-Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
About 10 years ago, I invented myself again and I took on a mission statement to fulfill, a possibility to live into. The foundation on which I stand and operate is the balance and flowering of body, mind and spirit. I'm a stand for an extraordinary world.
I've been teaching Pilates for 15 years, mostly to educated and somewhat privileged middle-class and upper-middle-class Californians. Concentrating on unifying body and mind has been easy, fulfilling. For myself, I became a movement educator, danced, and finished my Master's degree in Kinesiology. For my professional self, I've completed multiple certifications in different modalities, outfitted and ran a Pilates and Gyrotonic studio, wrote a Pilates teacher training program and graduated 200 students. I kind of feel like I've done all that and I don't need or want another degree or another certification. It's time to focus on incorporating the spiritual. I'm a stand for an extraordinary personal journey.
My neighbor and deacon is the chaplain at the county jail and she often shares stories of the women she counsels, their sadness, shame and struggles; disempowered and their lives on hold. Yes, surely some of them are in jail deservedly. It's not supposed to be a tropical vacation. But I firmly believe it will be in everyone's interest (society, the individuals and their children to whom they will eventually be reunited) if these women develop a healthy relationship between body and mind.
Joe Pilates was incarcerated too. No, it was not a jail in the normal sense of the word, but he was imprisoned and prevented from returning to his home, his family and his life plans for 5 years. His development of Contrology was a lifeline of creativity, service, physical expression and artistry and it transformed his imprisonment into the opportunity to become extraordinary. Here is an opportunity for me to be that stand for the extraordinary in my own life and the life of my community.
I called Chaplain Cynthia and asked if a Pilates mat class might be helpful at the jail. She proposed the idea to the Sergeant, who gladly welcomed the idea and enthusiastically invited me to come. I'm scheduled to begin classes on September 10, 2012. I went to assess the facility and pick a location for the class and quickly found it's not the health club, nor the ballet studio, nor the school gymnasium, nor the community rec center. It is prison: all concrete, booming with noise, loud echoes bouncing off the concrete floors, walls and ceilings and slamming doors that make you jump. Chairs and tables are bolted to the floor and cannot be moved. The laundry area has room for maybe 6 mats on the floor, but someone's head is going to be underneath a stainless steel table and well you know what's going to happen when we do Rolling Like a Ball or Open Leg Rocker.
The Sergeant showed me an outdoor concrete patio with an open roof. It will be cold but it will be quieter than inside. Hopefully they'll be able to hear me. Plus I have room for 20 students instead of just 6. I intend to teach a 6-week course, 2x/week to the women in the general population and then - gulp - repeat it for the women kept in lock-up.
So this brings me to the next phase: getting my little tools pulled together. I've got therabands, playground balls and tennis balls. But the mats. The mats. Because this will be outside on a cold concrete patio, I think we need the thicker style mats instead of the thin yoga sticky-mats. OPTP.com has a nice thick mat, and they offer special pricing to Pilates professionals (OPTP.com, Item #439, $39.50 regular price, $33.95 for Pilates or Fitness professionals.)
I'm so touched and inspired by the Pilates professionals who have already donated a mat to this program (start following @MaryAscension IMMEDIATELY!) If you'd like to donate a mat you can order it from OPTP and have it sent to Monterey County Jail, Attention: Sgt Olguin, 1410 Natividad Road, Salinas CA 93906. If the shipper wants a phone number use the main jail phone (831-647-7782) and the chaplain's e-mail which is 39cmont27 at sbcglobal dot net. I will take my big black Sharpie and write your name on your mat and I will get you a photo of my class using your mat. Won't that be fun to put on your bulletin board?
And by all means, if you have a used thick mat you could send my way, that would be awesome. I would really appreciate it and so will the women at the jail. Right now they have no mats at all. As a Pilates and Gyrokinesis teacher, I cannot fathom not having a mat for my stretches, strength training and meditation. Perhaps I am being silly - millions of people didn't have mats for thousands of years. It's true we can just sit on the floor. But there's a message and a hope and a possibility that comes from being handed a mat. Here. Use this. It's for you so you can meet your body from within. You can develop a new conversation with yourself about what is possible. And it will be extraordinary.
EDIT: Added jail phone number and contact e-mail.