From Chronic Pain diagnosis to Pilates Teacher...
1. Explain your reason for starting Pilates
I started Mat Pilates classes at the local village hall after the birth of my second baby back in April 2014. The recovery after my 1st baby had been very difficult, with lots of back and pelvic pain so I wanted to make sure that I could help manage my recovery a little differently 2nd time around. The teacher was amazing, very supportive and gave lots of post-natal modifications for me, I was completely hooked!
2. How did your diagnosis impact your physical and mental health?
When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2016, I honestly felt like my life was over. I’d had gone from being an active mother of two boys to being unable to move or walk properly in the short space of 4 weeks!
My knees, hips and ankles were swollen and inflamed and my body stuck in a forward hunched position, I was unable to dress myself, so my husband had to dress me. My fingers and wrists were swollen and inflamed and stuck in a flexed claw like position which meant I couldn't cut up my own food or hold a hot drink in my hands. I had to have a tippy cup for hot liquids to stop me spilling it all over myself and getting burned.
My children at that time were aged 4 just starting school and 2 years old, I was unable to physically pick them up or dress them or even cuddle them, every little touch or knock on my body felt like a surge of immense pain and felt like my joints were on fire. I was in a constant state of distress, pain, fatigue and intense irritability and fear of a life maybe in a wheelchair with a lifelong disability.
I couldn’t bear to think about the future, I think looking back this was one of the lowest points in my life, second to that of losing my Mum. To quote Matt Haig "The best thing about rock bottom is the rock part. You discover the solid bit of you. The bit that can't be broken down further. The thing that you might sentimentally call a soul. At our lowest we find the solid ground of our foundation. And we can build ourselves anew"
Looking back being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 5 years ago was a catalyst for change.
3. Explain your journey with Pilates, from starting to where you are now
After a few years of attending Mat Pilates classes at the village hall I did my 1st 1:1 session with Nic at Soul Pilates in Feb 2016! I absolutely loved it and realised I wanted to teach this type of Pilates too, so in April 2016 I secured a place to do fully comprehensive Pilates teacher training the following year. Unfortunately, at this time in September 2016 I became very ill with diagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis,
It was a very distressing and scary time for me and my family but somehow I still kept going to classes at Soul Pilates even when I couldn’t walk properly, I’d somehow shuffle up the stairs to classes, even though any movement was challenging, mentally I would feel that little bit more clarity and a calm wash over me, I’d have a sense of more space within my body and for that hour a little less pain, I felt like I had some control over this awful disease.
I remember the 1st time I saw my rheumatology physiotherapist early 2017 his words were, ‘I am amazed! you’ve done all the hard work already’ It made me realise that training to become a teacher was not only going to help me physically and mentally for the rest of my life but I could use my knowledge to inspire others and help them navigate the complexities of chronic illness.
I started my teacher training full time in September 2017 and qualified in June 2018. Since then, it has been an incredible journey, in the early days it was a challenge as I was still navigating and learning to live with RA getting used to the various medications, I spent a lot of time at hospitals for various appointments. But getting to do Pilates regularly helped alleviate the anxiety around these changes. I’ve constantly grown as a teacher and delved even deeper into the restorative power and possibilities of pilates alongside other movement methods. Every day I learn something new, I’ve become stronger, gained more flexibility and increased the range in my joints. Pain has become less and less over the years with the joint and fatigue ‘flares’ becoming further apart. As of two months ago I am now officially in remission from RA, with that I am slowly starting to reduce the medications I take.
I honestly believe that if I hadn’t found Pilates this would have been impossible.
4. Do you have any words of motivation or encouragement for those reading this who might be experiencing adversity or nervous about starting Pilates?
I think the 1st word of encouragement would be that the studios at soul are a safe environment for you to be supported in, we will always hold a space for you to be heard so you feel listened to and understood. For those who are nervous, scared, or fearful: the beauty of Pilates is that there are so many ways of making it accessible to everyone, it will be completely individual to you and your needs.
You will be in the hands of very knowledgeable skilled teachers who are empathetic, kind, and mindful to all your needs both physically and mentally.
Making that appointment for a 1:1 is a small step to take but the rewards could potentially change your life for the better.
5. What has Pilates taught you about how you approach your health & wellbeing
I feel incredibly grateful that I managed to find Pilates, it has been a gateway to many more areas of opportunity. It has allowed me to connect with other amazing people/teachers/practitioners who have helped me to find a way to positively influence and change my entire life.
From sleeping well to moving well, my diet and nutrition, how to breathe, how to rest, how to find stillness, to be curious and want to learn and discover more about myself and the human body …. the list is endless. But most important of all Pilates not only has given me my physical health back but it has given me the space and awareness and the ability to look after my own mental health to unpick and understand, grief, trauma, loss, complex emotions of many years prior and how that impacted on my physical being and whole health.
Ultimately it has allowed me to rebuild myself both in mind and body.