By Erin Naymark
Ila is a lifelong athlete, born and raised here in Los Angeles, California. Sports and exercise have always been second nature. For 10 plus years Ila was an avid gym rat, lifting heavy and not completely understanding the damage she was doing to her body. As a collegiate athlete Ila suffered injuries which brought her to Pilates. In 2012, Ila discovered Pilates and immediately fell in love with the practice. Due to her spinal injury, Ila knew that Pilates would be the only thing that would allow for an active lifestyle with longevity. She said “For the first time I had control over my own body. My back and overall strength had never felt better.” As a former athlete, Ila’s goal is to share and teach the importance of a strong Powerhouse and healthy spine to all ages and fitness levels. She wants to encourage those through her own testimony that Pilates can return any body to life.
Ila teaches Privates, Semi-Privates and Contrology Classes at Westwood Pilates. Read on to learn about Ila’s history as an athlete, how Pilates helped her recover from a back injury, and Ila’s top goals for her Pilates clients...
How many years were you an athlete? What drew you to sports?
I was an athlete for over 10 years. I ran track from 7th grade to my sophomore year in college. After track I joined a co-ed football league which I was a captain of my team for about 2 years. I grew up in a very sports filled family, my dad played football growing up both my siblings played volleyball in junior high and high school. My father actually didn’t let us watch tv growing up so most of my childhood I was outside playing. I think I had no choice but to be an athlete.
As an athlete were you injured? Can you talk a little about your injury?
I don’t know exactly when I injured my back, but I have an L5 disc herniation. I remember just not being able to bend over to tie my shoes one morning. I also have tendonitis in my shoulders which I believe is due to when I used to lift very heavy weights without proper form.
How did you build your mental foundation for an optimal recovery?
Well first thing first, I went to the doctor. I knew something wasn’t right and instead of ignoring it, I sought medical attention. I did extensive Physical therapy and took heed to my doctor's orders. I can’t say that I have fully recovered but I have managed to regain most of my strength back. I know that this will be a constant recovery. I just take one day at a time and I listen to my body. I believe that’s key, being fully aware of your body. During my Pilates certification I was diagnosed with tendinitis and I had to sit out the program for about a month. That was a very hard time for me because I was so used to being active and not being able to do anything was very hard mentally. But I was proactive, I did PT three times a week and did my stretches at home religiously. Being an athlete, injuries are apart of the game but it’s up to you to be proactive in your recovery.
How did Pilates help with your injury?
By my late 20s my back was hurting so bad that I couldn’t even go to the gym. Some days I would be ok and then others I could barely walk. A friend of mine recommended I try Pilates, she said that I would still be able to “train” but there would be no impact on my joints. So I gave it a try and I haven’t stopped since. For the very first time I was able to connect to my core like never before and because of that I was able to strengthen my back. As a runner I have always had superficial abs but with Pilates I was able to build deep core strength.
Pilates has helped me regain my range of motion with my shoulders. Just 2 years ago I couldn’t even lift my arm. I am still on the road to recovery with my shoulders but I am so grateful for the strength I have gained.
What do you love most about Pilates?
I honestly feel for the first time I’m in control of my own body. I can push my body to the limit, I can defy gravity. Pilates isn’t a mindless “workout” you have to be fully aware and in tune with your body. I think that was the thing I was lacking before, I would just pick up weights and never check in with my body, hence why I had a lot of injuries. I’ve always had back issues, in grade school I found out I had scoliosis and even as a child I had back pain. Now because of Pilates I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, without any back pain! I’m most excited because I will be able to do Pilates for the rest of my life and gain more knowledge and strength.
What is your top goal for your Pilates clients?
I want all my clients to be able to live an active, pain-free lifestyle. To gain strength and body awareness that can transfer over to their daily lives. I always say to myself “Man if only I knew about Pilates when I was runner, I would have had less injuries!” But now that I do know, I want to share it with the world. My goal for all of my clients is to help them be the strongest version of themselves.
What is your Pilates jam? If you could play a song that represented your Pilates teaching style, what would it be and why?
My Pilates jam is anything Bob Marley. It represents my teaching style because its positive vibes and fun and light hearted delivery. However Bob Marley's music always had a message that connects the mind, body and spirit.