Who Moves You?

.........

Balanced Body
40th Anniversary Contest

Photo of two men working out

And the winner is…

The votes are in and you have chosen

Emily Mokwunye photo
Emily Mokwunye,

nominated by Connie Cooley
Read the Winning Essay

as the winner of Balanced Body’s 40th Anniversary “Who Moves You?” contest. Congratulations to our winners! We will contact you shortly regarding your prizes.

To everyone who participated: we have few words to express how moving it has been to read the loving, inspirational and often downright funny stories you submitted. You laid it all out there, sometimes even in poetry. Fears, hopes, motivations you weren’t proud of – even instructors so life-changing that you named them in your will!

We look forward to sharing more of these life-affirming stories with all of you soon.

The four finalists

A very special thanks to our four finalists who also inspired us deeply. Each of you — both client and instructor — will receive a $150 gift certificate from Balanced Body.

Marjorie Donovick photo
Marjorie Donovick

Facility: The Pilates Salon
Submitted by: Susan Hacker
Johnson City, NY US

Corrine Fuentes photo
Corrine Fuentes

Facility: Pilates by Corrine
Submitted by: Pattie DiFazio
Center Valley, PA US

Lisa LeBlanc photo
Lisa LeBlanc

Facility: The Pilates Place
Submitted by: Peggy Burks
Nevada City, CA US

Lisa Hakim-Yarberry photo
Lisa Hakim-Yarberry

Facility: Beverly Hills Club
Submitted by: Anne Magreta
Ferndale, MI US

Honorable mention

This group rounds out the top entries received, and we are honored to recognize you here. Thank you for your entries that remind us of the power of movement to change lives, and the power of relationships to sustain those changes.

Instructor: Cezar Waneska
Facility: Ativar Studio
Submitted by: Andréa Braga Meinicke | Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Instructor: Moushumi Kuvawala
Facility: Moushu's Pilates in Pune
Submitted by: Shehernaz Bharucha | Pune , India
Instructor: Lynn Schorn
Facility: New Motion PT
Submitted by: Sarah Thomas | Poulsbo, WA US
Instructor: Laura Detert
Facility: Open Studio Pilates
Submitted by: Julia Bonham | Columbia, MO US
Instructor: Kristen Sullivan
Facility: Body Balance Institute
Submitted by: Anastasiya Gerets | Green Cove Springs, FL US
Instructor: Annie Brady
Facility: Warehouse Pilates
Submitted by: Sarah Brandon | Novi, MI US
Instructor: Nikki Cifelli
Facility: Studio Nikki
Submitted by: Melissa Cookman | Hopewell, NJ US
Instructor: Marimba Gold-Watts
Facility: Articulating Body, LLC
Submitted by: Anna Korisch | Greenwich, CT US
Instructor: Norris Tomlinson
Facility: Sirron Pilates
Submitted by: Sandy Sufian | Chicago, IL US
Instructor: Christy Studant
Facility: Mindful Movement Pilates and Yoga
Submitted by: Nicole Rogers | Wheaton, IL US
Instructor: Dawn Kent
Facility: The Pilates Center of Western, MA
Submitted by: Barb MacKenzie Rodgers | East Longmeadow, MA US
Instructor: Cheryl Lemmer
Facility: Downtown Athletic Club
Submitted by: Mary Burke | Eugene, OR US
Instructor: Johnna Stob
Facility: New Movement Pilates
Submitted by: Jennifer Kane | Minneapolis, MN US
Instructor: Kirsten Boorman
Facility: Retrofit Pilates
Submitted by: Cindy Maguire | Toronto, Canada
Instructor: Stephanie Behrendt
Facility: Absolute Center, Lafayette, CA
Submitted by: Theodore St. Francis | Sonoma, CA US
Instructor: Katie Rhodes Fowler
Facility: Integrative Body Balance
Submitted by: Audrey Thompson | Mattawan, MI US
Instructor: Ana Nikolova
Facility: Military Medical Academy / Pilates Sport Studio
Submitted by: Ana Nikolova | Sofia , Bulgaria
Instructor: Sarah Smysor Panning
Facility: Pillar of Strength
Submitted by: Susan DiLiberti | Denver, CO US
Instructor: Bridget Ericsson
Facility: Colorado Athletic Club
Submitted by: Donald Giancola | Denver, CO US
Instructor: Mary-Beth Lawrence
Facility: Marlborough Pilates Studio Plus
Submitted by: Nicole Roncaioli | East Hampton, CT US
Instructor: Meghan Aris
Facility: Fix Healthcare Victoria
Submitted by: Ellen Mark | Victoria, Canada
Instructor: Lisa Jones
Facility: Moving Body Singapore
Submitted by: Wendy Maliakel | Singapore, Singapore
Instructor: David Holland
Facility: Pilates Reforming New York
Submitted by: Julia Loughlin | New York, NY US
Instructor: Carey Sadler
Facility: Rivercity Pilates
Submitted by: Kelly Sedlacek | Coralville, IA US
Instructor: Kylie Webster
Facility: Pilates Local
Submitted by: Ross Murphy | St Kilda, Australia
Instructor: Lavinia Magliocco
Facility: Equipoise Enlightened Exercise
Submitted by: Nadine Zimmerlund | Hillsboro, OR US
Instructor: Elisabeth Sandner
Facility: On Point Pilates
Submitted by: Mary Ann Flemmer | Meadow Vista, CA US
Instructor: Heba Abdel
Facility: Exhale
Submitted by: Summer Gentile | Orlando, FL US
Instructor: Jill Nader
Facility: Prehab Pilates
Submitted by: Mary Beth Sundermann | Cincinnati, OH US
Instructor: Jennifer Comer
Facility: Body Resolution
Submitted by: Mathew Ruland | Tucson, AZ US
Instructor: Mikki Townshend
Facility: New Motion Physical Therapy
Submitted by: Dana Schulze | Laurel, MD US
Instructor: Valerie Patrick
Facility: Core Pilates and Yoga
Submitted by: Vicki Facchino-Cole | Cicero, NY US
Instructor: Nellie Brook
Facility: Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center
Submitted by: Marian Stuart | Skillman, NJ US
Instructor: Dane Burke
Facility: Northstar Pilates
Submitted by: Gracelyn Tuoti | West Palm Beach , FL US
Instructor: Tambre Rasmussen
Facility: Boulder Body Works
Submitted by: Mandy Rigg | Lafayette, CO US
Instructor: Ann Toran
Facility: Pilates Reforming New York
Submitted by: Sundar Rao Palepu | New York, NY US
Instructor: Jared Acabado
Facility: Pilates 36 Jakarta
Submitted by: Christin Halim | Jakarta, Indonesia
Instructor: Phyllis Ivy
Facility: Drumlins
Submitted by: Andrew Cincotta | Jamesville, NY US
Instructor: Taylor Lamanna
Facility: Purely Pilates Studio
Submitted by: Lupita Aguirre | Reno, NV US
Instructor: Brete Martin
Facility: Peninsula YMCA
Submitted by: Charles Wienbar | Hillsborough, CA US
Instructor: Michelle Hales
Facility: Retrofit Pilates
Submitted by: Vesna Lovelock | Etobicoke, Canada
Instructor: Bonnie Benesh
Facility: Rockwell Collins Recreation Center
Submitted by: Lisa Janssens-Rud | Mount Vernon, IA US
Instructor: Jill Gilbert
Facility: Gulf Coast Pilates
Submitted by: Nita Horne | Kingwood, TX US
Instructor: Joseph Camp
Facility: Pilates Athletic Center
Submitted by: Rose M. Dougherty | Sunnyvale, CA US
Instructor: Jen Williams
Facility: Academy Pilates
Submitted by: John Moeling | Norwalk, CT US
Instructor: Abra Allan
Facility: Agile Monkey
Submitted by: Katie Harhen | Santa Cruz, CA US
Instructor: Karen Padgett
Facility: Back In Space Ltd
Submitted by: Alison Devine | London, Great Britain
Instructor: Robert Turner
Facility: Breathe Pilates Method and More Studio
Submitted by: Susan Mullineaux | Lexington , KY US
Instructor: Samantha Schmidt
Facility: Alpine Physical Therapy
Submitted by: Daniel Adcock | Missoula, MT US
Instructor: Carey Sadler
Facility: Rivercity Pilates
Submitted by: Cassie Cumings-Peterson | Ankeny, IA US
Instructor: James Crader
Facility: Evolved Body
Submitted by: Naomi Manning | San Luis Obispo, CA US

In addition, many instructors were nominated multiple times. Congratulations to these instructors who were nominated by ten or more clients!

Kirsten Boorman
Brooke Bowersock
Carrie Bradford
Annie Brady
Nellie Brook
Joseph Camp
Jessica Cassidy
Desiree Challice

Laura Detert
Fernanda (Fay) Grove
Michelle Hales
David Holland
Michelle Hoyos
Deborah Lavinsky
Robin Long
Richie Matascusa

Linda Paden
Valerie Patrick
Ann Toran
Michael Warner
Patricia Welter
Maisoon Zakaria

Instructor: Emily Mokwunye

Facility: Pilates by Redhead
Submitted by: Connie Cooley
Muscle Shoals, AL US


At 58, I could not believe I was climbing a 30-foot rope ladder. How had I gotten to this point? Two years before, a double mastectomy had taken me to the lowest point of my life. As I was climbing, sweating, and fighting I could hear Emily's voice in my mind saying, "You know you can do this Connie."

Emily Mokwunye came into my life at exactly the right moment. I was her first breast cancer client. She taught me to treasure my poor over-weight, tired, beat up body. In turn, my body started to respond to the "waterfall" down my back, and the "deep belly" up my front. Oftentimes, we laughed together as when she shouted, "Your breasts flex like men's Pecs!" (She is a passionate redhead!) We shared tears at her return from a training session which had touched her very soul. She applauded little changes occurring within my body, as well as my psyche. Cancer made me feel as if my body had let me down. With her vast knowledge of anatomy, Emily inspired me to realize cancer and my breasts were just a small portion of my body. The rest of my body was waiting to help me heal and regain strength.

Climbing the rope, Emily's dedication pushed me up and over the ledge. Crossing the obstacles to the zip line finish, my heart was full of empowerment. To our shared list of emotions--laughter, tears, and encouragement-- we added joy, the sweetest one of all.

Instructor: Lisa LeBlanc

Facility: The Pilates Place, Grass Valley
Submitted by: Peggy Burks
Nevada City, CA US


Head down, eyes down, shoulders rounded, I hunkered and hunched along after 71 years of living in a big city. Now in a new town in an old house way out in farm country, I was alone with my dogs and horses, learning to grow things, building a new life. I doubted myself and feared growing old.

Five years later I'm 76. My schlunk is gone. I now know a smile is across your collarbone, not just on your lips. Head and eyes are up, trunk is long, and I'm breathing a new way. She met me where I was and took me on a journey I didn't know existed. Patience. Work. Sweat. A fan when I needed cool air. Visuals to help me learn. Something new every week to keep me interested. Challenging me, showing me yes you can. Answering why this, why that, what's this do anyway. Letting me discover how a small movement makes a powerful difference.

Today I can lift 50 lb. bags of dog chow and chicken crumble, hoist a bale of hay from the truck onto a pallet. I can clean the upper pond in just a few hours. I can weed and weed whack, pick strawberries, tomatoes, apricots and apples. I muck the barn, clean the coop, play frisbee with the dogs. I love my life. Thank you Lisa - you've made me strong, and I no longer fear the years ahead.

Instructor: Marjorie Donovick

Facility: The Pilates Salon
Submitted by: Susan Hacker
Johnson City, NY US


Three years ago this month I noticed a new sign on my way home from my work. I was overweight, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually bereft. My approach to my life responsibilities, draining. I called.

Marjorie, gracious and inviting, booked my first lesson.

I felt happy, calm, relieved. Biweekly lessons since, Psorasis covering fifty percent of my skin cleared. Diabetes gone. I FEEL healthy, alert. Marjorie has taught me the method. She inspires me to eat healthy, value myself, and do the hundred. My career has had a 40% increase in salary, and satisfaction. My marriage is vibrant. I AM STRONG. I have no aches and pains, I have no medications any more. I wake up refreshed and vibrant, Friends and family wonder what I am up to. An affair? No, I am lucky to have found an outstanding Pilates instructor. I live in Broome County NY, an impoverished area. The economy has not been kind. That's OK. We have "The Pilates Salon" and Marjorie. I am grateful for this opportunity to express my appreciation for my Pilates instructor and feel fortunate to have two private lesson a week for three years. I know my core, my life and (everyone at work and at home) has Marjorie and Pilates to thank for my current success and position in life. Marjorie has mastery of the method, and of life. Her teaching will indeed Inspire and improve the lives of all the people she meets in the future. I nominate Marjorie an excellent teacher.

Instructor: Lisa Hakim-Yarberry

Facility: Beverly Hills Club
Submitted by: Anne Magreta
Ferndale, MI US


We hire trainers to make sure we get stronger, more toned, more flexible, or more attractive. Lisa Hakim-Yarberry doesn't judge our goals, she ensures that we don't deviate, and when things get real in the studio, she will not allow any renegotiation.

After three car accidents and a desk job, I came to my first Pilates class with back problems, pain and a lack of flexibility. During those first weeks, Lisa listened patiently to all the fear, complaints and excuses and cheered me on as I stretched a little further, added another spring, or got all the way up into a teaser.

Every Tuesday at 6pm, my class worked hard and became friends. We shared the joy of new jobs, new spouses and new babies, and the stress of breast cancer. For fifteen months, we watched as Lisa committed to genetic testing, proved positive for the BRCA2 mutation, and underwent six surgeries, including a lumpectomy, a hysterectomy, and a double mastectomy with reconstruction. After each surgery, she was back in the studio in record time, pushing us harder than ever. She got a staph infection, and we got planks. Her sepsis nearly killed her, and the push-ups nearly killed us. We all got stronger and more flexible by taking Lisa's class, in both the literal and figurative sense. With Lisa's help, I regained control over my body, and am training to become a Pilates instructor, myself. I hope someday I can move someone the way Lisa has moved me.

Instructor: Corrine Fuentes

Facility: Pilates by Corrine
Submitted by: Pattie DiFazio
Center Valley, PA US


It was a bright morning with a crisp breeze that brought the first promise of cider and hayrides. A day that started like many others. September 11, 2001. A nightmare that ended like none I'd ever imagined.

My husband went to work that day and never came home. As the towers crumbled, so did the life plans I'd mapped so meticulously. I was suddenly a victim, a widow, a single mother of three.

Get up. Dress up. Show up. My daily mantra. Simple, but it kept me going the first year. My mantra, my daily antidepressants, and my weekly professional counseling that is. My kids were young, they were tough. I was forty-one. I wanted to feel strong and confident enough to rebuild a life worth living.

I was searching blindly, desperate for a positive focus, when fate introduced me to a Pilates instructor named Corrine Fuentes. Before Corrine, I'd have thought Pilates was Spanish for "pilots." But Corrine's gentle guidance and earnest encouragement opened doors to physical and mental wellbeing that I thought had been robbed from me forever. Her layered approach allowed me to emerge from the walls of fear, anxiety, and panic that I'd come to hide behind.

My children are grown. The house I shared with my husband is home to a new family now. And I have great joy in my life. I am physically strong and emotionally stable. I am forever grateful to Corrine, and to Pilates, for teaching me the tools to rebuild.