Interview with Christina Fulcher, Norwich, United Kingdom
Hi Christina, has physical expression always been a part of you life?
Yes, growing up I danced, did gymnastics and acrobatics. I'm six feet tall and I was the same height at 13 years old. I was teased quite a lot at school, so I’ve always been conscious of my body. Later, in my twenties, I studied dance and acting in New York. I didn't set out to be a Pilates teacher. I came to Pilates because of injury when I trained to dance. It offered me the time and the space to work with my body in a way that I couldn’t when I danced. It was magic, and I wanted to share it.
What does Pilates do for you?
you have to relax to feel your body movement
Pilates makes me feel alive. It's is something that my body does well, like dance. Though I’ve been through injuries, you wouldn't know it in the way I'm able to move. In pilates movement, you have to relax to feel your body movement...to be in the flow. It's like acting, where you have to relax to connect with the character.
Is Pilates a mental practice as well?
When someone is not yet “in their body,” they're trying to force it
Pilates connects the brain and the body. It's a mental practice, for sure. It's the ability to feel or be in your body. When I teach Psychologists who are very much in their head, I can see them trying to work things out cognitively: "How long will I need to do this? When will I get to the end point?" When someone is not yet “in their body,” they're trying to force it. They aren't sure how or when to engage their muscles and breathe. It takes practice but when you do get it, it's a high similar to the kind you get after a great performance.
How do you deal with us "not in their body" types?
When you hold balance well, your muscles can functionally do what they’re supposed to do.
There’s a common misconception that if you’re Pilates or a yoga teacher, you don’t have issues with your body. People assume that the ease they see just comes naturally. And that’s not true. I've had points where I’ve been really self conscious. When I danced, I had friends who would practically glide and moved in a way I couldn't. I've had injuries and surgeries on my knees and feet. I used to sky dive, which put a lot of stress on my body. I know we all have hang ups about our bodies, our injuries, our weight or other issues. Sometimes it becomes kind of a safety blanket. But overcoming is a big part of why I'm a good teacher. I spend a lot of time in my classes on weight balance. Balance doesn’t mean you can stand on your toes. When you hold balance well, your muscles can functionally do what they’re supposed to do. If you're self-conscious or trying to shrink yourself, the balance in your body is off.
Being self conscious is a really hard habit to break. What can you do about it?
we all have the ability to breathe and use Pilates to get stronger
My clients are very different. Some are used to gym routines, some are recovering from injuries and all have varying ranges of motion and abilities to perform certain movements when they begin. But we all have the ability to breathe and use Pilates to get stronger. Not long ago I was preparing for a new client coming in to my studio. We had a chat on the phone, but what he didn’t tell me was that he’s on a mobility scooter and there’s no way he can get down on the floor. So we adjusted and worked with his mobility. I think about Pilates as a process. I tell my students, "I’m not going to let you forget where you’ve come from, or how far you've come in working with your breath and body in unison. Pilates is a journey. It takes perseverance.
It sounds much more individualized than the classes I'm used to.
If people feel judged, they’re going to shut down
It's also quite personal because Pilates works at the intersection of mind and body. People often open up to me about things that happen in their lives, which are connected to their physical well being. Approachability and empathy are vital. If people feel judged, they’re going to shut down. Even when I taught in a gym, I would come around to new people and talk about any injuries -- really pay attention. It's about creating a connection with somebody.
You seem to operate in service of others. Is that true?
my work gives me is the opportunity to enable people to fix themselves
I've had some pretty intense work experiences. In New York, I worked as a "problem solving" nanny, often with mothers with post-natal depression. That was an all-consuming job. With Pilates, people don't come to me expecting to be fixed. What my work gives me is the opportunity to enable people to fix themselves. I love telling someone, "You thought you'll never be able to move this, or do that, but look, you're doing it!" I’m passionate about what I do. And if I instill that belief in somebody else, brilliant.
When did you return to the UK?
I was teaching 50 hrs a week
I traveled and taught Pilates privately over the years in New York and LA, then Sydney and London. In 2009 my US visa ended and I returned to Norwich. I had no plans to build a Pilates practice when I came back. I did some private teaching here, and my friends told their friends. One of the first people I taught here, said, "Oh, this is just like the classes I did in NY, it’s so dynamic!" Since then I held classes at gyms and eventually opened my studio. In fact before my son was born, I was teaching 50 hrs a week, which was too much. Now my clientele is strictly word-of-mouth. I don't do any marketing.
Sounds like you've traveled and lived in many places. Has becoming a mum changed that?
To have no schedule and travel with my son is amazing
I love to discover new places. When my son was about 18 months, we went to Japan, Bali and Sri Lanka. People thought I'd lost it. My parents asked me what was he going to get out of it. I just said, “Happy mommy, happy baby.” He is a great little traveler now. My life as a single parent is very scheduled, and I also run a business. To have no schedule and travel with my son is amazing. In fact, we were going to go inter-railing across Europe with my son this summer, but that's off for now because of COVID.
How has COVID affected your business?
I started doing classes online. I’ve always shied away from doing virtual training because I’m so hands-on when I'm working with somebody. But I've learned to see differently. I had 12 people in the class tonight and when I look at what their feet are doing, I know what they’re doing with the rest of their body. It's not the same feedback, but I know what to look for now. There are pros and cons but we adapt and learn different things.
How have you and your son coped since the shutdown?
our goal is to find a balance that works
Our lockdown started on my birthday. The first couple of weeks were tough. I had to completely reorganize my work and clients. And my son, who is 4, couldn't really say, “Right, you do what you need, mum, and I’ll go play in my room.” As a single parent, I realized just how much we need to see and hang out with people. Not to being able to hug my parents, who live close to me, has been very difficult. On the other hand, I consider myself to be very lucky because I've been able to offer virtual classes for my clients. My friends who are self employed don’t have that option. I'm one of 5 siblings who live all over the world, and we now have a WhatsApp night on zoom. I visit my parents and we play in their garden. Look, in a new situation we all lose our balance a little bit, and then we find it again when we adjust to a new normal for a while. In life our goal is to find a balance that works.
I like that we came back to "balance" in our conversation. Now, I'm going to give you 5 questions, which you have to answer very quickly with one or two words. Ready?
What offends you?
What’s one lesson do you feel most qualified to teach another person?
That they can
What makes you cringe?
When you're at your best, you're...
What change are you working on?
It's been lovely chatting with you, Christina. Where can people reach you?
Please visit: christinafulcherpilates.co.uk