Being Active for Life!

Often noted as a form of exercise for the highly skilled, rich or famous, Pilates is now being embraced by the medical and rehab communities who are applauding the wide-reaching virtues of this highly targeted approach.


dianne munro small

Getting Back To My Normal Life With Pilates

About 38,000 knee replacements are performed each year in Canada, according to the Canadian Institute For Health Information, and studies show the number is projected to climb to around 250,000 per year over the next 20 years as baby boomers maintain their active lifestyles. The ultimate culprit causing knee pain is arthritis, mostly developed through a combination of aging, use and genetics.

Dianne Munro, a local Niagara Falls resident shares her story on how her choice of Pilates turned her life around and helped her move forward.

Several months ago, my surgeon told me I should have my right knee replaced before more damage occurred and the only option would be amputation. My leg had been injured many years before in a serious car accident. As time progressed, my knee deteriorated with age and injury. I made the decision to have the knee replaced but requested 3 months to get ready.

I immediately contacted Thanh Tran at PilatesCircle and engaged her services. Over the course of 3 months, we worked on strengthening the muscles around the knee, engaging my core and flexibility.

September came and the surgery was completed. Fearing pain and discomfort, I was pleasantly surprised with the low pain level. By the end of the first week, I was walking without a cane at home. I engaged in physiotherapy and the therapist commented daily on how well and quickly I was progressing.

Indeed, I could easily see it myself as I compared progress with others attending physio.   At one month post op, my progress was consistent with those who had their surgery 2 to 3 months earlier. My progress was rapid and fairly easy.

While I can not fully extend my leg due to 20 years of damage, the degree to which I am able to extend my leg was nothing short of remarkable. At the 2 month mark, physio discharged me as my progress was complete.

I immediately reengaged in Pilates.

I believe that my progress has been as swift as it was due to the preparation Pilates. I am a senior, who is slightly overweight and had not worked out for a while due to pain in the legs and knees. Pilates was a gentle exercise program which did not aggravate my knees but in fact prepared the muscles around the knee for the prosthesis. At just past two months post-op, I am able to walk over a mile, swim for an hour or more, ride a stationary bike for 60 minutes, all without pain.

My husband is thrilled that the old me is almost completely back to normal. In fact we are going to celebrate the third month mark by going to a dinner dance, where I intend to dance the night away.

Thanh’s knowledge and her Pilates methods have changed me from an almost crippled old woman to a health vibrant “youngster again”.

I feel ten years younger than I did two months ago. I thank PilatesCircle for this change in my life.


   vicky santillo

How Pilates Restored My Quality of Life

I was an avid, competitive cyclist riding an average of 200 miles a week just to train for my long distance Century events and races. That all changed in September 2006 when the car hit me at 55 miles per hour during a training ride. I was lucky not to have been killed instantly.

I sustained serious injuries: my L2 vertebrate was fractured, my left femur was broken in 3 places and my right collarbone broken. I was in ICU for three days, the trauma unit for a week and placed in a rehab hospital for another three weeks. During that time I was immobilized in a body cast unable to move myself, dress myself, feed myself or toilet myself. Little did I know those restrictions would last for months and only improve gradually over years. I remained in the body cast for three months. I was wheelchair bound for over 3 months. It took 8 months for me to learn how to walk again without the assistance of a medical device. It took even longer than that before I could drive or regain basic independence such as dressing myself without a medical device.

The pain of my injuries was intense. But equally difficult was the loss of independence and privacy. The whole recovery process was frustrating. It required that I change my basic paradigm of who I was. I was no longer the successful athlete or the successful goal driven executive. I was now a very weak and dependent person relying on the kindness of others to dig out of an inestimably difficult challenge. My prior life was in ruins. Everything had to be reconstructed from the bottom up including how I lived my life, how I earned a living and how I would regain my health and hopefully the fitness I had so treasured.

Four months after my release from the rehab hospital my home care stopped. I still needed physical therapy so my doctors suggested a center that was also a well-regarded sport rehab center. Sadly, my experience continued to be frustrating. It seemed to me that they didn't know how to deal with multi-trauma injuries. Fortunately, one of my dear friends was a physical therapist well versed in Pilates based rehab. She suggested that I try Pilates-based rehabilitation with a highly regarded local therapist, Bonnie Can*. That same week two other friends suggested the same approach with the same therapist. It seemed like the Universe was steering me clearly in that direction! I decide to give it a try.

My therapist, Bonnie Carr, was a remarkable woman with over 30 years of experience. After an initial evaluation she said it would take 12-18 months of hard work for me to regain basic functionality. She was not sure how much mobility I would recover but if I stuck to it she felt I could regain my ability to live independently. I took her words to heart and have worked diligently every day despite the pain, frustration and setbacks. Now, over 3 years later, the rewards of range of motion, lowered pain, and mobility are sweet gifts. Given the starting point where I could not even bend down to pick something up from the floor or put on a shoe I can credit Bonnie with unending patience and tremendous vision.

Bonnie retired in December 2008. At that time, I was strong enough to consider making the move to a Pilates studio versus a rehab center. I was fortunate in having Evolve Pilates in my community where the instructors were knowledgeable Renee Neuman, Kelli Sanders, Kim Christou and Pam Hess have spent thousands of hours with me over the past two years helping me break through scar tissues, regain range of motion, learn proper alignment and move forward in my life. I have seen incredible results. I can walk again, climb stairs, dress myself, drive, and live independently. I even bought a Reformer from Balanced Body for home use and I love it. Between the time I spend at Evolve and the time I am on my own Reformer I put an average of 12 hours a week into my ongoing recovery effort.

Last year I even got back on the bike with the help of a friend. It's very difficult for me to maintain a racing tuck due to all the hardware in my spine and hip. It's hard to say if I'll ever regain the level of athleticism I once treasured. Clearly, I have recovered the gift of good health which is more precious to me than any activity I can imagine.

People who know me, medical professionals and friends, tell me I am a medical miracle. I tell them they should be doing Pilates! I consider myself to an evangelist for the exercise; it has given me my quality of life back. To me it is a more than a type of exercise. It is a way of life and absolutely mandatory for effective wellness. I think I'm living proof that Pilates is unrivaled in its delivery of a framework for the body to heal itself.

Vicki Santello Gainesville, Florida

raquel ms

Pilates and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.

Worldwide, MS is thought to affect more than 2.1 million people.

Raquel Forrester was diagnosed with MS a year and a half ago. "I had symptoms for a couple of years but sometimes it can take a while to really nail down the diagnosis."

Months later Raquel picked up her sister at the airport who was visiting for a wedding. Anna immediately noticed that the disease had become much worse in a short period of time. "She stiffly limped out of the car, and it was obvious that every step was shooting pains through her hips." That night Anna drove Raquel to a pre-wedding dinner. "As I drove, her left hand began to clutch desperately at her thigh, where the searing pains were increasing. Her breathing was rapid and shallow and tears streamed from her eyes."

The attack eventually subsided but once inside the restaurant her arms lost strength, sending her purse skidding across the floor. Then her legs gave out and she collapsed. "I remember being beside myself, and, as a Physician Assistant, telling her I would prescribe anything for her. She said even the strongest painkillers wouldn't make a dent in the pain and just made her more tired than she already was." Raquel also told her that she had tried many other forms of therapies like massage and baths, but to no avail.

However, there was one thing that helped - and helped mightily. "It was a piece of equipment called a Pilates Reformer. I had never really heard of it. But our aunt had a studio and suggested that it might help. Raquel said it stretched her muscles and joints in just the right way to relieve the searing pain. I was sold - we had to get one:"

"...Pilates on the Reformer is the one thing that HAS worked. I honestly feel that it has saved my life."

Raquel explains that the attacks associated with MS can last hours, even days, and that it feels like a major cramp that won't let up. "Those are bad, but what's worse is the fatigue and the soreness. You know how your muscles feel when you have a big fever? You stand up and it's so tiring and achy."

People with MS are strongly encouraged to exercise because their muscles are weaken­ing, and any added muscle or joint strength and density helps in withstanding the pain o: the attacks. But herein lay the big problem: "How can you lift weights when your body and muscles feel like you have an epic flu bug all the time?" asked Raquel.

That's where the Reformer came in. As Raquel continued to do Pilates at her aunt's studio she noticed immediate results.

"It was amazing - the stretches really helped the pain in my hips and legs subside and it was so gentle on my body. It has strengthened my muscles, which really helps slow the progression of many MS complications. For all of the time and money 1 put into massage and other therapies, 1 would only get about 24 hours of relief from the pain. A Pilates session would give me a week. And I noticed that the attacks were now coming less and less frequently and I was less fatigued."

Anna got an Allegro Reformer for Raquel to use at home, and it's on the way. For the first time in longtime there is real hope. "I am so excited to get my Reformer -1 think big changes will come," she says. "You can't imagine how many times your hopes get dashed. You try something and you think it's going to work . When it doesn't, it is so despairing.

Pilates on the Reformer is the one thing that HAS worked. 1 honestly feel that it has saved my life."

Raquel and Anna Forrester* Salt Lake City. Utah