From Fearful… to a Pilates Student… to a Pilates Instructor! What a Journey!

This is a moment in my Pilates journey that once seemed impossible…abdominal muscles engaged, pelvic floor pulling towards my belly, sitz bones heavy on the reformer, I take in a deep breathe. Feeling my diaphragm fill with air, I push through my short straps with my hands and perform the steps of my hundreds with coordination sequence. My arms are pumping at my side, my head is lifted, as my legs extend out at a forty-five degree angle, opening and closing, as i inhale and exhale, five breaths each in a row. So many things are happening at once in this beautiful dance of coordination, breath, and strength, as my mind and body work together in a way that seems effortless, but is in fact the result of years of disciplined work.

My first experience with Pilates was at a mat class at the local gym. I enjoyed it and felt great afterwards, but had the sense that there was much more potential to this practice than what the local gym was showing me. Several years after this first experience I began to practice Pilates seriously. This came about as I would regularly walk by the sign for a local studio, Downtown Petaluma Pilates, each time thinking it would be fun to try a class, knowing it would be an investment in my health, but each time being too intimidated to make the call because I believed Pilates would be too hard, that I was not in good enough shape to begin, or that I wouldn’t have enough skill. I walked passed that sign for at least two years. Each time it called out to me, offering possibility, but I didn’t answer the call.

In January of 2013, something shifted inside of me. I had recently lost a loved one, and from this loss, I found a sense of urgency regarding the need to care for my physical and mental health. I was significantly overweight, clumsy, had chronic lower back condition called Spondylolisthesis. I was frequently anxious, stressed, and mentally foggy. I knew I wanted to change my relationship with my mind and body. From this place, I found the courage to purchase an Introductory Package. My Pilates journey was underway!

What I discovered, is how approachable Pilates actually is. Pilates offers benefits for every body. I was warmly welcomed into the studio by my first teacher, Anne Bishop, and her wonderful team. I signed up for every kind of class and lesson I could, as frequently as my schedule would allow. Initially, I faced frustration, as I saw how little connection I had developed between my mind and body. Getting them to communicate with each other was quite a challenge. But with each passing class, I gained more strength, and more body awareness. My body started to respond to what my mind was asking it to do! I was getting better at each exercise. A growing confidence began to emerge, and my ability to focus exponentially improved, one lesson at a time. The progress I was making in my PIlates practice began to translate to all areas on my life, providing mental and physical gifts. Pilates is also just really fun! The studio in Petaluma became my extended family!

After just a year of serious study, I had lost 65lbs. I was now comfortable in my body, and I could focus in a way I had never been able to do before. Practicing PIlates had a meditative quality for me as well. We have all heard of the benefits of meditation, but I struggled with actually sitting still and doing it. I found when I practice Pilates, that focus on the movements, the form, the flow, and on breath, that outside concerns no longer filled my mind. My anxieties leave, my phone is not in hand, and I am truly present in the moment. I call it “Meditation for the Type-A Personality”. Ha! Whatever magic it was that was happening, it was making me less anxious and a happier all around person.

Over the next few years, I continued to grow in my PIlates practice, and was constantly advocating the benefits of Pilates to all that I met. Like, I would seriously not shut up about it. I was really passionate about this stuff, so much so, that my teacher Anne suggested I consider becoming an instructor. I loved this idea, but was also terrified. Sure, I was a good student, but could I teach? Life soon intervened in that decision, when I became pregnant with my second child, putting the idea of teaching on pause. I entered a new phase of my Pilates practice; pregnant PIlates. I was not able to do the advanced moves that I had come to love, but I was able to be in touch with my body throughout my pregnancy, in a way I had not experienced while pregnant with my daughter a few years prior. Just like I had been frustrated with my mental limitation in the early days of my practice, I experienced frustration with my physical limitations during, and following my pregnancy. The mind and body connection I had worked to cultivate would from now on always provide awareness of where I was at in both areas.

In May of 2016, with a brand new baby boy in tow, my family of 4 made a huge life change, and moved from Northern California to Austin. My husband transferred within his company, and we came to Texas brimming with hope, and excited for new possibilities. Texas immediately felt like home, and we were delighted by the warmth of all those we met. I soon found a local Austin Pilates studio, and began taking private lessons. The postpartum phase was a new and humbling one in my Pilates journey. I was recovering from a c-section, I had Diastasis Recti (a condition in which the large abdominal muscles separate, typically after pregnancy), I was carrying 20 extra lbs, and not as strong as I had been prior. This past year has been about the journey of healing my body with Pilates, and rebuilding my strength inside and out.

In January of 2017, I made the decision to move forward with my dream of becoming a Certified Pilates Instructor! A search of local Teacher Training programs led me to discover CORE Therapy and Pilates. I believe in life, when something is meant to be, things progress smoothly and rapidly, and that was how it went, from my first exploratory conversation with Brandi, to having a Private reformer session with Cheryl. I was enrolled in the current Teacher Training Program within a week of meeting the CORE family. I began taking classes, and doing privates. We may have seen each other around the studio. I’ve even started Physical Therapy with Stephen to gain strength with my lower back Spondylolisthesis (a spinal disorder in which a vertebra slips forward onto the bone below it).

My teacher training is a continuation of my Pilates journey, by gaining a deeper understanding of each Pilates exercise. I am learning how to communicate instruction of these exercises through verbal, tactile, and visual cueing. I am developing the skill of reading the bodies of other people, wherever they are in their practice. I have recently signed on for an apprenticeship at CORE. As an Apprentice Pilates Instructor, I look forward to helping others, and sharing my passion for the practice of Pilates, while I also cultivate my teaching skills. I would love to have the opportunity to learn with you, and teach with you, to work together symbiotically.

Pilates is a journey – I have used that term repeatedly with intention. It will be with you wherever you are. It will be with you at any phase of your life, if you want it to be. As I continue to grow in my practice and gain inner and outer strength, I realise in Pilates there is not a destination I will reach where I do not need to continue to grow. I will always have physical and mental items I am working on in my practice. There will be muscles that need to be turned on, muscles that need to be turned off. There will be potential injuries that I may face, and my body will continue to age and transform. The very best Pilates instructors all still have areas they are working on. I find this fact both humbling and intimidating. We are all students together, growing in awareness of our bodies and minds. Come join me in the journey. If you see me in the studio, please say hi! I look forward to meeting and working with you. This has been my journey so far, I’d love to hear about yours!

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Ohara Hartmann

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