It all started when I moved to the U.S. – the other side of the world – from my home in Turkey to get my master’s degree. Starting life from scratch was daunting, challenging, and most of all, lonely. I missed my family and was left to navigate the city of San Francisco by myself. Diving into an entirely new lifestyle (and country) caused my anxiety to skyrocket. As a distraction, I turned to fitness.
Slicked-back ponytails, sweat-drenched athleticwear, and an unhealthy addiction to the treadmill came to define my perception of a “real workout.” My bootcamp classes and high intensity workouts were replete with burpees; enough to leave me gasping for air with my limbs sprawled lifelessly across the floor like a rag doll. I despised every second of it.
After slaving away at the gym, I’d spend the remainder of the day crippled with anxiety. What if I was munching on foods that were cancelling out all my hard work? Too tired to cook and lacking the motivation to hang with friends, I’d waste hours stalking “fitspiration” accounts on social media.
This was self-sabotaging at its finest. Seeing endless #Fitspo images of perfectly proportioned, extremely fit women spreading messages like, “train like a beast, look like a beauty” left me feeling deflated rather than motivated. Body image consumed my entire life. And mentally, it became detrimental to my well being.
Every facet of my life felt arduous. I was unhappy with my body. Discouraged about my weight. Scarfing down kale and cringing with every bite. I lacked a support system, with no circle of close friends I could turn to. My job was a nightmare, and I grew to hate exercising.
It was simply depressing. Talk about being a hot mess...
Discovering a BETTER Way: Pilates Class
During a family vacation in the summer of 2016, I made a decision: I was done living in this bleak, dark reality I created for myself. What my heart truly desired was a life filled with joy, health, and happiness - both inside and out. I began tuning out all the noise. I stopped listening to others and giving them the power to control what I did or didn’t do with my body. I built a new relationship with the “unfollow” button on Instagram, removing accounts that filled my brain with unrealistic and unhealthy ideals of female fitness, body image, and dieting.
Soon after, I stumbled upon Pilates after my physician recommended the exercise as a way to strengthen my core, improve my posture, and alleviate the back pain I was experiencing.
My reaction? Why not give it a try.
I opened my laptop and started researching Pilates exercises online. With a little digging, I discovered some articles and videos detailing exercises I could easily perform in my dorm room.
During the first couple of sessions, I learned basic postural exercises, which served to increase my body awareness whenever I was slouching or not sitting properly. This immediately reduced my back pain, especially in the area around my shoulders. From there, I continued educating myself and practicing pilates on a regular basis.
Over the course of a few weeks, Pilates helped me strengthen the core muscles in my abs and back, dramatically improve my posture, and eradicate the back pain that constantly interrupted my life. Even my mom was amazed at how quickly I saw results! I also began experiencing a massive boost in my overall happiness – my mind was in a healthier, calmer, more joyful place. I had a new inner-strength I’d never felt before. I was absolutely hooked!
Here’s a look at all the benefits I’ve enjoyed from incorporating Pilates into my everyday life.
1. PILATES FUELED MY MOTIVATION
Pilates became a consistent part of my everyday wellness routine because I loved how I felt during and after each session. Instead of a hot, sweaty mess, I felt like a zen goddess – calm, strong, and healthy. These positive emotions and sensations were what drove my motivation to exercise. When you become passionate about something, it’s easy to incorporate it into your self-care regimen on a consistent basis. And you know what consistency means –– I got results!
Yes, it was that simple. If you’re someone who struggles to find the motivation to maintain a consistent exercise routine, it’s probably because you haven’t discovered the right one yet. Always stop and ask yourself: “Do I really like what I’m doing?” and “Why am I doing it?”
2. PILATES SHIFTED MY MINDSET AROUND FITNESS AND BODY IMAGE
For the first time in my life, exercise felt like I was giving my body and mind the self-love (not self-punishment) they deserve. My focus shifted from losing weight and looking skinny to feeling GREAT inside. It was no longer about having a “bikini body,” six-pack abs, or counting every single calorie. Instead, it was all about my mood and a holistic approach to my overall health. Flipping this mental switch taught me to be kind to my body and work with it, not against it. And looking better on the outside became a natural result of these efforts.
3. PILATES TRANSFORMED MY BODY
Sure, Pilates has a wide spectrum of benefits, but how can it change your body? Pilates uses full-body exercises designed to build a strong core and create a long, lean look. Within a few months of consistent practicing, my body had undergone a complete transformation. Even everyone around me noticed the change (which I can’t lie, felt really good). I stood up taller. I was leaner. My body became more sculpted.
My family and I always assumed I was naturally chubby and “big-boned” and there was nothing I could do but accept that reality. But, there I was, completely revamped into a happier, healthier individual. I wasn’t just in the best shape of my life, I was in such a positive place mentally as well. It was surreal, beautiful, and magical.
4. PILATES HELPED ME CREATE MY DREAM CAREER
After experiencing such a transformation, I became naturally curious about the science and methodology behind pilates. I wanted to know WHY it produced such incredible results - both physically and mentally. I decided to deepen my knowledge of Pilates so I could practice it safely and effectively on my own.
I enrolled in a comprehensive Pilates teacher training program. Over the course of my training, I realized that health and wellness were where my true passion lies. After months of contemplation, I took a HUGE leap of faith, quit my job, and began teaching Pilates. It was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself.
If you’re interested in becoming a Pilates instructor, check out some of my tips here. You can also learn more about how I changed my career here.
5. PILATES IS A LIFESTYLE
Pilates is more than just an exercise method. It’s a way of living. It’s about breathing efficiently, standing taller, loving every inch of your body, and navigating life with purpose and grace. I finally have a healthy lifestyle and self-care routine that I can stick to (and look forward to). Taking a mindful approach to movement has given me a renewed sense of hope - especially in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with diet culture, fitness obsession, and what constitutes as an “ideal” body.
I realized how much I truly love low impact, controlled, and mindful movements that work the entire body and promote holistic health. The exercise has completely changed my body, my life, and my relationship to exercise. Since I’ve begun, I’ve become stronger, more flexible, improved my posture, naturally reduced my stress and anxiety, built a long, lean body, and most importantly, I feel fantastic!
We always have a choice. It’s just easy to forget that sometimes. We can choose gentle, mindful exercises over debilitating workouts that promote six packs, starvation, and scoring the perfect “bikini body.”
The biggest lesson I’ve learned on my journey thus far is this: find what inspires you to move and define your “why.” Do you workout to punish yourself? How do you feel before or during your workouts? Are you moving because you love yourself and want to create your best body or because you hate the skin you’re in?
It’s not always easy, but dig deep and be honest with yourself. I truly encourage you to give Pilates a try and watch as it transforms you from the inside out.