When I was 27 years old I was between jobs, homes, cities, and relationships. The only stress relief I had at the time was exercise – specifically trail running.
After briefly moving in with my parents, I finally relocated to D.C. without a job but with a plan to start over. That same day, I started seeing double. A trip to the eye doctor, an MRI, and several weeks later, and I had a diagnosis – multiple sclerosis. Within a couple of weeks, what turned out to be an MS flare up had worsened to the point where I couldn’t walk. This wasn’t really what I had in mind when I was thinking about starting over.
I ended up changing a lot of things in my life all at once – my diet, my stress management, and my exercise. Running wasn’t working. Enter Pilates.
Pilates became my game-changer. It was NOT love at first teaser. I hated it. I didn’t “get” it. Granted, it was just me in a tiny studio apartment along with a VHS tape. I kept at it because it was one of the only exercise programs I could do at that time. Overtime, I got better. I was walking again. I started taking Pilates classes. I actually started liking Pilates and decided to train to teach mat classes to others. Soon my life turned into more Pilates classes, more teacher trainings, a lot more teaching, and a lot more liking it (dare I say love?)
As a teacher, I mixed all the things I did in my own practice to get strong again, incorporating Pilates, barre, and yoga together. I trademarked my program Fuse Pilates®. I choreographed my classes to music because for neurological injury, that’s actually quite helpful and it was fun. (MS is decidedly not fun). Although I didn’t originally set out to be a full-time Pilates teacher, I accidentally found my second career.
I started expanding my repertoire to look deeper into Pilates and exercise science, why it works for neurological diseases like MS, and how to make it work even better. That journey has turned into a labor of love that inspired my Pilates for MS™ teacher training.
Today – more than a decade post-diagnosis, I can look back at a scary disease that has become an acquiescent companion in my life and see it for the gift that it is. It has given me some of my greatest treasures – the introduction to the Pilates community, my beloved mentors, the wonderful teachers and staff who work with me, and the now thousands of students who have honored me with their presence in my classes and workshops.
Author: Mariska Breland
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Pilates Teacher, Founder/Teacher Trainer at Fuse Pilates®