What do you wish more people knew about Pilates?
I wish that people knew that the Pilates method is an excellent tool to use for individuals with neurological conditions such as MS, Parkinson's and stroke.
I have been a fitness trainer for over 30 years and a Pilates practitioner since 2002.
I was diagnosed with MS in 2011. My neurologists are all amazed at my high level of function - especially considering the parts of my brain that are affected by MS plaques.
Many years of practicing Pilates is what helps me to have exceptional balance, strength and control in my fitness activities as well as my activities of daily living.
Over the past 5 years, I have worked on a research team at University of Alabama Birmingham/Lakeshore Collaborative to compare clinic-based adaptive exercise to virtual adaptive exercise through a grant from the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI).
My involvement in the research project is from the standpoint of an MS patient and also as an expert in exercise and fitness.
The original plan of the research team was for the adaptive exercise programming to involve activities centered around yoga. I emphatically made a stand for the program to be Pilates-centered, rather than yoga-centered. While yoga is an excellent tool to improve the mind/body connection, Pilates stimulates and activates the central nervous system. Thankfully, the lead OT on the research team agreed with me about Pilates vs yoga. Together, she and I created adaptive exercise programming for various levels of function for MS patients incorporating Pilates-based exercise and the Pilates principles.
Pilates is so much more than just a strong core and long, lean look! Pilates is a methodology that improves the physical, mental and emotional states. It is an exploration of the mind/body connection. Much like deep space exploration, the more we practice the method, the deeper our exploration goes - opening doors in our central nervous system that have been shut tight for years. Pilates brings light into our bodies and awakens our truest inner self.
Through years of practicing dysfunctional movement, brought on when we are first introduced to school and sitting still in a chair, our truest inner self is covered with a veil; our bodies begin to be harnessed and trained to move in certain ways - whether through inactivity, dance, athletics and other physical endeavors.
Our spine, which from infancy through early childhood moves move fluidly in conjunction with our limbs and head, becomes rigid and inflexible as we transition through life’s stages: infancy to childhood and, ultimately, adulthood. As we begin school and forced sitting, the movement of our spine begins to become fettered by restricted movement to meet society's standards (chair sitting, driving, working on computer, watching TV, riding elevators/escalators, driving vehicles, even fitness activities such as riding bicycles and lifting weights).
This fettering of our spine and our movements can wreak havoc on our central nervous system.
Pilates can unmask the restrictions and unfetter our movements so that we once again can move freely and without inhibitions.
I wish people knew the true magic of the Pilates method so that they could share the joy of Pilates with others who would, in turn, pass along the joy of Pilates with others until Pilates becomes a daily ritual for all mankind.
I wish more people could understand what it is like to be unable to stand when getting out of a car.
I wish more people could understand what it is like to not be able to walk up a flight of stairs without assistance.
I wish more people could understand what it is like to not "know" where your body is in space.
I wish more people could understand what it is like to not be able to perform simple tasks such as putting a key in a lock.
I wish more people could understand what it is like to not be able to form words or articulate thoughts.
These are some of the obstacles I face on a daily basis. My Pilates practice helps me to overcome these obstacles. My Pilates practice allows me to maintain an intense work schedule. My Pilates practice keeps me excited and interested in movement.
My Pilates practice gives me hope that these obstacles will not defeat me as MS progresses and as I grow older.
While many people may not experience the same obstacles as I, I wish my story of MS stopping movement and cognition may perhaps resonate and spark an interest in Pilates.
I wish more people would practice Pilates so that they, too, might also find the brightness and light that true mind/body connection can bring.
Dolly B Stokes
PMA Member since 2019
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