I met Peta in 1996… We both were founding members of the NSW Ballet Company, a courageous effort by Fleur Letitia to take ballet to regional NSW with a small troupe performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We felt rather like old- fashioned troubadours arriving in country towns, unloading the trucks and putting on a show. At this time Peta and I also bonded working for Harry and Cherie of Gusto Deli in Bondi. There were worse places in the world to pull coffee and serve exclusive highly-priced sandwiches!
A tiny bit of biography… who is Peta Green?
I’m originally a Brisbane girl and moved to Sydney in 1996. I was a dancer –professionally dancing with Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Opera plus a few other smaller independent companies.
How did you discover Pilates and what method and where did you train?
I first started Pilates as a dance student but it wasn’t until I came to Sydney and studied under Cynthia Lochard that I really became interested in it. I decided to finish my Pilates study in New York at a studio where one of Joseph Pilates’ disciples taught – her name being Romana Kryzanowska. I completed my final exams in New York and continued to teach there for about 12 months at a studio in Soho called Re:Ab. I’ve been teaching in Sydney ever since and now have my own studio at White City Tennis Courts in Paddington.
Did your training and does your teaching change the way you think about the body and other peoples’ bodies and fitness?
Yes, absolutely! From a dancing background Pilates movements were so easy and natural, whereas other people (non-dancers) have all sorts of physical difficulties and restrictions, for example lifting the leg and holding it – many people have tight hamstrings, or tight hips. Most people I see have tension and strain in the lower back. My teaching has brought me a new understanding of other people’s abilities. I see teaching as a partnership between the trainer and client, helping each other to come to more understanding of movement and how to progress with their bodies.
I’ve been teaching since 2001, so 12 years now. Gradually my teaching method has evolved – instead of sticking to the traditional method I like to add a variety of movement drawn from yoga and certain dance ideas, always going with the flow of the person on the day – listening to their energy levels and what they need, rather than rigidly sticking to rules and set methodologies. I am constantly learning and adding to my “repertoire” of movements. Now, my teaching is an amalgamation of the Pilates method with my own movement experience, plus what clients bring me and what new trends have to offer.
The primary lesson I learn from my clients is empathy. People’s situations are different everyday – which affects their mood and so their physicality. With experience, you gradually learn to read people better. Coming from dance it really didn’t matter how you felt on the day, you had to pull it out and just bash through. But as a trainer, I believe you get more out of people if you go with them rather than force them. And there’s the skill of learning to read when to push through and when not. There’s a great deal of psychology involved.
Another thing I have developed/learned through teaching is the skill of leadership. I found it scary at first – the responsibility of it, and taking initiative. My training, and predominantly my years of teaching, have helped me become creative with my practice, using my intuition and really listening to people.
Do you think that peoples’ approach to movement and the body is changing?
I do think people are becoming more self aware. I am noticing more of an interest in fitness in general – and in diverse forms of fitness. I heard today about someone teaching yoga on paddle boards!
In general, people come to me with injuries. Back problems predominantly. That is what I have found – most people have something wrong with their backs, and their lower backs in particular! A lot of women have scoliosis which makes them become more one sided and twists the spine.
People these days seem more open to different ways of dealing with injuries – acupuncture, Pilates and yoga. There are so many different kinds of body work available so people no longer necessarily go to see a physio.
The sad truth about exercise and fitness is that mostly people train to improve their body image – they want to stay skinny, or lose weight or get buff. So they over-exert, over-train and stress their minds and bodies – and then they injure themselves and it comes full circle!
What do you think about current trends in exercise and fitness?
Bikram Yoga is very popular and is all about weight loss – people are not there to follow the yogic path! There are currently so many trends! You can try just about anything. In the end it seems people are really looking for exercise to lose weight whereas I think a better approach is to exercise for your overall health, strength and flexibility. I think it is essential to find a balance in your routine. This aids both mind and body. You feel more satisfied, like having a balanced meal, with a healthy balance of activities. It’s like the Yin and Yang of energy mirrored in exercise.
What is one valuable lesson about body practice and movement you would pass on from your experience?
My most valuable lesson would be appreciate your body and look after it – it’s the only one you’ve got. I had a serious skiing accident. It sometimes takes such horrible events to make you realize these things. You really start to appreciate your health and how fragile the body can be. So don’t abuse it and learn and work to treasure, nurture and nourish it!
What one of the most enjoyable things about your life at the moment?
At the moment I am relishing experiencing different forms of exercise and doing different things with my time and energy. I am constantly challenging myself in new ways and am thoroughly enjoying outdoor activities. Everything in life right now is opening my eyes to different ways of moving my body through a range of experiences.