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Elaine Roth On How Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing

An Interview With Maria Angelova

Pilates Can Make You Stronger: This past summer, my children wanted to take their bikes down to the beach. To make that happen, I had to build a bike rack and then fit it into my car’s hitch. The bike rack weighed 60 lbs. Thanks to Pilates, I engaged my core, lifted the bike rack, fit it into the hitch, and loaded up all three of our bikes by myself.

Pilates was invented around 100 years ago, and it is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise. What exactly is Pilates? How is it different from other modalities like Yoga or Tai Chi? What are the benefits of Pilates? Who can most benefit from it? In this interview series, we are talking to Pilates professionals & practitioners who can talk about how Pilates can improve your health and wellbeing. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Elaine Roth.

Elaine Roth is a comprehensively certified Pilates Instructor who has been teaching private sessions and group classes at The Studio Tara-Lyn Pilates since 2019. She is known for her empathetic teaching style and challenging sessions. Prior to becoming an instructor, Elaine was a dedicated Pilates student for ten years. She credits Pilates for helping her recover from two c-sections and for helping her work through the emotional and physical impact of grief after her young husband’s death.

Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer. And I wanted to be famous for being a writer. (No shortage of big dreams over here.) I was also enamored with Hollywood and all things celebrity. In college, I found public relations and thought I’d found my calling — it was the perfect mix of writing and Hollywood. After a few years, I realized I wasn’t quite fulfilled. I went to law school — the go-to career for many first-generation Americans. (I am the first one in my family and extended family to be born in America!) That wasn’t quite right for me either. When my daughter was born nine weeks early, I left Hollywood, law, and all of it behind to care for her. My mother-in-law encouraged me to try Pilates to support my recovery. I was hooked immediately. My son was born twenty months later — and thanks to Pilates, my recovery time was barely a week. For the next five years, I woke up at dawn to pursue a writing career, and I spent nap time cultivating a love of movement. In 2016, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. We fought with everything we had for twenty months, but we lost. Pilates and writing supported me through my grief. I started a Pilates teacher training program shortly after he died. I also built a career as a freelance writer. Between solo parenting my two kids, writing, and Pilates, I’m always busy, but I’m lucky to be one of the ones who loves what I do.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Shortly after I began teaching Pilates, I trekked into the city with a few seasoned colleagues to take a practice seminar with one of the Pilates “elders.” It quickly became very obvious that I was far out of my league — I was among teachers who’d been studying and teaching for decades; some of the teachers in that room had even invented their own methodologies. The Pilates elder called me out during one of the exercises. For ten long minutes, he stopped everyone to try to correct my form. I tried my best to make my body do what he was asking it to do, but I could not. I walked away feeling embarrassed, discouraged, and disheartened. After throwing myself a pity party, I committed myself to mastering Pilates — or at least getting better. Through my practice, I learned two important lessons (1) the power of the mind-body connection — I learned why I had so much trouble executing this movement, and (2) that Pilates is always a practice — it wasn’t meant to be perfect — and that’s a gift. The moment Pilates turned into a practice rather than something I could master, my practice opened up, and the way I teach transformed. I realized mastering a movement is not the goal. The goal is to walk away from the studio feeling empowered and encouraged.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Empathy — Empathy is at the core of successful leadership. The ability to step out of your own shoes and understand how someone is feeling and why they’re feeling that way is how successful leaders make true connections. Connections lead to growth. Leaders have to know when to push and when to soften. Oftentimes, as an instructor, I like to challenge my clients physically, but sometimes, some days, clients don’t want to be challenged. They have huge lives outside the studio, and sometimes those huge lives impact how they feel and how they work. Sometimes those huge lives are too loud, and if I can have empathy for those days — see them and understand them — it means I can help my client quiet the noise. Some days, my most successful sessions are the ones where I can lead a client to breath and quiet within their bodies.

Drive — In order to be a successful leader, you have to be driven and self-motivated. No one is going to set your alarm clock for you. No one is going to remind you to do the work. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a great support system beside you, but self-motivation is what will take you from point A to point B. Case in point — I have been writing fiction for almost ten years. I’ve had to MAKE time to write over the years. For me, that means waking up at 5 a.m., an hour before the kids wake up. In the last ten years, I’ve also racked up hundreds of rejections — that’s not an exaggeration. After a while, all the early mornings followed by the “nos” wear on your soul. I chose to see each rejection as a lesson. I chose to ask myself how I could get better and chose to learn from each “no”. It paid off! Just recently, I got my yes! It’s a very literal dream come true.

Resilience — The truth is there will always be bumps in the road. Sometimes craters. Sometimes huge endless black pits. The greatest leaders are the ones who stand up, who aren’t defined by the crater. The greatest leaders aren’t even necessarily the ones who come out “stronger” or “better”. The greatest leaders are the ones who simply realize they fell and stood back up, who realize they’ll probably fall again and will again stand back up. For me, my biggest crater was my husband’s death. Suddenly I was a solo parent with the overwhelming job of living a life that had been built for two people. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the funeral, let alone through the next day and decade. Sometime after the funeral, I stood up. It’s been five years. I still don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next day, but I believe that I will. And more importantly, I trust that I will.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently working on a book for parents about grief that I’m so excited about. The book will help normalize how parenting changes after grief has been introduced into their story. An entire chapter will focus on the connection between the mind and body — and how grief has a physical impact and movement can help.

I also have my fiction project in the works! Tentatively scheduled for publication in the fall/winter of 2023! Follow me on Instagram for more information on that as it’s available!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about Pilates. To begin, can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the topic of Pilates?

I’m a comprehensively certified Pilates Instructor. I’ve been teaching private and class sessions, both on the mat and on all the various apparatuses, since 2019. Before I became an instructor, I practiced Pilates for more than a decade. My practice has aided me through physical and emotional struggles.

Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What exactly is Pilates?

Pilates is a system of movement that was developed by Joseph Pilates. The repertoire of exercises encourages the spine to move in all the ways — extension, flexion, twisting, and side to side. Pilates is founded on the idea of control and alignment to create a body that works as an efficient unit. In short, it’s a system of movement that is designed for everybody and every body.

How is Pilates different from other movement modalities that you have practiced?

I have tried bar, yoga, bootcamps, strength training, boxing — you name it, I’ve tried it. All of those were exercise classes. Pilates is so much more than an exercise. It’s a practice. It’s something special. Pilates is not movement simply for movement’s sake, but movement with intention. Movement to make your life easier. Each movement makes you stronger, from the core out. It teaches you to stand taller — in the studio and out. Pilates gives you a deeper understanding of how your body moves, and that alone is a priceless gift.

On a personal level, what are the biggest benefits that you have gained from regular Pilates practice?

Oh, where to start?! Physically, the biggest benefit I’ve noticed is increased strength. My husband used to say that I was freakishly strong for my size. Pilates has helped me build the kind of strength that comes from integrating the whole body into every motion and using even the small muscles. Additionally, my Pilates practice has given me the gift of height — well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. I didn’t grow. But I do stand taller. I understand where I am in space and am not afraid to take up the space my body needs.

More important than the physical gains are the confidence I’ve gained from Pilates. A regular Pilates practice has given me the confidence to know that I can do any activity — whether skiing, snorkeling, or hiking. I trust that my body can do anything (within reason of course.) The principles that I use during my Pilates practice serve me in every activity.

Who do you think can most benefit from Pilates?

That’s an impossible question. Everyone can benefit from Pilates. There is something for every person in every demographic. I know that makes me sound like I have Pilates tunnel vision, but I truly believe that Pilates can help everyone. Golfers, for example, can benefit from Pilates to even out the effects of swinging in the same direction hundreds of times. Teachers can benefit — because Pilates can strengthen their backs and make it easier to stand for hours at a time without pain. I’ve worked with folks in their eighties, folks with osteoporosis, cancer patients, and teenagers, to name a few, and each person has found and taken what they need from their Pilates practice.

I’m particularly passionate about Pilates during and after pregnancy. I had two c-sections. My first one (which was an emergency c-section nine weeks too early) left me almost unable to stand up straight. My recovery was painful and long. I began my Pilates practice while I was pregnant with my second child. Two days after my second c-section, I was off pain meds and walking around. The doctors even let me leave the hospital a day early. Feeling good (being able to stand upright) so soon after my c-section was a gift, considering that I now had two children under two at home. I credit that quick recovery wholly to Pilates.

Pilates can sometimes be expensive. Can you share with our readers your perspectives on why Pilates is worth its costs?

Pilates can be expensive. You’re paying for the space, the equipment, and the time, but more than all of that you’re paying for the instructor, who (in most cases) has devoted thousands of hours to studying the method and understands how to apply the method in a way that makes you a better you. That alone is invaluable.

I think of Pilates as an investment in your future body, your future health. We’re all aware that healthcare — diagnostic, reactive healthcare — is expensive. Putting in the time and money now to keep your spine supple, your core strong, and your body aligned will surely save you money later.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Ways That Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing”?

  1. Pilates Can Give You Confidence: The deeper you get in your practice, and the more you learn about how to move your body, the more confident you are about moving your body. I tried paddle boarding for the first time a few months ago. I was terrified, but I knew that I was strong enough to do it. I knew my body had the ability. That knowledge helped me conquer the fear. (And I didn’t fall!)
  2. Pilates Can Help You Stand Taller: Posture is important. Slouching, jutting out a hip while standing, etc. can create physical problems. Posture is also important mentally. The way we stand says so much about us, and often we don’t even realize how we’re standing or the message we’re sending. This is particularly true for our kids/teens.
  3. Pilates Can Make You Stronger: This past summer, my children wanted to take their bikes down to the beach. To make that happen, I had to build a bike rack and then fit it into my car’s hitch. The bike rack weighed 60 lbs. Thanks to Pilates, I engaged my core, lifted the bike rack, fit it into the hitch, and loaded up all three of our bikes by myself.
  4. Pilates Can Enhance The Ever-Important Mind-Body Connection: When my right hip starts to act up, I know to look at both what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been feeling. Often, I find the root cause of the pain is a combination of my physical activities and emotional state. Pilates as a physical activity can help address the physical part of the pain. Pilates as a meditation (see below) often helps address the emotional part.
  5. Pilates Can Calm Your Mind — Or Teach You How To Find Calm: My Pilates practice is just that — a practice. It is the hour out of my day during which I need to focus so much on my body that I cannot worry about anything else. It’s the calm in the storm of my day — and as a widowed solo mom, my days are often storm-filled.

In my own Pilates practice, I stress the importance of precision in Pilates. Based on your experiences and research, what are your thoughts about why precision is important in Pilates?

Precision is crucial to Pilates. It’s important for alignment and control, for executing the movement correctly, and for creating that mental calm in the storm. All of my regular clients (and I rarely like to speak in absolutes, but this time I feel comfortable saying “all”) know that I’m a stickler for precision and not because I require perfection or even because I’m seeking perfection from them. Precision is important because it’s the difference between doing the movement and executing the movement for benefit. It’s the difference between working evenly or continuing to favor the stronger side. In my own practice, I credit Tara-Lyn Nunziata’s (my mentor) eye for precision as the reason that I’ve ever advanced in my practice.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

After my husband’s funeral, I had enormous pain in my hips. I blamed the pain on standing for too long, though I’d never experienced that kind of pain before when I’d stood for long periods of time. No amount of stretching or Advil made the pain disappear. It was later that I learned the connection between our hips and our emotions, how the pain I was experiencing was related to the intense grief I was feeling. I learned our emotions are stored in our hips. Once I understood the connection between my body and my emotions, I began to focus on hip opening exercises, to focus on moving my body in a way that connected to how I was feeling. That knowledge is the movement I’d love to share. Encouraging folks to understand why their shoulders may feel tight or their hips may hurt beyond the physical reasons for the pain, and then using that understanding to find movements that feel healing.

Also — posture and teens! Kids and teens are on their devices so much more than any other generation has ever been. It’s impacting how they sit, stand, and walk. The “forward head” posture and tilted pelvis are too common thanks to all the technology time, too. Left unchecked, all those things mean our children/teens are in for an adulthood full of pain or ailments. I’d love a movement that brought awareness to the importance of posture and a movement that helped give people the tools to work on their posture.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Readers can find me on Instagram at @thisyoungwidowlife or elaineroth.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at angelova@rebellious-intl.com.

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Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.

Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.