In my early twenties, I had a recurring knee pain which the doctor diagnosed as meniscus degeneration as a result of overuse during an active sports life in at school. His prognosis then was that I would never be able to run without pain again and very likely I will develop arthritis in the knee in my thirties. Having already done some Pilates while in university, I decided to give it a go as I thoroughly enjoyed my classes back then.
One of the most popular quotes from Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates, is that “in 10 sessions you will feel different, in 20 sessions you will look different and in 30 sessions….” Indeed after 10 sessions, my legs became stronger and I was running again with no pain in my knees! Pilates was challenging and restorative simultaneously for my body – the exercises were so effective because each movement taught by the teacher is tailored for my body to achieve the maximum results of strength and flexibility.
When the first Pilates teacher training course was to be held in Kuala Lumpur, I jumped at the chance to train and soon began to teach people with back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions. The reward of being able to help others gain confidence and be pain free in their bodies was so immense! After five years of Pilates classes, I took the first step towards becoming an instructor and trained under Heather Low of Meridian Pilates in Vancouver, Canada. I went on to work extensively teaching remedial Pilates as well as continued education for Pilates teachers. In 2006, I co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s first movement-based healing studio which I headed as the teaching director until 2015.
After teaching for several years Pilates clients with injuries, I became more curious about the anatomy of our body and the biomechanics of how it moves.Rolfing was one of the modalities which is known amongst Pilates teachers.
When I experienced my first few Rolfing sessions, I could clearly perceive a change in my body before and after a session in that one hour! In one of these sessions, I arrived with a slightly sprained ankle which I injured a week before so I had already noticed that I wasn’t walking evenly between my two feet. In that session, the Rolfer worked on my foot in very gentle and subtle manouvres, much lighter pressure than a regular massage. The moment I stepped back on the ground, my injured foot felt steady in its footing again. I no longer had that discomfort I had when I stepped into the session! For me, that was an amazingly rapid change and it was then that I realised Rolfing would compliment my Pilates teaching.
This passion took me to North America, Europe and Japan where I dedicated years to the continuous study of somatic education approaches such as the Body-Mind Centering embodied movement and consciousness approach with Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen, functional anatomy with Thomas Myers and the Body of Perception training with Susan Harper and Hubert Godard. I also studied Rolfing at the European Rolfing Association in Munich, Germany in 2008 and then completed subjects in Visceral Manipulation with the Barral Institute.
I finally understood why our bodies suffer from chronic pains and discomfort which I had been working with my Pilates clients. I saw that our posture and movement patterns play an equal role in our body.
An embodied life
My favorite TED Talk is a video of MRI showing our journey from conception to birth. It never ceases to amaze everyone who watched it because it strikes a deep chord within us which we tend to forget – through remembering this complex and perfect way which we grew compels us to honour our body.
My understanding of embodiment comes from the Body-Mind Centering approach, developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Embodiment is the direct experience of our bodies, it is a conscious practice, inquiry, path and process. This practice aims to create a dialogue between our awareness and capacity for action. We are mainly getting to know ourselves, what we comprise of and what we are capable of through movement.
Using breath, movement, voice, awareness and touch, we become mindful to our own memories, thoughts, dreams and insights. We become conscious through our bodies. I am not only skin, muscles and limbs – whatever I can see on the surface – I am liver, heart, blood, bones and cells. Experiencing my body this way, I felt full & whole. I was richer than I thought I was, I had more resilience than I imagined and I didn’t need to look outside to feel alright – I have it all inside of me and my body.