My space, Your space, Our space

Recently, I was thinking back to the first bios I wrote as a new yoga or Pilates Instructor.  They included the usual list of certifications and information about my formal education.  I also recall including a line about safety that said something like, “My goal is to challenge my clients with diverse workouts while also keeping them safe.” At the time, especially being a new teacher, I wanted people to know I would keep their physical safety my utmost priority to avoid new injury or even flaring up an old one.  I have always been a cautious person and that characteristic was manifesting in my teaching.  I was working on gaining trust, and being careful and safe was familiar to me.

A couple months ago, a client whom I have been working with for several years came in noticeably upset.  After a big hug, I asked her if she wanted to talk about what was bothering her. She did, and I listened.  A few more tears were shed but talking helped her feel better. As she wiped her eyes with a tissue she said, “I am sorry to bring this into your space.” I smiled at her. “My space?” I asked. “This is your space.  Our space.”

I reflected on this conversation later that day.  I realized that unconsciously, somewhere in my 13 years of teaching I had continued to make physical safety a priority, but had also held an emotional safe space for my clientele.  Beyond roll ups, teasers, and short spines, holding a space for people to open up and share what is going on in their life has become just as important and significant as protecting an old injury or helping them manage recurring back pain.

As a new teacher, I found this very difficult.  Over a decade ago if a client started to dive into something personal I would earnestly try to get him or her to focus on the movement practice rather than share the story.  Even if I had a “relatable” example I would rarely share a personal story myself.  And you know, what? That’s ok, too.  I was new and holding space was new for me.  But somewhere along the way, something changed.  Maybe it’s because I have had the privilege of working with some individuals for many years.   Perhaps it’s because I am more comfortable in my own skin.  Maybe it is because I have found my voice, and want others to know theirs, too.   Whatever the reason,  I no longer feel bad or guilty if the first 10 minutes of a session are a heart to heart.  I know no longer feel like we are “wasting time” or that we “need to just get to the Pilates.” I also feel like my personal walls are not up so high.  Words I say might be a game changer, a light bulb moment, or very best…words of comfort for the individual sitting on the Cadillac in front of me. Sure there are boundaries and I am no therapist, but I am honored to be called a friend.  Some days holding space for people in a grounded, empathetic, and safe way is the best and most significant part of the session.  In fact, it might be my very best work.

In health and friendship,

Francine

Meaningful conversations happen in threes

We have all heard the phrase “good things happen in threes” but what about good, meaningful conversations? It happened to me.  That’s what I find myself reflecting on as my son and I parallel play.  (Yup, you read that right.  He digs deep into the dirt with his shovel and trucks, and I dig deep into my thoughts and musings with pen and paper.)

Three times this week I heard myself having the same conversation with three different clients, all who had their own unique story.  One was describing a difficult relationship, another how she felt after an awkward confrontation, and the third her frustration with a nagging injury that was taking more time than expected to heal. All distinct. All legit. But what was similar was my response.   What was that response?  I told them that they were sensitive.  That’s right, sensitive.  Did you shirk?  Did you cringe? I don’t blame you.  However, I meant it in a 100% positive and affirmative way.  Let me explain.

Until recently, I too, despised this word when it was directed at me or even when it was directed at someone I love or care for.   You see, growing up the description of ‘sensitive’ or the phrase “you are being too sensitive” was wrought with negativity.  It was usually meant as a diminutive dig, tossed in the middle of an argument or used as a dismissive comment to finish off a conversation.  Being sensitive meant being soft, weak, maybe even a bother to be around.  To be called sensitive was effeminate if you were male, weepy if you were female.  It was a down right ego killer in moments of emotional exhaustion.   I wonder if you can relate.  But now, as an adult, I realize it was also something else.  Being sensitive was misunderstood.

Back to the three conversations.   After listening to my clients (really, truly listening with an open, empathetic heart) I started with “You are sensitive” and continued with the following,  “…thus you are not numb.  You feel the world, humanity and other people’s energy. You are not apathetic to sensations.”  In the case of the client struggling with her own feelings of frustration with her nagging physical discomfort I added, “…you are body aware and open to listening to what your body is trying to tell you.”  And to all three clients, I completed  my thoughts with “This is all good!”

The beautiful and satisfying thing for me, was that because these people have trust in me (and I in them) I didn’t have to do much explaining of my word choice.  I didn’t have to go into my past experience.  That being said, I did share that I was actively redefining this particular word to hold a more positive connotation in my life, and in the lives of those I care about.

So why is this all good? What could possibly be good about feeling, about not being numb, about listening? Well, I am of the persuasion that being sensitive or in tune with what, who, or how things bother us gives us information.  It keeps us awake and attentive to situations where we feel uncomfortable, relationships that may need re-calibration or a reset of our own expectations.  To me, being sensitive is being aware.  And often, awareness calls us into action.

For my part, the ability to redefine a word that was negatively charged is a game changer.  It is liberating, and an affirmation that we truly can create the world we want to live in by altering our mindset.

I hope today you feel. I hope you connect to yourself or people you love. I hope you are sensitive to the beautiful world around you.

In health and mindfulness,

Francine

 

Thank you 2018, Hello 2019!

It’s been a fulfilling year…

Exactly 12 months ago I was getting ready to make a big transition out of the comfort of a work environment I had known for six years and into a place where I would be the ‘newbie’ again.  Not knowing if clients would follow me, I made the decision independent of anyone knowing but clear that I needed the change in order to grow both professionally and personally. I took a leap and landed on soft ground, with my full client list in tow. I’m so incredibly happy I did. During this year, like any other, we all experienced highs and lows.  Our community faced devastation, some of us received difficult news in regards to our health, and still others lost close family members.  But we also welcomed new babies, celebrated business successes and laughed over silly things that happened to us. 

This past year I taught two Buff Bones Teacher Trainings, created and held a new workshop, Restorative Pilates, raised money for The Martin Richard Foundation, and produced my first Pilates inspired tops and tanks. I also reconnected with some Pilates colleagues and completed continuing education.  And best of all, spent quality time with my family.

It goes without saying that I connected more fully with YOU, my community. Together we worked toward the common goal of improving your strength – both inside and out.  Seeing those changes and gains in you were some of the most gratifying moments of 2018 for me. I also experienced the super gratifying support of many of you pre-ordering my shirt designs before they even hit the printing press.  Thank you so much (and stay tuned for more designs!)

As your teacher/coach/motivator/friend I want you to know that in 2019 my goal for our time together is the same: being present, being connected, and working to encourage or inspire you.  As we reflect on the last year, let us hold on to what feels good and let go of what does not fulfill us.  Let’s enter the new year confident yet vulnerable, strong yet soft, and determined yet flexible.  And of course, let’s look forward to more Roll Downs, Teasers and Wunda Chair challenges! 🙂  Thank you for contributing to a great year for me and YDP. Let’s continue to support each other in 2019. See you in the studio!

Cheers,
Francine