When I opened my physical Soul Pilates studios, and now our online offering MoveBetter.TV, I wanted to teach everyone who came through our physical or metaphorical doors what I had been taught over the previous 5 years. Because this literally changed my life and I wanted to share this with everyone so they could feel as good as I did.
I often say “my Pilates training changed my life” and people assume it’s because I left the corporate rat race of marketing to become a Pilates teacher and studio owner. But this is not what I mean.
Literally my Pilates training change my life. It changed the way I viewed my body, my chronic pain, my work-life, my home-life, my relationships. It brought me to a place I never even knew existed. And this is what I wanted to do for other people: to teach and guide like I was taught and guided.
Because through my practice I realised that pretty much everything I had been brought up to believe was actually not true.
In a nutshell, DO LESS TO ACHIEVE MORE. Especially in movement and absolutely in life.
This is the ethos that seeps into everything we offer on this platform. We want every experience with us to leave you feeling amazing with more knowledge of your body from every class and a calmer mind which is ready to deal with anything life throws at it.
So here are my top tips to feeling great every day.
1 - Let the easy things be EASY.
This is the one which can trigger the most people because it goes against the grain of a way many of us live our lives. We are literally conditioned to believe that nothing comes without an enormous effort. 'No pain no gain' whether that’s in studying or exercise or life.
Through movement I really learned how I could feel so much better in my life. Instead of looking to find the burn in a class and thinking that that was the goal, I thought about “how can I make this feel as easy as possible”. If it feels easy does that mean the muscles aren’t working as hard? NO! In fact they are working just as they should, just as they were designed. And you still have something left in the tank to give. You’re not always using up every ounce of effort when exercising. If my movement is constantly taking me to my edges then is it any wonder that my nervous system feels burned out, anxious and stressed?
The truth is (and this is science, not just my opinion) that your body needs to find ease so that it doesn’t burn itself out doing the simple tasks in life. When you train ease into your body and your nervous system, you learn that the simple things are simple. Then you have more left in the tank to give, so you're working with your energy and not forcing it when it’s not there.
2 - DON’T engage your core.
Please don’t. There is this huge narrative out there that you should walk around actively engaging your core and your glutes to have a good posture. And in a class you should actively engage your core, or any muscle really if you want to ‘work’ it.
Well let me make this clear. This is simply not true.
Our body is the most wonderfully complex system. It knows when to engage and when to relax when you allow it to. We don’t control every muscle in our body so why should we think we need to do this with our tummy? And if you constantly engage it, you’re actually creating more stiffness (hello lower back pain) and less function.
Plus you’re telling your nervous system you want to override the system (you know the one it’s so awesome at no computer has ever been able to replicate) and constantly hold on. Using muscles when they’re not needed. Constantly having a system turned on is like leaving the lights on when you’ve gone to bed. It’s not needed and uses up energy unnecessarily.
How many muscles are you holding onto unnecessarily?
A big “ah ha” moment in class are when a client sees a holding pattern they’ve never noticed. Something they’ve probably done for years. Because a big part of Pilates is about undoing a lot of old patterns and learning more efficient ways to move.
Because no matter how often you might see a massage therapist, osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist, and they put you right, if you keep moving the same way you keep running into the same problems. You have to learn to move differently to make a change that lasts. And this approach literally lasts for a lifetime.
3 - Women aren’t the same every day. Work with your cycle and learn when it wants restorative movement and when it’s ready to pump and glow.
A man’s hormonal cycle is 24-hours long. A man is the same every day. Well hormonally anyway. Whereas a woman’s is 28-days (or whatever your cycle is) long.
A woman is not the same hormonally or energetically every day.
When you tune into your energy depending on where in your cycle you are, you will see that some days (usually around ovulation) you are super energetic and this is a great time to try a Pilates Cardio class or go for a longer run. Whereas other times (usually around your period) you are low on energy and should rest or do something really restorative. When you start to acknowledge this you really start working with and not against your body. Understanding that the ebb and flow of our energy is a natural part of being a woman.
4 - Let go of the word “SHOULD”
Should has to be the dirtiest word in the dictionary. Well maybe just in terms of feeling burned out!
“I should do a workout”, “I should go here”, “I should do this” - the should is your body’s way of saying “I could this, BUT I really don’t feel like it”. Start to recognise when you’re pushing a “should” onto a body which is saying “I could but I’d rather do something else ”. This will stop you feeling burned out and leave you far more able to meet the right challenges for you and your body right now.
5 - If it’s HARD it’s because you can’t do it.
We are conditioned to believe that nothing good comes unless it’s hard, especially when it comes to exercise. I would argue that if something is truly hard it’s because you can’t do it. And if you can’t do it you have to ask what are you training into your body? Instead look to find appropriate challenges.
A strategy you’ve mastered and now feels easy? Then increase the load, or reduce the support so that your body can meet the challenge. This will support your nervous system understanding balance. And it’s a balanced nervous system which allows you to feel… balanced!
6 - Train your body to feel how you WANT TO FEEL.
Think of exercise as a life training. Less of forcing it into a shape and more about using movement and exercise as a way of creating the way you want your body to feel. Strong but comfortable. Energetic but at ease. Always having something left in the tank so when life throws your a curve ball you’re ready and able. Simply having a different intention in your workouts will have a huge effect on your energetic being.
Because here is an absolute truth. When you focus on this, your body will move in this direction too. Feel good on the side, look good on the outside. Feel strong on the inside, look visibly strong on the outside. Feel calm and centred, live a life which is calm and centred.
7 - READINESS TENSION is something you might not know you’re carrying.
Are you always ready for anything that might happen? I mean it might not happen but you’re ready if it does? Is this you?
Well this readiness tension is something that creeps into your body and into your fascia. It fatigues you before you’ve done anything. And if that “thing” did come along you’d be less able to deal with it.
Spend time finding stillness, be that as true stillness such as meditation, or as stillness in movement (yes that’s really what our Pilates classes are all about) so you training ease and not holding on, into your system