An Ode to my old Pilates teacher

At the time when I started transforming into a new person, there were no yoga studios really around where I was living. I started my yoga journey with a book and after a few years, videos in order to take it a little deeper. But there was a Pilates teacher who gave classes in an apartment in the centre of Toulouse. It was a little older woman who used to be a ballet dancer and you could tell by the way she gave class. She was amazing. The whole experience was very “French” I believe the non-europeans would say. It wasn’t flashy and “fitness-y” and no one were wearing neon coloured latex or carrying water bottles or take away coffee with them to class. Actually, they might have been frowned upon if they did. There was more of the nonchalant “je ne sais quoi” that the French are so good at. And then killing it in session, because you’re not there to show enthusiasm but more “what, this old thing?”.

Anyway, my very good friend Ieva and I would go twice a week and this is where I learnt that the way your structure your spine will determine basically everything in your life. 

Most probably, this experience laid the base of my understanding of the “body-mind” complex and just how OBVIOUS the message from the physical is if you only take the time to listen. 

As life happens, you lose touch with things and so did I and the teachings of core structure. I practiced yoga and became a teacher and then I got deeper into the ashtanga and learned enormously from that. Painful stuff. I learned how I try to push myself into something and making everything just even worse by trying so hard. 

One of the things I had been told and that kind of just stayed in the back of my mind, was that I needed to develop a more stable core. A stable pelvis. So I got really into abdominal work out but somehow it didn’t help and more so: the type of work for my core + the running gave me a new issue. Psoas syndrome. So I would just stop running for a while and try to do a lot of yin yoga to stretch out all the muscles around the pelvis and especially the hip flexors. I had this pain that kept coming back, in the back, just where the psoas attaches to the spine. Only on one side and then different kind of sensations on the opposite side.

After many attempts with rolling on balls, massage and osteo treatment, someone suggested that I do these lower belly strengthening “crunches”(ish). Because it would help to stabilise my pelvis. 

So I tried something new. I implemented a number of “one muscle” focused exercises and realised that not only was indeed my pelvis far from stable but also was I not very equal between left and right side when it came to strength of my legs. Like for many of us. The reason is just the way we move of course but also, I had a minor accident, little over a year ago and the pain in the back started then. The impact wasn’t very big but naturally, my body did what seemed to be best so it compromised here and compensated there in order for me to keep moving like I always had. 

After just a couple of days (with resting days in between might I add!) with my new routine could I notice I difference in how I held myself as I walked and ran. I could easily notice how I have a tendency to lean a little forward because my lower back is quite arched and these stabilising exercises just put the pelvis back in a more neutral spot which engaged my lower belly and glutes all of a sudden. I have been running daily for 10 years, yet my glutes were really weak. My psoas though – dead strong. Over used and constantly trying to stabilise my body. 

Ok, this is starting to sound like a fitness blog post but here is where I want to switch over to a very different perspective.

Because what this teaches me, over and again, is that anything you do can be good or bad for you. It depends on how you do it. That your body has these patterns of behaviour, of movement depending on it’s shape and that this shape has been shaping itself over time as well. Lower back arched and unstable core? Your hips might be so open in one direction and of course, you will keep doing those things because, well that is easy for you.

We easily lean toward what already is easy so that we don’t need to make too much effort. Or simply, to not have to question what we like. Ask yourself why so many big and bulky men keep going to the gym and so many flexible ladies keep going to yoga.

It should often be that those men need a break from pumping and try to become a little more lean and some of the women there in the yoga pants, might actually need to strengthen certain parts instead of keeping stretching them out (hello SI joint pain!).  I actually had a student in yin class ones, veeeery thin ballet girl who were just doing splits and foot behind neck and kept saying to me “what am I doing wrong, I can’t feel the stretch?”. 

I had to say to her: “maybe it’s not a yin yoga session you need?” 

We have a structure: the body is a blueprint and so is the mind. It has been shaped through our experiences and we have become blind to it because we can’t really see ourselves from the outside. To see things differently, we need a new perspective. So to look at the room in a new way you can always chose to sit on something high, take the cat perspective and you will see the room differently. I have tried.

But to see yourself differently is not the same story because it is rather hard to change the perspective. 

Physically what I needed was to use my body in a totally different way so that it would feel different to me and that contrast would bring me the awareness of a new perspective.

You see, as long as I kept doing the same thing, I was having the same experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re practicing yoga or if you’re playing football, those are really just actions.

It is the same logic as “buy yourself some mala-beads and incense sticks and voilà, you’re part of a spiritual “clique” “. If nothing changes in your perception, nothing changes anywhere else either. This is why the new trends of yoga and spirituality has become the new “IT” cliques. Because the people who join them, would have joined the RAVE movement in the early 90s or the Neo-hipster trend in the 2010s. 

I can practice yoga every day like a crazy person, but if it’s just a way to change from binge eating or obsessing over my weight, it will not teach me something new. Well, not to start with anyway.

The message that I am trying to transmit here is this:

We have set points that we play after because that is how our world is put together. So we need to come to the breaking point before we begin to question the method in itself. Physically, it usually happens with injuries and mentally it happens with depression. Emotionally, well it’s the broken heart that has been through the same scenario yet another time.

When we come to a breaking point, we need to find that new perspective and it will feel uncomfortable and unusual because it is meant to. Once we accept this new method, it will actually open us up to so much knowledge. 

Like, realising you have kept using your body the same way over and over, kept hurting yourself and believing that you are incapable of some stuff or just not strong enough/flexible enough. Then you accept a new method and all of a sudden your body feels completely different. It enhances your awareness and it triggers your curiosity. Maybe there is another YOU?

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞



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