Mind & Motion

Spring Newsletter

Posted in Health, Inspiration, My Practice by Meghan Pickrell on May 2, 2016
IMG_3567 copy

Here I am cutting the rug at my wedding

It’s May! I can’t believe summer is around the corner. Of course in LA that means a shift of about 20 degrees. Regardless, time is passing, as it should.

The year so far has been good to us. The studio has been steady: classes full, new clients coming in, people feeling better. It’s wonderful to watch self-discovery through movement and observation. You notice the pattern, you understand, you change, you feel better! You get stronger and feel accomplished. You are empowered. This is what we teach. It’s a blessing to experience this progression.

I have been working on my own movement practice as well. I’m resuming ballet classes, moving on the pilates apparatus and even went out swing dancing (an old hobby of mine) a weeks back. Years ago I went out social dancing weekly (several times a week, in fact). I was hooked. I traveled, met new people and was part of a lindy-hop community. It consumed a huge part of my life. It was tons of fun. Of course, I still love dancing and love the idea that I can cut the rug anytime, anywhere with any stranger who has the same dancing skills as I . The magical thing about social dance is that for a small moment in time (usually about the length of a 3 minute jam) you connect with this other person in a completely non-verbal way. The link is the music and how you are both hearing and translating the music. You are totally engaged in the cues you are receiving from one another. It’s conversation through movement. Sometimes it’s utterly thrilling and other times super intimate. After the song is up you say thank you and that’s it. You may not even know each other’s name. It’s wonderful. Everyone should experience it.

Whether your hobby is swing dance, rock-climbing, golf, running marathons, a regular pilates practice can keep you in the game. It keeps you able to do all the things you love in life. So, hopefully this summer brings a bit of adventure. Get outside, experience the world, try a new hobby! Come back to class, restore and then get back out there. I will see you in class. Happy spring! Meghan 😉

 

Body After Baby

Posted in Health, Inspiration, Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on September 2, 2014

Standing where she was born

Standing where she was born

Suckling babe

Suckling babe

Henri at 2 months

Henri at 2 months

A baby comes into your life and changes you: you’re exhausted, enchanted, filled with love and bewilderment. You’re suddenly mesmerized by this little creature who was born after 10 months of growing inside you (if your male and reading this, disregard). Your body becomes like a shell that has been shed after its purpose was served. So not only are there emotional changes there are definite physical ones. Uh huh.

Women come to me postpartum and want their body “back.” This is somewhat possible. I understand feeling robbed of your youthful figure which was taken hostage by your little bean. Maybe your clothes still don’t fit, you don’t feel like “you” anymore. Getting into a regular movement practice even a few times a week can help you reclaim your physique. There are even classes for moms where you can bring your baby with you: mommy and baby yoga, stroller strides etc. Taking time to feel your muscles stretching and becoming active can help you find your rhythm once again. If possible, you may want to actually take time away from your babe in order have a moment to breathe and connect to yourself (hint, come to pilates class!).

There is also something to appreciate in our changed body. I’ve seen a few articles recently with images of women postpartum: soft bellies, hips, sagging boobs. Amazing. There is something in our shell-like body that is also a reminder of what we have accomplished: creating life! WTF?! When I was dancing if you developed varicose veins in your legs it was pretty awesome because it represented hard work and intensity. It wasn’t a flaw, it was an accomplishment. There is something to be appreciated and honored in the postpartum body. Why would we want our bodies to get “back” when we have come so far forward?

Move your body, exercise, get those muscles going to help you lift those heavy babies. Find time to do something active that you love. Your body will feel normal again. But also remember your bod may be a bit changed. Let’s find the beauty (and peace) in that. xo, M

 

Dealing with Back Pain: Part 3 – THE END

Posted in Health, Inspiration by Meghan Pickrell on June 5, 2013

Arabesque

After many months and after approaching my back from many different angles, I am finally pretty much pain free. YAY! My back pain has ebbed and flowed throughout my life but I never had such a bad bout of it as the last few years. Moving past a chronic condition is quite challenging so I feel some sense of pride with my accomplishments. Looking back here is what I learned from it all.

There was a moment when I thought that I could hand off my imbalances, aches and pains to another person to be fixed. I know this really isn’t true but I’d seen so many people who were “fixed” by chiropractic, or acupuncture or whatever the new body-work sensation might be. After seeing a few of these “specialists” myself I remembered that I cannot put my quest for health in the hands of anyone else. Actually, my husband reminded me (That’s why I keep him around). I did get support from several people who guided me toward stability but ultimately I was the one who figured out what I needed to kick out the pain.

The quest for healing was about me and finding out what works for me alone. What I figured out is that I’m best off with a regular movement practice- go figure! So, I joined a gym. Every other day I head over to do my 30 minutes of cycling, hand weights and mat work. I’m still working out at Mind & Motion but I find that actually going somewhere else (away from my workplace) is a breath of fresh air. A consistent exercise practice has given my body rapid and significant change. I’m up on my feet doing everyday activities without hesitation. I’m moving around easily at the pilates studio and am feeling strong! The gym and specifically the stationary bike has kicked in that lower feedback loop and gotten me out of my head (thank god!).

I also had to change my mindset (when there’s a motion, there is also a mind). I really had to face myself.. and face my fears. My back pain was so tied up with my anxiety. I’m not sure what came first (the chicken or the egg). Did I have anxiety about my back pain (was it going to go out, how would it go… where would it go?) or did my anxiety cause my back pain? Whatever is was (or is) treating my anxiety helped my back relax. Regular therapy and Deepok Chopra’s “The Soul of Healing” (you can download it from iTunes) helped me relax and let go of certain outcomes. It helped me to stop obsessing (something I’m telling clients all the time, of course) and helped me to realize that I’m safe.

Investigating the issues of dis-ease and healing with medical and alternative practitioners is key. But then take it in, see what makes sense to you. Become a part of the process. Approach your health from all angles. It may take a combination of therapies or a change of mindset. It may take a nutritional shift or meditative practice. Trust your doctor but also trust your insights and intuition. You will be the answer.

 

Dealing with Back Pain Part 2 : TMS

Posted in Health, Personal Essays by Meghan Pickrell on October 24, 2012

About two weeks before my wedding I picked up Dr. Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain” off my bookshelf. I had read the book about 10 years ago from the perspective as the practitioner. Now, I was reading it as a student. I had just thrown my back out and was in a word, desperate.

Dr. Sarno’s theory involves the mind. Through his research at the Rusk Institute in New York, Dr. Sarno found that back pain was difficult to diagnose and treat. This was because causes and symptoms were not always aligning. Science and research are based on a cause and effect relationship. When patients were having a) symptoms with no structural abnormality or b) differing patient responses to the same diagnosis (i.e. some patients in extreme pain from a herniated disc and others completely asymptomatic), Dr. Sarno decided that the cause of pain may not be due to any structural abnormality. The commonality was stemming from something psychological. He diagnosed patients with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) when the cause of pain or a chronic condition was actually induced from stress or surpressed emotions.

Now, I’m a tricky one. I’ve often had psycho-somatic aliments starting from intense stomach aches as a child. I’ve also struggled with other stress induced conditions. Although I do believe there was a huge structural component to my back pain, I also believe there was a huge psychological component as well. It’s not by chance that my back went out two weeks before one of the biggest days of my life. I had been planning my wedding for the past 6 months, running Mind & Motion (which is only a year old) and organizing our honeymoon. All of that was stressful enough, but I was also realizing the emotional implications that come along with committing to another person for life. I was stressed. Healing cannot begin if the body is in a sympathetic flux so relaxation was key. It was also important to remember that any additional tension caused by the pain itself would only perpetuate the condition. So, I tried to breathe, meditate, pray, and let go to the best of my ability. I’m also still in the process of learning how to recondition my brain so that my stress doesn’t manifest itself in physical ways. This is hard because I spend so much of my day focusing on the body.

Knowing that there is nothing seriously wrong with me and directing my focus toward my emotions has helped me get through this chronic pain. I have also found other resources by psychologists in Los Angeles. Alan Gordon is a clinical researcher of TMS in Los Angeles. For more information on TMS, you can read an article by him here.

Dealing with Back Pain

Posted in Health, Personal Essays by Meghan Pickrell on October 7, 2012

Wedding photo by Nancy Neil

As some you may already know even though I’m a professional body worker and teacher… I am also human (strange, I know). This means that I also deal with a host of body-related issues. I was diagnosed with scoliosis at a young age and since then I’ve had flare ups with my back throughout the years. Ballet helped tremendously as a teen (I was sans back pain for around 5 years straight while dancing). Pilates saved me again in my 20s. I’ve also found a few body-workers who have eased the pain throughout the years. For the past year my right hip and low back have not quite been right and 2 weeks before my wedding I went for a light jog and my back went out. It actually wasn’t sooo bad at first and usually when such an event occurs it takes about a week and then I’m back on my feet. This time was different. I went to the osteopath who I had been seeing for the past few months. Twice. I went the chiropractor. I went to the PT. Nothing was easing my stiff, sore back and I was approaching one of the biggest days in my life. F*&%!

The wedding came after 2 advils and I was OK for the celebration. It was an amazing experience to have all of your friends and family in one place. That I will always cherish. I ate, drank, laughed and danced. It was a truly remarkable day.

The wedding was Saturday and Monday Carlos and I were to fly off to Spain for 2 weeks, a honeymoon we had been planning for months. Sunday I realized that I just didn’t have it in me. My body was sore and I was exhausted. I had been planning the wedding and honeymoon for nearly 6 months, running a new business and dealing with a huge transition in my life. Sometimes it’s important to know our limitations and I had just hit the wall.

One of the most amazing qualities about my husband is that he really believes in me. He believes strongly that the human body has the ability to heal itself and that I have the power to get better. I know this as well but it sure is helpful to have a partner reflect that back to me. The first part on my journey toward healing was to relax. We decided to post-pone Spain and head up to Ojai for a mini-moon. 🙂

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa

Ojai was just what I needed; pure relaxation. The first day I indulged in a foot reflexology massage. This definitely calmed my sympathetic nervous system. The body cannot begin the healing process when under distress which is why my back was not getting better before the wedding. Sad, I know. I wish I could have been a zen bride, if there is such a thing. The second day I indulged in an ayruvedic wrap. This was definitely worth the hefty price tag. I became so relaxed that I started day dreaming. It was a bit of bliss. My appetite came back and my back started easing up slowly.

At dinner in SF

On the second part of our mini-moon Carlos and I ventured to San Francisco so that I could work with Carole, my mentor. Carole is one of the only practitioners who really corrects my alignment and movement patterns. I couldn’t do “pilates” per se but she did have me lean into the leg spring with my foot, finding assistance from the apparatus in order to help organize my hip. After seeing Carole I could finally sit without back pain. This was extremely helpful for the plane ride home.

I’m still in the process of crawling out of this hole. My alignment has finally gone back to a more balanced place. I’ve been investing myself in the healing process from a variety of angles. In the coming weeks I will continue to document my experience and observations about chronic back pain. I will leave you with this. If you are reading this and you are in chronic muscular skeletal pain I believe there is a way to feel better. Hopefully my journey can offer some insight. To be continued…

Jonathan’s Hundred

Posted in Fitness Tips, Health by Meghan Pickrell on February 17, 2012

 

It’s Friday… ahhh. Here is a little inspiration for the weekend. My client Jonathan is modeling the hundred for us in this little video I shot this week. Doesn’t this make you want to go to pilates? Have a wonderful weekend!

Tagged with: , ,

Cat-like Reflexes!

Posted in Health, Inspiration, Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on February 10, 2012

Here I am at the studio balancing my weight on my hands. This is one of the postures I've been practicing in yoga.

I’m often times learning something just at the appropriate time to introduce it to my clients. When first starting to teach I already had a decade plus of movement experience to draw from in order to help impart wisdom to my clients. As an apprentice, I was stilling learning pilates and how cue the body in a specific way.

Now, as a seasoned teacher, I find that as I continue to learn within my own body, I continue to find new ways of imparting information when teaching. I started taking regular vinyasa yoga classes at Liberation Yoga up the street from my house. It’s a very charming yoga studio and it’s a great escape for me to go and practice there. No one knows that I’m a teacher. I am an anonymous student and it feels liberating. A new yoga practice has give me the ability to try new movements, new relationships to gravity (yay- inversions!) and a newly acquired sense of agility.

Part of what is great about pilates, yoga, dance, martial arts (I could go on…) is that we begin moving our body in ways not thought as possible. My upper body is finally getting strong from all of those forearm stands and chatarungas. The strengthening was much needed. But also came the idea that I can move in such a variety of different ways with confidence. My body is learning, and so is my mind.

Take this lesson to heart. The more you practice a variety of exercises and movements the more enriched your body (and mind) will be. A regular and varied movement practice establishes a comprehensive movement vocabulary allowing for agility and cat-like reflexes!

Pilates and the Practitioner

Posted in Health by Meghan Pickrell on November 27, 2011

As promised (a week late… we have turkey and lots of pumpkin pie to blame), today’s post is dedicated to my master’s thesis research. Ok, don’t stop reading just yet. I know “research” does not at first elicit the most enticing of thoughts… it might even sound a bit boring- numbers, stats, results and conclusions. It’s all very scientific. However, research can also bring light to new ideas and even validate an intuitive “hunch.” We can even scientifically prove the reasons behind feelings and experiences through research.

I am interested in the unconscious experience. I parred down my research to the field of psychophysiology (psycho: mind, physiology: body, = mind + body). The field of psychophysiology uncovers the science behind the mind + body exchange. Even more specifically, I dealt with the realm of coregulation. Coregulation occurs when two systems start to synchronize with one another. For instance, as you yawn, others yawn around you – have you  had this experience?

As a somatic practitioner, I have always been quite interested in the relationship between a practitioner (or therapist, teacher etc) and the client. Through my research, I looked at the physiological relationship between a practitioner and a client during a pilates session.  The main physiological features I measured were differences in heart rate and respiratory rate. Does the physiological state of a practitioner have a physiological effect on their client?

Using the LifeShirt, a physiological monitoring device which measures over 100 physiological attributes, I was able to measure moment by moment differences in heart rate and respiratory rate between me (the practitioner) and the client (15 female kinesiology students).

Here’s what we found. Although our power was too low to bring statistical significance to the study, trends were discovered between the practitioner and client. As the practitioner increased or decreased heart rate so did the client. Trends were also found in how these two subjects shifted from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. Coregulation was found between shifts in the autonomic nervous system (the autonomic nervous system is comprised of heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion etc. – the unconscious part of our body which runs without conscious thought).

Here’s what this means. We effect one another- not only consciously, but unconsciously. This means, as pilates teachers, we may effect the autonomic nervous system of others in some capacity. Our demeanor and physiological state can influence our clients. Keeping our bodies and mind in a healthy place may help promote healing for others. See, research can be pretty cool.

I always say, as a rule, you should feel safe and secure with any health and wellness practitioner or MD. I believe that the relationship you have with those who serve to keep you healthy is as important as the mediums they are using. If you don’t feel safe then you are too tense to allow healing to begin. Trust your instincts when committing to your health. The healing relationship may go deeper than we now know.

 

Delete Deplete

Posted in Health, Inspiration by Meghan Pickrell on February 22, 2011

On a hike in Colorado

In a society where we are all after the American dream- successful career, family, home, financial stability, there is little time left for one other important necessity…YOU! A 40+ hour work week, husband, kids, and social life leaves little time for us to spend time on us. It is strange that all of the time dedicated to living a fulfilling life can leave you a bit… depleted. And even when we are exhausted we are expected to get up and go work. With such full lives it’s imperative that we figure out ways to receive nourishment. That way we can meet the energy demands of our day.

I try to incorporate a bit of “me” time everyday. This could be as simple as taking a soak in a warm bath at the end of the day, or a 5-minute meditation at the beginning of the day. Adding a few minutes of restoration to your day can help shift your mood, energy and improve a foggy brain. I encourage my clients to get up during the day and walk around. Maybe take a walk around the office and check in with how you are feeling. A few minutes of purposeful breath (6 seconds in and 6 seconds out) is also helpful. Think of ways in which you feel supported and try to add at least one of those ways to your day. See what happens!

Test Day

Posted in Fitness Tips, Health, Inspiration by Meghan Pickrell on October 10, 2010


So, as most of you know I’m working toward my Master’s in Kinesiology. This is a bit of a rigorous process – prerequisites, classes and of course RESEARCH. For my thesis I’m working with this device called the Vivometric LifeShirt which is basically a sci-fi vest, fitted with all kinds of sensors, wires and electrode hook-ups. The LifeShirt measures over 100 physiological features at any one moment. Everything is recorded onto a small chip (much like a memory card) which is then transferred to the computer where I can analyze the data. At this point I can observe all vital functions (such as heart rate) over a period of time.

I’ve decided to measure co-regulation with the LifeShirt. What I’m observing is any synchronization that may occur (physiologically) between me and a client during a typical pilates session. The questions I’m asking are: do heart rate increases or decreases coincide between individuals? or respiratory rate? or autonomic nervous system shifts? Basically, do I influence changes within the client? Or are changes purely as a result of the exercises… It will be interesting to find out what happens.

Part of my research entails a gamut of tests which measure my reaction to stress. While wearing the LifeShirt I recently went through psychological and physical testing. The video above is of me performing a “one repetition maximum” test while wearing the LifeShirt. My lab partners were testing the amount of weight I could press as a measure of strength. I only had to press out and extend my knees one time. But if performed correctly more weight was added. I think I pressed up to 275lbs? This was huge for me as you can see in the video. Enjoy watching me give it my all!