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Daily Inspiration: Meet Ashley Prulliere

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Prulliere.

Hi Ashley, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
When I was in high school, my smart, vivacious, beloved grandmother was hit by a car. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and for months wasn’t expected to live, but she did. Even with significant mental and physical impairment, she was able to live the next eighteen years at home with round-the-clock care from my family and an amazing team of sitters. The challenges, frustrations, and triumphs of caring for someone with such neurological and physical deficits sparked a burning desire in me to find a career path that would allow me to help folks optimize whatever abilities they had. Initially, I pursued biology, then a Master’s in Biomedical Science- Neuroscience at UT-Houston, followed by a degree in Physical Therapy, and finally Polestar Pilates training.

I first discovered Pilates as a runner, when I needed serious help for some tight hip muscles and IT band pain. Pilates worked wonders in helping me gain flexibility, increase hip strength, and develop a stronger core. It also taught me that paying attention to one’s own body, slowing movements down, and taking the time to create healthy movement patterns is time well spent. So in my first years as a PT, I began to supplement traditional PT exercises with highly effective mat-based Pilates exercises for my patients. The benefits were incredible! I was so excited to be able to offer this means of gentle, effective movement to folks receiving rehab care.

Even during my years of having babies and being a “mostly” stay-at-home mom, the thought of one day enhancing my PT skills with in-depth, comprehensive training in Pilates-Based Physical Therapy was something I held on to. So, once my boys were a little older, I just went for it! I found a top-notch program, Polestar Pilates, that taught me how to marry Pilates and Physical Therapy successfully. After completing that training, I opened a small studio (in my basement!) to offer Pilates-Based Physical Therapy (on the equipment and mat), as well as Pilates for fitness. In addition, due to personal experiences and tales of woe from mom friends, I decided to become a Certified Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist in order to help women recover more fully and effectively from pregnancy and delivery.

I know my story is a “long and winding road,” but I believe the best paths are rarely straight!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not! As I mentioned, I received my Master’s in Biomedical Science- Neuroscience, but really this was a transition out of the PhD program because I realized rather quickly that, while I wanted to be of help and service to individuals with a neurological diagnosis and physical disability, I did not want to be in research. The switch to physical therapy was due to dialogue with my sister (who was in PT school at the time) and increased self-awareness of my own strengths and likes (being hands-on, compassionate, and motivated) and weaknesses and dislikes (statistics, writing journal articles, grants- yikes!) that came from experience, trying new things, and soul searching.

In terms of Pilates training itself, this was another big leap. Even after I decided to pursue training in Pilates, doing it the right way was not cheap and took time! In addition to paying for the coursework, I needed to travel once a month for several months, and that meant time away from work (and income!) and family.

And to open my own studio, the need to invest in high-quality equipment was another expense to cough up before any money was coming in. I was just hoping that the phrase “If you build it, they will come” would play out in my situation!

Finally, as with many small businesses that offer in-person services, COVID has been a definite bump in the road. When things first shut down, I wasn’t sure what to do or how long I could hang on. I decided to pivot from 100% in-person sessions to 100% virtual training, with a focus on building my online studio and programs for a year. This transition made me step back and really consider what I could offer folks in some of their (OUR!) most stressful, isolated times. My virtual group fitness classes for women, Saturday morning Pilates mat classes, and Woman Strong: Core to Floor Program (for postpartum corrective exercise) all picked up in 2020-2021. I am not sure if I would have reached the number of clients that I did had it not been for this transition to an online platform. Now that in-person training has resumed, the success of my online studio work is established, and I am quite grateful to be able to offer both types of services.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
One of the things that really sets Mindful Pilates and Wellness apart is my Pilates-Based Physical Therapy program. By incorporating the unique Pilates equipment (the reformer, trap table, the Chair, the ladder barrel) with traditional physical therapy, patients engage in a more gentle, safe, and mindful way. One huge benefit of this approach is that the exercises promote healthy neuromuscular patterns and incorporate healthy movement sequences into functional work. We’re not counting to 12 for 3 sets or just working on shortening and contracting isolated muscles. We’re working multiple muscle groups as they shorten, lengthen, and hold; this allows us to incorporate gains in a way that resets and improves total body function. And the benefits of this mindful approach is astounding in terms of body awareness and muscle firing patterns. With Pilates-Based PT, we are never rushing to “just get it done.” By tuning in throughout the session, each movement can be made with greater care, leading to safer and more efficient movement patterns during the session and in real life.

Another thing that sets Mindful Pilates and Wellness apart is the high level of individualized care and dedication each patient/client receives. For example, each Pilates-Based PT session is a full 55 minutes of direct one-on-one care. Since I am a one woman show and not working in a busy clinic, there are no interruptions by staff or phone calls. No one is passing a patient on to another clinician or leaving a patient alone to bust through the exercise routine. (Side note: That’s NOT good PT.) Time in the studio is filled with personalized education, movement, and patient-therapist communication. Patients receive high-quality care and follow-up, every time.

A key component to a successful fitness session with me is the strong emphasis on mindful breathing strategies for stress reduction and mind-body connection. Almost every person I see is experiencing some form of stress, so we make sure to begin and end each session with “a moment of Zen.” This is a time to slow thoughts down, tune into the breath, and heighten one’s awareness of the body and breath. This time spent at the start pays off in terms of greater mind-body connection and safer movements during the session, and the benefits of reduced stress and increased calm and feeling centered are felt long after the session ends.

Finally, an additional aspect of Mindful Pilates and Wellness that really sets my services apart (and I recognize this isn’t for everyone!) is that my in-person studio is in my home. Lots of people these days do not want to be in a regular clinic or Pilates studio. They are concerned about COVID and don’t want to expose themselves and potentially their families if they have other options. Mindful Pilates and Wellness gives them this option. To access my studio, there is a separate entry from the front. Sessions are scheduled with 15 minutes between patients/clients (so no bumping into someone or waiting in a waiting room). Equipment is wiped down with some super-powerful, effective wipes after each session. A HEPA air filter runs throughout the session and after. Masks are worn by each client and myself. Hand sanitizer is given upon entry, and temp check is done before the session begins. Clients trust me, and I trust them, and this carries over in how we look out for each other and keep each other safe.

In terms of clients who benefit most from my fitness services, I love working with highly motivated individuals who just want to feel better. The fitness clients who benefit from my approach the most are those who show up, work hard, do their homework exercises, and keep trying. It’s that whole concept of really optimizing the abilities you have. Since my studio is in my home, folks don’t come to me in order to be seen and impress. Expensive leggings are not required. This is where clients go to work hard, learn, and create positive change. Some of my favorite client experiences are with women who have dealt with pelvic floor issues (like prolapse or leaking) or diastasis recti or SI joint pain/instability. These women can’t stop being moms or can’t stop going to work so they can rest and recover, and they just want to be able to do these activities without hurting themselves. I love helping them unravel what’s going on in their bodies, even if it’s been decades after giving birth, and helping set them on the right path toward recovery.

I also love working with clients who know they should be more active but don’t know how or where to start. Often past injuries or feelings of defeat can stop folks from even getting started, and that’s when I like to meet them and show them ways to move without hurting themselves. Pilates is so mindful and gentle, and it can be a total game-changer in how we approach fitness!

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Absolutely. I’ve learned that in order to survive, we must evolve. (Yes, I knew this from Darwin and evolutionary biology. But COVID made it play out for me in a much quicker and very interesting way!) I have never been super tech-savvy, but through COVID I have learned that I can offer highly effective, fun, and energizing sessions through Zoom. I’d never done Zoom prior to Covid, but it literally saved my business. A year ago, I began to offer virtual group fitness classes for women. These classes featured cardio, strength training, and a blend of Pilates-Yoga-Barre. I’ve continued them due to the high demand of those who love working out with others but still don’t feel comfortable going into a gym. I do see most clients in person now, but with family illness, personal illness, or just wanting to get a Covid test, it’s really helpful to have a Zoom backup plan. No need to cancel; we just pivot!

Pricing:

  • One 55 minute private session (Pilates for Fitness/Postpartum Corrective Exercise/Training for Runners): $72
  • Intro Package: Three 55-minute private sessions: $196
  • Five 55-minute private sessions: $342
  • 10 55-minute private sessions: $648

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