The Bodies of Pilates

Rachael Bryce
Rachael Bryce Teaching at Pilates Methodology, Dallas, TX. Andrea LaVasseur

I met Rachael Lieck Bryce several years ago. I had an instant girl crush. She was a true ambassador of the Pilates method, a savvy business woman and funny as hell. On several occasions in our personal time together the issue of body image had come up. Her experiences reminded me that there are so many people that struggle to find a place of acceptance in the fitness world. I decided to share and highlight their stories for my readers. Here is Rachael's story in her own words.

What does it mean to have curves in the Pilates industry?

I have been judged most of my life for something so personal and completely my own, my curves. This is both a painful subject and an enlightened one for me. I have worked for the past 15 years in an industry that places huge value on the “perfect” body. Look at any Pilates or fitness magazine, posted articles, websites, (guilty as charged even my own website), and you will find slender, fit bodies. It’s even called the Pilates body. Personally, the Victoria’s Secret model is not what I idealize. In fact, ask me who is the most beautiful woman of all time and my answer is always Marilyn Monroe, hands down. So then, why would I judge myself so harshly and not love my own curves?​

This part of my life all formed, literally, right around puberty. I was your run of the mill average kid, loved to ride horses and run around in the country with my friends.

Then one day my bust started increasing, my hips expanded, and then the butt… oh the butt. I’m certain many songs have been written about me and my kind of woman. I will never forget the first time I was made aware that something so personal to me, my body, was of interest to someone else.

One painful analyzing of my physique came when I heard my mom and my aunt screaming at each other about my body.

My mom was a beautiful, slender, tall ballerina. My aunt had curves like me, beautiful ones at that. The heated conversation started because of one comment from an adult male. He expressed at a recent camp out we had taken that if I kept eating like I was, I would look like a football player. I was so embarrassed. We had spent all day swimming and running around like wild animals, but it was not ok. I will never forget sitting outside that night wondering why my body was so important to someone who didn’t live in it? My body was my own, shouldn’t it be my concern? Funny thought for a 12 years old. As an adult, I understand my aunt’s worries were not actually about me. Curves had not been allowed for her either by social standards.

Because of my mom, I grew up around dance, and I loved to move! At 15, I tried out for the dance team, but I didn’t make it. My mom, always my biggest fan, assured me I did a great job and expressed that there was no reason she could see that kept me from making the dance team.

I was a beautiful dancer, she said. But I knew I didn’t fit in, my curves had played a role. I remember sobbing over the disappointment and wondering if that could really be the reason. I went on to dance once I got free of high school. In college, I found a teacher who embraced who I was fully and completely. I am forever grateful to her, she helped change the course of my life. She helped me learn that I should love myself for who I am, inside and out, and that I should learn to use my strength, not hide it. It was a funny thing, having curves and being drawn to a community that did not embrace them.

I found Pilates at 21. It was a profession I learned could be just as hard. Maybe I liked the challenge deep down. Maybe I enjoyed challenging the status quo. Most of all, I think I felt like I had to use my voice and show people you could have curves and still be strong and graceful. I wanted to show other women that they should do what they love no matter their dress size. Certainly no matter what box society was trying to put them in.​

There have been times when I’ve experienced harsh judgment from people in the Pilates community. Like with any large group, there are people who accept you for who you are and people who don’t. I continue to learn different levels of acceptance and to understand that most people's hang ups have little to do with me personally. I’ve been told I didn’t fit the mold, I didn’t fit in the right box. I’ve been told that I should put my body on display to show that I could actually do Pilates because some people look at me and don’t see a body they believe in.

But I have to say that I’ve experienced a lot more people who accept me and my curves for who I am. At the first studio I worked at, I was given the impression that I didn’t fit in because of the way I looked. But my first Pilates teacher, was impressed with my hip bones, she enjoyed using them as a teaching tool for dense bones! She always treated me like I belonged. Over my last 15 years in Pilates studios, I’ve found a lot more people like her, supportive and positive. Every one of us is working with what we’ve got, and we should be proud of ourselves.​

I know it can be intimidating to go into a Pilates studio when you have curves. That’s why I want to empower new students who come into my studio that are worried their bodies will be scrutinized and that they will be judged because they don’t fit the mold of the  “Pilates” body.

I look over and say “do you see these curves? You should see me move!” Physical strength comes from the inside and from finding your voice. Your body just has the privilege of putting it on display.

Pilates taught me what I was truly made of inside and out. Maybe even more, what I was capable of in life physically, mentally, and emotionally. We often talk about the method as the trilogy body, mind, spirit, I couldn’t agree more. In my young adult life, I finally decided after years of ridicule I liked what I was made of and was grateful for all that my body could do. I even embraced and began to love my body I had been so lucky to be born in. I slowly became grateful even.

Having my curves has not always been easy, but the beautiful thing about the Pilates method is that it truly is for every body. The method has no harsh judgments, only love for fine tuning your instrument. You can have curves in this community and still thrive! I love who I am. I love that I have curves. I love that I have a round bum. Most importantly, I love what my body can do for me every day.

Thank you curves, I love you.

-Rachael Lieck Bryce

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