Finding Your Connection to Heroes in Motion®
By Gregory Youdan, PMA®-CPT
If you are anything like me, after learning about the PMA Heroes in Motion initiative you thought, “How do I get involved?”
I am a teacher at Sixth Street Pilates and a professional dancer in New York City. One of the companies I dance with is Heidi Latsky Dance, a physically integrated company using both able-bodied and disabled dancers.
I imagine it is my work with Heidi Latsky Dance that gives me a heightened interest in the Heroes in Motion initiative. After hearing about the work of the pioneers, I began to ask how I could get involved. One of the first people I asked just so happened to be the freelance editor of this newsletter. Her response was, “Call the PMA!”
I intended to, but before I had the chance she called and asked if I would like to explore how to get involved for the newsletter. So here we are!
What is Heroes in Motion?
Originally, I thought Heroes in Motion was solely the work of a select group of individuals, the pioneers, who were focusing on rehabilitating injured solders in San Diego and Denmark. As I quickly learned, it is much more than that. Heroes in Motion is about working with all severely impacted individuals.
The initiative is still young, and who exactly qualifies as a "hero in motion" is not explicitly defined. But this much is clear — it is not just soldiers, but also your everyday civilian heroes who suffer from a biomechanical dysfunction, giving them a severe impediment to motor control.
With that definition as our guide, it becomes clear that some of us may already be working with our own heroes, helping them “Return to Life.”
For example, Julie Gagnon Erickson of Endurance Pilates and Yoga in Arlington, Massachusetts currently works with Celeste Corcoran, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing who had both legs amputated. Julie has helped Celeste create a “suit of armor from within” to regain control of her body and movement.
Similarly two of the people I taught while working at GROUNDFLOOR Exercise, Amira Yunis and Allison Roberts, are Heroes in Motion. I began working with Amira as a non-impacted client. After her femur bone snapped (outside Pilates), her doctors discovered she had cancer and told her she would never be able to walk again. Through a combination of physical therapy and Pilates she is now able to walk with a cane.
Allison was crushed in a horseback riding accident when she was 12, and later further injured in a major car accident. At 23, she woke up without feeling in her hands, which led to discovering many other complications from the accidents. She required two separate spinal surgeries. After she tried conventional physical therapy for a year with no real results, someone at a coffee shop recommended ballet class, which led Allison to Pilates. Allison credits Pilates with her ability to walk and says Pilates is where she can “make space for herself” and not be defined by her injuries.
Pilates teacher Mikki Raveh, PMA-CPT, had just completed her teacher training with PhysicalMind Institute® when she was given her first client. To her surprise her client only had one arm. She admits to being more nervous about teaching her first client in general, than she was about the fact that the client was missing an arm, but trusted her skills and training. The client left feeling empowered and became a regular client of Mikki’s for many years.
It goes to show, you never know when or where you will be presented with an opportunity to work with impacted individuals.
How to Begin
Although there is no prescribed program to join or a direct road to follow, the Heroes in Motion initiative encourages everyone to find their own connection and forge their own path, while relying on a network and support system for guidance.
If you are interested in working with this population of heroes, the first step is to self-identify as someone who is willing and able. Although we are not doctors, we are movement professionals and are able to provide movement education to help any individual facilitate and create efficiency in movement within their bodies. The teachers I spoke with told me one needs a strong amount of courage, knowledge of craft, and belief in your skills to take on these clients. It also requires a great deal of trust in the relationship you will build with each other, the apparatus, and most importantly in the method. Remember, Pilates is a health modality and this is about more than just fitness or helping people exercise.
Is There Training?
There is no codified PMA training program for the Heroes in Motion initiative, but many of the pioneers offer continuing education courses which support the principles and ideas. These courses can help you hone and develop your skills, and offer you a mentor as you create your own opportunity.
One of goals of Heroes in Motion is to create a space for discourse and communication which will allow the flow of ideas and an exchange of information. A Facebook group called PMA Heroes in Motion has been created. This is a great place to write posts about your work with impacted individuals, keep up to date with what others are doing, and ask questions. Through this network we can broaden our reach and connect with other teachers doing similar work.
The initiative is in the process of creating a case study format. Working with clients who have severe impediments to motor control, one can expect a great deal of variance from one client to the next. These case studies will ideally help to streamline our efforts and allow us to document our work for research purposes. Moreover, as a 501(c)3 organization, the PMA is eligible to apply for certain grant and foundation money, which could be applied to help further the initiative.
How you get involved in working with impacted individuals depends entirely upon how you want to carve out your own space. Use the Heroes in Motion initiative as a vehicle for your voice, look for opportunities in your area, and use the PMA as a resource. There are many different disability organizations out there to which you can reach out and offer your services. Join the Facebook group and tell others about your work. Whichever path you choose, go out and “own” your space, and teach people to move better—“with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”
Photo by Deneka Peniston, courtesy of Sixth Street Pilates