What’s brought you here today? Are you looking to be toned, to be thinner, maybe it’s to not be in pain or are you seeking a bigger (or a smaller) bum…?
When I was in the planning for the opening of the Soul Pilates studio three years ago, I looked around at the wider industry and these were the kinds of messages I was constantly bombarded with. And, from a marketing point of view this is the kind of message that sells. People mostly want to be a better version of themselves it seems. But this wasn't my vision and it wasn’t my reality.
Rewind 8 years and I was living in Leeds as a Digital Director for a prestigious marketing agency. I drove a convertible, ran for my train in sky scraper heels, flew between Leeds and Geneva for meetings, went to the gym almost every day and weighted 2 stone more than I do now.
Now I can reflect and see that I was unfulfilled and living an incredibly stressed out life. But I didn’t see it like that then. I thought I was living the life I’d always worked for. I was a girl with good grades who was always going to go to university and have a big career - and I did: prestigious clients, dinners at 3 star Michelin restaurants, generous clients entertainment budgets to spend and have fun with, nights out until 3am and up again at 6am for a run before presenting at a board meeting. II’ll admit it was fun at times, but it was understandably exhausting now I look back and I constantly felt burnt out, yet frustrated at myself for being, too tired to cope with this life. “Surely other people could manage better than I was?” was something I often told myself.
During this period in my life I always felt like I should be thinner, have better hair, work harder, have better hobbies, do more, BE more - constantly putting pressure on top of an already pressurised me. I had lived my life like this for so long (probably forever!) so this this is what felt comfortable for me. It’s what I’d always known.
And what you've always known tends to feel good; it's familiar - but this doesn’t mean that what you’ve always known is serving you well. And my life was not serving me well. At all.
It was only through a series of events that I decided to train as a Pilates Teacher with no real plans to do it full-time let alone run a studio. It was more that I enjoyed Pilates and was interested to learn more about it. And at that time in my life, Bristol wasn’t even a place I’d ever been to, let alone planned to move to.
Through my Pilates training with Polestar Pilates, I was blessed to be able to work with the most amazing, inspirational teachers who mostly had me breathing in my 1-to-1 sessions. This used to massively frustrate me at the time! I mean I was paying £80+ per hour just to bloody breathe! Didn't they know I'd rushed here from a client meeting just to make it to this session? And I clearly knew how to breathe didn’t I? I mean I was still alive?!
But breathing was exactly what I needed. And over time my nervous system started to rebalance out of it’s permanent state of stress and I could see what my body was really capable of - not because I was pushing it to do more but because I was interested in learning more about what my body could really do, how movement could be created, the strategies needed to master an exercise. And yes I had times where pain would stop me from doing something (I’d had surgery on my neck not long long before this process) but actually pain was a message to listen to and take note of, and when I did just that, the movement I seemingly couldn’t do came to me and over time I mastered the entire repertoire.
I realised first hand, that nothing was impossible where your body is concerned.
During this period I also had a realisation that if my inner voice was a real person, I would certainly not be friends with her. She was mean, unsupportive and constantly putting me down. Who would want her as a friend?
I realised I was living my life in my head and not remotely being in tune with my body. Once I started listening to my body, things started to happen. I came to understand that my intentions had a massive impact on the outcome of whatever it was I was doing. My virtual daily gym sessions were to “make me thinner” or to try to look like the latest celeb who was in a bikini on the front cover of a magazine. Not very positive intentions I’m sure you’d agree.
However my Pilates work become about realising how amazing my body was, right now, and what amazing potential it had. Over time, pains I’d had for several years melted away, and my body changed to a place of ease, a place of space, a place of potential and yes I toned up and got thinner - but these were not remotely the reasons why I was doing Pilates. They just happened. They 'just happened' because my intentions, my inner voice, was kind, supportive and (most of the time) positive.
Some of you may know that I had a baby girl 6 months ago and so many people have asked me about what I’ve done to “get my figure back”. Here is where I’m probably supposed to sell you some plan to buy into, but it would be a lie. The answer I usually give is “not much really”. Yes I was back doing Pilates very early on at home but because the birth had left me in agonising neck pain (again!) which I was determined to be free from as I had done before. My reasons for exercising were to feel healthy, to move feely, to enjoy nursing and carrying my new baby - positive intentions - not to “lose the baby weight” which I believe would be telling my body, and my being, that it was a failure for having gained weight when in reality it had just done this amazing thing of giving life.
A motto I (try to!) live by came to the forefront of my mind again: If you feel good on the inside, you will look good on the outside.
We are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us the opposite - that you will feel good if you look good. But I know this to simply not be true.
So my message to you in this post is to consider doing more of the things that make you feel good - I always think if the word “should” is in a sentence then it’s probably the bitchy voice talking again.
Try talking to yourself with a voice you’d be friends with, and when you do come to a class or private session, maybe set yourself a positive intention each time….
Intentions can be as big as you like (and slightly wanky if you want - that’s fine, they’re just in your head and there’s no limit on your potential remember!!) or simply just be that “today I just want to remember to find my breath and feel my feet” (this is quite often mine right now, living in the craziness of babies and business together).