Instructor Spotlight – Jennifer Rashidi
In many ways I feel like my life has been leading me towards being a Pilates instructor. My most passionate interests always revolved around the human form, how we move and how our bodies work. I started taking ballet when I was four years old and loved the way I felt and could express myself through dance. I continued learning all forms of dance through high school. I eventually decided I wanted a career as a dancer and came to California to pursue it at University. I was going to be the next Paula Abdul!
Life takes interesting turns, however, and after a few years of my education I discovered another passion, archaeology. I found the human past fascinating; I was intrigued by the fact that we could discover the people of the past through their remains, their skeletons and their mummies. In retrospect I realize I had always been interested in the relics of once-living creatures. When hiking as a child I would find the bones of animals and would want to learn about them and their lives. Just like those animals, our skeleton is the foundation for our body in terms of support, muscular movement and, as it turns out, our life history. It is also the only part of us which typically is left once we pass. Our activity patterns, health, disease and culture can be evidenced from these remains because in life our skeleton is a dynamic responder to what we do. If we exercise and use our muscles our bones grow stronger and when we do not the bones weaken and atrophy. Physical activity helps preserve the foundation of our lives and movement. All of this fascinated me and motivated me to learn about human health through time. Archaeology was the way to do it.
I went to graduate school at UCLA to pursue a Ph.D. in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology. I was primarily interested in infectious diseases – which are amongst the leading cause of death and illness worldwide – and how they affect our skeletons. I began to learn that our overall health, activities and nutrition could make us more or less susceptible to many types of illnesses and injuries. I completed my Ph.D. in 2011 from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and began to teach at Santa Monica College and UCLA where I still hold positions as adjunct Professor and Lecturer in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology. I love teaching and found myself eager and excited to help students understand who we are as humans through our understanding of biology, physiology and culture.
But I found that as much as I love studying the past, the people I study are beyond our help. I can understand their health and their illness and injuries, but I wanted a way to help living people through the knowledge that I have, beyond just as an educator. This is where Pilates comes into my life.
Melanie Archer has been one of my dearest friends for the last 14 years. I watched as she grew her business and saw her passion for what she does, and her ability to help people improve their health. However, I had never tried Pilates. I was running, riding horses, and doing acro-yoga. I also found myself getting injured fairly frequently with back pain, a strained shoulder, etc. I wasn’t building strength but was stressing my body though overexertion and poor form. Melanie told me Pilates could help but I didn’t really understand how. She finally got me to try it and after my first beginner session I walked out feeling amazing, taller, more relaxed, and stronger. All this after just one session! I could say the rest is history…but that’s just the beginning.
When Melanie began her teacher training course as a Master Trainer I realized, “I could do this! I could learn how Pilates works and how it can help us be stronger and heal our bodies.” The training course was very rigorous, requiring long hours of class, practice teaching and a foundation in skeletal and muscular anatomy. But as a lover of learning and of school (after all I had been in college for 13 years already!), I was excited. It tied in with my love for dance, form and movement as well as my love for anthropology and human health. As a child, Joseph Pilates studied animals and their movements in order to increase his knowledge of the human form just as my fascination for animals fueled my own quest for knowledge. My most passionate interests have always revolved around these things. I already had a great deal of training in anatomy and found the work to be incredibly rewarding. The circle was complete; I was finally able to apply my knowledge of health and the human body to help living people – including myself.
That’s me: a lover of the human form and structured movement to inform on improving health – at your service! Book a class or private with me today and let me share my passion with you.