I've been dancing since the year before kindergarten. So, 20 years now. Whoa. ANYWAYS, the whole reason I started dance was because I was pigeon toed and always tripped over my own feet. My mom thought dance would make me more graceful. And in most ways it has... unfortunately, I still trip over my own feet every now and then. (Life isn't choreographed okay?!)
I didn't start ballet until I was 10 years old. That's actually pretty late to start ballet. My dance technique was sloppy, I didn't know how to properly point my huge feet, or control my awkward lanky limbs that seemed to keep growing uncontrollably. But I always worked really really hard. Like, way too hard. I turned out too much for the little strength I had to hold it. I forced everything. It continued on like that through 9th grade, and even through the rest of high school when I started dancing in Boston.
I look back at pictures and cringe at the alignment of my knees.
I ended up going to Fordham University and The Ailey School's BFA Program where I majored in dance and minored in communications. I was taking up to 18 dance classes a week, on top of a full academic load, on top of extra rehearsals, and on top of trying to have a social life. Your body and mind get worn out! By my junior year of college my right knee was in a lot of pain. Walking was a struggle, never mind trying to take all of these classes and learn new repertoire for upcoming performances and walk everywhere because you're in NYC.
I found out that I had tendonitis, bursitis, and a bone spur. One caused the other of course. All of it was caused by poor alignment over a long period of time. I think this upset me the most because this injury could have been prevented if only I was more aware. Private instruction is so important. Being a dance teacher in addition to a Pilates instructor, I know how difficult it is to correct every single student's alignment. It's even harder to consistently correct that same mistake enough to make it a habit in their body. With private instruction, these things can be fixed. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, huh?
I saw the amazing Doctor William Hamilton who works directly with dancers and athletes, especially ballet dancers, regularly. It's hard to find these kinds of doctors. He recommended I get a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection. Essentially, they take your blood, put it in this cool machine that separates the platelets from the rest of the blood. The doctor takes this giant needle and pokes holes in the tendon (so basically you're getting more injured just to get better... weird, I know). Then the platelets are injected into tendon. The idea is that your body will heal itself. It's based on stem cell research. It was popular in Europe and was finally making it's way over to the U.S.
Dr. Hamilton said it would take 1-3 injections for me to feel better. I got 2 and was good to go! They were about 6 months apart. During the first injection I almost passed out. I definitely blacked out for a second. The nurse had to turn me upside down haha! The second time, I learned my lesson and made sure to eat a big breakfast and drink a TON of water. Both times were no fun. I have now watched every single episode of Law and Order: SVU... twice.
After a week or two of resting I was allowed to start going to Physical Therapy. No dancing...yet. I worked with a physical therapist who worked directly with the Alvin Ailey Company so she was very familiar with dancers. She put me on this strange mechanism one day... called it the reformer. I thought it was cool. We did some plies and releves and I went on my merry way. The next week we started little jumps on the same cool machine. JUMPS! I was soooo excited. This meant I could start slowly getting into dance classes again!
I asked where I could find a reformer elsewhere in the city to use on my off days from PT. My physical therapist told me to look at a few different Pilates studios. I ended up getting a front desk job at one! I fell in love with the exercises even more. I saw how many different people came in for different reasons. I saw how many people it helped. I saw how many people wanted to teach it because they believed in and loved it so much. Because of Pilates, I was able to dance my entire senior year without a problem. I worked with Nicole Fosse, Valeria Salgado, Khaleah London, and a lot of other incredible artists. It was an amazing experience.
I ended up moving back to MA about a year after I graduated. My mom had started taking Pilates classes at a local studio, Latti Datti Pilates. I started going to classes with her. My knee felt better than ever. I personally felt better than ever. I was strong, flexible, confident, and that silly knee just wasn't bothering me at all. I decided I wanted to get certified and so, I started my apprenticeship almost immediately. I observed, took class, practice taught, studied for the PMA Exam, and finally was certified in April of 2015!
In May, I opened B.A.M. Pilates (formerly Latti Datti Pilates). All I want to do is make people feel better. Your body shouldn't hurt. You should be able to move. Pilates has changed my life- I can still go take a dance class! My "career" isn't over. I'm so aware of my body and my alignment. I know what to do when certain parts of my body hurt or ache. My goal is to help other people gain this same awareness. Pilates truly is for everyone. Your health and wellness is worth the expense- I promise you.
When dancers try Pilates they generally love it. Pilates wasn't developed for dancers, but Joseph Pilates worked with a ton of them, especially when he made his big move to NYC. He continued to work with famous ballerinas and modern dancers as the system of exercises developed, making it easy to see how the two could have become so closely related.
Pilates is incredibly useful to dancers when cross-training. Whether you're just trying to lengthen your spine, develop long lean muscles, develop a strong core, or rehab from pain or injury, Pilates can help. I promise. (Coming from personal experience. I'm sure another post on that will be in the future...) Not only that, but the system of exercises will teach you proper alignment, helping you to AVOID future injuries (yay!).
Dancers find peace in doing Pilates because it uses the full body movements that they are used to. The mind is the most important element when training in both dance and Pilates. Focus on alignment, breath, grace, strength, posture, etc. are all integral parts in mastering both.
It usually doesn't take much to get dancers to try something that is going to help them feel better so I'll keep it short.
My dancing friends come see me! Let's stretch and get strong, and maybe even create a few dance combos while we're at it?
Runners run. And that's pretty much it. I've met a few exceptions, but for the most part that's what they focus on. Practice makes perfect. I get it. But listen, what if I told you that you could run even faster, get injured less, and make yourself taller (well, at least standing up straight for once)!
A lot of runners develop certain habits when running, whether they roll their shoulders forward and lift their chin resulting in that hunch back we love so much; or they roll in on their feet every time a foot hits the pavement (or treadmill...whatever). Muscles are overused, tendonitis or bursitis can form, and all of this could lead to a strain or worse, a tear!
But you should keep running.
Just do Pilates too... duh.
Pilates is going to help you create the strongest core you've ever had while lengthening the spine. Pilates is known to improve posture. That hunchback can be reversed, FYI. Balance gets better, body alignment (yes including those feet) improves drastically, and you'll finally have no excuse when it comes to stretching. We'll help you safely stretch those hamstrings, quads, calves, and what have you. This increased flexibility will improve a runner's stride, and increase the overall range of motion in the hips.
Running is rough on the body. Your joints take a beating. Your muscles tighten up. But that run is the best part of your day isn't it? Secretly? Yeah, I thought so. Just take care of your body. Pilates is a tool you can use daily (yes, even AT HOME) to make that daily run possible without risk of injury. The two translate well, as both focus on breathing and finding the most efficient way of moving.
Just try it. Tell me what you think. Find a YouTube video, come to me, read a Pilates book, whatever it is! Try it for two weeks. Get back to me! I'll be waitingggg....
People are ALWAYS asking me "Who actually does Pilates? Like, who is it good for?" My answer is ALWAYS "Everyone." Plain and simple. Pilates is good for everyone. There's some of you who don't exactly like that answer and that's why I decided to make a blog series explaining who Pilates is good for and why it's good for them.
Because it's the end of the summer and outdoor swimming is almost over (unless you're psycho- no offense), a lot of swimmers decide to start cross training during the winter months, rather than deal with a indoor public pool filled with little demon children demonstrating their best dead man's float....
I'm not a swimmer myself, but I've done my research and have found that like most sports, swimmers rely on proper body alignment for peak performance. Pilates helps stabilize those deep abdominal muscles that wrap around your entire trunk. Each of these exercises integrate the shoulder girdle and pelvis when developing that core stabilization. Having proper alignment will prevent strain and in some cases, even tears. Oh, and did I mention you'll swim faster? Quality matters, people!
Pilates is mind-body oriented; all this means is that you are going to use your brain as much as you use your body, if not more! In both Pilates and swimming you'll find yourself needing to focus on breathing, balance, and alignment more than how long or how far you've gone. The two translate well. It actually makes the activity more fun in my opinion. The worst is looking at the clock every five minutes in class AMIRIGHT?!
Well guys, if you're not a swimmer, have no fear! There's about 5 or 6 more of these posts coming your way and you're gonna have to be one of the things I post. Maybe. If not I'll take it as a challenge to find how Pilates is good for you!
Happy Hump Day!