Her lifelong dream was to be a professional, contemporary dancer in Europe, travelling the world and living the life that went with it. It’s all she ever thought of and it’s all she ever wanted to be. But dreams don’t always come true.
In 2011, in her third year studying a Bachelor of Dance Performance , Rebecca presented with ‘leaky gut’ symptoms. She began being tested for ulcerative colitis (inflammation and ulcers of the lower segment of the large bowel) and Chrohn’s Disease (inflammation of any part of the digestive tract).
Both diseases can be hereditary and Rebecca’s brother also suffered from ulcerative colitis. He had been treated with Sulfasalazine- a medication which alleviates symptoms of the disease rather than curing it.
Watching her brother endure the side effects of Sulfasalazine, and other medications, directed her decision to use natural remedies to treat her own condition.
Side effects of Sulfasalazine can include nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and extreme tiredness.
Rebecca is thankful her condition was diagnosed early, permitting her to change diet dramatically to allow time for her gut to heal. Absorption of nutrients ingested was disrupted and Rebecca lost large amounts of muscle mass and fat.
However, in the time that she did not have the energy to go to her dance course, she became disconnected with her ‘grad group’, her social group AND the whole dream of being a dancer. Six months of healing through food, recovering from exhaustion and building up the ability to complete six hours of dance each day left her quite disaffiliated.
Rebecca confesses she ‘fell in a hole’ at this point.
“What do I do now?” was a question she asked herself, having only ever wanting to be a dancer. It was all she knew.
After some soul searching, she remembered hearing of an ex-professional contemporary dancer studying the Pilates Method in the U.S. A teacher who had been associated with the Australian Dance Theatre and had also talked about ‘all the beautiful things Pilates has to offer’ both to dancers and from an income perspective.
Deciding to take this avenue, Rebecca completed Certificate IV in Pilates Therapy Instruction and also complimented these studies with her own personal passion of yoga. She has studied Hatha, Ashtanga and Vinyasa flow.
She rekindled her love for the human body and what it could do and appreciated the challenge of perfecting her form every time she hit the mat.
Her Pilates student instructor hours were completed at Shamata Pilates https://www.shamatapilates.com.au under the expert supervision of Melanie Colwell. Straight from here, Rebecca began teaching both Pilates and yoga as well as managing the studio while Melanie took maternity leave.
Rebecca believes the recent rise in popularity of Pilates and yoga can be largely associated with social media and celebrity influence. Most clients come to her knowing the physical benefits of the practices but inevitably learning so much about the body, mind and spirit connection.
Realising she can help ‘add a whole other layer’ to a client’s experience is such a fulfilling thought for Rebecca- knowing she can increase focus and body awareness for those in her classes.
Rebecca said that one of the things that keeps her passionate about teaching is when a client says ‘you changed my life’. Knowing that she has improved someone’s posture, mindset and body appreciation is something she cherishes.
I asked Rebecca what the benefits of practising yoga were.
She said each individual will experience something different and unique to them. However the main physical benefits are improved strength and increased muscle endurance resulting from sustained contraction, as well as flexibility and mobility. Coordination improves and balance ‘goes through the roof due to increased use of the pelvic floor muscles.’
And the benefits of Pilates?
Specifically transverse abdominal activation is the biggest lesson here. This large muscle contracts the abdominal organs and also supports the bones of the lower spine. Pilates works the body from the inside out and strengthens the deep stabilising core muscles.
Rebecca explains that ‘Pilates is like learning a new language. I don’t expect you to pick it up in one lesson. I will give you all the tools and information and if you take away what you can, we can build from there’. She says research shows that two to three sessions of Pilates a week is optimal to reap the benefits.
She said ‘it doesn’t matter what your body looks like. As long as it’s functional and strong enough for what you’re doing.’
A common and frustrating myth associated with Pilates is that it is predominantly for women and their pelvic floor.
To this Rebecca says Pilates was designed by a male Joseph Pilates and it is important for everyone. She has also noticed a significant increase in the practice of Pilates by men. Many men are being encouraged to start Pilates to compliment their running or sports or as a rehab process. Along with this, she notes a big increase in the popularity of anything fitness and health related.
Recent studies and research reveal the ever increasing need for mindfulness and self awareness. Both yoga and Pilates support this as they take us away from technology and stresses of our busy lives. Rebecca makes sure to offer five minutes at the end of each class for ‘mindful focus’ and to ‘step inward’- something we never ‘get around to’ in our day to day.
Rebecca admits to being a highly spiritual person and practices her own yoga and meditation twice a week. Her spirituality has always been fostered by her mum and particularly by her grandma who is a Reiki healer.
Incense, essential oils, sound and colour therapy are integral parts of Rebecca’s life and she looks forward to one day providing ‘another layer’ to clients with Reiki massage next on the agenda.
Shamata Pilates studio provides a serene, professional and accommodating atmosphere for people to step into themselves, take time out and focus on their own feelings and body for the duration of a class. Where many studios now opt for minimalistic decor, Shamata provides large murals of nature, essential scents, salt lamps and calming music.
When I asked Rebecca why she loves teaching she said it just makes her feel fantastic to be in a space with such great energy where her clients feel nourished and cared for.
She’s clearly passionate about providing a space for people to learn and look after themselves in. She enjoys what she does and I think these days, that’s such a big bonus for both the teacher and the client/consumer. Her energy is contagious and her skill level is something to aspire to.
Rebecca values her clients and the energy evident within the Shamata practice. She is passionate about helping and seeing improvement along the way.
She believes in always learning and progressing one’s ability. She looks forward to investing time in dance once again, and continuing with her yoga and Pilates practice- changing the lives of those around her.
If you need to take time out (which I’m guessing you do), improve how you feel and nourish your body and its energy, I urge you to get in touch with Rebecca at Shamata Pilates https://www.shamatapilates.com.au .
You deserve it.