Educator Highlight : Chantal Perron

I always loved to dance.  And so, I think I was born with my pointed feet.  But I’ve been dancing since the age of 7, and traveled through the dance industry here in Montreal at different levels.  I got the opportunity when I was a young adult to work in that field.  More on the commercial approach, so I was assisting singers, musicians, corporate events, publicity, TV things, and so that was a really, really nice way for me to express myself.  I was a very shy person, and I still am… so movement was really my way to communicate and to burn off any type of emotion. 

Parallel to that, I was studying architectural design, so structure and the way things are made have always fascinated to me.  So when Pilates got into my life, after health issues and an accident, what I liked about it mostly was that it captured everything I love to study and research all in one.  So the “how things are made” for the architecture part of it in the anatomy, and all that dance fluidity in the movement.  It made me feel like I could join all the aspects, the things that I love into one.  I felt very well-versed in that field, like I got something that touched every aspect of my personality and my curiosity.  

It was a really, really good moment for me.  

That happened in a moment of life when movement was not accessible to me anymore because of an accident and my health situation.  For me being the introvert that I was, not being able to communicate anymore through that venue was very hard, it was a bit of suffering.  It was a really great gift that I got that day when my osteopath at the time proposed that I would be a great candidate to learn and become a teacher of Pilates.  So that’s how it all started.  

I had Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2000 after receiving a flu vaccine.  It struck me pretty hard… it was the Miller Fischer type of Guillain-Barré.  And so my face was paralyzed, my arms, my legs… I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t see, but I could hear.  Movements were happening, but they weren’t voluntary.  My nervous system was going crazy.  Having been a dancer all of my life and having travelled through movement to express myself, being stuck as a prisoner of my body was such a revealing and amazing experience, because I then tried to evaluate what type of movement was still available to me.  I tried to work with those micro-movements to get a little bit more, a little bit more, and a then little bit more… so it was a really good meditative experience that lasted for about 3-4 months.  Throughout that experience, what I realized is that I really needed to move to feel better, and even if it was just the slightest, smallest movement, it would have a direct effect on my mental health and my mental health would have a direct effect on my next attempt to move something else on my body.  So that was my little research. 

I learned a lot about the architecture of my body, my nervous system, and my response between thoughts, emotions, and how the body feels or gets that information. 

This was a very weird, painful, but wonderful experience, because you never get to stop in life, right?  Sometimes you force yourself to stop, to thank God, to meditate, or breathe in and out with intention a couple of time, and make the world wait for that.  But I was forced into that moment of stillness, and it was actually a gift.  That was how I experienced breath and discovered many different exercises that the doctors and physical therapists gave me to get my mind off things and get me busy.  I was literally not sleeping for 24 hours a day, and focusing on breath really, really helped.  I learned that breath is a really great tool to help with anxiety and help get a better perspective on things.  The mind quiets down, and you get a little more perspective as your fears quiet down.  That was my big exercise.  The movement happened, but at a very, very small level. 

When I got out of the hospital I had no muscles, just bones, because I had not moved for so long.  I was wishing to move so much, just to go out for a walk, to do something, but I couldn’t move that much because I would get tired and fatigued very quickly.  I was told: “Don’t go and do errands without having someone next to you, or if you have to, sit down after ten minutes, then take another ten minutes.”  It was like a fifty-fifty effort.  I had to take time to rest, but it was hard to believe because my brain was telling me I could still move, but my body told me I couldn’t.  I remember a day where I had to do an activity to prove to them that I could move.  I was in rehab at that point and had to prove to my doctors and my family that I could go home.  They said, “You need to do a task, to show us that everything is going to be okay.”  So I decided that I would make a gazpacho, you know that cold soup?  It’s one of my favorites.  I was looking forward to eating it, because I hadn’t been eating real food in the last 3 months.  So I started to cut everything into very small sizes, because I refuse to use the blender to make everything.  I think it took me two hours and a half to do the whole thing, and I had to sleep for three days after that.  That’s when I noticed my understanding of how the mind drives the body and the body drives the mind.  That was when I realized I was expecting a little too much out of my body and that my body talked to my head this time and said, “You know what?  You may be stubborn and want to impose a two hour and a half task, but I will tell you I am not ready.”  I slept for three days, and I couldn’t get out of the hospital yet. 

Once I had the OK to go home, I had to go to the rehab center daily to follow up, have tests, and physical therapy.  I had a friend who decided to help me out and take care of me.  I was living in his place, and one morning he drove me to the rehab center.  It was a nice sunny day, so he decided to pull out his motorcycle instead of his car.  I was a little bit struck by his decision, because I had no muscles and I was wondering how I was going to hold on to him in the first place.  I had that gut feeling.  I was really sensitive to everything happening around, and I felt that this was wrong, but I had trouble expressing myself.  I decided to go with it.  Every light that we would cross, every street we would pass, I would mentally tell myself, “Oh, well I was wrong. Nothing’s happening, not now.”  I would repeat this to myself until we got hit by a car.  I remember when I was in the sky (I was propelled off of the motorcycle) I told myself, “Oh no, not again.”  This was a way for me to learn that just because you just went through one thing, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be perfect and all better.  You need to be prepared that life will always happen, and you have to be open and flexible.  You have to adjust accordingly. 

[Content Warning: Graphic Car Accident Details] The first ordeal was neurological, and now this one was very orthopedic.  It was one right after the other.  That sequence was really amazing to me.  I landed on the ground.  At that point, I thought about surviving.  Because of the Guillain-Barré Syndrome, I had a clot, so I was on a special medication, a blood thinner, to make that better.  The doctors coached me so much: “If you’re brushing your teeth and you have any blood on your brush or something like cutting yourself with a knife, come to the hospital, because it could be dangerous, you can bleed to death.”  And there I was, in the middle of the street, with my femur open, fractured.  The rest of my leg, the bottom part of my leg, was under me, my foot next to my head.  I was holding this piece of leg, with a bone sticking out, and I saw the blood coming out in a big way and I thought, “Well, I’m going to die here, because the blood is just going to keep going.”  I kept screaming, “Find my leg! Put it on!”  And then a nice lady put my foot next to my face, so that I could feel it, and she told me not to worry, that my leg was there.  I quieted down, and I waited for the ambulance.  We were very lucky to be next to the hospital, because my friend was also in really, really bad shape.  When we got to the hospital, we had wonderful, creative doctors and orthopedic surgeons that decided they would not cut my leg but would try to fix it.  My friend and I were very fortunate to profit from their ingenuity.

That was how I got into a clinic where I met with the osteopath, Colleen Jogensen, who was a Pilates practitioner at the time.  I remember on my first visit I saw a reformer.  It didn’t tell me much, because I didn’t know much about Pilates at that time.  She came in, stepped on it, and started moving like she’s dancing, you know, doing the front split series and balancing on it.  She had her own little choreography she was working on to help her spine issues.  So I saw that, got magic in my eyes, and immediately told my physical therapist, “I want to do this.”  My physical therapist told me, “No.  Of course, and some point, but not now.”  I was still in traction, I couldn’t move my leg, and there was a piece of metal sticking out, so now was not the time.  But every day I would go to the physical therapist and ask her, “So, can I go?  Can I go?  So, can I go?” and she kept saying no, and at one point I crossed paths with the osteopath, Colleen, and I told her, “I used to be a dancer.  That was my life, and I need to move.  I saw you move the other day and I was so inspired.  Do you think I can work with you and try it out?”  And then she said, “I’ll talk to your PT and see what the state of your condition is.”  She looked at my profile, found it very fascinating, and wanted to be a part of my medical team.  She told me, “We’ll wait on the Pilates on the reformer for now, since you’re just out of surgery, but I’ll start letting you know about some principles so that you can apply them in your PT exercises that you’re doing here.”  We talked about breath and how to work in precision when trying to do any micro movement to re-educate my knee and leg. 

At one point my leg got really good and I was starting to walk, or practice walking, when I noticed that something was not working.  The leg was okay, but where it flexed in, nothing was working there.  I needed something that would integrate the great work that was done with the leg.  That was when she said, “Well, great that you noticed that, because it’s time to start Pilates.” 

I started doing Pilates twice a week, PT three times a week, and osteopath once a week.  The therapists were working in a team and took me under their wing to make sure I could walk, dance again, and do all my regular activities.  It was a really fun environment to be in. At the time I wasn’t working, and while I paid for my PT sessions, that was all I could manage.  I got to know all these talented and generous people that went above and beyond to give me extra time and information for free that I still use and offer to others.

Eventually I started working for Colleen.  One afternoon she called me at home when I was still on my crutches (I had them for 18 months).  She called me in and said, “You know, I’m doing a teacher training soon and thought you would be a great person to join the course.”  I said, “Are you serious? I can’t even walk!”  She said, “Well, you can always learn movements.  You know movements from your dance background.  I saw you move, and you can transfer that information to correct the clients to make sure they’re safe and able to learn the curriculum.”  And so I said, “Sure, I’ll do that.”  So I started this way with her for close to a year of training.  She had trained with Ann McMillan and Polestar.  This was in 2002.  When I started a daily Pilates practice and the teacher training with Colleen, I really felt much, much better.  The following year was really just some adjustments and making sure everything was in place. 

In 2003, I decided to continue my education and went to New York with my crutches to do the Polestar comprehensive series.

I got there and everyone was in such good shape and so perfectly built and there I was crooked and with my crutches.  I felt very insecure there.  I told myself, “I traveled all that way, I drove down alone, let’s do this.”  I had a bit of training because I did the previous year with Colleen, so I knew about the repertoire, the anatomy, most of the injuries that can happen, and how to deal with them, but I felt like I needed a more in-depth, more recognized approach.  Colleen was the one that strongly recommended Polestar, saying that it was her training.  Because of my background, my injuries, my lifestyle, I felt that the Polestar’s philosophy and approach was really in line with what I was trying to do and what I gained in the past year. 

It really felt like coming home when I met Polestar people.  When I did this training, the approach, philosophy, adaptability, and flexibility all fit in with the way I drive my life, the way I was rehabilitated, and the way I was seeing movement with my new body.  I thought that maybe they needed help promoting Polestar back home in Montreal, without knowing at that time that Brent already had a relationship with Ann McMillain, who was an educator with a host site.  I was just starting in the field, and decided to offer my services, because my deepest desire was to share and to transfer whatever has benefitted me, to pay it forward.

I showed up to the next Polestar conference in Miami (2004).  My goal was to meet the educators and see their day to day reality and if I could fit into any part of it.  I met with Brent and Shelly, the international educators, and the whole team.  I proposed my services as a mentor.  Shelly interviewed me and said, “It would be great to have someone represent us in Montreal.  Let me talk to Brent to see how that will go.”  When I came back to Montreal with my business partner, we opened a studio and hosted a private comprehensive series for all of our staff.  That was my initiative, because they were all Stott trained, and I was Polestar trained, and my partner traveled with me to the conference where she saw an opportunity with the Polestar approach.  We had 15 instructors in our first training with Pam Turner and Lise Stolze leading it.  Then we hosted another one, and another one, and then we became a host site and I was a mentor in those series’.  At one point, I don’t remember exactly when it happened, Brent opened his arms and naturally offered me the role of educator.  This was a very happy moment in my life.  I am very passionate about teaching and always look forward to the next opportunity.

Now, I am cured.  I was lucky.  From what I was told and from what I know about the disease, if you catch it on time, you can reverse the whole thing.  I did intravenous immunoglobulin therapy treatment, plasma exchange and lots of rehab.  With all of that, my immune system started to get back on track and my myelin sheaths started to grow again around the nerves.  The signals then got a little clearer to whatever they fed. I was lucky. At the time of my accident my immune system was still waking up, so I had some involuntary movement that lingered, and I still couldn’t see properly – seeing in black and white on occasion. Now I can see very well, except when I’m very tired, and the side of my face that was paralyzed completely sometimes jams up, but I feel well.

This is my mindset now: “What am I doing now?  What am I doing next?  How can I make this better and what do I want to share still?”  I’m still juggling all of these questions myself, but I do know that I want to pay it forward. I know that when I am in a class with a client that trusts me and that was referred by somebody else that trusted me before and got better, I’m in my zone.  I know that is something that I want to keep doing.  I want to be a part of their progression.  I have lots of information to share, many tools to give them for them to get better.  Now I’m also a business owner.  When I’m in that hourly timezone, it’s hard for me to be addressing my business issues.  I try to navigate between the two roles and get better as a business owner and get better as an instructor for my clients.  So my thought was, how can I make this better for everyone else?  What is my strongest point?  I decided that I could use Polestar to reach out to the community a little better.  Maybe not insist so much on doing the hourly, and trust my skills in transferring that information from the comprehensive series to new, younger instructors that have the same desire as me: to transfer their tools to other people.  When I teach the Polestar program, I feel very strong.  I can reach out to a group and have a bigger impact by transferring my skills and my knowledge, and then they can go out in the community and continue to spread the good.  It’s my mission to make sure that every student that comes through gets the best out of us and the most time out of us too.  So if I can reach more people in a group, that would be a good evolution for me and might be what’s next for me. 

For the last two years, my clients have been mostly elderly, so I would like to find a way to reach out to that age group a little bit more. To have them know about their bodies and the possibilities that their bodies have, because most of them, when I meet them, think that it’s over.  They think that everything is old and not working, and they feel sad.  So that may be a path that I would travel towards. 

One of my clients reminded me of a story… why the studio exists in the first place.  It’s a little bit in regards to the goal that I just shared with you.  Because I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, I thought of other studios, and I worked with Polestar, but why did I want to have my own space?  Well, first I like interior design, that was a fun project.  But it was really to have a place where people could come to me instead of just running around the city and going to them all of the time.  So my client reminded me, after 14 years of working together, “You know what you told me when we first met each other?  Why this place existed?”  I said, “No… I’m not sure what I told you that day… help me out.”  She said, “Well, you wanted to have a place that could help elderly in their wheelchairs, because you just came out of your wheelchair at that time when we met.  You wanted a place that could help them move again.”  So I said, “Really? Did I say that?  I forgot about that!  I forgot I had that goal.”  But it never left me, I just hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but that resonated with me.  That’s something that I definitely still want to do, but now I see it’s hard for them to travel to me, because they can’t just leave where they are.  To find a way to get to them, that would be a good thing.  

The lady that was next to me in the hospital bed, she was maybe 70, broke her hip.  For the whole week that I was in that room, sharing it with her, she never woke up.  Many times I asked about her health, and what was happening, and as soon as she woke up just a little bit, she would in pain, because she was in her bed without movement for so many hours.  I don’t know how long she was there but when she would wake up they would give her medicine and she would fall asleep again.  I was so outraged by this that I thought, “If we could just help them move a little, maybe we could cut down on all of the medications, and they could feel better about themselves.”  That’s what I felt when they moved me in my bed. 

If you’re asking me, what’s up for you in the future? I think I will do more research and visit Polestar Headquarters to get more skills to try to address the type of clientele I’m interested in.  Can I dance now?  Oh yes, like a crazy person, you should see me!  I do this with my kids every day after dinner, that’s our little moment of digestion.  So we put the music loud and they dance climb up on the sofa and we go wild.  I need to keep that so that they know movement is important.

Learn more about Chantal and Goa Pilates in Montreal Canada here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Thank you for sharing this outrageous story of courage, compassion, trust, and giving! I am so inspired by you Chantal! Thank you for your insight, commitment to keep going and never giving up. Thank you for appreciating all the people who helped you along the way, for being able to see the lesson and opportunity in what happened to you, twice!! Thank you for helping the elderly move in their wheelchairs, or even just consider that they may be able to get out of them. Thank you!

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