Guest blogger Natalie Neckyfarow is an actor-dancer-singer, certified Pilates Instructor, Personal Trainer, and the founder of Leap Ahead Fitness. She sees clients at Studio 26. “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” - Joseph Pilates
I first began practicing Pilates in 1995, while in high school vigorously training for my life as a professional dancer. When I began dancing at a young age, I always experienced great joy in movement, but as I began to get more serious about my endeavor to go professional, that joy suddenly became burdened with pressure. Not naturally built like a ballerina, I was encouraged to work extremely hard not just within my dance classes, but also outside of them, including weight training, cardio, and a pretty restrictive diet in an attempt to mold my body into this idyllic dancer physique.
As the pressure and hard work mounted, my dancing moved away from the experience of pure joy and towards this essence of striving complicated by both the constraints of my mind and my emotions of fear and desire. These constraints impeded my happiness and caused me to put too much emphasis on the physical aspects of my health.
Gradually, I have learned that there is so much more to teaching others about exercise and their bodies than the mere striving for good form and the perfect physique. This shift in my own mindset led me to lifestyle fitness coaching, which gives me the opportunity to help clients address how every aspect of their lives - not merely exercise and nutriton - have an impact on their health.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend Inner IDEA at the La Quinta Resort in Palm Springs, CA. I usually do my continuing education locally in NYC, since I am lucky to live in a city with so many amazing fitness experts and it is far cheaper without the added expense of travel and hotel.
However, Inner IDEA has been calling to me for years. Perhaps it was the idyllic environment where the conference is offered or perhaps it was the fact that this conference is devoted to the idea of slowing down and making strong connections, not simply to the fitness community, but also to ourselves as individuals. (Fitness conferences as a whole can been competitive and overly focused on selling products and/or additional certifications to those who attend to them.)
In NYC, the pace of living is very fast. It seems as if there is always more to do and achieving work and life balance often presents as an impossibility. Just the opportunity to get away was precious. But the greatest gift was that I was dropped into a world where everyone was committed to slowing down and being present.
The theme for the conference was the journey to wholeness. Upon arrival, we were asked to embody guid elines to enrich the experience of the workshop for both ourselves and others:
- Turn off the distractions of the outside world
- Be present in the moment
- Honor the person in front of you
- Communicate with sensory awareness
- Be aware of your thoughts
- Be open
- Be centered
- Embrace the good
- Be happy
- Inspire others
- Be grateful
These guidelines set the tone for an experience where mind, body and spirit became intimately connected. A relationship which can directly bring us to happiness.
This tone was further set by the keynote speaker Max Strohm in his talk There is No App for Happiness. In his talk, he shared the analogy of a horse drawn carriage in ill repair trying to reach its destination.
The carriage (our physical body) is not functioning very well. The horses that pull the carriage (our emotions) have little discipline and are not well focused. The driver of our carriage (our mind) is also not focused or well trained and perhaps drunk. And yet we, the passenger and owner of this carriage (our spirit), are asleep, dreaming, while in a prison where we are not in control of our own destiny. Given the state of our driver, the wild horses, and a carriage that is falling apart, how can we expect to safely reach our destination?
Amidst the growth of technology, society as a whole is becoming less and less happy and at the same time, less and less alert and awake.
If we are to get and stay happy and realize our full potential as human beings, including our full potential for health, we must address the carriage, the horses, the driver, and the passenger. We must fully awaken to our own experience by repairing our body, emotions, and our mind.
During the course of the 4 days I spent at Inner IDEA, I spent a lot more time specifically addressing both my mind and body than I normally make time to while in New York.
In session after session, from Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis to Pilates sessions, to Feldenkrais, to sessions of a more meditative nature, I was invited by session leaders like Tom McCook, Jill Miller, Marcia Hayes, Stacy Burrows, and many others, to pay greater attention to breath and space in my own body, to build my awareness of body, mind and spirit, and to focus on the art of creating my life.
This feeling of more space in my body, more movement of my breath, and more freedom in my mind and spirit is what I aim to maintain for myself and impact to my clients on a daily basis.
For too many, exercise is something we should do or must do to overcome being overweight or in pain.
What if we could go beyond that and restore the enjoyment of movement from our youth? To use breath and awareness as tools to free yourself from the slumber in your body and restore yourself to greater vitality and health in your daily life.
Natalie Neckyfarow is an actor-dancer-singer who has used her unique training as both a high level performer and certified Pilates Instructor and Personal Trainer to establish Leap Ahead Fitness. Her unique fitness company empowers her clients to take personal responsibility for their own success armed with personalized plans developed by addressing exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, self-care and so much more. Natalie is a firm believer that it is never too late to claim the body and health that you truly desire. For more information, please visit www.leapaheadfitness.com.