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How this clinician uses STOTT PILATES® to complement her physical therapy practice

Magda Boulay working with client

Thanks to our Community

This month we’re celebrating our mindful movement community with stories highlighting your accomplishments and experiences bringing fitness and joy to people around the world. Healthy communities are happy communities. Thank you!

Magda Boulay came to Pilates the way many people do: She had chronic aches and pains.

Once she started to incorporate regular Pilates practice into her exercise regimen, she noticed a big difference. The pain in her neck and back subsided and her sports performance improved as well.

“After I started practicing Pilates, I noticed differences in my body. I could throw a ball harder, I had better follow through and I didn’t have the same imbalances and postural issues,” she says.

Magda was already well on her way to working in the health care industry. She’d intended on becoming a medical doctor, but quickly became more interested in kinesiology, biomechanics, physiology and preventative medicine. She decided to become a physical therapist instead.

Magda outside her studio

After Magda graduated with a doctorate in physical therapy from Samuel Merritt University, she worked in large physical therapy settings in the U.S., including at the Sutter Medical Foundation and the Physiotherapy Associates. She also worked at an inpatient hospital at the University of Utah Rehabilitation Services and at a smaller private outpatient clinic.

While Magda had become a huge advocate of Pilates, starting a business in the field was still an elusive dream. Yet, she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

While working with rehab patients, she noticed the parallels between the exercises she was recommending to them as a physical therapist and the ones she was doing at home in her Pilates practice. They both emphasized optimal alignment, targeting the stabilizers while using the mobilizers, and challenging the core.

“Rehab exercises incorporate a lot of the same concepts as Pilates, whether the physical therapist calls it Pilates or not,” Magda says. “Rehab exercises are all about stabilizing one area while mobilizing the other, so challenging the deep core and transverse abdominus with movement of the arms and legs, and that’s a very common thing to do in Pilates. Both rehab and Pilates are about normalizing someone’s physical imbalances,” she says.

While they share a lot of similarities, one does not replace the other. Instead, they are complementary practices, she says.

Combining Pilates and physical therapy in business

About seven years ago, while researching Pilates methods and instructor training, Magda came across Merrithew’s STOTT PILATES® method.

“It seemed like the perfect method for me. I liked the precision and expectations of STOTT PILATES. It was a very extensive program,” she says.

Magda working with client on Reformer

Once Magda became a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor, she put her physical therapy work on hold to start working part-time at Merrithew® Host Training Center, Blue Sparrow Pilates, in San Francisco and Oakland.

“I wanted to learn the method and get a strong background in it before applying it to physical therapy; there are hundreds of exercises and they’re very precise. I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I wanted to learn the method well,” Magda says.

While the traditional rehab model is about getting pain under control, the STOTT PILATES repertoire gives the therapist so much more to work with, she says. By adding progressions and regressions, the therapist can adapt and modify hundreds of exercises for each client as needed.

After honing her skills as a STOTT PILATES instructor, she decided to start a business combining both her passions. Last May, she opened her own studio, Physical Therapy & Pilates, in a 300-square-foot space in central Oakland. It’s the perfect size for her private and duet sessions, where she uses the Merrithew Reformer, Cadillac, Stability Chair, Arc Barrel, and other pieces of equipment to treat a large spectrum of clients, from orthopedic rehab to sports injuries. She also offers STOTT PILATES for health and wellness, and she estimates that about a third of her clients elect to continue training once they’ve completed their rehab treatment.

“The Merrithew training made me a much more exceptional therapist,” Magda says. “I would highly recommend STOTT PILATES training without hesitation. It’s expanded my world in ways I never thought possible. I have a better quality of life and I’ve been able to pursue my dream. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without this program and now I’m able to provide care the way I want to.”

Personalized and meaningful health care

Magda assisting client on Stability Chair

Magda’s small business focuses on quality versus quantity: from the personal, client-centric care she provides all the way through to her cash-pay billing system. “The American health care system is broken and I don’t like that clinicians’ care is often dictated by insurance companies and reimbursement problems. I feel like cash-pay establishes trust and transparency. Clients know the rate before they come to me. I’m not going to do something extra because of a billing code,” she says.

Magda believes that when people pay for their health directly, they become more active and engaged participants.

“When people come and they pay me, they’re investing in themselves and I’m going to help them feel better. There is less red tape, less paperwork and admin time. What I really want to do is focus on my client and their needs and goals so we can help them get better.”

“I want to provide true health care, not just mass, big business, corporate health care, and my business allows me to do that.”

What's next?

With this being Magda’s first year in her own brick and mortar location, she’s still focused on increasing and solidifying her client base and pursuing continuing education opportunities.

She’s interested in taking the STOTT PILATES Advanced, Level 2 training, as well as possibly doing the STOTT PILATES for Rehab program for health professionals. “These courses can only improve my knowledge base and will continue to make me a more skilled practitioner,” she says. “I love to learn new things.”

In the near future, she’s looking at offering occasional free community outreach programs and small workshops to share her knowledge and give back to disadvantaged communities.

“I want Pilates to be accessible to a wider audience and I think that the workshops would be a good place to start,” she says.

Magda hasn’t stopped dreaming big. One day she’d like to expand to a larger space, add more Reformers for group classes and include multiple services under one roof, such as massage therapy and nutrition.

“It will be interesting to see what the future holds,” she says. “For now, I am happy to grow organically in a way where I am able to focus on my clients to improve their outcomes and accomplish their goals.”

Photos provided by Jim Block

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