Mind & Motion

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


Weekend Workshop

Posted in Blog news, Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on June 10, 2013
Pam, Lise, Deborah, Carole and Heather for the Bodies Mind Intro Course

Pam, Lise, Deborah, Carole and Heather for the Bodies Mind Intro Course

Last weekend we had the pleasure of holding a workshop presented by my mentor, Carole Amend. We had a fantastic weekend looking at teaching styles and cues, new ways of thinking of the body and understanding process. On the practical side, we broke down movements found within the pilates repertoire to better understand how we can serve our clients.  We even had a “virtual” colleague from Nova Scotia… ahhh technology. The weekend was both educational and inspiring. Thank you Carole!

Carole and I at the studio

Carole and me at the studio

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 Video Part Deux

Posted in Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on August 19, 2011

Here’s my second video of the week! We’re on a roll people. In this video I have the lovely and talented Linnea, performing an ensemble of moves on the cadillac with the leg springs. She is quite inspiring to watch (even for me, I must say) because she transfers her weight so nicely. We’ve been working together for a few years so she has a good feel for the apparatus.

The leg springs are a wonderful tool to suspend the body in space, support the legs and give some resistance to the hamstrings and glutes. They can be used for traction (lengthening) or to take up the slack (supporting) in the hip joints. Enjoy!

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Pilates Video

Posted in Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on August 14, 2011

Watch out! I’m going to be incorporating video on Mind & Motion- a promise made too long ago. AND I’m starting with my clients. The idea came to me as I was teaching one day and realized that my clients can sometimes perform exercises better than me. I have talented group, I must admit. So, I’m taking their best exercise, filming them and posting it for inspiration.

In this clip Amanda is rounding through her upper back, grounding in her tail, and extending her arms and legs in a coordinated manner. This exercise is called coordination because of the sequencing, breath and difficulty of the task. Amanda does quite a lovely job! You can perform this at home without the reformer- just follow our timing and try it lying on the floor. Enjoy!

The Pilates Moves…

Posted in My Practice, Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on July 24, 2011

I dragged Carlos into the studio this week to take a few photos of me on the apparatus. None of my promo material (in the past decade) has ever included photos of me performing fancy exercises on the apparatus. I always felt that showing advanced exercises as a teacher didn’t prove that you could actually teach, right? But, I caved. I figured I would model all of the fun moves we can do on the apparatus when you schedule your session. I’m trying to entice you to take pilates from me!!! It’s awesome people!

For instance, in the above picture I am hanging around the studio. Boy, I could do this all day.

Testing out my muscles… Trust me, I’m sore from this today.

Weeee!!!! This is quite fun!

Some variation of a teaser…

Performing the hundred. Next time I’ll video so you can see the sweat running down my brow…

Finally, this one is for the postcard.

Are you just aching to schedule a session???? Settle down, we generally don’t begin with these exercises. But, overtime you too can make your mother proud! And Joe Pilates will smile down from heaven. Have a wonderful week!

Biography of Joseph Pilates

Posted in Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on July 10, 2011

As a pilates lover, teacher and professional I thought it would be appropriate to give a little history about the man behind the exercise discipline, Joseph Pilates. Many pilates professionals have written about Joe’s life thus far so instead of rehashing the accounts of his life to all, I’ve copied Wiki’s rendition for you to read. From all that I’ve heard, Wiki’s history on Joe seems quite accurate. Please see their website for more information and citations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Pilates. Read below for their story on Joe!

Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. His father was a prize-winning gymnast of Greek ancestry, and his mother worked as a naturopath. His father’s family originally spelled its surname in the Greek manner as “Pilatu” but changed to “Pilates” upon immigration to Germany. The new spelling caused Joseph Pilates much grief as a child because older boys taunted him calling him “Pontius Pilate, killer of Christ” (despite Pilate’s attempts to speak in Jesus’ defense as recounted in, e.g., the Synoptic Gospels).

Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. Besides skiing frequently, he began studying body-building, yoga, “cong fu” (probably what we now call qigong), and gymnastics. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the “modern” life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training-techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.

Pilates was originally a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard. Nevertheless, the British authorities interned him during World War I along with other German citizens in an internment camp on the Isle of Man. During this involuntary break, he began to intensively develop his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called “Contrology.” He studied yoga and the movements of animals and trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises. It is told that these inmates survived the great pandemic of 1918 due to their good physical shape.

After the war (WWI), he returned to Germany and collaborated with important experts in dance and physical exercise such as Rudolf Laban. In Hamburg, he also trained police officers. When he was pressured to train members of the German army, he left his native country, disappointed with its political and social conditions, and emigrated to the United States.

The year 1925 is the approximate time when Pilates migrated to the United States. On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. His method, which he and Clara originally called “Contrology,” related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

Joseph and Clara Pilates soon established a devout following in the local dance and the performing-arts community of New York. Well-known dancers such as George Balanchine, who arrived in the United States in 1933, and Martha Graham, who had come to New York in 1923, became devotees and regularly sent their students to the Pilates for training and rehabilitation.

Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health, and he was also a prolific inventor, with over 26 patents cited. Joe and Clara had a number of disciples who continued to teach variations of his method or, in some cases, focused exclusively on preserving the method, and the instructor-training techniques, they had learned during their studies with Joe and Clara. Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 83 in New York.

My New Caddie

Posted in Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on June 16, 2011

Just purchased a new cadillac for my office. The cadillac is a great piece of pilates apparatus. It provides assistance for exercises to keep the spine healthy. If you are around, come by the office and check it out!

Pilates for the Holidays!

Posted in Blog news, Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on December 13, 2010

As I casually looked through my Christmas list of gifts to buy, I noticed a sore feeling in left sacrum. Ouch! It was then I realized that I haven’t been tending to my body during this busy season. And as I began to crave a truly amazing pilates session, I started to wonder who else out there might be going through the very same experience. Maybe you know someone who is not at the top of their game? Or someone who would really enjoy a good workout? Or maybe you would like to try a session for yourself and never have?!

A gift certificate for a one-on-one pilates session is the answer! Yay! For the holiday season I’m selling gift certificates for $55/per session. That is an amazing discount exclusively for my Mind & Motion readers. Most of you who are reading this blog already know the amazing benefits of pilates. It is an excellent, comprehensive, and balancing exercise regime. A real treat for anyone. Please email me with any questions and I will be happy to email you a holiday gift certificate. Happy Holidays! In Health, Meghan.

The Pilates Apparatus

Posted in Pilates by Meghan Pickrell on July 26, 2010

I have this vision of Joe Pilates inventing the apparatus. It goes something like this: He has a client on the mat and is asking them to perform a specific task. The client has certain limitations and can’t quite perform the task optimally. Maybe she is trying to perform a relatively simple task such as sitting up from lying down and can’t produce enough force or momentum. Joe uses his hands and body to help her up. When she arrives for the next session there is a bar attached to two springs mounted on the wall which provide the support she needs to perform the task. Thus, the “roll-down” was created.

The Pilates apparatus (aparati?), consisting of the reformer, cadiliac, wunda chair, ped-a-pull, latter barrel, spine corrector and few various other props, were developed from a need, as most gadgets are created. There was a need for fitness among the community. Joe’s mission was to fulfill that need. The apparatus helps condition, strengthen, stretch and inform the body. The springs can either be used for resistance or assistance depending on the goal. I believe the “informing” aspect is the most important and the most unique to pilates. The pilates apparatus gives us feedback about our alignment, helps us leverage our weight and support us through a variety of exercises such as the roll-down.

When we can’t move properly we often need feedback to help us organize and understand how to move our complex, multi-articulate body. We receive feedback from the environment which helps us learn how to move and posture. Posture is key. In many cases, how we tend to hold the body causes imbalances or even pain.

The more we’re in contact with the environment, the more feedback the body will receive about how it is posturing. Pilates exercises require you to lie down on your back (or belly, or side) and to notice how your long multi-jointed spine starts to line up. One of the first exercises you will be asked to do in a pilates session is footwork. As the carriage moves away from the foot-bar, the thoracic spine and sacrum press into the mat. The feet lean into the bar and spine leans into the mat. You start to understand alignment. Once the spine learns how to organize when lying, you start sitting exercises and then standing exercises. Eventually you can stand, sit and walk with a well-postured trunk.

Tactile feedback is valuable when learning new patterns and breaking bad habits. It helps you recognize where you are and where you need to go. Once the patterns are instilled you can carry them into activities of daily life. Everyday movements become easier. The body is able to carry itself with strength and ease. You have an awareness of tendencies. Sensations are more prevalent. These are the benefits of the pilates apparatus.