Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
I live in the beautiful bay of La Paz BCS, Mexico. I love body movement and corporal expressions. I’m a contemporary dance performer by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (one of the most important art schools in México).
I’m a classic ballet teacher by The Royal Academy of Dance in London England, a certified Pilates Instructor by The Body Balanced Institute (in Sacramento Califormia) and Yoga teacher by the Asociación Internacional de Yoga Yoguismo (AIYY), México, and I have my own Pilates Studio.
How did you get introduced to ballet and when did ballet get serious?
When I was three years old my mother took me to a ballet class. I took off my shoes and since that moment they were never able to get me out of that life. The possibility of being able to enjoy myself with only my body as a tool and to experiment within the world around me fascinated me.
By the time I finished studying as a dance performer, there were very few Pilates places in Mexico. I was introduced to Pilates through Dance magazine, and immediately felt drawn to the idea of improving the quality of movement by helping people to simply walk or dance and making their life better. My first Pilates lessons were a gift from my parents for graduating from Bellas Artes.
I have always taken my preparation seriously, it´s been my life. The possibility of having an alternative, besides being a dancer, was very appealing. It became a profession for me when I came back to live in La Paz, where nobody knew about Pilates.
I started teaching at gyms and cultural institutions, developing my own style and techniques and then I reached the point when I needed my own studio. Now Mariana Varela Pilates Studio is a place where dance, yoga and pilates philosophies and techniques combine joining in harmony body and mind.
Can you share your biggest challenges ?
I think it´s been a challenge being faithful to my philosophy and teaching methods while being always updating (even though is one of the most interesting and fun parts). Being a woman, start young in a city were Pilates wasn´t so popular. Being a business woman, a performer and instructor, always following my own path and keeping in mind to help people. I try to never forget that what I do is what I love.
How do you handle pressure and where do you find your motivation?
I face a lot if pressure. Fulfill mine and others expectations when I´m in front of my business, teaching or performing. The pressure of being what you represent: good shape, young and always fresh and ready to keep dancing. Being able to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
I handle this through dance, dance, dance! Yoga, meditation and living near the ocean helps a lot too, I try to be in touch with it as much as I can.
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to ballet, of course)?
I danced in a recital for closing season in a ballet institute. It was the middle of the show, all dressed in red tutu and red ballet shoes, all the dancers were in line and me at the beginning, when it was time to shine I don´t know what happen, I got close proscenium and my feet tangle like a model in a catwalk and felt right into proscenium. I stood up, got out, sat down and took a breath. My dancer partners and my teacher finished the choreography, nobody said anything and I just went back to dance the next scene. I overcame that moment but it really marked me, I still feel a hole in my stomach when I have to dance with ballet shoes.
How did ballet influence your life in other ways?
It has influenced me to have a healthy lifestyle and to open a spiritual path. Now I can enjoy the little things in life that sometimes are taken for granted and to be moved and amazed by them. I can feel the satisfaction from helping people, the power of being able to get past failures and stage fear through hard self-knowledge work and reflection.
What does your typical day look like?
My day starts at 6:30 and I start by doing yoga practice, from 8 am to 12 pm I teach Pilates at my studio group and private classes. At noon I run errands (bank, shops, etc.). 2 pm: time for lunch! At 4 pm to 6 pm I impart a ballet class for kids in a cultural institute of my city and then I go back to the studio to give yoga and Pilates for pregnant women and then other Pilates fit class. Later at 8:30 pm I take ballet training class to 10:30 and then I go to bed.
And what about your flexibility training ? Where does that fit in ?
I work on flexibility in different moments during the day, for me it works well to do stretching and warming before the class. When I finish, I like to take the time to do deep stretching with elastic bands, it helps me to expand the limits of my body and to keep control of it. I consider very important for everybody to work on muscular flexibility, a healthy muscle is flexible and strong at the same time.
As a dancer maintaining flexibility is not enough, we always try to increase it, the elastic band helps me to demand more from my body carefully and in control to avoid injuries.
Practicing yoga has given me very good results regarding flexibility, it is a great choice to increase spinal column elasticity, it makes my torso stronger, free and safe.
At the end of a Pilates class, when the muscles had worked strength and resistance I always include flexibility exercises, doing deep stretching sequences in positions that you have to maintain around a minute using elastic bands.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
My first goal is to make my studio grow. I want to have instructors committed to people´s health and well-being, sharing my love and passion for the human body and movement. I would also like to establish a little dance company in my city with sensitive and capable dancers that can develop new forms of movement and expression.
Any tips for passionate people who are starting to practice ballet/yoga now?
When you start practicing a discipline or sport I consider one the most important things to have is a good instructor or teacher. Do not be afraid to ask for credentials and capacitation, you have to know the focus of her/his lessons to be sure you are working towards the same goals. Always listen to your body, what is good or bad for it, you have to respect it. Each body is different and needs specific training.
Know your body, your strengths and limitations and work through them with discipline and perseverance and take your time. The body is noble, with the right training and cares you´ll have the expected results.
Be loyal to what you want and work for it, the things you love are never in your comfort zone.