An Interview- Building on Strength Post Surgery
The following is an interview by InTheLoop with Ashley who had a severe car accident and how Pilates have helped her.
Tell us about your injury and how it happened?
I had a severe car accident that snapped my left femur resulting me to an extensive surgery. I was immobile for several months and was on crutches for almost a year. Any physical activity I tried to build strength after was limited due to the pins. Once the pins were removed after a number of years holding my femur up, I started Pilates with Joyce.
Have you done Pilates before you had your accident? What was your lifestyle or fitness regime like before you discovered Pilates?
I led a very active lifestyle before my accident. I was very fit and engaged myself in numerous activities and sports. After my accident, I had tried numerous personal trainers at the local gyms and Pilates studios back home in South Africa but my experiences mostly left me dissatisfied, disappointed and my expectations “not met”.
What other treatments/exercises did you try as part of your rehabilitation after surgery and how did you feel after trying them? How long did you try them for and how effective were they for you and your body?
I did some Yoga to get some movement going for several months and had some chiropractic treatment but my objective was to develop core strength, recuperating and building strength and alignment. I had lost a lot of strength not just in my legs but also in my core. I had imbalances in my posture and my hip was out of alignment. I needed a step-by-step approach of realigning my posture and gaining strength back in areas where I had lost connection. As someone who was an avid sportsperson, not having mobility was quite frustrating!
What made you consider Pilates as opposed to other forms of exercises, and what would you attribute that helped you recover from your injury?
I knew I needed a proper rehabilitation process to start with. Pilates is great for regaining connection and activation of muscles that have gone “asleep” whether due to injuries or simply due to lack of awareness. You get to isolate and feel the engagement of supporting muscles around your joints, but at the same time, feel the entire physical body as ONE and as an integrated unit through the rhythmic movements.
You need to focus and concentrate on stability while moving on the machines, and that trains the supporting core muscles to activate consistently and through constant disciplined practice strengthens them. Through learning to stabilize at my hips and pelvis, I started to gain more and more range of motion at my hips and gradually gained strength not just in my legs but my entire body. I started to “feel” my legs and my core again! I started to move better generally too as I had also gained new awareness of other parts of my body not just where I was injured, so Pilates helped me reconnect with my physical body in a more complete way.
How many years have you been doing Pilates for? What differentiates Joyce’s method and teaching style compared to other methods or teachers you may have tried with?
I have been doing Pilates with Joyce for 10 years now. When I first met her, our connection was instant. She was determined to build my strength back. The focus and clarity with which she approached our sessions and my overall well being resulted in my feeling stronger, fitter and more connected far sooner than I expected I would. Joyce’s approach is precise, understanding the body’s dynamics and interrelationship between mind, body, and spirit and this influences and impacts her approach and the results that she achieves. She brings a much deeper and more connected experience to our Pilates classes than just purely Pilates.
Her innate wisdom, her patience, her understanding of people, her depth and breadth of experience and knowledge -- in Pilates, Yoga, and the body - on many levels, as well as her innately integrated approach to her work and her clients, all have profound results. She brings great wisdom into her practice and teaching and treats each of her clients as individuals with a program developed and adapted to his or her specific needs by picking the right tools for each person. She is trained in and exposed to a wide range of modalities and has a holistic approach to health and wellness. She uses a much wider-angled lens to troubleshoot physical and emotional issues of the body that is inhibiting healing and repair, as opposed to just making the class a workout class. As a result, not only have I developed greater core strength and alignment in my body – I have deepened the relationship I have with my body and have greater respect and appreciation for the interconnectedness and integration between all the parts, energetically and physically. Joyce is meticulous in ensuring that one understands and experiences this connection and develops your innate wisdom in your own body.
In the years being under Joyce’s care, how has the introduction of Pilates into your life impacted aspects of your life?
Meeting Joyce was an absolute gift and working with her had been extraordinary! I have absolutely valued and appreciated every session with her since we started on this journey and have a greater appreciation of the Pilates method. I have started running again and the Pilates sessions ensures that my core strength is maintained and my alignment always in check. I can’t imagine not working with her! She has become a dear friend who is always there not only as a teacher. My sessions with Joyce are an infinitely important component of who I am becoming as a person as a result of our working together.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to try Pilates for the first time?
Pilates is a great way to re-establish connections in your body and gain strength in a way that is different from say, working out at the gym. You work out those muscles that a gym workout would never reach, simply because the focus on alignment forces you to engage and activate differently. Try not to be intimidated by the machines or props as they are there for you to work around your capabilities as guided by your teacher. What you end up gaining is more than just feeling physically stronger but also a gaining a deeper awareness and connectedness of your own body.