WATCHUNG, NJ – For more than a decade, Danielle Conner has been helping clients of all ages and physical abilities look and feel better through Pilates, a system of exercises using special apparatus designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness.

“Those who do Pilates regularly feel they have better posture, are less prone to injury, and experience better overall health,” said Conner, who in November 2011 opened the Pilates Design Studio on Johnston Drive in Watchung.

Krystal Thorburn began training with Conner in August 2009, turning to Pilates when she was looking for a different form of fitness. “It was my first experience with Pilates and I have continued working with her and never stopped. I instantly loved what she did and what she stood for,” Thorburn, who resides in Flanders and makes the commute to Watchung once a week, said.

According to Thorburn, Conner is great with directing one’s workout regime and is ‘extremely meticulous and detailed.’ Although she initially turned to Pilates for exercise, Thorburn said Conner’s training over the years has come into play in her every day life. “I am using what I learn here in my daily life, such as how I am walking and if I am engaging my lower abs or if I am able to support my lower back and joints,” Thorburn said. “She has really taught me a lot.”

For Conner, the goal is to supply the best instruction so that clients leave each session feeling connected, grounded, and invigorated. “Pilates is great exercise and strengthens the body as a whole and has been proven to help slow down the progression of a chronic condition, allowing the body to have full functionality with minimal to no pain,” said Conner. “Those who do Pilates regularly feel they have better posture, are less prone to injury, and experience better overall health.”

The fully equipped Pilates Design Studio is also the only place in New Jersey that offers Body Balance Suspension System. For athletes and those who turn to Pilates for fitness, Body Balance helps create more efficient movement patterns in the body, which, in turn, builds more strength and improves performance. Additionally, Conner has been incorporating neural plasticity into her practice. She is currently studying with Z Health, has completed the R-Phase and I-Phase series and is now preparing for the T-Phase series.

Incorporating neuroplasticity, said Conner, has been an incredible asset in relieving chronic pain and increasing muscle strength in her clients.  According to Conner, when there is an injury or a chronic condition, the brain’s movement map becomes disrupted creating inefficient muscle firing patterns.

“This leads to compensation to avoid pain which leads to poor movement patterns which leads to increased pain in the body which leads to speeding up the progression of a chronic condition,” she said. “Through the Z Health Method, we are able to assist in clearing up the movement map, enabling us to assist in the healing process. By changing and creating new neural signatures in the body, we help eliminate chronic pain and allow for healthy and efficient brain functionality to return.”

Linda Ashley of Westfield, who has severe spinal stenosis, and, as a result, suffers from chronic pain, was first introduced to Pilates by a physical therapist when she lived in Las Vegas. After relocating to New Jersey, a co-worker of her husband’s recommended Conner and she’s been a client ever since. She currently turns to Pilates twice a week for both exercise and medical reasons.

“Danielle is so well versed in how to deal with the mechanics of the body and what is going on. She also appreciates what it is like to have a medical issue where you are dealing with chronic pain. It’s a different way of living,” said Ashley. “She can tell from the moment I walk into the studio what’s hurting or what I am doing to cause that pain and what she needs to work on. She is very in tune with that and works to reinforce the body mechanics so you are aware as you go through your daily activities between sessions.”

Working to eliminate inefficient movement patterns and creating efficient movement patterns aids in healing an injury and slows down the progression of a chronic condition, making it more manageable and less debilitating, said Conner. “Through our exercises, we realign the body and activate muscles that are inhibited to create efficient movements and eliminate inefficient movement patterns that are causing pain and keeping an injury from healing,” she said. “That, in turn gives people back their quality of life.”

For Ashley, while Pilates doesn’t necessarily replace all medication, the regime does play a role in reducing the amount needed. “If you can keep yourself out of pain or control the pain by using better body mechanics, you do not need as much, which to me, is the better route to go,” said Ashley.

Jerzy Vednarski of Roselle Park also turned to Conner and the Pilates Design Studio for rehabilitation issues. After being diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, Vednarski underwent surgery that resulted in the replacement of his left jaw bone that left him unable to move his left arm.

“After being operated on I had problems taking a shower and getting dressed,” said Vednarksi, who works in the construction field. When physical therapy didn’t seem to be helping, a friend who is also a client of Conner’s recommended he give Pilates a try. “I was open to anything that could help me,” he said.

At this time, Vednarksi does Pilates two, sometimes three times a week and said that in just a few short months, the pain has subsided, movement in his arm has returned, and he has even been able to return to work. “I have much more control of my arm. Before, I couldn’t use it at all,” he said.
Conner began doing Pilates as a form of exercise at the age of 19. A former professional dancer, she then turned to Pilates when she was 25 as a means of rehabbing from chronic bursitis and tendonitis in her shoulders. She retired from stage in 2008 and opened the Watchung-based Pilates Design Studio three years later with the goal of helping people to live healthy and pain free.

“There is a lot of emphasis on focusing on your body and how it is moving that if you come in really stressed from your day or just life in general, you leave feeling calm and peaceful because it gives the mind a break from the stress,” she said.

Ashley agreed, saying, “Danielle understands the mind-body connection. She knows that if you are under stress you are going to manifest more physical symptoms.”

“Danielle isn’t just good at what she does in terms of being a Pilates instructor, she also really cares what she does and you pick up on that right away … and this goes for anyone that she would have teaching here,” added Ashley. “She is so particular about technique and detail and understanding one’s injuries, issues or health problems. She is also very empathic and very compassionate and that is very important.”

Thorburn suggests anyone who may be thinking about trying Pilates to give a try at Conner’s Watchung studio. “Danielle is just great and I cannot speak highly enough about her. She is definitely a master trainer who knows what she is doing. Anyone who trains with her is in really good hands,” she said, adding, “You are going to see results and you are going to love it. You going to walk out of every sessions feeling more balanced and in less pain.”

“If you want to get back to what you were before, try it,” said Vednarksi, adding, “Here, there is complete focus on you.”

Ashley added, “It will be the best thing you ever do. It was for me.”

Pilates Design Studio, located at 7 Johnston Drive in Watchung (near the Watchung Circle), was recently named the New Jersey host site for Body Arts and Science International, one of the various organizations Conner is certified through in Pilates. In this capacity, licensing and certification courses are taught at the Watchung studio while students are also there completing the hours required to earn their certifications.

The studio is open seven-days a week and all new clients are offered and encouraged to take a complimentary private class.

For scheduling and class times visit or call (908) 731-5987.

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