Monday, December 9, 2013

Finding Balance during the Holidays Part II

I find it fitting that my second installment of balance exercises happens to be written and posted on the day of the first ice storm of the season.  Today walking out of my house I had to do the familiar “ice on the steps” shuffle to make sure that I didn’t land on my rump.  Scraping off my car required using my ice scraper like a hammer while taking very careful steps to each window.  Luckily, I did not fall,  and I’ve made it to work just in time for the power to go out at The Pilates Studio, but never fear, my laptop battery is fully charged and I am excited to share this week’s balance challenge exercises with you. 

You remember last week’s exercises.

Have you been doing them?

This week we want to progress each of these to increase the wobbles.

For the standing exercise, instead of standing with your feet right next to each other, decrease your base of support by standing with your feet in line.  Stand with one foot in front of the other, with your front heel touching your back toe.  Once you have found this stance see if you can then close your eyes and maintain your balance.  Of course, the next step is to try the other side.

Next it is time to progress the foam roller exercise.  Last week we balanced with one foot on the floor and three limbs in the air.   Now that’s a pretty unstable base, but you better believe that we can destabilize the base even further.  Try putting a pillow or a ball under the foot that is on the ground.  And then let the arms float into the air one by one, and if you still aren’t wobbling, then simply start moving the arms around. 

Last week we balanced on our side with the longest possible spine.  This week we are going to add a 75cm exercise ball and a leg lift to this exercise.  To start make sure that you are barefoot so that you may find traction.  Lie sideways on the ball with your arms overhead.  If this is your first time with this exercise start with your feet lined up on the floor with your heel to your toe.  This may be enough to induce some very satisfying wobbles, but if you are as still as a very balanced statue, the next step is to stack your feet one on top of the other.  If that doesn’t bring on the wobbles then simply lift that top leg and let the wobbling begin.  Be sure to do this very fun exercise on both sides.

This week our final balance exercise is also standing, and will not only improve your balance; it will also strengthen your legs.  First, start standing with one foot in front and one foot behind you.  Allow both toes to point straight ahead.  Bend both knees to find a lunge position, and then shift your weight forward and finish standing just on the front leg.  Repeat by finding the lunge again, and then transfer the weight to the first leg.  If this exercise seems easy, simply try it with your eyes closed.

There you have it.  Our second installment of the balance month is done.  You should be ready for these exercises and if you practice them all week, I am sure that you will be ready for what I have in store for next week.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A PMA- CPT
Director of Instructor at The Pilates Stduio

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finding Balance During the Holidays at The Pilates Studio

It’s official the holidays are upon us.  We are all striving to find the balance between family and friends, work and parties, vegetables and cookies.  And for some reason the holiday season makes this age old grasp for equilibrium a little bit more challenging.  At the Pilates Studio, we want to stand up to the face of unsteadiness in the world with movement.  We wonder at the possibility of creating balance in our bodies, and allowing that balance to bleed into our lives outside of The Pilates Studio.  We wonder if a woman who has 25 gifts left to buy, might find it less stressful if she can also stand on one foot with her eyes closed for longer than two minutes.  Might she benefit from the awareness of breath and wobbles that is required to stand on one foot when she is in the check out line?  What about the person that has to figure out how to attend two holiday parties, while at the same time be present to see holiday pageants and band concerts, all of which happen to be scheduled with in the same two hours on a Thursday night?  Might this person reap the benefits of lying on the foam roller with three limbs in the air allowing one foot to root down to the earth?  Not to mention the fact that it is about to be winter in New England, and each and everyone one of us need the practical skills that are necessary to navigate the inevitable snow and ice that will soon be upon us…

Is it too far fetched to think that improving proprioception in our bodies will reduce stress in our very busy holiday lives…Maybe…It would be nearly impossible to design an evidence based study that definitively proves that improved balance makes the check out lines less annoying, but luckily proof is not necessary for the word TRY…At least not at The Pilates Studio.   Each week this month, I will write about a few exercises that might give you the wobbles.  Each week the exercises will become more challenging.  I always say to people if you are doing an exercise that is intended to improve your balance and you are not wobbling, then you are no longer improving your balance…So for this week try the following four exercises, every morning and night.  See what happens, and if you feel so inclined, report back!

First find a standing position.  Stand with your feet together, and by that I mean your big toes, big toe knuckles, and heels should be touching.  Once you find this position close your eyes.  Yes that’s right close your eyes and continue to breathe   Allow your body to negotiate the narrowed base of support and become aware of which muscles keep you from falling over…If you feel really unstable be sure to try this exercise next to a wall.

Next use a foam roller and lay on your back on the roller.  Allow one knee to float into the air…Are you wobbling?  If yes, then simply breathe here and allow your body to negotiate the wobbles…If not, then allow the opposite arm to float into the air so that it is above your shoulder with your fingertips pointing to the ceiling.   Wobbling yet?  If not then allow the other arm to float to the ceiling, and if there are still no wobbles then allow your arms to move back and forth between the ground behind you and the space towards the ceiling.  Continue to move, remember improving balance means finding the wobbles and then negotiating your balance!

Now for this week’s third balance exercise lay on your side.  Find the alignment between your hips, ribs and head, and then extend your hands and arms towards one wall and your legs and feet towards the opposite wall.  How long can you maintain this position without rocking back and forth?  

Finally, it’s time to stand on one leg with your eyes closed…This exercise is almost guaranteed to bring on the wobbles.  Start standing with your feet next to each other.  (Very similar to the first exercise) then simply shift your weight to one side and allow the opposite leg to float into the air.   And then (you guessed it) close your eyes. How long do you last before you have to put the foot down?  

There you have it…December is the month of finding balance at The Pilates Studio.  Be sure to practice these four exercises this week, because next week, the balance challenge will surely progress, and soon the entire community at The Pilates Studio will be ready for the holidays and the impending winter.  The ice and snow will be no match for our calm bodies.  We will be able to enjoy the festivities of the season with the fearlessness of a perfectly balanced body.

Happy Holidays
Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day at The Pilates Studio

For me Veteran’s day has always been about honoring my dad.  He was an air force pilot.   My childhood was filled with stories that led to life lessons. They were real life parables if you will.  From these stories I learned to be honest when you make a mistake., that it’s always better to stand up for yourself, and as long as you are working hard and honestly things will be okay.  In high school I commandeered the hat from his flight uniform because I thought it was fashionable.  I grew up knowing that my dad was a pilot and I thought that was awesome!

When I was 17 my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Which brings me to the reason that I’m writing about my dad on the Pilates Studio’s blog…Throughout my entire adult life I have watched a horrible disease rob my dad of his strength and agility.  I have also witnessed the strength in his spirit, which persists in spite of his failing nervous system.  I have watched him work in physical therapy to maintain as much activity as he can.  This past month my parents came to stay with me for a few weeks.   I live on the second floor of a two family house, and it is an understatement to say that my   My couch is an old futon that can make the simple act of standing and sitting much less simple.   At one point during the visit, I was trying to help my dad turn around so that he could sit on the couch.  I had gone into professional cueing mode…”shift your weight to the right foot, let that foot root into the ground so that we can move the left, now shift your weight to the left foot…” My dad simply paused and said sweetly, “Shall we dance…” 
house was a challenge for my dad.

On another day I was trying to help my dad stand up.  This requires two hands and a good understanding of counterbalance.  I plant my feet and send my weight to the back of my body so that I can help dad stand…neither one of us thought to consider that I have wooden floors and that my dad was wearing socks.  The result was my dad and I finding the perfect point of counterbalance.  We were both holding hands with our toes touching, each of us in a squat with 90 degrees at the knees.  The only problem was that we were so perfectly counter balanced that we were no longer moving up or down.  We were still like statues.  I believe we both realized the problem at the same time because we caught each other’s eye and burst out laughing.  And then had to call my mom for help because well we couldn’t move. 

It just so happened during their visit a past roommate of mine visited, and we were able to reminisce about a previous visit of my parents which included installing a dryer tube.  The process which included my dad using his own skills in counterbalance to hang Nancy out the window by her ankle.  By the time I got home from work, it was all a funny story to which I could only say, “Nancy, he’s not too steady…”   

With all of these stories, I want to show the spirit of my dad…His life is hard, harder than a lot of people but he still finds time to laugh and be jolly.  He also understands to importance of movement.  Below you’ll find a video of my neighbor and I (it takes a village) moving with my dad.  Recently he has been doing Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, and we had a blast doing “The Bigs”

The lesson here: No matter what life throws at you keep moving!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A – PMA ® CPT
Director of instruction at The Pilates Studio

Floyd Hawley (My dad) wrote the following:

The Shaky Monkey

I have this nemesis I’ve acquired.
He’s every where I go
He tries to help me with my life
But he is very slow

He tries to help with morning chores
It’s sometimes quite un-nerving
Ten years he’s always done his best
It isn’t too disturbing

He travels with me everywhere
To points throughout the nation.
And many people never see
His disturbing vibrations

Sometimes I wish he’d go away
But that is just a whim
He’d never make it on his own
He’d probably take me with him

“It could be worse” I tell myself
I am well medicated
I can still accomplish things
If I stay dedicated

My monkey doesn’t drink or smoke
He’s not a party hack
Some would conclude he’s not much trouble
But he’s always on my back.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pilates is for everyone: The Story of Maggie Baumer

Okay!  I admit it!  Due to an intensely busy summer and fall…Did you hear that The Pilates Studio expanded?  Did you hear that I’m also teaching a Polestar Pilates comprehensive teacher training in Burlington?  Oh yeah, and my parents have been visiting for two weeks.  SOOO….This blog has had a little bit of a hiatus, but my friends, I am back, and I have a story for you!

Pilates is for everyone.  I’ve written about this before. Considering that this is the blog for The Pilates Studio, you might say, “Of course you think that Pilates is for everyone”…Yes I have a bias, but my bias is so strong because I am constantly reminded how adaptable the Pilates apparatus can be, and how this method let’s me hear the stories of some very amazing people.  The brilliance of the Pilates Apparatus system and method emerged again when I worked with Maggie Baumer.   

Maggie is a sweet soul with a huge smile.  Recently she finished law school.  She loves to run, and she has momentarily moved back to the valley.  She just wrote this blog post to tell her story.  When you read it, you will feel the vibrance coming from a bright young woman who is looking at the world and seeing the beauty that is there…One more thing.  Maggie Baumer lost her left hand last fall.

When I worked with Maggie we talked about shoulder tension, we talked about phantom limb pain, and Maggie did an elbow plank that showed me just how fiercely strong she is.   However, as Maggie and I worked together something became apparent to me…Maggie’s arm was fine.  She was adapting in ways that made me want to look at brain scans to see how many extra neurons she had developed…(Yes I’m still that nerdy) Maggie did not need me to help her move her shoulder…Maggie needed what everyone else needs.  Maggie needed hip strength to protect her knees when running.  Maggie needed to learn to breathe into the back of her ribcage.  Maggie needed efficient movement in her shoulder girdle.  Maggie needed Pilates, and luckily the adaptability of the pilates apparatus allowed us to create successful, awesome movement.

We worked on her breath to widen the back of her ribcage. 

We found a way to increase her shoulder stability

We worked on axial length during hip abduction

We found a way to do the hundred (That’s right of course we did!)

Really what we did was move…move, and move some more.  When I met Maggie last summer, I was impressed by the poised brilliance emanating from a woman that suffered a tragic accident.  I look forward to watching Maggie change the world, and after watching her move, I can’t imagine that she won’t!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® - CPT

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yoga vs Pilates “Controversy?”

A week ago a client came into the studio outraged.  She had read a New York Times blogpost that said that Yoga made you stronger than Pilates…I smiled and told her that it was okay because we knew the truth.  I didn’t seek out the article.  I’ve read enough articles that compare Pilates to Yoga, and in general I find that the authors are looking at the practices from the outside, passing judgment without all of the information (Seriously type Pilates vs Yoga into your favorite search engine and see the litany.)

The next day a few more clients mentioned the article, and I still found myself uninterested in finding it.  Then a client with quite an appreciation for the satiric happenings of the world (which is why we get along so well) came in and said, “You are a part of a HUGE controversy,” He had a grin on his face and I immediately knew what he was referring to.

I said, “I’ve already heard about the article.” 

“It’s not the article that is interesting it’s the comments.”

I immediately remembered a course I took from Tom Myers.  This course was intended to teach yoga and pilates instructors myofascial anatomy.  At one point we were discussing the “very controversial” shoulder blades, and it became an all out argument between 40 yoga and pilates instructors.  It was Pilates vs Yoga and the question was “Where should the shoulder blades be in downward facing dog?” Opinions differed and passions flew. People were behaving as if the “correct” placement of the shoulder blades would literally save the world from utter destruction.  There were some of us on the sidelines that did not participate in the argument.  I think that we really just wanted to get back to the fascial connections between the rhomboids and the serratus anterior.  I remember at one point leaning over to my friend and whispering, “Can’t we all just get along…”

As I was reminiscing I decided that I had to see some of these comments even if it was for the mere entertainment of Yoga Instructors arguing with Pilates Instructors. I’ve always wondered why we do that.  I can almost envision the SNL sketch now.  The next day I searched for the article and I found several links but each one led me to a blank web page that said article unavailable check back later.  I thought to myself, “Did a ridiculous article comparing Yoga to Pilates create so much web traffic that it brought down the servers at The New York Times…Now that would be funny!”  Wouldn’t Tina Fey make a great Pilates Instructor for a shoulder blade smack down?

But alas today, I searched for the article again and it popped up.  I finally got to read the article that has infuriated so many of my clients.  And as I suspected the article was short on information, and quite inaccurate at least on the Pilates End…And as my client said there were a lot of comments.  It took me an hour to read them all.  What can be learned from this…People that teach Pilates and Yoga are passionate about their work and an ill informed, poorly written article will bring everyone out of the woodwork to take down the servers of the New York Times  (Okay I don’t know that that was the reason that I couldn’t find the article originally, but it makes me smile to think that it was.)

But then I read my favorite comment, which came from Brent Anderson founder and president of Polestar Pilates Education.

“There is now ample research that is evidence based for both yoga and Pilates that support mind-body work as a valid intervention for cancer, pre-postpartum, balance dysfunctions, neurological impairments, orthopedic injuries, post-surgical, geriatric, performance enhancement and much more. Over the past 25 years we have been collaborating with researchers of movement from around the world to discover what it is that makes these mind-body works so different from traditional exercise and rehabilitation. 

This article talked about strengthening the core and large muscles. The reality is that this is a very Western approach to movement. Those of us that practice Yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonic, and Tai Chi find something much greater than just strength in muscles. The majority of research shows that strength and flexibility have weak correlations with functional improvement.
What does seem to make a significant difference is the change in perception of one’s ability to have successful movement experiences. When these practices, any of them, are taught correctly they shift the individual's paradigm of how they see themselves. It is an alignment process. It is great that strength and flexibility are natural side effects of these practices, but should not be the primary focus. What the next article should focus on are the similarities that exist between these movement forms and what makes a great teacher of mind-body movement.


Brent Anderson PhD, PT

At the beginning of the month I got to witness Brent Anderson teach a Pilates Mat class to Pilates Instructors and Special Olympians at The Polestar Life Conference in San Diego… The Special
Getting ready for the mat class
Olympic Athletes were paired with Pilates Instructors, and I can’t tell you when I’ve been more touched by moving with people…It was truly a special night.  Yoga is movement, Pilates is movement, and movement is magic…Can’t we all just get along!?!

Notice I didn’t post a link to the blogpost…Don’t read it, just go move!

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A, PMA®-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pilates and Rowing

About four years ago, I took a two-week “Learn to Row” course with Northampton Community Rowing.  I loved the pristine water in the morning, learning the biomechanics of rowing, and feeling the boat move through the water as my eight companions and I synchronized our strokes…These were all parts of this two week course that I loved.  Only one thing kept me from repeating it, and that was the fact that leaving my house at 5:30 am everyday for two weeks was just too much. I’ve always said that I am a bad teacher before 8 am, and well it turns out I’m not the greatest student either.  And so after two weeks I chose sleep, and with that my rowing career ended.  At least that is what I thought.
Notice the posture

Fast forward quite a few years, I am still teaching Pilates, and a client enters the studio for her first session.  She rows.  It is her passion.  It is her life.  This client ROWS!  The only trouble is that after an accident, rowing now causes pain and she can’t do what she loves.  She asked me, “Do you think I will ever be able to row again?”  I said, “Let’s see what we can do.”

Pilates retrains the body, Pilates creates functional strength, and Pilates returns people to the activities they love.  So yes, to end the suspense, I will say that I am positive that my client will row again!  We have worked with many aspects of the rowing stroke. We have broken it down and retrained her body in foreign environments and we are now just beginning to put the stroke back together again in a familiar environment.  First of all, I must give credit to Polestar Pilates for sharing this idea with the world.  To create functional strength you change movement patterns in a foreign environment (whether it be the relationship to gravity or the point at which resistance or assistance is given) and then take these new movement patterns into the familiar and begin to integrate the new patterns into functional movement.  This has always been a very effective way to work with knee or back pain, but this is my first attempt at reconstructing the rower’s stroke.

First, we changed the body’s relationship to gravity.  We started in a supine position and worked with joint disassociation (moving the legs and the arms without moving the pelvis or the spine), Then we took these movement patterns into a familiar relationship to gravity, and this is where the fun began.  I love teaching the many classic Pilates exercises, but my favorite part of the session is when we look at the equipment and use the pilates principles to make stuff up!  The following video is how my client and I turned the reformer combo table into an erg rowing machine…No this new exercise does not incorporate the power of the erg, but it does simulate the biomechanics.  And it certainly challenges that balance. 

I hope you enjoyed it!  I love this kind of problem solving!  It’s the best part.  My client is up to 10 minutes on the erg.  I am positive she will be in the water soon!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA®-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Practicing the Spins with Pilates: Facilitating Arthrokinematics to Create Movement Efficiency

The other day I was working with a client whose pelvis has a tendency towards an anterior tilt. During the session we were looking at hip flexion when she was supine (on her back), and I was teaching my client to facilitate the spins of the femur to create efficient hip flexion.  Say what???  The femur spins???  Why yes it does, in fact it also glides! When the hip flexes (thigh moves closer to torso) the femur bone spins out and glides back, and when the hip extends (Thigh moves away from the torso) the femur bone spins in and glides forward.  These are not the muscular actions of external or internal rotation of the hip, this is the way the femur bone moves in the hip socket during hip flexion and extension.  After completing this simple exercise, I asked my client to walk around the room. She seemed baffled because she knew something was different, but she couldn’t tell me what had changed.  Walking just seemed easier.

Here is a video of the exercise we started with.  The yoga belt is facilitating the spins of the thigh.

The previous video is showing the The Thigh Lift if you are practicing the Bartenieff Fundamentals, or The Dead Bug if you are practicing Pilates (The same idea in two different theories = important idea) This exercise is about moving the femur into hip flexion with as much ease as possible.   It is the basis of forward movement in gait, and if it is done efficiently in all relationships to gravity, then the knees, hips and low back will be happy campers.  This movement can be elusive in many bodies because of muscular imbalances in the pelvis. Together my client and I discovered that the yoga belt could help facilitate the movement.       

Due to the success of this simple exercise, I heard myself say, “What if we tried this?”

When I am teaching movement, “What if we tried this?” is the precursor to the most interesting solutions, and whenever I hear myself say it, I get just a little excited.  I feel the synapses connecting in my brain as information that may or may not be relevant is brought forth for consideration.  It’s during these moments between student and teacher that theories and avenues of study are synthesized into the present. It’s here that I realize no matter how many times I teach a particular exercise there will always be more ideas to investigate. 

We added the yoga belt to the Standing Leg Pump:

Then we added the yoga belt to the Scooter:

Then we added the yoga belt to the Side Splits:

At the end of the session, my client and I were flying high on the discoveries we made.  Using the yoga belt in all of these exercises allowed my client to find balance in the pelvis.  She felt release in both the front of the pelvis and low back.  She felt more powerful in her gait, and she felt more secure in all of her movement. 

Each day at The Pilates Studio people are connecting to their bodies on a cellular level and making change through movement.  On the best days, one interesting moment turns into several as the teachers at The Pilates Studio allow a wealth of knowledge to be the basis for their intuition.  The Pilates Studio becomes a living laboratory of the learning process.  We are constantly gathering anecdotal data allowing the creative process to merge with science and biomechanical fact.  “What if we tried this?” constantly weaves its way into our conversations as does, “hmmm, now that was interesting.  What if we changed the relationship to gravity and tried again?”  and now, “What if we used a yoga belt?” has been added to the list of discoveries! Wow, I love my job!!!!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® -CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Science Underneath the Magic of Pilates: Explorations to come at the Polestar® Life International Conference

In anticipation of the Polestar® Life International Conference on August 1-3, Polestar Pilates released the following video.

It is the clearest depiction of how a well-designed pilates program can improve any life with the magic of movement.  Through an in depth understanding of movement theory and functional movement analysis, Polestar Pilates and its graduates are changing people’s lives.

But is that all we’re doing?  One of the things that I love about the Polestar Pilates philosophy is the understanding that teaching movement is more than just a robotic, industrial analysis of biomechanics and kinesiology.   You cannot isolate the movement of the elbow to functions of the bicep and the tricep. The complexity of movement alone accompanied with the emotional life and history of an individual makes every elbow in this world a little bit different, and Polestar Pilates not only recognizes this but also celebrates it. 

At the Polestar® Life International Conference, Polestar Pilates has partnered with Chopra to create a celebration around the complexity of movement and the diversity of life.  This conference will prove to be three life-changing days of discovery and practice, but for me there is something so much more exciting about this conference… 

It’s true I love practicing Pilates, and I love learning new exercises, and new ways to teach classes, but there is something that I love more.  I love the magic that happens when two people are present and collaborating with each other working towards a common goal.  I love the “aha” moment that happens when actual communication takes place.  The space where the messages passed are congruent. I love the seemingly magical time when together a client and I “try” something and as a result good things happen.  I am equally happy when my client asks me why it worked and I get to say, “I don’t know, but that was awesome.”  It is this part of teaching movement that is going to make the Polestar® Life International Conference spectacular, because at this conference together the presenters and attendees are going to explore the science underneath the magic.

In the following video one of the conference presenters Dr. Carol Davis speaks about the energy transferred between practitioner and client.  She says, “beyond technique…Healing is grounded in the energetic connections that we make with others.” She goes onto say that the fascial system is the conduit for this energetic connection.  (if you follow this blog, you know that Dr. Carol Davis had me at the word fascia)

Imagine a web of messaging connecting every cell of our body, and even more imagine this web connecting every nucleus of every cell. 

This idea makes two of Dr. Davis’s statements all the more powerful, “How we are with our patients impacts their feelings of hope and that has a direct expression on their genes.”


“We have an obligation to read and understand the effects of subtle energy on our cellular process and then to use that knowledge to help the body and mind heal itself”

Pilates is an energetic and collaborative practice, and at the Polestar® Life International Conference we are going to explore the potential of increasing hope and joy on a cellular level.  Check out this list of presentations:

Changing Our World from within: Joe’s simple formula to Health and Happiness

Chopra: Ayurveda and Mind/Body Types

From Practitioner Anxiety to Practitioner Potency: Polestar Pilates Through the One Life Model

The Pelvic Floor: to Contract or not to Contract

Moving Imagination

A Breath of Fresh Air: Pilates Breath in the Past, Present, and Future

Chopra: Ayurveda and Nutrition as Medicine

Work Smarter not Harder: How hard should Pilates really be?

Air Traffic Control

Voice and Mat Workshop

The Biology of Perception

Bridging Consciousness, Science, and Society
Chopra: Ayurveda Through Movement

Essence of Mindful Teaching: Discovering the Art and Soul of Communication – Purposeful, Compassionate Intention

The Miraculous Discoveries of Fascia and Movement: A Profound Look at the Extracellular Matrix

Join us in San Diego and make the world a better place!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A and PMA ® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pilates in the Park: Practicing Outside

Imagine this as the view for your side leg series
I took a deep breath, looked up at the sky, and watched the clouds pass by.  As I started the class I noticed my eyes darting quickly to see everything that I could see.  I was struck by the expansive view, and wondered if it correlated to what I perceived to be a never ending inhale. Then I exhaled and felt my body melt to the mat and through the mat to the earth.      A wondering popped into my mind. Was it possible that the incredible spacious sight of the trees and the sky was increasing inspiration? Could the breeze that I felt on my skin be communicating to my lungs?  Saying something like, “Woh man, now this is the good stuff! Take it all in!”

Every class starts with breath
Unfortunately, the scientific part of myself won’t let me proclaim with unwavering tenacity that practicing Pilates in the Park increases lung capacity (which is too bad, people would be coming to my classes in droves.) I can simply suggest that practicing Pilates in the Park is awesome!  Imagine lying on your back looking at a sky that is the crispest of blue. Think about feeling the breeze on your skin as you laterally flex your spine, or what it might be like to extend your spine to the view of a lake lined with beautiful trees.  Will it be more fun to challenge your balance with the vision of ducks taking flight? How many times have you taken a pilates class inside and the teacher says, “Imagine that the sun is shining down on your body.” What if you were taking a class and the sun was actually in reality shining down on your body?  I always say movement is magic…practicing movement outside is well…Better than magic.  Practicing movement outside clears your mind. For one hour instead of aches, pains, stress, or sadness, you will feel bright joy with a side of enormous strength and power.
And ends with balance

This has been the first week that The Pilates Studio has partnered with Look Memorial Park to offer Pilates in the Park.  Thanks to the Northampton Chamber for giving us the chance to connect with such a fabulous treasure in the Pioneer Valley and to Look Park’s new Executive Director Shawn Porter for offering us the opportunity to teach outside.  What a grand summer this will be!

Click Here for more information mat classes at Look Memorial Park!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® -CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio    

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Perception and Pilates: Part I

About two weeks ago, my buddy Jack (my business partner’s son) created an anatomy book.  It’s not too surprising to us how much this four year old knows about the body.  He has grown up at The Pilates Studio after all, and we are body people.  Seriously, Jack started Planking before it was an internet sensation, but this anatomy book has astounded us.  This anatomy book is the kind of artifact that his mom will keep forever. It’s both a work of art and a depiction of this young one’s perception of the body.  I was surprised by the accuracy of the drawings, and have spent the last two weeks thinking how did he know that?  And then I’ve been wondering, how can Jack’s perception of the body inform connections in my own?

For instance in this picture of Jack’s hand:

How did Jack know how many bones were in each finger and even more how did he understand what the joints of the hand look like?  Clearly Jack hadn’t taken an anatomy course, which is where I remember learning about such things.  When Laurie asked Jack how he knew how many bones were in his fingers he rolled his eyes the way only a four and a half year old can and said, “Mom, one, two three!” as he bent his fingers at the knuckles and pointed to each bone.   How could Laurie not know that there were three bones in each finger, “DUH,” was certainly implied. 

What can we learn from this?  What if we just observed our bodies?  What if we watched them like a four year old watches his body?  Would we know more profound things than those we learned in biology class? 

Here is Jack’s picture of the brain complete with brainstem:

Is our brain just a bunch of squiggles?  When I think about what I know about the brain and all of its connections, I think Jack’s drawing has some conceptual accuracy.  I imagine that the lines swirling around in this depiction of the brain are all of the electrical connections in the brain.  Synapses firing and sending signals…I wonder if Jack has combined what he sees and what he feels.  Without the corruption of knowledge can Jack feel the messages being passed in his body?  Could we if we tried?

And finally what can we learn from Jack’s picture of the Ribcage

If we think that size is a depiction of importance.  Jack’s intuition shows how important he thinks the ribcage is.  Jack has a huge heart, and I can imagine that he feels the world more than he thinks about the world. The ribcage must be protecting something important…This, of course, might be reading too much into a giant picture of the ribcage created by a four year old, but this is how my brain works. 
Looking at the body is one of my very favorite things, but even more winding my way through someone else’s mind wondering how they see the body is what makes me a teacher.  The perception we have of our bodies informs the perception of our movement, and stepping out of our own perception into that of someone else’s is the best way to expand our thoughts and understand those around us.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A PMA-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

You may have noticed that This blogpost is part I...Next week, to continue our "Perception and Pilates" series, I shall wind my way through the paintings of our very own Jennifer Sussman.  Her series is entitled invented body systems, and well  I can't wait to let the connections flow.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How my Anthropology Minor makes me a better Pilates Instructor

Many years ago, (I believe I was a sophomore in college) I took a course at Western Wyoming College entitled, “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology.”  To be honest, I am not sure why I signed up for the course.  At the time, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t even know the definition of the word Anthropology. 
But for whatever reason, I was registered for this course, and on the first day I went.  The professor Charlie Love, gave a lecture of which I remember little, but one thing he said stuck with me, “In your heart you know you are right.”  A very empowering statement until he went on to describe the conflict that occurs when what you know to be right in your heart is different than what another person knows to be right.  Is your heart any more correct than the other hearts?

And with this began a journey of this thing we call cultural anthropology…Deconstructing constructs and questioning everything…I soaked in all of the information that I could.  Every elective I took (I was a dance major after all) was related to anthropology in some way.  It was my interest and my passion, and at the end of four years I completed my degree, A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in Anthropology.  How’s that for practical????  But wait…It in fact was a very practical degree, but I couldn’t articulate why until recently. 

From there, my study of different cultures continued through the eyes of Laban Movement Analysis and of course I got a day job teaching Pilates. (A girl’s got to make a living)  But something happened in these formative years.  My worldview changed.  Without trying, I learned to see with some insight into the worldview of others.  I didn’t know this made me a better instructor, and honestly I hadn’t made many connections between Anthropological thought and effective teaching until this many years later when I took a Polestar Pilates continuing education course taught by Helen Masin of the University of Miami.

The course entitled, “Communication Skills for Pilates Teachers,” sounded fascinating, but I didn’t know that it was going to be like going home.  I didn’t know that I would be talking about mini ethnographies and worldviews.  I didn’t know that I would be learning about active listening and Neuro Linguistic Programming.  But most importantly, I didn’t know that I was going to be reminded of Edward T. Hall and the amazing qualitative research he did on nonverbal communication.  Of course this took me to my bookshelf, where I have all of his books!  There will be some revisiting happening soon!

As always after a course, I come to the studio with different eyes.  This week it was how am I adapting my worldview hour to hour…

How might a session with Avery, (check out the videos below,) be different than other sessions?           

In this picture my clients are experiencing MY worldview: We could save the world if we would just take care of our feet! 

The most important thing Helen Masin said, “Approach every interaction with curiosity.”  How exciting is that?  My curiosity is what gets me through the day!  Who knew?

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A – PMA® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Monday, April 22, 2013

Emphasizing the Good during a Tough Week

I’m sitting at my mom’s dining room table, thinking about how many blogposts I have written from this seat far away from The Pilates Studio.  I’ve actually reread them, and the wind in Wyoming has been a theme so far.  I wrote about the time that I nearly lost my arm and a car door to a gust of wind, and I even posted a video of a “breezy” day in Wyoming, and for those of you that might be interested in the Wyoming weather well this is what I woke up to this morning!

Yet below you'll see what the sky was like yesterday…

And well, that’s spring in Wyoming…

But this post is supposed to be about Pilates, it’s on The Pilates Studio’s blog afterall…Okay you’ve caught me, I’m at a loss for words.  The Pilates Studio is located in Western Massachusetts, and last week was a tough week for Massachusetts.  Yet it was a week that showed just how strong we are.  If the community at The Pilates Studio is any small microcosm of the people of Massachusetts, then we know how to offer support and pull together. 

I don’t know how many times clients asked each other,  “Is your family in Boston safe?” The greeting became, “Did you know anyone in the race?” or “What about your friends in Watertown?” There were so many hugs passed between friends this week at the studio and around the state as people kept a vigilant eye on the events that finally came to a head on Friday night.

Yet, the mood was not dour, at the studio, or in Massachusetts.  There was fear but resilience, caution but strength, seriousness but humor. I even read a blog post entitled, “The Problem with One Night Stands in Locked Down Boston,” and it was funny.  There were people pulling together to support each other in any way they could.  The Yankees even played, “Sweet Caroline” at their game, I’m sorry but that is the kind of thing that brings tears to my eyes and the stuff that great sports movies are made of! Last week was a tough week for Massachusetts, but last week the people of Massachusetts showed just how amazing they are…

So as I pause to look out my parent’s back door into their back yard where it is still snowing.  

I smile at the irony that I am vacationing in Wyoming in April where it is snowing.  And then I take a moment to send my thoughts to the lives lost and the lives forever changed, and finally I become grateful to the people of Massachusetts for showing me the good during a tough week.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA ®-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jamie Schoen comes to The Pilates Studio

Twelve years ago, I taught a contemporary dance technique class at Amherst Ballet. The class had maybe 8 or 9 teenagers in it, and I think back to that class and one student really stood out to me.  She was very present and engaged, quick with her wit, and wise beyond her years.  Her smile was warm and her laugh infectious.  After the semester ended, I didn’t see her for awhile.

Our next encounter was on the first floor of the studio building, which at the time was the home of Northstar: Self Directed Learning for Teens.  She had decided to leave high school and with the help of Northstar was creating her own education.  She even did an internship at the studio.  Once again in our conversations, I was amazed at the grounded, wise persona of this individual.  She talked with me about things that were going on in her life and even as a teenager
she showed an intuitive nature that had compassion and empathy for everyone.

After this, my contact with this now beautiful young adult was very minimal.  Basically, once in awhile I saw her at Esselon (because I am there a lot), and we would catch up.  She went to Argentina to teach English for six months, she trained to be a Pilates Instructor, She started going to Gcc, then she was at Umass.  I honestly don’t have any idea what the chronological order of these events turned out to be, these are just my memories of passing conversations.
Then about six weeks ago, she came to The Pilates Studio, and I said, “Hey Jamie what’s up?”  And the rest is history.  Jamie needed a place to teach pilates, and Laurie and I jumped at the chance to add such a wonderful energy to our space! So welcome to Jamie Schoen, we’re so excited to have you!
The lovely Winnie

Jamie is currently at Umass working her way through the prerequisites to PT school.  She is taking Physics this semester, and in between clients you might see her studiously working on her laptop.  You might see her walking her dog on the bike path, and you might just be lucky enough to see one of her infectious smiles.  She is teaching a Pilates Plus mat class on Tuesdays at 1, and she has two reformer classes on Sunday.  Read the rest of her biography here, and be sure to say hi to Jamie at The Pilates Studio.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio    

Saturday, April 6, 2013

#PCWM and the Business of Pilates

What is PCWM you ask?  Well that my friends is an acronym for Podcamp Western Massachusetts, which then translates into group of people gathering to learn more about this thing we call social media…Okay from the outside that might be what Podcamp looks like.   From the inside Podcamp is a day where energy builds on energy, where friendships are made instantaneously, where you learn about social media as a marketing tool, and where you brainstorm with like minds about how to make things better!  Most importantly, Podcamp is a day that permanently debunks the myth that social media is causing the world to be increasingly disconnected.

The spontaneity of the day was something special.  The schedule was comprised of sticky notes on a wall that were shifted as needs were met.  When I first saw the giant sticky notes I knew I was surrounded by creative genius.   Why?  Because everyone knows that all of the best ideas are at first written on sticky notes, of course.

My first seminar by Thom Fox was entitled, “Transforming Online Connections into Offline Relationships” There were so many nuggets in this very short 45 minutes…For instance Thom listed some best practices like:

Promoting other people is the most important part of social media!  With that in mind I’d like to give a shout out to my new and old friends from Podcamp.  Check out the links to learn about many amazing people.

Doug Merrill of

Every person at this event made as many if not more connections, and I am positive that these connections will make the world a better place.

Thom ended his presentation with this quote, “They say it takes a village to raise a child, I say it takes a village to sustain an economy.”  And to that I say, “Well said Thom Fox!”

I left this session high as a kite…Okay not literally, Let’s say I left this session really caffeinated and ready to roll.  I ran (or waded through the sea of excited people) to the sticky note schedule, and the number of presentations had multiplied.  There were so many more to choose from.  I found that the presentation I had planned to take had been moved to a different location (The Sticky note was unstuck and restuck underneath a different room’s column). 

I decided to take “Are Introverts or Extraverts better at social media networking.” presented by Val Nelson.  I have known Val for a couple of years, and in fact it was her suggestion that got me to podcamp in the first place.  I was certainly curious about this topic.  I am an introvert, which does not mean that I am shy, or that I don’t like people (Wow would I be in the wrong business).  It means that at the end of the day, I need a little time with my thoughts to recharge.  But does being an introvert mean that I am better at social media networking than those that recharge by spending time with people?? That was the curiosity that sent me to Val Nelson’s session.

Before the session started, I was still riding the caffeine-underscored energy of being around all sorts of like-minded people.  I was chatting with Jeff Rock of Swiftriver Coaching.  I had just learned about QR codes and texted Laurie Johnson that QR codes could be a way to market our business, and as always she texted back to me that she was just talking to her brother in law about QR codes (It is amazing how often this kind of thing happens with us).  I then took the time to send her this video, which made Jeff Rock literally laugh out loud! 

Then I took a breath, looked at the time, and realized that it was nine minutes until the next session.  Clearly I needed every minute of that time to get to the next space for Val’s session, so I entered the elevator and it closed upon the chaotic fabulous scene of the third floor of podcamp.  I rode the elevator two floors and the doors opened upon my destination, where about thirty people were sitting almost completely silent waiting for Val’s session.  Now that is juxtaposition!  .

 The illustration between the different energy sources at both ends of my elevator ride was illustrated by Val Nelson’s session.  Are introverts or extraverts better networkers?  The conclusion we came to was that introverts and extraverts network differently, and dabbling in both kinds of energies is beneficial.  We also discussed the possibility that while there may be a slight extrovert bias in in-person networking situations, social media may just be leveling the playing field.  I also learned that I must go and buy the book Quiet by Susan Cain.  Thank you Val!
Jeff Rock was equally jazzed by this event

Next, I entered a session entitled, “BodyTalk,” in which Paul Bogush explored non-verbal communication with us.   His energy exuded real expertise and excitement about the subject.  I knew I was in the presence of another movement geek!!!! Oh what a great day this was! There were two stand out things about Paul’s session.  First, he gave us all a tic tac, told us to place it on our tongue and then asked us to count from 1 -10.  In my mind, I started counting and felt the distorted words change to louder, clearer numbers. I felt my shoulders widen and my neck lengthen, and my spine grow.  Of course the neurons in my head started popping and synthesizing like mad.  This simple exercise illustrated Polestar Pilates Axial Elongation and Core Control, and then my mind almost exploded when I remembered that Tom Myers Deep Front Line ended at the tongue!  Who knew that a tic tac could be so powerful?  Just wait until I give you a tic tac at The Pilates Studio.

The second take away from Paul’s session:  Paul is a middle school social studies teacher, and my heart is so happy knowing that hundreds maybe thousands of kids will be touched by such an empowering, caring teacher.  I sigh with relief every time I think of it!

I ended the day in a session with Jennifer Williams who has done extensive research on the Psychological Profiles of the different social media platforms.  Jennifer’s brilliance is her ability to research so many ideas and then present them in a succinct and tangible way!  She did all of the research so that we as business owners who are working too hard already don’t need to.  For this I am grateful!

With that I give you Jennifer’s most powerful slide,

Facebook – Who am I
Twitter – Who am I right now
Pinterest – Who do I want to be
Instagram -  How do I express myself
Google + - What do I think

With this in mind, we are already deciding how to strategize what we post to different platforms.

Finally I shall share the most important thing podcamp changed,  I no longer run around saying that Twitter is destroying the English language.  I get it now! Feel free to follow me @katrinahawley

Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio