Some people spend their entire lives searching for their calling. I am one of the lucky few that knew the second my feet touched the floor, I wanted to be a dancer. At the age of 3, my mother introduced me to the world of dance by enrolling me in Ballet and Tap classes. By the time I was 6, I had decided that the only thing I ever wanted to be was a professional dancer. It was a calling I couldn’t deny. So that’s exactly what I did. I earned my BFA in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and went on to perform and tour globally for the next 15 years. I was introduced to Pilates in my late teens and I liked it. I didn’t, at the time, understand how amazing it was for me and how in a few years it was going to save my career as a professional dancer.
In 2001, at the peak of my career in my mid-twenties, I developed chronic bursitis and tendonitis in both shoulders. My case was so severe that it put me in the hospital with a 104 fever while I was performing in Osaka, Japan. Fortunately, a great team of doctors broke my fever and I was back on stage the next day. Lucky for me, there were physical therapists on site who made sure my shoulders kept moving for me every day. Once I was back in the states, I worked with an amazing physical therapist that helped me cure my condition through Pilates-based exercises. I continued performing full-time while I was in rehab. It was because of Pilates that this was possible. It was the first time I saw the healing power and enormous benefits that Pilates has on the body. I was hooked and continued training in Pilates full-time while continuing to dance professionally.
Because, of the miraculous healing Pilates provided to me, I knew that when I was ready to retire from the stage that I would want to use that practice to help others. I wanted to help heal people just like me and give them the opportunity to regain their life back from their pain.
I became certified in 2006 through Body Arts and Science International, (BASI). Interestingly enough, the clientele that I drew all had injuries – and not minor ones either. My first big case was a woman who was hit by a drunk driver while she was walking in a cross walk 40 years prior to meeting me. She needed a right hip replacement and left knee replacement. Her gait was completely off, as you can imagine, which was causing her to be in terrible pain all the time and nothing seemed to work for her. She worked with me for 3 years before I relocated from Las Vegas to New Jersey. Within that time, I relieved her chronic pain, worked through both joint replacements, weight loss, and got her back to every day normal functional movement that made her quality of life better.
These are the types of cases that I work on every day. Some are more extreme than others. But at the end of the day, it is the use of Pilates that helps heal these people.
When working on clients with injuries or chronic conditions, you have to see their bodies as a whole and not just focus on the injured area. Most of the time, the injured area isn’t the cause of the issue in the first place. A poor movement pattern or misalignment somewhere else in the body most likely triggered the injury to occur. I like to think of the body as a puzzle that has to be put back together in order to heal from an injury. This means that I have to fix the poor movement patterns and misalignments throughout the body in order to truly heal an injury or to help relieve a chronic condition. If the inefficient movement patterns are not fixed and the misalignments are not addressed, than the injury will repeat itself and the chronic condition will progress much faster. Most people with an injury or chronic condition become afraid of moving because they think it will cause more pain. Therefore, the brain forgets how to move the body. Lack of movement adds to an increase of pain. When starting to work with an injury, you first have to find where their base (connection to their abdominals) is, and determine their level of strength. Some people have no base, so you have to create one first. Once, the base is strengthened, than you can move forward with putting the puzzle back together by working with each segment of the body and creating efficient movement patterns.
BASI to me is the most effective certification that allows me to do this type of work with my clientele. Through the BASI’s block system, I have the freedom to tailor my clients programs to give them exactly what they need. The clarity of the exercises allows me to quickly decide what exercise is appropriate for any given injury or chronic condition to aid in healing the body. It works as preventative measures as well. I do have clientele that come to me without injury, not many, but I do! They still have muscle dominance and imbalances that could lead to overuse of a muscle, possibly leading to injury. BASI’s curriculum, again, allows me the freedom to tailor a program for that person’s body to help make their imbalances become less pronounced. Which, in turn, gives them a better workout and greater over all physical results that they can visibly see. Listed below are a couple of testimonials from my clientele, reiterating what I mentioned above.
“I’m a 55 year old male who has a long history of orthopedic problems with my right leg. In my youth I had right hip problems and wore a brace for several months. I have had two arthroscopic knee surgeries, the latest 1 year ago. Approximately 6 years ago I fractured and dislocated my right patella. All of these issues have added up to my having a total knee replacement on March 30, 2009. In addition to these problems, I ruptured my right distal biceps tendon and had surgical repair January 6, 2009. Due to positioning and non-use of my right arm following the surgery, I had a painful partially frozen shoulder.
I have been a Pilates client of Danielle’s for the last 3 years which has enabled me to continue to be employed in a very physical job at a local hospital. As I returned to Pilates after each surgery Danielle was able to adjust my program to address specific current issues I may have had. I believe I owe much of my recovery to her. She is very knowledgeable about Pilates as a whole and so is able to adapt activities as needed. Danielle takes time to explain the exercises and makes sure I maintain proper alignment, not just complete the movement. She has added to my program as I have gained more strength and movement and works through any problem as it arises in order for me to be successful. I am doing much better in recent weeks and feel that is a direct result of working with Danielle in Pilates.” Keith H. Schneck
Linda Ashley of Westfield, who has severe spinal stenosis, and, as a result, suffers from chronic pain, was first introduced to Pilates by a physical therapist when she lived in Las Vegas. After relocating to New Jersey, a co-worker of her husband’s recommended Conner and she’s been a client ever since. She currently turns to Pilates twice a week for both exercise and medical reasons:
“Danielle is so well versed in how to deal with the mechanics of the body and what is going on. She also appreciates what it is like to have a medical issue where you are dealing with chronic pain. It’s a different way of living,” said Ashley. “She can tell from the moment I walk into the studio what’s hurting or what I am doing to cause that pain and what she needs to work on. She is very in tune with that and works to reinforce the body mechanics so you are aware as you go through your daily activities between sessions.”
These are the reasons I choose Pilates as a profession and BASI has helped me be the best instructor I can be.