It all started with dancing at age 2. I am now nearly 25 years old. I have gone through training with sports, dance, and music. However, dance was what I gained a professional life out of for a short while. With over 20 years of movement experience, it can take a toll on your mind and body. I gained multiple injuries through my years as a dancer but also was in a car accident at age 22. It injured my lumbar spine permanently, a week before the biggest solo dance performance of my life.
I am also Bipolar type II and have PTSD linked to Conversion Disorder (Conversion Disorder is a psychological condition that causes symptoms that appear to be neurological, such as paralysis, speech impairment or tremors. It is a type of somatoform disorder. ) During my struggles with my body and mind I had to find something that could help keep me moving forward and not backward. Pilates was something I had started in high school but did not actually practice it habitually until I went to college. Then after that I decided to become a teacher. I have realized through my experiences with injuries and psychological ailments that Pilates was one of the best things to ever be added to my life. It kept my body in uniform development to prevent my injuries from getting worse and in fact helped them become much less problematic. It helps keep my mind functioning better than just taking a few pills everyday.
Pilates really helped me connect my mind to my body and stay focused. When I experienced my worst symptoms for Conversion Disorder, I sometimes would have pseudoseizures, abnormal involuntary movements, dissociation, and paralysis among other symptoms. I could not control my body with my mind whatsoever. This all happened right at the tail end of my teacher training so I ended up having to take one more year to finish. My master teacher was so incredible in getting me back into shape. She helped me focus on the breath and concentration to connect my mind to my body. At times it was very difficult because my legs wanted to do something else than what my mind told it to. Without Pilates I don’t think that my neurological system would be functioning as well as it does now.
I finished my teacher training, I performed the entire advanced reformer series perfectly in 45 minutes…a record time for our studio! I have more control over everything that I ever did before thanks to the practice of Pilates. Now, regarding the Bipolar Disorder, exercise is proven to help with mood disorders and is in fact one of the top treatments. I remember being so sick with Conversion Disorder, I couldn’t move much at all for a year, I became so depressed that I could not dance or do Pilates. But now that I am moving again, my body and mind feel much healthier and stable more consistently!
Pilates saves my life every day. Teaching and doing. My mind has not completely lost the connection to my body. I am forever grateful for Joe’s work and existence.
Author: Julia Haptonstahl
Location: Oak Park, IL
Occupation: Pilates Instructor and Professional Dancer