We are in the health selling business. We represent (or should represent) vibrant good health that doesn’t come out of a bottle or involve a scalpel. The elders that I was fortunate enough to meet, Kathleen Stafford Grant, Mary Bowen, Ron Fletcher and Lolita san Miguel were all dynamic movers to the end. Yet teaching can be extremely draining. We are constantly putting out a phenomenal amount of energy and enthusiasm. Often our clients come in beaten down by their lives and it’s our job to buoy them up (and resist sinking down with them.)
I have found that in order to maintain that high level of energy needed to teach, to run a business and to enjoy my family, I need to stay in excellent shape. Teaching alone does not do that. As a matter of fact, teaching can be physically counterproductive. It forces me to stand for long periods while looking downward. Often I jump onto the equipment, cold, to show a particular movement sequence. In order to do that without injuring myself, I have to keep an active Pilates practice and I have to go to other teachers for inspiration.
Embarrassing though it is to admit, I am a terrible teacher for myself. I rush through exercises, I answer the phone, I skip things that are challenging, I pet my dog–all things that I would never allow a client to do. I need a teacher, so at least twice a week I take class and enjoy being a student forced to focus and work to my max.
I also have a secret weapon in the battle against entropy. I practice the MELT method. If you haven’t heard of MELT, it is a self care technique using soft balls and a soft roller designed to rehydrate the fascial system on a cellular level, thus reversing the effects of aging and active living. Our fascia is designed to help us maintain whatever posture we use the most, efficiently. As Pilates teachers, we are often standing while looking down at our clients. We can get stuck in that posture. By identifying areas of local dehydration, (what the founder of MELT, Sue Hitzman(aff link), calls “stuck stress,”) and treating them, we can regain our flexibility, strength and vitality.
Since discovering the MELT method, I have gained quite a bit of flexibility and strength. I am thrilled to be able to do Pilates with much greater ease and enjoyment. Exercises that were previously really challenging–Rocking Swan, Headstand Back, Swan on the Long Box–are actually fun now. This is not supposed to be how it works. I am a 58 year old, postpartum, postmenopausal, former professional dancer. I am not supposed to be gaining ability. If I were to follow certain guidelines, I wouldn’t be doing flexion at all at my age.
It lends me quite a bit of credibility with my students to be able to do all of the things I am asking of them. It also takes away their excuses, “I’m too old. My body has never recovered after childbirth. I’m too busy to work out.” Perhaps the most important gift I can give my students is the idea that their bodies are always able to learn and improve. Having a tight low back is not like having brown eyes, it is not a permanent condition.
But, I am not above having self defeating ideas of my own capabilities. I have a slight scoliosis (who doesn’t?) and an old SI joint injury from my years as a touring dancer. I used to have very limited extension and it always felt like the thing holding me back was tightness in my front body. Learning how to do extension properly was helpful, but using the MELT method to rehydrate my front line was a game changer. Suddenly, I had the ability to move into a more full bodied extension that allowed me to build strength in my back body. Even my long term chiropractor noticed the difference of muscle balance and started sending many more referrals.
I aspire to be a role model for healthy aging as the Elders and many first generation teachers are for me. It doesn’t matter what I say, or how many articles about the efficacy of exercise I post on my FB page, if I don’t embody healthy, joyful living, who’s going to believe me? To that end, I use the MELT method to keep my body ready for work. By hydrating the fascia on a cellular level, I am able to keep reaching new heights in my Pilates practice. Unlike Pilates, excepting matwork, which requires large pieces of expensive equipment, MELT is something that can easily be done at home in the 10 minute chunks of time that we can all find between dishes and dog walking. It is a great way for all of us to continue to experience “spontaneous zest and pleasure” in our busy, active lives.
Carol LeMaitre is the founder of Sanchez Street Studios, a Pilates studio in San Francisco and co founder of Pilates Education Lab, a Pilates Teacher Training Program in Mill Valley and San Francisco. She is also a MELT instructor and credits the combination of Pilates and MELT with giving her the zest and energy to enjoy her 2 sons, husband, 2 businesses and 1 lone dog.
Self Care Sanctuary with Carol LeMaitre and Savonn Wyland
March 14-21, 2015
Join Carol LeMaitre and Savonn Wyland of Bernal Yoga for a week of self-care, wellness, adventure and rejuvenation in Costa Rica!
They will be offering a variety of classes
- MELT Method
- Hatha, Restorative and Vinyasa Flow Yoga
Wake up surrounded by nature. Hear the sounds of tropical birds, monkeys, and the wind through the forest canopy. Give your body and mind the rest and release that it needs and that you deserve. Price includes 7 nights accommodations, 3 delicious meals per day, all classes and one bodywork session! Open to all levels.
Visit sanchezstreetstudios.com (CLICK HERE) to learn more, put a deposit down & start planning your adventure!