The Empowering Story of Joanna Portner

“One thing that SF Studios has instilled in me is that I am “normal” and need not be scared to use my body”


I was first introduced to Suz at SF Studios by my back surgeon, who had operated on me 9 years ago. 

Since the operation, my back always gave me pain which rarely dissipated. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with herniated discs in my lumbar spine, my neck (together with a cyst on the disc in my neck) and, most worryingly, a herniated disc in my thoracic spine. This last herniation was impinging on my spinal cord and I was told that it could lead to paralysis in my legs. It also gave me constant excruciating pain in my ribs and referred nerve pain in my shoulders. 

I was reluctant to see another “physiotherapist” as I had seen so many who had failed to help. It was frustrating just lying on a bed being treated with a bit of massage once a week and never benefitting from any long-term relief. I was taking paracetamol every 4 hours, anti-inflammatories every morning and tramadol every evening, but still had interrupted sleep due to the pains in my ribs and shoulders. However, my surgeon thought I would really benefit from seeing Suz so I arranged to have a session in around March 2017.

Since my first session with Suz, I have never looked back! I began with some one-to-one session. Suz started with a thorough holistic assessment and asked me about my whole life, not just my spine. She also assessed my movements and she palpated every joint in my body and tested the movements.  She explained to me her finding and assured me that we could do a lot to help me, however, that she was going to teach me how to move and she said that her aim was to ‘see the movement as my friend and not my enemy’. This approach helped me gain confidence and work on my strengths. Rather than being negative and telling me what I couldn’t do, Suz was incredibly positive and made me feel like I could and would get stronger and stronger. She affirmed my strengths and values as a whole person. 

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Suz nudged me gently, however with strong intention….. and I finally felt confident enough to join the movement classes. I have met some lovely, supportive and fun people! I also started working with Marco who although works on the same principles of movement as Suz. His Movement Conditioning Classes (MC Classes) focus on strength and varies the movement and focus each week. It keeps the classes interesting and enjoyable (and it’s great to sweat!). 

I’ve also attended some of the weekend workshops which complement the weekly classes with information and insight into how your body works and how you can improve things like breathing. I can now hang on the ladders like a monkey and pull myself up. I can plank like I’ve never planked before! If someone had told me that I would be doing such things two years ago, I would have laughed! 

One thing that SF Studios has instilled in me is that I am “normal” and need not be scared to use my body. I was always scared that I could not exercise like other people since my back was weak and prone to problems. I now know this to be untrue and am able to do as much, if not more, than any “normal” person with no back problems.

I rarely take painkillers anymore and feel strong and happy when I’m moving with Suz and Marco. I even went on the retreat to France with Suz and Ginny in June and had a life-changing experience, forming fantastic friendships with people who share a love of movement and becoming stronger both physically and mentally. 

I enjoy going to SF Studios a couple of times a week and relish the holistic approach to movement and mental happiness. It is a calm and positive place where you are encouraged to work to your strengths rather than dwell on your weaknesses. Suz and her team are so friendly and I always walk away feeling refreshed and prepared to take on the rest of my week! 

“More than anything else, I want to empower each and every individual that crosses my path, to remind them what a beautiful strong person they are and what they are capable of”.