Twice a week, Jennifer Barada makes the 20-mile drive from Shakopee to Wayzata-based Pilates MN to attend Pilates for Parkinson’s. The class is designed just for people battling the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, often causing rigidity and tremors.
“I need this class,” Barada says, whose curly brown hair frames her face. “It gives me back my body. And in a way, my life.”
Just off Lake Street in downtown Wayzata, Pilates MN is changing lives every week. Studio owner and fitness guru Pamela Hasselbring opened the studio in 2008, after more than 27 years working in the fitness industry. Shortly after she opened her doors, Hasselbring began looking to bring a physical therapist on staff to help bolster the understanding that exercising right is just as important as exercising at all, a mantra so ingrained in Pilates MN that their slogan is “Work out smarter.”
Hasselbring found what she was looking for in Shawn Marquis, a professional dancer turned physical therapist and Pilates instructor. Part of what pulled the two women together was that both Hasselbring and Marquis were drawn to Pilates by accident—literally.
At age 24, Hasselbring fell out of a tree and broke her back. “I got up at first and went and lay in bed,” Hasselbring says. “And then I just couldn’t move; I couldn’t get up. I called the doctor and he [said], ‘I’m sending an ambulance.’ ” Close to paralysis, Hasselbring suffered a compression fracture and had to wear a brace for six months. “I had back pain on and off for years. Until I found Pilates.”
Marquis, a professional dancer who worked for Disney, suffered a bad injury and endured physical therapy that wasn’t up to standard. So she traded in her dancing shoes and enrolled in physical therapy school. “After my experience with poor physical therapy, I knew I could do this better,” she says. Her first job out of PT school shared space with a Pilates school. “I was like, ‘What is this? This is cool!’ ”
Shortly after Marquis joined the staff at Pilates MN, she and Hasselbring began to offer a one-of-a-kind experience to help clients with their flexibility, posture, balance and core strength: the Reformer, a machine with a bed-like frame and a flat platform on it that rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. What’s so revolutionary about this machine is that it actually influences the neuromuscular pathways to help those with Parkinson’s move more easily and feel better.
Deborah Fletcher, who has Parkinson’s disease, has been a regular attendee since the class began. “I don’t have this kind of commitment to anything else,” says Fletcher. “I come in here hurting from head to toe and I leave feeling good. It’s instant help.”
“Sometimes when I move, I feel like everything is cracking,” says Jennifer Barada. “This class makes my daily routine easier. My muscles are more flexible. I can walk better.” She adds, “I’m using my mind to overcome [Parkinson’s].”
“Our mission is to work with people within their own bodies... safely,” Marquis says. “We want them to become educated on these practices and take them into their own lives.” She adds, “This is where they get better.”
Pilates MN is strictly a Pilates and physical therapy studio, offering about 35 classes a week, including classes for beginners through advanced.
864 Lake St. E., Wayzata