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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!

Learn to Run: Week 1

What a great first week!  We are so excited to Learn to Run with you.  You may be thinking, “What a great first class, now what!”  And that my friends is why I am sending you this blog post.  Each week after class we will send you a link to a blog post with three or four exercises that we hope you can do between now and next Sunday.  We also want you to find time to get outside and move.  If you’re not sure how and when to run, that is no problem check out the following ideas.  And of course if you have questions feel free to contact us at The Pilates Studio with any questions.

Brand New Runner If you are brand new to running, you want to get outside and walk/run for at least thirty minutes a few days  (4-5) next week.  Feel free to do the exercises below before you run.

Already Running If you are already running, then keep training and simply add these exercises in.

Recovering from an injury If you are a runner that is recovering from an injury try the following protocol.

  1. Go run and stop when you feel pain (this is establishing your baseline)
  2. Once the baseline is established, take two runs at 60% of the baseline
  3. On the third run try 80% of your baseline.
  4. Rinse and repeat 60-60-80

Now on to the exercises…Don’t worry it’s just three exercises that will get us all to Learn to Run!

First for hip extension – we have the single leg bridge

Next for thoracic extension and ankle dorsi flexion – We have the quadruped cat and cow

Finally for control of the Hip Socket: Quadruped to Star

I also want to be sure that you know about RUNITY.  This is the coaches training that Nate and I took to Learn all of this stuff.  RUNITY is what brought me from a perpetual beginner to someone who actually could run.  If you find that you love this stuff as much as I do, there are some great online courses and resources, that can provide some of the science behind the conditioning exercises that we do.  I hope to bring Juan or Blas to the valley again sometime in 2019!


Polestar Pilates Teacher Training: The Principles Part 4 of 6

Pilates Teacher TrainingOver the past few weeks this blog has been has been explaining the basics of The Polestar Pilates principles that underscore all of the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training.  We have talked  about the importance of  Breath, axial length and control, and spine articulation. Now we  shall move on to the fourth principle, which is organization  of  the Head Neck and Shoulders.

Imagine all of the electronic devices in your life.  When you use them what is the alignment of your head neck and shoulders  like?   Are your shoulders wide on your back? Is your head floating  above your  rib  cage?   Is  your neck as long as possible?  NO??  Really, you don’t  say.   The technological revolution has put information at our  fingertips, empowered  the populace, and made  our   lives easier in so  many  ways,  but it has also made Pilates  all the more necessary for every human  being.  We all  need to  understand the organization  of  our  Head,   Neck, and Shoulders so that  we only experience  the  benefits of technology  and  not the downsides.

The good news: Becoming  a Pilates  Instructor  is all the  more  important, because  in  the  Polestar  Pilates Teacher Training, the understanding of efficient organization of  the  head neck and shoulders is discussed.  Future Pilates Instructors  learn how to  cue  ease and  grace through  the upper body so  that shoulder blades are talking with the ribcage and the head of the humerus is deep inside the shoulder socket. This allows the most expressive and communicative parts of our body to move freely without discomfort.

Try this: sit tall in your chair and take a breath filling your ribcage. The full rib cage will allow the shoulder blades to glide along the  width of  your  ribcage  as  you allow your arms to rise over your head. Now  move your arms out to the side.  How do  your  shoulder blades  move?   Are  they  staying   wide on  your  back,  or do they  squeeze together.   The first step in changing Head Neck and Shoulder organization  is understanding how things  are organizing  themselves in  the first place.  Once you are aware of  what you are doing,  then you can change anything.

Ease and freedom of the upper body is something we take for granted until we don’t  have it. When I am teaching  the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training,  I love how bright  their eyes  are when they  tell  me stories of clients who back out of their driveways  pain free or get their suitcase in the overhead compartment  without help,  or start playing tennis again. All of these folks who are working hard to become Pilates instructors are getting their  first  taste  of  what it is  to change someone’s life and it’s all  thanks to  the  Polestar  Pilates  Principles.

Polestar Pilates Teacher Training: The Principles part 3 of 6

Pilates Teacher TrainingOn this blog, We’ve talked about breath and we’ve talked about axial elongation and control as the first to principles of Polestar Pilates Teacher Training. If you remember breath is a tool to facilitate movement and axial elongation and control uses alignment and length to create the most efficient pathway to movement. Now we move on to the third principle and this is Spine Articulation.

First, let’s do a quick anatomy review.  The spine has consists of 24 vertebra,  a sacrum and a coccyx, and each vertebra has articulating joints that can move.  So, the principle of spine articulation in the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training asserts that when moving the spine,  we want distribute the force of the movement over several joints of several vertebra,  which will reduce the wear and tear on each individual vertebra.

If you’re like me, of a certain age, you had P.E. class when you were in school.  In this class, there was probably some sort of  fitness test that tested flexible you had,  I remember a ruler between my legs measuring how  far  I could reach past my toes.   There was also a sit up  test.  I remember someone holding my feet while I  did  as many sit ups as I could in minute. These tests are great examples  of  why the world  needs the Spine  Articulation principle.

Imagine first, the flexibility test.   Way back when, the intention of this test was to measure the flexibility of the hamstrings, but in actuality based on what we know now, that test actually  was a measure of how much movement was available at the lower lumbar spine.   Now, imagine if you will taking a breath in, and reaching your head to the ceiling.   Once you find the longest possible spine, then nod your head and then allow each vertebra of your spine  to move in sequence towards your legs.  You might feel a stretch all the way along the back of your spine.  Using the Spine  Articulation principle  we have turned  an  old fitness screening  into   an  exercise  that actually changes  the way  that the spine  relates to the  back  of the  legs.  

Now  let’s take our mind’s  eye that ridiculous sit up. What  if we  slowed it down?  What if  we nodded  our heads before even starting  and then focused on peeling each vertebra away from  the  floor  individually until we  reached the sitting position. In this movement using the spine  articulation  principle we  have created a movement that  distributes the  load of  gravity  across the  entire spine, instead of at only a few vertebra.  This makes the exercises much safer and more relevant to what the body needs.

In the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training we use  the Spine articulation principle to protect the spine and keep the body as fluid as  possible.    Pilates becomes more than a  fitness class it becomes a  method to keep the body moving.


Polestar Pilates Teacher Training: The Principles, 2 of 6

Pilates TrainingIn the last blogpost I spoke about how the Polestar Pilates Training, allowed me to be a creative teacher because of the system of principles that it teaches.  We spoke about breath and using the breath as a tool for movement facilitation, and that led me to tell you, “Why Polestar?”  Because with a system of principles I am given the freedom to meet people where they are and am given the tools necessary to create a program geared towards their goals.

Well Breath is just the first principle of Polestar.  Axial Elongation and Control is the second.

Now first let me tell you about a little history.  This principle used to be called Axial Elongation and Core control.  You know “the core” the buzzword of the first part of the century. Everybody was talking about the core and telling people to pull their belly button to their spine.    The planking internet craze came out of this movement, and because of this “core revolution” whenever anybody heads into the doctor speaking of some form of musculoskeletal pain the doctor says, “you need core strength.”

This person then heads to the Internet and when you type in core strength up comes an image of a man with his shirt off doing a plank.  Because of course the Internet thinks the Plank is the best exercise for core strength and if the Internet says it’s true, then well…

Okay yes I am on a soapbox.  One I can get on quite often.  The core is not magic and having a strong one is not going to fix all of the world’s musculoskeletal pain.  The core is part of a system and if this system is placed in the most advantageous position the core will be strong.

Thus in the Polestar Pilates Training, we teach that the Axial Elongation and Control principle is about finding the longest axis of the body so that the core can work without conscious thought.  The best way to feel this is to try it.

Sit in a chair.  Without changing anything notice what your belly feels like.  Touch it, and notice how the muscles feel.  Now begin reaching your head towards the ceiling, and then become aware that your ears and your ribs are centered over the bowl that is your pelvis.  Now without moving notice what you feel in the abdomen.  You may feel some additional tone and guess what by simply finding your longest axis you are increasing your core strength and endurance.

All this and I didn’t have to say bellybutton to the spine once.  Thus within the system of the Polestar Pilates Training, we have the first two of six principles which guide a practitioner’s creative and critical thinking to design the very best program from any person to find. In the next blogpost learn about the third principle spine articulation.

What’s learned in a Polestar Pilates Teacher Training?

polestar pilates teacher trainingI was once at a Polestar Pilates Educator meeting in which we were working hard to create content for the Internet to communicate to the world, “Why Pilates?” And “Why Polestar?”  The answers I found to these questions were easy.  Why Pilates? Because Pilates keeps every person doing what they want to do!  Whether that is hiking mountains or pulling weeds, running marathons or playing on the floor with grandchildren.  Why Pilates? Because Pilates keeps people moving, and The Polestar Pilates Teacher Training teaches practitioners how to facilitate this transformation.

Now Why Polestar?  Why did I choose the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training?  That’s an easy one.  Polestar Pilates allows me to be creative within a system of principles.  Rather than teaching me a series of exercises that become a rote script of a beginner, intermediate and advanced Pilates class, Polestar gave me a structure within which I could be creative. This meant that I could use the tools I was given to teach an 85 year old grandfather as well as a ten year old boy.  I wasn’t taught a recipe of exercises I was taught a systematic approach.  The amateur chaos theory mathematician in me was stoked!

The Polestar Pilates Teacher Training is based on six principles, that are designed to guide the critical thinking of a Polestar Pilates Practitioner. In this post I want to describe the first one.

The Breath Principle

Now, we don’t choreograph when one should inhale and exhale.  We learn the anatomy and physiology of the breath and we also learn the biokinematics and the arthrokinematics of breath, and all of this information within this principle allows us to decide how to best use breath as a tool for movement facilitation. When we study the breath principle we choose to ask the question how can I use the breath to create the best movement.  Will an inhale facilitate what I want, or is an exhale better?  Or we might ask, how can I use this breath to challenge the mover in front of me to create greater integration of movement.

Our understanding of the breath might answer other questions?  How might I use breath to improve posture?  How might I use breath to create more flexibility or space in a joint?  How might I use the exhale to create axial length, and how might I use the inhale to facilitate thoracic mobility?

Why do I love the Polestar Pilates Teacher Training?  Because Polestar Pilates gave me a plethora of information and then said, “okay kid, take this and run with it!  Have a ball, and most importantly help people move”

Best candidates for a Pilates Teacher Training program love to move!

Pilates TrainingAbout four years ago I posted the following Facebook status, “What do a PT, a chiropractor, two dancers, a therapist, a painter, an international developer, and a teacher have in common? They are the fabulous students of the Polestar Pilates training that are joining Valerie Lyons Hodgson and I for R1/S1. What a great start to the day!”

So the answer to the question, “Who are the best candidates for a Pilates Training program?” is anybody that loves to move.  Understanding the power of movement towards wellness has been documented in so many studies, that I can’t believe that the world doesn’t know all of it yet.  The Pilates Industry (which wow it feels weird to talk about my life’s work as an industry) is growing and there is room for so many people to be Pilates Instructors.

I always tell the story of one of our teachers Jenni, who assists me in the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive Series. She was the painter in the above quote.  Her eye is so refined in a way that is different than other Pilates Teachers.  She is able to see bodies with the eyes of an artist and this informs her pilates program design in such a beautiful way.

Another student in the Comprehensive series was an undergraduate who was pre-med.  He had come to me first as a client working through shoulder issues, and I looked at him and said, “I think I’ve figured out how you are going to pay for med school.”  He is about to take the exam, and the communication skills that he has learned in this Pilates training program will make him a better Doctor.

What about the therapist?  It is well documented at this point that the body houses our emotional life.  Imagine the healing power of a social worker that can also work with the body.  Understanding communication and the way the body can hold onto the past adds to the depth of a Pilates Teacher.

And finally the international developer, who speaks with leaders of other countries on a daily basis brings an even more global idea to the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive Teacher Training.  Brent Anderson, who founded Polestar, often says not many people want to start a fight after a Pilates class.  What if we could bring the peace that a body feels to the world…I do believe it might change.

Who should take a Pilates Teacher Training? Anyone who wants to explore movement and meaning with the goal of change and growth, not to mention making friends and remembering what it is like to play.  We could all use a little of that.

What is the best Pilates Instructor Training?

Pilates Instructor TrainingI am so often asked, “Why Polestar Pilates?”  What is so good about this training?  Now it’s funny you would think that I get tired of this question.  That maybe I feel challenged by this question. Well, that’s not exactly true.  I absolutely love this question, “Why Polestar Pilates?”  I love the dialog, the opportunity to talk about why, I love teaching the Polestar Pilates Curriculum.

Reason #1 There is no dogma?

A definition of dogma as I found on the Internet, “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.”  Now the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series certainly has a set of principles, but we are constantly questioning what we know to be true! Nothing absolutely nothing is set in stone.  As a Pilates Instructor I used to say things years ago that have been proven ineffective or inaccurate.  I am the first to admit it, and I am happy to sit down with and explain the evolution of my thinking.

Here’s a for instance…I haven’t asked anyone to rollout their ITBands in about 10 years.  It doesn’t work and once I figured that out through evidence and research, I stopped asking people to do it!  In Polestar Pilates there is no dogma…Nothing is set in stone, we are always questioning and improving the work that we do! If you want a Pilates Instructor Training that is on the cutting edge you should trust Polestar Pilates.

Reason #2 Creativity

We just started a cohort of Polestar Pilates Comprehensive Students at The Pilates Studio in Hadley.  At the end of the weekend we split the group into three groups and each of us worked on a case study or program design together.  At the end of a half an hour, we compared the three program designs, and I got on my soap box…I was even standing on a long box…What I love about program design in Polestar Pilates is our ability to create different programs based on our own backgrounds.  We get to use our own creativity within the program to help people!  This Pilates Instructor Training doesn’t mandate what exercise begins your program. What’s better than that?

Reason #3 Growth and change

I have led people through this curriculum enough times to realize how amazing the changes in people’s bodies are.  The small victories of finding true hip extension or spine articulation are celebrated. What could be more exciting? The camaraderie within the cohort, and the friendships that are made along with the community that is created make for an environment of play where learning is easy.  This Pilates Instructor Training adds lifelong friendships and community to the world!

When people ask me, “Why Polestar?”  I simply smile because it is the easiest question in the world!