Working out and body image. I talk about this a lot.
In the context of actually important things happening in the world, this is a niche subject. In the context of women, professional movers and educators, students of movement in any discipline, this is a kind of a big deal.
On any given day I scroll through my social media feed and see beautiful women (and men and sometimes pets) doing beautiful things in beautiful Pilates/fitness studios all around the world. Images range from documenting classes to cool acrobatics and hammy power poses. The message is positive and overall welcoming. I don’t want it to change. So why am I writing about it? Well…I’d like to carve out a bit of room for imperfect moments.
I went ahead and took a page from my own book. I wanted to document what my personal body really looks like doing Pilates. With all the chubby rolls, the sweat and a while wearing a CROP TOP. Do I have any business wearing a crop top? Very possibly not. I am not known for being camera shy. So why was I nervous doing this self inflicted experiment? No one commissioned it. My 2017 March Matness preparation is many months away.
The reason these images now exist is to call attention to reality. The reality of what movement students and teachers look like sometimes. How profound what I ask students to do on a daily basis actually is. I ask them to confront some pretty major fears. I think I forget that sometimes. I ask them to balance knowing its possible they might fall. I ask them to go upside-down. I ask them to pull themselves, the weight of their human form, up against gravity. I ask them to push and pull and hold a plank on a moving platform. I ask them to listen closely to complicated instructions and coordinate limbs and springs that have an element of danger. The list goes on but it’s an important list to remember.
As a teacher I get frustrated when a student doesn’t trust me or the “method” or themselves. As a student myself I get frustrated when I can’t do something perfectly. I get frustrated because what I think is a natural progression to the “next level” is actually asking for what the body in front of me may think is completely impossible. I get frustrated because what I “should” be able to do and what I can actually do don’t always match up.
There is a magical timing to confronting fears. There is a specific kind of balance between encouragement and empathy that really great teachers know how to strike. There is the reality of day to day teaching and remembering the joy movement brings. It’s my job to remember that these amazing students who come in to learn have their own bag of things they bring to the hour long session. Most of the time, it’s not the physical injuries that are the main issue. Often, it’s the emotional baggage that is laid out on the Reformer. For one hour that student can’t hide. They are vulnerable, not in their element, but in mine. I try to honor this relationship every day in person. I also wanted to be vulnerable with them. My imperfections. My limitations. My bag. There is no need to hide.
Images can speak louder than words. Taking these pictures, carving out room for the imperfect, brings me closer to my students. By changing the visual vocabulary, I create a like-minded community in my studio. We take down the walls of intimidation and find a more accessible and relatable body to strive for. A body that is not about being “chiseled,” rather embodies internally and externally both strength and power.