Where she was at: A young woman in her late 20's came into the studio to begin Pilates lessons, with a goal to join our Pilates Group Classes. She reported that she spent a large part of the day hunched over a computer with her upper back rounded forward, her head protruding forward with her shoulders rounded. She was worried that her “poor posture” may become habitual, and that her posture not only felt bad - it made her feel years older. She was experiencing headaches, a stiff neck, pain across her shoulders and upper back. She also complained of numbness and tingling in her arms and hands. She felt stiff "and old" and also felt like she couldn't take a deep breath. She later noted she had also been experiencing digestive problems. She had tried Yoga and stretching, and that only seemed to make things worse. Her chiropractor suggested she work with us to develop core strength (her chiropractor was also a client of ours).
What was happening: Due to poor ergonomics at her workplace, her body and posture were being strained with every hour she sat at the computer. She had to look down at her computer screen (which was also too far away), her mouse and keyboard were not set correctly, and neither was her chair. These factors, along with her sedentary lifestyle, contributed to her "poor posture." Her poor posture had become a habit, and it was only getting worse and was starting to have an impact on her overall health..
How We Helped: We carefully designed a Pilates program to help bring greater awareness to her posture, strengthening muscles that may had become lengthened and weak and lengthening those that had become tight. We taught her about proper ergonomics, and did an in-service for her office to help all of the staff set up their workstations to avoid chronic pain. As her posture improved, the numbness and tingling in her arms went away, her tension headaches resolved, and she even regained a few inches of height! She reported that she regained "a spring in her step" and her friends and family all reported that she looked years younger. Her office brought us back every year for another in-service to keep their staff healthy and happy. She continues with classes with Laura over FaceTime to this day (since we've moved)..
Where she was at: A woman in her 40's came into the studio to begin Pilates lessons, after hearing Steve and Laura speak at a local traumatic brain injury event. Her goal was to continue rehab for her injuries, as her health insurance had run out. She had been involved in a head on collision while both vehicles were driving 55 miles per hour. The other driver swerved into her lane and she was unable to avoid the collision. She broke over 100 bones in her body. She received a major head injury (traumatic brain injury or TBI). And she nearly bled out. The doctors had nearly given up hope that she would live. She was transferred to a critical care facility and then eventually a long term care facility. She could not speak, move, let alone walk at that time. She was later able to speak, move and walk with the aid of a walker and a caregiver to keep her from losing her balance. Her cognitive skills were also challenged. Eventually her insurance company would no longer authorize further physical therapy. She said that we were her last hope of recovery.
What was happening: Due to the traumatic nature of her accident and the number of severity of her injuries, her entire physical body was not working properly. In a case like this, we recommend beginning with Manual Therapy sessions with Steve first to insure that the structure of her body was in proper alignment before beginning any physical exercise.
How We Helped: Steve found that both ankles were jammed (most likely due to seeing the accident coming and trying to stop her car). As soon as he freed up her ankle joints, she was able to walk and keep her balance with greater ease. The bones of her pelvis were also out of alignment. As soon as they were brought into proper alignment, she gained more mobility with greatly reduced pain in her hips and low back. Steve did some cranio-sacral work for her head. These sessions reduced her non-stop headache pain. Once Steve had gotten her pain reduced and her mobility increased, we began working with her in Pilates for Rehab and then eventually Gyrotonic exercise and Chi Kung/Breathwork. Pilates served to build stamina, stability and strength. Gyrotonic gave her mobility, flexibility, and range of motion. And the Chi Kung/Breathwork helped to focus and calm her mind. She particularly enjoyed blending the three together. Laura even got her dancing Hula a bit again (something the doctors told her she'd never be able to do). She was eventually able to discard her walker and only needed the assistance of a cane. Her husband reported seeing dramatic changes not only in how she was moving, but also in how she was speaking and remembering things. We continued to see this client twice a week (a manual therapy session followed by a movement session) for over 3 years until we moved to California. She has been one of our biggest (and loudest) cheerleaders for the unique and life changing work we do. She referred numerous clients to us who had similar life changing major accidents. And in each case, we were able to help. She now works with a Pilates instructor that Laura personally trained and continues to improve much to the astonishment of her doctors.
Where she was at: A young, tall, gorgeous runway super model walked into our studio one day. No, really. When she said, "I've heard you can help me." I immediately thought, "with what, directions?" It turns out she was suffering from intense low back pain, she had mysterious gained two dress sizes without gaining any weight, and she was experiencing mild incontinence. She was traveling to Milan in a week to renew her runway contract with a couture designer. She said if she wasn't two dress sizes smaller, she'd lose her job. She was panicking and willing to try anything.
What was happening: It turns out, she'd had numerous recent abdominal surgeries. And since they were all through a tiny incision in her navel, she didn't given them much thought. She had also experienced numerous tumbles and falls on the runway (and backstage) while walking in all sorts of crazy shoes and outfits (apparently this happens frequently with the runway - who knew!).The repeated tumbles and falls set into motion a plan for her deep core to become sluggish. The invasive nature of her surgeries, no matter how small the incision, was enough to cause her deep core stabilizers to turn completely off. She basically had no abdominal or pelvic floor support which caused her back pain and more.
How we helped: This was "back in the day" of the super skinny runway models. She was forbidden to exercise and build muscle of any type. So, we focused on Pilates breathwork, engaging "the core" and finding/maintaining neutral. We gave her homework to do. Which she did frequently throughout the day. On her third session, she came bounding into the studio completely out of pain AND she was down two dress sizes (without dropping any weight). She was confused at how this was possible. We explained that all she needed was to learn how to properly activate her core (and it isn't doing sit ups or crunches), how to do deep diaphramatic breathing, and exactly what neutral alignment is and how to maintain it. Needless to say, she was thrilled. We received an email from her from Milan. She got her contract renewed. And, she talked about how cut-throat her job is. So, she had all of the models in this show sit down with her. She taught them about activating, breathing, and neutral. They all did a breathwork exercise together. And all of the designers at that show wanted to know what was so different in the models that day. Woo hoo! Kona Pilates on the runway.
Where he was at: A gentleman in his early 70's came into the studio, at the urging of his wife (who was a client of ours). He was experiencing shoulder pain that was effecting his golf game. He was only able to play up to the eighth hole when the pain would be so great he would need to stop. Playing golf was his favorite thing and he feared he would need to give it up due to his shoulder problem. His doctor wanted to do surgery, but he feared surgery at his age. His wife suggested working with us as an alternative. He begrudgingly agree.
What was happening: This mans posture was severely slumped forward. His shoulders rounded forward, his neck protruded forward, and he had a large hump on his back. He had very limited range of motion in his neck and shoulders, and his spine seemed to have no range of motion at all. He feared that at his age he "was stuck that way." After doing some orthopedic assessments, we found that he had both thoracic outlet syndrome and supraspinatus tendonitis with a painful arc of movement within his shoulder joint. He was immediately referred to Steve for manual therapy sessions.
How we helped: Steve worked to loosen up tight muscles and fascia effecting his neck, shoulders, chest, upper back and spine. He then began with Pilates, with a focus on stretching his tight muscles and strengthening weakened muscles. Within a few weeks, he was able to reach over his head without pain (with the aid of the Pilates equipment). He found that he could rotate his spine again, and he was sitting up straighter. He then also realized that he no longer was experiencing headaches (they'd become so constant he was used to them). He then worked to do the same overhead movement without the assistance of the equipment. It was all about educating him on which muscles were working, which were at rest, and which were stabilizing. You could almost see the wheels turning in his head! One day he came into the studio with the biggest smile on his face. He had come straight from the golf course having played the full 18 holes without pain. This gentleman referred all of his golfing friends to us for either manual therapy or Pilates. We taken specialized training in working specifically with golfers.
Where she was at: A woman in her 40s came into the studio for private Pilates lessons. She had a big scuba dive trip planned for six weeks from that day. She said she would need to carry 100 pounds of dive gear. She had recently been in the hospital and could literally not get up out of bed without assistance or lots of pushing with her arms to get herself upright. She could barely stand up "straight" without pain, and her neck and shoulders were a constant source of pain and tension.
What was happening: Due to the surgery she experienced, and the trauma that happened prior to surgery, all of her deep core stabilizers turned off. In addition, all of the proper biomechanics of movement and gait were off resulting in numerous faulty movement patterns.
How we helped: She came in for private lessons twice a week along with homework that she was given for daily practice. Due to her desire to "get better" she did her homework every single day (and sometimes more often). For support, she brought her husband to lessons with her. She brought her best friend in for lessons with her. We practiced the movements she would be doing on her dive trip in the studio, and we created scenarios with our equipment to challenge her as well as teach her the correct way to do all of these movements. And in six weeks, she was able to lift that 100 pounds of dive gear. She said it was tough, and she really had to focus on utilizing all of the principles and concepts we'd been working on in Pilates. And she did it! She and her husband have continued with Pilates and Gyrotonic with us for 10 years.
Where she was at: A petite woman in her early 50's came into the studio interested in joining our Pilates Group Classes. She reported that her doctor did a bone density test and that she had significant bone loss. Her doctor put her on medication and encouraged her to do weight bearing exercise. Not a fan of the gym, she decided to check out Pilates with us. (Apparently her doctor wasn't aware that Pilates was also strength training/weight bearing exercise.) She reported spending a large part of the day seated at a computer or driving in her car for work. She was experiencing some low back pain and said she felt old before her time. She had stopped working in her garden because it seemed to make her pain worse. Her daughter had just given birth to the first grandchild of the family, and she feared she would not be able to pick up and play with her grandchild the way she wanted to.
What was happening: For this client, osteoporosis ran in her family. She had been eating all the right foods and took Calcium supplements, but she feared doing any strenuous exercise as she had experienced injuries prior from doing so. She didn't enjoy going to the gym (it just wasn't a good fit for her) so she never used the expensive gym membership her husband bought her. In addition, her posture made her feel "heavy" and out of shape which served as a negative spiral away from fitness. Her low back pain would worsen when she tried to do any physical activity, including working in the garden that she loved. Due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, she was getting out of shape faster and faster. She'd had multiple knee and ankle injuries, which deactivated her deep stabilizing muscles. Her posture at the computer and in her car was slumped with her shoulders in her ears. This posture she carried around with her even when she wasn't at the computer or in the car.
How We Helped: After visiting us three times per week for a year (twice for Pilates equipment classes and once for GYROKINESIS class) her doctor performed a follow up test. Her bone density was now so good that her doctor was able to take her off of the medication. She attributes the majority of this major shift to her Pilates and Gyro practice with us. She also now reports that she uses the skills she has learned in her movement classes to help her around the house, in the garden, enjoying life in general and playing with her granddaughter. Way to go! She is now continuing the active lifestyle she had always wanted to return to, but feared. Now she has the skills to do anything she sets her mind to. She continues with classes with Laura to this day via Skype (now that we've moved).
Where she was at: An ER Physician in her mid 30's came into the studio to learn about Pilates Private Lessons. She was referred by another Physician she worked with and trusted (he was also a client of ours). She had injured her low back a number of years prior, and physical therapy only gave her exercises to do (which she reported NOT doing because they didn't make any sense to her and she couldn't see the value in doing them). Her work in the emergency room had become a painful and draining endeavor. She complained about constant low back pain, low energy, poor posture, incontinence and not sleeping well. She had read reports in medical journals noting that Pilates on the equipment was helpful with improving posture and relieving low back pain, yet she was cautious and skeptical. She had tried Pilates group classes at her gym, but they seemed to make her back pain worse.
What was happening: It turns out that this doctor had received multiple abdominal surgeries, and had returned to work nearly immediately afterwards. Whenever the body is traumatized (e.g., surgery, injury, major illness) the deep core stabilizers turn off. They generally do not turn back on by themselves unless a proper training program is done (NOT crunches, btw).. Due to the pain and stress she was under, she was breathing very shallow and appeared to not know how to breathe any other way. She also revealed she'd been experiencing incontinence whenever she coughed, sneezed or lifted a patient.
How We Helped: Beginning with our first session, we focused on the basic Pilates principles of Breathing, Engaging the Core, and Finding Neutral. We practiced in the studio how she would integrate these “simple” concepts into her life and work routines. She phoned two days later exclaiming, “Sign me up for Life!” She continued to explain that she had just experienced her first pain-free 12 hour shift in years, no incontinence and that she actually had energy when she got off work to enjoy living in Hawaii! She explained that each time she began to feel stress, she would focus on the breathing we practiced, when she began to feel discomfort in her body, she focused on engaging her core and returning to a neutral posture. She saw 35 patients that day and had energy to spare! She has been an avid Pilates student and supporter ever since. This physician continues to refer patients to Pilates and Gyro. The physician also studied Chi Kung and Breathwork with Laura for eliminating stress. She has hosted Laura several times for workshops on stress reduction for her patients (she is now in private practice).
Where she was at: A client in her 40's came into the studio to learn about our Pilates for Rehab program. She was returning to "gentle" exercise after having a severe neck injury (several breaks to the vertebrae in her neck). She had received her physicians permission to work with us (as we are licensed therapists). She had tremendous neck and back pain, very limited mobility, could not drive a car (since she could not turn her neck), and was on very high doses of pain medication. She was desperately wanting a new fresh approach to health and healing.
What was happening: Due to the severity of her neck injuries, her deep core stabilizers in her entire body turned off. Her pain medication helped to mask any and all feedback her body was struggling to provide. She had become addicted to the pain medication.
How We Helped: After a few weeks of private lessons (and then a few Onsen Manual therapy sessions with Steve), she found that she could begin turning her neck without pain. As she continued with her private lessons, her posture improved and the pain in her upper and lower back lessened. We worked on her reactions to perceived pain in her body. Working with her breath, she learned how to calm her body and mind, thus allowing her body to not go into its normal acute pain reaction. She became increasingly aware of how her posture and habits contributed to her pain. After a few months, her doctors were able to reduce her pain medications to nearly zero (something they had said would be "impossible in her condition.") Her doctors commented that, "We don't know exactly what the folks over at Kona Pilates are doing, but whatever it is, it works! Keep it up." They actually wrote this in one of their reports to her insurance company!
This client now has nearly full mobility of her neck, is driving again, and has even gotten a job (all things that were in the "never" column of her life list).
Where she was at: A senior client in her 60's came into the studio to learn about our Pilates Private Lessons with a focus on specific health concerns. She had always wanted to learn a mind-body form of exercise because of it's touted benefit of "calming and focusing the mind." She had been "diagnosed" with ADHD and anxiety. Her psychiatrist referred her to us (Laura specifically) for stress relief (due to Laura's background as both a movement/meditation instructor and as a trained psychotherapist). She also had fibromyalgia, and most activities would cause flare ups that would cause her to be bedridden for days.
What was happening: This particular client had always been "written off" as not being intelligent and not being able "to get complex ideas." This began in early childhood and had continued to her last relationship. This negative feedback was ingrained in her, and she had started acting like people thought she was. In an effort to do more activity, she would "jump in with both feet" and over do what her body was able to handle, and her fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue would set in.
How We Helped: Working privately, we began with simple movements and concepts. We pulled concepts from Biofeedback blended with Yoga & Pilates. This allowed her to focus her mind on one thing at a time. Soon, she could focus on two concepts simultaneously, and then three. Her psychiatrist noticed a profound difference in her ability to focus and was even able to decrease her medication. She also learned how to listen to her body, and how to move mindfully to honor where her bodies energy level was during each particular lesson and at home. As an added benefit, she also dropped a few dress sizes and now has abs stronger than some of our male students!
Where she was at: A spunky woman in her 40s came into the studio interested in how Pilates could help her age more gracefully. She reported that her work was hard physically, and she was beginning to feel its affects on her body. (She had a house cleaning business.) She spoke of back pain, a sluggish mid-section, and headaches. She was also an avid fisherwoman.
What was happening. Even though she had a physically challenging job, her lack of core strength and stability was putting undue stress on her back. After only a few weeks of Pilates she felt so good she decided to enter the Wahine Billfish Tournament in Kailua-Kona. And, she won! She pulled in the largest billfish (marlin) the contest had seen to date. And she spoke of how well she used her core and did not hurt her back. However, her shoulder received an injury that kept her from returning to her business. Her doctors recommendation was surgery.
How We Helped: Wanting to exhaust all possible alternatives prior to making that decision she began adding sessions with Steve and Onsen Manual Therapy sessions immediately. After receiving two manual therapy sessions within the first week (along with her regular Pilates sessions) she was able to return to her business with modified movements. Each week she came in for the added manual therapy (twice a week and then once a week). And each week she got better. At the end of 3 months, she was pain and symptom free. AND she has a huge fish story to tell everyone about. Way to go!
Where he was at: A young professional surfer (19 years old) came into the studio interested in how he could build and gain core strength while undergoing rehab for a broken ankle. This very athletic young man was concerned that he would lose his competitive edge on the big waves (Pipeline, etc.) if he got out of shape. He also reported that the year prior, another pro surfer had been out for a year with a major hamstring injury. This surfer returned to the pro circuit winning his first big wave competition and attributed his strength to the core conditioning he had done while his hamstring healed. This young man wanted to do the same.
What was happening: Like many of the stories above, due to the injury he deep core stabilizers had indeed turned off. Other than that, he was in incredible physical shape and eager to try anything we gave him - including homework!
How We Helped: Working privately, we custom tailored exercises in both Pilates and GYROTONIC to challenge his core strength and flexibility, yet kept his feet and ankles out of the movements. Many of the movements we designed specifically for him to emulate the movements he makes while carving his surfboard through giant waves. We worked on everything from paddling his board to carving the lip. All without the use of his feet and ankles. At first the movements were challenging for him, even for someone of his athletic level, yet with each session he got stronger and stronger, more stable, and more flexible. He gained incredible core strength (and refined some of his movements along the way by slowing them down and working the finer points). And when he finally returned to his first big wave competition....he won!
Where she was at: A Yoga client of Laura's brought her mom and dad into the studio for a few private Yoga Therapy sessions during their visit to Hawaii. Her mom reported having "never been able to sit still" and was actually a clown for her job prior to her retirement. Her husband was present to share the experience and learn about Yoga. The mom reported that waiting in lines, in waiting rooms, or anything that required her to "be quiet" was horrifying for her and she would develop big anxiety attacks. Her goal was to learn how to calm her body and her mind (something we can all benefit from). Her daughter had specifically requested that Laura teach her mom the breathwork that we practiced in our classes.
What was happening: Not only was her mind very active, she had tried meditating before. She failed, as the instructor gave no real assistance to her. This made her panic even more about the idea of being quiet. She felt like a failure. She also worried about how high strung she was and it's effect on her long-term health, especially as she was aging (she was in her 60's).
How We Helped: Working privately for only three sessions, Laura custom designed a breathwork program and added in exercises from the vast Yoga lineage. The poses, while simple, had the challenge of linking breath and movement. Some poses involved standing or sitting still while focusing on a specific breath work technique. A few days after the second session the mom came in early for her next session. She wanted to talk about her experience. It turns out her daughter purchased a 90 min facial as a gift. This terrified the mom at the thought of laying motionless on the table for 90 mins. She didn't want to hurt her daughter's feelings by not using the gift. As she lay on the table, she felt panic begin to set in. She said that she then heard Laura's words in her head about the breath from her yoga session. She began to practice the breathwork she'd learned. 90 mins later, when the facial was finished, she noticed that she was the most relaxed she ever remembered being.
This client has sent Laura postcards from around the world all detailing how the breathwork practice was with her at each location.