I am beyond thrilled to introduce you to today’s blog author Jessica Hansen! A dear friend of mine our love for Pilates put us in the same place at the same time. Our paths were meant to cross, and her story is one I know many Pilates instructors and soon-to-be Pilates instructors will recognize. As we enter the month of LOVE may you find inspiration from Jessica’s journey to honor the love Pilates has for you, your body and your love for Pilates. Without further ado, Jessica Hansen:
Like any proper love story, the begging of mine with Pilates came when I was at an all time low. Picture the beginning scene of Bridget Jones Diary and insert me on the couchThere I sat, 28 years old, slightly overweight, but within reason, disheveled hair, with a bottle of red wine and a box of chocolates on my nightstand. Fast forward to the moment where Bree-jet slumps over and asks herself, “How on Earth did I get here?” Let’s rewind…
I was a 22-year-old bright-eyed college grad with a shiny new degree-friendly resume in hand. With a full cup of confidence and a blank slate of possibility, I landed my first job in the trendsetting dot-com industry, as a sales assistant for a Fortune 500 company. Hungry and eager to please, I was a driven young female, kicking-butt and taking names. I worked my way up the corporate ladder, earning more money and increased responsibility with each step. My days consisted of crafting “never-been-done-before” ideas on PowerPoint slides and finessing excel spreadsheets to make the added value inventory worth a deal’s while. All this with the marketer’s goal in mind of selling people products that promised to make their lives better in some way. If only, just imagine!
The days grew monotonous, but the money kept rolling in. I soon became one of the web-users I was selling marketer’s message to, buying products with the disposable income I now had, hoping they too would make me feel less bored and more fulfilled in life. Or, so I hoped. By the end of every day, or “EOD,” as the 9-to-5ers say, I felt more disconnected from my body than ever. I had turned into a cog in a corporate wheel losing all sense of uniqueness, and a depression began to ensue.
Fast-forward to 28 years old. I was lying in bed, Bridget Jones style, and I couldn’t help but reflect on the times in my life when I’d felt the happiest. Flashbacks from my youth painted my mind with images of playing soccer and choreographing dance routines. But it was easy then, I thought. I was a child in school, and extracurricular activities were my part-time job.
I knew I needed to do something to dig my way out of the of paperwork piled on top of me that manifested into depression weighing me down and the only thing I could think of was, MOVE! Lucky for me living on the beach in Southern California lends itself to having an array of physical activities on your doorstep. The professional athletes in my community are beach volleyball players and “word around campus,” was that Pilates was their secret sauce. Pilates, I wondered. What the heck is that? I hadn’t heard of Pilates in my youth, but I did take modern dance classes in college and remember ambient conversations about the method from other students. Desperate to get moving, and craving something effective, I signed up for my first “Pilates Private.” To my dismay, I was unimpressed. One hour and $75 later, I did a few foreign exercises, in a gym that resembled an S&M chamber, and left feeling ripped-off. What in the heck do these people see in Pilates I wondered? I wasn’t sore or exhausted when I left. If anything I felt a little more energized, but clearly, that’s not the point of working out. I wanted to be pushed past my limit, so I knew the money and time I spent were worthwhile.
I went back to my bed and began to feel the despair blanket over me again. Lying there, I couldn’t help but recall the whispers I’d heard around my community that Pilates was amazing! And, when I thought about the people who were doing it, it dawned on me that they all had things in common, fit bodies, strong minds, and happy hearts. So, I did what any rational person would do and applied for a Pilates certification program. Harmonious with the age old adage, “Meet me where I’m at to take me on a journey,” Pilates did just that, literally. I started by doing exercises lying on a bed, a “Cadillac” bed that is, and from there it’s taken me on an eight-year extraordinary journey through my body, mind, and heart, and counting!
What I started to understand as my lessons progressed was that in order to receive the benefits of Pilates I had to open-up to new possibilities about what physical fitness looked like. As babies, we don’t understand language, and so we make sense of the world by moving our way through it. And when we grow older our brains develop the capacity to intellectualize, and away our minds go! We often “think” we know it all and form preconceived judgments about things we haven’t personally experienced. Rather than running for dear life on a treadmill and hoping my knees wouldn’t buckle, or throwing kettle bells up and down praying I wouldn’t throw my back out, I was told to, “go slow and move with control.” What a breath of fresh air from our fast-paced, multi-tasking, zillion-screen, 24/7, stress-induced, on-call, technology-crazed world that now demands 100% of our time, without our permission.
Pilates has humbled me. It has calmed me down and made me feel more in control of my life, all while lifting me up and increasing my strength, length, and flexibility. Pilates has taught me to put my expectations aside so that I may learn something new. To be patient and persistent. Pilates re-hired my body to be the boss, which has changed my mind about the way I want to live, and my heart has followed. Most importantly, Pilates has given me a new career! While I must admit, I miss the money and the glamour that the corporate world graced me with in my twenties, I now enjoy in my time. I meet Clients where they’re at, provided they’re willing and take them on a journey to becoming a more embodied version of themselves. In fact, Pilates has made me feel SO strong that I recently earned a degree in psychology; specializing in body-oriented psychotherapy, and split my time helping people feel less depressed and more alive by inviting them to come home, to their bodies.
One of Joseph Pilates two books is called, Return to Life, and that’s what his method did for me. Had he written another book, I wonder if he would have titled it, Open Your Heart. Nowadays, my mind doesn’t make decisions without checking in with my body, and my body doesn’t move without the control of my mind. Yet, it’s my heart and my willingness that has the final say. With the tools that Pilates has given me, no matter how stressed I am, or how disconnected I feel, I know I’m always The Footwork away from re-uniting my body, mind, and heart.
Pilates wishes & Happy Valentine’s Day~*
Master Pilates Practitioner
Intern, Marriage, and Family Therapist & Professional Clinical Counselor
Intern, Integrative Body Psychotherapy
Please check out Jessica on her website and social channels. If you have questions or comments, you can write them below. Lots of love to you Pilates Instructors, Studio Owners, and practitioners. Next week we are back with a follow up from last weeks blog post. xx~LL