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Judith Houwaard Of Amavi Movement On How Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing

Uncategorized Mar 01, 2023

An Interview With Maria Angelova

… Overall better life quality. Body awareness, better posture, strength and mobility by themselves will drastically improve your life quality already. But pilates has many more benefits that are noteworthy. Better digestion, relaxation, better balance, improved sleep quality and sex drive are a few of a very long list of benefits.

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 Judith Houwaard.

Judith Houwaard is an ex globetrotter turned movement specialist.This Flight attendant turned pilates instructor left her jetsetting career to help people find their joy for movement back; and so far she is succeeding. Over the last 5 years, Judith has helped numerous clients with her passion turned profession.

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’?

Hi, I am a Judith. I was born in the Netherlands and at 10 emigrated with my family to Costa Rica. I joke around that I am a Dutch Latina; serious and punctual whilst being caring and supportive. At 19, I became a flight attendant for Taca/Avianca and later expanded my horizon even more; flying for several year for Emirates Airline, where I was based in Dubai. I loved flying and did it for almost 9 years but left my Cabin supervisor role to become a pilates instructor.

Many people ask me why and the answer is easy; The world needs more pilates! At 25, after several years of flying and having bad knee and hip pain. Pilates gave me my answer.

When I was just 18 years old the meniscus in my right knee was removed and I did my usual physiotherapy, but had no idea how this would affect me long term. Well, let me tell you that: high heels, turbulence and unstable surfaces didn’t do any good. Which had me going to the Physiotherapist twice a week to be able to function. He suggested pilates which I had tried mat pilates in the past but I wanted to give it another shot. I signed up for a reformer session and it was love at first sight. After only 10 sessions I felt so much stronger and in control, that soon, I didn’t need my Physio appointment any more. I practiced for several years until in 2017 I decided to quit stewardessing and become a pilates instructor. I flew to Toronto, where I did my full comprehensive training with STOTT pilates. Whilst apprenticing it became very clear to me how much I enjoyed seeing my clients get stronger. Soon I was known in the studio to work well with clients who experienced pain or were recovering from injuries. Since then I have been working with all kinds of people, from athletes to seniors, teen ballerinas and everything in between.

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

One story that I will always remember is that of a client who had MS (multiple sclerosis), she had no sensation on the whole left side of her body, especially her left leg and foot. Seeing the improvement in her sessions was flabbergasting. For these people its sometimes really hard to train the affected sides or limbs that have lack of sensation. I really went out of my way to give her the best workout possible and stimulate the affected area in many different ways. Patience is required for both, the instructor and the client; but the pay off is so good. From not being able to do a single hip bridge or squat to doing several in a row with no pain is a big win. This is not only rewarding for the client but for me as an instructor aswell.

Another more funny story is from when I taught at a senior home, here I would teach a group of ladies and sometimes gentlemen in age ranging from 80 to 97. I was always very proud when I made these people feel strong and capable, which is so important to them as they want to keep on living to the fullest of their capabilities. But as you might know, pilates can be core intense and definitely helps in digestion. So sometimes the smell at the beginning of class was a very different one from the end. LOL A big takeaway here is that before your move, be like royalty and sit on your throne.

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: Really putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and imagining why they want a certain movement back to reach a goal. I work a lot with injury recovery and see how this affects people in their daily life. Its not just lower back pain, its the inability to play with your young kid and that is painful on a whole other level.

Playfulness; You want to find joy in whatever movement form your choose. Playfulness is undervalued in adults, everything is so serious for grownups. I want to bring more joy of movement in people’s life. Kids are the best example of how playfulness brings happiness. If you are playing you can’t be upset, at least not for long.

Perseverance: I have a quote from one of my clients (AK) “Perseverance pays off yet again” and I love it. Its the little bits you put in daily that make a difference. If you want to run a marathon, your chances of succeeding and finishing the marathon are bigger if you train with consistency for it then if you don’t. Small daily habits where you keep trying to reach your chosen goal is the key to success. Failing is allowed, trying again is a must.

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

Yes, I am starting a new group series called FALLtastic. This is a series of 10 movement sessions that will focus on our lower body and our foot/ankle/knee/ hip stability and mobility. It will launch this fall hence the name, and we will work a lot on balance, fall prevention and strengthening from the ground up.

Also I am developing an new movement coaching program, were I supervise and give tips on peoples exercise routine and movement form.

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 have been practicing pilates for 10+ years and teaching it for 5. I rolled into the method due to my injury and have seen and felt how much aid and strength this form of movement has provided me. Now, I am a hardcore fan!

Having practiced this method for so long myself and taught it to others makes me really appreciate its power and benefits. I will alway encourage any form of movement, but no matter what lifestyle you lead, everyone would benefit from adding pilates to your routine.

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

Pilates or Contrology is a form of exercise invented by Joseph Pilates, in the early 20th century, with the purpose of strengthening, coordinating and balancing the mind, body and spirit.

This method uses low-impact mind/body exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles. It is possible to perform on just a mat, but also on specialized pilates equipment.

Contrology’s core values are: centering, control, breath, flow, concentration, and precision. All these elements are explored in every good pilates class.

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

I went to the gym for years, danced, swam, did yoga and many more things. What makes pilates different for me is that it marries the mind and the body. You really have to be aware of your movement and get into your body, it is not a movement form you can do absentmindedly. Concentration is needed to connect to your whole muscular system. It is not just an arm, leg or back workout. You are working your whole body all the time. No muscle is left behind! Plus the self-awareness it requires is amazing, this really prevents you from injuring yourself. Pilates can be a moving meditation or a super sweaty workout, but no matter what it’s always challenging.

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

I am stronger than ever before. I have no fear of (re) injury or pain cause I really know and trust my body now. That is why I practice pilates regularly … to do life better! It is the oil that keeps everything smooth and functioning well. I love to dance Salsa and Bachata, before,, the turns would give me pain in my (knee) joint but now I know which muscles to activate so that I can spin like a ballerina without any discomfort.

Also a couple of years ago; I fractured my tailbone and then gave birth to my baby girl. As you can imagine that is not a great combo for your pelvic floor; In my case, it led me to not being able to sit without pain. Pilates was one of the key ingredients to fix that.

Who do you think can most benefit from Pilates?

Everyone! There is not a person who doesn’t get benefits from pilates. Personally, I focus on (p)re-had and injuries recovery + pain management. But pilates is for everyone; Athletes use it to enhance their game and prevent injuries. Seniors can benefit from better strength and mobility and fall prevention. Moms love to use it pre- and post-partum since pilates is low impact, fun and very accesible.

Pilates is something you can enjoy and train at any stage of life. I have worked with many teens to enhance their self awareness, posture and body confidence, but also seniors for balance and strentgh. Every age group and every body type is welcome and can take advantage of the benefits pilates offers. Just find a style and an instructor that challenges you and brings you joy!

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

Private pilates sessions can definitely be expensive, even group fitness sessions on equipment can be pricy. But that is not without reason. The value these sessions provide is worth the price.

In a 1 on 1 setting the instructor will tailor the workout to your body’s needs and goals; it’s the same as a workout with a personal trainer. I would prefer you do a pilates session since the mind-body aspect will teach you a lot about your body and its needs. You are not just doing reps of a movement mindlessly. Quality over quantity at all times in pilates.

But don’t be discouraged if you cannot afford a private session, Regularly attending a group session is amazing too and you still get all the benefits. Doing sessions in person or virtually with an instructor will give you direct feedback on what to focus on or maybe adjust. If that is not an option there are great platforms online that provide hunderds of classes with a subscription for the price of a single group class. Ex.: pilatesanytime, pilatesology, and many instructors have their own platforms too if you have someone you like practicing with.

Price is really not a factor with modern days technology, just search for any video on Youtube. For example; Cassey Ho is a very famous pilates instructor who posted free clips on this platform and by doing so made pilates accessible to everyone, her fanbase is over 7 million people. So there are no excuses really.

In regards to equipment you just need a mat, props are a bonus. I would start with a squishy ball and some elastic bands. Other things can be added but are totally not necessary. You don’t have weight, no problem just use a can of beans or a bottle of water. Books can function as a yoga block. If your instructor is using a piece of equipment you don’t have, just ask them what you could use. In Pilates we can offer many variations and modifications, this can be applied equally to the props you use.

Finally, many studios and instructors are aware that pilates is pricy, so they offer scholarships, sliding scale pricing and sometimes even community classes. I would do a little research in your area, maybe reach out to a studio, I bet they can help or redirect you. One thing all pilates instructors have in common is that we want more people practicing the method.

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

Pilates benefits are:

  • Body awareness. Pilates enhances your proprioception in every single move. With Contrology you learn how to flow from one exercise into the other using precision, control and breath. You will learn to be aware of what every part of your body is doing and where it is positioned in space. In a world where knowledge is power, self-awareness gets you to your desired outcome way faster.

My client Mark practiced sports all his life. Fencing, boxing, crossfit you name it. He is always active and moving. But several injuries and pains kept him stuck in a training plateau. He emailed me if Pilates was something he could do with his knee injury, I told him my story and how it helped me with my knee, so he decided to give it a try. After 1 session he fell in love with the method Pilatesi it challenged him in a way no other sport had ever done. He gained body awareness through the corrections I provided and now he is so aware that he corrects himself most of the time. His discomforts are gone and he can lift heavy weights without any pain. His self-awareness skyrocketed and with this new knowledge and trust in his own body, he can practice any discipline and feel confident that nothing will hurt and his form will be perfect.

  • Better posture: Pilates helps you stand up taller and distribute the load off the body better between muscles and bones. Aligning the skeleton by strengthening and appropriately using your muscles. This saves your joints from being over or misused. But also ensures that the whole body functions better, not blocking any nervous tissue and allowing better circulation of blood and lymphs.

My client Nick was 17 and 6’2” when I started seeing him, and he was all hunched over with severe back pain. Slouching is something that can happen in your older years, but we don’t want to form this habit in our teens. Especially not since you are still in a growing body. Nick doesn’t necessarily need to stand taller since he is 6’2”, but his slouched posture was causing him discomforts no 17-year-old should have. We went over his daily routine and did an analysis of his movement pattern and muscle strength. With that in mind, I created a program for our weekly workouts and provided homework and constructive feedback that helped him gain better posture and avoid all the unnecessary discomforts that come from that.

  • Strength. Pilates uses both a combination of body weight and resistance training which challenge our muscles and help build strength. Feeling strong and capable is such a confidence boost. Knowing you can rely on your own body strength is something we take for granted until we lose the strength or capacity to do something. Working with many different type of people really made me understand how important it is to feel strong and keep your strength into older age. My senior class loved it when I challenged them, they would specifically request exercises that would assist them in doing a certain activity.

I remember feeling so useless after a mayor injury that left me weak and not able to move. Strength and mobility are like water and oxygen. We need to have it daily, or in this case exercise them daily.

  • Mobility/ flexibility; Mobility is your capacity to move with ease and control. Something we practice in many pilates exercises. Moving smoothly is essential in our daily activities, we don’t want to overthink the unnecessary stuff, plus we want to age as gracefully as possible. For that, you must be mobile.

A.K suffered for many years of terrible lower back pain, so bad that medical intervention was almost deemed necessary. When we started he was only 40 old but moving like he was 70+. Being a young father he wanted to be able to keep up with his kids and get back to his golfing game, something he hadn’t done for years without immense pain. In our twice-weekly practice, we discovered that his lower back pain was the unfortunate result of hip immobility and upper body stiffness. By increasing motion in the joints and muscles above and below the lower back, the discomfort subsided. Even better A.K is back to his golfing practice which he loves and feels capable and strong. Now he moves daily with his pilates routine to ensure he stays mobile and feels young.

  • Overall better life quality. Body awareness, better posture, strength and mobility by themselves will drastically improve your life quality already. But pilates has many more benefits that are noteworthy. Better digestion, relaxation, better balance, improved sleep quality and sex drive are a few of a very long list of benefits.

The best example I can give is that of Gigi. Gigi is in her mid 30’s and had a laundry list of ailments. Disc herniation in both her lower back and cervical spine, thyroid disease, knee injury you name it. With all these conditions it was hard for her to gain strength, lose weight and regain back her desired life quality. She couldn’t do regular workouts since this would only aggravate her pain. Doctors informed her that she had to work on her condition in order to qualify for a medical procedure for her back. Gigi swam on the regular to keep her body mobile but it wasn’t until she found pilates that she became stronger and started feeling shifts in her body. We started slow, 30 minutes a week at a really easy pace with lots of modifications. I would give her homework that she could do by herself, and actually did. In a really short time, just a few months, Gigi was feeling stronger, more mobile and was able to sleep better at night since her body didn’t pain her anymore. She lost some weight and felt confident and capable which only encouraged her to keep her pilates practice up. Now a year later, she started to do things she hadn’t done in ages; volunteering in the neighbourhood to clean up a local river, painting the fence, taking all small hikes. All this stuff used to be really hard or even impossible for her. Now she might be winded and a bit sore after an activity, but there is no pain. Better yet, she feels enabled and uplifted that she is capable of doing these things. There is no fear of pain and she won’t have to miss out on things she enjoys because of her body. Her quality of life has taken a drastic change all due to a 30 minute pilates session a week.

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?

It is one of the principle values and a big reason why pilates is so efficient. Being dutch and a perfectionist makes me stress this a lot. I frequently tell my clients not to “half-ass” a movement, if you are gonna do it put your whole booty into it. Do it well or don’t do it at all, my mom used to say. For me, it is just that I don’t want wasted energy.

Most people’s job’s and lives nowadays don’t allow for frequent and varied movement. So whatever it is that you choose to do, you want to give it your all.

Pilates takes that up a nudge, it is a requirement! If you are doing “easy pilates” you are not doing pilates. A move can go smoothly, but there is a lot of effort behind it. In all Pilates exercises, there are many things to consider; body position, breath, the direction of movement etc. If you want to squeeze all the juice out of your “pilates” lemons you have to be precise. Only this way you get all the benefits. -No muscle left behind-, should be a pilates motto. The attention to detail is what gives pilates a large list of payoffs

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. :-)

I would start teaching kids at a young age about pilates. Setting them up with knowledge about their own bodies and how to care for it. I have worked with several teens and creating good habits in this time of your life will set you up for success for the rest of it.

Knowing what the body can do, how strong and resilient it is, and learning what are the best ways for you to facilitate healthy aging, nurturing your mental and physical wellbeing is an unevaluable treasure.

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

I am active on social media under the handle @amavi.movement (IG & FB) and on linked in as Judith Houwaard.

You can also subscribe to my newsletter — — — — -

Visit my site: www.amavimovement.com (under construction dont publish yet).

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 [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.

Source : https://medium.com/authority-magazine/judith-houwaard-of-amavi-movement-on-how-pilates-can-improve-your-health-and-wellbeing-f3c76f08d4ac


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