As a visual artist, Michelle St-Denis has a way of seeing and expressing her environment through texture, lines, movement and color, observations that have crossed over into her study of physical movement as a student of the STOTT PILATES® method.
“Learning how the body works and seeing it in all its forms of expression, it’s beautiful, it’s like art,” Michelle says.
Michelle is Algonquin from the Kebaowek First Nation in northern Quebec, Canada. As a former coordinator at a health and wellness center there, she used to lead painting workshops for women, helping them discover the therapeutic benefits of putting paint on canvas.
There are some parallels between that work and what she’s doing now as a STOTT PILATES apprentice, where she helps clients connect to their bodies and find release.
She’s now completed her STOTT PILATES training for Matwork and Reformer; Cadillac, Chair and Barrels; Advanced Matwork and Reformer; and ISP.
“When I enrolled in the program, it was more to satisfy my curiosity. I wanted to learn about the body and movement. I didn’t realize that it would open up so many opportunities afterwards. I love that I have these transferable skills that I can take wherever I go,” she says.
Like her work at the wellness center and running her own childcare facility, much of what she finds fulfilling about teaching Pilates is connecting with clients.
“I like being helpful. This is totally different than my previous jobs, but this is rewarding too in different ways. I didn’t realize how meaningful my work as a Pilates instructor would be.”
There was one day a client came in who was very stressed out. Michelle worked with her on some simple breathing techniques and gentle movements.
“I remember it was very relieving for her. The physical connection made her feel a lot better when she was done the session,” Michelle says.
“That’s what I like about Pilates— it’s physical, but it’s cognitive too. You feel refreshed; you feel like your mind is sharp when you’re done. The repertoire can be applied to so many different body types, and can be adjusted for intensity, so it can reach those who have injuries or don’t exercise regularly.”
Making the journey to Toronto
Michelle first discovered Pilates through a gym owner friend who taught Pilates and fitness fusion at her workplace at lunchtime.
After working out with this friend for some time and trying out many different forms of fitness, Michelle started thinking about becoming a Pilates instructor herself. The friend encouraged it, telling her she’d have a job waiting if she decided to return home.
“She knew about the Merrithew™ training and she said it would be the top program to choose from for mind-body training. I looked into it and I liked that the program was so extensive and I could choose from the Comprehensive or Intensive options. I was drawn to the fact that the exercises are based on an intelligent, methodic, researched-backed approach,” she says.
Michelle took a leave of absence from work and traveled to the Toronto Corporate Training Center.
The STOTT PILATES training proved more challenging than Michelle anticipated, but the Merrithew Instructor Trainers helped her transition from working professional to student.
“The instructors were so welcoming and encouraging. They were always available to help,” she says.
Michelle’s fellow students, who came from diverse ethnic backgrounds and walks of life, were equally as supportive. “There were two women over 50, two women in their mid-30s, and another student in her early 20s. We became really close, so that was nice. It was such a good group of girls to be connected and close with.”
Michelle is now taking time to practice, teach, observe and study for the exam, which she plans to take in early October.
“Going through the program was a personal journey for me. …Now I feel like I can do things that I didn’t think I could before and I’m more confident,” she says.
While she still hasn’t decided what she’ll do after she’s done, she knows she wants to make a career out of her Pilates training. And maybe one day she’ll bring STOTT PILATES to Kebaowek First Nation to introduce people there to the therapeutic benefits of mindful movement too.
Find out how you can launch your career in mindful movement.