Monica Hoekstra of ABsolute Pilates On How Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing
*An Interview with Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Inc. Published by Authority Magazine.
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 Monica Hoekstra. Monica Hoekstra is the owner of ABsolute Pilates founded in 2001 in Charlotte, NC and the creator and founder of Core Barre — Smart MovementⓇ. Monica is Certified by Romana’s PilatesⓇ as well as the New York Pilates StudioⓇ Certification Program. Ms. Hoekstra also holds a full comprehensive certification from Balanced Body and formerly Stott Pilates for which she was an instructor for ten years. In addition Ms Hoekstra is also a Certified and licensed GYOROTONICⓇ and GYROKINESISⓇ Instructor and ACEⓇ (American Council on Exercise) Certified.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that? This is a difficult yet profound question. The most interesting story in my professional journey is the one that reflects a pivotal moment that took the most courage: Making the change from contemporary Pilates to Classical Pilates. While the words ‘contemporary’ and ‘classical’ may not convey the magnitude of this change the story starts here. During my many years as a classical ballet dancer, I was first introduced to Pilates while nursing an injury. Little did I realize that this little known method at the time would literally change my life. The journey started in Toronto, Canada, which was the headquarters for Moira Stott and her ill famed husband Lindsay Merrithew, aka Stott Pilates — now Merrithew Health and Fitness. My certification progressed over time, and after 10+ years I found myself as an accredited teacher trainer facility for Stott Pilates in Charlotte, NC. We had a following, hosted many classes, and thought all was well. It was during this time that I started developing a curriculum called ‘Core Barre’, which was based on proven movement principles. Long story short, there was a falling out, my teacher trainer facility status and credentials were rescinded. As a result I started drifting and found myself engaged in many modalities. At a seemingly random event (which in hindsight was simply synchronicity at work), I was introduced to the original teachings of Joseph Pilates. Strangely, they had very little correlation with what I understood as Pilates. Embracing the ‘classical method’ meant re-educating, re-tooling, and re-staffing, in short risking it all. With the encouragement of a select few, I decided to take the plunge and entered a purification process of sorts. Fast forward to now; I could not be happier to have made the change for the benefit of my clients, our community, and myself. 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? I have found that the following three time-tested principles deserve mention as I seek to serve those in our community: Clarity, Calm, and Decisiveness. Clarity is a funny thing and perhaps best characterized as moments of clarity. These moments may occur in conversation with clients and staff, while studying with a respected mentor, while sleeping and sometimes simply while staring at your coffee in the morning. The important part is to act on those moments; again courage is pivotal in what you recognize to know to be true. Calm is a state of mind and best cultivated while practicing (you guessed it) Pilates. In many ways, Pilates is energy work similar, yet different from Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, etc. When truly in sync with the spirit of the work it facilitates a calm that is a prerequisite for any leader. Decisiveness for a leader is applicable in the small (and big) decisions. This pertains to how to cultivate a healing vibe in your studio, how to adjust a lesson for your client for a particular condition or injury or when interacting with staff as various situations arise. Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people? The most exciting project I am working on is quite frankly an ongoing project; ongoing education. I find that as a teacher of clients and staff, a professional journey in movement must be accompanied by a lifelong devotion to learning. While time consuming, it perhaps is the most rewarding part of my job and reflects a universe of unfolding opportunities to serve and become proficient in the art of movement. This is my quest and may take the better part of my days, my income and my mental fortitude. With that I am quite at peace. 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? The mark of a great scholar is the admission of how little one truly knows; it is no different with Pilates. One only needs to spend a few days with a level 1 or 2 teacher (a master), to understand that there is always a higher level of ‘knowing’ to attain. Knowing not in the intellectual sense but rather an inner knowing internalized in your body. One of the principles I have come to trust in the teaching of movement is that one cannot teach what one does not own in their body. Head knowledge is simply the start to a longer ‘inside out’ journey that clients intuitively pick up on. Therefore, from my perspective the best teachers are the best students. Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What exactly is Pilates? Pilates is best described by its former name, i.e. Contrology. It is a system of movement that teaches us how to control every part of our body with our mind. it’s not just a workout — it’s training. Training the body is slow and methodical and takes patience and practice. It’s no different from how any athlete trains. It makes us think about what we are doing instead of just simply doing! Pilates works on posture that comes from a strong center — we refer to that center as the ‘Powerhouse’. It works on our posture by improving the way the skeleton is held in the body and teaches us how to use the muscles that move the bones in our body with just the right amount of effort that makes it look almost ‘effortless’! How is Pilates different from other movement modalities that you have practiced? Do I dare say that it does not compare with anything else on the planet. Joseph Pilates was truly a brilliant man that by way of the necessity of invention, introduced us to a system of movement that we refer to as Contrology — controlling the body with the mind. If one understands the progressions and how to logically progress the body then the work is truly amazing. On a personal level, what are the biggest benefits that you have gained from regular Pilates practice? Wellness, alignment, healing and strength! These benefits are not personal, they are universal. Who do you think can most benefit from Pilates? Everyone can benefit from Pilates no matter what age, background, experience or handicap, or view on movement. Pilates can sometimes be expensive. Can you share with our readers your perspectives on why Pilates is worth its costs? Pilates need not be expensive. All that is required is a mat, your intention to learn, and a beginners mindset. Start with a video tutorial; the key is to simply start. Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Ways That Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing”? Joseph Pilates is quoted as saying: 10 sessions make you feel better, 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body. Therefore, the 5 ways that Pilates can improve your health by virtue of one word: Pilates is transformational in body, spirit, and soul. 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? From my vantage point, precision in Pilates can be equated to clarity. In this context, clarity simply means an understanding of your body mechanics at work for every single exercise.. 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. :-) A movement of movement; I am not trying to be clever here. Honestly, my dear friends sometimes refer to me as an ‘artist of movement’. While I am proud of my creative contribution with Core Barre, I am prouder to learn a little bit more as a lifelong devotee to the original teaching of Joseph Pilates as passed on and preserved by his protege, Romana Kryzanowska. She was an incredible teacher and mentor of teachers that graciously passed on her knowledge to honor the work and pass it on with integrity and respect. What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online? If you are so inclined, please feel free to follow us at ABsolute Pilates in Charlotte, NC at www.absolute-pilates.com or on social media — ABsolute Pilates on Facebook and pilatesabsolute on Instagram. This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success. Thank you for the amazing opportunity!