We have a new exciting offering at Dancers Shape: Therapeutic Pilates with licensed Physical Therapist Toussaint Biondi. We recently chatted with Toussaint about this new offering and how it can help people like you. Read on:
Dancers Shape: What drew you to physical therapy? How did DS fit into that plan?
Toussaint Biondi: I think when you grow up in dance, you tend to like watching the way people walk and move in general. I didn't have much of a science background until college, and it just happened that I was in the middle of my Kinesiology degree when I met Jennifer in 2009. At that point, I didn’t know much about barre fitness, but I thought her concept for the studio was really interesting. During her hip rehab and throughout her years at Radio City, Jennifer worked with some of the best physical therapists in New York City. A lot of what she learned was translated into the group fitness classes she designed here in Austin.
DS: Who are your services for? What kind of people would benefit from Therapeutic Pilates privates?
TB: Everyone!! No, really - everyone. In a perfect world, insurance would pay for an annual ‘movement system’ screening as part of a wellness exam, the same way we go in for a blood panel once a year with our primary care physician. This isn’t something that’s typically covered - it might be covered once you are already injured. For people who are not necessarily injured, my goal is to offer functional movement screening, using the Pilates equipment, in order to pinpoint any “weak links” in the chain, that could potentially set you up for problems down the road. In general, I believe a few gentle stretching exercises can do magic for your muscles and nervous system.
When I was younger, I felt like I had to beat my body up with a workout in order to feel like I’d accomplished something. I’ve definitely shifted paradigm in the last few years. I now understand the value of gentle movement and stretching for ameliorating those chronic aches and pains we all share because we are operating under gravity. Anecdotally, I have known so many friends, patients, and clients with chronic low back pain, who have tried the gamut of physical therapy, chiropractics, injections, surgery, etc., and have had the most positive results with a Pilates program. In many cases, I think dancers and Pilates instructors are some of the best “movement teachers” because they know how to use imagery to help clients feel what they should actually be feeling in a given exercise.
If you are someone with ongoing pathology or injury, I’m happy to work directly with your physician, chiropractor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, ect., once you are cleared for gentle exercise. We can fine-tune a Pilates program that will be safe and maximally beneficial.
DS: What kind of results can people expect?
TB: Regardless of your condition, the goal of a Pilates session is that you will walk out of the studio feeling lighter, leaner, and taller. Pilates tends to leave you feeling like you’ve had an amazing massage. I don’t know that there is any particular research out there yet explaining the “why,” but my feeling is that much of the positive effect comes from gentle mobilization of the peripheral nervous system. By unweighting the limbs, a lot of the trunk muscles that tend to be on “high guard” can relax because we can take gravity out of the equation via ropes, pulleys, and springs. It’s not necessarily the goal of Pilates to make you shake (although it can be - if you’ve ever tried Carissa’s abdominal sequence, you know what I’m talking about!). Our primary goal with Pilates is to affect the nervous system in a way that we can ‘free up’ the muscles and joints.
DS: What is your goal with offering these private sessions?
TB: In a nutshell, I like to use the analogy of taking your car in for a “tune-up”. We’ll go over the whole body, and make sure everything is moving well. Your fitness/wellness goals will determine what we target to work on.
Come try a Pilates session with me or Jennifer or Carissa! I promise you will walk out feeling lighter, leaner, and taller.