My Journey with Pilates

I first discovered Pilates in 1994 while I was attending SUNY Purchase as a dance major.  I attended Purchase from 1994-1998 and while I was there we had a Pilates Studio downstairs in the dance building.

Pilates was introduced to me as a freshman, in 1994 during my Anatomy class.  As a dance major, the majority of my academic classes were in the evenings from 7pm-10pm and I danced all day from 9 am or 10 am until 5pm or 6pm.  It was a very challenging schedule.  By the time my Anatomy class came at 7pm, I was exhausted, physically and mentally.  My teacher recognized this in all of us as well.   He changed our class so that we learned academic Anatomy from 7-8:30pm and then from 8:30pm-10pm learned either The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning (mat work only) or Massage Therapy.

My first experience of Pilates was kind of a joke.  I was 18, exhausted from the day and really not interested.  I also was really bad at it.  My body was not muscularly balanced (although at the time I thought it was) and I could barely do any of the exercises.  I didn’t understand this because as a dancer I could do almost anything.  Why couldn’t I do this?  At the time I thought it was because it was so late at night after dancing all day, but as the years went on I learned otherwise.

In February of 1995 I was diagnosed with a stress fracture on my second metatarsal on my left foot.  I couldn’t walk, forget about dancing.  It hurt to even have a sock on my foot.  Needless to say I was devastated.  I was at school as a dance major and my dean wanted me to watch all classes.  Was she kidding?  I had to sit there and watch all my friends dance while I was in so much pain?  After our physical therapist (Sean P. Gallagher) convinced me that I should be doing Pilates while I can not dance, I went to our dean to find out if I could study Pilates instead of my technique classes.  She said yes.  So to the Pilates studio I went.  I went three times a week for about 6 months.  This process was very interesting.  I had no experience on the equipment, only the mat and I hated the mat work, but I trusted Sean when he said that if I did Pilates while my foot was healing I would just have to rehab my foot and not my whole body.

When I think back on those early days in the Pilates studio as a 19 year old injured dancer, boy do I feel for those who worked with me.  I was a mess.  My body was a mess, my emotions were all over the place and I really didn’t want to be there.  In thinking back on what my sessions were like I couldn’t do anything weight bearing on my feet.  I couldn’t even do the foot work series on the reformer.  I didn’t work much on the reformer at all, but I did do a lot of mat and a lot of cadillac.  I don’t even remember when my attitude changed.   I didn’t like Pilates and complained all the time that I just wanted to be dancing, but somehow I continued to go. 

Sean was right.  6 months later when I was approved to start physical therapy and begin dancing again my body felt great.  My foot really still hurt, but the rest of my body felt like I had never stopped dancing.  It was amazing.  Actually I was stronger than I was before the injury.  I had learned in my private sessions that I had major muscular imbalances in my body from years of always practicing “my good side”.  As a ballet dancer, I would spend hours a day practicing my turns on the one side I could do a lot on, or lift the one leg that got higher than the other.  Years of this had caused major imbalance.  That is the reason why I could not do the mat work my freshman year.  It all came together for me.

My junior and senior year at Purchase I thought about getting certified to teach Pilates (as they offered it at our studio in the dance building) but I could never get it together to do it.  It always seemed to conflict with a show I was in or rehearsals.  It never seemed to work out.

After graduating from Purchase I moved to NYC with 2 of my friends.  I really missed Pilates but could not afford it.  I went to Sean’s office and begged him for an internship where I would work in exchange for sessions.  After a few months I decided I wanted to get certified in Pilates to learn more about this method that I was now fascinated with.

That was it.  I fell in love with teaching Pilates thanks to my mentors Romana Kryzanowska, Sari Santo, Bob Liekens and Stephanie Beatty.  I started my journey into teaching in 1999 but finally finished in April of 2000.  Since then I’ve had the pleasure to study with a lot of amazing teachers that I continue to learn from.  I’m still learning.  I learn something new every day.  Romana always asks us, “what did you learn today?  Always ask yourself that question.”  That is a lesson that has stuck with me through my 10 years of teaching.  I ask myself that question after every client and after every session with my own body.

Jennifer RuggieroMy Journey with Pilates
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