For Jill Hinson, teaching Pilates and helping others build strong core muscles is more than a passion, it is the result of a personal journey that began at age 9.
When Hinson was 9, she was taken to the emergency room with what was believed to be a broken pelvis.
What she recalls most about that day is the immense pain in her left hip and lower back before she collapsed.
Although the incident occurred while she was at a roller rink, a doctor's exam and X-ray determined the pain was not activity- or injury-related. She was released and referred to a specialist for evaluation.
During the next few days, Hinson suffered severe pain and was unable to walk. Over the next few months she saw several specialists. The possibility of cancer and malignancies was discussed, and diseases such as lupus and polio were ruled out.
On some days she improved and would walk with crutches or a cane, but then she would relapse and be unable to stand. She continued to see specialists for several years but the cause of her symptoms remained a mystery.
Hinson's father, Mike Self, was involved with the Gastonia Masonic Lodge 369, which led Hinson to the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, S.C., where she was evaluated by some of the best orthopedic doctors in the country. They diagnosed chronic bursitis, a condition causing excruciating pain due to inflammation of the hip joints.
Doctors prescribed steroid injections - 30 per month - to reduce inflammation until she was strong enough to undergo physical therapy to regain strength in her legs.
"Physical therapy gave me my life back," said Hinson.
After six months, Hinson was strong enough to return to ballet class, and through the support of her teacher and friends she was inspired to become a dance teacher.
Hinson, 35, who lives in Monroe, graduated from UNC Greensboro with a bachelor's degree in dance education and taught dance for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from 1999-2001.
After having three children - Troy, 10; Luci, 9; and Ivan, 6 - with husband Hoss Hinson, she became interested in taking fitness classes to get back in shape.
Hinson tried various programs, but when she discovered Stott Pilates, she was so impressed with its premise she decided to become a certified instructor.
The Stott Pilates method was developed by a dancer in partnership with physical therapists and fitness professionals and is based on the original work of Joseph H. Pilates, who developed the body-conditioning exercises designed to increase strength and flexibility.
"I chose the Stott Pilates method because it is anatomically based, and once we understand the makeup of our bodies, we know what muscles to target to be able to use our bodies to its full potential," said Hinson. "I also like that it can be customized to help a broad range of people, even those who suffer with physical limitations or sports injury."
Hinson said the experience has given her a new perspective on her childhood illness.
"I used to ask God why such a horrible injury happened to me, but now I realize that it was to prepare me for this new journey in my life, so I would have the compassion and insight to help others," she said.