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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pilates: Why I do it

Getting in a daily Pilates workout at home isn't always possible with this guy hanging around! 

   I discovered Pilates young, at a summer ballet intensive where it was a required daily class along with ballet technique, pointe and modern. I took to it more enthusiastically than a typical pre-teen old, mostly because I saw it as a way of "getting ahead" in dance. I knew (or thought I knew) that I needed a slim stomach and lean legs to excel in ballet and I saw Pilates as another way of achieving that aesthetic. I practiced it on and off throughout my teen years but never very mindfully. Injuring my back at age 15 made me more aware of my body's fragility and a slightly more aware and intentional Pilates practice helped me repair and restrengthen my body. 
      Fast forward to freshman year of college. Over the course of my first rough year in NYC I sprained my ankle twice and had to take three months off of dancing. The injury forced me to leave the pre-professional program I was enrolled in and focus on academic studies. This break from dance gave me a whole new appreciation for my body. I started to understand the important of a proper warm-up in more than abstract terms. I saw and felt how a weak, unbalanced body spelled disaster. I slowly reentered Pilates by signing up for a weekly class geared toward dancers.
       "You're always smiling through class!" my teacher told me after my third or fourth session. "You love Pilates!" I did and still do. 
     After having a baby, Pilates (along with yoga and ballet) was instrumental in helping me regain strength in my core and engage with my new body after months of weird growth and the stress of childbirth. It appeals to my methodical, perfectionist ballerina mindset. There's a right way (or ways) and a wrong way in Pilates. There is technique and form and discipline required. When I teach I love knowing that I am passing down a proven system practiced by generations of people before me. Pilates is definitely personal and "customizable" but there's nothing experimental or extraneous involved. Every movement serves a specific purpose.     
     These days, I feel simultaneously overwhelmed and thankful by how much I still have to learn about this exercise method. I teach one mat class per week, but also try to do at least 20 or 30 minutes of practice on my own most days. Every session, I discover something new about the way my body works. I might be executing an exercise I've done a thousand times before but suddenly, by using deeper concentration or activating a different muscle group, it feels different. It's remarkable. 
  For me, Pilates is a way of stewarding the body I've been given. It's a means for gaining mental clarity, along with physical strength, and a way of celebrating all the amazing, wonderful things the human body can do. 
   Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing a few basic Pilates exercises anyone can do. To reap the full benefits of Pilates study, sign up for a class with a certified instructor in your area.

Friday, October 25, 2013

25 Things in my 25th Year

I turn 24 on Monday which means I'm entering my 25 year of life. I'm a little freaked out by this. People often remark about how I've accomplished so many things for my age, but it doesn't feel that way to me. My goal-driven personality, for better or worse, is always looking for a new big project to tackle.
 Instead of thinking of this 25 item list as an ultimatum for myself, I'm considering it means of inspiring myself to keep growing in all my varied roles.  So enough with the hippie-dippie talk. To the list!

1) Establish and commit to a regular writing routine.
2) Finish a short story.
3) Finish a non-fiction essay.
4) Submit something to another literary magazine.
5) Finalize my MFA program applications.

6) Become certified to teach the ABT curriculum.
7) Audition/submit myself for at least two dance (performing) jobs.
8) Lay the ground work for establishing a new company in western NY.
9) Expand the theater and voice offerings at my studio, including establishing weekly classes in music and acting.

10) Finally master all Teasers on the mat.
11) Take an apparatus class.
12) Earn a second Pilates certification
13) Become certified to teach another fitness discipline (group exercise, personal training or yoga)

14) Become a more consistent meal planner
15) Finish decorating and furnishing our house
16) Finally get our wedding photos and A's baby photos printed and framed
17) Spend daily time in scripture.
18) Plan and grow a more varied garden
19) Take a much belated honeymoon/five year anniversary trip with Graham
20) Go an entire week without using social media.
21) Take a class in something completely new.
22) Be intentional about serving and participating in church life
23) Donate at least $100 to a worthy cause or family in need.
24) Figure out a more effective way to organize our budget.
25) Take better care of my marriage, including taking at least two baby-free dates with Graham every month.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


My 24th birthday is next week .
My age must be showing. The following quotes are direct from six and seven year old students in my Primary Ballet class yesterday while we were stretching: 

Me: Everyone make your butterfly wings and bend forward as far as you can!
Student #1: Miss Sarah, I can go farther than you! 
Me: That's great!
Student #2 (to student #1): It's because she's old.
Student #1: Yeah, her bones creak. 

There you have it. I am officially old. Too old for butterfly stretch. The end. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Stuff I Like: Fall 2013

Some things helping me keep my spirits up in this busy new season:

     1. Good books. It's been a good few months in my reading life. I recently finished How to Love, a debut novel by Katie Cotugno and it captured my hear the way a good book should with lyrical writing, good storytelling and compelling characters. I also just finished Leah Stewart's The Myth of You and Me, which I picked up on a whim at a library book sale. Good call, past Me. I just picked up a few more fall reads, including Sophie Flack's Bunheads and this collection of essays, which I'm looking forward to reading. Find me on Goodreads for more book talk.

      2. Gilmore Girls. I have a good excuse for being about thirteen years too late to join the Gilmore Girls bandwagon. This show's original air dates (2000 - 2007) coincided with my years in ballet training prison.  During these years, I almost never arrived home before 9 pm and barely had time to look at a TV (except to watch Center Stage on VHS on a loop) lest it make me fat and lazy. Now that I run my own training prison, I've  barreled through four seasons of Gilmore Girls in as many weeks, getting way too emotionally invested in the lives of fictional characters in the process. Thanks, ballet, for making me spend my twenties catching up on media I should have been obsessed with as a teen. Thanks a lot. 

     3. Ken Levine's Blog. A must read if you're a retro TV aficionado or interested in television writing at all. (Ken's written for some of the best sitcoms of the last forty years, including Cheers and M.A.S.H.). 
Agave sweetened gummy bears.  Addicting.
     4. Loose leaf tea. I just picked up a few ounces of this breakfast blend from a local tea shop along with a cinnamon spice variety which is just delightful, even though I'm not usually into flavored teas. Something about fall makes me want to put cinnamon in everything, so.
     5Peter Hollens. My husband introduced me to his YouTube videos a few weeks ago and I can't get enough of his music. Especially this a capella rendition of Shenandoah which I'd love to use for a ballet piece.