Perspective and New Projects

img_0338

I will always admire people who do it all.  To all of my beautiful friends who do it all–thank you for giving me quiet strength to not give up. Your words, your kindness, your courage and your energy kept me lifted these past two years.   I am so thankful that you are my friends, my positive influences, my motivation, my heart.  Thank you for being there.  

If I had a penny for every time I was asked, “Are you still teaching Pilates?”  I would have enough money to buy a Starbuck’s coffee.  The answer was so complicated…yes, no, sort of, sometimes.  So here it is…not so simple, but not so complicated after all…

Two years ago, I made the decision to focus all of my energy on my kids who are entering what feels like the fast lane of adolescents (they both have found their passion in the arts and are totally immersed–which is fancy for “we have a totally hectic schedule in the evenings now–and I have another new title, Mom Taxi”. ) On top of this new title, I had some hurdles to creatively jump over as a Mom.  These hurdles took a lot of my energy and my focus.   This all  meant saying good-bye to some amazing Pilates clients and half of my “very loved” equipment.   It was a bitter sweet moment when I said good-bye to MLB Pilates, but one that I do not regret.

 

Some decisions can be terrifying, but great!

 Within the two years of making that decision, my daughter’s ongoing struggles with anxiety reached a new level of difficult and I had major health issues that required many stages of testing and two surgeries.  Amazingly, I didn’t throw in the towel (although on some days I mentally wanted to just drift into Bravo land for the day).  Instead, I decided to take this gift of time and be proactive and not just reactive (I had some amazing people teach me how to do this along the way–thank you). I decided to homeschool my daughter for a year–and give her time to heal before her first year as a middle schooler.  Anxiety can be crippling and a life long struggle. It also can unfortunately have a negative stigma with negative or uninformed people–but not in my house.  I am very, very proud of how hard my 11 year old has worked to overcome some life challenges caused by something completely beyond her control–this is nothing to be ashamed of, nor should it have a negative stigma in society.  Severe anxiety takes a lot of energy, hard work and patience. My daughter is worth my time, my energy and my patience.  My decision to homeschool was not just mine–it was our entire family–and it was a big deal in this house.  This decision felt so similar to the closing of my Pilates studio–terrifying, yet right at the same time. 

Seriously, are you kidding me kidneys? 

As I was closing my Pilates business, I was also struggling with an ongoing health issue that continued to be misdiagnosed.  Some doctors called it “being 40”.  I wasn’t really impressed with that diagnosis…so for two years I kept searching for an answer and a better doctor.  Finally, the health issue revealed itself.  After a trip to the ER, I learned (while drugged up on a crazy narcotic IV drip) that a CT scan revealed I was very close to kidney failure–like 80% close.  I remember slurring my speech and looking at my husband and yelling “Are you kidding me kidneys???” I had to homeschool my daughter–I seriously didn’t have time for this debacle–but I did.

Many, many tests and doctor’s appointments later and one minor and one major surgery, I realized that instead of resenting my body for not working, I was grateful for my body for not having cancer (which was the first suspicion).  I was thankful for my right kidney for not TOTALLY failing on me and giving me 20% function and my left kidney for functioning at least at 80% and carrying the burden for so many years. I was beyond grateful for a young female surgeon who not only was incredibly skilled, but kind, honest and personable. I actually didn’t have any resentments at all–just gratitude.  Little did I know that this kidney issue (which, don’t get me wrong, was awfully painful and scary) was one of the best things that could have happened to me–it FORCED me to slow down, look around and listen.  Perspective is an amazing gift friends.

Back to Instruction, back to Pilates

 As a former elementary school teacher, I was giddy to teach again in the homeschool setting.  As a former Pilates teacher, I was challenged with my own need for careful and meticulous Pilates training post surgery.  My daughter and I were determined to make this all work.  It is amazing what you can achieve when you have support from others.  One of the many lessons that we walked away with during our new adventures together as teacher, student and kidney patient.  Without support, I could not have returned to my daily tasks…or even had any kind of determination to do much at all.

I could not have healed without the support of my friends (thank you amazing people), who did the physical tasks I could not during my first few weeks of healing–like dropping off meals and driving kids to activities.  I could not have taught my daughter without her helping me move from point A to point B carefully without harming my incisions. I could not have kept my spirits up without my son being the nurturer and sitting with me day after long day…reassuring me that I would be okay and somehow squeezing in a joke to make me giggle.    I, physically, could not have returned to my life if I did not have Pilates in my muscle memory to lift me cautiously out of bed, my spirit to be patient and my mind to remind me to breathe.  I am so grateful to be able to see the beauty in a complicated situation.  I am so thankful for a healthy perspective and many beautiful friends. 

My kids have been my favorite teachers

Through all of these hurdles, bumps and debacles,  I have learned how to take time to pause and reflect.  Instead of just running from point A to point B (like we all do with hectic schedules), I have learned how to stop and observe and treasure moments.   In the last year, through all of the messy life situation I have learned some profound life lessons–most taught by my kids.  They have taught me how to be strong, how to persevere, how to be forgiving, how to be kind, how to know when to ask for help, how to take a risk, how to be honest, how to be genuine, how to laugh and be silly even when you feel crummy.  If I had not modified my schedule by pausing my Pilates business, I may have missed these amazing lessons. Thanks kids!

So now, when I am asked if I am still teaching Pilates, I know how to answer.  YES.   Pilates is my passion–it is ingrained in my body, my mind and my spirit.  I have missed this part of me…and thankfully, with the help from my kids and the amazing people that surround me, I have found the energy, the perspective and the answer.

Pilates for Young Dancers is a new and wonderfully personal project.  I am so excited to share. It will not only be for young movers, who are growing so fast that they need extra attention, but also anyone wanting to learn more about the benefits of Pilates for your body, your mind and your spirit.

My young dancer (my daughter) has given me many opportunities to grow as a person with this new homeschool adventure. We share many things in common, but one commonality that we share is our love and appreciation for movement.  It is incredibly healing for both of us. Sharing Pilates with my kids is a dream (yes, even my 13 year old son will jump on the reformer at times when he’s not playing bass and dreaming of being a rock star or ask how to work on his hip strength for lacrosse).  Working with my young dancer as a Pilates student is a gift–I am so grateful she has graciously offered–especially during a time when hanging out with your Mom is not as fun as hanging out with your friends.  Thank you C.

Together we are going to bring balance back to our bodies and our lives.  Together we are going to make this an amazing year of learning… a foundation for many years to come.  I am so grateful to be a Mom, a homeschool teacher and “again” a Pilates instructor.

 

The Power of a Mind/Body Connection

Caralyne in her "Forget Me Not" costume for her first grade performance. SO appropriate and such an amazing celebration.

Caralyne in her “Forget Me Not” costume for her first grade performance. SO appropriate and such an amazing celebration.

Caralyne still smiling during an EEG post MRI.

Caralyne still smiling during an EEG post MRI.

 

“Tell me about your fitness routine”.  This is typically one of the first questions that I like to ask a new client.  I felt confident asking this because I personally pushed myself daily to “move”.  I understood the importance of exercise to cope with stress as well as to manage weight and move throughout ones day comfortably and efficiently.  I knew all of this and practiced what I preached–proudly.  Until one day in March of 2o12 when my movement and routine came to a crashing stop. I was paralyzed with a fear only a parent of a sick child could understand. My daughter, then 6, had experienced significant behavior changes that we monitored since November of 2011.  I slowly found myself spending my post client hours at her school asking for help, or seeking advice from a cognitive behavior therapist, or spending hours researching childhood behaviors.  There was something wrong that we could not manage alone.  I tried working with clients through these months and focused my attention on them, but as soon as my schedule cleared, I was dedicating my extra time to solve the mystery of these odd repetitive movements and tantrum type behaviors my daughter was experiencing.  By February, we noticed her slipping away from us totally.  She would stare into space for minutes and then rock into a ball for hours never stopping.  She stopped making eye contact.  She stopped speaking and only talked in a baby voice or grunts, and she would move through our kitchen opening and closing drawers over and over and over again and flipping on and off the light switch for hours.  She feared water and refused bathing and drinking.  She spent most of her day under a table, chair or anything that would cover her.  She only ate certain foods–if she ate at all.   My Pilates schedule was becoming a juggling act.  I would spend up to 5 hours at a time trying to help her just come out from underneath a table and pray she would before a client arrived.  Once she made it away from her “safe” place under something she would cling to me as if terrified of her own shadow—in her own home.   My clients were so patient and understanding because many days my daughter was glued to me (not talking to anyone) and within a few feet from me, if not on top of me,  while I was attempting to teach.  One day after trying to work with a client, I had to stop to help Caralyne.  She had turned her body upside down on a couch in my studio and began to cry “help me Mama” and then cried as if in shear terror.    This was when I said, enough is enough we need serious help and answers.  A few days later a medical resident at a local hospital insisted our daughter had mental issues and there was nothing to do but deal with it—this was the day I lost my energy.  It had been completely zapped by an a complete insensitive stranger with no concept of bedside manner.  He didn’t have an explanation as to why or what caused it, but that she needed to be admitted to a mental hospital.  If that doesn’t knock your socks off…not sure what will.  I had no response to him but to walk away, and take matters into my own hands. I knew my energy was going to be needed to get to the bottom of this.  I sat paralyzed for  good part of the night, not even sure where to turn for help.  I started making appointments with any neurologist, psychologist and immunologist who would take us quickly.   The doctors were baffled and passed her case on from specialists to specialist. After a few appointments, we found a pediatric neurologist’s  physician’s assistant very interested in Caralyne’s case.  She shared my determination and left no stone unturned.   The neurologic tests started and didn’t seem to stop for almost six months.  Spinal taps, MRI’s, endless blood draws, CT scans and doctor’s appointments, therapist sessions took over my Pilates schedule–writing these appointments down on my Pilates schedule seemed unbelievable–just a month ago it was full of privates, duets, and mat classes.

The weeks dragged on and on waiting for test results and MRI images were constantly “clear” with no signs of seizures or tumors.  SO WHY and HOW is this happening???  This is how we lived for months on end.  I felt myself day by day changing.  My mind was focused on one her well being all the time. I learned how to predict or quickly to react to a tantrum in hopes of diffusing it before it took over for hours, or alleviate her intense fears of the moment.  Every waking minute I was trying to make sense of what was happening to my little girl, so much so that I didn’t see what was happening to me…the Pilates instructor, the group fitness instructor…the one who asks, “Tell me about your fitness routine”.  I couldn’t move. My posture had deteriorated.  My full Pilates lateral breathes had turned shallow and rapid.  Any last ounce of energy I had left I gave to my 8 year old son and husband—I had to remember them too.

I walked through the early days of her illness almost in a trance of complete anxiety and intense adrenaline–it was that sense of exhausted but unable to sleep mode. I remember meandering through a hallway at Children’s National Hospital in DC not able to lift my head.  My shoulders were permanently rounded and tense and fingers constantly clenched in tight fists. My entire body ached and I knew why.   I could “feel” what was happening, and I could hear my own words haunting me…”You need to move Marta, you need to lengthen your muscles to release this stress”.  “You need to breathe”.  I knew I should.  I would attempt to lengthen my posture and focus on my pelvis  in the very uncomfortable chair next to her hospital bed, and then I would cry. This was the extent of my Pilates practice, and I knew I had to make a change.

Between hospital stays I would escape to my reformer during her peaceful times (which were not very long) and begin with my BASI warm-up.  I would work so hard to connect to my tense body and feel my imbalance due to tight muscles from shoulders to toes, and then it would happen.  I would make that mind body connection and I would cry.  This would happen over and over again and frustrate me to no end–I could not focus because of this awful wave of emotion.  I could not get through a workout without a breakdown.  What was happening to me??   I blamed it on pure exhaustion until it turned into pure avoidance.  I struggled to do Pilates. How does this happen to someone who just a few months earlier would eat, live and breathe Pilates.

This torturous journey continued for months until we finally had somewhat of an answer in late August of 2012.  Caralyne had suffered from a type of encephalopathy (a mycoplasma infection that attacked a portion of her brain causing her to have severe OCD, sensory integration disorders, uncontrolled emotional outburts and social anxieties as well as damage to memory and recall–she had regressed academically with her writing skills and alphabet recall).  The doctor’s later officially diagnosed her as having C.A.N.S. (Childhood Autoimmune Nuerologic  Syndrome). It is a very rare and under studied syndrome that is just now becoming recognized.  There was no cure, no quick fix, no explanation as to how–only answer intensive therapy and hard work.  We had an answer.  That answer, and diagnosis, and all of the help from her therapists gave Caralyne the strength and determination to persevere.  Her world would forever be changed, but she knew she would have to learn how to live in it.  I admired her strength and endurance.  She went from being homebound to full time in school and attend dance class two nights a week—because she wanted to have her life back. To me, that is pure strength…a strength from within to fight hard to make a mind/body connection just to accomplish a daily routine without distraction.

On the first day that Caralyne had been away from our house for a full day in months, I made a date with my reformer. Within minutes I was sobbing and angry at myself for interrupting my own practice.  I mentioned this to my own therapist, clearly I needed it to stop and seeking help was my best defense.  She put it into perspective for me.  She said that I understood the power of the body/mind and spirit more than most.  I believed in it, it was my passion, and I instructed others how to find it.  What I couldn’t do for months was help my daughter make that same connection and I watched that connection violently slip away and torture her.  I was feeling guilt that most could not understand…my daughter had lost an amazing gift and that guilt overwhelmed me.  Clarity–what an amazing thing!

Later that day, my little girl came home from school.  She shared the details of her day and nonchalantly danced around the kitchen ending her dance with a hug directed toward me.  She then gave me the most amazing little bit of advice…in the midst of a hug she whispered to me, “I want you to do Pilates again Mama, I know you love it so much and you miss it”.  Hmmm…my little, now 7 year old, just told me it is time to let go of the guilt and move on with my practice.  To some it may seem like she gave me permission, but to me it was reassurance that she had the strength to carry on and I needed to carry on too.

I am still the same Pilates Instructor, but one with amazingly new perspective on the immense power of a mind/body connection and its impact on your spirit.  Thank you Caralyne for lifting my spirit and giving me back that mind/body connection—which by the way no longer makes me sad!  Keep dancing and working hard little Mama…you are my hero!!!

Fluidity with Injury

Joseph Pilates wrote in his book, Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology,  Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit. What more could you ask for with your daily training?  To me, it is a powerful and a personal approach to my daily wellness. But, what happens when injury interrupts?  Recently, my daily fitness and Pilates instruction has been challenged by a recurring overuse injury (Piriformis Syndrome)—reminding me to stay humble and true to my own practice.  Continue reading

Back to Basics

t-nation.com (image)

The start of the new year, for some, is the time to jump start a personal wellness/fitness program.  The seasoned fitness guru may want to take their program to new levels or spice things up with a variety of exercise trends this season. I admit some of them sound very interesting–anti-gravity yoga?? Something I have found beneficial is taking a couple steps back in January. Continue reading

Concentration

Happy New Year!
This year on New Year’s Eve, I took a private moment to reflect. I am a wife and mom first, but this private moment was purely about my identity as a Pilates instructor. 2011 was a monumental year for me

  • I completed my BASI training (where I met some of the most amazing, intelligent and gifted women (most of them shown above)–and was challenged beyond body, mind and spirit–and somehow came out stronger in both mind and body)
  •  I applied for my first LLC and MLB Pilates was born–my passion was now my private practice
  • I have my first website–thank you Gabe Harris for creating this for MLB Pilates
  •  I traveled to California for my first Pilates Method Alliance Conference, where I met Rael Isacowitz (centered among all of us above), Mary Bowen , and an amazingly long list of leaders in the Pilates field, and just since the fall of 2011
  • I have met amazing Moms who creatively rearrange their schedules for Pilates…that I teach…me–I am honored. 2011 was a great year, at least from my perspective as a Pilates instructor.

How in the world do I even begin to top a year like that??? Hmmmm….Joseph Pilates…give me one more of your principles–I’ll take….Concentration!

It may sound silly, but I often turn to Joseph’s ten principles when I feel “stuck”…and why not??? They just make so much sense (Awareness, Balance, Control, Efficiency, Precision, Breath, Concentration, Center, Flow, Harmony). Yes, Joseph was considering these principles for his Pilates instruction, but he also acknowledged the power of applying them to your daily life–genius!

Concentration can be defined as, the action or power of focusing one’s attention or mental effort. You can achieve anything with focus and attention. The toughest obstacle for New Year’s resolutions…distraction! This year…I almost made a checklist of possible distractions along with my resolutions…I fear those sneaky distractions even the little ones. It is much more work to overcome them, than to continue on your merry way toward your goal. This year, I used my reflection of last year to pull out my weapon against distraction—my concentration. Once I have it…look out!!! I won’t really let much get in my way—but life happens and that is what challenges me the most…those unexpected road bumps.

So, to those road bumps filled with distraction in 2012–I say bring it!!! This Pilates Mama is loaded with Joseph Pilates’ ten power packed principles and she is applying them to much more than just her Pilates practice–Pilates Mama’s number one secret weapon—CONCENTRATION (aka FOCUS)!

I wish you a happy 2012 and I hope that if you made a resolution that you are able to focus on not allowing any distractions interfere with your journey to success this year! Happy New Year!!!!

Precision

Precision–Another principal of Joseph Pilates. Precision can be defined as the state or quality of being carefully distinct. As a Pilates instructor, my eyes are continually looking for precise articulation of the spine, the precise fluidity of limbs, the precise alignment of the shoulders, the pelvis, the knees, the entire body etc. Precision takes practice and is challenged by muscular imbalances and weaknesses–which we will have as athletes, fit gurus, weekly warriors or newbies to the fitness world. Consider yourself normal if you fall into a category of being “imbalanced” physically–it’s a very popular club to be a part of (can you catch my imbalance in the picture to the left?) Now, how do you find your balance? How do you acheive precision? Continue reading

Efficiency

Back to school–back in the groove–back to schedules and routines. What a wonderful time to implement fitness back into your routine or take it up a knotch. This is my plan–and now it is time to organize! With Mommy tasks and roles on the rise with each grade level, organizing time for “me” to stay well and balanced is important, but tricky. It is time to “think” and brainstorm an efficient plan! Continue reading

Control

Control
MLB Pilates started with a question my husband asked me five years ago on a trip to Delaware to visit family. I will never forget the discussion initiated by his question, “What is your five year plan Marta?” Staring out the window I considered my most important job (being a Mommy to two children ages three and one), and my part-time job as personal trainer/group fitness instructor/mat pilates instructor. I fumbled through my kinesiology books (that I had intended to read on our trip for my master’s in exercise science class) and could not beleive I was saying my dream out loud—“I want to teach Pilates apparatus and mat and own a private studio”. Continue reading

Awareness

Awareness The first of ten principles cited in the writings and teachings of Joseph Pilates. Awareness of my own body, post baby, was what led me to my first Pilates class. A challenging pregnancy, many months of bedrest, and a ceserean section created a monumental amount of weakness and imbalance from head to toe. I knew that patience and believe it or not “smart” training was going to be the most effective program for me–plus, I had a new baby to go along with this new (and not so improved) body. I didn’t have hours to spend at a gym. And so began–my passion for Pilates. Continue reading