From the age of 18, when I started my professional dance training, to about the age of 31 I did not stop exercising. Dancing, teaching, gym workouts, Capoeira, Yoga, running-if I had one day off I felt guilty.
All this stopped when after a long weekend of Capoeira I suddenly could not put weight on to my left leg. My hip was burning and pain radiated up in to my sciatic nerve. Despite my body trying to tell me something was up, I tried to carry on. Being a dancer, I was used to trying to work through an injury but was also probably avoiding the issue. It was not until I could not physically get out of bed one morning that I knew I had to do something. A physio diagnosed a Labral Tear (tear in the cartilage around the joint) and I was advised to have keyhole surgery.
During surgery, it was discovered the cartilage in my hip had worn away and the joint had become arthritic. I felt so angry at myself for not looking after my body better. I spent about 6 months on crutches, after which my body totally changed. Muscle had wasted, and my shoulders hutched forward from being bent over on crutches and lack of movement. My body felt old. Despite diligently doing my physio exercises each day, I was still in pain and started to worry I would never regain my pre-surgery strength and alignment.
At the time, I worked at Rambert. One of the company dancers had also had surgery and advised I start Pilates. I had done Pilates before but never on a regular basis. It was that thing you do if you got injured and then stopped when you felt better. I started seeing Pilates teacher, Pieter Symonds every week and had ongoing treatment with Osteopath, Andrew Creevy*. Over the months, my body started to change. I regained strength around my hip, my spine lengthened and my shoulders opened. I found myself feeling physically better than I ever had, even during my dance training. This experience inspired me to teach Pilates because I wanted everyone to feel as good as I did. Not only physically, but mentally too.
There were many times during my dance career that I got injured, and looking back now I realise it was because I never gave myself a break. I was trying so hard to be fitter, leaner, better at what I was doing. I also had misalignment problems, that until I started Pilates, I was not aware I had. Although I still love the feeling of having moved and worked my body, I now do it with a greater sense of posture and alignment, and know when to allow my body to rest. I have far less injuries and feel stronger than ever. Pilates connects the mind and body- making you better at listening to your body and what it needs.
So listen to your body next time it’s telling you to rest- put your feet up and eat cake instead! (And don’t feel guilty)
*Andrew and Pieter are both based at the Rebalance Clinic