I met Emily as a sophomore in the Dance department at The University of Hartford. She was a bright and creative thinker, and I recognized someone as geeky as myself! Her questions were wonderful, and I had my eye on her. I knew she would be a perfect candidate for The Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series. I was excited by Emily’s curiosity and her unwillingness to accept a black and white version of events. I always knew from Emily I would also get asked, “What if?….”
Whenever I am asked a question by a Polestar Pilates Student students laugh at me because my answers always start with, “Well it depends…” or “Hmmm I could see that, but what if we thought of it from another viewpoint?” or “What would that change?” I love teaching the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series because I am not teaching rules and recipes. I am teaching ideas and creating structures for cri
tical thinking. During the Polestar Pilates Series we are looking at the people in front of us and deciding what is best? as to opposed to what is right? When I met Emily, I knew that she had the reverence for thought that Polestar loves?
At Polestar there is structure, but malleable curious structure, imagine a playground with ideas, laughter, and fun. Imagine a creative look at Pilates so that its benefits can grow and thrive with every creative mind that finds it.
Emily’s energy to become a Pilates Instructor was that of an instant friend. She jumped into the material and the relationships at the studio that honored the play of movement. She laughed and inquired, created and analyzed, and completely grasped the spirit that is Polestar Pilates. She is now working and thriving in New York, spreading the information that can change people’s movement lives.
About last year at this time, I got a phone call from the Polestar Pilates Office. They were telling me about a student that wanted to join our current comprehensive series on the third weekend. One of the things I love about Polestar is the flexibility of the course. This student was going to join us on the third weekend and make up the first two weekends with another cohort. We understand at
Polestar that life doesn’t always allow for six weekends once a month consecutively. If you are a student that wants to learn from Polestar, we will do everything in our power to find a way, and that is how I met Akiko when she started to become a Pilates Instructor
Akiko is a scientist. She is a biologist at The University of Massachusetts who wanted to learn about movement. She always joked with me that it was so different to study movement because she usually spent her days looking in microscopes. But as with most Polestar Pilates Students as Akiko was becoming a Pilates Instructor it was fascinating to see how her background informed her teaching. Akiko has a spectacular attention to detail and minutia, she can see small things that can shift to make a huge change. And as always with the cohorts we were able to point out Akiko’s strengths so that others could learn from her.
Another fun fact…Akiko grew two inches during the Polestar Pilates comprehensive series. She came to us with a posture that fit the lifestyle of meticulous work studying the slides in a microscope, and through her steadfast practice and mastery of the Pilates Exercises her thoracic spine lengthened and her posture improved enough to make her primary care doctor ask, “What is it that you’re doing?”
The Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series changes people’s bodies. Because of our emphasis on self mastery and the body’s innate knowledge a lot of the learning in a Polestar Pilates Comprehensive training happens outside of the left brain and in the body. The intuition is honed, honored and nurtured. Akiko’s background in biology and her experience with increased thoracic mobility is going to make subconscious connections when she teaches. I couldn’t be more grateful that Akiko joined us last summer. And I can’t wait to see how her teaching develops.
Wow! Thinking about how I met Lauren…It must have been about 14 years ago, long before she started the journey to become a Pilates Instructor. She came to The Pilates Studio as an ultimate frisbee player with a knee injury, or was it an ankle injury? I actually can’t remember. All I remember is her amazing joy, spirit, and wisdom. We worked through a couple of injuries. I watched her play ultimate in one game, and wow that was awesome. To see the work that these young women did during this game was inspirational. The speed and agility required to make the fast weight shifts and the ability to leap land and throw within just a few seconds was all around me.
During Lauren’s senior year in high school she was even an intern at The Pilates Studio. She would come during the last period of the school day and help us out as well as work on her own. We had so much fun joking around and playing. Lauren at a very young age knew how to play. She left us to go to complete her undergrad at the University of Vermont, and I saw her off and on during school breaks and of course I heard how she was doing from her mom who kept me posted.
Then a few years later, I found out that I was to teach the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series in Burlington. I immediately called Lauren, who I knew was just finishing her undergrad and wanted to go to graduate school to become a Physical Therapist. I knew then that she would be a perfect candidate for the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training. I couldn’t wait to get her registered.
And Wow was I right! Lauren was awesome during the course. She completed the course with her peers, and then moved to Denver where I was able to introduce her to another Polestar Pilates Educator so that she could prepare for her exam. She came back after a year in Denver and I couldn’t believe the change, and I was so impressed with her integration of the material. She told me about how she problem solved during her own recovery from another ultimate frisbee injury (yes she is still playing and traveling everywhere to play.)
The last part of her journey to become a Pilates Instructor is sitting for the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive Exam. She took the written exam, and then taught two full sessions in front of an examiner followed by a two hour circuit where she completed all of the advanced exercises for feedback. She was more than ready, passed with flying colors. I can’t wait to watch her succeed. and to follow her long amazing career to come.
Wow five weeks in! I was asked a fantastic question at this past class that gave me the idea for this blogpost. How do I know which are the best running exercises for me? Of course!!! We’ve created this conditioning class and taught you so many exercises but how do you know which are the best two or three exercises for you…just for you! In the following words I want to begin to outline the way you choose the best running exercises. Of course we have given you and gone over many other exercises, but this is the way to start choosing the best…Just wait until next week when we explore this further!
Well first of all, Every single person should be conditioning his or her feet! We are constantly spending our life in shoes disconnecting our feet from the earth and this is causing us to lose the pliability that we need to accept load. SOOOOO Everyone before you run should do the following foot exercises.
First we spread the toes
Then we ask the toes to talk to each other
Then we lift the three middle toes
Finally we have the big toe splits
Now beside the feet how do I decide which are the best running exercises for me. Should I do the planks or the squats? Should I work on cadence or mobility? I only have so much time and I do actually want to run so what are the best running exercises for me…just me? Well my friends the best way to find the best running exercises for you is to use the assessment tool. The RUNITY assessment is the best way to assess what conditioning exercises you need.
The first test is the deep squat with thoracic extension. This test is figuring out two things. How much hip mobility do you have, and how much thoracic extension do you have. These concepts apply to stride length and upright posture in the running gait. So if you do this test and you can’t get your pelvis below your knees then we need to work on your hip mobility. Whereas on the other hand if you can get your pelvis below your knees, but your spine curls into a ball like shape then you need exercises that work on thoracic extension. The videos of both possibilities follow.
So if its improved hip mobility you need. The accelerated mermaid is for you!
If you need thoracic extension then the following exercise is for you!
Now the next test is telling us about the lateral stability of your hip socket. This is the standing single leg squat. You can see in the picture to the right that to perform this assessment you will be standing on one leg and simply bending that knee. If your knee wavers and falls in towards the center then
you need hip conditioning exercises, but if your knee stays straight ahead but your torso folds in towards the leg then you need spine stability exercises. Those videos are below!
Finally, the last test is looking at hip extension and elastic recoil in the body. To perform the single knee bend you stand with your feet next to each other and bend one knee keeping your knees lined up you want to do your best to lift your foot past the midway point on the back of your thigh. This picture of
this test is below. Now if you perform it and you can’t keep your knees lined up then hip extension is what you are after, and if your knees are lined up just fine and you can’t lift your heel beyond mid thigh, then its time for you to work on the cadence drills with the metronome. Check out the following videos for the hip extension exercises, and then in the next week’s blog post we will break down cadence as much as we can!
Finally, This is just the beginning of what you could do. For more information please visit RUNITY’s website. Use this blogpost as a beginning to feel your body and allow yourself to decide what you might need. Next week we will review the assessment and exercises that go with each piece so that you can finish the class with a way to assess yourself and design your own conditioning program! See everyone next week.
About four years ago, I met a young man at The Pilates Studio. He came to me with what his doctor called Upper and Lower Cross Syndrome. He was nineteen and it was clear upon first glance that he had spent some time around free weights. His shoulders were huge! After we chatted for a bit we discovered that the postures caused by this upper cross syndrome (a name I take issue with.) were affecting his college life in ways that he did not love. I had him for just a few sessions and then I sent him off to Germany (semester abroad) with a foam roller and some good luck. Who knew that becoming a Pilates Instructor would be part of his journey.
When he got back from Germany on the next break from school he came back with some other things to work on, and this is when I found out that his major had changed. He was now pre-med. I thought this was a perfect choice for him. He was so thoughtful about his own healing process and he was very curious, wonderfully curious about theory and the thought process behind the movements that I was giving to him. We worked together a few times and then I sent him away for another semester.
At the next semester break I saw this young man’s name in my schedule again, and I thought to myself. You know he should do the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series. He could pay his way through medical school, and gain skills in communication and education that will make him a better doctor in the future. It’s a win, win. I mentioned this to him on his next session, and he was so excited. He signed up later that month and he was a great addition to the cohort.
During his journey toward becoming a Pilates Instructor, he gained knowledge of biomechanics, and arthrokinematics as they relate to movement, not to mention gained great practice in thinking in systems instead of body parts. He spent times in movement labs thinking and practicing the different ways to communicate when teaching movement. He practiced using imagery and voice inflection. He also spent a great amount of time working on his own healing process. All in all during the year and a half that he was in the course and then subsequently preparing for his exam, his worldview changed. And it is this worldview that is going to inform who he becomes as a physician, and I can’t wait to see how his career develops.
WOW! Four weeks! How did it go? In this class we explored hip extension for running. Coupling hip extension of one leg with the flexion of the other is how you find stride length safely! Remember that first week when we taught airplane? We mentioned hugging your knee as close to your chest as much as you can and then lengthening the standing leg long beneath you. This is necessary to increase the stride length and thus bring the forward motion to the running technique.
This week Kay and Nate led you through the conditioning work, with an emphasis in the hip extension. The two homework exercises that we have chosen for you this week are glute reeducation. In this exercise you are looking for the bum muscles! Gluteus maximas! TO perform this exercise you will lay on your belly. Curl the toes of one foot underneath. Reach your heel to the wall beneath you. Pull your kneecap toward you. Send your hip to the ground, and finally feel that glute engage…You might even have to squeeze it to let your brain know that it’s available for action! Tell your brain about your glutes!
The next exercise is designed to find both hip extension and hip flexion at the same time. It’s the Plank to lunge! Find your plank notice that this is the same position as glute reeducation minus the floor, or should I say hovering above the floor. So your heels are still tucked underneath you. You are reaching the heels away from you. You are pulling your knee caps towards you and you are finding hip extension in your plank. Then push with your hands as you bend your knees and send your tailbone behind you into a what I like to think of as the crouching tiger position. Then with a small explosive force move back towards the plank and bring one leg forward into a lunge. This is a very dynamic and active exercise, but you want to find the hip extension both in the plank and the lunge….Let me know how it goes!
When you look at the Kneeling arm series on the Pilates Reformer you see an exercise that strengthens the muscles of the arms. As students work their way through all of the versions of this exercise, it’s true through resistance training, they are challenging all of the muscles of the shoulder girdle in all planes of motion, and thus the strength of these muscles will increase. But is that all that is happening?
The kneeling arm series on the reformer requires dynamic control of the center and it also challenges the hip extension accompanied by knee flexion. This exercise aids in Gait training… That’s right this “arm” exercise could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your gait. And this my friend is why I love Pilates!
In a Pilates exercise you are never doing just arm work or leg work or core work. (don’t get me started on the fact that the word core has lost all meaning) In every Pilates exercise you are affecting multiple systems in the body. When I am training Pilates teachers for Polestar Pilates, I am always asking what is this exercise doing for us, and once I hear my student’s initial answer, I always reply, “That’s true and now what else does it do?” When we are talking about the kneeling arm series the answer to “what else?” is dynamic stabilization of the lower extremity in hip extension. Or we’re helping people to stand.
Pilates Teacher Trainings are so much more than an education about fitness. They are an education in function. In the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training students learn to improve people’s lives through improved function. If someone can do the kneeling arm series on the reformer they can climb down a mountain and catch themselves on a branch if they slip. If someone can do the kneeling arm series on the reformer, then their tennis game or golf swing is surely going to improve. If someone can do the kneeling arm series on the reformer then it will be easier to get up from the floor in case of a fall…I could go on and on
So what should you take from this blog? Pilates Teachers can help improve your life with exercises that do more than just one thing, and becoming a Pilates instructor gives you the ability to change the world for so many people!
Joseph Pilates observed animals as he developed his method.
He says in his book return to life, “true rhythm and control is observed both in domestic pets and wild animals – without exception.”
We were standing around the front counter at The Pilates Studio when we decided to create the following video. At first we were laughing and joking and sure that we were to entertain you, but then as we looked further into the idea that Joseph Pilates observed animals as he was creating his work, we thought of something else. He created exercises like the dolphin exercise not because he wanted to strengthen the posterior chain of all humans but because he saw the beauty of a dolphin moving through water. He was recognizing the beauty in the world and wanted to return that beauty to the movement of human beings.
Sometimes when Students of a Pilates Teacher Training are studying movement we get caught in the minutia of the moment. The hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip, which releases the hip flexors through reciprocal inhibition. Of course we can’t forget the stability created by the anterior oblique sling, which is initiated by pushing the palms of the hands into the vertical bars of the trapeze table. It is this stability that allows the lumbar spine to articulate through each segment into flexion and so on and so forth. But what happens when we watch a dolphin move? How do our bodies feel? What if we could move like a dolphin? What if we let our mind’s eye travel to the ocean where a pod of dolphins is gliding through the water playing?
The cat lady in me was heartened when I read on the Internet “It has been said the Joseph Pilates thought that the cat was the supreme animal.” Of course the Internet said it so it must be true.
But let’s think about the budding industry of cat videos. What if Joseph Pilates was onto something? It may be yet another way in which this brilliant man was ahead of his time.
After all, He did write, “Your body will be as supple as a cat.”
The beauty of animal movement is something that every one of us has admired in some way at some point. Whether it is the gait of a dog chasing a truck, the breadth of the blue heron’s wings, or the precision of a swimming penguin. Marveling in the movements of animals is not new to us. However, accepting the fact that we are animals too, and imagining that we can be animals that move with the same agility, precision, and stealth of our very favorite animal heroes might be an interesting way of exploring movement.
What if we tried to imagine, “Why did Joseph Pilates call this exercise the elephant?”
When we think of the classic Pilates repertoire. How many exercises were named after animals? What might the inspiration have been? And then what might happen when we place playful hats on our heads and embody the animals that are the namesakes of the exercises? We might just find an excellent way to further our exploration of this movement! And who knows it might be entertaining and a little bit silly too.
Happy Mother’s day and Happy week three of The Pilates Studio’s Learn to run series. My hope is that people are starting to feel the added strength in the tissues around the hips. As well as the mobility in the hip sockets and thoracic spine. In the next weeks we will begin to focus on hip extension and ankle mobility… But more importantly it seems like Everyone is getting in condition to r
un! YAY! You’ll see the videos for the home work below, but I also wanted to share with you this picture of the organized chaos of our conditioning circuits. To me a great workout is when I see the smiles I saw today!
Happy Mother’s day and Happy week three of The Pilates Studio’s Learn to run series. My hope is that people are starting to feel the added strength in the tissues around the hips. As well as the mobility in the hip sockets and thoracic spine. In the next weeks we will begin to focus on hip extension and ankle mobility… But more importantly it seems like Everyone is getting in condition to run! YAY! You’ll see the videos for the home work below, but I also wanted to share with you this picture of the organized chaos of our conditioning circuits. To me a great workout is when I see the smiles I saw today!
You all are doing so well, and that simply makes might heart swell. Maybe its mother’s day, or maybe it’s spring, or maybe seeing us all get stronger together just makes me so so happy…
Okay enough sappy stuff…Here’s your conditioning homework
There are four exercises this week. First, as we continue to work on thoracic mobility and hip extension we have the lunge with the dowel (the broomstick works great too) Remember reaching up into your arms as much as possible and at the same time pushing down into the knee!
Once we have the added mobility, we want to find the control of that mobility. We can achieve this with thigh stretch and the added dowel. Go for the shakes with this one! How far can you go back?
Next we have the hip mobility exercise with the mermaid…We’ve been doing this one since the very beginning class because it is just so important for the mobility of the hip socket!
And finally for rotational control we have the side plank! YAY! (I type yay because the side plank is so hard but if you yell YAY every time you lift your hips, it feels slightly easier.)
And of course as always the more pliable your feet the better so please feel free to keep doing the foot exercises from the previous week’s exercises.
Read more about RUNITY here
Okay, here we are at the final segment of the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training Principles. This is the movement integration principle, or in other words, how the heck do we put all of this together? If you are a fitness professional, imagine this scenario: Someone comes into work with you, he is carrying a backpack on one side, which is practically pulling his shoulder to the ground. He is standing on one foot more than the other, and one foot is practically facing to the side. If we look at the sagittal plane, his kyphotic curve is huge, not structural but strategic, and he balances the weight of his ribcage by a pelvis that translates forward.
You as a caring and wonderful fitness professional proceed with a session that makes change. He finishes the session and he is taller and standing even on both feet he looks strong and ready for the world. As you are transitioning, he is delighted to schedule another session and needs to get his phone out of his backpack. He then swings the backpack over the same shoulder sinks into the same hip and focuses on his schedule in his phone. If you’re like me, at this point in the session you might even slap your forehead.
I have found myself as a practitioner wondering, how can I make the change stick. How can I improve someone’s posture for more than just two hours every week. And then I started teaching the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training and more importantly I discovered the movement integration principle of Polestar Pilates. All of the wonderful work we do is nothing if we don’t integrate the entire body with all of the systems of the body.
A flexible muscle is only flexible if the nervous system knows that it’s flexible. The belly is only flat if the digestive system is happy and healthy. The body won’t heal unless someone can move pain free and be surprised by the experience. All of these topics are covered in Polestar Pilates Movement Integration principle. This is what makes Polestar Pilates teacher training more than just exercise, and what makes a Polestar Pilates Practitioner more than just a fitness instructor. We are folks that can affect change in people’s lives, and if enough of us create this change in people’s lives then we will also be able to make this change in the world!