The Three-Ring Rule

August 22, 2009

By Tom Gesimondo

As mentioned last time, I’m in the final stages of my Romana’s Pilates apprenticeship. Yes, I’ve been in the slow lane, but I get to see a lot more scenery this way. Unfortunately, as the owner of a studio, I find that my training is too often interrupted by what my wife, Carol, and I have come to call the three-ring rule. Coming from the business world (not that Pilates isn’t a business—as well as a calling and an art), we were keenly aware of the need for the personal touch with clients. Our rule at the radio station where I had worked was to never let a phone ring more than three times without being answered—and not by an answering machine, but by a person. The president of the company would often pick up any ringing phone without issue and answer any question and help in any way he could. “We are all salespeople,” he repeatedly told us. “We are all owners. We all have a part to play in success.” I try to instill this feeling in every one of the wonderful apprentices who come through our studio. I think it’s part of their education, whether studio ownership is in their future or not.

But when we’re shorthanded, my workout goes like this: I’m lying on the Reformer when the first ring arrives… Suddenly there is a stiffening in my body not restricted to my powerhouse. I keep my tension in my shoulders, and that ring has called them to action. My instructor steps into my gaze to try and recenter my body and get me to focus. Now it’s the second ring…and it’s like the alarm clock has gone off. The body tilts toward the ring, ready to spring out of bed/off the Reformer. I’ve been saved though…someone has hit the snooze button and answered the phone. I go back to my workout. My instructor has a bemused look on her face: a happy ending to the three-ring rule? Not really. My instructor has seen this before, many, many times. And we both know that this will happen again. Only next time there will be a third ring. And it never fails to happen: not during footwork, when I might actually be able to extricate myself, but most likely during Short Spine, with my hips lifted, legs akimbo and panic in my eyes as I try to get out of the straps. Not a pretty picture.


Concentration Frees the Mind

August 20, 2009

By Kathryn Ross-Nash

One of the most valuable offerings of a Pilates workout is the ability to clear your mind, but so many people never take full advantage of this benefit. They enter the studio and bring with them all the things they need to do, the things they have just done and the tremendous pressures of everyday life. Whenever a student shows up at the studio and I can “see” the baggage they are carrying, I tell them to “leave it at the door.”at the door

Joe Pilates encouraged us to bring our minds to our workouts. All his underlying principles incorporate focus and require us to be completely present in our work. One of the main principles of Pilates, of course, is concentration. When we use the mind to guide the body, the work is never executed on autopilot. A centered mind is needed for a centered body. Joe Pilates stressed using five aspects of our mind: intelligence, intuition, imagination, will and memory. When you fully engage your mind, you free it.

With that in “mind,” let me share a few things I do for both my clients and myself:

1. Leave it at the door: When entering the studio, I tell myself that I have chosen to be here and am committed to the time. There is nothing I can do about all the other things, and they will be there when I get done. (And if they’re not, well, then, that’s even better!)

2. Find a focus (intelligence): I know what I am lacking in my workout. For example, if your teacher is always telling you to squeeze your bottom, then that would be a great place to focus when you are working.

3. Go with your gut (intuition): If you are truly present in your workout, you will know which exercise suits you and what ones do not. Every day your body is in a different place. Some days we are full of energy, some days we are not. Honor the place you are in that day and adjust accordingly during your workout.

4. Find a way to let go of outside pressures (imagination): I have a fellow teacher who keeps an empty basket by the studio entrance and has her clients mentally deposit their baggage there. [Editor’s note: We love this one!]

5. Keep bringing yourself back to focus (will): As you work, your focus may drift, so keep bringing yourself back to where you are and challenge yourself to build your focus with each lesson.

6. Make yourself learn the order of your workout (memory): Learning the order of your workout has many benefits. One is that it helps to keep the mind sharp by using and developing your memory. One first-generation teacher told me that Joe would tell him to do Reformer, then do everything he knew on the Cadillac, then on the Wunda Chair, and so on.

Remember: When you bring your mind to your workout, you free yourself from the pressure of everyday life. This allows you a break—to breathe, regroup and be able to approach life with a fresh, clean and clear vantage point. It helps to teach you to be present; in the now. Your workout is your moving meditation.

So the next time you enter the studio, remember that this is your time for you. It’s one short precious hour to lose the stress of the day, so “leave it at the door.”