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December Client of the Month - Heather S.



When Heather walked in the door over a year ago, Aspire Pilates Center lit up. She was energetic, enthusiastic, open minded, and ready to explore the wonderful world of Pilates. She loved high performance training and had spent many years enjoying fitness. She had explored everything from skiing, to kickboxing, to hard core, early morning, baby boot camp classes. She loved the rush of working out and her enthusiasm was infectious.

Just as with all new clients that come to Aspire, we started out slowly and carefully with Heather, laying a solid foundation to strengthen muscles underutilized in the body.She looked fit and had more strength than the average person walking in the front door, but needed improvement with her flexibility and balance.She had also developed some compensation patterns from her work outs and daily life that manifested in neck and lower back pain.

Heather was patient as we began unraveling old habits and her back pain went away.We worked a bit more to strengthen new body mechanics and her neck pain went away. She became graceful, well aligned, strong and took each challenge that was thrown at her to the next level.She soon began doing the tricky type of exercises that we see flashy characters doing in Pilates videos or on TV.

Then one day, Heather walked into the studio with a strong limp, labored movement and a panicked look on her face.I learned that this active mother of four had been battling an autoimmune condition for some time that had profound effects on her health. The illness affected the sensation in her fingers and toes and her body would severely stiffen and weaken, which assaulted her ability to walk normally.She'd have to "Start back at square one and recover externally, internally, mentally and physically", says Heather.It was an awful cycle that would manifest at important times of stress and leave her emotionally and physically drained for months.

The beauty of Pilates is that when it is taught well, it is an exercise form that is truly accessible to everyone.So what if we couldn't do her usual fancy, circus- like tricks during these times when the illness showed itself?We worked slowly and carefully, focused on her alignment, her strength, flexibility and balance in ways that were accessible to where she was on those bad days.


"No matter how bad a day is or how rough a week it has been... going to Aspire Pilates Center makes me walk out revived and ready to take on what is next." - Heather S.

Working carefully through Heather's bad days, her recent episodes have passed in days or weeks instead of months. Even when not feeling her best, she feels empowered that she is stronger and more coordinated, so doesn't need to fear her labored gait or "how bad it could get".She is now partnered with her body, rather than trapped as a victim of its current challenges.


"There is always a challenge to overcome and that feeling of accomplishment is worth more than words can say!!" - Heather S.

Nowadays, Heather bounds effortlessly from one piece of Pilates equipment to the next and is a force to be reckoned with.Her muscles are long and powerful, she is pain free, and ran a mini-marathon this year.And Tonya now has to actually warm up to demonstrate her exercises because of the difficulty of her program!Whether it's putting an end to her pain so that she can care for her children, calming her body during times of crises, or training for her next "Muddy Buddy" race, Heather really knows how to do it.


Fall Prevention - Falling Does Not Have to be a Natural Part of the Aging Process!

fallprevEver feel like your balance is just not quite there anymore? Have you tripped over a telephone cord and couldn't figure out how you ended up on the floor? Do you remember the days when you could trip, do wild flapping motions with your arms, and somehow regain your balance without ever touching the floor?

As we age, our strength and flexibility decrease, which lowers our ability to safely "catch ourselves" when we stumble. Studies tell us that 1/3 of adults over age 65 fall every year. And once an adult over 65 falls, she is two to three times more likely to fall again within the year! How much our ability to "catch ourselves" diminishes is directly related to our activity level.

A Vicious Circle

Falling can be a horrifying and painful experience that haunts our bodies and minds for weeks, months, and even years to come. Unfortunately, once we've fallen, we often become more sedentary out of fear that we may fall again. Ironically, this change in lifestyle which we settle into to try to prevent falling, often hastens the next fall. Our decreased activity level causes us to lose muscle strength, we develop stiff or sore joints and our balance decreases. In other words, the more sedentary we become, the higher risk we run of falling again.

Falling can be extremely dangerous for the over 65 age group. It is estimated that falling causes 87% of fractures within this age group and the aftermath can lead to increased anxiety, a decreased quality of life, early dependency and even death.

Thankfully, there is hope. Falling does not have to be an inevitable part of the fallprev2aging process and exercise is the key to combating it. The CDC tells us that aerobic exercise, strength, and flexibility training are major components of an effective fall prevention regimen.

Pilates gently builds strength, flexibility and balance while addressing alignment and posture, which helps us stay upright and off the ground. We build slowly and carefully from the "inside out" so that our clients' confidence levels increase as they discover that there is no longer a need to fear gravity.

Maybe you can never go back to that time when you were able to stumble and safely catch yourself with dramatic flare, but falling does not have to be part of the aging process. By keeping your body strong and supple, and incorporating simple balance exercises into your daily routine, you will be amazed at how quickly both your confidence level and quality of life increase.


Debbie G. - September Client of the Month

"I'll be doing Pilates for Life!" 
- Debbie G.

Debbie G. started classes at Aspire six months ago. As a martial artist and avid skier, she's always had an active lifestyle. While skiing eighteen years ago, she fell off a twenty five foot cliff and landed seat first on a boulder. After five ski patrollers successfully lowered her off of the mountain by gurney, she suffered a few harrowing hours of waist down paralysis. Thankfully, Debbie's movement returned, but she never felt quite like her old self after the accident. 

Debbie was plagued over the years by never ending bouts of hip, back and shoulder pain. 

"As I got older, my body started locking up on me. I had really lost my flexibility and I always hurt so badly. I had trouble getting out of bed and standing up again after sitting. Movement was very painful and the pain made me unhappy, moody and tired. I felt like I was becoming a miserable person." 

Debbie knew that she wanted to be able to live her active life style and knew that she wanted to address her pain, "But I had no idea that it was really possible. What was happening to my body was scary because I'm only in my 50's, not 90!" A friend suggested that she try Pilates. Debbie says that she saw a new world of possibilities when she visited Aspire and watched Tonya working with "a vivacious, 80 year old client in such great shape". 

Debbie began taking group classes twice a week and within a few weeks felt a decrease in her pain level. Within a few more weeks, she noticed an increase in her flexibility. She also realized that how she moved in her daily life was changing.

"I've always used a stick to close the drapes because I had trouble reaching the top near the rod. Now I can touch the very top, and I don't even have to stand on my tippy toes to close them. And I knew that something was very different the day that I could balance with one foot on the edge of the tub and reach my toes to put on lotion."

Since starting to feel better, Debbie is back in full swing training in Aikido. She also has noticed major changes in her outlook on life.

"All of a sudden, I noticed that my happy go lucky attitude was back and I was starting to enjoy life again. I'm more consistently in a good mood and I catch myself whistling, which I haven't done in years. I'm thrilled to know that my bad moods and unhappiness were not who I was becoming, but were due to pain. I am so grateful to Aspire Pilates Center for helping me get this back".


Debbie at Hikari Dojo in Martinez, CA.

Debbie continues to get stronger, more flexible and more balanced everyday. Her body mechanics are becoming healthier and her pain level gets lower and lower. She might never get back to her 30 something self who fell off the cliff that day, but she is definitely taking her body and mind to a new place.

Recently, Debbie reminded me of how excited she was when she saw the 80 year old, energetic client her first day in the studio, and excitedly stated: "I'll be doing Pilates for life!"


Posture is More Than Just Looking Good!

How many times as a child did your mom tell you to "sit up straight" or "fix your posture"? Posture may bring to mind the lady in etiquette school walking with a book on her head or the soldier with his shoulders thrust back and chest stuck out. But good posture (aka "good alignment") is simply the place where all of our joints line up. It's a plumb line that runs through the body, which when found, gives us an ease of movement with a minimum of effort or strain.



Our posture is often determined by our physical habits combined with the long term effects of gravity on our bodies. How we hold a pen, carry our purse, sit at a computer, hold the wheel of the car, or walk in heels all have an affect on our posture.

Good posture makes us look healthy, confident, graceful, self- assured, proud and ready to take on the world. In fact, good posture can even make us feel better because proper alignment can improve circulation and optimize our breathing.

Poor posture can make us look shy, intimidated, depressed, insecure or weak. It also can lead to chronic back pain and negatively affects our balance, breathing, energy, strength, and flexibility.

So how do you achieve and maintain good posture? Start by building a strong Core. Core strength builds our alignment from the inside out. It facilitates good body mechanics and better weight distribution through all of our joints, which prevents long term wear and tear and injury. Core strength also helps our bodies counteract the forces of gravity, making us feel lighter and more in control. 

What's the most effective way to build core strength? You guessed it... Pilates!

Improving your posture is a lot easier than you think. With the right combination of exercises, changes can be seen rather quickly. If your posture is already fabulous, then send a huge "Thank you" to your Mom... or your Pilates teacher! 


July 2009 Client of the Month! - Judy E.!

"I tell you, I AM 100% PAIN FREE! NO JOKE!!!"
- Judy E., Client of the Month




Judy works in the same office complex as Aspire, so over the past few years we've swapped stories about family and home life. During several friendly conversations, she mentioned in passing about her excruciating back pain. I told her "Pilates, Pilates, Pilates!" 

Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles that stabilize the spine first, then builds outwards. We have seen many, many clients regain their quality of life after strengthening their core and reducing or eliminating their back pain.

No Light at the End of the Tunnel

After Judy had spoken with her doctor and read several Internet articles on Sciatica, she became more and more concerned that pain may be something that she "was going to have to live with" for the rest of her life. There wasn't much light at the end of the tunnel when it came to relieving Judy's pain. 


"I literally had to stop 4 times on a drive home from Lake Tahoe because the pain was so bad sitting down. After seeing a sports therapist that 'rearranged' things and helped it for about 2 days, taking pain pills, muscle relaxers, heating pads, ice packs, and everything my doctor prescribed/suggested, I was basically desperate. So I started at Aspire. I was skeptical because I am not in very good physical condition, and wasn't sure how Pilates was going to help." 
- Judy E., Client of the Month

Pilates the Aspire Way

At Aspire, safety always comes first. We started slowly and made sure that every movement and exercise was safe and would not increase Judy's pain level. We also taught Judy how each exercise affected her anatomy.

"Usually when I take some kind of exercise class, the instructors are not very informative. They don't tell you why you need to do what they tell you to do. Its like, 'Just to do it.' Tonya actually took the time to explain what she was having me do and why, and what each exercise strengthens and affects. That helped me A LOT because I was able to take home what I learned in class." 

- Judy E., Client of the Month

Profound Results After Just 3 Classes!

Although we take the slow and steady approach at Aspire, Judy was able to achieve great results after her third class. Ironically, Judy almost didn't attend class that night because of pain. After finishing a core strengthening exercise mid-class, an astonished Judy exclaimed:


"Oh, my God! My pain is gone!! This is impossible!" 

Needless to say, the whole class applauded. This is why I teach Pilates!

"That was the best money ever spent. Still, to this day, if I even feel a little twinge, - Pilates exercises. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!! I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you have done for me." 

- Judy E., Client of the Month

Judy did it for herself! She learned basic Pilates concepts and exercises appropriate for her body in class, and now practices them at home to maintain her strength. Judy is now in control of her own pain level. She has fun skiing with her 11 year old son and once again enjoys activities that used to make her wince just thinking about them. Congratulations, Judy! To many more pain free years!


What is Pilates Anyway? (It's not what you see on TV!)

J_pilateswhatPilates is a powerful whole body conditioning system that builds incredible strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. The system was invented by Joseph and Clara Pilates during the the first three decades of the 20th century.

Joseph Pilates 
circa 1920

Why is the method created by Joseph & Clara Pilates so powerful?

Pilates is profoundly effective because it begins by focusing on the deep core muscles and then progressing outwards as the deeper muscles get stronger. We build our foundation from the inside out, versus many other forms of exercise that work our extremities too soon, while crushing inwards on an unstable spine. 

Another key to the effectiveness of Pilates is its emphasis on the use of slow, smooth, precise repetitions where each movement has a solid intention and focus. With Pilates, 5 repetitions done correctly is much more effective than 100 done incorrectly. This approach re-programs our often faulty body mechanics while strengthening new and beneficial patterns of movement.

What is the Core?
"The Core", is the center of power, stability and balance in our bodies. Made up of four, deep muscle groups (the Diaphragm, Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominis, & Multifidi),"The Core" works to keep the spine stable, healthy and happy. 

What kind of results can I expect from Pilates?

Well trained Pilates teachers routinely see the following results with students of all ages and body types:

  • Back & joint pain disappears
  • Athletes exceed their personal bests
  • Seniors with balance challenges stop falling & become more active
  • Pregnant women carry their babies nine months with little or no back pain
  • People's posture improves, endurance increases & self confidence goes through the roof

The bottom line: Pilates creates a self empowering sense of body awareness & helps develop an incredibly strong,flexible & wonderfully balanced body that defies injury.

April Client of the Month! - Chrissy J.!

"My husband said that my shoulders don't slouch over like they used to. I definitely have better posture". - Chrissy J.

chrissy1Chrissy called Aspire one day, excited to be pregnant with her first baby, but a bit intimidated to take Pilates. She knew that she wanted to do something to improve her pregnancy, because she was already feeling the changes at 14 weeks. Her exhausting commute caused her body to ache all over, and she had severe back and leg pain. 

Chrissy had heard that Pilates could be great for pregnant women, but was a bit reluctant to start. She had not worked out much for years and was afraid that classes might be too strenuous for her. But once her doctors assured her that Pilates would help improve her overall pre-natal health and could even make her delivery easier, she jumped right in and started taking class. 

"I was having pain down my right leg and I could barely lift up my leg because it hurt so much. Tonya customized all of the exercises for me and has been very gentle throughout the pregnancy". - Chrissy J.

It's never too late to start! Chrissy started Pilates at 18 weeks. Our first step was to design a program that was safe for her pregnancy as well as her back and leg pain. We worked on the mat for 3 weeks, then moved to the machines and mixed in a few release classes. 

"I'm in Open Reformer classes now and I hope to continue until delivery. I no longer have ANY leg pain and my back pain is very limited (which I now know how to decrease if I get uncomfortable after a long commute)." - Chrissy J.


With 5 months of training and a baby growing every day, Chrissy not only has more energy, less pain and is sleeping well, but her husband now complements her on her posture. We haven't seen Chrissy this week, so we can only assume that she has "popped". Good luck to you and your new family, Chrissy!!



So What is "The Core" Anyway?

Do you want to be more active, improve your posture, reduce back pain, or raise your athletic performance to a new level? To help you reach your goals safely and effectively, you should first stabilize your spine by strengthening your "Core." 

These days everyone is throwing around the term "The Core", but what is it? "The Core" is the center of power, stability and balance in our bodies, and it's not where you may think it is. I always ask new clients where they think "The Core" is and they often point to their upper abdominals, the pretty "six pack" muscles known as the Rectus Abdominis. Those muscles may be gorgeous, but they do not stabilize the spine. This is why it is not uncommon to have beautiful bathing suit or washboard abs and still have a sore back.pilatesanyway

"The Core" is actually made up of the Diaphragm on the top (our powerful breathing muscle located right below the lungs), the Pelvic Floor on the bottom (the muscles that support the internal organs), the Transverse Abdominis (the deep, corset-like abdominal muscle that cinches the waist when it is engaged), and the Multifidi (the tiny finger-like muscles that stabilize the individual vertebrae of the spine). These four muscle groups are the center (or core) of stability for our spine, and must work together in partnership to keep the spine stable, healthy and happy. Together these four muscle groups are like a soda can: If all sides are strong, it is difficult to crush. But put one small dent in any side of the can, and it loses its overall stability, strength, and integrity.

Whatever your goals, to be safe and successful, start with "The Core" first and build outwards.


Ingrid R. - February 2009 Client of the Month!

Ingrid R. - "10 months later I am 80 pounds lighter and pain free."

I refer to Ingrid as "The Pilates Poster Child". Aspire clients refer to her as "The Incredible Shrinking Woman".

I met Ingrid R. a little over a year ago at a networking event. At the time, Ingrid was heavier than she wanted to be and her years of extra weight had taken a toll on her body and mind. She was in pain and wanting to turn her life around. She wished to: "Get in shape, to get back to my old self." 

We talked on the phone the next day and she began taking classes. Because Ingrid had joint pain exacerbated by weight that had haunted her for years, we were very careful and specific as we developed her program. 


Ingrid Before Pilates at Aspire Pilates Center

Ingrid R. - "I wanted to move fast and use a lot of weight, because I wanted to go for it." "But Tonya kept explaining that we needed to start out slowly to make sure that we were working correctly to strengthen the muscles that support the joints". "She was right, because about a month into classes my joint pain went away". 

Ingrid R. - "I love this stuff!! I can't get enough!" Initially taking class twice a week, Ingrid soon increased to four Reformer classes a week. Sometimes, if there was an extra spot in the class after hers, she would stay and take that one as well! Once Ingrid had developed a solid understanding of Pilates technique and a better sense of healthy body mechanics, I urged her to start walking around the block at lunch to get cardiovascular work into her program. (She was initially enthralled with water aerobics, but it had since then gotten too cold to swim).

Ingrid R. - "Tonya would call me and say, 'Did you walk around the block yet? Get up and walk, you'll be so glad that you did!' Almost 2 weeks later I was addicted to my daily walk. I started paying attention to my diet and chose healthier food choices. But I never deprived myself. 10 months later I am 80 pounds lighter and pain free.


Ingrid 15 months after starting at Aspire Pilates Center

As the owner of a Pilates studio, people often think that I'm exaggerating when I rave about the power of solid Pilates training. But I am constantly humbled and blown away by the transformational nature of this work, which is why I choose to teach it.

Ingrid R. - "It sometimes falls on deaf ears when you start raving about Pilates. If you haven't done it, you don't get it. When you see your body starting to transform, you can't believe it. You can't stop because it seems like every few weeks there is new change".

Ingrid was in pain, inactive and wanting to turn her life around. She worked hard and successfully "jump started" her body, mind and spirit. She then took her Pilates based skills, healthy body mechanics and new found strength and leveraged them with the rest of her life. Ingrid now enjoys going to the local gym at 4:00 a.m., walks three miles a day, spends weekends outdoors on her friend's boat,and is thinking about getting certified in Zumba (exercise/ dance) which she loves. She is even threatening to run a Marathon! Ingrid has done much more than rediscover her "old self". She has re-built herself from the inside out. To her health!