Why You Should Take an Advanced Training (Even if you Don't have Advanced Students)

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Look at those lovely ladies!! Trainings are so much fun!! But something I often hear is “I don’t have any advanced clients. So I don’t need to take the Advanced training.” (And don’t even get me started on “I don’t need to take the Advanced Training. I can just learn the exercises from a video.” That’s another blog post).

So, why should you take an advanced training if you have clients that mainly do beginning work?

  1. Your personal practice. Our work as instructors is our commitment to our practice. That does not mean that we judge ourselves or our self worth by how we look or compare ourselves as to who is doing Snake and who is not. It means that to teach Pilates we need to be challenging ourselves to progress to the most challenging exercises for us. Taking a training at a higher level will push you to learn new exercises (and probably practice for assessment). I haven’t taught an advanced training without seeing new exercises open for people that they thought were too difficult or even impossible to open up for their bodies. I find we are often overly focused on one exercise (like Snake) but are skipping all the exercises that lead up to Snake. Taking a training will help break that exercise you’ve been working toward down to it’s mini pieces and pre-exercises so that you can add more exercises to what you’re already doing with confidence.

  2. You need to know the whole system. If you know the entire system, it’s easier to teach it. Many of the questions I get from beginner teachers are because they don’t know the entire system, and when you know the entire system, the beauty of it begins to unfold. For example, many people ask why we’re so picky about transitions, but if you’re not trying to get the advanced work done “in and hour and in the shower,” the transitions may not make sense. If you don’t know the entire order on Reformer, it doesn’t make sense why Spine Stretch moves in the order. When you see how all the exercises work in the complete system, you are able to see the overarching organization and am better able to choose which exercises to teach as your client progresses.

  3. It will make you a better teacher. When you know the full expression of Joe’s work, you know where the journey takes your clients. Maybe Snake is something that will never be the best choice for your clients’ bodies, but if you know the purpose and goal of that exercise, you may know a pre-exercise or mini exercise that will meet that same goal (maybe on anther apparatus). If you know the fluidity and strength that the advanced work requires, you will teach your clients to that higher level, even if they never learn the more challenging exercises.

  4. Working with your peers will inspire you. Sometimes it’s the little conversations that happen on breaks that will help solve a problem you’re having, a business issue, or a client issue. I always learn something from a training, especially from the more advanced trainings since the teachers have all been teaching for a longer time so they have so much to share. New ideas and solutions to problems and more peer help happens the more you advance in the system. These friendships and teaching moments will then continue to inspire you. It’s so important to help share in each other’s accomplishments, frustrations, and creative solutions. We carry this work together. Before I was an educational training center, I worked by myself and without advancing in the system, I could have easily started to teach “Jessilates.” Seeing the work of the Master instructor and my peers always helped to keep me working not only within the system, but also to it’s highest potential.

Feeling inspired yourself to level up? Check out our next Trainings here.

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Posture Exercises for Standing

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I was a guest blogger at GetCorrectPosture! My clients often tell me that they have standing desks (because sitting is the new smoking) but standing with bad posture isn't that much better for you than sitting. Check out my tips and why I love the Power Circle so much at the link above.

And if you want more Power Circle, check out my abs and glutes video here.

P.S. credit to my son for the photo :)

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Top Five Differences Between Pilates and Yoga

So what is better? Yoga or Pilates? That is a difficult question to answer, and it does depend on your workout goals. Keep in mind, too, that there are many different types of yoga and even different styles of Pilates, so these are general guidelines.

The goal of yoga is spiritual enlightenment. That does not mean that Pilates cannot be a spiritual practice, and it does not mean that yoga is not a workout. It does mean that at the heart of a yoga practice is a spiritual component, and that usually involves mediation or other techniques to quiet your mind. I consider my Pilates practice a moving meditation, but I don’t spend time meditating as a component of my practice. I do meditate, but it is separate from my Pilates work.

The goal of all Pilates exercises is the strengthening of the Powerhouse. This is true no matter what style of Pilates you practice. The Powerhouse is a centering concept, but it is also a physical place. It is the two inch band that runs above and below your navel. Every exercise in Pilates is trying to connect you to this part of your body and tone and strengthen this area. This does not mean that yoga does not work your core or that Pilates does not work and tone other parts of your body. It means that Pilates exercises are always focused on this area, no matter what else is working.

Pilates was made for the modern body. Joseph Pilates created his system of exercises between 1912-1967, and moved to New York City in approximately 1933. That means he knew what concrete was, and cars, and buses and chairs. His work cannot help but be influenced by the wear and tear and stress these modern conveniences place on our bodies. The development of yoga is over 5,000 years old. It was not made for a mainly sedentary population. Most people 5,000 years ago walked everywhere, much more than we do now and sat on the floor. They got more movement preparing their food than some of us get in an entire day. That is a different body than Joseph designed his work around. This does not mean that yoga has never been updated or that Pilates does not tap into ancient wisdom. It means that Pilates was created for people who live in the modern world because it is a modern invention itself.

Pilates was not made for a yoga mat. Hey, even yoga wasn’t made for a yoga mat (see the 5,000 year old practice mentioned above). But Mr. Pilates made his own mats, and they are way thicker than your average yoga mat. They usually were a raised platform with much more cushioning for your spine. They had extra boxes at the sides to place your legs wider than a yoga mat. They had straps for your feet to help keep your feet stationary as you rolled and poles to help stabilize your shoulder girdle for inversions or open your chest for extensions. If you’re doing Pilates, you should at least double your mat to cushion your spine. Pilates has more spinal articulation and rolling (see the focus on the Powerhouse listed above) so if you’re doing Pilates at a health club, please find a thicker mat or hack one yourself to protect your spine.

Pilates has equipment. I’m not talking props like bands or bolsters. I’m talking about the Reformer, Cadillac, Barrels, Chairs…. Mr. Pilates saw the mat as the foundation to his work, but without the support and aid of the equipment, it’s really hard to progress in your Pilates practice. Equipment and mat really are meant to go together (see also Mat vs. Equipment Pilates). The Reformer and the mat are the cornerstones to the Pilates work, and Mr. Pilates always intended for his students to do both. The stretch, support, and resistance work on the Pilates equipment with the springs really has no equal in any exercise format. It combines open and closed chain work, tempo variations, and deep stretches you cannot find if you only have a mat alone.

What are your thoughts? Do you teach yoga and Pilates? How do you think they compare?

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Self Care for Pilates Instructors

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So how do you teach 6-8 or 9 hours straight? This question was recently posed to me and I thought I would add my ideas here on the blog. These techniques could be applied to any job that doesn’t have standard breaks, and in the gig economy, that applies to many of us. I should add that I am my own boss and I decide to teach these hours. I stack my schedule back to back from the hours of 6am-2pm so I can utilize my time effectively and then get home to take care of my children after school. I’m not looking for sympathy for my working hours. I understand that what I teach is my passion and an privilege, and I am not trying to say that this work schedule works for everyone, I’m just trying to share what works for me.

So…. the first tip is what you do the night before a long teaching day. I have gotten super disciplined about getting to bed. My usual waking time is 5am, so that means I try to wind down by 10pm. Sometimes 10pm is my first opportunity of the day to workout if my schedule has been stacked and my kids need me, so sometimes my workout is 5 minutes of wall or 10 minutes on the roller. I try not to skip Pilates any day of the week, but I will shorten the duration of the workout so I’m fresh to teach the next day. I also don’t drink alcohol the night before I teach. I find it disrupts my sleep and I have a hard time getting focused to teach. Finally, I will look at my schedule and make a rough plan for the next day. I don't write anything out formally, but I’ll take a few minutes to look at my semis and think what would work best for the group (for some people its the second or third workout of the week and I don’t want to repeat), and I have a small studio so sometimes I have to plan how to use the props or the space, and sometimes I’m just reviewing who is injured and making sure I’ve looked at what we did last time and making observations to see if they are progressing or showing signs of readiness for additional exercises. This mental preparation is key so I’m not caught unprepared. A client walking in you haven’t prepared for can take a lot of mental energy and I wan’t to make sure I’m conserving what I have for the entire day.

Second…I have a plan for what I’m going to eat. If I teach longer than five hours in a row, I have a smoothie at hour 3. I can drink the smoothie during transitions and I get more than water but protein and fat to keep my brain working. My smoothie is a banana, sugar-free sun butter, matcha, and greens. This is what works for me, and I’ve found over time that fruit in my smoothie gives me a sugar crash. What you may need to eat may be different, but I like getting the smoothie as a meal replacement that I can gradually drink (instead of trying to gulp down a protein bar all at once). If I have a break, I make a green tea. If I have time to eat lunch, I do a salmon salad with kale (I put salsa on top. It adds nice flavor and softens the kale). I always have snacks on hand, and eat while the clients clean if I feel brain fog coming on. My favorite snacks combine some fat with protein. I usually have dried buffalo bars, Trader Joe’s Coconut Clusters, RX Bars, chocolate covered almonds, or dried fruit on hand. I also like dried chickpeas and beat chips. I love dried seaweed, but I’ve found it’s too messy for a quick grab (and I have a bag of snacks in my car for the ride home in case I crash then).

Thirdly, water is super important. I’ve found that drinking enough water really helps prevent brain fog. I generally take a sip from my water bottle during the big transitions on Reformer (another great reason to teach your clients to do their own transitions). I have a water bottle I just tip and sip (no covers or lids to slide) so I can watch my clients do the transition after I say it. I won’t use a water bottle where I can’t keep my eyes on the clients for safety reasons.

And my last tip is…I try to stay off my phone. If a client is late or goes to the bathroom and I have a few minutes, it’s super tempting to check my phone. But that takes me out of the room, and most importantly, out of my body. If I do have the shortest of breaks, I first check in: Do I need to eat? Drink? Stretch my calves? Lay over the barrel? The phone will always be there after the session, and it can be a big energy suck, or I might get an email that will distract me from my next lesson. And I often remind myself, there is never an email emergency. People call or text in those situations so I don't need to keep checking email while I’m teaching. It’s better to do that at a separate time (and usually not when I’m with my kids either).

So there are my big tips. I hope they help. I’ve found the more disciplined I am in how I structure my time and nutrition, the better I can serve my clients. And the most important thing is that I am present and available to lead them through the best session I can give them that day. And with a little bit of planning, I can do that.

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Donation Mat for Hurricane Relief - and get a CEC

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Join us at The Pilates Barre Portland October 21, 2017 at 10:00am for a Donation Mat Class taught by Master Instructor Jessica Schultz.  Donate what you can.  Every dollar will be given to the American Red Cross to aid continuing hurricane relief efforts.  Any Peak instructor attending will receive 1 CEC no matter what they donate.  This class is open to the public.  Love wins!!!  Let's do this people! 

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Why I Won't Let you Berate Your Body at JSP

After I had my first child, my husband banished me from using the words "muffin top."  And I thought, "Why can't I say muffin top?  I have one!  Can't you see it?  I hate my muffin top!"  But I am at heart a rule follower, so I did what he said and stopped using that phrase.  And you know what?  My muffin top didn't disappear overnight.  It took months of Pilates (thank you Ab 5s and Side Sit Ups on the Reformer!) and focused eating.  But by just stopping the negative self-talk, I think I made a significant change in my head for the better, which helped me work out in a more focused way.

And that's the reason I think negative talk just doesn't work.  Sure, we all have conversations with ourselves in front of a mirror - I hate this, I hate that.  But I don't think those conversations inspire us to change.  I think they actually hurt our ability to change, because if you are so intrinsically flawed, why would you try?  If the part of your waist that meets your jeans after having a baby (or just a few too many not-so-great food choices, or a hard genetic hand) makes you rename it something hideous, doesn't that take away your power to own your body?  You've just separated yourself from a part of you that, like it or not, has carried you and helped you move (and yes, maybe expanded a bit from time to time).  But it's not a muffin top, it's your waist.  And your waist isn't even your waist (that's for another post).  Your waist is an invention of the fashion industry to sell pants.  You don't have a waist bone.  You don't have a waist muscle.  You have many muscles that connect your pelvis to your torso, so don't oversimplify the wonderful machine that is your body into one part you dislike. 

I've written a lot about mantras here, so I'm a deep believer in self-talk.  How we talk to our bodies, even in our heads, is important.  And I'm sure as anything not going to be that Pilates teacher that tries to make you feel bad about your body to workout.  Not only because it isn't kind, but because I don't think it helps.  Do you really think you'll go deeper into your Powerhouse by renaming it after a high-fat pastry?  No, you'll disconnect from it more.  But a little bit of self-love goes a long way, especially when you're sitting on top of the Short Box in front of a mirror and see your thighs squoosh out to the sides.  Yes, I've finally written about the Pilates exercise we all hate to see ourselves do. 

So, here are your two choices: 

1.  Wow, I hate my thighs.  Look at how big they are.  I shouldn't have eaten/drank that. 

2.  Hmm.  I think I'm losing my seat.  Maybe I should pinch/perch. 

Guess what?  Number 2 is always the better choice (because it works!)  Through the eyes of a skilled teacher, none of our bodies are flawed.  They are just still evolving.  And we need to be that guide for ourselves, too.  See something that's not right?  You probably need to change how you are performing the exercise, not how your body is put together. 

So, that's why I don't want to hear about how much you hate your butt, or your thighs, or arms.  Sure, we all want to grow and change and shape our bodies, but let's choose the path of least resistance, shall we? It's simple, just correct to the positive.

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In Defense of Pilates as Movement System

So I read this on a blog the other day, and, well, it kinda made me sad:

"One casualty was Lisa Brinkworth. Lisa is a resident of Buckinghamshire, England and the mother of three small sons. Last year, she started taking Pilates at a local studio and was inspired by a fellow student to sign up for a twice weekly “planking” competition. Initially she was excited by the planking event and did her best to hold the pose longer and longer. Around Christmas, Lisa began suffering what she describes as an “excruciating pain in the left side of my chest.” The pain was so bad that she feared she was having a heart attack or had developed breast cancer. Doctors finally diagnosed her condition as “costochondritis,” an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. “How many of us,” she wondered, “are putting ourselves at risk of such a painful unnecessary injury?”

Now, I want to be very clear.  I do not want to start to compare Pilates with barre classes.  I take barre workouts and enjoy them.  The first class I was ever certified to teach was the New York City Ballet Workout, which could easily be described as a barre workout (without the barre, it's all done standing in center).  So let's not go there.  This is not about what is better or worse.

For me, this is about Pilates and how we teach it.  Did you see the pictures of the planking on the blog?  It's bodies piled on top of each other.  How is this Pilates?  What part of Pilates should involve a competition? 

I believe that Pilates should be taught as a movement system.  I believe Joe taught it that way.  It's one of the things that makes Pilates, well, Pilates.  So what is a movement system?  It's process-oriented, non-competitive, and non-intimidating.  A movement system should stimulate the senses, the mind, and motor skill development.  It should focus on breathing and regeneration of energy.  I think you could ask any of my clients and they would say this is how we teach Pilates at JSP.  But I teach it that way because I think it honors the way Joe taught it.  Contrast Joseph Pilates' quotes below with the experience that poor woman had:

"Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.  Through Contrology (Pilates), you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then, through proper repetition of its exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."

"Beginning with the introductory series, each succeeding exercise should be mastered before proceeding progressively with the following exercises."

or my favorite:

"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."

If we honor Joseph's work, we must teach Pilates as a movement system.  Even if we cannot agree on imprinting or order or neutral pelvis, can we at least agree on this?  I don't want to ever see Pilates mentioned in an article entitled "The Good and Bad of Extreme Workouts."  Really.  If you're teaching something that extreme that you are putting bodies on top of one another, working people past the point of exhaustion, and competing one person against another, can you please just not call it Pilates?  Because it really isn't.

The saddest thing about the blog post?  I agree with the author's point.  She writes, "The best way to transform your body remains training under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and committing yourself to regular, focused practice."  I couldn't agree more, I just would call that "Pilates."  

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Powerhouse Cues!

Here are the latest Powerhouse cues from the clever ladies that met this weekend:

100 - draw in and down like an anchor on your pelvis; like being strapped to the floor

Roll Up - like going down the stairs, step by step,b one by bone; bone by bone like a strand of lights; like rolling up and over a beach ball

OLC - hold your pelvis still like you're wearing a girdle; anchor your spine like it's a tree trunk; move your leg like folding in egg whites

RLAB - pull in and up like a zipper; round out from your center like spokes on a wheel; make a shape like a bug protecting itself

SLS - press down to the floor like flattening a pancake; extend your legs like reaching the pedals for a bike that's too big

DLS - like a clam opening and closing

Scissors - keep your pelvis still like you have a tray of drinks on it

Lower & Lift - Hold you Powerhouse strong and rooted to the floor like an old tree; like tightening a corset

Criss Cross - Still your pelvis like you're stuck in mud; rotate like the roots of a swaying tree

SSF - stacking bone by bone like building a house brick by brick; round up like a flower coming back to life

Saw - sit tall like a tree trunk; lift up like you're wearing a corset

Side Kicks: Front & Back - move front and back like you're ringing a bell

Side Kicks:  Up & Down - press down through honey

Side Kicks:  Inner Thigh - Press leg up like you're offering a drink with your foot, hold your foot like the base of an electric mixer (circles)

Seal - roll down like a wheel pushing from each tread

Standing Roll Down - up and over a mountain

Check out other cues here!

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More! Powerhouse Cues

100 - Bowling Ball on Pelvis

Roll Up - Roll Pelvis like a Wheel

OLC - Imprint Spine like a Brick Pressing Down, Lie in Wet Cement

RLAB - Tilt pelvis like a bowl back and forth

Single Leg Stretch - Maintain Rectangle Box

Double Leg Stretch - Melt back in like chocolate

Scissors - Drop weight into lower back like a ship dropping an anchor

Lower Lift - Drop spine into mat like a heavy bike chain

Criss Cross - Wring out a wet towel

Spine Stretch Forward - Roll forward like a slinky down a stair

Open Leg Rocker Prep - Balance on your tailbone like a diamond in a ring setting

Corkscrew - Press hips down to the mat with super glue, Stir a pot

Saw - Turn and lift like a top

Swan - Snake coming out of a snake charmer basket/move head like the sun coming up and over the mountain

Rest - Turtle your tailbone under

Bridge - Curl lower back up like a scorpion's tail, Lift up like a wedge is sliding under your spine

Side Kicks - Front - Swing your leg like a saloon door

SK - Up and Down - Draw leg down through mud, Stretch leg like a rubber band on way down/Spring it on the way up, Lift a mile/Push away a ton of weight

SK - Circles - Stir a pot, Light a match

SK - Inner Thighs - Keep abs up and in like two panes of glass on the front and back of your body, Keep your body in a toaster

Beats - Wrap your thighs like bacon over a date, Beat feet like you're fanning a fire - Put the coals out

Teaser One Leg - Hold flower between knees, curl up to smell it

Teaser - Lift your chest like you just won an Olympic medal

Swimming - Swim through sand

Leg Pull Front Support - Head to heel like a piece of steel

Mermaid - Press hips down and separate ribs like a shutter on a window/Two opposing magnets/Block of ice on hips

Seal - Hold a bowl in your empty space - Don't loose your bowl

Push Ups - Open your scapula broad like a book

Find more cues here

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The Top Three Things to Remember when Working with the Power Circle

1.  It's a Three-Dimensional Picture of Your Powerhouse.  However how hard you press the circle, that's how hard you're scooping.  The Power Circle isn't isolated work for your arms or your thighs, it's work for your entire body.  So don't forget to connect to your center.  It's not a workout for your peripherals, it's a workout for your Powerhouse.

2.  Press the Circle, Don't Squeeze.  You wouldn't choke your dance partner, would you?  So don't squeeze the circle.  Press it (with long fingers and not a death grip).  Just like we don't sit on the Pilates Chair, we sit in it, we press the circle toward our center to bring our awareness there as well.  There's no prize if you break it.  Work into your body by bringing your upper thighs in toward your pelvis or your scapula onto your ribs.  Don't squeeze with your knees (This is not Suzanne Somer's Thigh Master)!

3.  Work Without It.  After you've used the Power Circle to deepen the work in an exercise, take it away and try to find the connection without it.  The circle is a tool to help access your critical connections, but ultimately you should be able to work without it and find the same connections. 

 

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More Powerhouse Cues

100 - Balance a teacup between your pelvis and hip bones

Roll Up - peel up like a wet spaghetti noodle off the mat, round over a beach ball

One Leg Circle - Pin hips down

RLAB - Be like a ball, eyes on the prize

Single Leg Stretch - Draw a line with your legs in and out

Double Leg Stretch - Glue the lower back to the mat, wrap the legs, funnel the ribs, knit the ribs

Scissors - Lengthen your heel to your seat

Double Leg Lower/Lift - Draw it in

Criss Cross - Wring out ribs like a towel

Spine Stretch Forward - Lift over a beach ball, Lift up and and over your three anchors

Saw - Saw open your back, spread the scapula like wings, wring out your ribs

Swan - Don't smash the mouse in your house

Rest - Round in the spine

Shoulder Bridge Prep - Feel lifted to the ceiling, Lay buttons down on the mat

Side Kicks: Front - Glue hip to mat

SK: Up and Down - Move through Peanut Butter for resistance

SK:  Circles - Abs Lift/No Shift

SK:  Inner Thighs - Lengthen out leg like a laser

Beats on Belly - Mouse in the House

Teaser One Leg - Roll Bone by Bone

Swimming Prep:  Mouse House, Lead Core

LPFS: Abs up and into Core

Seal:  Roll the abs up and in

Push Ups:  Roll down bone by bone

More cues here, and here

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A Warrior's Strength

Lies Within.  If you cannot find your center, you cannot stand tall.  Check out my latest video in honor of Toe Talk's Warrior Chick Sock $2 discount this Monday 12.29.  Enjoy a wonderful sock discount and learn to work your Powerhouse in celebration.


Go big go long or go home?

I'm often asked by clients how far or long to reach a leg or arm during an exercise, and that's where my often spoken, "Range is determined by form" comes from.

It's most important to keep your critical connections in Pilates - so if by reaching your arm you cannot keep your ribs to your scapula and your scapula to your ribs, you've gone too far.  If you don't feel your three anchors, your legs have dipped too low.

But how do you determine where this end range is?  It can be different from day to day, and hopefully with improve with time as you commit to your Pilates practice.  In general, stay where you are working in your Powerhouse, and let that connection build in a smaller range of motion before taking it bigger.  Start at the center, at the Powerhouse, not in your arms or legs.  You should feel your arms and legs lengthening out from your Powerhouse connection.  Stop when you loose that connection.

My first Pilates teacher made me make the tiniest One Leg Circles I had ever performed, but when I did my hip stopped clicking.  I kept working on my Powerhouse connection and one day she said, "I think you can make them bigger now."  But it was important for me to keep them small so that the larger motion didn't distract me from my Powerhouse.  Momentum is not a muscle group, and it certainly isn't one of the Pilates Principles.

So stay inside the exercise and your body.  Really listen to see if you are finding your connection.  And don't be afraid to make the movement small and controlled (that one is a Pilates principle)!

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