I love Pilates and am passionate about the amazing effect that it can have on one’s body. However, when I first practiced Pilates in my early 20s, I didn’t feel the same way. I was a member of a gym that had a range of different fitness classes, including Pilates, and there was such a huge hype about Pilates and how amazing it was for your abdominals, that I just had to try it. My first experience almost put me off, as I came away feeling a lot of pain in my neck and like the session was beyond my fitness level. I decided to persist and continue to go once a week for a few months, but I never felt any dramatic changes to my abdominal strength or body. Instead of feeling my abdominals work during the classes, I often found that my neck, hip flexors or lower back hurt.
I left my Pilates practice at that time, until about 5 years later when I started playing golf in a Golf College, and Pilates and functional movement was introduced to our fitness regime. At this point there was more focus on alignment and posture when undertaking exercises and I began to see there was a bit more to Pilates than I had realised. It was then that I moved to the Middle East and for a couple of years I returned to strength and high intensity interval training. I was fit and strong, probably more so than I had ever been, but my neck pain was a huge problem. I was constantly sore with headaches and whilst I knew it was a result of poor movement patterns and posture, I didn’t think that there was anything I could really do to make a difference.
After having my first child, I met a Pilates instructor who lived around the corner, and my husband and I decided that we would try a matwork class together. Having an instructor provide personalised adjustments and explanations of each exercise led me to enjoying the class much more than I ever had with Pilates. I left feeling more open and flexible and woke up feeling good the next day. I decided to increase the amount of lessons I had and try reformer as well. After three weeks my body felt better than it ever had. I felt motivated, energetic, more flexible and mobile and I felt there was more space in my whole body – and best of all, I felt that I could finally actually do something about my posture and restore better alignment. I was hooked on the Pilates movement practices but even more so, I wanted to learn more about each exercise, how it was done properly and the benefits to an individual. In such a short period of time, I knew that I wanted to learn to be a Pilates instructor so that I could share the benefits that I had felt, with others.
Within a month of starting my Pilates training around the corner from home, I had registered for an instructor trainer course with STOTT Pilates in Dubai. I was nervous and excited for the journey ahead. Whilst the education and practice were incredibly intense, it pushed me to learn quickly and retain an incredible amount of information. I loved every moment of the training – I loved how scientific STOTT Pilates was and how focused it was on an individual – learning their posture and movement patterns and programming for them specifically, using my huge exercise library. I quickly began teaching as many bodies and people as I could, so that I could learn as much as possible about different body types, postures and what exercises would be the best to help clients achieve their goals.
Throughout all of this, I continued to program and practice Pilates myself. The changes in my body and posture were unbelievable and within six months I no longer had any neck pain and my posture had improved significantly. I noticed a huge difference in my ability to breathe – I never understood how important it was to be able to take a long inhale that expanded the ribs 3 dimensionally – and when I practiced this every day, my ability to breathe in everyday life, as well as during exercise (especially running and swimming) was far superior. I was able to perform better and felt so much fitter.
After years of teaching and practicing Pilates myself, my love is still there. It is such a powerful practice that not only strengthens and conditions the body but also the mind. It draws awareness to your body and how you feel not only on the mat, but when you step back into the world and have to move, reach, run, jump and sit. I believe that everyone should practice Pilates – it doesn’t have to be the main source of exercise for everyone (but it could be), but focusing on alignment, breath and how your body moves is can have such a powerful effect on your life.