From Ballet Drop-Out to the Reformer

How Pilates is Changing My Practice, and My Life.

By Abbie Dutterer

As a little girl, I desperately wanted to be good at dance. My parents made sure I had lessons and a cute, traditional ballet leotard and tights, even though funds were low and dance was an extra. I was 3 or 4 when I started taking classical ballet and tap.

As an adult, now 35 years old, I can be honest with myself. I was not good at dance.

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a friend, a student, a teacher, and a writer.

One thing I am not: coordinated.

For the majority of my adult life, I used running as my physical outlet. Goals were set, marathons were run, and I continued to wipe out on the pavement tripping over my own feet.

I never lost my desire to find a way to dance. A part of me still craved an avenue in my life for fluid movement. When I found yoga in 2009 as a way to ease stress and lose weight, I noticed how the slow, steady movement of the practice was helping me to find more coordination. Yoga was impossible for me to do if I rushed. I would fall, or lose my balance. Within a year of practicing, I started to see changes in how I walked and navigated the world.

When Innerstellar opened in 2011, I was thrilled. Kiki was one of my favorite teachers, Forrest Yoga was my practice of choice, and now I could have all of it under one roof! I was in the front row for the first class ever taught in the yoga room. As we looked around that evening at the amazing new space, I remember peeking my head into the Pilates room.

OMG, I thought to myself, what is with the machines?

Through the lens of my clumsy, often-awkward body, the reformers (the actual names for the machines) looked like little death traps – with straps and odd springs everywhere.

Um, no.

I never again turned right from the hallway. Always left into the yoga room. First as a student, and several years later, as a teacher.

I assumed there would always be two types of customers at Innerstellar. Pilates people. Yoga people. Friendly faces in the lobby that never crossed the hallway to the other side.

And then my friend and fellow Forrest Yoga teacher Lisa Day completed Innercore Teacher Training at Innerstellar, and became an apprentice teacher after graduation.

And you know what Forrest Yoga teachers do? We support each other.

So one Wednesday evening, I took the plunge. I signed up for Lisa’s reformer class and made a right turn into the Pilates room.

And like most everything else in life that I said I couldn’t do or wouldn’t do and definitely wouldn’t like – I loved it.

As a yoga practitioner, I have always struggled with numbness in my low back, tailbone, and sacrum. In just one session of Pilates, I was more aware of the exact places that were shut down. Pilates is based on subtle, very-targeted movement of specific muscle groups, and by using machines, I was able to isolate and focus on areas of my core that yoga had not yet reached. As we did the simplest of roll downs, my body lit up with sensations that I had never felt before.

I have added reformer classes as well as private sessions into my weekly movement schedule for the past three months.  The real gift of Pilates in my life has been more feeling along my spine and in my abdominals. It has helped me articulate in my teaching and in my own yoga practice how to work with my tailbone and low back to create engagement to combat my habitual numbness.

 

In Forrest Yoga we talk about feeling A LOT, and my Pilates journey has helped me tap into that in a visceral way. I feel taller and stronger in my core – when I walk, when I run, and when I yoga. And that makes me more confident in my body.

 
 And those machines? Well it turns out they aren’t as scary as they look.  And the movements we do can at times look a lot like … dance.

It is never too late to find what you are looking for in your body. Sometimes you just have to turn right down the same hallway you have walked for years.

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Abbie as a Tiny Dancer, age 3.