Returning to the Studio after Brain Trauma

Kristi shares her experience of returning to the Pilates studio after her brain injury.


Home. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of a Pilates studio. From the age of 13, when I first began my Pilates journey and had my introduction to this Pilates life that I lead, the studio has been home for me.

The studio is where I’ve met most of my good friends and made my deepest connections with people. It’s the place I retreat to when I need to be alone, and the place I go to when I really need a hug or a good laugh. It is also the place that challenges me the most and inspires me often. Of course, the studio is also where I practice, explore, and share Pilates. If Pilates is my life, the studio is my work, my community, and my home.

Kristi on the Cadillac at The Studio at Padaro

A New State of Mind

Like many people who experience a life-changing trauma, (mine, a head injury and accompanying long-term concussion), the question of “Will I ever be the same again?” looms large. And so does the trauma - like an ominous, ever-present cloud that refuses to move to the next town over. And the truth is, that cloud might be here to stay. Maybe he’s settled in for good.

For me, I’d reached a point where I couldn’t wait any longer hoping the cloud would lift before I started living again. I wasn’t as concerned about being the same as before, but I did want to feel comfortable and happy stepping back into my old life, even as the new me. I think the heavy cloud for me was really the fear of returning to life as I knew it at all: What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t like it anymore? What will I discover about myself and can I handle it when I do? What will I remember? What do I do with this state of mind?

The only way I could answer the question was to take the leap and find out. That first day back, opening the door to the studio was intimidating and comforting and exciting all at once. I thought, “What are you doing here? Who do you think you are?”

Kristi at the Studio after hours

I caught myself doing that new thing I do now when I’m trying to avoid something. Oh, who am I kidding? I always had good procrastination techniques! I started adjusting things. I touched things, straightened them, put on music, turned off music, emptied wastebaskets...I was home, but it was clear the cloud came in the front door with me.

It was “after hours,” so the studio was dark and empty even without the cloud. I think I planned that subconsciously, too.

I remember saying out loud, “Honey, I’m home!” It was a way to cut the tension I felt with those questions still looming in my mind. Before long I was giving myself a pep talk. “Kristi, you know this work...this is part of you that you can can do this...just let yourself feel it again, a little bit.” “You don’t have to workout, or practice, just be here, again.”

Joy and Ease

With that, I started my classic BASI Pilates® warm up. I could even hear Rael’s voice in my head. I started adjusting again once I caught a glimpse of my “new” body in the mirror. I knew the lack of recognition of that person’s appearance “mirroring” my actions wouldn’t let me go any further if I didn’t move it out of eyesight. Then, before I could find one more way to procrastinate, I was doing Foot and Leg Work on the Reformer.

Kristi on the Reformer

Even now, I cannot express how good it felt to be moving like that again without crying. It felt right. It even felt connected! But, connected to what else if not me? For the first time since I had my accident, I knew I was still in there, still inside my body, underneath all my fear and adjustments. That first night on the Reformer, I realized I wasn’t a new person. I was the same person changed. I was not replaced; I changed, and my Reformer was the one that taught me that. Maybe friends and family knew that, too, but it was the Reformer that I trusted to tell me the absolute truth without judgement or kindness.

On that occasion, and many like it that followed, I burst into tears remembering and experiencing joy and ease in my body again. Most of all, though, my tears came out of realizing that I still had a home to come back to. No matter how far I travel from it, home is still the place I can go to find myself again.

Kristi Cooper
About the Author

Kristi Cooper

Kristi Cooper is a Co-founder of Pilates Anytime and a seasoned Pilates professional. Her approach to Pilates maintains that the exercises practiced in the Pilates method are the vehicle which drive us towards increased awareness, balance, and vitality.


2 people like this.
Inspirational story.
Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Meredith Rogers for being there in the midst and always. Thank you Lucia for taking the time to read this and for responding too.
Thanks for sharing Kristi.
4 people like this.
This is profound to read, as I had a similar experience on my Return To Life from cancer. That first moment. That first movement. The journey that begins from zero. So much of who we are is revealed. Thanks Kristi!
2 people like this.
LOVE YOU and miss you EVERYDAY!!!!
Frank, Yes! That first moment, then that first movement... Zero is a place that holds so much opportunity. For me starting at zero was/is both freeing and terrifying. Thank you for reading this Frank. Watching you move beyond has definitely and frequently inspired me to attempt the same so I thank you very much for that too!
Marta Nichols, Same, Same Same!!!!
2 people like this.
4 people like this.
I appreciate your story so much and love that you are letting yourself be who you are and feel how you feel instead of imposing anything on yourself. This makes Pilates seem like a movement modality we can live with as we age and grow, ...not just cross-training for ballerinas. I adore you Kristi, for all that you have given through your work and your spirit. I have relied on PA so much over the past years, and as a woman in her 40s, I feel really inspired by you. :) Big hug to you.
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