Blog - Page 3 of 9 - The Pilates Studio

High Kneeling integrating change in a Polestar Pilates Teacher Training

becoming a pilates instructorWhen 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!

Students of a Pilates Teacher Training Explore Pilates’ Animal World

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.

Kate’s Pilates Adventure: Seeing what the Pilates Apparatus can do

I felt great after my first day on the Pilates Apparatus, but man, my abs were sore! I arrived a few minutes early to my appointment to a bustling studio. There were a few other people on the reformers, cracking jokes and working hard. Everyone was in good spirits because we’re experiencing the first week of real warm weather after a grueling winter. Cathy led me directly over to the reformer, and we got started with leg presses that shifted the position of my feet to warm up. Again, I was struck by how clearly I could feel the natural articulation of my spine against the part of the reformer I was laying flat on. It helped me move with intention, and I could feel my pelvis and sacrum getting more pliable. While I was doing the leg presses, I confessed to Cathy that I felt guilty having told her last week that I wasn’t going to do any homework exercises she offered me.

“Let’s go all in this week,” I said.

We moved onto bridges, a backbend done with shoulders still on the floor and feet in table-top position, which might be my favorite exercise because it’s something I do often in my yoga practice but Cathy guided me through a vertebrae by vertebrae articulation of the spine that was really enlight

Combo Chair - Pilates Apparatus

Combo chairs one piece of Pilates Apparatus

ening. I could feel my abs working harder, and got a sense of how my pelvis, feet, abs and spine might all work together once I am more integrated.

“This is definitely homework for you!” Cathy told me.

After the bridges, I did some arm butterflies using the reformer arm pullies and tried not to think about how little upper body strength I have. Then I did a really fun exercise called Eve’s lunge, which is sort of like a runner’s stretch but the back foot pushed against a part of the reformer that moved.  Cathy worked me hard, because then we moved onto the Combo chair which looks like this:

And is a totally amazing tool if you’re looking to gain ankle strength and stretch out tight calf muscles. I stood with one foot on the part of the chair that you can push down, and practiced some achilles pumps which hurt so good. I knew it was just what I needed. We did a few different feet positions on this, and then moved onto to some supine stretching on the spine corrector, which looks like this:

spine corrector - Pilates Apparatus

Pilates Spine corrector, another piece of Pilates Apparatus

This is where I really found my abs. I did a series of what looked like simple sit-up like movements, but the expectation was that I would lean back over the rounded part, careful to press every vertebrae against it, and then curl back up with my chin tucked and my abs deeply engaged. It was so hard I quivered, and realized, as Cathy cheered me on, that this is just the medicine I need.

We finished the session using the floor reformer to do a few side splits, while Cathy talked me through my homework: more bridges, some ankle stretches using a ledge or the stairs, and a seated side stretch with my legs in “Mermaid Position.” My childhood dreams of being like Ariel from The Little Mermaid were finally about to come true! Perhaps this isn’t true, but in all seriousness, these exercises felt like things I could manage to work into my daily routine, and I left feeling strong and optimistic about a living a life inside of a body that had more mobility and less pain. Bring on week three, I am a Pilates machine!

Learn to Run Week 3: Condition to Run

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!

Condition to Run!  The Pilates Studio

Four corners of getting into condition to run. Hip Strength, Rotational control, Thoracic mobility, and motor control.


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

Polestar Pilates Teacher Training: The Principles part 6 of 6

Pilates Teacher TrainingOkay, 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!

Kate’s Pilates Adventure: Day 1

Kate Senecal author/writing coach extraordinaire

I sprained my ankle for the first time when I was in eighth grade, then twice in tenth grade, another time junior year of high school and finally, after a misguided attempt at being a hurdler in track, spent the last two months of my senior year of high school on crutches with the same busted ankle. I identify this injury as the root of a series of structural and postural issues that has caused me a few decades of leg, lower back, shoulder and neck pain that I’ve managed with reasonable success via a consistent Iyengar Yoga practice, acupuncture and a few life-saving massages. For years my dear, old friends Katrina and Laurie have urged me to try starting Pilates with them at The Pilates Studio, so in the spirit of overcoming some of these issues once and for all, increasing my minimal core strength and spicing up my weekly workout rotation I took them up on their suggestion.

Since I have old injuries, I felt that starting pilates with the private lesson introductory package which includes three private sessions in four weeks for $180 would be best. I arrived to my noon appointment early, excited to have someone look at the way I move and design a series of exercises just for me. Laurie and Katrina greeted me warmly at the front desk, and set me up with the paperwork I needed to fill out as a new student. The studio is huge, full of natural light, fun looking contraptions, and people of all shapes and sizes working hard but looking psyched while doing it – sort of like a playground in a daycare center but for grown-ups. I immediately felt comfortable and ready for action. My instructor, Cathy, lead me over to a crazy looking bench/table fully equipped with bars, pullies and all kinds of straps. I liked Cathy right away – she has a warm face and a gentle voice – and she’s also a physical therapist, so I knew I was in good hands.  She asked me thoughtful questions about the ways I move my body, then talked me through some movement that would help her assess my functional mobility.

Cathy told me that I over pronate my feet, which means my ankles collapse in toward each other. This can cause all sorts of problems like bunions, ankle pain as well as knee and hip tightness. She also noticed right away that my shoulders are very tight and my trapezius muscles were very weak which is likely the reason I experience so much neck and shoulder pain. Finally, along with having minimal ab strength, Cathy noticed that I also have Lumbar hyperlordosis – which just means that the natural curve in the middle of my spine is exaggerated in such a way that it often looks like I’m sticking my belly out when I think I’m just standing normally.

Once it was clear what I needed to strengthen, Cathy brought me over to the reformer – another bench similar to what I sat on at the beginning of the session, but instead of having a top that spans the reach between all four legs, the reformer has a slat with wheels which allows you to move fluidly while doing strength building exercises. I laid down and put my legs up against a bar, and was instructed to push on the bar with my legs as if I was using a weight machine that targeted my quads, but to be careful to keep the natural curves of my spine pressed against the table and to not move my pelvis at all. This was exceptionally difficult despite the movement seeming so simple.

Cathy was clear in her instructions, and intentional about how many repetitions of things she asked me to do as well as what order I did the exercises in. Appointments are only 50 minutes, but I felt like we made good use of the time. I moved in a lot of different ways, and worked harder than I expected both because of Cathy’s expert instruction and the fact that all of the equipment we worked with really helped me in understanding what muscles I use (or don’t use) habitually for different kinds of movements. I could really feel the weak parts of my abs, and how important strengthening that area will be for correcting the hyper curve in my back. Cathy talked a lot about integrating my lower body with my upper body via my pelvis, and I was shocked at how clear is was that they moved in a disconnected way when I was doing the exercises Cathy asked me to do.

Cathy was optimistic that it would not take me long to gain the strength I need to get out of pain and achieve my fitness goals, and I feel ready to work hard. I feel so lucky that I get to be a part of the great community at The Pilates Studio, and can’t wait for my second appointment!

Learn to Run: Week 2

Wow! We are off to a great start!  It was so fun to see the progress of everyone in the second week of our Learn to Run course!  If you want a sense of the fabulous strengthening chaos that is our Learn to Run course check out the picture!  That is what a well used and satisfying studio looks like. My RUNITY teachers would be so proud of the fun we had!

Strengthening at The Pilates Studio

Fabulous strengthening chaos at The Pilates Studio

As promised today progressed a little from last week and we have different exercises that we want you to practice before next week.  First we have the foot exercises that are so important to the gait.  If we think of the foot as our spring through the air.  We need to train and condition the pliability of the plantar fascia (the bottom of your foot)  Every time your foot lands in gait the plantar fascia lengthens (eccentric contraction) and absorbs the shock of the road, and then like a spring it shortens to propel you forward…And even more mind blowing (for my geeky brain at least) the big toes and smaller toes act with different functions to make the gait efficient….Yet we spend our day in shoes that make our feet still.  So with that these are the videos of the foot exercises we did today!

First five toes lift and then spread out, and then lower down

The second foot exercise is lifting the big toe and then placing it down and lifting the four little toes

Then we lifted the three middle toes

And finally of course we have the big toe splits

After this we want to work the hip extension and elastic recoil of the hamstrings with the single leg kick.  Remember to do it slow and then to pick up the speed

And finally!  It’s time to do Plank to Star (a progression from quadruped to star by the way)

That’s it for this week…Remember keep moving between now and next Sunday.  We talked about several ways that you could progress your running…The infamous walk/run is the way to go, but the question always becomes how much should I walk and how much should I run?  I personally like to listen to my cardiovascular system.  I run until my heart says to stop, and then I walk until my heart says to go again…If you want more of a measure you can use a heart rate monitor. Run until you hit a certain heart rate and then walk until your heart rate comes down…However long that may be.  If you feel like your cardiovascular system is stronger than the tissues of the body, then your best best is to pick a two minute run…one minute walk schedule, and then increase that amount by 10 percent a week.

And that’s it for now! Until next week in our learn to run series




Polestar Pilates Teacher Training: The Principles part 5 of 6

Pilates Teacher TrainingAs we continue our exploration of the principles that every Polestar Pilates Teacher Training covers, we have come to my favorite principle: Alignment and Weight Bearing of the Upper and Lower extremity.  This principle is my favorite for a very geeky  reason.   And that reason is the word arthrokinematics.

The most basic kinesiology classes covers biomechanics, which in its simplest sense is naming  the ways in which the body moves through space. In the sagittal plane our bodies  flex  and extend at the joints.  In the coronal plane, our body laterally flexes, abducts, and adducts, and in the transverse plane the body rotates.  All of these words, describe  the ways in which the body moves through space.  They describe  the movement that  we  can  see.  However, in the Polestar  Pilates Teacher Training, Alignment  and  Weight Bearing  of  the Upper and Lower Extremities,  also  talks  about movement we can’t  see. We also cover the movement inside of the joints.  I like to think about arthrokinematics as the conversations that our joint surfaces have with each other.

When joints are congruent (the surfaces of the bones within the joint are talking to who they are supposed to talk to) then the choreography within the joint in any movement has a spin, a glide and a roll.  The magical thing about this is the nervous system doesn’t tell the bones to spin, glide and roll.  It is simply the structure of the surface of the bones.  Thus, when we create the most ideal alignment, everything works the way it is supposed to without too much thought.  How do you like them apples?  What if our mind was free of cues like this: Use your hamstrings, squeeze your glutes, and pull your belly in. Polestar Pilates Teachers know how to cue the movement so that it is integrated on a subconscious level.  We learn to use the brilliantly designed and evolved architecture of our bodies to improve our performance!

So when we think of alignment of the feet, ankles, knees, and hips it becomes a much more nuanced thought.  We may tell our clients to point their knees over their second and third toes, but we also want the femur to spin outward when the knee is flexing while the tibia spins inward, we are thinking about the talus and its glide back, and in the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training program we are trying to facilitate the movement in which all of these things happen at once or in sequence making the most efficient and high performance movement possible. Phew say the word arthrokinematics and 500 words just fly off of my fingers.  The geeky and mysterious, magic of movement is the best thing you learn in the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series.

Need a Day Job? Try Becoming a Pilates Teacher

Becoming a Pilates TeacherIf you’re considering becoming a Pilates Teacher consider the following information. According to

“Most pilates instructors are employed on an hourly, part-time basis. According to in 2014, the median hourly salary for pilates instructors was $28. Most pilates instructors wound up earning from $31,543 to $100,534 annually at that time, including bonuses and profit sharing.”

When I started teaching Pilates it was my day job.  I was a dancer, co-directed a dance company, and Pilates was the way that I paid the bills.  The reason that it all worked, was because of the information above.  My Pilates Certification allowed me to make much more than minimum wage per hour so that I could work less and spend extra time on my art.  We have a teacher at The Pilates Studio who is a painter.  She is able to make a good living while leaving plenty of time to work on her art.

Here is another piece to consider.  As artists we see the world in a different way.  Our bodies and our souls are trained in movement along with the subtleties and nuance of observation.  These skills are honed as we learn to make work that comments on the world around us.  We learn to make the whole world more beautiful, to create changes with our voices, and to improve our movement and skills.  Well, let me tell you all of these skills will also help when teaching movement to others who may never have been exposed.

When I was becoming a pilates teacher, I was teaching the bridge to a woman who spent her life writing novels and short stories.  Along with that life came some low back and neck pain, which was preventing her from giving her own art to the world.  We did the bridge.  Quite honestly at that moment, the bridge was an exercise that I had been doing for so many years that I forgot how profound it can be when changing movement.  While I was teaching I was leading this woman through the exercise, I used my hands and imagery to help her movement change, I was present with her as she moved.  Then she sat up and there were tears in her eyes…I was a new teacher, I was a little caught off guard and maybe even a little arrogant because I was lucky enough to move all the time so I had forgotten the power of movement.  In my mind I said to myself, “Woh we just did the bridge.”  But for this women we had moved parts of her body in ways that it hadn’t moved for years.  I had used the skills of my art (though I didn’t know it yet) to create change in this woman, I had helped her dance.  It took me many years of humbling experiences to understand the profundity of it all.  But as a pilates instructor I am able to use my skills as an artist to bring movement arts to anybody I teach…What could be better?  I had a day job that was honing my skills as an artist not distracting me from it.

Do you need a day job?  Why not try becoming a Pilates Teacher?

Cathy Lawlor Pilates Instructor

Cathy Lawlor PT, NCPT

Pilates Instructor

Cathy started at The Pilates Studio as a client to focus on “fitness for my fifties” and became totally enamored by her movement experiences in the studio.  As a result she participated in the Polestar Teacher training to become a Pilates Instructor.

Cathy is a physical therapist with more than 25 years experience who has added Pilates Instructor to her resume.  Her physical therapy experience ranges from early intervention and pediatric PT (primarily in school settings), to adults with intensive developmental challenges, to Rehab PT in a long term care facility. Cathy has also worked as a full time parent, classroom volunteer, parent aide, and “ultimate” mom – many times taping injuries on the sidelines, among other things.

Cathy believes that every physical therapist should have exposure to Rehab oriented Pilates.  She loves the mind and body connectiveness of the Pilates method makes for a positive whole body movement experience.  Cathy looks at her clients with an eye for rehab – whether to improve postural alignment, strength and flexibility, or body awareness, to relieve pain, or to prevent future injury.  She always wants her clients to walk out the door feeling more aware of their whole body – and just better in general!

In her free time, you will find Cathy out on her kayak, walking her young pup Gracie, busy with a small photography business, helping to support a small school in Haiti, or traveling to see her three children who are spread around the country.

“My personal goal is to “move” through life embracing age gracefully with enthusiasm and a sense of humor.”  Cathy believes this is possible with Pilates in her life. She hopes to share this goal with all her clients wherever they are in life’s journey.

Leave Cathy A Review!