Leaders In Fitness

Entries in Madeline Black (7)

Ball Props on the Reformer: Helping or Hindering? 

By Madeline Black

It is not uncommon to see Pilates teachers use props during a session. The intention is to enable the client to move in optimal alignment. But, is it appropriate to use a prop? Yes, when there is an understanding of why the prop is being used and it facilitates the intended response. But too many times, props are used out of habit.

One common prop habit is placing a ball between the thighs (or knees) while performing Footwork on the Reformer. The ball brings the legs together and/or holds them in place, preventing a client from splaying open her thighs when pressing the carriage out and knocking her knees when returning the carriage home. This can actually hinder the healthy movement sequence intended in this exercise, and I would suggest that we break this habit. Our goal is to encourage optimal leg alignment while executing Pilates in a dynamic and functional way, not in a held position. Here’s a closer look at why it doesn’t serve the client to use a ball during Footwork.

Posted on Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 12:48PM by Registered CommenterPilates-Pro in , , , , , | Comments5 Comments

Why We Need Pilates Mentors


By Nicole Rogers

Mentorship is extremely important to the Pilates community, as Pilates elder Mary Bowen so eloquently demonstrated here. If Joseph Pilates hadn’t passed his knowledge on to the first generation of teachers, and if they, the Pilates elders, had not passed their knowledge on to the next generation, Pilates simply would not exist. The tradition of mentorship is part of our foundation and our history.

Over the years, Pilates mentor/mentee relationships were rarely formal, yet were profound and long-lasting. The glue of these relationships has always been passion: for the work, for movement, for health, and for improving the lives of others with Pilates. This passion doesn’t fade, rather it’s the fuel that drives Pilates masters to explore throughout their lifetimes and to build on each other’s work. We all learned from someone, and hopefully we all continue to learn every day. Mentorship is important all the way through our careers, not just at the beginning.

When I asked some prominent Pilates personalities about their own mentors, past and present, I was not surprised to hear that their answers were as diverse as the Pilates world itself. (From what they’ve said, it appears that everyone who was taught by Mr. Pilates received a different workout, so it makes sense that no two teachers are the same to this day.) Each mentor/mentee relationship is unique. Nonetheless, a few general themes about the value of mentorship emerged from these conversations.

Pilates Goodies

Happy Friday, everyone. We’ve found a few Pilates Internet goodies lately we wanted to share.

Joseph Pilates for Everyone!
Thanks to Paul of Vertex Physical Therapy in Los Angeles, a few more Joseph Pilates video clips have made their way on to YouTube. They are extremely fun to watch, especially this one of Joe teaching a beginning student Reformer exercises, which also shows his progress 6 months later. (I just wish they had audio!) You can view more Pilates videos on our new Pilates-Pro.com YouTube channel. (If you’d like us to feature your video on our channel, send it to editor@pilates-pro.com.)

Free Podcasts
Balanced Body
recently launched new free podcasts, available in a variety of formats, featuring some top Pilates experts such as Brent Anderson, PhD, Dawn-Marie Ickes and Christine Romani-Ruby. They plan to release new podcasts each week in four categories: Instructor, Rehabilitation, Enthusiast and Elizabeth’s Corner (from Elizabeth Larkam).

Madeline Speaks
This online freebie is a hidden gem. On Madeline Black’s blog, you’ll find a three-part intereview with the Sonoma, CA, instructor in which she talks about how she found Pilates as a young dancer and talks about Pilates and feet and her new workshop, Sole to Spine. (Also see her article Pilates for Feet for more!)

Pilates for Feet 

By Madeline Black
Pilates has developed a reputation for building core strength, especially once the fitness and physical therapy worlds came to Pilates in the 1990s. But my history with early Pilates, studying in New York in the late ’80s, was always about the feet. Along the way, the core became the mantra of Pilates. I strongly feel the time has come to a focus on the feet again.

In Pilates, the feet are very important to the way we engage the body, and they deserve more attention. Feet bring to mind metaphors for moving us forward in life and finding our sense of place and existence in the world. Yet in our bodies, we pay little attention to them. We squish them into shoes, stand for long periods of time, walk on cement sidewalks. I live in the country, and we still do not pay attention to our feet here. If we did, we may lessen back issues, hip and knee pain, and release our necks.

The Pilates Bookshelf: The Body Has a Mind of Its Own

BodyHasMindofItsOwn.jpgBy Madeline Black
In order to work in a deeper, more expanded way with her clients, Pilates instructor Madeline Black has searched out new ideas and methodologies during her career. This is the third in her series of reviews in which she shares some of the books and resources that have deepened her knowledge and self-practice and have enhanced her teaching beyond Pilates.

The Body Has a Mind of Its Own (Random House, 2007) by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee is a fascinating and educational book about how we process our experiences through our body. The mother-son science writing team explores the brain’s “body map” and its role in our ability to feel, move, perceive and learn motor skills, as well as how it relates to phenomenons such as phantom limbs, stroke recovery and out-of-body experiences.

The authors explain how the brain works in a way that is scientific yet understandable and entertaining. My favorite part is how they describe the history of the concept of body maps and their importance to the body’s way of learning to move in space and experience the outside world. Read on to see how body maps relate to our work as Pilates instructors.

Posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 10:13AM by Registered CommenterAmy Leibrock in , , , | Comments1 Comment

The Pilates Bookshelf: The Biology of Belief

BiologyofBelief.jpgBy Madeline Black

In order to work in a deeper, more expanded way with her clients, Pilates instructor Madeline Black has searched out new ideas and methodologies during her career. This is the second in her series of reviews in which she shares some of the books and resources that have deepened her knowledge and self-practice and have enhanced her teaching beyond Pilates.

If you’re reading this site, you probably don’t need anyone to convince you of the mind-body connection. But your clients might be more skeptical. What if you could hand them a book that makes a strong scientific case for the link? Enter Bruce Lipton, PhD.

Dr. Lipton is an author, former research scientist in cell biology at Stanford University and medical school instructor. His research in cell biology and quantum physics has broken new ground in how science views the role of cells in our health and the power of our mind on the body. In his book, The Biology of Belief, Dr. Lipton explains his research and introduces to us enlightening concepts of cellular life, the impact of the environment in and around our cells, and how we manifest states of well-being or disease.

Posted on Monday, May 5, 2008 at 12:23PM by Registered CommenterAmy Leibrock in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

The Pilates Bookshelf: Waking the Tiger

waking%20the%20tiger.jpgA book recommendation from Madeline Black 

A Pilates teacher today is presented with clients with issues beyond the physical. They may have problems that are emotional, energetic or spiritual in nature. The physical part is easier for us to understand because that is what we are trained to see and intellectually problem-solve. Sometimes, however, the effort we put into planning and working with a client doesn’t advance the client as well as we’d like it to.

In order to work in a deeper, more expanded way with my clients, I’ve searched out new methodologies and philosophies over the years. I’ve also studied myself to find more clarity, balance and openness. (A teacher once told me not to treat someone who is healthier than you are.) I’ve spent years learning and receiving IMT (Integrative Manual Therapy), other manual therapies, energy work and meditation practices, and I’ve done lots of reading. Through these explorations, I’ve developed tools to share or reference for my clients. And sometimes, I simply observe and better understand their complexity without making any comments or judgments to them. A Pilates teacher’s scope of practice is to refer a client, when appropriate, to their practitioner of choice such as a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist. I may also recommend a book.

In the coming months, I will be sharing some of the books and resources that have deepened my knowledge and self-practice and have enhanced my teaching beyond Pilates.

This month, I recommend a book about dealing with trauma: Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine, PhD, with Ann Frederick (North Atlantic Books, 1997). Dr. Levine is well known for his research about how animals in the wild deal with stress and trauma. His discoveries have led him to successfully treat people to release trauma in the body.

Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 at 09:50AM by Registered CommenterAmy Leibrock in , , | CommentsPost a Comment