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How Pilates Changed an MS Patient's Life

June 12, 2017

Mariska Breland started feeling symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was 27 years old. She described feeling a combination of strange maladies, such as tingling in her left thigh, numb feet, skin that felt “too thick” around her toes, foot drop, and double vision. There was even a point where she couldn’t speak. She was diagnosed with relapse remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), which she describes as a major hit for her. She had always been an active person, tennis being one of her most favorite activities. But even though MS changed her life, she was determined to remain active.

To maintain as much of her fitness and lifestyle regimes as possible, Breland asked her doctors for recommendations. Some told her not to bother, but others suggested yoga or Pilates. When trying them both, she found that they both helped reduce the numbness and tingling she felt. She eventually became more interested in Pilates, earning accreditation as a Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Certified Pilates Teacher and Continuing Education Provider. She taught her first Pilates class in 2003, one year after her MS diagnosis. In 2010, she opened Fuse Pilates in Washington, D.C.

Breland has an attachment to Pilates, calling it “special” compared to other types of fitness modalities. According to her, Pilate focuses on strength, flexibility, and balance in almost every exercise, which benefits nearly everyone with neurological conditions. She also reasons that the core work done in Pilates can decrease the risk of falling. The third reason is that Pilates is so easily modified to accommodate changing levels of ability associated with MS progression. You can find out more about Mariska Breland, sign up for her newsletter, or find Pilates for Neurological Conditions Trained Teachers around many parts of the world here.

“I do have some days where I don’t feel like I have MS because I don’t feel like it’s limiting my movement, sort of like the same feeling you got from your workout back in the day,” she says. “You’re so focused on what you’re doing and you sort of feel normal. And any chance you get where you feel a little bit normal is nice.”