I was asked to contribute a story about my journey into Pilates for the benefit of new teachers or teachers considering a change in their methodology from Contemporary to Classical. I’ve drafted a dozen versions of inspirational fodder but in the end I think what’s important is what is going on in each of you. If you are reading this, you’ve felt an opening, a space for something new to land. Maybe you got a taste of something different or maybe you just never want to stop learning but something is tugging at you to fill your Pilates tank. That tug is the biggest thing in the room and although I’m happy to share a piece of my story – the only voice you should really be listening to, is that voice inside you.
Having said all of that, here is a bit about my Pilates travels and how I came to my own personal Pilates mindset.
This may surprise some of you who have followed my journey but Romana was actually not my first teacher.
In fact she wasn’t even my second teacher. That distinction went to Steve Giordano who ultimately sent me to Romana for training.
But my very first teacher was not Romana or even in Romana’s lineage – if that makes sense.
It was Carola Trier’s work that was my first experience with Pilates.
If you are a classical teacher it may be easy to see the similarities between Carola’s work and Romana’s. If you are a contemporary teacher these names might not mean much to you or if they do they may be lumped into the same block. But I am sharing this with you because I know how incredibly difficult change is. The challenge of transitioning from one way of doing things into a new way is not easy for most people. My transition from my first studio to a new studio was fraught with anxiety and discomfort.
In my original training I was used to beginning on the Cadillac. I worked with leg springs and the roll back bar and and paid extra attention to my lower body all in pursuit of a better ballet technique. However all of that changed when I migrated to a new place. I remember being frustrated so much so that I barked at my new teacher and asked why we were focusing on my upper body when all I really wanted to do was train my legs. Still though I continued to train and over time came to tolerate my lessons even though they were not what I believed I should be doing.
My changeover as I call it didn’t come for years. In some way I was disadvantaged in changing teachers and techniques. It wasn’t really my choice. I was a student at the School of American Ballet. They sent all their students to the same place. When they changed their choice of host – we all were shuttled over to the new Pilates location. New teachers, new technique, new everything. I wasn’t looking for a change. It was forced upon me and I was a teenager with strong opinions about right and wrong. I resisted.
It took four years before I met Romana herself and actually felt the work in a different way. But make no mistake – it wasn’t a whole new workout. I already had a solid classical technique by the time I landed on her deep blue reformer. What had changed… was me. I was ready. Finally. To be open to a new way of thinking and of receiving.
They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Are you ready?
Alycea Ungaro, NYC, owner of Real Pilates NYC