MEN DO PILATES! at Pilates Northwest
My job as a flight nurse has me constantly climbing in and out of helicopters and ambulances, sitting and twisting awkwardly, and lifting patients and all kinds of different equipment throughout the day. Ergonomics are difficult, even on the best days.
For me, this physical stress on my body is complicated by cerebral palsy, a condition I’ve had since birth that causes spasticity in the muscles, reducing my range of motion and flexibility. It impacts how I stand, walk, sit, and move throughout my day and it impacts how I fatigue and recover. There is not much that happens (or doesn’t happen) in the course of the day where the cerebral palsy doesn’t factor in somehow. Because I’ve been dealing with the CP my entire life, I’ve found ways to be functional in spite of its impact on my movement. I was fortunate that my condition was pretty stable – not getting any worse or progressing in any way. But not all of the work-arounds I had developed were good for my body or my long-term functionality.
Enter Pilates Northwest and Mona.
How has Pilates helped?
What started as an hour-long session just learning how to stand as tall as I could in Pilates stance and discovering that I didn’t really know how to breathe correctly blossomed into one of my favorite parts of each week! With Mona’s guidance, I am learning to activate, relax, and control all those smaller muscle groups in my body that I had little control over because of the dominant spasticity. But that journey has not been straightforward for me or for Mona. Because of the complicated and confusing signals my brain had been sending my muscles all those years, and because of the positions and patterns my body had adopted that now felt “normal” to me, Mona and I have to continually work exceptionally hard on learning what cues she needs to give me to activate certain muscles and what feedback my body would give me in return to let me know I am doing it correctly. Sometimes when Mona would ask me to activate a particular muscle during a movement, my brain would engage the wrong one. So we had to start looking at the movement from a different angle: Where would we like my naturally tight and spastic body to relax? Mona learned to flip her instructions and tell me to think about lengthening along the opposite muscle to make the movement happen correctly. And it works!
We often joke that this is my brain is speaking one language to my muscles while my muscles are speaking another language back to me! With each new move or exercise, Mona and I have a little back-and-forth of her telling me to “think about getting longer along here,” and me confirming that I am doing it right with something like, “should I be feeling that HERE?” Once we learn which thought I need to focus on and how to “feel” it when I am doing it right, I am able to duplicate the process and work on the movements outside of the studio.
This creativity, patience, and expertise beyond any standard instructor curriculum is the reason that I have been successful in my Pilates journey. My work with Mona and Pilates Northwest has seen more significant improvements in my balance, dynamic movement, proprioception, flexibility and strength over the last 6 years than the previous five surgeries and forty years of fighting against my physical status quo. I don’t trip and fall like I used to, I am able to walk up the stairs without using the handrail (we’re still working on down), and getting into and out of the helicopter is easier than it ever has been. I feel better now than I did 10 years ago. My functional “normal” is changing on a daily basis, and it’s changing for the better.
Any advice for new clients?
My work with Mona and Pilates Northwest has been the key to me learning to speak and understand the language of my own movement. Everyone’s language will be different, but they will all respond positively to Pilates. Pilates will challenge you, but it will also change you!