by Yuuki Yamagiwa
My body feels different every time I step onto the reformer. There will be days when I feel great. And then there are days when my old rib injury will take over my breathing and take me a few steps back in my twisting motions. Other days, my shoulder injury often creates a crooked imbalance between my right and left sides.
So how do we know what exercises our bodies really should be working on?
As a practitioner, what was different and life-changing about Joe’s System was that it opened my eyes to what it truly means to have a Pilates practice that is dedicated to one’s own individual needs. Joe’s System has been about practicing on the reformer and mat mindfully so that I can ask myself the question, “What is it that I need to work on today, at this very moment in time?”
I learned to listen to what my body needs on a certain day as I practice, and then respond to those needs by analyzing what other exercises can help me strengthen certain areas, prevent further injury, and/or challenge my practice. In other words, it allowed me to practice mindfully and notice the connections between the exercises on the reformer and mat, and then the exercises on other apparatuses in the room. For example, when I was having a hard time accessing my back muscles with the arm circles on the reformer, Daniela and I went to the arm chair to work on the arm circles there. I felt how the stability that I received from the armchair (rather than a moving carriage) helped me isolate my muscles in my back so that, when I took the exercise back onto the reformer, I had gained an understanding of exactly what muscles I needed to work on to move the carriage from my center without losing stability in my lower body.
As an aspiring teacher, Joe’s System helped me learn to observe clients’ workouts on the reformer and mat, analyze where the clients’ challenges lie, and think about what exercises can help them work on those challenges. I learned to use other apparatus and equipment within the room not as a way to vary clients’ practices, but as a way to complement the challenges that I observed within their mat and reformer workouts.
Joe’s System has changed my body and my life. I more often notice how my body is feeling, how to think through how I can tailor my Pilates sessions to my own needs, and most importantly, help my own future clients feel that they can conquer their body’s challenges too. My hope as a future teacher is to inspire and encourage others to learn how to analyze their own practices so that they can, with the guidance of their teachers, one day take their movement practice into their own hands.