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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Skillful Teaching - Chantill Lopez

*A Special Invitation: I would like to invite each of you to visit the website and join our community of teachers. Skillful Teaching is a project that promotes teaching mastery and leadership for movement arts teachers.

What you will find there:

Access to articles, teacher interviews and teaching resources.

Tune in and listen to Pilates For the People creator, Julie Schonfeld, in an insightful interview on teaching!! You don’t want to miss this!

Access to monthly tele-classes with guest experts in teaching techniques, business, self-care, cutting edge neuroscience, awareness practices and more.

Access to special member-only discounts and invitations.

Opportunities to share your stories, ask questions and connect with other like-minded teachers.


I would like to extend a VERY SPECIAL invitation to you NOW!

Join us on February 1-5, 2012, in Santa Cruz, CA

For the ONLY ONE of it’s kind…

Exclusively for movement arts teachers…


Get More Information Here (
Plus access to payment plans and an additional $100 off registration before Jan. 3rd!!

Honoring Your Teachers, Honoring Yourself

As the year closes, and our attention moves toward reflection, we have an opportunity to appreciate all that we’ve accomplished and waded through. When you are a teacher, this seems like a whirlwind of ups and downs, wins and losses, sweet moments of connection and terrifying moments of not knowing.

It is also an opportunity to pay special homage to our own teachers -- those who gave us knowledge and helped us reach understanding -- as well as those who worked alongside us to make our studios and businesses balanced and fruitful.

One of the greatest acts of generosity we can take part in is simply acknowledging both those teachers who have come before us, who set the stage for our work, and those teachers who currently stand side by side with us to bring healthier movement and joy to the larger community.

In the final days of 2011, here are some heartfelt, simple and potent acts you can take part in to cultivate gratitude and therefore continued prosperity in the New Year.

Acknowledge your teachers:

Grab pen and paper, find a quiet place, and close your eyes. Think back to New Year’s last year. Begin to feel the sensation of being there, a new beginning, an ending, unfolding into the potential of 2011. Imagine where you were and who was around you. Start to see the place, feel it in your body, smell it. Notice the details until you feel like you were there again.

Start to notice who was there supporting you and teaching you. Name them, feel their presence, list the qualities and strengths that you admire. Remember what they taught you, why they were in your life and what kind of impact they had on you.

Continue to explore the year’s events and crucial moments, acknowledging each of the people who gave you something, whether it was ongoing guidance, a single piece of advice, or just being available when you needed it.

When you get to the end of the year, let all of these people and what they offered fill you up. Feel gratitude well up and be there with it.

Now, jot down who those people where, what they did, and how they helped you navigate the past year. Keep this somewhere you see often and see if you can let the feeling of support fill you up in those times when you are struggling.

*A Simple Gesture: If you are up to it, send each of these people a short note telling them how grateful you are for their support. An email or hand written note will do.

Acknowledge the teacher in you:

Much in the same fashion as above, take a quiet moment to reflect on the trials and tribulations of 2011, focusing particularly on how you were able to work with challenges and unexpected situations.

Let yourself feel what it was like in each of these instances. Try to put yourself back in the moment. As the experiences unfold, see how you were either wise in your actions and appreciate how you were able to make good choices, or notice how in retrospect you see how you could have done things differently.

See each event as an opportunity to appreciate your willingness to show up for your teaching path, for stepping up over and over again to see what is there. Rest in the knowledge that each moment brought you to a new place of understanding and growth.

This is the teacher in you. The part of you that is able to keep learning, growing and adapting.

*A Simple Gesture: Write a sweet love note to yourself appreciating all that you achieved and overcame in 2011. Focus on what made you feel stronger, more courageous and brought your joy. Write down the moments you felt truly in the flow. Put this note in your purse, bag or day-planner so you can be reminded often of your infinite potential to show up and keep cultivating the heartfelt teacher that you are.

Acknowledge your teachers (your staff):

There have never been truer words than those pointing us toward realizing our success is not solely dependent on us. Without every single person we encounter, our worlds, let alone our success, would not take shape.

The biggest folly, and ingratitude, you can take part in is to think the success of your work, your business, or your studio comes from you alone. If we hold this as an underlying belief even in a small way it inevitably sneaks into the product of our work.

So, start right now – and do it regularly – by telling your teachers who much their efforts are appreciated. And better yet, tell the world.

*A Simple Gesture: 3 Options –

1. In your monthly newsletter, write a little blurb about how awesome each of your teachers are. Tell your students who much they contribute to the success of the studio and note their achievements from the past year.

2. Give each teacher a note telling them how much you are grateful for their work in the studio. Congratulate them on their successes.

3. In a highly visible place in your studio post a note about each of the teachers with the same content from the first two.

Make it easy and honest. And don’t just wait till the end of the year, consider doing this as a regular practice. It will do amazing things for creating stronger, lasting relationships with your teachers and making your studio a place where they want to be more often.

I find that all of these practices connects me more deeply with my work and gives me inspiration for putting one foot in front of the other. It has also created a foundation for my business that I am extremely proud of.

As I told my bookkeeper the other day, how I know we are successful is that our students and teachers are proud to be a part of our studio, they tell the people they care most about to come to us, they tell us all the time how much they love being a part of the community and they show up happy and willingly. And financial success has followed. With values and generosity at our core, I know prosperity will always follow.

May you move into the New Year with a greater sense of gratitude for yourself, your mentors, and those who support you. May these simple things become a foundation for a prosperous 2012!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Etiquette - Have we forgotten it?

So this week I had an extremely heightened awareness of our society and the lack of etiquette we possess towards others. Okay, this isn't something I just figured out. I think for me as the years go by I just become a little bit more agitated by people and their self absorbed behavior.

When I was a preteen my mother decided it was a good idea to send me to etiquette/modeling school. I was indifferent about going. I just went and learned how to be a proper little lady. I knew my mother sent me out of concern that I might turn out to be a little rebel girl. Well, bless my mother for sending me because I turned out to be a little rebel girl with some great lady-like manners! HA!!! How is that for wacky! Stay with me though. Let's explore the concept.

The yoga studio I go to posted a link to an article about the 10 characters you might see in yoga class. about hysterical. I was number four, the "show off". The flexible girl with a dance background that does every movement with ease and wears a bun. C'est Moi!!! Some other characters were the freestyler, the grunter, the granola guy and my least favorite character.....the latecomer. Now this was a yoga article so you know that there was some of that "we should embrace people and their differences" stuff but come on now. Where do we really draw the line?

This week in yoga, a latecomer decided to plop their mat down right next to me. Turns out not only was she a latecomer but she was a pogo dancer. You know, the student that hops around on one leg throughout all the standing poses and then wants to huff and puff about her frustration because she can't balance. Seriously? Do I really need to embrace that? Is it really okay to be late to class, disrupt the "show off" chick next to you (mind you, I was 15 minutes early and paid the same amount of money just to find some zen from my own hectic life) and then jump around on your mat like a fish outta water?

For those of you that know me personally, my biggest pet peeve is the late with anything person. In my studio, late to class is a super big no-no. Not only do I believe that it is disrespectful to the teacher but I also believe that it is annoying to others participating in class. Most people are also not aware that you can get seriously injured when you walk in late, especially in Pilates. I really don't want to have that talk with a client about why short spine massage isn't the first move you should be doing because you were 20 minutes late to equipment class.

I don't know if any other studio owners have this problem or not but being late with payment for your Pilates services is a really crappy thing to do to your trainer and small business owner. You knew you were coming to your Pilates class today, you knew you had to pay, you made a conscious decision not to bring cash, a checkbook, a credit card and/or you just couldn't get around to paying online 24/7 either. Seriously? Do you not pay for your groceries, gas and salon purchases at the point of sale?

Today I decided to go to the movies to see a matinee of "Midnight in Paris". Totally awesome film! The beginning of the movie started off with the beautiful sites of Paris. Someday I will get there!! Boy did that send me off to dream land. Unfortunately, the couple a few rows behind me had a problem keeping their mouths shut and after clearing my throat and turning around several times I had to finally get up and move across the theater in order to get away from their talking. The Starbucks is across the street if you want to talk. Better yet, the movie will be out on DVD soon and you can watch it at home and talk all you want. That's just ignorant.

There is no Pilates story for the loud talking movie couple. My clients are good about controlling excessive talking during class. I hope you are too.

So here's my last beef on etiquette for this week. I was driving home from work today and was stopped at a red light. I was minding my own business waiting for the light to change and all of a sudden this honking starts behind me. I didn't pay much attention because I was just stopped at the light and wasn't doing anything wrong and then I realized all the fuse was being directed at me!?!? Turns out one of our thousands of disgruntled drivers wasn't pleased with me because he couldn't squeeze his Cadillac between me and the car behind me so I received the honking and flaying hand gestures just for being stopped at a traffic light?

I'm sorry mom. No amount of etiquette school will allow me to conduct myself properly when someone berates me for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I won't go into detail but the little rebel girls response to this behavior wasn't pretty.

Again, there's no Pilates story to go with the crazy driver. I just feel better letting it out on the blog.

I guess the purpose of today's post was to explore the fine line between being accepting of others while not being pushed around, bullied or having your own quality of life being disrupted. I loved the yoga article but at the same time it really got me thinking. Should we really accept people and their ignorant behavior? My manners and etiquette are always wanting to be accepting and open minded towards people but the rebel girl in me thinks that sometimes absurd people really deserve a rude awaking.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ron Fletcher - December 6, 2011

The world of Pilates has just lost one of our greatest Pilates elders, Ron Fletcher.

Let's all take a moment to reflect on all our teachers and mentors that keep the spirit of Joe and his work alive throughout the years. This is so important for our next generation of teachers.

If you have any stories you would like to share, please feel free to email them to

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Giving Thanks Comes In Funny Ways

Over the last month I have been reflecting how wonderful the vibe has been at the studio. All the new and old clients are meshing into one heck of a great group of individuals. I too have generally become a happier and less stressful person. I have made firm decisions to stick to business boundaries and allow myself the down time I never thought I deserved or could afford to take.

On Black Friday I decided to run a discount over my website on services. A thank you to the clients for their patronage. Who doesn't love a deal? They're going to come back anyway. Well, I found that many of the regulars didn't care about the silly deal and would rather pay full price. One client said she just didn't feel like doing the math and would rather write out the usual check. How funny is that? I do have a calculator. I tried to thank them but instead they ended up thanking me.

This evening a newbie and veteran client were chatting it up in the reformer room before class. You know the usual conversation. How long have you been doing this? etc. etc. Just as I walked into the room I overhead my longtime client talking about me, "She is reaaalllly good." Talk about a great testimonial. I love it when my old clients encourage, support and welcome new students.

Today I give thanks to all my old clients who have created a great studio through their patronage and dedication and to all the new clients whom I hope will continue their practice with us.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Awesome New Website - Skillful Teaching

Some of you may already know our guest blogger Chantill Lopez. Her articles have been so insightful and her posts have been a wonderful contribution to the Pilates for the People blog.

I am pleased to inform you that she has just launched her new website called Skillful Teaching and it is a fantastic resource for everyone.

One of my absolute favorite elements is the recorded interviews with different trainers. What a great way to learn and grow our teaching practices.

Thanks so much Chantill!

Skillful Teaching

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Joe Quote

"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier." - Joseph Hubertus Pilates

Friday, October 21, 2011

What do you wish you learned in teacher training?

A few posts back there was a wonderful article by Beth Montanez titled "Uncertified" which discusses her viewpoint about the Pilates industry and the numerous unqualified trainers that are out there in the world teaching who knows what to clients. You know that sparked some comments! With all the numerous training programs out there and the newbie teachers being released into the wild, it is important to remember that the initial training program is just the tip of the iceberg on a path to being a successful teacher.

So today I propose the question.....What do you wish you learned in teacher training? What skills didn't they teach you that would have made your transition from student to trainer easier?

I find that after 13 years I am always learning and growing as a trainer, business owner and a person by sharing ideas with others. I think we grow as people by making healthy connections with others in our industry.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Heath Benefits of Pilates for the Elderly by Leslie Johnson

While Pilates exercises are a way for anyone of any age to strengthen their core and increase flexibility, it's particularly beneficial for those that are in their golden years. This is because Pilates can help alleviate the complications that are associated with old age, such as a loss in balance and flexibility; it can even help relive arthritis pain and inflammation without the use of heavy weights or exercising machines, which may add extra strain on the joints and muscles. With that said, below are some mild warm-up Pilates moves that senior citizens can do at home, gym or senior center.

Disclaimer: While it is proven that Pilates can provide many health benefits for senior citizens, it's best to discuss your new Pilates regime with your physician to makes sure that this form of exercise is ideal for your particular case.

#1 One-Leg Stance

This basic move while simple in instruction is great for strengthening your core and improving your balance.

Position: All one simply needs to do stand in an upright position, ensuring that the shoulders are back, the pelvis is in equal alignment, and abdominal muscles are squeezed. Keep arms relaxed at the sides of the body as weight is distributed evenly.

Action: While making sure that one is looking directly straight ahead, lift leg in front at a 90 degree angle and inhale. You should feel the air elongate through your spine. Place your hands on your hip bone and squeeze your gluts for added balance. Hold the stance for 5 seconds and then switch legs. If lifting your knee forward is too painful try lifting it at a 90 degree angle backwards instead. Use a mirror as a guide if you desire.

#2 Toe-and-Heel Rock

This move is designed to improve one's flexibility by encouraging blood flow to achy feet and legs.

Position: Like with the one led-stance, stand tall ensuring that your shoulders are back and that you weight is evenly distributed—your feet should be under your hips.
Action: Placing the weight on the balls of your feet, rock up and then slowly come back down on your heels. Constantly work to keep your body tall and straight, concentrating on only moving your feet and ankles. Place your hands on your hip bone for more support or use the wall. Continue to rock your feet and ankles for about 20 repetitions, or until you feel a warming sensation in your legs.

#3 Imprinted Spine

This last move is designed to help alleviate one of the main problematic areas of arthritis: the spine.

Position: Using a mat or firm pad, lie on the floor and raise your knees, arm should be by your sides. Your feet should be flat on the ground and hip-length apart. Carefully start concentrating on your breathing and squeeze your abdominals. As you exhale move your pelvis into a slight "tuck," lightly pressing your lower back into the mat. In hale and return to the normal position. Repeat this move about 5 times.
If the moves listed above still seem too strenuous, seniors can opt to participate in a less intense workout regime called "Chair Pilates." To get a better visual idea of how it works, parts one and two of the Stronger Seniors tutorial series are perfect examples of light Pilate moves senior citizens can do while in the comfort of a sturdy chair.

And remember, while one can in fact learn Pilates through a series of articles, books and instructional videos, seniors should definitely consider enrolling in a Pilates class with their peers at a senior center, Pilate's studios, gyms or YMCAs. Here, professionals will be able to make sure that you are doing the moves correctly. If an age-appropriate class does not exist, a beginner's class should suffice; just request that instructors make modifications to meet your needs.

Author Bio:
This guest post is contributed by Leslie Johnson, who writes about health, green living, parenting related articles at masters in health administration.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Giver’s Gain – How generosity creates a lasting foundation for our teaching By Chantill Lopez

“You’re blowing my mind right now,” is not what you would expect to hear from someone attending an in-service on how to give an introductory session. We had gone over the format, variations and suggestions, and reviewed the relevant paperwork, but the student teachers wanted to know how they were going to navigate real-life scenarios. What were they to do when faced with integrating and retaining a client? What did it mean to be the expert? And what did generosity have to do with making a recommendation? What was the outcome they were looking for? They hadn’t thought much beyond the ins and outs of teaching the exercises, of being the technician, and naturally so.

We don’t talk much about the elements of creating relationships, building trust or holding to a larger vision – especially at the offset. There’s too much else to do and to learn. We shield our new teachers from overly complex relationship skills and tools because we don’t want them to be overwhelmed. To their detriment we assume that these things are inherent or out of our scope of practice. But nothing could be more within our scope. We are in the business of building relationships and lasting ones are made on a foundation of giving.

The Why, What For and For Whom – Clarity of Purpose

Why do you teach?
Why do you ask someone to do Pilates? Is it for you or for them or because you need to pay the rent? Maybe it’s all of these – sometimes it is, but what lies beneath?

Teaching, as lasting and meaningful work, is primarily an act of service. When we are truly invested in what’s best for our students, our teachers and all of those involved in making our work possible then teaching is a vehicle not only for generosity but for contributing to the bigger picture. Teaching as service puts us immediately in a generous state of mind. We own a studio not just because it serves our ego or is an expression of our entrepreneurial urges, but because our work is truly about making someone’s life better.

“Never stop inspiring others and contributing to the world,” writes Michael Carroll, in his book The Mindful Leader. As one of the 30 reminders for creating truly meaningful work and leadership, Carroll speaks directly to our underlying purpose. If we are committed to contributing and inspiring we are guided by what’s best for the whole not just ourselves.

In the goings on of our daily routine we are faced with any number of opportunities to be thoughtful and adhere to our greater commitment. In the Pilates studio we make endless decisions about what exercises to use, what kind of program to recommend, what teacher to recommend, what we’ll charge, what our policies will be and other logistics that either line up with that objective or not.

Where do you stand? The good news is it’s pretty easy to tell. When we are blindly motivated by what will be best for us we feel bad – sometimes sooner than later – but it comes around in the end. We loose clients, we can’t keep teachers, our profits drop and worse we end up hating or feeling indifferent about what we do. If we are on track, at the very least we show up excited to offer our teaching. Inevitably this leads to a staff that feels supported and inspired, clients that can’t wait to come in and growing profits.

Generosity at work:

- You’ve just completed an introductory session and you see that the client would be best served coming in two times a week for 10 sessions, but you will be out of town for 2 weeks in the middle. You know they need consistency because staying motivated has been a challenge in the past. Instead of trying to make it work you help them set up their next appointment with a fellow teacher. (You’ve taken into consideration that the beginning is the most crucial and what you ultimately are driving people toward is being excited about Pilates and making a significant change in their lives.)

- You’ve just completed 10 sessions with a new client and they are progressing well. You know that finances are a concern, but you’ve also just lost a client and could really use to keep these private sessions. It wouldn’t be a detriment for them to do 10 more sessions, but you see they are excited to gain more strength and classes would allow them to come twice a week. You schedule them into a class that works for their schedule (with another teacher) and let them know you’ll check in with them in 2-3 weeks to see how they are progressing. (You, and your studio, are most committed to students practicing for the long run, not just as long as it benefits you.)

- You have a relatively new client who is consistently asking you to rearrange your sessions and come in on your days off. You have been flexible so far because you are building your practice and because you want them to stay. When they come in they are late. They are constantly comparing you to other teachers and questioning your decisions. You leave every session feeling bad. Other students and teachers notice the negativity this client contributes. You either recommend that the student try a different teacher who might better suit their schedule and needs or refer them to the studio down the street. (Generosity toward yourself should not be under-emphasized as a key aspect of your contribution! When you respect your own needs and boundaries those whom you lead will be inspired to do the same.)


1. Do you refer clients easily and readily to other teachers or other studios?

2. Are you willing to turn a student away if you see they need something other than Pilates? Or if you know you will not be able to serve them well (think conflict of character etc.)

3. Do you create goals and programs for your students that are truly what they need even if it takes them away from you directly?

4. If you’re a teacher in someone else’s studio or an employee are you willing to participate, support and contribute even when it’s not easy?

a. If not, why?

b. What motivates this decision?

*If you are not, perhaps this is the moment you look at the lack of generosity in the studio or employer. Are your underlying commitments being reinforced by where you’ve decided to teach?

5. Is service a part of your business model (this pertains to studio owners and individuals? Do you contribute your time or efforts to support a charity or cause?

Make a list of areas that you feel are in need of improvement. Begin to look at where you are not being generous and explore why. For instance, maybe finances are tight and you feel like you need to keep every student that walks in the door regardless of if they are the biggest jerk you’ve ever met. Perhaps you will do anything to get a student to sign up because you really need to make your rent this month. Start to peel back the layers and see what you’re afraid of. What’s the worst that could happen if you begin to respond rather than react and make decisions based on inspiring others and generosity? When you have clarity of purpose even your introductory sessions become a pivotal part of the larger, grander picture of generosity.

"If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives." Biddy Mason

Chantill Lopez has been writing and teaching since 1994. She has written for several weekly papers and magazines both fiction and non-fiction and is excited to merge her love of teaching Pilates with her love for the written word. Chantill is co-owner of Pilates Collective in Sebastopol, California and a Balanced Body faculty member. Chantill welcomes comments, questions and feedback.

Pilates Collective
Skillful Teaching

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Thanks to everyone that commented on the post. Interaction and input on all posts are the key to sharing and building an informed and educated Pilates community.

If you have an informative article that you would like to share please email it to for consideration.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jennifer Gianni's Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy

Win a copy of Jennifer Gianni's Pilates Fusion

Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy
Jennifer Gianni's Fusion Pilates is a four DVD pregnancy series designed to keep women strong both before, during and after pregnancy. The DVDs combine elements of light cardio and balancing poses mixed with pilates and yoga movements. Recently I had the pleasure of being asked to view the series and give my opinion.

DVD 1 Triple Threat: Get in shape before your pregnancy

The first DVD starts off with a great 10 minute explanation on how to properly engage your core and pelvic floor muscles in order to maintain proper form. The main workout contains a standing series consisting of light cardio and balancing movements and then moves to the floor series which goes into more classic Pilates exercises such as the side leg series, planks and frogs. This hour long DVD is a complete total body workout that tones, strengthens and stretches all muscles of the body.

DVD 2: Pilates for Pregnancy: Maintain strength and prepare for birth

The second DVD is the workout used during pregnancy. You will need a few props for this one which will include a pole or dowel, chair, small ball, weights, and a towel or blanket. One thing I absolutely love about this video, is the fact that there are three women that demonstrate all the exercises ranging from the first, second and third trimesters. All movements can be modified depending on how far along you are and Jennifer is superb at cuing these options. Once again, the main workout consists of standing and floor work using small props to challenge and work all muscles.

DVD 3: Post Pregnancy & C-Section Recovery: Get your pre-pregnant body back

This post pregnancy DVD has some great tips on gentle movements that can be done so you can keep moving after delivery. Jennifer is once again extremely thorough about modifications depending on your type of delivery so women can stay safe while they recover. For the main workout you will need a dowel, stool and light weights. Like the other DVDs, the main workout starts with a standing dance warm-up and then moves to floor work for core strengthening work.

DVD 4: Exercise with Baby: Bond with your newborn and stay in shape

This final shorter fusion DVD goes into movements that are done while bonding with your child. As with the other DVDs, there is a standing series and floor work that is done with your baby.

One of the great things I love about each of these DVDs is that they are a complete and total hour long workout (with the exception of DVD 4). I would highly recommend this series to any woman looking to stay in shape before, during and after pregnancy as it is extremely thorough and well done. The combination of light cardio, pilates and yoga gives a wonderful mind body fusion workout. I believe that there is no other DVD pregnancy series out there that compares to this. This is a must have to any woman looking to stay fit and safe during pregnancy!

Win a copy of Jennifer Gianni's Pilates Fusion DVD Series for Pregnancy!!
Comment below on the importance of exercise and pregnancy in order to win!

Winner will be drawn randomly from all readers who comment on this post.
Contest ends July 11th.
Winner will be announced on the blog July 12th.
Winner must submit US shipping address to
Winner should allow 2–3 weeks for prize to arrive by USPS.
US only.
Prizes are supplied by Fusion Pilates.

Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pilates with Kids by Bridget Sandorford

Whether you want the kids in your pilates class to get out of the house or to improve focus in school, pilates has as many benefits for kids as it does adults. The trick, however, is getting kids interested in pilates. Here are three tips from Kim Carruthers, head of the studio Physical Perfection and founder of Pilates in the ‘Hood program for kids from underprivileged families.

1.Make it fun

Any school teacher will tell you that the hardest part of teaching is getting—and keeping—kids’ attention. With pilates, we can do this by making pilates fun and relatable. Try naming exercises after animals. In fact, let the kids name the exercises!

2.Everyone is different

Some kids will be able to touch their toes; others will not. Some will be able to stand one leg without wavering; others will not. Allow children to learn at their own pace and encourage them with praise and tips where appropriate. Let the children teach each other—this will build social skills as well as camaraderie and self-confidence.

3.Don’t make it about weight

Some children who are exposed to weight concerns from their parents, teachers, or other children can develop more tendencies to become disordered eaters in the future. Fitness and pilates shouldn’t be just about losing weight. Emphasize the other benefits of pilates: concentration, focus, posture, alignment, flexibility, and strength. Kids want to be strong like their favorite basketball player or flexible like their favorite dancer. Teach kids to use deep breathing and concentration techniques when stressed, such as before a test.

Bio: Aside from school and working part-time as an Assistant Chef, Bridget Sandorford is the resident Culinary Schools blogger where recently she’s been researching New Orleans culinary colleges as well as culinary colleges in Washington DC. Her passion for food and has followed her research into many different areas, such as fitness, organic foods, gardening, and cooking on a budget. She lives outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pilates and Pregnancy by Alexis Bonari

Pilates and Pregnancy

Pilates is a great way for many women to keep in shape by staying toned and flexible. However, with all the changes of pregnancy, some pregnant women may wonder if it's a safe exercise, given their special needs. Many pilates instructors and fitness experts agree that not only is pilates safe to practice during pregnancy, but it is actually one of the best exercises for pregnant women because it is low impact and adaptable.

Some Benefits

Exercise throughout pregnancy has many benefits, which are good for both the mother and the developing baby. Many studies show that women who exercised during pregnancy gave birth to children who were more likely to be leaner and suffer fewer health problems throughout their childhood.

Here are some of the benefits of practicing pilates during pregnancy:

Increases energy
Improves muscle tone and strength, which will make labor easier and speed recovery
Improves balance and align posture
Strengthens pelvic floor
Decreases back pain
Helps regulate hormones, especially stress hormones
Stabilizes mood

Each woman will respond in different ways, but in general, practicing pilates will help improve overall well-being and fitness so that you can expect to have an easier delivery and a faster recovery after childbirth.

Modified Plan

Because of the changes that take place during pregnancy, a pilates practice will need to include some modifications to prevent the risk of injury.
Exercises that involve laying on the stomach or flat on the back should be avoided near the end of the first trimester and after. Laying on the stomach will put too much pressure on the increasing abdomen, and laying on the back can risk cutting off blood flow to the baby and the placenta. Exercises should be done seated, standing, on your knees, or lying on your side.

Avoid any jerky movements. Your body is changing and ligaments and tendons are moving, so any intense or sudden movements can cause injury or pain.

Do not do deep stretches. In pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released which allows for muscles, tendons, and ligaments to move and grow. Therefore, it may be more difficult to assess how far your body can safely stretch as it will be able to stretch farther than it normally could. You risk overstretching or pulling a muscle.
In general, if you feel any pain, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, or headache, you should stop what you're doing and rest.

Suggested Exercises

Though you should adopt a program that suits your individual needs, the following are exercises that are safe to try during pregnancy:

The Saw. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you spread slightly apart. Hold your arms out at your sides, parallel to the floor. Twist to the right and put your left hand on your right foot. Exhale as you stretch through your chest and inhale and you sit up, pulling your abs in. Repeat on the left side.

Spine Stretch
. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you spread slightly apart. Exhale, drawing in your abs and contracting your pelvic floor, then inhale and reach forward, extending the spine. Repeat.

Side Kick. Lie on your side with your head resting on your arm. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and move your top leg forward until your knee and foot are in line with your hip. Repeat and switch sides.

Hip and Thigh Opener. Lie on your side with your head resting on your arm. Keep both legs bent in front of you. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and lift the top leg as high as you can. Focus on your core and keep your hips steady. Repeat.

Finally, before you begin any exercise program during pregnancy, you should consult your doctor to make sure the program is safe for your specific circumstances. Be sure to visit a pilates instructor who has experience with pregnant women.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching leukemia scholarships. Whenever she gets some free time, she enjoys watching a funny movie or curling up with a good book.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Building a Business with Meaning by Chantill Lopez

“Then, work is not solely about meeting obligations of paying the bills and getting the job done; it is much more about being free – connecting fully with our virya [joyful vigor] and expressing this inherent enthusiasm in our workplace.” Michael Carroll, “The Mindful Leader”

The problem, said a friend indelicately, is that you are no longer the pie maker. You’re the shopkeeper, the manager, the boss. No time for making pies, you’ve got to worry about keeping the lights on.

What happens when we jump from teacher - inspired, happy and excited about our work - to business owner? How do we take what’s most important to us and infuse our business with it? If you know where to look it can be easy. If you can be honest and steadfast it can be truly powerful.

The first question you must ask is: Does, or will, my business reflect my deepest held values and commitments? More importantly, what are they?

Regardless whether we’ve worked in the corporate world, owned a business before or been teaching for 10 years, there is no way to know what lies in store for us. Any assurances we have come from understanding our purpose and ourselves. This requires not only reflection at the beginning, but constant self-inquiry as our business grows and changes.

Core Commitments

No doubt you have had people tell you that creating a vision and a mission for your business is crucial. True, it is, but how do you do that without clarity of your underlying beliefs? Likely you won’t create a vision that will withstand the trials of a changing business. I was introduced to the term core commitments from yoga and mindfulness teacher Sally Kempton. These types of commitments, she writes, are different because they “can withstand any amount of chaos and remain in place even when your external commitments are dissolving around you.” They are a reflection of your values, principles and intentions. Once ferreted, they coalesce into the earthquake-proof foundation of a value-driven business.

For example:

To build community
To always be ethical and honest
To be generous
To offer assistance when others are in need
To be creative and open to change
To be compassionate and facilitate compassion in others

Make them real – Write them down

At some point you must not only muse over these things, but also make them real and substantial. Make a list. Whether it’s at the top of your business plan or in a journal or on a piece of paper you post in your studio, you should be able to look to them often. It is more likely you will build your business around them if they are constantly in your attention. It is also likely that they will be reflected in all aspects of your business from your website, to your business cards, to how you hire your staff.

Questions to help you begin:

If you find it difficult to choose, consider some of these questions.

1.What inspires you?
2.What brings you the greatest joy in your work and in your life?
3.What things are you unwilling to compromise?
4.What qualities do you admire in others – your peers, family and mentors – or in other businesses?

You may also consider situations where you have found yourself compromised or going against what feels ethical or authentic. Explore the circumstances and see what you would do differently. Looking at our mistakes can be the most profound way of understanding what’s really important to us. Sometimes we don’t know until we’ve taken the wrong road.

When vision really matters

Now that you know what lies beneath, you can construct a clear and concise vision. If you own a studio with other teachers working for you, either as employees or independent contractors, creating a common vision as well as individual ones is very powerful. After all, it takes energy and dedication from everyone involved to make the endeavor truly successful.

You can create your vision from a classic business approach – future objectives and things to achieve - or from a more fluid and intuitive angle - sentiment, atmosphere and purpose. Which one you choose will depend on what feels right for you and your business. Either way, your vision should include many of the concepts you defined for yourself above and should inspire action and/or change. When someone comes into your business or experiences your services for the first time, what do you want them to take away? What impressions do you want to leave on your clients, employees and community?

Here are some examples of vision statements:

From my studio – To create a thriving, self-sustaining community of teachers and students, dedicated to excellence in the field of Pilates and mindful movement, through education and exploration.

Balanced Body - Balanced Body's vision is to bring together the very best in movement education. A symphony of voices, a community of sharing. A place where passion lives, creativity abounds and lifelong learning is who we are and what we do. A virtual mashup of work and play where the goal is to just make something better. Whether it’s within ourselves, our community or our world.

Polestar Pilates - Impact the world through intelligent movement, which fosters awareness of self and the community.

Your vision acts not only as a guidepost for you, but for your clients and teachers as well. Make sure it’s accurate and current. I have found it helpful to have a single broad vision and also a malleable, working vision. This is where you can encourage your teachers to get involved and create visions of their own.

We’ve collected our studio vision, along with personal vision statements from each of our teachers, in a binder where every two months we can revisit and revise them. When working toward a shared goal, and supporting each other in our individual goals, we navigate bumpy waters with much more agility and greater positive outcome.

Ongoing work. Work with meaning.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-time task. As long as you are in business or for as long as you are engaged in work for that matter, you will have to continue this process of inquiry. If you don’t it will be obvious.

I was surprised at what I saw once I took a deeper look. My core commitments and values were fully intact just obscured by the strain of keeping things spinning. My mistake was I had lost sight of them. Peeling away the layers, I could see where my original vision had a strong presence and where it was extremely murky. With honest investigation, I regained my footing, re-assessed my vision and began again with renewed dedication. This was not the last time.

Coming back to this process as my business grows keeps me focused, moving forward with a sense of purpose and fulfillment - I can’t ask for more than that.

If the goal is for my work to be an extension of my best self, filled with joy and meaning, and it is, then I must have awareness, presence of mind and a willingness to jump into the endeavor fully, again and again.

Chantill Lopez has been writing and teaching since 1994. She has written for several weekly papers and magazines both fiction and non-fiction and is excited to merge her love of teaching Pilates with her love for the written word. Chantill is co-owner of Pilates Collective in Sebastopol, California and a Balanced Body faculty member. Chantill welcomes comments, questions and feedback.

Pilates Collective
Skillful Teaching

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pilates 101: Learn the Movements Correctly

One of the main things a client should focus on when they first start out in Pilates is learning the movements correctly. Learning Pilates is like learning a new language. It takes time and knowing the fundamental moves are the building blocks to advancing and progressing to a new and better you. Every exercise should always be done slowly with control. In the past, people have been taught to feeling the burn, sweat hard and use more weight in order to see results. With Pilates, you actually have to change your mindset to the exact opposite. The slower you move and the more you concentrate on making your muscles work, the more effective your workout will be. I'm sure all of us trainers have seen too many people fling their way through all the roll-up exercises and wonder why they don't feel their abs. Well, that's because you didn't use them. Using momentum or throwing your body around when exercising generally leads to injury.

One exercise a client should always master, or at least understand it's modifications, is the pre-roll up. The roll up concept repeats itself over again in many other exercises such as the roll-up, neck pull and the teaser. Learning to properly curl up into an active crunch with the upper part of the torso is another must. This active crunch will be repeated in the ab series on the mat (single leg stretch, double leg stretch, scissor and double straight leg stretch). Not being able to lift high enough into a crunch can lead to neck stress or crunching up way to high.....well....I don't know what that is all about...but I've seen it. Rolling like a ball is a great exercise for spinal articulation and balance. Mastering that movement helps to advance into harder exercises such as the open leg rocker and seal.

I have numerous clients that have been coming in for years now and sometimes we all go on auto pilot and just stop thinking. On those days, most of them are always a step ahead of my verbal cues. I usually decided to start slowing the class down to an excruciatingly slow place which in fact is a billion times harder since all your muscles are fully engaged. Take for instance the exercise double straight leg stretch. Try lowering the legs down slowly for a 5 count, holding it at your point of control for a 5 count and then bring them back up for a slow count. 5 reps total and there should be some really fatigued abs.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pilates: 5 Reasons to Start Today by Kitty Holman

Pilates, a method of exercise emphasizing controlled movement and breathing exercises, was developed over a century ago. Now with more than ten million dedicated fans in the US, Pilates has also become a favorite pastime for a number of A-list celebrities. The exercise technique has obviously proven to be way more than just a temporary fad. So what is it about Pilates that leaves celebrities and friends looking so toned and fit? In addition to improving your physical appearance, Pilates also offers amazing benefits for your mental and emotional health! Here are 5 reasons why you should start Pilates today.

Be Lean and Fit Rather than Big and Bulky

Many people refrain from lifting weights in their exercise regimen. Women, in particular, are usually afraid of developing a physique resembling Mr. Clean. However, some form of weight lifting is crucial to keep your muscles strong. Luckily, Pilates strengthens your muscles while only using your body weight as resistance. This method makes you toned and fit, without making you look too bulky. Also, working out your muscles makes you less likely to suffer from osteoporosis during old age!

Total Body Work Out

The various exercises in Pilates target your whole body. You can work out various muscle groups during an exercise routine. Plus, as you build muscle mass to replace fat tissue, your metabolism speeds up. This means you can eat more calories without gaining extra weight. Or if you are looking to lose weight, your body will burn calories much faster!


Pilates focuses on building the core, also known as your powerhouse. Many health experts claim building your core is the most important precursor to strengthening your other muscles. A strong powerhouse makes it easier to work out your back muscles as well as your upper arms. With a strong core, you can more easily and successfully engage in other athletic activities too. In fact, some professional football and basketball players claim Pilates has changed their lives!

Convenience Leads to Consistency

Do you frequently travel for work? Do you think gym memberships are unnecessarily expensive? Pilates can save the day! Everyone has a right to good health your busy work schedule and budget shouldn't interfere with that right. Pilates requires very little, inexpensive equipment. You can invest in a mat and band for less than $40. Plus, you can do your Pilates exercises from the convenience of your living room or even your hotel. You may want to buy a video that goes over some exercises with you. Once you get the hang of things, you'll be able to them on your own.

Mental Health

In general, most exercises provide a wealth of benefits for your brain and emotions. When your body is working hard, it releases endorphins, which leave you feeling refreshed and happy. Pilates goes a step further. Because you must concentrate on your breathing while building your powerhouse, you become more aware of your body and what it needs. Plus, intense concentration on your breathing patterns can help you target the right muscles and do exercises correctly! Become in tune with your own body today add Pilates to your work out.

This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Know Your Pilates Studio by Eric Stevenson

While choosing a Pilates trainer is an important task, choosing the right studio is also critical. The best studios or gyms are clean and well-maintained, but it pays to be aware of some of the potential dangers that shared exercise facilities might pose.


By the nature of their construction, gyms and Pilates studios may be difficult to heat. Large, open rooms and high ceilings allow heat to dissipate easily, so large or sophisticated HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) systems and heavy insulation may be required to regulate the temperature. If the building was constructed prior to the 1980s, the ducts, pipe coverings, insulation, even the walls and floor might contain asbestos, a thread-like mineral once widely used for its heat-resistant properties.

As long as these building materials are intact, they do not pose a hazard, but if they become broken and damaged, they can release asbestos fibers into the air. Once these fibers are inhaled, they can cause serious health problems including a rare and fatal form of cancer called mesothelioma. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma are often confused with those of less threatening conditions until the cancer has advanced into its final stages, making it difficult to treat.


Skin infections can be another hazard of Pilates studios. Staphylococcus bacteria thrive in warm, wet places on the body such as the buttocks, armpits, groin, and neck, but can also survive on the dry surfaces of Pilates mats and other equipment. Many strains of this type of bacteria are relatively harmless, though some may cause serious problems if the infection gets into the bloodstream. The gravest threat is posed by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be deadly if it enters the blood through any small break in the skin. As its name implies, this bacterium is so deadly because it is resistant to all but a very few types of antibiotics and may even develop resistance to these if they are overused.

Staying Healthy

While mesothelioma life expectancy is very low and MRSA infections cause more deaths than any other infectious disease tracked by the CDC, there are simple precautions that can greatly lessen your risk for these diseases. Look around to make sure your studio’s walls, floors, and ventilation systems are in good condition. If the building is being renovated, ask whether the construction materials have been tested for asbestos. If you are still concerned, consider trying another studio or doing whatever exercises you can at home until the renovations are complete.

Even if you take a mat-only class, you will likely need to use some of the studio’s own equipment. The CDC recommends thoroughly cleaning shared exercise equipment both before and after using it. Many studios will provide disinfectant sprays or wipes for this purpose. If your studio does not, ask the staff or bring your own wipes. Alcohol is an effective sanitizer, even against MRSA, and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers will not contribute to the drug-resistance of the bacteria. Be sure to cover all cuts or skin abrasions when working out and clean them well when you are finished. Any redness, swelling, or tenderness of the skin, especially around a pre-existing wound, should be examined by a doctor.
These risks should not distract you from your usual Pilates workout, but a few simple precautions can prevent some serious health problems later on.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Many Times a Week Should I Do Pilates?

This is one of the first questions that I get asked by a new client. In order to see and feel results it's best to do Pilates 2-3 times a week. Pilates is a form of exercise that is a learning process. When a client first comes in for an intro, I inform them that there are three main components that they will be learning about. These are....

1. Learning to do the movements.
2. Learning the muscles used to do those movements.
3. And the breathing.

Most clients that start off will have to give it about 5-6 sessions in order to understand the basic verbal cues and concepts involved in the exercises. The client will first start to feel more stretched out and feel like they are standing taller. After those initial sessions, clients can then begin to concentrate on really working into the muscles since the movements aren't so foreign anymore. One of the last things that will probably connect with a client is the specialized breathing. Every movement has a specific breath attached to it and very time I cue an exhale, the chances of a new client inhaling is pretty probable. It is always the last thing that comes natural....when all else fails....just breathe. Pilates is like any learned behavior. The more you practice it and the longer you do it, the better you'll get at it.

Most clients find that Pilates becomes a way of life and it's not just a workout fad. Pilates requires full concentration in order to do it effectively. People with extreme monkey mind (Me!) often find that their minds become diluted of clutter since they are fully focused on the exercises. There are also limited reps done in Pilates. The goal is to be so focused on your body and muscles that you only 5-15 of one exercise and then we move on to the next exercises. This allows us to work more muscle groups within the hour. Another plus is that within the hour you'll be working out all the muscle groups so nothing is left untouched. The body will be worked and stretched out as a whole.

Keep in mind that the Pilates method has over 500 exercises when used as a total system. Budget is always a factor, I know, but whenever possible clients should be doing mat classes, equipment class and privates. Not participating in mat class because it's too hard is totally lame. Doing only equipment because it's fun, new and exciting will eventually cause a plateau, especially if you are only working on the reformer. There is also a trapeze table, chair and a barrel to consider. Privates, although costly, can benefit individuals that are struggling in certain areas and would like a deeper insight into certain exercises. The occasional private can be a good treat to jump start some new muscles that might not get used in a group class situation.

I also never detour a client from doing other forms of exercise. Joseph Pilates meant for this system to enhance your other activities. If you still like to weight train, go for it! Your form will probably be better. I work like a dog in my Pilates studio so I like to pop down the street for a bikram yoga class to switch things up. I need cardio so I go to the gym and do the elliptical. The more you do...the better your feel.

In the next few blog posts I'll go more in depth into the initial three theories listed above. Until then, go take a Pilates class!