By Nic Conroy, Studio Founder
As we head into a New Year, I've found myself having a few conversations recently with clients who have been asking me about my own health journey, why I become a Pilates Instructor and my personal road to recovery from a car accident and subsequent chronic pain. All these conversations seemed to surround the concept of 'wellness'.
So what is 'wellness'? How do you achieve it? And what’s the secret to being well, to being happy and, to coin a slightly overused phase these days, "living your best life"?
I think I need to be pretty upfront about this and say that honestly, I don’t have a single answer. But the truth is no-one really does, despite the marketing hype promising you health, wellness and a body like a bikini clad Instagram star. I believe the reason no one has “the answer” is that there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to being well, to being happy and to living any sort of great life.
In my experience, both with myself and from with working with clients with varying complex needs and backgrounds, what I’ve realised that ‘wellness’, or as I like to think of it - "being well", is a bit like baking a cake.
First you need a set of ingredients. And as someone who really does like cake, I can tell you, there are many, many options when it comes to cake and this is a very good thing! Some recipes you try and they work really well, some need a bit of you own personal tweaking, and some spectacularly fail to rise, or stick to the tin.
I think wellness is a bit like this. It’s not simply about Pilates, or meditation, or what you’re eating, or how you feel about yourself, or what childhood you had, or what exercise you’re doing, or if you love or hate your job, or the downtime you take, or the people you surround yourself with. To be honest it’s a combination of all these things and a whole heap more. These are all ingredients to the recipe of wellness. And the amount of each ingredient required varies hugely from person to person. We are not all created equal and I think this is what provides the rich tapestry of humanity.
When baking a cake, the oven plays a huge part in baking to perfection. Just as your oven might cook a set of ingredients perfectly, my oven might fail to rise the exact same set of ingredients in the same way. I think we’re a bit like this. I know in the past I’ve been really guilty of feeling like my body is failing me, or that I can’t keep up with my pressurised job and yet couldn’t help but think “but he/she can do it with ease”. (My inner, negative, super-critical, voice was not a very nice person at all I can tell you!). Maybe they can, or maybe they’re also being a swan keeping everything looking graceful, but the truth is they are a different oven with a different set of ingredients.
I’ve recently being looking at some of Joseph Pilates’ wider teachings and I have realised he certainly wasn’t all about exercise. Gasp! But we’ve all seen him in his pants with a stick in hand, beating the counts while everyone does the hundred? Or in his pants in the snow crawling around like a fitness nutter. But the truth is he believed in “Whole Body Health” and "coordination of body, mind and spirit".
He really did understand that being well wasn’t just about exercise, in fact a lesser known fact is that he was passionate about his six pillars of what he called “Whole Body Health”:
As someone who had cured himself from chronic illness in the early 20th century, he really was ahead of his time and understood there were lots of ingredients required to being well. He understood that to be well in the body, the mind was also involved and it was a combination of factors that was needed.
When we are faced with chronic pain I know the frustration we can face. Frustration when our body seem to “fail” us. Frustration when we think we’ve found the “key” to fix the issue only later to feel ourselves slide back into pain or dis-ease.
My personal approach has been that I try to take a learning or gratitude from every experience no matter how utterly painful it is. I try to think about the message my body or an experience is sending me. Does it want me to open myself up in new ways and try something holistic? Does it want me to change my job (this is where the Pilates bit came in!)? Does it want me to meet someone to take a new path - I only have Soul Pilates because out of no where I prolapsed a disc in my back and met the wonderful Osteopaths in the building we’re now in. Often it’s only when we look back at our lives we can see the path clearly, it’s certainly a much tougher practice to trust the changes in direction live can pull you towards.
I believe that if everything is a learning opportunity then nothing happens for no reason. And yes I have found this approach very hard at times. What is there to learn when you’ve been burgled? Or when you have a miscarriage? Or there’s a sudden death in the family? But I try to continually grow to adapt to learn more, to have my eyes opened and this has been my approach to manage my chronic pain which no longer rules me. And of course Pilates for a huge part of the rehab story after every other avenue spectacularly failed me but this is how I fond Pilates and realised how well it worked for my body and how it was a key ingredient in my cake mix.
Below are some of my favourite quotes from Joseph Pilates which I think provide great inspiration as we head into the New Year, setting positive intentions that last well beyond January.
Nic is the owner of Soul Pilates and a former Marketing Director who understands both the pressures of a hectic working life and the need to fit exercise in around other priorities. She is a qualified Polestar Comprehensive Studio Instructor and a Runity Pain-Free Running Coach, with over 12 years Pilates experiences and a background in Personal Training and Reiki.
Nic specialises in restoring functional movement and brings this love for moving well into her group classes and private sessions. Having recovered from neck and ankle surgery, she understands the frustration of wanting to be pain free and getting back to full fitness, and through Pilates she learned to move her body efficiently again and looks to use this same approach with her clients.
Nic teachers classes throughout the week and is available for private sessions on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.