Aspire. Strengthen. Evolve.

The very roots of Pilates are rehabilitative.

At the outbreak of WWI, Joseph Pilates – at that time living in the UK – was interned in a camp with other German nationals.  It was during this period that he began to develop his regimen, “Contrology”,  teaching it to his fellow internees.  In the latter part of the war he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man where he helped rehabilitate the non-ambulatory by fixing the bedsprings to the ceiling. 

He and his wife, Clara relocated to Manhatten in the mid-20s and opened a “Body Conditioning Gym”.   Their focus on rehabilitation attracted many a member from the dance community and a variety of individuals who were looking for physical conditioning and safe recovery from injury.



The need for exercise among survivors of breast cancer is more important now than it has ever been. Recent studies state that exercise is an effective intervention for improving quality of life, cardio respiratory fitness, physical functioning, and reducing the symptoms of fatigue in breast cancer patients and survivors. Scientific evidence indicates that physical activity may reduce the risk of several types of cancer including breast and colon cancer as well as providing other important health benefits.

In Canada, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Such a prominent illness deserves critical attention; however, there are presently no standardized guidelines in place for the management of breast cancer post treatment/surgery. Individuals will often return home from the Doctor’s office unsure about how to enhance their healing process, with little or no information on where to find an appropriate exercise program or a physiotherapist for follow-up treatment. Clearly a void exists between the stages of diagnosis and recovery. That gap must be closed. 


Pilates is a gentle, low-impact form of exercise that emphasizes postural alignment, proper breathing, the efficiency of movement, flexibility, core strengthening, and muscular endurance. It is a suitable introduction or reintroduction to physical activity.

Although there is still little clinical research regarding Pilates and its effects on breast cancer survivors, a recently published study revealed that moderate improvements in shoulder abduction and external rotation range of motion were observed in all subjects*. There is an emphasis on the quality of movement (as opposed to quantity with repetitions rarely exceeding 10), uniform muscle development, and neuromuscular re-patterning. Pilates is a non-competitive discipline and is suitable for all fitness levels. *Keays. K.S., Harris, S.R., Lucyshyn, MacIntyre, D.L., Effects of pilates exercises on shoulder range of motion, mood, and upper extremity function in women living with breast cancer: a pilot study. American Physical Therapy Association 2008; 88(4): 494-510


OBJECTIVES of a personal program:

  • Enhance functional capacity/ability
  • Build muscle strength
  • Obtain a greater range of motion and flexibility
  • Restore proper movement patterns
  • Resume basic daily activities
  • Increase energy levels
  • Lessen the side effects of nausea (due to chemo)
  • Improve the chances of a more restful sleep

Psychological benefits that may result from physical activity include the following:

  • improved self-image 
  • enhanced self-esteem
  • renewed sense of control
  • improved quality of life

It is estimated that women decrease their physical activity by 2 hours per week after a diagnosis and less than one third of survivors participate in the levels of physical activity recommended by government agencies. Those who do follow exercise guidelines and exercise at a moderate intensity for thirty or more minutes, 5 or more times a week may survive longer. Many co-morbidities may be prevented through exercise. In terms of recurrence and overall survival, studies suggest that survivors who routinely exercise when compared to their inactive counterparts, have a significantly lowered risk of developing disease or dying.


• manage and prevent high blood pressure

• boost HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) levels while reducing LDL levels (the ‘bad’ cholesterol)

• assist the cardiovascular system in working more efficiently

• assist in weight control (which is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer)

• help to prevent Type II Diabetes- which has been associated with increased risk of certain cancers (including colon and breast cancer)

 • help to prevent osteoporosis. Because survivors are at a greater risk for osteoporosis due to an early menopause – often caused by chemotherapy and/or aromatase inhibitors – it would behoove individuals to participate in some resistance training to strengthen the bones.



Studies have also revealed that adiposity is a significant risk factor for recurrent disease and/or decreased survival among people with breast cancer, yet another incentive to exercise. Cancer survivors who exercise often experience many of the following:

  • stronger immune system
  • improved mood and higher self-esteem
  • less anxiety
  • increased strength and endurance
  • reduced fatigue
  • increased sense of well being

Exercise also has the ability to mitigate the side effects of surgery and make daily activities more manageable.


I am so thankful for Samantha’s Pilates classes offered through Tigerlily’s Pure Cat Initiative! Before the pandemic, regular exercise classes weren’t part of my routine, even though I knew they should be. I’m living with stage four breast cancer and getting to classes outside my home was too big of a hurdle for me. But the Tigerlily classes have brought exercise to me and it’s made a huge difference in my quarantine life. Samantha has challenged us to do more each week, while also providing modifications to each exercise for anyone in the class who might need them. I feel stronger, have more muscle tone, and more confidence in my body now. I highly recommend joining us each week! Thank you, Samantha and Tigerlily!



After having a double mastectomy due to breast cancer, Pilates’ exercises were recommended.  Samantha came highly recommended not only because she is a good teacher but because of her training and experience with the Pink Ribbon Program, specializing in exercises for breast cancer survivors.  My aim was to improve my posture and strengthen my body.  With her gentle guidance and patience, I can feel and see an improvement.  I now experience the same range of movement as I had before surgery.  I have full feeling in the areas that were left numb or tender after surgery.  And my posture has improved.  I have experienced positive psychological benefits as well, because I feel more comfortable with my body.

I highly recommend Samantha to any breast cancer survivor. You will find yourself in expert and caring hands. Samantha has supplemented our classes together with exercises I can do by myself, at home.

Debbie Harris