and feel fresh again. Instead, taking on other people’s physical and emotional baggage while ignoring my own became too overwhelming. When presented with new writing and editing opportunities and realizing I would only be in studio every other week, which deprived me and my students of consistency we all needed, I decided to leave.
Once that decision was made, Pilates came alive for me again. It was no longer a chore, a job, an obligation to digest and take back to my clients at the expense of my own self care.
About a day before I decided to leave, I had a transformative session with Saul Choza at Winsor Choza Pilates in Los Angeles. I’d forgotten that his studio was there, so I messaged him about a session, and when he wrote back saying he’d had a few cancelations the next day, I was elated.
Like many, my first exposure to Pilates had been through Mari Winsor’s book and videos, and I had the pleasure of working with her a few years ago when she gleefully called me “the cheerleader” (guilty!) because of my face contortions after nailing rolling like a ball to standing in one of her workshops. Saul and I had met in the Keys at a workshop a couple of years back, but I’d never had the chance to work with him.
He put me on the Gratz Archive Reformer, and it felt like coming home. I sweated, thought, moved, and grew in ways I hadn’t in years. Pilates felt organic again. I felt it in my body and in the moment. I was lengthened, grounded, restored, rejuvenated, and 100 percent present. And best of all, excited about practicing and studying again. But for me and only me.
One day, will I share that with the world again?
But for now, I’m content being a student again.