The Giving Gift of a Total Knee Replacement

The Giving Gift of a Total Knee Replacement

Balanced Body Pilates Rehab

On March 29, 2014, I was thrilled to get a Total Knee Replacement (TKA). Why would I be thrilled by such a massive surgery? Let me give you the back story.

I have severe Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) but live as actively as possible even with intense joint pain, minimal use of my hands, and bilateral fused elbows. Living with RA, I found ways to build strength to enjoy the fun adventures and athletic pursuits in my life. My knees, especially my right one, were affected by my RA, and while years of strengthening kept me going, the joint became bone on bone.

My surgery was inevitable; it was time for a NEW KNEE! The surgeon did his job, and then Sam and I got to work with rehab. Sam Schmidt, PT, NCPT, introduced me to the CoreAlign and the Pilates Reformer, where I could rebuild trust, strength, control, and joy in my movement again.

My body loved the facilitation these machines provided. I connected my mind with my body through powerful experiences that challenged my nervous system on how to organize and prepare for a given task with my new knee and RA limitations.

Because of my severe RA and the associated joint changes in my hands, wrists, and elbows, my relationship with movement is dynamic. I have learned how to modify, pace, load, and challenge my body to build that relationship positively. My work on the Pilates Reformer and CoreAlign maximizes the power and abilities of my body’s movement. I was hooked and felt the impact and potential Pilates had on one’s body and life.

Sam clearly sensed my passion and saw my results from the Pilates rehab experience. She suggested I teach Pilates. I was already a Personal Trainer and was ready to share this method with my clients to improve their potential.

In 2016, I started with CoreAlign Instructor Training. Once I saw the changes in my clients and the continued success in my own body, I moved on to my Comprehensive Pilates Certification. I have been studying, teaching, and developing my Pilates-self ever since. Pilates and CoreAlign allow the client to play, move with ease, but also challenge.


Pilates and CoreAlign are game-changers in rehab and in the studio. I am a success story on what Pilates and CoreAlign can do. I am honored to share this passion with my clients and see this movement change their lives. My Total Knee Replacement was a gift beyond simply changing tissue or bone on bone. The rehab using Pilates was the gift of redefined power embodied as a movement. This is what I give to those I work with – the challenge for change through movement, through Pilates for life!

My name is Denise Graef. I am happily married with four amazing sons and I live in Missoula, Montana. I hold two certifications for Personal Training and am a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®️ for Health Coaching. I have multiple specialty certifications such as Functional Aging Specialist, AEA Water Fitness, Master Trainer for Aquastrength, Facilitator for Living Life Well, Barre Fitness, and Blackbelt in TaeKwonDo. I am currently immersed in Pilates education gaining my certification in Comprehensive Pilates including CoreAlign®️. I have additional training in “special populations” and I participate in continued education year-round. I specialize in training the active aging population. I have a passion for programming functional fitness and I enjoy incorporating all of the foundations from above into my work.



Please make a choice regarding cookies on this site

We use cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience.

This site uses cookies

We use cookies to optimize site functionality and give you the best possible experience. For more information see our privacy policy.