Like many little girls, I used to take ballet lessons. I loved it, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina, roaming around the house in a tutu all the time. But like many small children, I was a very good mathematical mind as well, very observant and inquisitive, which my parents mistook for an inclination to a more practical future.
My very first memory of Pilates, although I didn’t know the name at the time, was myself watching a documentary about Natalia Makarova doing exercises on the Cadillac as part of her daily regimen. I remember thinking “wow, how cool is that equipment!”. That was in the very early 80’s, when I was still in high school and was preparing to become a scientist. So, I ended up studying Mechanical Engineering instead of Ballet! Always being inquisitive though, even there, amidst all those subjects I never liked, I found my way to something that was very appealing to me: biomechanical engineering, that is how to apply the mechanical engineering principles on the biological systems and more specifically I chose the human body.
Still, I wasn’t meant to be a scientist. It just wasn’t my truth. I tried many things after that, it was a very difficult period for me because even if I hadn’t realized it, I had lost my way and was constantly looking for something to fulfill me without success. What I never stopped though, was exercising: first modern dance and then every fitness craze out there, I had tried them all, I just needed to keep my body moving.
Years passed, I got married and then one day in 2001, as I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding my 3rd baby a voice came from the TV, a Pilates teacher advertising her studio. Immediately the image of Makarova came to mind and the very same afternoon I booked my first session. I instantly knew THIS IS IT! I had this gratifying sensation that I can go places using my body in ways I never knew before! I asked my dad to babysit for a couple of hours so I could go and get reacquainted with my body, strengthen it in a different, more gentle and yet more efficient and functional way than using weights. A couple of years later I completed the Comprehensive Power Pilates Program, with Bob Liekens and Eugenia Papadopoulou a Romana certified teacher and now a Power Pilates Master Teacher.
That was of course just the beginning. I stayed for 6 months in that studio to teach and keep learning. A year later I got my Gyrotonic® certification and I decided to start my own business. I named my studio KINAESTHESIS, from the Greek words kinesis (movement) and aesthesis (feeling), literally “movement feeling” because I believe that movement and emotions are two sides of the same coin since both are controlled by the nervous system. Thus awareness, control and precision (all elements inherent in the Pilates Method) can make a difference in the way our bodies move and consequently improve our lives.
I was 42 at the time, I remember it was a very scary moment when I was signing the 10 year contract with the owner of the building, asking myself: are you sure you want to do that? Isn’t it perhaps a little late to start something at 40? And this is how my (very delayed indeed) coming of age started. Because apart from having children and raising them, it is through my studying of Pilates and running my own business I really grew up! It was like reinventing myself. I was very lucky because I have a very supportive husband, my house was literally twenty paces away and all three children were at school in the morning. And in the evening classes, sometimes my youngest would come and if there was some space he would exercise with my clients doing his favorite exercise, the Rolling like a ball, the “baby exercise” as he called it!
Now those years of study the mechanical engineering principles really helped me but I still devoured every book and manual that fell into my hands. I kept asking for more as more and more clients of different ages, men and women, with different bodies and needs kept coming to the studio. I felt I knew nothing! But teaching proved to be such a .. teacher for me! We begin our path by thinking that everything is black and white but if you are not too rigid and observe the body in front of you, you will see there are more than 50 shades of gray (pun not intended!)
In 2013 I read about Lolita San Miguel’s Pilates Masters Mentor Program, I sent her a demo and she accepted me. During that year I had to work even harder than I was used to as I traveled a lot. Thank God, it was all Pilates so I ended up stronger! A year later I went to Davorka Kulenovic’s studio in Stuttgart where Kathi Ross Nash would teach some workshops and the moment I met her will always be so special to me, words cannot describe. It was a revelation, like a veil lifted and everything began to make sense, it was like I finally found the way to finding the missing piece of puzzle! I was very lucky because a week later she asked me to fly to Allendale for her 2nd I think, Pilates Professionals Advanced Teacher Training program and once again for me it was like starting all over again! Because there comes a moment when you realize that the more you learn the more you know there’s so much knowledge that waits for you.
That’s why I think it is very useful for teachers to try new things from time to time: being a beginner again keeps you humble and helps you to better connect with your students. Movement is something that will always fascinate me. It is the means by which our bodies get their energy, it is our life. And teaching it is a privilege. I feel I help people to live their lives better. I am happy when I see them transform, their posture and health improved and how they always leave the studio with a sense of contentment. It’s not all success stories but I have learned not to take it personally. Some people come to the studio expecting you to work for them. It just doesn’t work that way! As Lolita was saying, Pilates is for everybody but not everybody is for Pilates. I was lucky I had and still have great teachers, people who set an example not only with their work but with their life as well. As a teacher I want to set the same example for the people who come to my studio.
I am 51 now, and I feel I have Pilates to thank for a body that still serves me well, in fact much better than 20 years ago. I can easily now do exercises that once were too difficult for me and am wise enough to not do others that I know are not good for me anymore. To rephrase Vanda Scaravelli’s words, I don’t kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the exercise. I know better now. Age is definitely just a number: moreover it is our chance to grow, perhaps not taller as when we are young (with Pilates at least we won’t grow shorter!), but still, stronger and deeper. We can now use all the lessons learned to live a fuller life.
My first and the best Pilates experience was with Margarita Efthymiou. You could immediately tell the open and scientist mind behind every move. I often act with the principles of Pilates when exercising, your influence still persist Margarita!
Keep smiling and invigorating!!!