It was a wise man who once told me not to deny myself anything that can make me great.
Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 86. I’d like to honor the man by exploring the many ways that Pilates can improve your sex life. As per usual, I speak from experience.
It’s a catch phrase in gyms, from Los Angeles to Dubai. If asked, most personal trainers, and lay people, will tell you that the core consists of your abdominals, and by abdominals, they're referring to the Rectus Abdominis (the six pack).
It seems that unless I have the words, vagina or hand job, in my posts, people don’t seem to be as interested. Hmm.
Why do we sometimes feel that we have to defend our choices? Why are we embarrassed by some of those choices? Why are we being judged? Why do people give a rats ass about what someone else is wearing, eating or doing.
I don’t know why I was surprised that there was two yoga classes a day, during my week long yoga retreat in Mexico. It was a friggin’ yoga retreat!! The classes were wonderful, but I was a little bored. Why did I go? Someone had put it on my ‘To Do’ list. Oh, yeah, that was me. Once it’s on there, it’s on there.
Haramara Retreat has no electricity, no internet, and you can’t flush your used toilet paper. Simply throw it in the wastepaper basket and call it a day. I found this curiously fun. It did take me a couple of, “Oh, crap, I put it in the toilet.” I was afraid that the retreat police was going to knock on my hand built, environmentally conscious cabana door and put me in a time out. Or worse, make me fish the toilet paper out of the bowl.
We had fresh, local, organic food, and fruit I’d never heard of. There were unpaved trails, a private beach with climbing rocks, an infinity pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and really stupid sand crabs. The crabs would climb, or rather side shimmy, up the tropical hillside and then die. Weren’t they going in the wrong direction? Every night, walking back to our rustic and built without machinery, cabana’s, we’d step over dead crabs in the path. It was like a massive crabby suicide pact.
The ocean was rough and loud, which lulled me to sleep each night.
I loved the open air shower, with its unobstructed view of the ocean. I didn’t worry about my hair clogging the drain because there wasn’t a drain. My strands gracefully and peacefully became one with the jungle.
We were told that the resort was situated amongst a melange of wildlife. I knew we weren’t going to be bothered by monkey’s, like in Africa, but what exactly was out there, no one said. Oh, maybe they did, but I wasn’t paying attention.
In the middle of night, I got up to go to the bathroom. It was pitch dark. No electricity, no lights, remember. I stumbled into the bathroom half asleep and sat down. It wasn’t until I felt liquid dripping down my leg, that I realized that I was sitting on top of the toilet seat and peeing myself. Boy, that was one deep sleep.
I was there for a week and by day 3, I was as relaxed as I cared to be. I knew relaxation would soon turn into anxiousness.
Before I left NY, I secretly wished that I’d have an epiphany, a calling, revelations, answers, signs… something to tell me why the caged bird sings. Maybe I’d be healed. Praise be that sweet tween Jesus. I got my chance when I signed up for the Temazcal ritual, or sweat lodge.
Also known as a house of heat, it’s used in Mexico and Central America for spiritual and health reasons. This was it. This was going to release me from my emotional shackles and I would be purified and emerge anew. Sign me up!
A few women from San Diego, who were also on a retreat, joined forces with our group. We were excited and ‘present’ and ready to get our spiritual on.
Haramara had built an igloo like structure, with a hole at the top that’s covered during the ceremony, to ensure complete darkness. The structure symbolizes Mother Earth´s Womb. I like wombs.The female Shaman instructed each of us to kiss the ground before entering Momma Earth’s womb.
Actual volcanic stones were heated and then a ‘Fire man’ brought them in, one by one. I was already sweating. There were about 20 of us in the womb and the energy and excitement was palpable. Fire man placed the stones in a pit in the center. When all of the stones were in, the Shaman had us yell in unison, “La Puerta” (door). The makeshift door was closed and covered, and we were now in the dark, wet and hot womb. Huh, just like I remembered it.
The Shaman told us the meaning of the Temazcal, and how we need to respect the earth, as she poured water on the hot stones, creating pure steam and in turn, heating up the womb like a Bikram Yoga class on steroids. I kept thinking, “Okay, that’s enough water, Ms. Shaman, it’s hot enough. I get it.” I wanted to release the shit that I no longer needed as much as the next gal, but I couldn’t fuckin’ breathe.
We sang, we introduced ourselves, informed the others why we were there and after what felt like a half an hour, but was probably more like 10 minutes, we yelled La Puerta again, and the door magically opened.
I crawled out, sucking in the fresh air as fast as I could. There were three more rounds and I really didn’t think that I could go back in. Others were saying the same thing. But then a funny thing happened. We all crawled back into the womb. I had to put my head down on mother earth’s lap because it was cooler and less disorienting.
During round four, Shaman lady had us express, in one word, our wishes for humanity, or some such thing. All I heard was one word. My brain was melting.
“Love”, “peace”, “kindness”,… And then out of nowhere, people started reciting paragraphs, prayers, dissertations. Clearly they didn’t hear the word, one. They went on and on. I wanted to scream. “One word people. The sooner we do this, the sooner we get out. What the f’ are you doing? Put down the microphone and let’s wrap this shit up.”
If they were truly spiritual and caring, they would’ve seen the fainting people laying next to them, instead of showing off their thoughtful concern for Mother Earth.
Okay, so I still have some work to do.
In her autobiography, Good Morning, I’m Joan Lunden, Joan writes, “4:30am comes around very early.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
I was up at the butt crack of dawn, for I was about to compete in my first Pole fitness event. Go big or get off the pole, I say.
I rode my bicycle to the theater, as a feint drizzle fell onto the city streets, and onto my flat ironed hair. I wondered if rain was good luck on competition days like it is on wedding days.
I’ve been pole-ing (yes, that pole) since January. I took to it like a duck takes to water. Apparently straddling a 45mm in diameter, chrome pole agrees with me. For an hour and a half, two to three times a week, the world outside, with all of its stresses and drama, disappears and my sole focus is on squeezing the bejesus out of a pole without falling on my head.
My inner thighs are black and blue, my knees look like I’ve been repeatedly whacked by the mob, and the tops of my feet are scratched and bruised. I’m in love.
It was only a matter of time before I found the pole. I was always climbing on furniture as a kid, hanging from chairs, and crawling under tables. And I always fancied myself a dancer.
In hindsight, I should’ve run away to the circus when I had the chance, instead of running down the street to my friend Muffy’s house. What did Muffy’s den ever give me, other than an endless supply of sour cream and onion potato chips, Fresca and Marlborough reds. The circus would’ve been a lot healthier.
Truth be told (and why start lying now) I feel like a bit of a cliche. My romantic relationship ends so I trot out my ‘to do’ list, which includes activities that I’d been meaning to do but hadn’t yet found the time. I became a Pilates Instructor after my last major breakup. Who knows, I may be teaching the Fireman Spin and Double Stag before too long.
Why do we forget about our ‘to do’ list? Why do we, as women, sometimes take a backseat to our lovers or children? This is precisely why flight attendants tell us to put our oxygen masks on first. You know they’re not speaking to the men in the cabin because the flight attendants know that they’d grab that yellow cup without hesitation and start sucking air but quick.
Why do we let ourselves set aside those activities that bring us joy? It’s not intentional. I never saw it coming, until I woke up and asked myself why the music had stopped. Literally.
I always listened to music; while I worked, while I walked around the city. I don’t know why it stopped and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I bought headphones the other day and I turned up the music.
Not too loud. Not like the Jay-Z wannabee on the E train, who thought that I wanted to hear, “Many chicks wanna put Jigga fist in cuffs, Divorce him and split his bucks, Just because you got good head, I’m a break bread,” at a volume that would wake Tupac. I didn’t to hear any of that.
Little does Jay-Z Jr. know, that in 10-15 years there’s a good chance that he’ll lose part of his hearing, despite the fact that he’s wearing his badass Beats. But I digress.
My only responsibility now is to please myself, and learning how to pole is one way to do it. Was that a double entendre? It’s a balancing act, as Deepak and Anne B. Davis (may she rest in peace) have preached to us ad nauseam. I don’t know if Anne B. ever spoke about balance with the Brady kids on the air, but she seemed like the kind of broad that would have done so off camera.
We have to remind ourselves who we are and what makes us tick. I’m envious of a lot of men and their ability to set boundaries, stay their course and do what they enjoy doing, without feeling guilty or acting neurotic. I need to steal a page from their playbook.
When I first started ‘dancing’, and was learning how to climb the pole, it was impossible. I was frustrated and I couldn’t wait for class to end. I shrugged it off, murmuring to myself, “I don’t need this.” It was an all too familiar feeling.
I don’t understand something; a dance move, a literary concept, a math problem, and I want to quit. Why don’t I get it right out of the gate? Why isn’t the first draft the final draft? Why can’t I get to the top of the pole?
I’m a Pilates instructor. What do I tell my clients when they struggle with Teaser? “You suck. You should quit and go back to Yoga?” No. No, I do not. Then why expect that from myself?
The following week I attempted to climb once again. My pole partner saw me struggling and she gently pressed the outside of my bony knees together; which hurts tremendously but is essential for the ascent. Before I could think about what was happening, I had gotten to the top of the chrome monster.
That climb was for every karate class, piano lesson, gymnastic team, tennis club, and acting workshop that I had quit.
So what did I do to celebrate? I entered myself in a competition. (you heard me) If I was going to beat myself up, getting owies where the sun don’t shine, then I might as well make it interesting.
I casually remarked to one of my instructor’s that I was surprised to see that there was an over 40 category. She looked at me and with a straight face said, “Yeah, there’s usually 3 or 4 women in the Master’s group.” It was hard not to laugh. “Well, then my chances of placing are pretty good.”
Master? Isn’t that misleading? Pilates Masters are considered those who’ve been teaching, or practicing, for 20 years or longer, not a 47-year old former gymnast, dancer and athlete, with bad knees and a bunion. That’s right, nothing says old Jew like a bunion.
The only limitations are those we put on ourselves. I read that somewhere. I’m about to find out what, if any, mine are. I’m going to open my heart, my mind, and my legs, and see where the pole takes me.
Russian weightlifters; Vasiliy Ivanovich Alekseyev, Yury Vlasov and Ruslan ALBEGOV.
And now Tatyana Kozhevnikova, the 2009 world record holder in… Vaginal Weightlifting. What else can I say about the Russians.
So often I sit down to write and it’s pure torture trying to come up with a subject matter that I can get behind. And then there are times when golden laced gems fall in my lap; signifying that my muse is working overtime. Thank you Bernice.
And coming off of the heels of Steam Cleaning Your Vagina. Suffice to say it’s been a very pleasurable couple of weeks.
Yes, Vaginal weightlifting is here. And I’m coming late to the party. It’s been a thing, well, at least since Tatyana was crowned, Strongest Vagina In The Land in 2009. God knows if my grandmother practiced this shit in her day but was too repressed (or modest) to open her pie hole about it.
Kim Anami describes herself as a holistic sex and relationship expert. What actually constitutes an expert? Having lots of holistic sex? She is how I found out about VW.
I like this woman. She’s traveled, practiced Tantra, Taoist philosophy, gypsetted in Bali and beyond, and has a collection of couture crystals and Maribou dildos. Isn’t a Maribou a bird? I’m so confused but let’s not get too off topic.
She practices vaginal weightlifting and even offers an 8-week seminar, called Vaginal Kung Fu. I think it’s $500. A friggin bargain if you ask me. I wonder if she supplies the objects to be lifted.
I’m all for sexual empowerment, sexual energy, connecting mind, body and spirit. I jazz walk down off beaten paths, welcome unconventional systems and have dabbled in unorthodox practices.
However, I also cannot ignore the absurd, and humorous.
Kim says that us ladies can buy a jade egg, which has been pre-drilled (convenient) on one end and a string hangs down from it. Insert above egg into your cooter and tie the dangling string to any object that strikes your fancy. Easy breezy fun.
Kim has lifted, among other things, a container of cold pressed juice, dumbbells, crystals, gluten free donuts and Rambutans, an Indonesian fleshy sweet fruit. No, this was not lost on me.
But the piece de resistance is… drumroll please… a friggin surf board. I am kidding you not.
Her belief is that a strong (literally) and powerful vagina has many benefits, including better sex. She says that it’s like yoga for the vagina.
I don’t want to be argumentative or a contrarian, but when she says that lifting surf boards and small children from her cooter, strengthens the pelvic floor better than, say Kegels, I would offer that this vaginal weightlifting is more like Pilates for the vagina, not yoga. (no offense Yogis)
Pilates is all about the pelvic floor and Kegels, and better sex and I don’t have to stick an egg in my cooter, and try to lift a buffet from my vagina to get it.
1. Have better orgasms. By better she means, longer, deeper, more intense, and includes the ability to ejaculate.
And why do I want to ejaculate? Is this an example of feminism grandstanding? “I am woman, see me ejaculate.” Which coincidentally was Helen Reddy’s other, lesser known, chart topper.
2. Keep your internal organs lifted, strong and perhaps prevent vaginal or bladder prolapse.
Pilates! Table for one please.
3. Have an easier childbirth and recover more quickly afterward.
I’ve spoken to several Pilates instructors, and they admitted that childbirth still felt like hot andirons coming out of their vaginas, strong pelvic floors be damned. Sorry, but no guarantees there.
And let me just say that your pelvic floor can be too tight (and strong) The muscles need to be able to relax as well.
4. Up your libido. When the vagina is weak, it feels numb. Sex is infinitely more pleasurable with a sensitive and articulate vagina.
So what, now my vagina needs to be able to express itself fluently and coherently? That’s a lot of pressure.
5. Eliminate issues of urinary incontinence. Really, eliminate?
Cut To: Equinox and Crunch gyms now offering Vaginal Weightlifting classes for seniors. Now that's a snapshot I don't ever want to see.
6. When women are dissociated from their vaginas, they are also cut off from the natural and enlivening flow of their sexual energy. When the vagina is brought back to life, that vital, life-force energy is available to you to channel into all parts of your life.
My life-force was brought back to me when I bungee jumped off of a bridge over a stream. The next time I jump, I’ll hang from my vagina.
If I vaginal weight lift, am I going to be sore the next day and not be able to have sex? That would seem counterproductive.
7. A natural facelift. When you strengthen and pull up the pelvic floor muscles, you create an energetic lift throughout the entire body, which even registers in the face. I have had clients stop using Botox after beginning their lifting practice.
I will never stop using Botox. I’m all for lifting everything that can be lifted, and I consider my pelvic floor muscles in wonderful shape but nobody has ever told me that my face, or vagina, looks more pulled up, after a Pilates session.
8. Be able to shoot ping pong balls.
Now we’re talking. Bring on the piano stool. Thailand is waiting!
In an effort to look bustier in my super tight sports bra, and not like a ten year old boy, I slipped a couple of pads in, taken from another sports bra. Why I didn’t just wear that one is one of life’s great mysteries.
The sports bra was so tight that I placed the pads right between my skin and the fabric, feeling confident that they weren’t going anywhere.
Off I went to teach my Pilates mat class. In the back of my mind, I chuckled because I thought about what would I do if they fell out during my class in front of 85 students. My confidence betrayed me.
I was barely ten minutes into class, when I looked down and saw the brown edge of the right boob pad peaking up from my sports bra, singing like Diane Ross, “I’m coming out. I want the world to know, got to let it show.”
The studio had two walls of mirrors and two walls of glass. I was trapped. I had been in similar situations and each time I’ve come out a stronger, and more dextrous person. I’ve removed countless bras without taking off my shirt (what woman hasn’t) I’ve swapped out feminine products while driving a car. I had this.
It was just another embarrassing and awkward moment, in a long list of embarrassing and awkward moments. I had to be brave. I had to show the kids how to look adversity in the face and give it the finger.
I went into def con MacGyver mode and walked to the back of the studio. I instructed the class in an exercise that would bring them down onto their backs facing away from me. As they were scissoring their legs, I contemplated shoving the pads down instead of removing them. And then I remembered not to be dumb.
I removed the left pad and held it for a nanosecond, while I thought about where to put it. I certainly couldn’t keep holding it. I couldn’t stick in the box that held the Pilates magic circles. I suppose I could’ve thrown them into a corner and retrieved them later but my aim isn’t the greatest and what if it landed on someone’s head?
I only had a nanosecond, as stated above, so I stuck it in the tight waistband of my pants.
I walked back to the front of the room, as I had to remove the right pad. The class had already done a 130 scissors, so it was time to switch sides. While they scissored, I scanned the room and removed the right pad and stuck it into my waistband. Whew, that was close.
Just fifteen minutes left of class and I was home free. It wasn’t to be. My boob pads had now become ass pads. I wondered if anyone saw what was happening. Do her boobs look smaller but her ass larger? Wow, Pilates sure does work quickly.
As a nation, we spend far too much of our precious time sitting on our asses.
You’re sitting in front of your computer, posting your umpteenth picture of your animal doing something so ‘awesome’ that you can’t wait another minute to get it out to your 60,231 Facebook friends. Or you’re kickin’ it (yes, I wrote kickin’ it and I’m not sure it was in an ironical way) old school, doing your best impersonation of a couch potato.
Our bodies were built to move (and for speed) and this sedentary lifestyle is slowly killing us. Now that may have been a bit dramatical but sometimes that’s what’s required for a message to be heard and action to be taken.
It is estimated that, given the time that we are laying down; sleeping, eating, as well as the examples outlined above, we spend about a third of our time on your asses, and or laying prostrate.
This sedentary lifestyle does not come without side effects. It can lead to obesity, it’s pure punishment on the spine, it affects blood flow to our limbs, tightens our calves, glutes, hamstrings and hip muscles, which in turn can affect our lower backs, among other body parts.
Don’t get me started on the rounded shoulders, forward head, and hemorrhoid epidemic that’s sweeping the nation.
Look at the young people around you, and tell me that you don’t see their upper backs hunched, and their heads down, as if they’re looking for spare change on the ground. It’s as if man (and woman) is walking in reverse on the evolutionary scale. Will future generations be walking on their hands? At least they’d be closer to the loose change on the ground.
I’m not pointing fingers because I, too, even as a Pilates instructor, sit on my ass more than I’d like to. And although it’s a tight Pilates ass, with a lifted THUT, I have to work hard to remind myself to stand up, and walk around. Sometimes I’ll eat and work standing up. Simple, not easy, and not always attractive.
I’ve found a few easy ways to offset some of the negative effects of inactivity that everyone can do. Of course stepping away from, or putting down, the friggin’ electronic devices for half a New York minute might also help, but I’m only one person. There’s only so much I can do.
The first step is to arm yourself with some tools to make these behavioral changes possible and easy. I want you to walk away feeling successful. See what I did there? Walking. Moving.
Invest two to three dollars (or less) in a Theraband, also known as an exercise band, or exercise tubing. You can find these online or in a local sporting goods store. Different colors correspond to various levels of resistance.
The bands are portable and can be carried in a purse (for women or men) or kept in a desk drawer, glove compartment or locker. What the hell, I don’t know where you work. The point is, you can take it anywhere.
Standing, grab the band at either end and lift your arms overhead. Keeping light tension on the band, side bend over to your right, keeping the space between your arms the same throughout, and your head directly in the middle of your arms. Use your core to stabilize, and try not to pop your ribcage out. Hold for 30 seconds, and switch sides.
Stretching the hip flexors is very important because these muscles get short and tight when we sit for long periods of time and will eventually start to ache if you don’t lengthen them.
Stand with your right leg in front of you, left leg extended behind you. Start to bend your right knee, as you press your hips forward. Gently squeeze your left glute (ass cheek) and tuck your pelvis underneath you, pushing your left hip forward and up, until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Scoop your navel back to your spine. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
If you must sit, set a timer to remind you to get up every 30-60 minutes and stretch. Take a walk around the room. The bands will hopefully make it more interesting and fun. Of course if you can get yourself into a Pilates class, that would make my heart soar like eagle.
I wrote this entire piece while hiking up a mountain.
Why do people fear Pilates? Don’t fear Pilates. Fear terrorism, global warming, adult acne.
I cannot tell you how often I hear prospective clients, and people on the street, express a certain amount of fear of Pilates. Not that I approach random people on the street, trying to get them on the Reformer.
However, if accosting strangers on the street meant that I could dispel this pervasive fear, which as we all know is just false evidence appearing real, then gosh darnit, I would. Maybe. I don’t know. I mean, don’t hold me to it. Where was I?
Oh, yeah, fearing Pilates.
Did you know that Mr. Pilates called his method Contrology? Is that scary? Maybe you have control issues? Let go. Give it up. There’s so little that any of us have control over. The good news is that, through Pilates, we can learn how to control our bodies and how we move, so that we keep moving up until our very last breath.
Moving on. Moving. You see, it’s all about Pilates.
Return To Life Through Contrology was written by Mr. Pilates. In it he discusses basic principles, and concepts. If you’re afraid of righting your slumped shoulders and bad posture (put that friggin cell phone down already) or balancing your body so that it works efficiently when you’re working or playing, then stop reading and go lay down and turn off the lights.
However, if you’d like to face your fear head on, then read on.
Mr. Pilates called his method Contrology. You can read about it in his book, Return To Life. These principles, or concepts, that I’m about to impart to you, did not come from Mr. Pilates directly. They’ve been distilled from his work, by instructors that have been carrying on his method. We in the biz refer to these ‘legacy keepers’ as the elders. They are revered and respected, much like I am -- in my head.
The Distilled Principles
This was Mr. Pilates’ A-number-one must have. Think about what would happen if we didn’t breath. He believed that the more one can pump the air in and out, the healthier the body. Coordinating the breath with the Pilates exercises is always emphasized. One of the many benefits from Pilates is greater lung capacity.
When performing any and all of the exercises, every muscle is being controlled. Even if a muscle is not visibly working, it’s still being controlled by the muscle’s owner. That would be you.
Focus and energy are brought to the center of the body, where the Pilates exercises are initiated. The center of the body being the square (or box) from armpit, down the side body, across the low belly, up the other side body to the other armpit and across to armpit number one. I’m sure there’s a more technical way of illustrating this but I’m not known for my technical acumen.
Pilates is a mind-body system that requires the practitioner’s full and undivided attention. Concentration ensures that each exercise is performed with the most efficiency. I don’t recommend watching anything on BRAVO while practicing Pilates.
Each Pilates exercise requires specific placement of the body, and if using Pilates equipment, specific placement of the body in relation to the equipment. Proper body alignment is always a priority.
Ideally, a constant flow is applied to the exercises, moving gracefully and easily from one exercise to the next. If one is not flowing with concentration and control, the Pilates Reformer, for example, will make noise, as evidenced by the springs banging around. Some instructors, like yours truly, like to call this ‘crashing’ and I will shame and humiliate any client that ‘crashes’ their Reformer. Sometimes tough love is the only appropriate love.
When these principles are integrated, and practiced as a whole, the results are kick-ass, and THUT- errific.
Some Pilates training centers and instructors may include the principles listed below in their teachings as well:
Range of Motion
In my opinion they are all valuable, and a practitioner would benefit from learning all of them.
I was hired as a Pilates instructor at a tony health club, and management asked me to offer free demos as a way to introduce myself to their members.
I’ve given so many friggin’ demos since I became an instructor, almost ten years ago, and sometimes it feels like a real soul killer to have to continuously sell myself.
That being said, I decided to suck it up, adjust my attitude and sell, sell, sell. It’s been a tough work year. I lost several clients back in March, and I haven’t picked up many new ones. I did leave the country to teach Pilates in Dubai for two months, so that didn't bode well for clientele building and consistency.
I deliver quality Pilates instruction, with the added bonus of a kick ass personality, but the evidence didn’t lie and I wondered if I might be doing something wrong. Perhaps it was my laissez-faire attitude towards beautifying myself for my clients. As unimaginable as that sounds, maybe my winning personality wasn’t enough. I know, I can’t believe it either. Could my client drought actually be because I don’t wear make-up, or blow dry my hair before hitting the Pilates studio?
I never felt that I should have to succumb to such shallow and superficial tactics. I choose to sit comfortably crossed legged on my high horse, espousing such ditties as, “Like me for who I am, or go away. I'm here to help you with your Quasimodo posture, not win a beauty contest.” Aren’t I adorable and misguided.
It was the same when I lived in Los Angeles. I believed that my talent alone would get me hired, not my f--kability factor. I think we can all agree that my strategy was both flawed and incredibly naive.
What’s wrong with putting on mascara and showing a hint of cleavage (men do Pilates) if it’s going to bring in the people? As an experiment, I wanted to see what would happen if I made more of an effort.
I put on make-up, as if I were going to a wedding, and I changed my clothes a half dozen times, finally deciding on a head to toe Lululemon ensemble. My Astro pants gave me a camel toe, and a wedgey. Perfect. I went with a tight purple Define jacket, wearing only my bra underneath. I smoothed out my hair, and flat ironed my ponytail. I did not shower. It was my little secret. Between me and… me?
After two long hours, several women, and men, asked to see exercises on the Pilates Reformer. I can’t be certain what brought them over but, unlike the proud, naive, and stubborn girl, who wouldn’t sleep around in Hollywood, I had no problem showing skin and combing my hair.
Even if the superficial brings me clients, keeping them is where the true talent lies. I suppose I can offer to sleep with them. You don’t have to tell me twice.
I seriously need my head examined. I had a prenatal class today and I decided that we would work arms and do mat work, instead of the Reformer. This meant that we needed to work in one of the yoga studios.
As the pregnant women walked in, I set up in the studio and a stench, that could have knocked out both Godzilla and Mothra, smacked me in the face, and slid down my lungs. The fact that I didn't immediately switch gears and move us into the Reformer studio, is why I need my head examined. What, in the name of all things pure and simple, was I doing?
My instincts and relative intelligence told me to abort the hand weight workout in the noxious yoga studio, for the sweet smelling Pilates room. However, this ‘other’ self, that I’m ashamed to even admit that I own, took over and I conducted the class in the toxic room.
In all fairness, I did ask the women if they would rather move to the other studio. They’re the pregnant ones. Shouldn’t they know what is unhealthy for their unborn offspring? No one said anything. I know this isn’t an excuse for my obvious stupidity, but I just thought I’d offer up all of the facts before you judge me. And you will judge me. I’m judging myself right now.
And then, in the middle of a biceps curl or a lat raise, I almost said the following, “If anything happens to your babies, please don’t hold me liable.” WHAT? Let me say that again, WHAT? What I did say was, “Please don’t hold me liable.” That’s so much better.
There is something seriously wrong with me. I’ve said it before, I should not be put in charge. It’s too much pressure for me. I need to work with women who are in really good shape, not with child, and who can do somersaults, and stand on their heads.
After class, I tried to get out as fast as I could (I’ve got my own lungs to protect). I heard one of the women say to another that she felt light headed. Oh, dear Allah, really. They said that the fumes made it hard for them to breathe. The f’d up thing about this conversation was that I didn’t hear any animosity towards me (which I so deserved) in their words or tone of voice.
Why didn’t they say anything? I can’t possibly look like I possess any ounce of authority.
I pretended that I didn’t hear what they were saying and ducked out. I sprinted to my car, hoping that they’ll forget all about it by next week’s class. Or better yet, they all deliver their babies and can’t come back for two months.
I was shooting the shit with a fellow instructor at the Pilates studio today. “I just think the women should shave their legs before coming to see me. It’s irresponsible. I have to touch them. Would it be so horrible if at the very least they wore long work out pants?”
Her eyes bugged out. “Are you serious?” She said this with great disbelief. I thought she was kidding, so I reiterated.
“Yeah, I’m serious. Are you serious? I’ve got to feel that shit.” I think she was genuinely appalled at my seemingly intolerant attitude.
“I don’t think it’s such a big deal.” At which point I glanced down at her feet, only to see several hairs, the length of yard sticks, coming out of each of her big toes. Of course she didn’t think it was a big deal. I curled my lip.
“All I’m saying is, I think it’s socially unacceptable and in bad form.” I didn’t really feel this strongly and militant about it, but I had her hooked and wanted to see how far I could go.
She looked at me like I wanted kids who wore glasses to be rounded up and hauled off to some remote facility in Jersey. “I’m just a little shocked.”
I was confused. “You’re shocked that I’d be anti leg dreadlocks and armpit nests? Why? Because I believe in saving the planet, a woman’s right to choose and gay marriage, so you think I’d believe in letting it all hang out? You can’t lump me in with the, my body hair is au natural and therefore beautiful, line of thinking people. I am not that girl. C’mon. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to think about your trainer and ask yourself whether they want to get their hands all tangled up in that mess.” And with that my fellow trainer smiled and walked away. Ah, agreeing to disagree.
I’m all for letting your freak flag fly but there’s a time and a place. And if I’m busting my ass helping you to obtain your optimum lengthened and most ideal posture (which I’m happy to do) then please, clean it up, because it’s not the time nor the place.
What kind of society would be if we thought it was acceptable for women to go to their gynecologists for their pap smears without showering beforehand just because it went against their daily hygienic beliefs and they wanted to save water? I’m not a huge fan of the shower. I’ve gone a day (or seven) without bathing, but I would never forego washing and shaving before a pap, especially since my doctor’s going to be up close and personal with my hoo hoo. Have some compassion. It’s the same thing with Pilates. I want my clients to think of me as their Pilatecologist.
I understand the whole, free to be you and me feminist angle. Wait, no, I take that back. I don’t understand it, nor have I ever really thought about it. I only recently read about the Second wave feminists and I still don’t understand what the big hullabaloo is about. Do what moves you, speaks to you and resonates with you, but I implore you to leave the leg and armpit vines at home. Yes, I’ve heard that for some it’s a cultural and social mores issue. Great, social more all you want, at home, not in the Pilates studio.
I get it. Shaving is a personal preference, not unlike foregoing red meat, or choosing a standard versus an automatic vehicle. However, when it affects another person, i.e. me, get that friggin razor out and start mowing. I never thought of shaving as a social or man conceived idea either.
And I know that certain Mediterranean cultures don’t consider it essential for a woman to shave her legs. My parents were hippies in the 60’s. I know that the whole unshaved legs became a natural thing to do during the “hippy” movement. Okay, fine, but if you’re going to train with me, and you’re unshaven, you better have been playing in the mud at Woodstock or recently moved here from Greece.
Fuck it. I’m liberated and I shave. What does that mean? Jesus Christ, must everything we do or don’t do, be analyzed, and given some deeper meaning, label, or attributed to some flaw in ourselves or society? Hairiness is unrestrained animal sexuality. Shaving keeps women in a state of innocence. Shaving denies a woman’s visceral self. Huh? Long hair and beards are for dirty hippies. Dirty foreigner v. Clean American. Someone has a lot of time on their hands, thinking about all of this. And now I’m beginning to think her name is Dani.
I just reread the above. “Wow, why the rage?” For one, because I do think that people need to have regard for others. My other truth goes deeper. Not too deep, perhaps just beneath the surface. When I look at my current situation and what I’m doing now; training to be a Pilates instructor after 20 years in the entertainment business (hanging with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Courtney Love-and others named Love) touching hirsute women, I wonder, with a mix of sadness and disappointment, “How the hell did I get here?”
When I was kicking it with studio executives and performing stand up comedy at the World Famous Improv, I never thought I’d move back to New York and become a Pilates instructor. The questions of how and why force me to retrace my steps (and missteps) and mull over every decision I made, every opportunity I lost, and every fear I let cripple me. I think I’m still mourning a life that would never be (that of a 19 year-old rock star/playing Streisand during the Main Eventyears in the movie of her life/Vegas Showgirl) and perhaps I still have more work to do accepting what is. I’m no genius but maybe this has something to do with my less than tolerant attitude.
I apologize hirsute women, but I’m coming from Hollywood; where anal bleaching and vaginal rejuvenation were born. You’ll have to be patient with me. A couple of hours after my confrontation with my fellow instructor, I looked over at her client laying on the mat, and saw the woman’s armpit. Oh, dear lord, I wish I hadn’t. That woman could’ve been a man. This acceptance thing may take a while.
When I recently had the opportunity to teach Pilates to ballet dancers, at a local dance academy, I leapt at the chance.
Full disclosure. I have never formally taught kids anything, let alone Pilates. I’ve changed poopy diapers, played endless games of Candy Land with my nephews, but I had no idea what to expect and no idea how to act. I’m a teacher, yes, but what does that mean in this context? I’m used to being in the company of adults; dialoguing, joking, letting curse words fly freely from my lips. The only thing I knew for sure was not to drop the f’ bomb… if I could help it.
I laughed at the immediacy with which I was hired. Nobody asked me if I had any experience with this particular population. And I didn’t offer. I was too excited about pretending to be a dancer again.
My first class was before the holidays. I scheduled a short press conference with myself beforehand to calm my nerves, remind myself that I was the adult (I forget sometimes) and that I had mad skills and lots of head knowledge. But most importantly, I remind myself not to talk too much and don’t confuse the Pilates class with a stand up act.
Being in front of a captivated audience, no matter how small (physically or in quantity) can easily turn into an embarrassing state of affairs. I started ad libbing like I was opening for any Borscht Belt comic. I realize that this reference will go over some heads. No matter.
There were six 10 year old girls, each one, the size of my thigh. I put my professional hat on and plunged into the repertoire. I brought a cheat sheet with me and we were flowing from one movement to the next, like the graceful giseles that we were. I was in control, and things were running smoothly, that is until the Lilliputians started talking to each other, and to me.
“I like your toe-sox.” “What should we call you?” “Carey is always injured.” “Can we do rocking swan?” Why were they talking? There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no talking in Pilates! It felt like I was being heckled, and I got flustered.
I didn’t know what they should call me. What’s wrong with my name? Then I remembered my dance teacher, Miss Pike, when I was seven years old. “You can call me Miss Dani.” It's a sign of respect. I should have my adult clients call me Miss Dani as well. With all of the gas that’s passed, and the un-manicured toes that I have to touch, I’m not so sure that those clients do respect me.
I pulled it together as my last class of the night walked in. These girls were 13 and 14 years old and all ‘tude (attitude). Crap. About halfway through the session, I realized that they hadn’t cracked a smile, made a comment about my socks, or showed any signs of life. As we say in the biz (showbiz that is) they were phoning it in. I could’ve sworn they were making faces behind my back, and it felt a little close for comfort.
I couldn’t hold back any longer. My inner comedian was fighting to get out. These dancers, with their taut, age spot-free faces were serious and focused, and I took it personally. They didn’t like me, nor the class, and they somehow figured out that I wasn’t an actual dancer. I was a fraud. I went into overdrive, and tried to elicit a reaction.
I was convinced that I could break them. If I didn’t, then I would’ve failed. Failed? Not at teaching them Pilates, but at making them laugh. I’m pretty sure that my job wasn’t to crack wise with a bunch of duck walking Sugar Plums. I spoke faster. I made faces. C’mon girls, give me a break.
My boyfriend and I attempted a new way of eating (not a diet) several months ago. It’s Tim Ferriss’s, The 4-Hour Body. It was a lifestyle experiment. In an almond nut shell, you are not allowed to eat whites or sugars; rice, potatoes, bread, pasta, sugar, fruit, honey, agave, and fruit juices.
What does that leave you? Not much. However, for someone like me, who is not a foodie, and who doesn’t like to make eating an event, this is the perfect ‘way of eating’. It’s repetitive, takes all the guesswork out of what to eat and it includes all of my favorite foods.
You’re allowed eggs and on occasion, cottage cheese. Perfect! We could have any and all vegetables (in any amount) especially spinach. But the main food item is beans. Beans, beans and then more beans. Beans are recommended with at least two of your four daily meals. I’ve since bought stock in Beano and Gas-X.
Allow me now to digress. The following was previously published several years ago and I include it here, not only to go along with the Beano theme, but as a wonderful illustration of my ability to turn most things into a performance. Enjoy.
The owner of the Pilates studio, Janice, asked me to train a friend of hers. I was flattered that she thought of me. When I saw her in the studio, I said, “Hey, thanks for the referral. I’m training Scott tomorrow. He had to change his original session time because of an audition.”
Yes, I emphasized the word audition, and added some sarcasm for good measure because he had said it in such a way that I was supposed to be impressed. Please. I felt like stepping out of my Pilates instructor mode and put some of my well stretched toes onto the ‘stage’.
Janice smiled, “Well, he’s a very successful commercial actor.” Uh, oh. It’s on.
ME: “I did commercials.” Janice took the bait.
JANICE: “You did? You would be great in commercials.”
ME: “If I had a dollar every time someone told me that.” Of course it was actually only one real commercial that I did, but why bother her with the details. I continued. “I did the commercial thing for a while. And then the auditions got more and more inane. I’d go in and have to frown in front of the camera, or sneeze or crawl on the floor like a mouse looking for cheese. Then my dignity kicked in and I stopped.”
Janice was laughing and hanging on my every animated word, which was like shoving a coke whore’s face into a mound of white powder. It made me want to work harder and longer to sustain the high. “One of my last auditions was for Beano. I was so over it by then and I didn’t care anymore so I had some fun.”
The Pilates studio was instantly transformed into a comedy club and I grabbed the microphone out of its cradle.
“I stood with another woman, pretending to be in line at a cafeteria, walking past the imaginary food, deciding what we were going to have for our pretend lunch. The director yelled action. I took two steps and then I made a fake fart sound.” I demonstrated the fart sound for my audience. “It wasn’t the cliched, and childish, raspberry or cheek fart sound. My fake flatulence was more sophisticated and deeper, almost baritone sounding, and much more realistic. My audition partner didn’t know what hit her. I completely stole focus and chewed up the scenery. If memory serves me, the director did laugh. I don’t know how it was possible but I didn’t get the job.”
I thought Janice was going to fall off of the Cadillac (Pilates equipment) that she was sitting on. I brought the story home. “What? It was for Beano. It was totally appropriate.”
I’m not proud, but my adorable tale promptly started a five minute conversation, with the other trainers, about why people think farting sounds are funny and the farting games that are available online. I put my microphone back in it’s pretend cradle (I just wanted to do a quick 5 minute set) extricated myself from the high brow confab that I had spawned and slithered away. My job here is done.
We spend too much of our precious time sitting on our backsides. Whether we’re at our computers for hours, updating our Facebook status for the 23rd time, or watching television, or playing chauffeur to overly stimulated children, we are not doing our asses a service.
Our bodies were meant for movement and we are becoming, if we haven’t already, a mostly sedentary society. It is estimated that given the time that we are laying down sleeping, sitting while we eat, as well as the above examples mentioned, we spend a third of our time sitting or lying down.
This sedentary lifestyle affects our blood flow, can lead to obesity, and is terribly cruel on our postures. In spite of the fact that I am a Pilates instructor and I work standing up, there are plenty of hours in the day where I am on my ass, or flat on my back. I’ve found some easy ways to offset these negative effects of inactivity that I believe everyone can and should do.
First we have to have the tools to make the behavioral changes possible and easy. Invest the two to three dollars (or less) in a Theraband, also known as exercise band, or exercise tubing. You can find these online or in a local sporting goods store. The different colors correspond to the levels of resistance.
The bands are portable and can be carried in a purse or kept in a desk drawer. These easy exercises and stretches can be done standing at your desk. Grab the band at either end and lift your arms overhead. Keeping light tension on the band, side bend over to your right, keeping the space between your arms the same throughout the side bend. Use your core and try not to pop your ribcage out. Hold for 30 seconds, and switch sides.
Like the bands, another portable and cheap prop is a children’s bouncy ball for rolling out your feet. A tennis ball is too soft because it’s hollow. You want to find a ball that has a solid middle.
Place the ball on the floor. You can hold onto a chair, or any stable surface for support. Step onto the ball with one foot and roll the ball up and down the length of your foot. Go slow, so you can feel the tight spots. When you come upon one, put a bit more pressure down onto the ball and breathe. Roll the ball from side to side. Repeat on the other foot. This is great if you wear high heels, have bunions, or high or low arches.
Now that you’re standing, using your bands and balls, it’s time to stretch out your hip flexors. These muscles get short and tight when we sit for long periods of time and will start to ache if you don’t lengthen them.
Stand with your right leg in front of you, left leg extended behind you. Start to bend your right leg, as you press your hips forward. Gently squeeze your left glute (ass cheek) and tuck your pelvis underneath you. You should feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. And as always, scoop your navel back to your spine. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
If you must sit, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get up every 30-60 minutes and stretch. Move and stretch. The bands and balls will hopefully make it more interesting and fun. Use google for more exercise examples. But stand up and google it.
“Is there Pilates in Dubai?” “Do women wear their scarves when they work out?” I couldn’t answer these frequently asked questions before I traveled to Dubai last summer, to teach Pilates for two months. I can now.
There is Pilates in Dubai. Although it’s relatively new (there were one or two studios in 2003) it wasn’t until 2007, that Pilates really gained popularity. To date, there are approximately six fully equipped studios, as well as many health clubs and spas that offer Pilates. It is definitely a growing industry.
The Muslim women who wear abaya’s (a loose robe like dress) and niqab’s (the headscarf) do not wear these items while working out. They usually have their Lululemon’s on underneath.
I had the most wonderful experience teaching at Exhale Ladies Fitness Center. With two fully equipped studios, co-owner, Rama Al-Jayyousi, has seen an immense interest in Pilates, since they opened their first studio in 2007. She decided to make Exhale a ladies only studio because it, “Enables the clients to relax, let their hair down, and focus on the work, rather than what they’re wearing.”
Dubai consists of 90% expatriates, and 10% local Emirates. Exhale’s client base, which consists mainly of expats, are glad that they don’t have to give up their Pilates practice just because they’re living in Dubai. They are devoted and committed practitioners.
I taught women who had been studying Pilates for over ten years and couldn’t imagine their lives without it. Jehann, originally from Egypt, was such a client. “Ten years ago I lived in Toronto and a friend took me to a Pilates class and I was hooked. I’m addicted. I got the core connection, and it felt like I could move my ovaries… amazing.”
It was beautiful to see Pilates being practiced as passionately, and devoutly in Dubai, as it is in the studios where I teach in the states. The outside may look different but on the inside (at the core) where it counts, Pilates is Pilates.
“The clientele in Dubai is wonderfully mixed, and interesting,” says Sarah Noble, a Balanced Body certified instructor, who manages Zen Yoga, a Pilates and yoga studio. “Over the past four years, I have witnessed many people bettering their lives and their general well being. The dedication is amazing.”
I worked alongside instructor’s from Australia, Serbia and Columbia. Our diverse trainings and backgrounds differed but when we commiserated about tardy clients, or laughed over the variety of frustrations that come with being an instructor, we spoke the same language. The challenges were universal, just like the Pilates Reformer.
Laura Weston, who also teaches at Zen Yoga, has been teaching for over 10 years and is a certified and faculty teacher trainer for Balanced Body. “When I first came to Dubai in 2007, ZenYoga had three Reformers and not many teachers. They now have three studios and 15 instructors.”
One of the many things that I love about being a Pilates instructor, is the ability to teach anywhere in the world. I was blessed and fortunate to be able to combine my two loves; Pilates and travel.
I have to thank Lululemon for their Wunder Groove Crop pants, with inner stash pocket, flat seamed stitching (to prevent chafing) and extra padding in the crotch area, because sitting at Starbucks’s, I sneezed and peed my pants.
I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed, after all Whoopi Goldberg brought LBL (light bladder leakage) into the mainstream. Stream. Get it. But let’s face it, it’s not cool to lose control of your bodily functions in public.
I was sitting on a wood chair, working on my laptop, because, what else is there to do at Starbuck’s? The coffee tastes burnt and smells burnt, so I’m not there for the Joe. But they do have free WiFi and it’s a great place to people watch.
So, I sneezed and it felt like I fully made my pants, as if I was sitting on the toilet. It did not feel like a trickle or ‘light leakage’. I was convinced that I was sitting in a pool of my own urine. Charming AND sexy.
This was bothersome and frustrating for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I MADE IN MY PANTS IN PUBLIC! The last time I made in my pants I was at a roller rink (old school, four wheels) in 7th grade, skating to Donna Summer’s, “Last Dance”, when my friend Debby said something so funny, that I, well, peed in my my pants. I was able to Kegel just in time to prevent the ‘stream’ from dribbling down my leg. Luckily I had a sweatshirt with me and tied it around my waist.
I didn’t have an extra sweatshirt with me at Starbuck’s. I could have made a beeline to the bathroom, because there were only a few stragglers milling around but there was a man sitting right behind me, who I was sure could see my leakage on the chair and in my pants.
I busied myself for awhile and then had to get to the bathroom. I grabbed my bag and awkwardly held it behind me, in a feeble attempt to cover my ass. My other hand covered my front.
When I got into the bathroom and spot checked, I was out of my head with amazement. There was no sign of leakage outside of my wonderful Wunder Groove Crop pants. Oh, I did pee, don’t get me wrong, but that extra cushioning in the crotch acted much like, oh, I don’t know, a very sassy, and comfortable diaper!
Besides being embarrassed, I was upset because I’m a friggin’ Pilates instructor! My pelvic floor muscles should be in tip top shape. On my last gynecological visit, my doctor said, ‘Wow’ upon examination. I’ll spare you as to how he came to this conclusion.
I can’t rely solely on Lululemon to catch my pee. I’ve got to get back to the Pilates studio and squeeze, for when I sneeze.