Sometimes there are opportunities that come your way that you simply need to jump at. So when I heard the Anula Maiberg was returning to Australia to deliver some workshops I simply knew I had to be there.
I had never met Anula in real life before but over the last couple of years, I have been following many of her thoughts and guiding principles thanks to the wonders of technology. She has an interesting take on things and I was intrigued about the concept of letting go of some of the well-worn tropes that I feel the Pilates industry is promoting. Anula’s ideas seemed to align with some of my own, but went further to expand on concepts that have been rattling around in my head. After I had stumbled on one of her articles in Pilates Style magazine last year, I simply knew I had to find a way of getting more info from this extraordinarily honest teacher.
Most of my students, particularly if they have been with me for a while, will have heard me talk about Anula before (she’s even featured in a couple of my blog posts), and many were interested to see what I would learn and experience in a workshop with her. Now, I’ve been around the block a few times, so I was fairly confident that there wasn’t going to be any exercises that would be profoundly new to me.
I mean, I know stuff. Right?
I know my Hundred from my Short Spine and my Teaser from my Tendon Stretch. So I wasn’t going to a workshop to learn new moves per se. What I was going for and what I took away was something less tangible – an idea, a concept, an energy.
The day itself was as mentally demanding as it was physically. Mentally, because Anula challenges and questions your very reason for being a teacher. But it is done in such a way that, as confronting as that idea is (why on earth do people take classes with me and what do I provide – specifically?), I felt it was okay to discuss. Her openness to challenge the ‘Pilates norm’ was exhilarating. I found myself listening to her and nodding. A lot.
It was physically demanding because I had readied myself to do Pilates – what we ended up doing was far more than that. Sure, there were moments where I could say ‘Oh yes, this is the Hundred’ or ‘Yes, I know this, this is Rolling Back’. But Anula was wanting us to look for more. For the next step. The next experience. The next thing.
Anula would reference a Pilates movement and literally twist it until it became something else. Something beautiful and rhythmic, challenging yet attainable, and just as valuable as the original work which was always our starting point. By guiding us through the movements we already knew, it gave us permission to play and try new things out.
Movement became a way to fully express your body, worrying less about achieving some manicured ideal, instead tuning in on how it feels and responds to your commands. Together, we took old trusted movements that have lived with us for years, put a twist on it, and had a new experience. It was brilliant!
In going through the two workshops, there was a consistency to her message that was both traditional and radical. Effort and energy going hand in hand to try and push the boundaries of your physical abilities. Doing what you can to the very best of your abilities in this very moment even if it causes discomfort. Embrace this discomfort as it will lead you to new motion, to new experiences. And doing that all for as long as you can until you die. It’s all about our relationship to gravity and mortality.
And really that’s it in a nutshell isn’t it.
This whole thing we call life. That is kind of the whole point of the Pilates Method no matter what your experience level is – taking yourself into a new area, a new movement, a new position and seeing how that feels.
I went looking for an idea, a concept, an energy and walked away with something far more important. A return to life.