Becoming a Pilates Teacher in Austin
Laura Bond Williams, M.A.
Owner, Mat Pilates ATX
When I started Pilates, I was a 40-something mother of two who sat at a desk job most of the day, then drove carpools and took dance classes. After class, the burning and shooting pain from my low back down my right hip and to my ankle was irritating, to say the least.
I went to my doctor and then to physical therapy. My amazing PT, a retired dancer, helped me gain strength and stability to reduce nerve and hip pain from those symptoms of the non-descript “SI joint dysfunction."
I wanted to be pain free. Physical therapy helped: manual therapies and hip and glute exercises reduced the nerve irritation from my low back into my right leg. It worked.
It helped. But it was boring. I asked her: Do I have to do these exercises for the rest of my life?
Her answer: If you want to dance like you do, she said, then yes, you should do these for the rest of your life.
"And you could do Pilates."
I immediately signed up for a mat Pilates class once a week. I couldn’t get my shoulder blades off the floor, and my neck tired quickly. I thought the Pilates rollup was an impossible joke. My weak, flexible hamstrings translated into a tight lower back and seized up in bridge. My abs and glutes were on fire. But soon, I was able to take an adult ballet class without my foot going numb after an hour at the barre.
Being a Pilates student and a Pilates teacher
When a new studio opened near me, I was excited to have a place for these “rest of my life” exercises. After attending classes and doing privates for a few months, one of my teachers commented: “You’d make a good teacher.”
We try new things when we are looking for a solution to a problem. Practicing Pilates helped me solve a problem: moving while in pain. Teaching Pilates solved another problem: working at a desk up to 10 hours a day.
I started teacher training in 2014 and logged hundreds of hours of personal practice, more than 350 hours at Pilates South Austin and other Austin studios plus online classes. I’m also a “Pilates tourist.” I love to take classes when I’m traveling and have visited studios in Dallas, San Diego, New York (in photo at left) and Dayton, Ohio. Learning from many teachers makes me stronger as a student and a teacher.
Deciding to study a new subject as an adult is both energizing and also a freefall.
With a lot going on in life and work, the process re-educated me on what it takes to achieve a goal. I learned more than the positions of the spine, the names of core muscles and the mechanics of our shoulder, hips and knees. At first it increased my awareness of my own practice and habits; then it increased my awareness of the satisfaction gained when I’m both a student and a teacher.
Our bodies talk to us. They tell us when they aren’t comfortable. Allowing Pilates-inspired patterns and shapes appear wherever we are -- driving a car, brushing our teeth, typing on a keyboard, throwing a ball, carrying a toddler, or downhill skiing -- cultivates a compassionate awareness of our human form in all that we do.
Like walking (and running) and swimming, Pilates exercises are accessible and versatile ways to move our bodies to feel better. It's simple but not easy. On one hand, Pilates is a set of bodyweight-based exercises: you flex, extend, twist your spine; breathe; move your arms; and move your legs. On the other hand, Pilates exercises have patterns and create a method, vocabulary and grammar for infinite variations of movement.
I like having new language and tools to communicate with my body. Pilates can rev us up and or calm us down; energize and relax; challenge and change; take us inward or expand outward.
It's completely portable. Learn it, and it's free forever. I take it everywhere and share it with everyone who wants to feel better in their bodies.