I am not a health care professional or fitness instructor. This post discusses my experiences and how I personally feel. This should not be used as treatment or health advice.
First up let me just say I am not naïve enough to genuinely think Pilates would cure me. I didn’t start Pilates to be cured or as an experiment however, during the time I was doing Pilates it got me thinking and I thought this may make a useful blog post.
Have You Tried?
If Chronically Ill, you to have probably heard the sentence “have you tried…” something we are all sick of hearing! It’s often followed by various ‘helpful suggestions’. Exercise is a common suggestion, specifically Yoga and Pilates.
I have always enjoyed exercise, growing up for as long as I could I was extremely active. In my late teens I found a way to use the gym and I do what I can when I can now.
Pilates was not something I had ever tried before but I wanted to. At the start of 2019 I began to attend Pilates Classes. It took a few different classes to find the right one for me and the right instructor.
Did It Help?
I found Pilates really useful both physically and mentally. I used to love going to the gym when I was stressed or anxious as I just felt it all slip away.
Pilates really just helps me zone out, do something for myself and breathe as odd as that may sound.
I also found it a huge support emotionally as it felt like doing my stretches/physio at home but instead of doing so unhappily on my own I could do it with a group. Although I attended a class with a total of around 21 people there were often less of us than that and where needed support was provided. I found my instructor brilliant in understanding my hypermobility and in helping me to not hyperextend and other things I wouldn’t have noticed independently.
Physically it meant that I was essentially committing to 60 minutes of physio every week but as I said in an environment that made it much easier to do.
Stretching has been proven to be good for my body and learning new stretches and having more support in getting them right was really helpful.
How Did It Help?
I have a tendency to go numb in my arms and legs and to get that tingling feeling that isn’t quite pins and needles. Exercise, Pilates included gets my body moving and helps with circulation, blood flow and reduces the numbness and tingling feelings I have.
Now exercise can be a super tricky one because it can cause a lot of pain and payback however, exercise can feel good particularly in the moment for me personally. Stretching really helps reduce the tension in my muscles and therefore helps with pain; this doesn’t mean the pain goes away but it eases if only for a short period of time.
I have to be prepared that following exercise I may have fatigue, payback or an increase in pain but what I have to remember is that the pain is from teaching my muscles control. The pain comes from muscles that aren’t often used. There is a point of pain following exercise that tells me I did to much or that I have injured myself but usually it’s from teaching my body how to control itself.
Pilates is a very delicate balancing act for those with Hypermobility. Many people take up Pilates to increase flexibility however, if you’re Hypermobile your aim with Pilates changes slightly. Instead of increasing flexibility because my goodness we do not need to be more flexible, we are learning how to control our flexibility. This is to prevent hyperextension (over bendiness) which can cause pain, subluxations, dislocations or other injuries. If you are a ‘stiff hypermobile’ you will also be working towards control because the last thing you want to do is teach your body to be more hypermobile that it already is.
I have always benefited from exercise mentally and physically but it can be extremely difficult to maintain when chronically ill. Unfortunately, after a PoTS Flare/PoTS diagnosis back in July I had to stop attending Pilates. My body was not able to cope and I couldn’t regulate my heart rate or blood pressure which made Pilates impossible or too dangerous for me at the time, especially in a class environment.
For the last year I have also been going swimming once a week and to a ‘toning suite’ which is a specifically designed gym for people with decreased mobility – I plan on going into this all at another time. I have thankfully managed to continue these with James’ support and supervision. Recently I have also started an at home Pilates course as part of a study on the effects of Pilates for Hypermobile patients. I’m not going to go into this too much as I have only just started but I am really happy to be back at Pilates. I have only been able to do this again with James’ support and supervision whilst also learning to listen to my body and its new limitations.
What’s My Point?
Yes, Pilates has been beneficial for me both physically and mentally but it is not curing me and will not cure me.
Suggesting that Pilates could cure someone is possibly extremely damaging to their physical and mental health. It is also a HUGE insult to constantly have people suggesting that you should be cured because disabled / chronically ill people are essentially constantly being told that they’re not right and that they need fixing.
I am Disabled, I am not going to be cured. In some circumstances it’s possible that new treatments and medications are going to be discovered over time however, the majority of these are treatments to reduce symptoms not a cure.
Exercising and doing Pilates is not right or possible for every chronically ill person and those doing Pilates will not be cured. It may help their symptoms and it may help their mental health but it will not cure them.
Have you tried Pilates before? What was your experience? Are you sick of being told you can be cured?