My introduction to Pilates started as many have – with a mat Pilates video (VHS, no less). I had already danced professionally for a few years, soI thought the video would be a breeze. Lying on my living room floor (no mat – just carpet), sweating and groaning as my abs felt brutalized, I craned my neck to see what the fit looking lady on the TV was doing and tried to mimic her movements. “Why can’t I roll like a ball? She makes it look so easy.” By the end, I was truly fatigued and confused and remember thinking, “I’ll just do sit ups and stick with my yoga video.” (Dixie Carter’s was my favorite back then). It was 1998 and I was 23 years old.
Fast forward to around age 27 when my dance career took a turn and I started performing primarily in dance companies. The intense rehearsal schedule, complex choreography and long ballets required endurance, strength, speed and control along with flexibility. While I was young and highly flexible it was clear to teachers, directors, and choreographers that I needed to strengthen and move from my core to fully utilize my talents. Consequently, I heard “You should do Pilates” again and again from multiple people I respected.
So I went back to the videos (now DVD’s). Over the next few years, I somewhat regularly did various Pilates mat DVDs a couple times a week with the notion that I was “doing Pilates.” So when I continued to be told my center was weak or “You should be doing Pilates,” I stubbornly thought, “I am!” I made the excuse that I was just tall and they didn’t understand Pilates.
Then, in 2007, I had the traumatic “incident” that would change my life . While performing a lift in rehearsal, I injured my back and was left with a bulging disc in my lower back, SI joint dysfunction and chronic low back pain. I couldn’t walk out of the studio that day and had to be carried out. After that day, I found it impossible to dance and perform without pain and simply got used to the dull aching pain after I “recovered” and was able to go back to dancing.
I continued to dance for a few years after the injury, even with the pain (our bodies are so resilient), but the joy I once felt from dance and movement was gone and I decided to stop dancing. No performing. No class. I simply retired early and sadly left the profession.
I was living in New York at the time and took various retail jobs to make ends meet, but I was unsatisfied in those roles. I also wasn’t happy with the gradual decline of my body once I wasn’t dancing multiple hours a day. I’d started to lose muscle tone and flexibility and generally just didn’t feel good in my body.
Then came Pilates! I was thinking about becoming a personal trainer and calling around the city to find a program when I found Smart Workout. I inquired about their personal training academy and when I mentioned I was a former dancer, I was told I might be best suited for Pilates training instead. The program started the very next week and if I wanted to participate, I had to audition as soon as possible. The next day I was in the Smart Workout studio to audition for the Pilates training program and saw a Reformer for the first time.
One week later I was in the orientation for the program and on my way to becoming a Pilates teacher. To qualify for the program, I had to take 20 sessions over the next month and in each class I discovered something new. I was amazed at how much deeper I was able to work when guided and touched by a real, live instructor who could see my body and correct and adjust it. The exercises from the videos started to make even more sense and I was astounded by the variety of exercises that could be done on the reformer. The movements felt natural and some I could directly correlate to dance. My body started to strengthen, my flexibility returned, and my back started to hurt less, even though I knew my bones were still misaligned. It wasn’t until the actual Reformer Level 1 training that I realized engaging the deep core allows the muscles around the spine to engage properly and support my bulging discs. I finally found my center and stabilized my pelvis after all those years. I loved Pilates for how it made me feel! I even considered returning to dance.
After eight months of Pilates training, practicing on myself and friends and teaching 45 group classes as an apprentice teacher, I felt so fulfilled by sharing what I learned and seeing the transformation in people’s body and spirit. I knew I had found my second career, but I had to find a job first!
In late 2012, I got my first Pilates teaching position at Pilates Reforming NY, owned by Ann & Errol Torran. Errol (a chiropractor) and Ann (a Balanced Body Master Instructor and 2nd Generation Pilates teacher, mentored by Lolita San Miguel who studied with Joseph Pilates himself). I took as many workshops and classes as I could with Ann. She knew so much, had a keen eye for making corrections, and from class to class the entire workout and focus would change. They owned four locations at the time and had 25 other talented teachers on staff which allowed me to experience different concepts from different training programs, various teaching styles, and experience new exercises and variations. I was amazed at the teachers’ skill and creativity and soaked it all up. It was truly inspiring! Within a few months I had developed my own following of clients and was teaching full-time (25 classes a week plus privates) at all four studios and loving it!. I got to work with so many diverse bodies, fitness levels and conditions.
Six years later, I was working for two different Pilates businesses and teaching 33 classes a week (I love teaching classes). My body was still feeling good. At a Balanced Body Pilates conference in Chicago, I experienced the Melt Method and, as with Pilates, was amazed by the profound way it healed my past injuries. Using Melt to “unwind” my body’s fascia gave me a deeper sense of ease and fluidity while doing Pilates.
Now back home in NC, having practiced the Melt Method for the last two years and understanding the science and theory behind it after being certified in the method, I can honestly say that the combination of Pilates and Melt have my body feeling better than ever! I am so happy to be able to share my knowledge and keep growing at 15toFit- my Pilates home.