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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Top Eight Tips for Working with Pilates and Osteoporosis (the Condensed Version)

So many of us are working with Goldeners (the Active Aging Population) that I thought it would be helpful to list a few of the Dos and Don’ts of working with Osteoporosis, especially as it concerns Pilates. (Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this list is not medical advice, nor should it be used as such), but I weeded through a few studies so that you don’t have too.

****The most important tip is first

  1. Don’t use spinal flexion. Yes, that is a lot of the Pilates repertoire, but flexion puts pressure on the anterior surface of the vertebral bodies, and that is usually the weakened part of the bone. Flexion increased the risk of fracture in 89% of osteoporosis cases in this study.

2. Do use spinal extension. The posterior vertebral bodies have a higher degree of cortical bone and are at less risk of fracture. A study found that stronger spinal extensors led to increased bone density and less occurrence of spinal fractures.

3. Don’t side bend. Pressure on the vertebra are also excessive during side bending.

4. Do teach a hip hinge instead of flexion. It is imperative osteoporosis clients know the difference between spine and hip flexion (see #1 above).

5. Don’t twist. Again, excessive pressure on the vertebra.

6. Do teach isometric work. This is one of the best ways to get strong (and by now, you may be asking, “What can I do with a client with osteoporosis?”). Most of the isometric work can be found in the Pilates Fundamentals and are great for teaching control and strength in the core so clients don’t accidentally do little tiny twists or other contraindicated movement when moving their legs to the front or side.

7. Don’t work with a client if they can’t tell you their T-Score. Clients who have taken a Bone Mineral Density Test should be able to tell you their T-Score. A Standard Deviation of -1 to -2.5 indicates osteopenia, and -2.5 or more indicates osteoporosis. Why is this important to know? For every one point below the mean, fracture risk doubles.

8. Do teach these clients to stand and balance. They need to be weight bearing if possible. Standing weights, standing power circle, standing leg swings, and single balance work on one leg is very important. If these clients fall, they are likely to fracture, so they need to be taught how to stand tall.

Working with someone with osteoporosis can be a bit scary (and when in doubt, refer out), but it can be safely done with a knowledgeable Pilates instructor. The extension work, chest openers, standing series and the ease of adding weights to our work makes it a natural fit for the osteoporosis client. Remember, it is a silent disease, so your clients won’t have symptoms, but don’t let that stop you from following safety guidelines. Some clients like flexion because it feels good, but you need to be firm in your knowledge and confidence to tell them why that movement needs to be avoided.

Leave any additional questions in the comments below. I’ve been working with clients with osteoporosis for years and would love to help. Its a population that needs Pilates!

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New Training Offerings for 2019

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Do you need CECs or are you looking to up your skills? Join one of our Continuing Education Courses. These are open to all certification programs and levels and Pilates enthusiasts. We will be offering the Prop Shop Workshop and MVe Chair Course this winter at JSP.

Are you looking to jump start your Pilates career? Then our Peak Pilates Comprehensive Level I Training is what you are searching for. This is the foundational course to the full Comprehensive Certification, and covers all beginning exercises on Mat, Reformer, Tower, Small Barrel, Ladder Barrel, High Chair, Low Chair, Power Circle, and Wall. It’s the best way to expand on your knowledge as a Pilates practitioner and take it to the next level.

Check out all the details here.

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How are your Resolutions Going?

So it’s February…how are your New Year’s Resolutions going?  Now is a good time to reevaluate them.  How consistent have you been?  Are you meeting your goals?  And maybe, most of all, are you set up to succeed?

If you’re not preparing your New Years Resolutions around your Tendency, you might be setting yourself up for failure.  Some people will resist internally a resolution, so it’s actually better not to have one at all.

Gretchen Rubins new book, The Four Tendencies, has been a major help in our home and lives to help us meet any goal, not just health and fitness goals.  I strongly recommend it, especially if you’re not doing well committing to your New Years Resolutions.

You can take this short online quiz to discover your tendency.  Once you know your tendency, then you can set yourself up for success so that you can meet your goal.  For example, I’m an Upholder.  That means I’m intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.  I love goals, challenges, and charts.  I give myself a gold star when I do my Pilates workout each day.  Watching the gold stars increase and grow makes me happy.  I want to workout so I can see the list of gold stars grow bigger.  I do Pilates every day (even holidays and vacations).  That’s my rule. I set up the rule so I can succeed (it has no specified amount of time, so 10 minutes counts).  That way I can meet my goal, my success pattern increases, which helps me keep doing Pilates.

That rule would not work, however, for my son, who is a Rebel.  He is the opposite of me - he is neither intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.  My husband and I are trying to encourage him to practice piano.  However, the more we encourage him, the more he resists us.  Stickers don’t work.  He needs to feel like he has the freedom to choose to practice.  So, he now chooses when he practices.  He still needs to practice each day, he just gets to choose when. That little bit of flexibility helps him to feel like he has some control over his goal, and when Rebels decide they want to do something, they can be very successful. 

So for Rebels, resolutions sometimes just don’t work.  If you’re a Rebel, like my son, they have the opposite effect.  Maybe that’s why you can’t meet your goals.  It’s not an internal fault that lies within you.  It’s better to try to match your resolution to your Tendency. 

This is the perfect book to read before you give up on your New Years Resolutions.  It’s full of great ideas how to motivate yourself or the people in your life to make healthy changes.  It’s helped all of us in my home relate to each other better.  Now I know when my son is trying to negotiate a rule, it’s just his tendency.  He’s more likely to follow the rule if I give him some control.  As an Upholder, that’s hard for me.  In my head, a rule is a rule.  But now I’ve learned that a little bit of flexibility on my part can give him some control, and then the task will be accomplished.  More peace insures, more practicing happens.  

How about you?  Do you know your tendency?  What tricks have helped you to know yourself better so you can motivate yourself to meet your goals?  And don’t forget, you can always have a Non New Years Resolution.

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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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The Best Pilates Exercise for your Lats

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So, that title was total click bait.  Sorry, there are no Pilates exercises for your lats...not that Pilates doesn't work your lats...let me explain...

Someone asked me the other day for an exercise to work their lats.  And I was stumped for a little bit.  What should I give them?  The arm weight series?  Row Series on Reformer?  Pull Up on Chair?  And then it hit me why I didn't have a quick answer.  All Pilates exercises work your lats.  And more importantly, in Pilates, we don't break the body down into segments.

Your lats (or latissimus dorsi) are a major posture muscle and connect your trunk to your pelvis.  They also help to rotate your scapula (shoulder blades) downward, which is important since most people are becoming kyphotic due to smart phone or computer use, or overworking their chest muscles.  If you have a kyphotic posture, your shoulders generally rotate inward. 

But in Pilates, we don't isolate the lats and then work them separately from the rest of the body for 10 minutes, or have a "back" day and a "leg" day.  We are continually trying to depress the shoulders for good posture and alignment (not the entire way, but only say, 80%).  So, the 100 becomes a lat exercise.  Even a "leg" exercise like Footwork on the Chair uses your lats to help keep your trunk elevated and stable.  See those ladies working above on the ladder barrel?  They're working their lats, too, to help keep their balance.

And that brings me to the bigger realization I had when I was asked this question.  In Pilates, we don't think of the body as separate parts.  We think of the body as a whole.  We want to strengthen our lats so they can help us stabilize our trunk, not just to have strong lats, or to have a good-looking back.  It's important to see how all the muscles connect, not to just work them in isolation.  It's this connection that makes Pilates so functional.  That way, your lats help you lift your child, lift weights, and execute the Pull Up on Chair.  We don't want to separate your muscles from the movement your body needs to perform, and that's what makes Pilates a movement system

So, go ahead and work your lats.  Every exercise, all the time.  Your posture will thank you for it, and you'll be stronger and more supported in all you do.

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I love it, Sir!

So my son recently started taking Taekwondo, and one day as I was observing class, my son and the instructor had this conversation while he was trying to do the splits.

Master:  How are you doing, Ty?

Student:  Not so good, Sir.  It hurts, Sir.

Master:  Oh no, Taekwondo Kids do not say, "It hurts."  Taekwondo kids do not say, "Ow."  They say, "I love it, Sir."  Say "I love it, Sir."

Student:  I love it, Sir.

So what to make of this?  Well, initially I was a little worried.  Is my son being taught to ignore pain or his feelings?  I wouldn't want that. 

But on second thought, it seems the lesson is that you can frame thoughts in your head so that you don't defeat yourself.  This reminds me of my mantra, "I love the burn." or why I need to do the exercises that I "hate."  But maybe I don't "hate" them anymore.  Maybe I "love" them.  Because they're making me stronger. 

How we talk to ourselves is very important.  How you talk to your clients is important.  Honor that something is challenging.  Much of Pilates is.  But find the joy in the struggle, the love in the work.  Pilates is difficult enough.  Adding negative energy won't help you find depth in a stretch or connection in a movement.  But maybe "loving" it will.  And it will make the journey that much more pleasant, so go ahead - love the burn, love the stretch, love your body and the effort you're putting into it each time you approach the work.  And who knows?  Eventually, your self talk may turn into actual self love.

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The Top 3 Things I Learned at WDS

This is the sight that greeted me Saturday at the World Domination Summit, which tries to answer the question, "How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?"  Here, my top three ways:

1.  If you tell someone "no," and they react in anger, it means you made the right decision.  Oh wow, where do I start with this one?  How many times have you said yes because you were afraid to upset someone?  And you went against what your heart was saying because you were avoiding a difficult conversation?  What if instead of fearing that reaction, you decided that it was validation you made the right choice?  I like this quote from Jon Acuff because it's another way of looking at fear.  It can teach us and direct us in what is our true path.  But we have to lean into it, and try to explore what it's teaching us instead of avoiding it.

2.  Apparently, I have the characteristics of a healer.  Lissa Rankin talked about the characteristics of a healer - hearing a call to help others at a young age, to want to take care of animals and the earth, and having empathy.  Check, check, and check.  What is your calling?  Is it justice?  Service?  Order?  It was nice hearing someone speak to what I've always felt deep in my heart, that teaching Pilates changes people's lives for the better, and that's what motivates me to keep investing in learning more and more about this work.  Joe said that if people practiced his work, there would be less war.  On first hearing that, I thought it was a little far-fetched.  But think back to that last time you were in pain.  I certainly had a short fuse and was pretty miserable.  It's difficult to not pass that negative energy on to others.  Sure, I might not start a war, but I'd certainly want to cut someone off in line.  Healing the body heals the soul.  Movement heals.  Those of us who get to practice Pilates should remember how lucky we are to be part of this healing energy in the world.

3.  No Mud.  No Lotus.  This is actually a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, who wasn't at the conference, but this was shared by Vani Hari.  I love this quote because it reminds me of the struggle that is involved in transformation, and that we don't need to fight the struggle.  We can love the struggle, we can love the mess, we can love what makes us imperfect.  And it reminds me of one of the first things I learned:  don't run from the hard stuff.  Embrace it.  Know that it's teaching you something.  Maybe the resistance you're feeling means you're on the right track, that you're breaking through something deep in yourself that's been holding you back - maybe in your career or your relationship.  But we can also think about this with our Pilates work as well.  How often do we "hate" an exercise?  Avoid doing what's uncomfortable?  What if we embraced the mud?  The messy, sloppy exercises might be what we need most to break through.

So thank you, WDS.  I learned so much.  I learned I'm on the right path.  I learned to embrace the struggle, and I learned how to hug a few strangers in the process.

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Mat Vs. Equipment Pilates - Which is Better?

People often ask me which is better - mat or equipment Pilates.  Or people will tell me, "I hate mat" or "I only do mat."  So which is better?  Well, let's start by looking at what makes each unique.  As I say to my children when they complain that someone got a bigger piece of something or a longer whatever, "You are not equal, you're unique."

Some things that make mat unique:

1.  It's portable.  You can do it just about anywhere with very little equipment.  See Keeping Up Your Workout While Traveling.

2.  It's affordable.  You'll probably pay $10-15 for a mat class, while equipment classes will run you about $25-60, depending on how many people are in a class.

3.  It's what Joseph created first.  It's the beginning of the work.  It connects you to the largest equipment available - the earth.  It's is the foundation to everything.

4.  It's done using your own body for stability and is more open-chain (exercises where the hand or foot is free to move).  This means that you will have to work in your core a lot to hold your body still or mobilize it during an exercise. 

5.  Mat has more flow.  Since you're not getting up to move a box, change a spring, or attach a bar, you can just keep moving from one exercise into the next.

So how is Equipment Unique?

1.  It uses more resistance.  Most equipment (outside of the barrels) have springs.  These springs give resistance in both directions to every exercise.  So, if you're looking to strength train and up your metabolism, the equipment will help.

2.  If you need more support and alignment cues, equipment has the edge as well.  On reformer alone, you have a head rest, shoulder blocks, and a foot bar so your teacher can easily see exactly how your body is moving.  I call my Reformer the diagnostic piece of equipment.

3.  There are more exercises on equipment.  There's about 50 mat exercises, and on reformer 250, chair even more than that.  So it's great to help keep variety in your Pilates routine.

So which is better?  It's important to understand that Pilates is best as a system.  If you've always done the hundred on the mat, imagine pumping your arms with resistance (that's Reformer).  If you've always done Short Spine with springs to help you, imagine doing it without them and you'll really build up your Powerhouse and train it how to lift your pelvis while performing the Roll Over on the mat.

I've seen it time and time again, clients who only like one or the other, and they don't progress as much as clients who perform the entire system.  What you learn on one informs your body on the other.  You'll build newer connections faster and deeper if you do both.

And sadly, whichever one you "don't like" is probably the one you have to do.  Sometimes tighter people don't like mat - it's a lot of sitting or straight legs extended in the air if your hamstrings are tight.  But guess how you help lengthen your hamstrings?  By performing mat.  People who don't like equipment because it's too much stopping and starting probably have a hard time connecting their mind and body without distraction.  But guess what helps with that?  Unlocking the rhythm sections on Reformer.

So, yes, I love my two children equally.  Does one get on my nerves sometimes?  Do I feel more connected to another at points in my life?  Certainly.  But that doesn't mean I stop loving one or the other.  So challenge yourself to explore new exercises on the mat, or try an equipment class.  You may just find that it helps push your body in a new way help you go deeper into the work.

 

 

 

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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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Training Center Reduced Rates

Did you know JSP is also a   Peak Pilates Education Center  ?  That means a nice savings for you if you are a generally healthy person and new to Pilates.  Apprentice teachers are working towards their certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $20.  Level I certified instructors have completed the first level of three toward full certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $40.   ** These sessions are for beginners with healthy bodies only

Did you know JSP is also a Peak Pilates Education Center?  That means a nice savings for you if you are a generally healthy person and new to Pilates.  Apprentice teachers are working towards their certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $20.  Level I certified instructors have completed the first level of three toward full certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $40. 

** These sessions are for beginners with healthy bodies only

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Inspiration

Thank you Ton Voogt for sharing this quote when I took the Super Advanced Reformer Workout at the Pilates Empowerment Summit!  I'm still thinking about this!

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Is this Going to be Your Excuse or Your Story?

I recently finished reading Misty Copeland's memoir, and it made me think:

Of all the girls who study ballet, how many actually become professional ballerinas?

Of those ballerinas, how many dance with American Ballet Theatre?

Of those that dance with ABT, how many become soloists?

That accomplishment, in itself, is remarkable.  But Misty also had to overcome an instable home life, a very late start for a dancer, and prejudice.  Oh, and toss in a highly publicized custody battle with her ballet teacher.

All her life, Misty had a million great reasons to quit, to give up on herself, but she didn't.  Instead, she kept going, so now those roadblocks to her dreams are just a part of the narrative of her success.

So, what is it gonna be - your excuse or your story?  How many things are holding you back from becoming your best self?  Are they the excuses you make that will prevent you from realizing your potential or will they become a part of your story?  The things you'll recount when you talk about your amazing accomplishments?

What is it going to be?

 

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Power Circle Workout

Here's a short workout guaranteed to tone your low belly and inner and outer thighs.  Enjoy!  Want more?  I'm teaching a Power Circle CEC class February 1st.  I'd love to see you there!  It's an open class for Pilates enthusiasts, not just certified teachers.  Why not learn new ways to challenge yourself at home?



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You Are More than Your Body

I was reading this blog today and this line really struck a chord with me:

"Stress trumps all.   Even when the diet and movement are right, you can be undermined by a mind that's bearing a heavy load." 

Isn't that true?  Every time I've had a major injury, it's been during a very stressful period in my life.  I've taken to preemptively doing energy work before a stressful event because my body manifests stress so strongly physically.  When I last sprained my ankle, I was a Graduate Teaching Assitant, was completing my Masters, was teaching full time, and completing the highest level of Pilates certification.  So was it the movement in the ballet class that injured me?  No, it was the heavy load I was carrying in my brain and in my heart.

So, how are you planning on taking care of your mind this year?  How can we lessen the load for each other? 

This may be my New Years Non Resolution .

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.


What are you Giving Yourself this year?

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Before we even get into New Years Resolutions, can we talk about what gifts we're giving this year?  Not to each other, but to ourselves?  No matter what Winter Festival of Your Choice you are celebrating, why not give yourself a gift this year instead of giving something up for New Years?  Why not add instead of subtract? 

Just. Add. Pilates.

Or yoga.  Or breakfast smoothies.  Or an earlier bedtime.  And see what else changes. 

Make your life one of plenty and abundance.

See also What If?

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The Top 3 Reasons Why Men Should Do Pilates

I know Pilates has gotten a girly reputation, but Joseph Pilates was not a dancer - he was a boxer!  How more manly can you get?  But I can't tell you how many times people have asked me if I have any male clients.  Yes, and do, and here's why.

You get to stretch without taking a yoga class with a bunch of hyper-flexible women.  Many of my guy clients know they need to stretch (and did you know that a tight psoas can lead to erectile dysfunction?) but they don't want to be surrounded by super flexible women (women tend to be more flexible than men) with their feet touching their heads while they struggle with straps and blocks to approximate the same position.  In every exercise in Pilates, there is a stretch and a strength.  So in Spine Stretch Forward, you're working your abs but at the same time you're stretching your hamstrings, but you get to move and flow in the position.  You don't have to sit and hold something that may feel intense for 3 minutes.

It helps to open your chest.  Many men focus on developing the muscles of their chest, but that can lead to overly tight chest muscles, even kyphosis (and hey, staring at that smart phone all day isn't helping!).  Without stretching the chest, over developed chest muscles can cause lower back pain, and tight hips (see reason #1 above for a sneaky way to stretch without forcing yourself into Cobra).  Pilates extension for the upper back focuses on opening the thoracic spine without loading the low back - it's more of a sternum lift than an arch of the mid-back.  If you're really tight in your chest, deep back bends will only cause more pain.  The smaller, more strategic extension in Pilates will help deeper postural changes take effect.

You'll perform better at your favorite sport.  Many of my clients (male or female, for that matter) remark on how much more lung capacity they experience after starting a regular Pilates practice.  The lateral opening of the side body coupled with the lift of the rib cage in forward flexion is unlike any other exercise system.  This means that in your Pilates lesson, you are lengthening your ribs off your pelvis in two directions - to the side (which is easier and will give your body more stretch) and when you round forward (which is much more challenging).  But if you can master that, you are training your internal, deepest abdominal muscles to support the carriage of your rib cage.  If you can do that, you'll make more space to breathe, helping you increase your endurance for whatever sport you do. 

By now, we all know that King James does Pilates.

Are you ready to join him?  Or are you already a male student of Pilates?  Share your story in the comments!

Breathing Video and Discount

Often, my clients ask me how they can breathe in Pilates.  "If I'm pulling my belly in, how do I inhale?"  Watch this short video to learn how to breathe in honor of my toe talk inhale/exhale socks which are $2 off this coming Monday 12.15!

 

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