Taking Care of the Teacher

Uniting the Industry: Pilates professionals talk about self-care.

What steps do you take to maintain wellness, balance and perspective? We asked instructors to talk about their self-care strategies and why they matter for career success.

Choosing Survival Strategies

“I make sure I schedule time for my personal workout. Sometimes, when I’ve been instructing all day, it feels like I’ve already worked out because I breathe so much for my clients! However, simply breathing is not the same as working out. A good cardio workout outside—riding a bike, swimming in the pool, hiking in the hills or jogging—brings my energy and spirits up. I also take other instructors’ classes. My favorites are yoga, Pilates, circus and dance classes. I may pick up a new movement sequence, imagery phrase or prop. It keeps me stimulated as a ‘forever student’ and as a teacher—there is always something new to learn.

“Recently I’ve also started to limit my time on Facebook and my time spent answering emails. I could spend all of my free time at the computer and use the excuse that I am promoting my business, but it just sucks my time and energy. Another great strategy is to occasionally go to the local Korean spa, where I can get a great body scrub or shiatsu massage, soak in the hot and cold pools, and stop talking for a few hours. My voice becomes fatigued if I teach too much, so being quiet for a few hours helps. Also, there is no Internet at the spa!

“Finally, any pet owner will relate to this survival strategy: I love spending time playing with and grooming my two long-haired cats. It’s relaxing, inspiring and rewarding because they are so graceful. They’re good Pilates role models!”

—Jillian Hessel, instructor, Los Angeles, California

Recognizing Limits

“When I first started teaching, I did 12- and 14-hour days because I thought the busier I was, the more successful I would be. I taught at three locations, ate protein bars in my car and went to drive-through Starbucks between classes. I ended up with health problems and a lot of pain, so I realized I needed a lifestyle change.

“I learned that you have to know your limits. I consolidated my work, and now I take at least a 2-hour lunch break, eat a proper meal and chew my food. I don’t work more than 6 days a week. I need at least 1 day off. I also take mini-vacations to do fun things that are a complete diversion from Pilates. I do integrated manual therapy (IMT), a hands-on energy practice, and I also do acupuncture every week. I do my own Pilates practice, but I don’t give myself a tough workout—I make it nice and relaxing.

“Self-care is so important to our health as instructors and also to our clients’ health. When I teach Pilates, I make my clients aware of their emotions and feelings. However, I try not to be opinionated or preachy about the importance of self-care. I just remind them to slow down and be as aware of their breath as possible, especially when they’re stressed or busy.”

—Lucy Garcia, Pilates manager, The Sporting Club, San Diego

Taking Breaks

“As the owner of a Pilates studio and a busy mom, I find it’s easy for my life to become overwhelming. I remind myself that I have the greatest job on earth and that everything is a matter of perspective. It’s amazing how mentally checking myself can help me gain clarity on a situation that is otherwise taking over my life. Getting out of the studio, even if it’s just for a 5-minute walk, or sitting with my eyes closed allows me to focus on something else. Anything else! I notice how the leaves blow in the wind, or I just reflect on the positive aspects of my job and life.

“I tend to get easily overwhelmed when my schedule becomes unbearable, but reminding myself that I need to accomplish only one task at a time allows me to breathe and calm down. Everything will get done eventually. I have also learned the importance of getting enough sleep. I prioritize getting to bed early every night, even if it means putting a hold on everything else. If I can’t go to sleep, I take advantage of the alone time by putting a clay mask on my face or giving myself a mini-manicure. Waking up knowing that I did a little something for myself makes me feel more in control of my life.

“As instructors we are constantly giving to our clients, but giving myself a little ‘me time’ lets me rejuvenate my body and mind. Then I’m back on track and doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life: teaching Pilates!”

—Lariesa Bernick, owner, Pilates of Eastlake, Chula Vista, California

How do you practice self-care and encourage your clients to take more time for themselves? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Mary Monroe

IDEA Author/Presenter
Mary Monroe is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area.
November 2012

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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Article Comments

Cynthia Logsdon
On Nov 29, 2012
Thank you for this article. If I may also add, I try, as Pilates itself exemplifies, to not demonstrate exercises using my "better" or "favorite" side more often simply because it is easier, more convenient or "more impressive" to see. And some of my more experienced clients insist on waiting while I quickly run through my 2nd side for balance :-)

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