Laura Milliken - September 2016
"Pilates is humbling in the beginning. But now I have tools to help myself. I find comfort in the knowledge I have about my body."
When Laura first started her journey with us six months ago, she had been in physical therapy for over a year, mostly for her shoulder, but for some other problems as well. It felt like she would solve one thing, and another one would show up. Once the shoulder stabilized, then a hip issue would suddenly appear.
She thought of herself as pretty athletic, but she kept having these body issues of different kinds. Long ago she used to run, but she had to stop that for various injuries. She then did aerobics with weights, but she hurt her rotator cuff, which meant she had to skip most upper body exercises for a long time. She hadn't been able to do any push-ups at all. After some time in PT, she was able to ease back into weight bearing, but only very carefully, and almost none where the arms were extended. For about a year and a half since her skiing injury, she was very limited in the use of her upper extremities.
"Pilates has certainly been a humbling experience for me. The thing about Pilates is that it isolates your weaknesses, which of course encourages you to work on them. It helped me to understand how my body should work. In particular, it strengthened my core. It helped me feel that I'll be able to gain the strength to do the things I want to do, at some point. I feel like I'm making progress.
In the past, my approach to exercise had been: if you throw yourself into it and work as hard as you can, you'll get over it. But Pilates is not like that at all. It's all about concentrating on small movements and several parts of your body at once, which is challenging, but ultimately worthwhile.
I have always had issues with my shoulders and neck, and just being able to relax those muscles, and hold my head and body in a way that won't tense those muscles, is a huge benefit. It took me a while to realize what I needed to do. But now I notice the difference all the time.
What I like about Pilates and your teaching, in particular, is that you help me to visualize what's going on in my body, which allows me to move it in a way that's less painful and more productive.
Beginning with Pilates is hard. My physical therapist recommended Pilates, and I trusted her that it would help me, so I stuck with it during the first two months. Slowly, I could see progress, and I could see that if I could just get myself to focus on several areas of the body at once, I would feel better. I had to accept the challenge that I had to go through the uncomfortable stage of learning to see the results I wanted.
There is a period at the beginning of Pilates, where you're thinking: "What am I doing? I don't get it? It's so subtle. Is this working?" It took at least one whole session (two months) before I felt like "Oh okay, I sort of understand what's going on here. And it's making a difference."At the end of the second session, I thought: "Oh! I should do this more often! Then I can really make progress.
"Especially for someone who has been a successful (recreational) athlete, the beginning of Pilates can be frustrating. You're used to just being able to do everything, and Pilates completely turns your (movement) world upside down.
I've been trying to talk my 20-year-old son into doing Pilates because I know it would be helpful for him. He's strong, but he notices some body misalignments and asymmetries. My thoughts are - if you learn this now, then you won't have the issues I'm having. If we learn this body integration early in life, we'll be so much more successful as older, or elderly people.
I wish I found (Concord) Pilates 20 years ago! I feel like I would have gained that strength and understanding much earlier in my life. At least now I find comfort in the knowledge that I have developed. If my body feels bad, I start thinking: "Well what am I doing that contributes to that bad feeling? What do I need to do to feel better? Do I need to relax my shoulders? Do I need to pull down from my underarms?" I now have tools in my toolbox to help myself.”