Breast Cancer Recovery With Pilates


Breast cancer and Pilates have an interesting history. Back in the 1950's Joseph Pilates was regularly teaching his students each day. Many of those original students went on to become the Pilates "Elders" who promoted and preserved his work for decades and into the present day. One such original student was Eve Gentry. 

In 1955,  Eve Gentry underwent a radical mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Eve had been a regular Pilates student for a decade studying under Joseph Pilates himself at his new york city gymnasium. A dancer and choreographer herself she was a seasoned mover and an excellent Pilates pupil.

Lynda Lippin, a veteran Pilates trainer who worked directly with Eve shared a story about Eve's recovery and her work with Joe. In today's world of progressive and alternative treatments, Pilates may not seem unusual but such was not the case several decades ago. Eve's surgery was aggressive and dramatic. Post surgery she was left unable to lift her arms. A large amount of her pectoral muscles had been removed. Despite this, Eve returned to Pilates and began working with Joe in earnest to restore her range of motion, strength and function.  Lippin reported that Pilates did much of their work in his dedicated space for special needs called the "back room" within his studio. Other reports suggest that Joe even created specialized equipment for Eve's condition.

Eve achieved remarkable results. In an effort to preserve their success and share the outcomes of their labor, Joe and Eve recorded a series of exercises on film to demonstrate the tremendous effects of their work together. 

Armed with their film, Joseph made an appointment to present his work to the medical community.

He was initially well received and the doctors were interested in seeing what the results of his post-operative rehabilitative program. According to Lippin the doctors were impressed to the point of disbelief.  They dismissed the video as a hoax. Not ones to be dismissed, Joe and Eve went back to the drawing board. They filmed her exercise routine again but this time shirtless to prove beyond a doubt that Eve was in fact a breast cancer survivor and one who had undergone a radical double mastectomy.  This time, they were not dismissed. 

Eve made a spectacular recovery and went on to become a true champion of the Pilates method. She ultimately set up shop in Santa Fe and carried on the Pilates work in a variety of settings, eventually setting up an institute. In an historical video taken at a workshop Eve states that Joe Pilates taught her the value of the work in many ways including the idea that "10 times is not better than 5". Her teachings extended to all types of populations and her unique experiences contributed to her specialized understanding of the method.

 Her work was carried on by all the teachers she trained, most notably Suzanne Gutterson and Michele Larsson both of whom still teach today.   

Joseph Pilates called his own method a system of corrective exercise. The majority of today's surgeries are conducted with an eye toward preserving healthy tissue and are thus less extreme than the procedures of Eve Gentry's time. Today, when patients are discharged, physical therapists take over to restore function and symmetry. Where physical therapy leaves off, Pilates can begin. Using the genius of Joe Pilates inventions in exercise and equipment, breast cancer survivors can continue to make gains in strength, flexibility and symmetry.  

To read more about Eve Gentry visit

To see Joseph Pilates and Eve Gentry working together Click Here.

Visit Lynda Lippin at

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