“Self-care”: it’s so much more than a buzzword bandied around by marketers as a way to sell wellness products.
At its core, self-care is any activity undertaken with the intention to improve and or maintain our mental, emotional and physical health. We see this very concept in the Workplace Health and Safety unit (HLTWHS001) of our Diploma of Professional Pilates Instruction (10537NAT) and associated Instruction Pathways. Here we explore the importance of self-care for Instructors, in an operational context, and ask you to identify activities, practices and consider strategies for supporting your wellbeing as a professional.
It is best practice for Pilates Instructors to develop a personal self-care plan to enhance health, manage stress and sustain positive mental and physical health in the long term.
It all begins and ends with Pilates: but it’s about more than what you do in the Studio.
Joseph Pilates was “Physical Culturalist”; influential in the three-wave Physical Culture Movement originating in Europe in the 19th Century and including European Gymnast- (Germany, 1800s), Strongman- (England, 1914), and Somatic Physical Culturalists (New York, 1926 onward).
Physical Culturalists were the ultimate teachers of self-care, and we see many of their ideas threaded through the Pilates Method. You only have to read Return to Life Through Contrology to see the common themes!
- Proper diet and sleep must accompany exercise.
“Always have food on hand, but only refuel when nutrients are needed.” Pilates Instructors spend all day taking care of clients, it is important to nourish your body to ward off fatigue and keep you going.
- Pre-prepare meals and snacks.
- Have healthy, wholesome foods handy at home and work.
- See an accredited Dietician for dietary advice if needed.
Pilates said “guide your eating habits with all due respect to the required amount of food you need to keep yourself physically fit…” (Return to Life Through Contrology, p37.)
(The original mindful eating movement!)
With tightly scheduled and long, physical days Instructing, restorative sleep is of the utmost importance for body and mind.
- How many hours do you sleep each night? Are you getting enough?
- Evaluate your sleep routine: how can it be improved?
- Fresh air and sunshine daily.
Pilates tells us to breathe fresh air to free your blood of the “debris” of fatigue: what a powerful image!
But it’s about more than the physiological act: Pilates talks about letting the skin breathe through exposure to the outdoors and sunshine.
“By all means never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air that you can. Remember too, that your body also “breathes” through the pores of your skin as well as through your mouth, nose, and lungs” (p18).
Take breaks whenever you can and:
- Go outside! Take a walk around the block.
- Sit in the sunshine: “embrace the sun’s rays”
- Fill your lungs with air.
Pilates also talked about wearing loose fitting clothing. Archival footage and photographs suggest he didn’t wear much of anything, but this was never about ego, but health – allowing the skin to breathe.
While workplace standards today might not allow for Jo’s style of get-up, fashion choices are something worth questioning. Modern activewear is typically form fitting which is great for Pilates because it allows us to see the body in motion and assess alignment in our clients: however, wearing tight leggings day-in day-out Instructing can be oppressive and negatively impact digestive health and reproductive hygiene (particularly in women!)
- Incorporate some looser fitting (workplace appropriate) fashion choices into your teaching wardrobe.
- Bring an alternative outfit to work so you have the option to change into something looser during the day.
- Good hygiene
Pilates was a frequent bath-guy: cold for a tonic, hot for cleanliness, and he loved daily dry brushing with the open hands, brush or towel to “bend, stretch and refresh” the skin.
Cleanliness is again linked to “breathing”: bathe to stimulate circulation, and keep your pores open and free of toxins.
Beyond the therapeutic benefits, personal hygiene is an important feature of workplace health and safety in a public-facing industry, especially one where we engage physically and closely with other people. While not everyone loves a bath as much as Jo did, it is undeniable that keeping clean will keep you healthy!
- Bathe or shower regularly.
- Have a bath at the end of your working week to relax.
- Try dry brushing!
- Treat yourself to new bath/shower products.
- Move your body
Students often assume that working Instructors do Pilates themselves, all the time. The reality is rosters and client load means most Instructors struggle to find the time or opportunity to schedule their own work outs!
Instructors spend all day making clients feel good, it is essential they “make” time to put themselves back together with Pilates! Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it is a priority.
(Doing Pilates isn’t only important for Instructors’ health and wellbeing, it is also self-mastery. We are always learning, in all ways, and commitment to self-mastery and professional development is at the heart of this.)
Pilates stressed the importance of consistently doing exercise that worked the complete musculature of the body, aka “full-body work outs”, and encouraged people to seek this out in all formats: at the gym and on the athletic field, in addition to the Studio.
- Schedule your self-mastery: non-negotiable!
- Aim to complete three classes or sessions each week as a minimum.
- Put yourself “back together” at the end of every shift: find three exercises to release and realign your body and complete before you go home.
- Do other things! Take up other fitness formats and sports. Diversity in movement makes you a better mover; and time away from the Method is sometimes well spent!
- Listen to your body: seek exercise that makes you feel good and gives you what you need.
Thinking is a powerful factor in health and can be constructive or destructive in equal measure: it can build you up or tear you down. Taking care of your mental health care is important! What form this takes is up to the individual, but:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional!
- Confide in your colleagues and Pilates community.
- Set boundaries and be realistic: don’t over-extend yourself!
“Work-life balance” is a misnomer: it doesn’t exist. All we can realistically hope for is to find a state of being where work and personal life are in relative harmony, and our bodies and minds are in good health.
Self-care isn’t self-ish. It is not only about considering our needs; but rather it’s about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, and as a result being able to take care of others as well.
Without self-care, we can’t give our best in our professional or personal lives!
Just ask: What Would Jo Do? (WWJD?) Have you written yourself a personal self-care plan?