Dancing Through Movement Disorders

By Jerry Bainbridge

The music swells, as the Latin rhythm fills the room. Kim, a fine Pilates instructor but not a Salsa lover,
frowns in another part of the studio. A voice keeps pounding a beat in my ears: ” 123… 567, 123… 567”. Only, my feet hear ” 23…4…578”, and I stumble through the melody that way. At least that’s how I used to move. The heavily accented voice is not one in my head; it belongs to Maria Ivanova proprietor of Euro- Pilates, a Pilates studio in New Tampa. She jokes, “Jerry, You look like a robot. As we say in Russia, an elephant must have stepped on your ear”. Very funny, Maria. She glides past me spinning and dancing so nimbly I almost lose my balance, yet we’re still both genuinely having fun. I look back at Kim. She gives me a thumbs up and an encouraging smile. Nice.

But let me back up. Four years ago at age 58, when I firstt arrived at 20401 Bruce B Downs, Suite 202, I was apprehensive and was driven there by my wife ,Connie, because I had lost confidence in driving myself . I had peripheral neuropathy in my feet and lower legs and a neuromuscular disorder. I was, also, reeling from the aftermath of cancer treatment. In fact, I came in with a litany of ailments that would fill pages if I chose to document them all, which I do not.

So, I did not start out reeling around the dance floor. That was not even a goal of mine. I needed to build up my overall strength just to get around much at all. I remember my first session; it was basically an evaluation with Mona, my first instructor. She had me do some elementary Pilates exercises. Even so, I was having difficulties. I couldn’t stabilize my hips, and my knees shook uncontrollably. Maria, meanwhile, worked with Connie but kept a watchful eye on me. I continued to struggle through the 55 minutes as though I was completely out of touch with my body, yet I was guided by a very patient Mona. Afterwards, Connie and I met up with Maria at the front desk.
” When can we start group lessons?” Connie asked.

Euro Pilates offered private or group sessions in Pilates. At the time, they had classes using reformers and various other exercise machines for strength and agility, as well as, mat and wall classes. Since then, they’ve added boot camp, hybrid circuit training, called combo, and dance ( salsa, bachata, and kizomba).

” You should be able to start classes after 2 more private sessions,” Maria responded in her now familiar Russian accent. She has a background in rhythmic gymnastics professionally as well as a degree in Sports Education and Movement and an advanced Stott Pilates Certification. She then turns to me,
” but not for you.”
” What’s not for me?”
” Classes are not for you. Privates only.”
Oh, I get it. I was a little offended and said,
” you mean I’m too lame for classes.”
” No, you’re special” she smiled.

I knew from the beginning what a sense of humor this woman had
and soon learned how much she truly cared about her clients.
The banter continued, but I knew she was right. I couldn’t keep up in a group environment and thus started my continuing journey to rediscover my body.

Patience is an all important virtue for someone going through rehabilitation, and I struggled with it just like everyone who has gone down that long tortuous road. Pilates, however, had the right methodology for my movement problems. Its emphasis on strengthening the core first and moving to smaller muscle groups and at a pace that was tailored to me was exactly the right exercise regimen for me.

I soon began working under the tutelage of Alda and occasionally Maria. Alda is a licensed physical therapist, as well as a Pilates instructor, so she added another dimension to my workouts. I can’t say it was all easy going. I had setbacks and frustrations; it seemed my leg muscles ached every waking hour. I struggled to strengthen back muscles to support an injured spine as well as the muscles surrounding my arthritic knees, but over time, I began to see marked improvement and felt much better. I was driving again, and my walking was no longer as labored as it had been.

Time passed, and I continued to increase my strength and stability, but after a mental self-assessment, I complained to Maria and Alda that though my overall physical condition and strength far exceeded my expectations, I felt I had reached a plateau in my coordination and balance, and I couldn’t seem to make a solid mind–muscle connection. I told them I read about research being done at the University of South Florida using dance as supplemental therapy for Parkinson patients.

Latin dancing is Maria’s passion, and the contagion had spread throughout the studio. Alda, having caught the fever, began dancing salsa with me toward the end of my sessions on occasion while Maria mulled over a plan for me. She is a very good dancer and taught me some basic steps. I was frustrated at first; my nerve center couldn’t seem to send the signal fast enough to my legs, and I often would lose my balance. However, I could see real potential in its therapeutic value. Then after formulating a plan, Maria approached me about doing dance therapy with her twice weekly. With some trepidation, I agreed. After all, she’s had extensive dance experience and has performed on stage.

Now, I’m not a mambo king by any sense of the imagination. But after a few sessions I could do a rudimentary salsa dance. The sessions not only include dancing to music but practice drills as well. More importantly the carry over to correct my balance and coordination difficulties has been just short of miraculous. Plus, it’s fun.

As we continue with this experiment, the benefits have been, surprisingly, mutual. I seem to have provided a great deal of amusement to Maria and whoever else is in the studio at the time. That’s been
experience so far.

After finishing my warm-up dance, Maria tells me to hold a two foot long stick in front of me, vertically, and do crossover steps across the wood dance floor. I hold the stick as instructed, extend my arms, and then hesitate.

” It’s like dancing with the stars,” encourages Kim while working with her noon appointment, Richelle,
at one of the reformers.
” Only, you’re dancing with a stick,” responds Maria.
” Well, you gotta’ start somewhere,” pipes in Richelle,

And, there it is.
Whether it’s the professional hockey or football player who workout at the studio, at times,
or my friend, Sharon, who just wants to lose her cane, “you gotta’ start somewhere.”
The end

Ellen O’Brien

I am a 68 year “old” woman and for many years I did free weights with a personal trainer and used weight machines thinking this would help me build muscle, maintain balance and help me grow old gracefully. After about fifteen years of doing this I suffered back problems and could no longer lift weights. My back problems were not due to weight lifting, but to an accident I had when I was 27 years old.

Three years ago I saw an ad in the local Wesley Chapel paper and was introduced to Euro Pilates and owner/trainer, Maria Ivanova. At that time I was unable to walk any distances (I used to walk about 3 miles a day), and continued to suffer with back pain. I began doing pilates exercises and build core strength and did not hurt myself in the process. I found pilates exercises enjoyable and looked forward to going to my workouts.

However, my back pain continued to worsen, and in early 2011 was diagnosed with spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal). It caused great pain in my back and left leg down to my foot. In May of 2011, I underwent surgery which consisted of the removal of part of four vertebrae to decompress pressure on my spinal cord.

In preparation for my surgery my doctor suggested I lose some weight and increase the intensity of my pilates workouts in order to strengthen my core. So, Maria and I went to work – THIS PAID DIVIDENDS IN MY RECOVERY.
Two months after surgery and rehab my doctor permitted me to return to pilates and suggested I focus on light workouts and stretching. At this point I had lost 15 pounds. I recently saw my doctor for my 6 month checkup and he said I could increase my pilates workouts and start strengthening my back muscles by doing light back exercises.

Maria at Euro Pilates has been an excellent trainer and I attribute my quick recovery to her motivational skills and guidance. She and Euro Pilates have helped me improve the quality of my life and given me reason to look forward to many more years as a healthy and strong individual. I credit them and my wonderful neurosurgeon with being so instrumental in allowing my surgery to be so successful.

Maria is a joy to work with!

A Different Kind of Pain

By Kathryn Maddox

My journey with Pilates started with a local Chiropractor.  I had sat at a desk job for the past 6 years and had also been slowly putting on weight in that time as well.  I didn’t feel as confident when selling or visiting current customers and my confidence is key in sales.  I distinctly remember my birthday in 2010 when I went out almost in tears to get something black and flowing because most of what I had didn’t fit and what did fit was not suitable for a fancy restaurant.  Ugh,  flashback!!!

The week following my birthday my back was hurting me again, so I scheduled a Chiropractic appointment. He took some X-rays and then looked at me and said “you need abdominal muscles”.  The look on his face said “might want to lose a couple pounds” but that might have been my insecurity talking.  I had been working with a personal trainer, so I knew what I had been doing was not working, so I researched on the Internet and every time I typed in “exercise building abdominal muscles” I would somehow land on Pilates exercises.

I set up my first private session after finding Euro Pilates online and from then on, I was sold.  I simply could not get enough of Pilates, and it was so different than anything I had tried in the past.  I was sore in places that I didn’t know had muscles and I started to see changes in my body within weeks and slowly began to lose the weight that I had been putting
on.  I continued to take classes, and private and semi-private sessions from then on, and a couple of months before my wedding in May of this year I started coming into the studio at least 5 days a week.  I was coming in for Pilates of
course, but also coming in because I really felt like I had made some friends at this place.  The environment is much
more personal than a large gym and people know each other and encourage each other.  I actually looked forward to
coming in to work out!  This was new for me.

When I came back from my wedding in May it didn’t take me long to come to the realization that although the event was over, I didn’t want to slow down taking Pilates at all.  Not only had I gone from a size 12 to a size 8, lost 25 pounds, and toned up, I had found something that I truly love.

In July of this year I quit my desk job and signed up to become a STOTT PILATES certified trainer, a process that began in
September.  Maria and the staff at Euro Pilates have been extremely encouraging as I take the classes I need to
eventually instruct at Euro Pilates.  Hopefully soon I can help others to make the journey that I made to be a
healthier, stronger, and more confident person. I always tell people that my body and my career are still a work in progress, but its work that I am thoroughly enjoying!!

Pursuit of the Suit

By Tanya Burroughs

Every woman should have a little black dress that makes you feel fierce.  In the world of business, you also need that go-to suit that makes you fearless.  This is thestory of my pursuit of the suit.

In 2010 I started a new job, and I knew that it meant a lot of hard work and dedication to my career and family with little time for myself.  After some time in the position I decided it was time to re-dedicate time for my health and wellbeing.  I decided to explore Pilates for a few reasons but the main reason was because two of my girlfriends had started taking classes and looked absolutely amazing.  Plain and simple, my jealously kicked in!  March 28th was my first class at Euro Pilates. I quickly completed my required private lessons and sign up for bootcamp.  April 4th was my first bootcamp class; I thought Maria was going to kill me.  Thankfully I was in a class with amazing women which made it more fun to come in and deal with the pain my neglected body was feeling.

To add to my new excitement about my dedication to me, my company asked me to film a “how to” video on our sales model.  I was flown to Kansas City to record the video that would be aired at the companies National Sales Meeting in May.  Feeling good about my work, family and my workouts, I got ready that morning with enthusiasm.  I felt like everything was aligning just right.  I took my black suit from the closet where I had carefully hung it the night before and attempted to slip into my impeccable pressed pants.  They glided easily over my calf, slide past my knee, reached resistance at my thighs, even slightly tougher obstacle at my backside and then a complete undeniable barricade at the button.  Standing, staring in the mirror at my perfect suit that was nowhere near giving me that boost of confidence I was counting on was to say the least, heartbreaking.  The pockets were bulging out, the zipper looked like it would rip if I moved, not even the best spanx could get my pants closed and even if they could, there
would be no sudden movements or even a thought of sitting down.

How did this happen! I knew that after starting my new job that I had put on some weight but not until putting on my suit did I realize how much.  I fought back tears and called my husband and told him that things had to change immediately.  Knowing that there was nothing I could do to change it in that moment, I regained my composure and put on the cotton skirt I had planned to wear on the plane ride home and set out to the studio to film.

On Thursday when I returned to classes I told the ladies my story and Maria encouraged me to weigh in for the next bootcamp.  She said in just the little time that I had been there she had seen a change in my body, and the ladies all agreed.  Still wounded from Kansas City I could not face the number on the scale.  Over the next week she was relentless on the final day of my first bootcamp. She said that I could not come back if I did not weigh in.  I am still not sure if she would have forbid me but I did not want to take the chance so I stepped on the scale.  At that point I was determined to reach two goals, weight loss and the most important getting into my suit.

During the May bootcamp I made sure I worked extra hard in class and was very mindful of what I was doing and eating during the day.  I even made sure when I attended the national sales meeting were my video aired with great success, I worked out every day.  I also made sure I weighed myself on a regular basis so I could monitor my progress or lack thereof.  All my hard work paid off when I won the May bootcamp but I still could not bring myself to try on my suit.

June I decided to add a goal to my list, I wanted to make sure I looked good for our family vacation.  This was going to be the first time my husband’s family and mine had been together since our wedding.  It is not as shallow as it sounds, I was also carrying a comment my father had made to me years ago.  I wanted to make sure there was no way he would be able to say anything about my weight other than “you’re so skinny”.  Plus I promised myself I would try my suit on before July, weight loss or not.  As July
drew closer and closer, I would sit in my closet and stare at my suit.  It took me almost a week of going in every night before I got the courage to try it on.  I held the pants in my hand and they glided easily over my calf, slid past my knee, soared past my thighs, shot past my backside, and buttoned with great ease and relief.  I immediately walked into the living room to show off.  I came out with a strut so fierce I would have taken down the hottest models on a cat walk.   Along with fitting into my suit I claimed my second win for bootcamp.

July brought an excitement that I had missed for a long time.  I was happy to be on track to reach my goals and I was going on vacation with my family, but I also wanted to three-peat and win July bootcamp.  This month was the toughest.  I had steady weight loss for two months and I had some fierce competition.  The bootcamp ladies had put a target on my back and wanted to take me out.  I can’t say I was confident especially with my vacation coming up.  I enjoy eating and had not starved myself in my prior two victories and was not about to start on my vacation.  My vacation ended on Wednesday with our final weigh in for July the following day.  By .03 percent I was able to secure
my third consecutive bootcamp win and another showing of my suit.

July was my best month.  I won bootcamp, faced my father’s words with confidence and can now totally ROCK my suit again!  Euro Pilates has changed more than my body,
it has provided me with new friendships and allowed me to explore the exciting world of salsa with the ones I love and reminded me that “we are what we repeatedly do”.  ‘Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit’ (Aristotle).  I do not intend to break that habit, but if I do veer off course I know Maria and my bootcamp ladies will quickly push me back on track.

A baby Boomers journey: Pumping iron to pursuing Pilates

by Kathleen Devine

It’s true!  I am a baby boomer and chances are so are you, if you are reading this article.    Officially, boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964 and there are approximately 78 million of us.  Unofficially, there are only two things boomers want more than financial security; health and mobility!  Boomers are the fastest growing segment of the health club market and Pilates is the perfect solution for boomers because it provides a full body workout without the wear and tear that is associated with the “no pain – no gain” pumping iron mentality  and high impact aerobic  routines of the past.
Like most of us who refuse to believe we are really getting older, my chronic lower back pain  hit  in slow waves through my 40’s, creeping up on me until  I could no longer run because of it.  Even more shocking, bending over to tie my shoes took my breath away.  How did this happen to me?    I was a tough Army girl who was Airborne and Air Assault qualified.  I pumped iron in my 20’s and 30’s and did every aerobic exercise known to man, not to mention exercises unique to Army training.  I was still jumping out of planes at 39 and retired after 23 years of service at the young age of 45.  But it took me five more years to find PILATES and take control of my back pain and my body.

I drove past the big blue Euro Pilates sign almost daily for a year. Located on the northbound side of Bruce B. Downs near the intersection of County Line Road, I always meant to stop and check it out.  But it was constant lower back pain (LBP) and a family member’s suggestion to try Pilates that finally made me pull-in on a whim.  Maria Ivanova , a former Russian Rhythm Gymnast and owner of Euro Pilates, greeted me at the door and I hesitantly told her about my failed attempts at reducing my back pain.  I felt compelled to convince her I had always been athletic; a hard sell standing there at 215 bloated, menopausal, stressed out pounds.  Serendipitously, she just had a cancellation and challenged me to a workout right then.  I was in!  There was no way I was going to let a 30-something, 110lb waif, scare me (a boomer) away from an unplanned workout.  It was the best thing I have ever done for my back, my body and my family.

That first 55-minute session worked my body in ways I had never experienced.  It’s a familiar saying for those new to Pilates, “I have never worked so hard, moving so little.”  I was soaked and humbled because exercises I had done hundreds of times in gyms I could now barely master because of the focus, coordination, balance and muscle involvement required by Pilates.
Instinctively, I knew that Pilates made sense for my body and I made a commitment to get myself healthy again.   I saw a quote by Joseph Pilates that read, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference and in 30, you’ll have a whole new body.”  Little did I know that I would start seeing the difference around my third Pilates session!

I started taking private sessions three times a week in hopes of avoiding injection therapy and possibly surgery.   At this point, multiple physical therapy programs had not worked and living with an 8/9 pain level controlled by medicine was not a healthy course of action.  Add to that the stress of my husband’s five tours to Afghanistan, two moves in two years,  kids and the chance of more deployments in the future and you get the idea!   My body was controlling me instead of me controlling it and my back was taking the brunt of it.
That was until Maria and Pilates put me back (no pun intended) in control.  Maria knew how far to push and read my body like a book.  She hovered over me like a drill sergeant, barking commands, poking and prodding muscles that I was sure she could not really see, telling me over and over that I wasn’t “fully” engaged.  I wanted to work hard and she worked me harder.  After the third session, I noticed my pants were getting loose and my bloated stomach had gone down.   I had more energy and my back was feeling better and in a few weeks I started exercising on my non-Pilates days.   I added Chiropractic care and neuromuscular massage therapy to my program to help retrain my body, muscles, ligaments and fascia into a healthy alignment and my back pain continued to decrease.

The National Institutes of Health reports back pain is so prevalent that 75-85% of all Americans will suffer back pain at some point in their life and will spend over $50 billion in an attempt to cure it.  Dr. Micah Richeson, owner of Cypress Creek Chiropractic, says stress plays a big role in the patients he sees with neck, shoulder and low back pain.  Richeson believes you must treat the whole body and not just the symptom,  saying, “I like Pilates because it compliments what I am addressing structurally and functionally and it helps with form, balance, circulation and oxygen levels”, which in turn helps reduce stress and pain levels.  Combine that with therapeutic massage to address soft tissue issues and nutritional awareness like I did, and you can really make a difference in your quality of life.

I am not pain free but I don’t live in constant pain like I used to.   I have lost over 40 pounds and 25 inches and at 52 I feel better than I did at 42.  Pilates has changed the way I look at health and fitness and how I see myself keeping in  shape as I get older.  I am able to coach the 5-6 year old soccer team at our church, I am able to keep up with my three beautiful children (including a 7-month old), my husband loves my body and I am now a STOTT Pilates instructor hoping to inspire, train, teach, coach and mentor other boomers to take charge and make a change!

I often think about where I would be today if I had not met the driving force behind my transformation, Maria. She’s tough, smart, and wants her clients to feel their best.  On my second workout, I asked Maria if she thought I could be a Pilates instructor. In her typical direct Russian accent Maria said, “No! You don’t have the body for it”!    What she didn’t know was years of Army training gave me the confidence to tackle anything.  Maria saw my drive, passion and determination to get fit and she is the one who encouraged me to become an instructor and work in her studio.

I use what I have learned through Pilates every day, whether riding a bike, walking, jogging or driving . I am happier, healthier and most importantly my back is no longer controlling how I feel every moment of the day.  My family notices I have more energy and I learn more everyday on how to keep stress out of my body because I took the time to take care of myself, so I can take better care of those I love.

If you stop by Euro Pilates I won’t be hard to miss.  I am the one usually wearing the dogs tags and whistle around my neck as I train the latest round of Pilates trainees durinig one of our many Boot Camp courses.


Tips for Living, Training & Racing with a Bad Back

Yesterday, March 31, 2010, four days after I turned 40 years old, I got some of the best news I’ve heard in quite a while. My neurosurgeon told me that my back was healed and I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. I wasn’t really surprised by this, but it instills confidence that the guy who dug around in your back is telling you to go ahead and train like you want. Felt good…

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