The Absolute Center Endeavor Program: Bringing hope, and results, to those with spinal cord injuries (Part One)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in our 2016 catalog.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

In July of 2012, Arash Bayatmakou fell from a third story apartment balcony shattering his C5 and C6 vertebrae, and leaving him paralyzed at the time from the chest down. This past summer, Arash completed Mat 1 and 2 Pilates instructor courses and is currently starting his apparatus training.

Yeah, the word you’re looking for is “wow.”

It’s a very cool story with more chapters to come, but how did it begin?

A change in focus
Katie Santos, Claudia Moose and Louise Johns are co-owners of the Absolute Center in Lafayette, CA, and have been providing healthy exercise via Pilates classes and personal training sessions to their surrounding community for 20 years.

The Absolute Center Endeavor ProgramBut this year had something different in store for them

“All three of us truly believe in listening to what the universe is telling you,” says Katie. “And in this case the universe started giving us hints that the focus of our business was about to change.”

That change happened when the three women attended a weeklong workshop on Neuro Kinetic Pilates (NKP) at the High Fives Foundation, a non-profit organization in Truckee, CA that provides resources and inspiration for athletes who suffer life altering injuries, primarily spinal cord injuries (SCI).

NKP is a revolutionary rehabilitative concept developed by physical therapist Alejandra Monsalves of Body Wellness Hawaii in Maui, HI. It combines kinesiology, Pilates, neurological evaluation, breath and neuroplasticity – the fairly recent and dynamic discovery that states changes in neural pathways and synapses can ultimately lead the brain to change or “rewire” itself. The women were blown away by the training and got to know many of the NKP clients, most of whom had spent extensive time with Alejandra at her studio.  Each of them said that their current therapy modalities, although effective in other areas, couldn’t do for them what NKP was doing for them.

The “aha” moment came when the Absolute women realized that these clients needed somewhere to continue their recovery using this modality. “After attending the workshop with Alejandra we wanted to see the use of Pilates apparatus continue to help facilitate connectivity with SCI clients. It shouldn’t end due to the lack of a facility,” said Claudia. “So we decided to become that facility.”

Off and running
Flash-forward 12 months and the Absolute Center Endeavor Program is in full swing with three dedicated trainers – Stephanie Behrendt, Rachel Kahn, and Michaela Lien – and a physical therapist who comes in and collaborates with the trainers on specific medical challenges that SCI clients face.

The program has had 11 SCI clients come on board in less than two months.

Check back next week for Part 2