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.
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.
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.
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!
As 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.
“Most pilates instructors are employed on an hourly, part-time basis. According to PayScale.com 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?
Over 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.