In 2001 I was bored and lonely in an unfamiliar Canada with no work visa and nothing at all to do that seemed worth doing. A dull depression started to burn in my mind, a poison that threatened to work its way south into my body.
Near desperate I joined a co-ed baseball team, but I’d been lazily inactive for months and the running, throwing, and swinging (alright, flailing) proved too much. I woke up one morning paralyzed in bed, my back refusing to allow even my head to lift up off the pillow.
The doctor hardly looked at me. “Painkillers,” he said. I was handed a prescription and shown the door.
The medication did alleviate some of the pain, but not nearly enough. Tasks as simple as getting out of bed each morning became monumental. I suffered every time I bent and reached down to tie my shoes, and the back pain made working the clutch on my car a near impossibility. Chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists all worked with me as best they could, but my back just wasn’t improving despite their efforts.
I dealt with the pain for the better part of a year, my quality of life declining all the while. I tried new medications and therapies but my depression only deepened. When I thought of my young children and of the mother I was on course to become, I made a choice. I gathered all the pills and flushed them. I saw a new doctor, determined to communicate my desperation for relief.
“Pilates,” he said. It was a strange word I’d never heard in my life. “You’ve torn ligaments in your lower back and you need Pilates.”
The first studio I visited was more a boot camp from Hell, the instructor a sort of drill sergeant who seemed only to know the words "harder," "longer," "faster," and "more." I quit after my first day and promised never to try again. Thank God that was a promise I broke.
In Toronto I found my saving grace, a new Pilates studio where the instructor listened to me cry about my fears for my children. She put her hands gently on my slumped shoulders and straightened my posture. “Breathe,” she whispered. “Just breathe.” She gave me a soothing focus and taught me to strengthen my core.
Six weeks later I hopped out of bed, smiling and feeling rested and alert. I was agile, light on my feet, more stable and capable than I’d felt in years. My back was no longer seized up in knots and I was free from the pain. I got dressed quickly, bent effortlessly to tie my shoes, and pumped my car’s clutch all the way to Toronto, wailing along with the radio to my favorite tune. My entire body felt serene, my mind filled with a beautiful clarity. It was really a miracle.
My friends started coming to me with their own concerns – aching necks, sore backs. I showed them what I had learned. I taught them the techniques, and I found I was good at it. I could help these people – I saw the gratitude in their faces and felt I had to help them.
And my dream was born.