Almost 11 years ago now I had the unforgettable experience of hearing Li Cunxin speak at my Pilates association conference. Author of the book "Mao's Last Dancer", which was also made into a film, he shared his remarkable story of being selected at age 11, to leave home and train full-time as a ballet dancer with the Beijing Dance Academy. He defected to the United States and went on to become one of the greatest dancers in the world, with an international career, including Principal Dancer with The Australian Ballet. So you can imagine what a privilege it was for Li to agree to speak at our Pilates conference in front of around 200 Pilates teachers. Why did he agree to do this? He took time out of his busy life as a stockbroker, because after being diagnosed with herniated discs in his lower back, he was advised it was the end of his dancing career. He took up Pilates and attributed this rehabilitation to enable him to dance for another 13 years. Pilates became part of his daily routine and one he still maintained, beginning each and every day with 30 mins of Pilates practice. Li wanted to share with us in person the impact Pilates had made on his life and to inspire us to continue to help others to change their lives for the better too. I'm so grateful to have heard his message.
Having a Compelling "Why" Statement is a Powerful Motivator
Many of us have the best of intentions to make Pilates a priority, but sometimes life gets in the way and we don't put in the time, so we don't see the results we would like. If we have a strong enough "why" or reason we are practicing Pilates we are far more likely to commit to our practice and achieve the life-changing results we desire. Li was highly motivated to commit to his own Pilates practice in order to strengthen sufficiently to overcome his lumbar disc issues. It was the difference between continuing his illustrious ballet career that he was so passionate about, or seeing it cut short prematurely by injury, which is devastating and disempowering for any dancer in this position. He made the commitment to himself to rehabilitate with Pilates and established a regular Pilates practice that was still a vital part of his life in 2010 and I'm assuming probably still is today. He wanted to continue his career and Pilates provided the tools he needed to overcome his injury and continue doing what he loved.
What is your own personal "Why" for doing Pilates?
Many people have a compelling "why" for doing Pilates. Like some of my clients, you may want to become pain-free from back pain so you can have a much longed-for baby. You may want to strengthen sufficiently so you can avoid knee surgery. Maybe you loved martial arts as a child and dream of returning to the dojo but you need to manage your back pain caused by lumbar disc issues before you can return. You may have been told there is no medical reason for your back pain and to prepare for life in a wheelchair but you are determined to find a solution to avoid this. These are the actual "whys" of just some of my clients and all of these people successfully used Pilates to achieve these goals. A baby was born to a mother who overcame back-pain and had a trouble-free pregnancy and labour. Knee surgery is no longer necessary. Back pain has been overcome and it's back to martial arts and a black belt has been awarded. A wheelchair won't be needed either. These are all very compelling "whys" but sometimes your "why" may not be quite as compelling as these examples, but nevertheless, just as important and motivating for you personally. Some examples of these are, maintaining and challenging your balance as you age to prevent falls. Strengthening and stretching your feet to recover from plantar fasciitis so you can walk without pain. You want to feel confident and stable as you age knowing you have a low risk of falling or you want to walk without pain are both extremely strong "whys." So take some time to think about what you want your life to be like now and in the future and set yourself a compelling "why." Now let's look at how your Pilates practice can take you there.
Making Pilates a Priority in Your Own Life
Once you have decided on a "why" that is personally motivating for you, the next step is deciding how you will structure your Pilates practice sessions. You have the choice of attending in-person or online classes, depending on what the current restrictions are for you in your country. Once you have organised the appropriate learning method suitable for you, schedule these sessions into your weekly calendar and honour this commitment to yourself. If it's unavoidable that you miss a session, re-schedule it for another time. Every time you are tempted to miss a session, keep thinking about your "why" and what it will mean for you when you have achieved this goal. Li Cunxin trained in ballet for 16 hours each day, 6 days a week at the Beijing Dance Academy for 7 years. This is considered extreme in western culture, so committing to a Pilates practice would have been second nature for him, especially with such a compelling "why." I'm not at all suggesting that you have to train to extreme levels to achieve your goals. Many of my clients find 15, 20 or 30 mins of Pilates each day, depending on your individual "why", sufficient to produce excellent results. Basically, you have to stick with your training and if you have unforeseen circumstances that prevent you from maintaining it, don't give up, start your sessions again as soon as you are able to. JS Mind Body Pilates my Online Pilates studio, provides on-demand videos for all levels, including those dealing with pain or injury. This is ideal for standalone daily practice or for additional fine-tuning between regular studio sessions. I'm always on hand to guide you with exercise suggestions via email. You can take the free 10 day trial
and start your Pilates training straight away. Taking control of your own health and fitness and knowing that you are working towards achieving your "why" is a very exciting and empowering feeling!
The Journey is just as Important as the Destination
While your "why" should be a motivating force for you to commit to your Pilates training, it's also important to remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. You will make so many discoveries along the way as you connect or reconnect with yourself at each session and fine-tune your body awareness. Some days you will feel that everything is coming together beautifully, other days maybe not so much. This is all part of the journey and completely normal. Your Pilates journey towards your "why" will also be made up of many small wins along the way that contribute to your overall goal. Celebrate each one of these small wins along the way and look back at how far you have come and be grateful for what you have achieved so far. I've seen many clients over the years become frustrated and Impatient because they aren't achieving their "why" quickly enough. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time to establish and benefit from a Pilates practice. It's a bit like planting a seed for a large tree. It needs time to grow and develop into a tree. When you start to see the green shoots pushing through the soil, you don't squash them because it's not a tree yet. It's heading in the right direction but will take time to become a tree, just like your Pilates journey. Li Cunxin wanted to share his own personal "why" for practicing Pilates way back in 2010 so we would, in turn, inspire our clients to use Pilates to reach for their "why" too. I hope you can see from these personal experiences of others that Pilates may just be the answer you are searching for to achieve your "why." If you have any questions about introducing or prioritising this powerful practice into your life please email me at [email protected]
. It would be my pleasure to assist you to achieve your "why!"