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About UP

leg lift progression photo"UP" is an intense, yet slow moving program for learning to use the body as a whole in order to maximize movement potential. While doing "UP", everyone works to his or her capabilities, challenging themselves at their own level. The main intent is to learn how to override normal muscles and muscles groups that serve to move the body and incorporate lesser used and even smaller muscles and muscle groups to increase mobility of the body. [For example, in order to lift the leg, one generally considers only the quadriceps or thigh muscles, in "UP" you learn to rotate the leg away from the body (external rotation) to a certain extent in order to incorporate all of the abductor muscles, lengthen the "Y" ligaments of the hip, or hip flexors in order to create a wider range of motion therefore using more muscle mass to lift that leg.] "UP" is about learning the full potential of the body in all areas, using the back to help move the arms, the buttocks and pelvis to help move the legs, etc.

Core strength or Trunk strength is also an important part of "UP". Unlike other workout programs, where the exercises for core strength often cause compression and tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back, UP uses specific body positions to alleviate that stress. The majority of UPs "core work" keeps the head, neck, shoulders and hips safely on the ground and tension-free, allowing the major and deeper muscles in the back and abdomen to engage and strengthen.

Relaxation is also a key part of "UP" and the technique has often been compared to Yoga and Tai Chi because it incorporates breathing techniques and relaxation. The importance of learning to relax certain parts of the body while working others is of major importance in order to build strength in the lesser used muscles and muscles groups, therefore emphasis is put on relaxation while working. "The more you relax, the more you stretch, the more you stretch, the more possibilities there are for building strength!" is one of UP's major philosophies.

UP also allows for a level of improvement in mental health. Those who suffer from injuries, or who are involved in the stresses of the competitive worlds of athletics, dance or even business, are able to find a way to reduce the stress, as well as building self-esteem. Participants have expressed that UP has a positive effect on their mental health. This is clearly evident for individuals who suffer from injuries, but UP also works to reduce stress and build self-esteem for people who function in the highly competitive worlds of athletics, dance or business. UP works for you!

From Firebird to Firefighter to All Fired UP

On April 14, 1994, in a split second, a fluke accident caused a life changing spinal cord injury. In that one moment, the experiences of a lifetime became the means to survival, at least toward some level of functioning that came close to the lifestyle to which I, Marka Danielle, was accustomed.

I was accustomed to movement. It seemed as if I knew nothing else. As a young girl, I danced around the living room, swinging my crinoline skirt as Lawrence Welk led his orchestra on Saturday nights. Then I saw Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev dance on the Ed Sullivan Show and life began! I knew that night that there would be nothing that would ever fulfill me the way dance did.

I spent the next 30 years living my dream. I danced! I danced anywhere I could, in different genres, from classical ballet to musical theatre. I received a scholarship to the Boston Conservatory of Music. I studied different techniques of classical and modern ballet, choreography, pedagogy, music, anatomy and physiology for dancers, history of dance, Labanotation and Sutton Movement Shorthand (both forms of notating dance and movement) and more. I auditioned for and succeeded in receiving a full scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre School where I was also invited to join the infamous "Ailey II". But New York and I didn't mesh and I went searching for another outlet for my career. I was offered a job in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I was fortunate enough to have a fabulous career in Concert Dance, Theatre, Television and particularly teaching.

It was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I created a program for actors who had never danced and needed training for the ever-growing popularity of musical comedy in that country. Not only did I use this program for actors, but dancers and other individuals who found it to be a way to gain strength and increase their flexibility as well as improve their overall daily functioning. In many ways, it was the beginnings of UP.

After the birth of my son, I needed a job with health insurance—and what began as a joke, became one of the greatest "theatrical roles" of my career. I became a firefighter and EMT. It was one of the most amazingly challenging and fulfilling experiences of my life. I was particularly interested in the medical aspect of Emergency Services and so I became a Medic with Charleston County EMS where I was preparing for Paramedic School when my accident occurred.

I was on one end of a stretcher, containing an unconscious patient, when it collapsed. Unfortunately, I held on and received what I've been told was the equivalent of a whiplash injury at 50-60 miles an hour. I had crushed my spinal cord from C-4 to C-6. I remember the doctor saying, as he looked at my MRI: "I don't know how you are functioning. For all intents and purposes, you shouldn't be." At that point, I could only shuffle when trying to walk. I could barely lift my arms to dress. I couldn't hold a magazine or a cup of coffee. I was a physical and emotional mess.

The traditional Physical Therapy regimens did not help me improve. After numerous complaints to my primary spine care Doctor and Surgeon he responded, "Marka, you know your body better than any patient of mine and how to use it, go home and do what you feel you need to do!" This began one of the most intensive periods in my life.

I began using my dance training and exercise experience to create an innovative approach to my rehabilitation. Over the next six years, I refined my strengthening techniques by combining body mechanics and additional flexibility exercises to increase and maximize my movement potential. While I still have physical limitations and other neurological deficits, I was able to progress far beyond the expectations of the medical community.

At my insistance, I was referred to the facilities of the Medical University of South Carolina's Harper Student Center (MUSC) to continue with the program I had developed for myself. I was asked to teach their "Classically Fit" program—a low-impact fitness regimen that would build strength and flexibility without causing damage to joints, bones and/or muscles. I incorporated the experiences of my recovery, my dance training and performance as well as all of my training in emergency services, particularly my medical training and "Ultimate Physicality" (UP) was born. UP has become one of the most complete strength and flexibility programs available and is being used by students of all ages, at all levels of athletic ability, as well as people recovering from injuries or with chronic physical limitations.

UP is a continual "work in progress" and that is the philosophy that has brought me to be walking, exercising and maintaining my ability to function. I eventually even had the honor to have a few brief cameo dance appearances and continue to choreograph several dance pieces. I continue to use this program for my own daily functioning and to help others add this alternative to traditional Fitness and Therapeutic techniques to their daily lives."

— Marka Danielle