Putting in the Work

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After completing my three Pilates mat certifications (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced), and with a few months of teaching now under my belt, I am feeling like things are slowly starting to come together.  I’m relying less on my notes for understanding and simply using the list to stay on track throughout the class.  I have also been experimenting with using music in my classes.  So far it has been instrumentals but I can see how using different styles and genres can totally change the feel of a class.  This is something that I am curious about exploring more – both in my personal practice, and in my teaching since music is such a big part of my life.

Back in 2008, my husband and I created PortSports Social Club as a way for adults to find the joy in play again through team sports.  Over the years we have experimented with many different sports and leagues, and currently run Volleyball and Ultimate.  I had never played either sport until we began offering them as leagues – those first few seasons were really rough for me.  Being a newbie at something is challenging.  Especially when there are other people around, potentially judging you for your ability.  I have found this can be the case with group fitness too.

How many times have you been in a Pilates, yoga, Zumba, etc. class and you look around the room to see where you stand among your fellow practitioners.  How many times have you compared your progress to others?  Not only is it not fair to yourself, but it isn’t fair to those you are judging either.  You don’t know their struggles, whether they are rehabbing from an injury, post-pregnancy, or whatever.  The only thing that should matter is the work that you are putting in on yourself.

This work on myself, as a teacher, is what I need to remember to focus on instead of comparing myself to other, more seasoned teachers.  Now is the time where I need to take the knowledge I learned in my initial training, and deepen it so that I can apply it to the bodies that I see in front of me on a weekly basis.  I am finding that the more I learn, the less I know, which is both exciting and scary at the same time!

Cheers to our ever expanding knowledge and perspective.  It’s time to put in the work.

With gratitude Stars,

Morgan

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The Fundamental Principles of Pilates

physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness

There are fundamental principles to any practice and the Pilates method is no different though they often are not discussed in a traditional mat class at your local gym.

Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision are the six fundamental principles of the Pilates method as written by Joseph Pilates.

I have excerpted the text below in blue from “Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology” published by Presentation Dynamics [not an affiliate link].

In Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph Pilates writes:

Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.  Our very life depends on it.  Since we cannot live without breathing, it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing.”

In Pilates’ original exercise instructions, you will find extraordinary instructional emphasis on the inhalations and exhalations.  Pilates continually emphasized that students should use very full, deep breaths.  He used the metaphor of a bellows being much like our lungs; we should expand and contract our lungs in a full, complete and similar way to pump the air fully in and out of the body.

Centering represents the act of drawing your own mental and physical focus during each exercise to the core, or center (often called the “powerhouse”) of your body.  This is roughly the area between your lower ribs and hips, although it also includes the lower and upper back muscles.

Concentration is simply paying close attention to the specifics and details of every Pilates exercise.  Bring your full attention to the movements of each exercise in order to obtain maximum value.

“Concentrate on the correct movements EACH TIME YOU EXERCISE, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.  Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities.  Contrology exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind fitted to perform every daily task with ease and perfection as well as to provide tremendous reserve energy for sport, recreation, emergencies.”

Control represents the concept that it is your mind that directs and manages each separate muscular movement.

“Be certain that you have your entire body under complete mental control… Good posture can be successfully acquired only when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control.”

Flow.  Pilates exercises can and should be done in a flowing manner, with the goals of fluidity, elegance, and grace.  The intention is that the energy one exerts during each exercise should connect all body parts smoothly and thereby flow evenly through your body.

Precision is the final fundamental principle and for the technically inclined among us, it is imperative that we as students maintain, and we as instructors teach, a conscious awareness of precision during each exercise’s movements.  Pilates’ original teachings and step by step instructions were always very specific in the placement, alignment, and trajectory for each moving part of the body.

Each time an exercise is executed, you begin with precision, then move into flow.  As a beginner, once the movements are understood, you incorporate breath patterns, and then concentrate on the control and centering of the body.  Through continued practice, these six principles become incorporated in every movement your body makes, even in your every day life.

For me, it is these principles that keep me coming back to the mat to practice.  They challenge my focus, attention as well as my body.  How about you, when you practice, do you actively take these six principles into account, or are they more of an underlying general theme?

Until next time Stars, with gratitude,

Morgan

The Build-Up

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My first official class is tonight.  I’m nervous.  There are people signed up who I do not yet know, and the others who are coming have various levels of fitness. As a brand-spanking new teacher, I hope that I am able to give my students an experience that they will enjoy coming back to again next week.

Since my accreditation weekend, my father has been my biggest supporter.  At 65, he’s in pretty decent shape and makes a point to get to the gym at least twice a week.  He has been through several practice classes with me, and each time he gives me more feedback from his student perspective.  I’ve been taking Pilates classes for so many years now, that I have a hard time remembering the feeling of being a beginner.  It has been really fun to see his progression in his understanding of the exercises and he is starting to notice when I deviate from the manual.

One of the big themes I took away from my accreditation was that the Pilates practice is layered.  There are beginner exercises, specific breath patterns for certain movements, and cueing that needs to take place.  Increasing the distance from your center makes exercises more challenging, just like stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new.  It is important to be patient with yourself, and be okay with the modifications if that’s where you are that day, because other days you will be ready to challenge yourself to get to the next level.

Now, I just need to shift my perspective to the teacher side and tell myself the same thing.  I will have my “script” with me as a safety blanket because there is a certain order, and breath patterns to certain exercises, but I trust that over time, the more comfortable I get teaching, the less I will feel the need for it and the more I will feel as a teacher in the moment focused on the bodies moving in front of me without having to rely on the notes.

Honestly, even just writing out this post this morning has made me feel more relaxed and confident going into my first class tonight.  I know that I have friends there to support me in this journey, as well as friends I have yet to meet who are interested in taking this journey with me too.

Thank you for betting on me, as well as yourself, Star.  You are worth the work we are going to put in, I promise!

With gratitude,

Morgan

Practice, Patience and Persistence

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“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” ~Joseph Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology

After I put my 8yo son to bed last night and emerged from his room around 9:00pm, I remembered how many times I have read or heard how important an at-home practice is to sticking with the Pilates (or any) Method.  Rather than putting on Netflix to fold the mountain of clean laundry, I decided to step into the office and focus on my Pilates studies instead.

This past weekend my family and I went to a store called Five Below for the first time.  As it turns out, it’s similar to a dollar store, but with a $5 limit instead of $1.  Needless to say, when I walked in and first saw their fitness display, I was in love!  They had yoga/Pilates mats, magic circles (!!), foam rollers, resistance bands, gliders, medicine balls and even weights.  I filled my basket with a bunch of inexpensive fitness items and left ridiculously excited to begin my at-home practice.

Patience and Persistence

For me, financials have proven to be a major barrier for me to both begin my certification process and attend classes at various facilities around town.  I had signed up to begin my certification last fall, but with scheduling issues and then our family car breaking down, I had to practice my patience and keep the goal in mind.

Patience has never been a strong suit of mine, and since becoming a mother and wife of a full time artist, I have had my patience tested daily.

One of the best things about Pilates is that all you need is carpet, a towel or a mat and there are endless online videos to help you improve your practice.  This is where persistence comes into play.  If you don’t practice, then you will not improve.  If you are not patient with yourself during that practice, you will not improve.  Learning to be kind and patient with myself through this process so far has been humbling.

I created my Instagram feed (@BlueStarPilates) to keep myself accountable and have a sacred space dedicated just to Pilates/fitness since my personal account runs the gamut of bands, comedians, dogs and randomness.  The accounts I have found so far have been incredibly inspiring and have helped me stay focused on my studies.  I have also discovered some fun Pilates challenges like #MagicCircleMonday, #TeaserTuesday and #FoamRollerFriday.

With my new Magic Circle, I set out to try to make my first video last night to post on my feed for #MagicCircleMonday.  Apparently though, the lighting in our office is not made for iPhone videos, so I scrapped that idea and decided instead to simply practice my beginner mat course workout instead.  I’m glad I did.

While listening and following along to the beginner mat class, I remembered a discussion that I heard on the Thinking Pilates podcast about the classical order and finding a freedom in sticking with the traditional order of the exercises.  Chantill and her guest mentioned that the benefit of working within a set order is that you learn what is expected within each exercise and then you can focus on perfecting different aspects each time.  You can come to a greater mastery if you work within a certain framework because instead of focusing on learning a brand new move, you zero in on the minor details to perfect it, with persistence.

The best way that I know how to relieve my anxiety about my first upcoming certification weekend is to be as prepared in advance as I am able.  I am confident that I will have the list all memorized by the first day and I know that I will emerge from that weekend a changed person, and I can’t wait!

Tell me Stars, what have you enjoyed about practicing your patience and persistence?

Until next time,

Morgan

New Beginnings and My Story

you've got to bet on yourself now star

Since I was young, I have always been active.  All through school and into college I played field hockey, softball, skied/snowboarded, and made time for the gym off and on.  When I had my son at 26, I knew that my body would change, but what I didn’t anticipate was the pressure I would put on myself regarding my post-baby body.  All my life I have been petite, and to not be that (or feel that way) was really hard on me.  I know…skinny girl problems, right?

After talking with a co-worker, she convinced me to try her Pilates class.  That first group of classes jump-started me back into a regular fitness routine.  Around that same time, my husband and I started our own business, PortSports Social Club.

PortSports began in spring 2008 with Soccer and Kickball, eventually expanding to offer: Wiffleball, Gym Class, Bowling, Volleyball, Wallyball, Ultimate, Mushball, as well as various social events.  Through offering (and personally running) all those leagues, I realized just how important physical activity and socialization really is for everyone’s wellbeing.

PortSports’ mission is “meet, play, give®” which at its core, is all about meeting new people, playing fun games, and giving back to the community.  All our leagues are about the joy of playing and being respectful without crossing the line of competitive douchebaggery, which honestly, is a fine line when adults are playing sports.

Over time, as the business, my family and I all matured, we realized that doing too much was watering down our mission and the quality of what we were offering.  Not to mention that as our son got older, he wanted to be spending more and more time with us instead of babysitters.

We have since scaled back our business to focus on Volleyball and Ultimate, which has provided an opportunity for me (and my husband) to explore our other interests.  He is now focused on his musical theater production company, Cast Aside Productions, as well as their associated educational arm, Musical Theater Studio.  I am still running the business of PortSports as well as our volleyball leagues, and I thankfully have awesome help with our Ultimate leagues.

These past few years have taught me a lot about myself, my relationship with my family, and have brought forth an understanding of my needs for my own wellbeing.  With leading and playing in two volleyball leagues per week, plus Pilates, yoga and barre classes on my lunch breaks, my personal fitness practice has made me a much happier and balanced woman.  While my schedule is still just as taxing, perhaps even more so, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming because it is filled with things I enjoy, and that make me (and hopefully others too) feel like a better person.

My body is now in the best shape it has ever been.  While I probably can’t keep up with our Ultimate players running-wise, my core is at its strongest, and my back doesn’t hurt from playing volleyball, or sitting at a desk all day anymore.

I have recognized all the positive changes in myself through my personal practice of Pilates and yoga, and I am really excited to help and teach others to see the same positivity in themselves as well.

After a few false starts, I am thrilled to begin my classical Pilates Beginner Mat teacher training the first weekend in February, followed by Intermediate Mat in March and finishing up with Advanced Mat in April, 2016.  I will be teaching in the Portland, Maine area and learning about the world of online fitness programming too.

Music is another passion of mine, and 311 is my favorite band.  I am forever inspired by their lyrics; their whole message has always been about unity, positivity and respect.  I chose the name Blue Star Pilates because we are all Stars in our own right, we are made up of the same particles, and as 311 so eloquently sang:

“You’ve got to trust your instinct
And let go of regret
You’ve got to bet on yourself now star
‘Cause that’s your best bet”

~311, All Mixed Up

Let’s all bet on ourselves to be the best that we can.  Thank you for joining me on this journey and I look forward to hearing your story too.

Until next time Stars,

Morgan