Saved From the SidelinesPilates Style Magazine, My Pilates May/June 2005

Like many, I came to Pilates with seemingly insurmountable injuries and a long history of trying to mend them. I grew up with a penchant for contact sports, backpacking and climbing tall objects—cliffs, trees, bridges, buildings—and jumping off them into rivers, lakes and neighboring rooftops. Understandably, from such impact, I suffered repetitive ankle sprains, chronic knee pain and herniated lumbar discs before I was old enough to vote. I spent so much time in physical therapists’ offices that I felt as sidelined from my life as I was from soccer practice and games.

My physical therapy sessions taught me to perceive my injuries as single saboteurs while never attending to the underlying causes of my weak ankles, misaligned knees and compressed discs. I’d find brief respite from my aches, but after multiple reinjuries I had given up on ever being completely pain free. Assuming that I would never totally heal, I continued to jump, run and hike but with an increased tolerance to pain.

In my sophomore year of college I was served a devastating blow—a severe re-injury to my lower back, which threatened to immobilize me. Without much faith, I began to complete yet another prescription for physical therapy, but this time my therapist introduced me to Pilates.

When I started, I was always tangled up, trying to translate the verbal instructions and images into physical movement. But once I began to understand the vocabulary in my body, I found a deep joy in pushing through hard workouts, which I always finished with an increased mind-body connection.

With improved core strength and support, I created space between my vertebrae, relieving the pressure on my discs. From strengthened calf and foot muscles, as well as finding better balance and stability, I ceased spraining my ankles. My knees began tracking properly as I corrected muscular imbalances in my thighs. Through my Pilates sessions, I worked through incorrect movement patterns and reeducated my body to function properly as a whole, not as a disjointed collection of injuries. When I found myself not only pain free but performing better than ever.

Through my own movement journey, I developed the desire to challenge other people through movement. I enrolled in anatomy classes, interned with an athletic trainer and at a physical therapy clinic and earned a personal training certificate. Once I was well into my internships, I was delighted to be submerged in learning but was ultimately dissatisfied with my work. At the gym, I found that most of my clients were paralyzed by fear. They came to me to build beautiful bodies but would either be afraid of the pain of getting into shape or they were scared to work specific muscle groups, for fear of bulking up. I could never muster the enthusiasm for training because I wasn’t able to teach my clients anything, I was only ensuring that they worked out.

I realized that I had traded the integrated work, which had set me on my own healing path, for a piecemeal approach. I was treating the body in parts, never addressing the person as a whole. That’s when I decided to return to the integrity of Pilates and become a certified instructor.

Author: Michelle Wallace, DIAKADI Pilates Instructor