From car accident survivor to notorious Pilates instructor in one of the world's hottest mind-body destinations, this Scottsdale, AZ woman knows how to turn "Why Me" into "Try Me." And, for that, she is our Woman Crush Wednesday.
Photo credit: Shelley Franklin, Franklin Photography Studios, Scottsdale, AZ
To understand what Pilates is, it helps to know its origin. Joseph H. Pilates was a German physical trainer who developed exercises intended to target the "powerhouse" (core) in the 1920s. Pilates called his method the "Art of Contrology." He taught in New York City until his eighties. At the time of his passing, Joseph Pilates' work was handed down to some of his original students. They have carried on his legacy, and are know as the Pilates Elders. Now, certified Pilates instructors across the globe help their students to strengthen and lengthen the muscles that support the spine and pelvis through classical Pilates exercises.
At the time of my recent visit to Arizona, I was familiar with Pilates. I completed Pilates Mat instructor training at the Physical Mind Institute in 2003 and have been teaching Mat ever since. But, besides awareness of theory, I had no practice with Pilates Reformer. When I arrived at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, AZ I took a peek at the group fitness schedule and a Reformer sesh caught my eye. Full disclosure, so did aerial silk yoga, which I have done and am pretty proficient at- we always like to do what we know how to do, right? At 40, dealing with tissue tightness and chronic high hamstring pain, I figured it was time to tip my toe- and my powerhouse- into the Reformer world. That was when I met Patti Mehl and experienced the best Pilates session of my life.
BB: After taking and teaching Pilates Mat for years, I was astonished at what a new world was opened, especially in terms of mobility- unlocking tight spots- with the Reformer. Will you explain a little bit about the benefits of Pilates Reformer?
PM: There are so many benefits of Reformer Pilates. The Reformer uses springs for assistance and dynamic resistance providing a low or no impact while strengthening the core, improving mobility and stability, and organized and coordinated movement connecting the body to the brain. This leads to better postural alignment and balanced muscle development to prevent injury. If you practice regularly you will see improvement in core strength, muscle tone, balance, graceful movement, posture.
BB: How often would you recommend Pilates Reformer sessions?
PM: If you are looking to make significant changes or are using Pilates Reformer to help recover after an injury, you should be working with an instructor at least 3 times a week. Twice a week is a great way to maintain your fitness level and is a wonderful workout on recovery days if you are adding it to a strength training program. You want to make sure you are working with the right instructor in the right environment for your needs. Group classes are great for anyone who is in good health with no special issues or injuries. I always recommend Private Pilates Sessions if you are a beginner, or a part of special populations such as those with osteoporosis, chronic back pain, injuries or are pregnant.
BB: Back pain is a something you know all too well. Explain your background that led you to the path of Pilates in the first place.
PM: I was introduced to Pilates in 2005 after years of debilitating back pain, stemming from scoliosis, fibromyalgia and a severe car accident at 18-years-old. I was on disability and treated for years with medication, steroid injections, nerve ablations, surgeries and finally a spinal fusion. My physical therapist recommended Pilates for core strength as the orthopedic surgeon suggested that she would need more surgeries in the future. Within a year of taking Pilates, I was off of all medications, monthly steroid injections and have not been back to the surgeon since. While I enjoyed the benefits of Pilates that first year, I decided to become a Pilates teacher instead returning to the tech industry.
BB: It's interesting that your "Second Act," as Patricia Heaton calls it, was a 180-degree turn from the tech industry. For so many women, this is the case. So many people have had their lives turned inside out and upside down over this pandemic, and are soul-searching for their their next career move. Your personality, welcoming disposition, and connection with your students make you a natural teacher. It seems to me that when you found Pilates- or Pilates found you- you found the lesson plans that you were put on this earth to teach.
PM: It's true; it is my calling. My mission is to help others find the amazing mind/body connection that Pilates provides through balanced muscle development, functional movement, core strengthening, flexibility, and awareness in order to support efficient, graceful and pain-free movement. My approach is to connect the mind, body and breath creating a synergistic “mindful core” to correct and maintain balance in the body.
BB: Is there anything else you'd like to say about your journey?
PM: You and I had a conversation about the importance of continuing education.
For my journey, continuing education is key to keeping me discovering new things and helping me to best serve clients.
I have focused my continuing education on restorative Pilates. That aids me in working with special populations that include: pre and post-natal, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, hip replacements, shoulder and knee injuries, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and MS, and athletes recovering from injuries (post-physical therapy).
My continuing education also includes Pilates for Athletes, Pilates for Golfers using both Classical and Contemporary Pilates training.
BB: That's a lot of immersing yourself deeper and deeper into something that you believe in. You are comprehensively trained through Balance Body and are a third generation Pilates Instructor. What's your why?
PM: I am passionate about leading my clients to "return to life" through Pilates so they can have the energy and strength to enjoy their favorite activities throughout a long and pain-free life.
Join Patti for a Pilates Reformer (or one-on-one Cadillac/Chair/Spine Corrector) session at The Citizens Club at Mountain Shadows Resort next time you're in Scottsdale, AZ. You can also follow her on Instagram at @mindfulcorepilates.
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