After all the excitement of presenting at Pilates Anytime it was time to be the student and soak up as much of the amazing knowledge at this gathering of the PMA conference as I could. I had a later start than I originally realised and was able to relax on the lawn for breakfast before the Opening General Session. This was a great introduction to the conference with a welcome to all delegates and an individual mention of all the countries represented. It was wonderful to hear places from all over the world mentioned- I am pretty sure all continents (other than Antarctica) were mentioned which is so amazing. Fifty years after Mr Pilates anniversary of death his method is practiced in places so far and wide. It’s really something special to have a visual representation of that.
The keynote speaker was Jon Sciambi which might have seemed like a strange choice for those who knew of him- Jon is a baseball sportscaster for ESPN. We learned that Jon attends Pilates classes regularly under the supervision of someone I admire so much- Kim Gibilisco in New York. Jon’s other connection to Pilates (and I dare say the reason he was asked to present) is his philanthropic work for those suffering from the awful disease ALS through his charity Project Main Street. This subject touches a lot of people’s hearts in the Pilates industry since ALS has affected an amazing instructor Mari Winsor. Jon’s message of banding together and helping out those in need was wonderful and he delivered his message with such humility.
After the welcome, the first of my sessions for the day was an exploration of the Pilates Archival Exercises on the Trapeze Table with Amy Taylor Alpers. This was so great for me as I’m a massive history buff. Learning about the early exercises is always fascinating. It was also great to spend time in the presence of our educator Amy. I’m very much intrigued by the classical work but I’ve never spent any time with her in her studio in Boulder. This is mainly due to my obsession with New York City- it lures me in to the exclusion of other cities (California has totally made my to visit list in the future though). I loved Amy’s enthusiasm not only for the work but also in encouraging a curiosity of movement. We so often in Pilates look for perfection at the expense of movement (the whole point!) something I will be mindful of in the future.
Every presenter is a hard act to follow- but the awesome thing about the PMA conference is that everyone has a perspective slightly different as well as their personality to offer. I continued the day with a mat class led by the wonderful Benjamin Degenhardt who awakened a love of the original mat work on social media through his March Matness initiative. Benjamin’s class was based on the traditional order and he presents it with such a freshness and enthusiasm. His energy can be felt through the room but unfortunately for me- reality was setting in. All that excitement in the lead up to the filming made me realise how exhausted I actually was. I tried very hard not to be reeled in by my ego and just to do what I could. It is so tempting to do everything with full effort but this is hard to maintain in a three day event- especially when we keep meeting at the bar in the evenings! I was so grateful for the supporting energy in the room and Benjamin’s encouragement to give only what was available. I finished the class but with extra little breaks.
My final session of the day was with the effervescent John Garey. This guy is so enthusiastic and energetic- you would be hard pressed to find another Pilates instructor with more animation than this man. His depth of knowledge is huge. John’s workshop was based on programming for triathletes. I was devastated to realise that I had reached my capacity during this workshop. I was able to stick around for half of the session before excusing myself. I figure that if I can’t listen to my own advice of doing what feels right for the body and mind on any given day, how could I expect my clients to. I was so glad that I was able to meet John later and tell him how much I enjoyed what I did see. He even gave me a FUN t-shirt!
So I did what any girl would do when you need to re-energise. I went shopping!
I came to the PMA conference with one very important item in mind. When I entered that exhibition hall I made a bee line for Mr I.C. Rapoport- or Chuck as he is very affectionately known. This man is the photographer responsible for the beautiful photos we have of Joseph Pilates and his book “Joe” is a collection of them all. I was so happy to finally meet Chuck and his lovely wife Mary- Chuck even signed my book!
After all my chatting to other instructors that I admire and buying the studio more gifts, I was surprisingly recharged and ready for more party time- this team with team Polestar!
Before we set off to the party we were treated to a beautiful display of movement in the Dancing through Contrology performance. It was a wonderful combination of contemporary ballet intertwined with music that changed to reflect the passage of time that Pilates has been practiced. There was some awesome video content where some of the instructors for Pilates Anytime reflected on their first experience of Pilates. The highlight was a segment of Brett Howard on the wunda chair moving with such exquisite grace that you could hear gasps nearby. The whole presentation was emotional and so well done.
The other Pilates family that I am so lucky to be a part of is the Polestar Pilates family. Brent was very generous and invited us all to the house nearby that everyone from Polestar HQ was staying up. It was great to sit and talk to some of the international members of this special organisation. Here we are posing for Lisa Anthony back home inspired by her imagery relating to the Australian bird the Kookaburra… It might not look like it but Pilates is never far from the conversation- promise.
It’s amazing how productive you can be in a mat class with only five and a half hours sleep…
A mat class on the lawn of the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort was the perfect way to start the day. A Mini- Matapalooza with Valerie Grant, Cara Reeser and Brett Howard was exactly what I needed. I realised that I could sleep on the plane ride home and to just lap up everything I could today- also I didn’t want to do any more shopping! The thing that is always reiterated at conferences for me is that mat classes are a special thing. Movement in unison with others generates an amazing energy. To see over one hundred people all working together towards a common goal is awesome and to be part of it is even better. It was a real reminder of Joseph Pilates intention for his method to be unification of body, mind and spirit. It’s not just about how the exercises feel in your body that makes Pilates special it’s the feeling of being uplifted while also releasing all the swirling thoughts. Special stuff.
After breakfast it was time to spend some time listening to Lolita San Miguel. Lolita started Pilates initially with Carola Trier in 1959! Along with Kathy Grant, Lolita was certified by Joseph Pilates to teach his method (Joseph did not certify any of the other elders). Lolita told us some beautiful stories about her time with Joseph and Clara and the way they complemented one another in the studio. It was also interesting to hear about how many of the elders worked together. In the second hour we did a movement class that was really interesting- I expected it to be very ‘classical’ but it felt very contemporary with a focus on creating smaller movements in the limbs and with a very generous opportunity to warm every body part up. I loved the way Lolita took gentle command of the room. Understandably Lolita was not so keen to have a photo with everyone individually but I’m hoping that the group photo will be shared sometime in the near future- it would be lovely to have that momento.
Those of you who know me may have an understanding regarding my area of irritation- hip mobility especially in flexion. Every time I see a body perform amazing high kicks I look on in equal parts admiration and envy. The thing I have wondered for a long time now though has been “how much am I getting in my own way?” The next workshop was so valuable to me in addressing this very issue. My admiration of Cara Reeser (and her hamstrings) was the main reason I chose to attend her workshop. It was such a wonderful bonus that the content she presented with Jeremy Laverdure really stuck with me. The reminder that our utmost goal is to maximise mobility really hit home. Of course, we are not inviting uncontrolled movement, but we want people to MOVE. So refreshing. I think this workshop had the most profound effect on me as an individual (as opposed to a teacher) than any other. I am so grateful and I am already looking forward to the time to practice my own movement.
My schedule was finished off with a final mat class with Elizabeth Larkam. Elizabeth took us through the work by involving our minds very strongly. It was wonderful for someone like me who is mostly a visual learner to really have to tune in to my body and connect through the auditory cues. Not only did we change our orientation on the mat multiple times but we were challenged with patterns of internal and external rotation of the limbs during movement, changing head positions and changing rhythms. It was one of the most interesting classes I have done. Elizabeth’s sense of humour of course added further depth to the experience. The class definitely had elements of the exercises as we know them from Return to Life but with so much creativity included as well. We finished with some partner work with the push up- lots of fun!
Such a great day of learning from such a fantastic group of teachers. The day was inspiring and challenging, exactly what you want from a conference… the cherry on top was coming. The Pilates Anytime Party! I can’t wait to tell you all about it in my next post!