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Pilates and EDS

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Pilates has meant so many different things to me during different stages in my life. But I want to tell you about a time that I honestly never could have dreamed that I, of all people, would have even had a foot in the door of the fitness world, let alone choosing that as my profession. I have always been intrigued by health and fitness but I have not always been healthy or fit. I have a genetic disorder, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. There are many different kinds. I'm very thankful that so far, mine has only really resulted in connective issues throughout my body and hypermobility. I honestly didn't really notice this until early adolescence. There were little things but I just thought they were normal. I was always really a fault. In highschool, I dislocated my patella while on an elliptical, and then my femur in the first 5 minutes of a yoga class. I started to have pain in my joints, my shoulder when I played the violin and eventually stopped, and even back pain at a young age. I became very aware that I was not capable of moving my body how I wanted to when I wanted to. The first time I tried Pilates I was at home! I was so desperate for something that I ordered a cheap reformer online after seeing a dancer on TV use one ( and let's be honest, who doesn't want to look like a professional dancer). I had no idea what I was doing. I looked up videos online and did my best. And despite doing everything wrong, it was the first time that I felt my muscles working without having any pain in my joints. I'm talking zero joint pain, and all the abs!! It was amazing and I knew I was hooked. I then was gifted a membership to a local studio for my birthday. That took what I already thought was the best thing in the world to a whole new level. The owner of the studio I was at had become a STOTT Pilates Instructor Trainer. She was incredibly knowledgeable, had an impressive and slightly intimidating understanding of anatomy, and helped me in so many ways. She helped me to move my body in ways that not only felt incredibly empowering, but that also helped to create stability in my joints. It felt so freeing to move my body, to not hurt, to feel stronger and to start seeing the benefits of that work! It put me in a whole new cycle of empowerment!

Old Cycle: Feel awful in my body. Feel awful about myself. Work out. Feel insecure about working out and not knowing what to do or how to do it. Hurt myself. Feel awful in my body and frustrated with my body. Feel even more discouraged and defeated. New Cycle: Feel okay in my body. Workout and feel no pain. Feel slightly better in my body after working out. Work out again. Repeat..... Start to workout easier and with less effort. Feel empowered to workout more and like I kind of know what I'm doing. Continue working out. Feel stronger and see some muscle definition. I'll be really honest, my first few years of Pilates were not about getting ripped or getting a good sweat in. It was to keep my shoulder from dislocating, to keep my knee in place, to stop my back pain. To get my core stronger after I had my son. I spent a lot of time working tiny muscles around my joints and doing movements that didn't seem like I was doing much. I like to describe it as working from the inside out. I"m now at a place where I can use Pilates to work out and work out hard. I'm building some muscle and I haven't had a major dislocation in at least 5 years. And now I have the strength to start doing other things that used to hurt me with no pain (like our Peloton). I credit Pilates to keeping my joints where they should be, and a mixture of Paleo and Pilates to keeping my pain levels to a minimum. If you or someone you know have EDS and are looking for a Pilates instructor, I have a things to keep in mind when starting your Pilates journey. 1. Know and listen to your Body. If you are doing something that doesn't feel right, stop. Don't push through pain. Pilates is not about pain for gain. It should feel like no pain, so that you can continue to limit pain. Only you know your body. Talk to your instructor, ask questions, and speak up about what does and doesn't feel good. 2. Find an Instructor that listens and watches. Your instructor should be watching your body like a hawk. Especially with EDS, they are looking for proper alignment, muscle firing patterns and range of motion. They should be checking in with you in terms of ranges of motion, what feels good, and likely having you move in smaller rangers than you are capable (just because you can do something doesn't mean you should). Find someone that you feel is really taking care of your body during your session. 3. Be okay with going slow There are natural ups and downs during the process. Know that this is not going to be a one session fix all. Commit to the process and be okay with things happening slowly. Let your instructor program for you and your body. Tell them if things change! There are going to be times that you overdo it and your instructor needs to know what's okay and what's too much. The reverse is also true! Working tiny muscles is not the most rewarding feeling sometimes. It's small and deep and you can't see tangible results right away. But keep at it. Once that foundation of strength is laid, you can start incorporating larger movements and muscle groups. 4. Keep records I wish I had kept a journal of my pain levels, dislocations, exercises I started with and maybe even spring tensions from those first 2 sessions. The difference between my body from now and then is still shocking to me, I don't kneed records to see that, but I do wish I had some tangible proof sometimes for all that work. It also would have helped me see small victories along the way..

5. Have Fun Sometimes it's hard to keep light hearted about things that are discouraging. There are going to be times that are difficult, times that you feel so amazing, and times that are honestly just hilarious. Know that if you have the ability to move your body at all you are so lucky. Have fun discovering new muscles, new ways of moving, challenging your mind and body in different ways, and working together with your instructor!! Don't be afraid to enjoy the process or let out a laugh once in a while. Afterall, it's just Pilates!!! *As of right now, for EDS, I would recommend looking for an instructor certified through either STOTT Pilates or Polestar. That is not to say I have anything against any other method!! This is just my experience with EDS and Pilates. I have been extremely impressed by the education in both the STOTT Pilates and Polestar method, their willingness to modify and adapt exercises to best serve each client in each session and their understanding of anatomy.

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