Over a year ago, my friend introduced me to an exercise program called Reformer Pilates. Developed by renowned instructor Joseph Pilates, this innovative technique utilizes specially-designed equipment and incorporates stretching, strengthening, and balancing moves. After just a few classes, I was hooked.
Over the time that I’ve been doing Reformer Pilates, I’ve not only developed a rock-solid core and a longer, leaner body, it’s also helped reduce my lower back pain (which I was plagued with for over 8 years – from, of all things, a gardening injury). In the process of doing Reformer Pilates, I’ve met a number of great instructors, one of which has become a major inspiration for me.
Several months ago, certified Pilates Instructor Brennan Kahl joined the studio where I practice Reformer Pilates – Physique Exercise Salon in Carmel, California. Since my first introduction to her, I sensed she was a “healer”. There was something about her soothing voice, the way she designed each class to work our muscles in a new and different way, and her calming demeanor that exuded that Zen-like “yogi vibe”.
Not only has Brennan become one of my favorite Pilates instructors (as she’s truly knowledgeable about the practice and is a phenomenal instructor), she’s also shared her personal story with us, which is very moving (especially for anyone who has experienced back problems).
If you were to look at her, you’d see a youthful, strong, healthy woman. If you watched her doing challenging Pilates moves, you’d say she was as graceful as a ballerina, as she could do all these exercises with ease. What you’d never suspect was that she grew up with a crooked spine. Because of Pilates (in combination with Yoga and Acupuncture sessions), Brennan says that she has helped to minimize the pain caused by her crooked spine.
Today I’m happy to share her inspiring true story of how she learned to overcome her crooked spine and align with her higher purpose of becoming a motivating Pilates instructor.
Brennan says, “I was born with a crooked spine. Many prefer the term “scoliosis”, “the abnormal curvature of the spine”, but I find the description “crooked spine” simply does the trick. My crooked spine is not that crooked, with an angle of only thirty degrees. However, that small angle can wreak havoc on a body’s structure.
I was lightly introduced to yoga at a young age. My mother had purchased a Rodney Yee “Back Care Yoga For Beginners” VHS for me, and the twenty-minute routine was sometimes all that could break up the back pain. My mother had also taken me to one or two yoga classes in between physical therapy appointments. These small windows into the world of yoga were what helped pique my interest when I saw yoga as an elective option for my senior year in college. An Iyengar-trained instructor taught the course. For those of you unfamiliar with the Iyengar style of yoga, it is a form of Ashtanga that focuses on the correct alignment of the body.
As I see it, alignment is the most important part of yoga, as well as any other type of body movement. This is not because yoga or Pilates looks prettiest when the practitioner is in perfect alignment (although they do), this is not because your muscles form in proper proportion when you practice good alignment (although they do), and this is not because this is how the ancient yogis, yoginis, and Joseph Pilates intended us to practice (although it is). The importance, as I see it, is that when you practice proper alignment, you are preparing your body for an overall healing that you may not even see as being possible.
We, as humans, hold blockages in our bodies. The blockages may be physical like a bulge of muscles pulling in disharmony due to an abnormal spine. The blockages may be emotional, like a neck pain that flares up whenever life feels unhappy. We all have these ailments and often times we feel hopeless like we will live with them forever, but that does not have to be! Our bodies are capable of great healing but we must first prepare them for movement and alignment.
If I am conscious about practicing yoga and Pilates and use these practices as the key to unlock the bulge and unlock the pain, the energy can flow throughout my body and I am pain-free, left with a flat back. I urge you to see if the world around you is not in alignment with your wishes. If you find that it is not, look first to the alignment within you. Begin there and prepare to be wowed by what changes within you also changes what is around you. The world needs more masters, even those with crooked spines.”
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