Personal Experiences with pilates Series

"The greatest force in the human body is the natural drive of the body to heal itself, but that force is not independent of the belief system which can translate expectations into psychological change. Nothing is more wondrous about the 15 billion neurons in the human brain than their ability to convert thoughts, hopes, ideas, and attitudes into chemical substances. Everything begins, therefore, with belief." - Norman Cousins

At the Pilates Center of Austin, we are challenging the common "belief" that we are objects to be trained and fixed. This belief leads us to fight gravity, creating excess tension that leads to chronic back, shoulder, knee, hip, neck injuries and problems, and always looking outside ourselves for someone else to "fix" us. We are not machines….. we are connected to and part of the natural world that surrounds us. When we learn to listen to our body's deep intelligence, we alter our thought patterns, and begin to be guided by a new way of being that is empowering and energizing. Stop exercising and begin energizing with us as we share "personal experience" stories that will inspire and feed your life journey!

Tokyo Practitioners Deepen their Embodied Pilates Focus

Tokyo Practitioners Deepen their Embodied Pilates Focus

We are so grateful for the visit of the Tokyo teacher/practitioners to Pilates Center of Austin this year, and grateful to Taeko, graduate of Wendy’s yearlong Passing the Torch Mentoring Program for helping to organize this visit, and for translating.

You will love the generous thoughts they had to share:

Yukari….this is my second time at PCA..originally I wanted to do same thing we had done 2 years ago, so I practice to get ready for this visit. But I couldn’t get ready for this visit, because I feel fresh like white paper. I could feel my body in new was very important week for me. I got reassured how to be good practitioner. I really have to practice myself…to feel movement myself and my practice in Tokyo must be changed.

Michiyo….this is second visit to PCA for me too. I met Wendy first in Tokyo 4 years ago, and finally, as Wendy say, I getting it into myself now. I found clients here at PCA just wonderful, so I want to build similar relationships with clients in Tokyo…I want to keep learning!

Ryo….first time for me learning at PCA. I met Wendy in Tokyo 2 years ago. I forgot some of the things I learn in past, but I am recalling so much and learning a lot here now….. How I am present in space…grounding..How to communicate with people and also everything around myself. These things I am thinking a lot about this week. It is taking me time to understand what Wendy saying, as we work together. I am now thrilled…my body changing. If I can share with clients and other people, maybe people have a similar experience – thinking about that, I am so thrilled and excited! I would like to practice more and deepen the knowledge Wendy gave us…and I’d love to come back!

Iyo….first time for me to come here…lots of surprises and awareness. I am confused…how to communicate with my body….how to contact my body deep. It is very fresh to me the idea that there is no boundaries between people, and between things around me…it is very refreshing for me. I have a feeling I can change because I have idea how to contact myself now. I met loving people in town and Staff here at PCA. I have learned a lot from them.

Yuki….first time I met Wendy 4 years ago in Tokyo, we had a rich time, and that experience I had with Wendy 4 years ago still lives in me. I wanted to come to this space to be with Wendy and PCA Staff. Spending a week in this environment with people, I am so excited to know how to be present in this world ….and I am thinking that deeply now. I would like to deepen knowledge and wisdom, and keep exploring and learning. I really appreciate the people around me, including Taeko, so I could come here. I am so grateful.

Ryoko….when I met Wendy 4 years ago, I just started Pilates. At that time I did not have any idea what is Pilates, or how to contact my idea at all. 4 years ago, Wendy taught me “Down the Back and Up the Front”, so I kept that idea or feeling in myself…kept practicing that idea with experience till now. Sometimes I still lose contact with myself. This time I am here and got the message from Wendy to have “space” in my body, as well as in my mind and spirit. That is very important for me. I want to keep that in mind and keep practicing this program till next time I meet Wendy. I am so grateful for everything.

Takeshi….I met Wendy 4 years ago in Tokyo and it was a big surprise what I learned at that time…it was shocking…and it was so useful for my body. I needed it at the time, and have been doing “Fascial Dog Flow” and the idea of “Down the Back and Up the Front” every day. Now Fascial Dog is essential in my life. Now first time visit to PCA, and I could learn it deeper, and could understand it deeply. I really want to keep the experience this week at PCA. Here I saw that Staff and clients grounded in reality, and I am very impressed by that. I want to learn to interact with my clients like Staff at PCA.

Taeko.…I met Wendy 6 years ago when I participated in her Passing the Torch Mentoring Program. When I first came to PCA I was so frustrated because I thought it was so different from what I learned. I called some classmates and said “this is not Pilates”…so much information, so new, so innovative. Then I saw that this was a more embodied view of Pilates. As Michiyo said, “I kept learning, coming and layering new insights…and soon what Wendy was saying became very real for me”. I also notice that Wendy keeps changing and learning….so I am following collaboratively, learning so much, and so happy to be with dear friends.

Wendy…..I am so grateful to be with you all. I feel Pilates is very important and yet it’s sometimes taught as just “exercises”. I find, in mentoring teachers, that most know that Pilates is more than exercises, yet how do we get there? How do we become more present with what our tension patterns are, and how to help ourselves? We begin to learn through ourselves, discovering how to unravel our own tension patterns…..then client tension patterns become more obvious.
We are studying EMBODIMENT…how our cellular awareness is supported by gravity, breath , space and relationship. In this embodied awareness , everything changes, as we come fully alive and find our purpose in the world.

Thank you all for the privilege it is to mentor you in your studies of “embodied” movement, and a deep thanks to the PCA Staff for the honor and privilege it is to collaborate with you in our shared vision.

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Down the Back...Up the Front, Awakens Naturally for Annie on the Pilates Reformer

Down the Back...Up the Front, Awakens Naturally for Annie on the Pilates Reformer

Annie spontaneously began speaking from her body’s natural biointelligence while she was exploring Footwork on the Reformer….I couldn’t help asking her to share her experience with you!

“With the sandbag on my low ribs and pelvis, I can let my heels release down…my legs feel like they are UNFURLING, as opposed to DOING or PUSHING! And I can see this is what it’s supposed to be like when I stand up…my natural POSTURE!

“As my heels release down, it brings my legs and internal CORE alive. I can feel as my heels go down, my head goes up…just as you said “Down the Back…Up the Front”!
“It’s the opposition that you’ve been speaking about…that I am feeling NATURALLY!

“COUNTING BREATH helps me connect my balance center, so my shoulder blades release down, and my arms naturally lengthen, to allow my head to lift up…but as you’ve been saying, it all begins with grounding!”

Thank you, Annie, for the inspiration!

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Annie Discovers Her Facially Supported Bio-Intelligent Breath

Annie Discovers Her Fascially Supported Bio-Intelligent Breath

When Annie and I first began working together a few months ago, she was surprised how her body “came alive” for her in so many new ways….

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the past being fitter, yet not in my body. I was more fit as my American culture describes fitness: I was muscular, but not functionally strong. I could make a treadmill and stepper do whatever I wanted, but I didn’t have a sense of how my body moved internally. I didn’t have a sense of how my BREATH made my body move. I didn’t have a sense that my arms and legs are an extension of my CORE…that my legs start at my diaphragm and my arms start at my heart and lungs!

“I am not pieces and parts that are made to move from something…I am a whole person moving! I did not have any concept of that when we first started working together.”

“The COUNTING BREATH that you have taught me is one of the first times outside of SINGING (and that was not a whole body experience for me), that my low belly comes alive!

I have a lot of experience with yoga breathing and singing breathing, so initially I thought, “oh yeah, Counting Breath…I’ve got this!”

But each week, as we work together, it changed…because one of the things you told me about is FASCIA..and how we are really ONE THING, and muscle and bones are supported by fascia. To me, it feels like SHRINK WRAP…and COUNTING BREATH brings all my body together in a way that it has all the lift of “Up the Front”…and all the relaxation and yet stability of “Down the Back”.

It feels like someone stuck a little vacuum thing in me, and it’s sucking the air out from there, and that’s the part of my body that hasn’t been enlivened due to TRAUMA..and it needs it, it wants it and it starts to feel the TRUST.”

Annie, can you show us what COUNTING BREATH feels like for you…so that it’s not a DOING THING?

“Yes, that’s what is so powerful …it’s not a GET BREATH, rather it’s an OPEN. I say OPEN because I’ve created such a suction that my body just pulls air in, and like you said…it’s an internal organ massage!”

“I’m also moving through my whole LEFT foot in new ways….not slapping that foot down, which stresses my ankle/knee/hip/shoulder all the way up. I’ve learned how to spiral through my feet so I roll through from heel to ball to toe, which activates my entire midline from ball of the big toe to my inner ear…it has brought me to center in a way that I didn’t know before!

I have so much SPACE in my knees and hips now! It seems so simple, yet it changes everything…it’s a ripple!

It’s easier to be in my body when my body is CONGRUENTLY with WHO I AM, which is part of whole journey of being with you. Taking off the affectation and learned behavior, and helping me LISTEN to my body as it is right now, today!

You’ve helped me feel that embodied experience – not just exercise and making something look a certain way. So that exercise becomes a way I can move in life!”

Right, Annie…we also don’t realize the power of the VOICE, and SPEAKING….COUNTING BREATH is the same as speaking on the EXHALE…it’s so simple, yet not simple!

“Yes, and what’s so powerful about what you are saying, Wendy, is that the feeling of Counting Breath is MORE AEROBIC than any of the crazy stuff I did in the 80’s! It’s so aerobic, and is WAKING UP MUSCLES in my body that I wasn’t sure were going to ever wake up again!”

Yes, Annie, and when we allow ourselves to SENSE the movement of the diaphragm and low belly moving in and up as our ribs melt down on the EXHALE…then the INHALE can become a reflex which fills us naturally with the breath we need at that moment…it’s so powerful and takes all the EFFORT out of breathing and moving in the world!

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How Your Proper SETUP on the Pilates Reformer Supports Your Natural, Orienting Posture

"How Your Proper SETUP on the Pilates Reformer Supports Your Natural, Orienting Posture"

I’m grateful to our client, Linda Smith, for sharing how she is learning to develop her biointelligent body awareness to eliminate chronic back pain. And big thanks to Passing the Torch Mentoring Program graduate, Sharone Rothenberg, for referring Linda to us so that she can learn to help herself.

As Linda shares, “it is highly unusual these days, as we get older, to get more FLUID. Most people “believe” they have to get more STATIC…because that’s just how it is. What I am noticing, as I learn about how my biointelligent body works at Pilates Center of Austin is:

  • I do have the ability to make myself better
  • I do have the ability to feel more fluid
  • I am recognizing and learning about parts of my body and how they can work together
  • I wish I had known this information years before

Isn’t it interesting how Linda is talking about feeling FLUID? She’s learning how to access her FASCIAL, fluid body…rather than overworking her muscular body. In this way she can recognize the isolated strain patterns that were familiar ways of moving in the past…and now knows how to access her “core coordination” in order to have her whole body use gravity’s “Down the Back and Up the Front” balancing support, in order to distribute that strain pattern to create a new, healthy pathway for movement.

You will notice that Linda is using the Reformer Footwork to develop her understanding of how our 3Core Connections “Powerhouse Breath” supports the straightening of her legs….without hyperextending her knees. This way of relaxing on the exhale, and allowing the inhale to become a reflex, wakes up the natural glide and gathering energy of the “shoulder blades and ribs connecting with the internal lift of the low belly”, which fascially connects the legs and arms with the diaphragm and spine.

By putting a yoga mat roll under Linda’s thighs, she is able to connect her Hamstring support with her psoas midline and the Domes of Uplift from her… inner ankle to inner thigh to pelvic floor, to diaphragm to thoracic inlet to her palate. This distinction awakens Linda’s natural orienting spine where she re-discovers her natural postural support. You can see her head re-orient, as she gets in touch with this powerful gravity based, orienting way of being with herself in relationship with her environment.

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Champion Paratriathlete, Patricia Walsh, Learns to Partner with Gravity… “Down the Back…Up the Front”

Champion Paratriathlete, Patricia Walsh, Learns to Partner with Gravity… “Down the Back…Up the Front”

Even though elite athlete, Patricia Walsh, is blind, you will discover that this is no impediment to her…she is engaging with life fully and is a stand for everyone, whether physically challenged or not, to discover their limitless potential. In her compelling book, “Blind Ambition” , she shares her direct experience of an amazing journey, and how to achieve beyond your “perceived” limitations.

I am so inspired in knowing Patricia, and am learning so much in working with her toward being in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

As Patricia says,”being a triathlete, you use so much energy…swimming, biking and running, doing weight training, flexibility work…it’s difficult to balance all those things. I’m working with Wendy to be more efficient in my movement, especially for injury prevention..and to really propel myself forward with less effort…which reserves more energy for the next event!

“As a person with blindness, any time I wanted to strike out and do something that was important to me at a HEART level, I had a lot of people who would sit me down and try to tell me that if I wasn’t willing to accept my limitations, that it was some form of denial…I was in denial.

“What I really had was a strong sense that I was capable of so much more, and a strong sense that I would prefer to have made the attempt, at the risk of failing (what I call failing gracefully in my book), than live as a person who never made the attempt.

“So I started with running. I ran my first half marathon and really felt that I had taken a big stand toward proving what I was capable of doing…and then went on to run 12 marathons, one ultra marathon, 2 Ironman distance triathlons, and went on to represent the U.S., where I recently qualified.

“You can see that the heart of “Blind Ambition” is not about just pushing yourself harder…rather it is about being honest with yourself and going for it full out.”

Patricia is discovering that the Pilates Reformer can support her innate body wisdom in new ways that relate directly to her performance. To support her aerobic capacity, with less stress, we begin with a breath centered practice that we call “Counting Breath” on the Reformer, where you exhale and count while straightening your legs, then inhale through your nose as you bend your knees, then repeat. Remember that there is no over-efforting as you excess effort. The idea is to relax on the exhale, and allow the inhale to become a reflex…life-changing for everyone, and very powerful for athletes to learn to sense:

  • Pressing gently into your feet, while sensing the “shoulder blades waterfalling down your back” on your exhale as you straighten your legs
  • Count 1-10 several times, without inhaling, as you straighten your legs completely
  • Then inhale as you slightly bend your knees
  • You will begin to feel more grounded in your feet, because your relationship with gravity as a partner is enhanced in this practice

Patricia immediately notices that her body’s natural intelligence is awakened…”I feel more relaxed and clear headed, and feel that over the years, I have created a habit of exhaling and inhaling too quickly, not really using the capacity of my lungs to support my movement.

“In refining my breath practice with Wendy, I have really noticed how to support my movement with breath so it feels more effortless…I don’t have to concentrate on my body moving…it’s breath moving my body! Very different than using my body and hoping the breath keeps up!”

As we explore the Pilates Footwork, Patricia notices that her tendency is to invert her feet. By connecting with the small ball at her heels, without gripping it and overworking her groin and inner thigh muscles, Patricia, can see that she is staying grounded through the tripod of her feet, while being connected with the “Domes of uplift” of her inner ankle, pelvic floor, diaphragm, thoracic inlet and palate to inner ear lifting.

Patricia is using the ball as a biointelligent “tool for change”, rather than a “crutch” … “I can feel my deep body intelligence releasing into gravity “Down the Back” into my feet… and my whole body internal lift supported by my “deep belly suspenders” … “Up the Front” from inner ankle to inner ear just came alive !

Visit Patricia's website:

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“Blind Ambition” Author and Champion Paratriathlete, Patricia Walsh, Discovers Effort with Ease

“Blind Ambition” Author and Champion Paratriathlete, Patricia Walsh, Discovers Effort with Ease

I am so honored to be here today with Patricia Walsh, Champion Paratrialthlete, and author of “Blind Ambition”. Patricia had a brain tumor operation in early childhood, where she lost her vision, but as you will see, she didn’t lose her phenomenal drive to live life to its fullest!

After her operation and loss of vision, Patricia says, “the general posturing around me was to treat me as someone fragile, but I didn’t FEEL any different. I wanted to be as capable and as active as the other kids. Everyone wanted to create a safe environment for me, but I felt I was being limited and wasn’t able to pursuemy own aptitudes…

“We’d go to the gym and the other kids would play and they’d have me on the sidelines stacking blocks like a toddler…I was so frustrated to not be included. I knew that I could be an athlete given the opportunity. I always had a sense I could do more and when I realized I was inhibiting myself, I began teaching myself to run on a trail by my house by running with my foot on the edge…I would either go too far and feel gravel, or too far the other way and feel concrete. I rolled my ankles all the time, but I learned to run by running on the edge…pretty dangerously!

“My first time out, I didn’t know how to get back! My second time out, I had put a rock down , so I hit the rock and fell down…I created a system that worked and it taught me.

“I was given the message early on that I wasn’t capable, and what I speak to in my book “Blind Ambition” is a universal truth…we’re all limited by what we BELIEVE we’re capable of doing. Like someone who is pursuing a business degree because they are told it is best for them, but what they truly dream of doing is culinary arts!
“I began to pursue my own athletics with no intent. I went from little runs around my neighborhood ..which was scary, but I got through it! I started to learn what tools and support were available for me..and worked up to running 12 marathons! I then qualified for the Boston Marathon by ABLE-BODIED STANDARDS, and went on to run an ULTRA-MARATHON, which is 35 miles.

From there, based on a dare from my friends, I did my first IRONMAN. I was the first blind female to have completed an IRONMAN distance and 10 months later, I actually broke the world’s record for fastest blind and low vision athletes. I beat the MALE RECORD by 55 minutes!

Some other distinctions I’ve achieved are: USA Athlete of the year 2012, 5x U.S. National Champion, Currently ranked second in the world in both World Ranking and ParaOlympic Ranking, and have 2 Continental GOLD Championships and 3 International Triathlon Bronze Metals. Currently my goal, which Wendy is helping with is that I recently qualified for the 2016 ParaOlympics!

Wendy is helping me better use gravity…how to work smarter, and not harder. I’m really hoping to bring home the GOLD, which Wendy has helped other Olympic athletes to do.

“When Wendy first showed me this great Tensegrity model, I loved visualizing the hard pieces representing the bones and the more elastic pieces representing my body’s soft tissue. It really made it very clear to me that if we’re not working with our whole body in a coordinated way, we’re setting ourselves up for injury.

“I recently recovered from a stress fracture because I was using my body in an unnatural, stressful way. Using this Tensegrity model, I can see how much pressure I was putting on the small bones of my foot because I was “fighting gravity”, rather than “working with gravity”…the way my body is meant to function. I’m here with Wendy to do some injury prevention for the next year and stay injury free!”

Patricia, let’s show everyone how your movement into the BRIDGE has changed. You have done Bridges a million times as an elite athlete, however, you were using your back and gluts to lift your hips.

“Yes, I was using the Bridge to force my body out of alignment. From an athletic perspective, it means so much to have a more NATURAL BRIDGE, so I get the same amount of movement, with less energy expenditure! It’s a crucial cost benefit, saving energy to propel myself forward, rather than fighting my body….

“Originally, I had a huge arch in my back, and was popping my ribs forward…so that when I lifted my hips, I was looking at the BRIDGE as an upper glut movement and really forcing it...throwing my hips out of alignment. Now that I am more AWARE, when I do my OLD BRIDGE, I feel a huge amount of pressure in my hip flexors and back and rib cage, along with abdominal tightening that is restricting my breath. I now know the difference between gripping abs and abs that lengthen in and up with my breath!”

“Now when I work with Wendy to SETUP and sequence a BRIDGE with a partner, the Upper Core support through my hands connects with my shoulder blades and spine curling up from the support of my feet. I feel my deep belly suspenders working with my Hamstrings…it’s like they are coordinated with one another, rather than working separately. My throat softens and, with my sitting bones to heels connection, I feel like I could stay in this BRIDGE and talk with you all day long!

“I also love how I can do this BRIDGE without a partner, by holding a small weight in each hand, giving support from my hands to my spine and feet…Core Coordination is so much fun!

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“Muscular Dystrophy Meets it's Match with Heartful Pilates Partnership"

"Muscular Dystrophy Meets it's Match with Heartful Pilates Partnership

I’m so grateful to be here today with Clara and Neal Gelatt. Clara is currently in my year-long Passing the Torch Mentoring Program, where she has experienced a huge shift in her perception of herself as a Pilates instructor through working with her husband, Neal, who has Muscular Dystrophy.

Please see our video blog page: to access photos of some of the the movements that Clara and Neal are exploring. The “Movement Context” which forms the basis of Clara and Neal’s focus is at the end of this video conversation.
As Clara shares with us, “prior to being in the Passing the Torch (PTT) Mentoring Program, I had worked with Neal at my studio by stretching him…I felt prior to the PTT program that some other instructors SHOULD be teaching him…because they can FORCE him to do the exercises that he SHOULD be doing.

“In my initial biography to enter the PTT program, I found myself writing a lot about Neal, and sharing questions and frustrations I had around helping him. In my first week-long intensive of the PTT program in June at Pilates Center of Austin, Wendy invited Neal to come in the studio and she assisted us with what we had been doing. She gently supported us, helped us refine our intentions and understanding, and literally LIT A FIRE of how we could be working deeper together.”

I was deeply inspired by what Clara and Neal were already doing together, and how they had found a way to communicate in ways that were valuable. What I added was a deeper relationship with how Clara was supporting Neal so he could access the support of gravity, which gave him natural lift that is not so easy for him. The other piece that was very important for Neal was his relationship with breath support and how that internal support could allow his legs and arms to connect more deeply to his spine…once again giving him access to his natural posture and ability to find it for himself.

Clara added, “I used to think of working with Neal as, “when I have time I can stretch out my husband, but I need to be focused on my clients and getting things done in the studio”…and that way of thinking has flipped on its head. Both my work at the studio and my teaching have gotten so much deeper out of focusing on what I am learning by working with Neal in this new embodied way. I’m finding my “inner teacher”…I’m more confident and finding those connections in all bodies...not just Neal.

Neal added, “for me, coming here to PCA and working with you helped us get our thoughts together…we’re clearer in our program and have committed to working together 2x a week in the studio with a greater purpose.

“I used to think of my Pilates sessions as a chore….I had to ‘workout… it’s time for the old flipping my legs and arms around for a little bit on this Trap Table to see if that helps’. After our session with you at PCA, Clara and I were able to communicate more directly, because now we have beneficial movements that have a purpose and connect to ways of grounding and the support of breath that make sense to me.

“For me, one of the bigger challenges late in life is lungs… and with Muscular Dystrophy, there is a diaphragm implication and that is new to us. Connecting with my breath and how that connects with movement and posture has put a nice spin on what would otherwise be not such great news…and a worrisome thing….and so I am connected back with the positive aspect of my week.”

Neal is a computer analyst, so sitting can be very compressing for his spine, and with not being able to access his relationship with gravity easily, his limbs often drag his spine around, rather than being empowered by his spine, so it is essential that his “workout” connect with his body’s deep biointelligence, where his inner ear creates lift and his tail releases to gravity.

Neal continued, “I have visited a number of different Pilates instructors and tried a variety of exercises, often without understanding the movements, and it can be disjointed…one week is the best…the next is the worst and something is tweaked and I don’t want to come back.

What Clara and I are doing now has consistency and is working toward a goal of improving these areas where I have trouble….it is fantastic!

Counting Breath… (Neal’s breath focus for all the movements here)

This piece of our work together is probably the most crucial. It was definitely something that was missing prior to our time with Wendy in June, and since adding it in to our sessions it has really empowered our work together. We start every session like this, Neal transfers on to the Cadillac and I sit behind him, helping him to find a more supported posture, we then start the counting breath. Neal counts from one to ten, repeatedly, as he completes his exhale and then allows his inhale through his nose. You can see in this photo I am usually behind him helping his ribs to release down as he completely exhales, and giving some tactile guiding to allow the breath through his nose, on the inhale. When we were last with Wendy in October, she suggested adding the arm reach, and again this simple addition really brought something new to the movement. I’m not sure if it’s clear from the photo but the placement of Neal’s arms here increased his connection to the breath.

Side stretch (Mermaid)

I added this side stretch work after studying about the importance of lateral contractile fields in Philip Beach’s book in my PTT program. Neal’s body has really lost its ability to move in the dorsal/ventral field, so most of his movement takes place in the lateral field. Every time he transfers in or out of his wheel chair he does so from the side, so his body can take quite the punishment if he is moving without connection. We set up the mermaid position with his feet on the short box so that he can ground through his heels. Then I help to guide his arms on the push through bar as he side bends. We’ve also added a twist to the motion that has really helped Neal to connect to the “down the back, up the front” perspective of our bodies’ relationships to gravity. In this last session with Wendy she helped guide us to finding more grounding for Neal in this exercise. An interesting side note from my perspective, I realized that in my support of Neal I was actually pushing him further than his body could go in the side bend, thus causing him to lose grounding in his hips and increase tension in the shoulders (obviously not our intention). When we started to focus on Neal keeping his hip grounded before side bending he got way more out of the movement.


Neal is lying on his back, with his hands on the push thru bar, his feet on the fuzzy loop of the trapeze and a yoga strap around his thighs to support his legs staying connected with his hip sockets, spine and breath. Clara gently supports Neal in allowing his COUNTING BREATH to support the extension of his arms and legs on his EXHALE, and as he INHALES through his nose, he bends his arms and legs…and senses breath into his back. This is a fabulous way to empower the spine’s relationship with the arms and legs, and allows Neal to deepen his postural support.

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“Melody Follows the Breadcrumbs that Connect Pilates, Yoga and Meditation"

"Melody Follows the Breadcrumbs that Connect Pilates, Yoga and Meditation"

It was so special to be with Melody Benton-Thompson, graduate of my Passing the Torch Mentoring Program, in a going deeper immersion at PCA recently. Melody wanted to deepen her relationship with a distinction of our 3Core Connections Perspective… the power of SETUP, and how that way of being with grounding, centering with breath, and finding natural internal lift… changes everything.

As a dedicated Pilates and yoga teacher and Thai yoga bodyworker, Melody and I met 5 years ago at a workshop I was teaching in New Orleans. She was looking for a way to bridge the many disciplines she was teaching…how could she find her own voice, and not have to choose between yoga and Pilates. She found this in studying the 3Core Connections Perspective with me.

As Melody so eloquently says..”I was looking for a way of languaging that sensing place that connects Pilates and yoga, so my clients can have their own direct experience…and I learned that it’s all in the SETUP…how we are being with gravity as a partner, that is so empowering. In this approach to movement, you are listening to your body’s deep intelligence as it guides you in what it needs in order to release tension, so a block or props become “tools for change”, rather than crutches.”

“ In studying the 3Core Connections approach to movement, I feel more received by my environment, and my core naturally awakens”. How this has fed my yoga mat practice is incredible…I am able to move with so much more embodiment, because I pay attention to my FEET and how I am SETTING UP my body to be supported by gravity. “

“Simple things like SITTING… I just took for granted. My sitting has often been static, but it is movement, as you say, Wendy, because we are in touch with breath! As we looked today at my Sitting Meditation practice, I saw that, in using 1 mat to sit on, I was collapsing my ribs, tensing my back and using slight effort to sit up and breathe. When you suggested I add another mat, and I did that….I could immediately feel my breath and back body connect and my head, shoulders and neck were free…I felt open and receptive. The extra lift allowed me to “yield to gravity” and truly receive the benefits of my long time meditation practice!”

Melody and I are so honored to be building on Joseph Pilates’ vision of empowering people in whole body health by studying the innate intelligence of the body in motion….and how following the breadcrumbs allows us to see the universal connections between all disciplines!

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“Annie Learns to Appreciate and Be Guided By Her Biointelligent Body”

“Annie Learns to Appreciate and Be Guided By Her Biointelligent Body”

I am so grateful to Annie for the authentic way she shared about her experience of coming to the Pilates Center of Austin(PCA), and working with me.

As she shares: “All of my life, I didn’t live in my body…I’ve lived through a lot of trauma…and my relationship with my body was a contentious one. I often felt like a talking head… living in a body. When I looked at the PCA website, a thought occurred to me : ‘I didn’t think I would ever do Pilates, but, here’s a woman who has been studying what I am missing. I’ve done a lot of mental and emotional work and she can help me bring that together with my physical body.

“I was looking for a guide who could help me learn the language of my body…how to appreciate my body, without judgment, so that I am learning how to be in a conversation with the deep intelligence of my body. I have to say that I have looked better at other times in my life….but I have never been more comfortable in my body as I am now!”

Here are some of the “body conversations” I have learned, for instance:

  • “ I didn’t realize how rich, nurturing and supportive my relationship with gravity could be! I never knew I could have a beneficial relationship with gravity as a partner…it’s always been negative due to falling or injury”. To get to the point where I can TRUST that gravity has me, so I can be in myself and feel supported by the space around me, is a life shift.
  • “One of the questions you have often asked me, Wendy, that is so beautiful is: ‘What’s just enough effort for the movement?” I’ve always pushed and pushed, especially when things aren’t working, and this question brings me to a totally different place when my knee hurts now. When I feel discomfort, I notice that I’ve gone beyond “what’s just enough effort” and am usually not using my whole foot or whole body to support my knee.”
  • “Also, you have helped me to see that my knee.. is not just my knee…and that the spaciousness I can create in my foot helps my knee, hips, spine and shoulders to be spacious. It’s not this compressive space that has always been problematic…rather it is an opening from my inner ankle to inner ear!”

Annie and I will demonstrate (on the video and in photos) some of the movements that have enabled her to develop this rich conversation with her biointelligent body:

  • SWAN on ½ FOAM ROLLER…by placing the foam roller round side up at her hip crease, Annie is able to sense a deeper relationship with her hips opening, giving her greater access to her low belly lifting from inner ankle to inner ear, hamstrings connecting along the front of her spine, and legs releasing back from spine to feet (opening her knee joints) . We call this distinction “Down the Back…and Up the Front”. Notice that Annie’s back is not overworking because it is supported from her front lift, so that she is comfortable to arch into a BIG SWAN….and could easily reach one arm up as though doing BIG SWAN on the Push Thru Bar!
  • FOOTWORK and LEG CIRCLES on REFORMER…each of these photos shows Annie placing her hands on her “Low Belly Suspenders” so that, as she moves with feet on the footbar for FOOTWORK, or legs in the long straps for LEG CIRCLES, her legs are becoming more connected with her spine and her BREATH through her “shoulder blades waterfalling down, and internal lift of deep belly”.
    • FORWARD…the yoga straps’ resistance gives Annie a sensation of her spine moving in 2 directions…Inner ear forward…and tail releasing back toward wall…. supported by breath. As she lifts onto the balls of her feet, her hips float toward the ceiling on her INHALE. Maintaining that sensation of “head, spine and hips floating toward the ceiling” on the INHALE, Annie then EXHALES and lowers her heels, which creates SPACE in her hip sockets and creates a deeper connection of her legs fluidly moving from her spine and breath.
    • TWIST…using the yoga block support under her chest, Annie, spirals to the left, placing her right hand on her back to support a deeper spiral, by softening her knees on her INHALE, and EXHALING to straighten her legs from her internal breath support, as she releases into her feet and hand on the yoga blocks. She will repeat this on the other side.

I love the way Annie said “My body knew what you were talking about….my brain didn’t have a clue! I didn’t realize that I knew about the power of the Enteric Brain, and yet I wasn’t accessing it to support my talking head. It’s like knowing a lot about a strawberry….and then eating a strawberry…what a difference!”

Our Biointelligent Body will teach us if we are willing to listen to its guidance!

Annie on reformerAnnie on reformer 2Annie yoga wallAnnie yoga wall twist

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“A Life Well Lived…Pilates Teacher, Beth, And Her Journey with Brain Cancer”

“A Life Well Lived…Pilates Teacher, Beth, And Her Journey with Brain Cancer”

What a privilege and joy it is to be with Beth Benge, Pilates teacher, dancer, choreographer, who worked with us at Pilates Center of Austin back in 2010 and 2011. Beth was diagnosed with Brain Cancer in 2012 and has had rigorous chemotherapy and radiation over these years. Thank you, Beth, for this important conversation… sharing what has made a difference for you.

I know it has been huge for me to feel healthy and strong at those times when I have been faced with an illness or serious injury. So, I asked Beth, what it was like as a strong dancer, Pilates teacher and choreographer, to be faced with a serious diagnosis of Brain Cancer… being with the process of facing her mortality.

“When the doctors said ‘just go live your life’, I got a bit defensive because I could not live the life I‘ve lived before. I was fortunate to be so healthy to face the strong regimes to help with such an aggressive type of cancer…but life completely changes. So rather than resist that, and I did have a feeling about it…worked through it…it revists me from time to time, but I work through it…but I want to live the fullest life I can live. So I look at what I DO have, and Oh my goodness, do I have some wonderful things and people in my life….
How can I miss time with you, Wendy, by moping around somewhere, so I’m extremely happy to talk about my health and share my experiences, forgiving myself for my shortcomings. All of this is very helpful in feeling like I’m still part of humanity, even though I’m at the doctor’s office more than anywhere else. What I am clear about is that this illness is not separate from my life…I try to approach it in a way that is life affirming.”

I also asked Beth to speak about the importance of “listening to her body”… Especially since you had so much ability…how do you rein that back, and listen in a way that you feel like you’re helping yourself?

“Yes, that requires a whole different discipline…you do need to listen to your body as a dancer, using ease of movement and resistance in dance to build strength, etc. But also as a dancer, you tend to have the GOAL of bigger, better, stronger – even if you pull back and are subtle…you’re still working toward something.

So to ease back and focus on RESTORATION has been really, really important. Some of the treatments that I went through made my body really seize up, physically and lymphatically…so rather than trying to get back to a beginning Pilates exercise format, I just listened to my body…and it said:

"Let me breathe, and let me feel where that takes me…my ribcage was so tight and restricted, so how can I try to loosen up my ribcage? I went back to all the distinctions that you teach about supporting the spine and fascial awareness…it’s so important to listen to my body because it’s working so hard. I took away the judgment of what NAPPING might mean to someone else…it’s really, for me, restorative and really important to learn how to MOVE from that NAP…what does my body need from there – to gain some ease of movement again.”


  • Lying forward over a softer Swiss Ball, with soft elbows and knees…feeling the wall and floor for support… breathing around the ball, bending and gently straightening her legs and allowing her head, neck and back to respond naturally by SENSING the support of the ball…. arching and curling (very tiny movements) …rather than going into a controlled, learned Swan
  • Lying forward over the Swiss Ball…gently sidebending on the ball by WEIGHT SHIFTING on the ball, like pouring sand into each side of her pelvis, sensing weight into that foot on the wall, to feel that side take weight and lengthen and allow the other side to gently shorten and flex.
  • Sidelying on the mat with a small (12-14”) soft ball under her top knee…pillow for her head. Comfortably moving, by allowing the weight of her sidebody on the floor to support her BREATH’s fascial spinal support, along with her internal organs, to encourage her knee rolling forward and back
  • Lying on the mat on her back, knees bent, with a Stretch-Eze Band around her shoulders and around the arch of one foot. Feeling the band give “what’s just enough support” for her back to open to breath and her leg to straighten from a heavy hip…gently point and flex and circling her foot..and then moving from breath to circle her leg…feeling deep, tiny circles in her hip socket as the band gives fascial support….Beth said it felt so NOURISHING!

I asked Beth, with each of these movements…do you feel you are you doing Pilates? Because this is where we look at the vision of a great body of work…and how much it is based on Principles, rather than just a specific exercise.. Beth responded…”I agree….what is the objective of the exercise? If the objective is to get a FULLER BREATH, then let your body explore how to get that fuller breath by:

  • Being on the floor
  • Using the wall
  • Using a ball
  • Using a Stretch-eze band

I loved how Beth shared her experience of using the Stretch-eze band to give her body a feeling of security, safety and nourishment. And, she said:

“I have been so surprised because I went to such a different level of physicality than I’ve ever experienced. With these treatments, I lost a lot of cognitive ability, and have had the experience of how TRAUMA completely seizes you up physically and mentally. I’m astonished that so many of these simple explorations have fed my nervous system’s ability to respond and restore itself. It really does feel the support and safety…it trusts that I’m not going to push it too far.

I have a feeling about it too…as a dancer and Pilates teacher, I would like to just go dance full out, but my body says to wait..that’s the push pull. My deeper sense is saying..’be gentle’…and am I listening..YES! And the more I listen…I’m so astonished with the RELATIONSHIPS that occur…because when you do heed that voice, you give your body what it needs and wants…and you feel the healing.

I just got back from L.A. with lots of enthusiasm…and there is STRESS with enthusiasm, so to learn how to calm down and give peace there too… is perfect for taking my blood pressure more accurately, so my breath re-sets!

I have to have regular infusions in my brain, and lots of doctors offices are chatty and busy…there is a lot going on…but I prefer, when my treatment is scheduled, to give my body a little space to be quiet and they know that now, so the nurses say “Ok, Beth, it’s time to ZEN out!” and everyone gets quiet.”

This is so great, Beth…you’ve asked for and created a healing environment - STUNNING!! Thank you for your beautiful spirit!

Beth Benge using a Stretch-eze bandBeth Benge using a ball 1Beth Benge using a ball 2Beth Benge using a ball 3

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Lacy Shares Her Journey to Empowering Her VOICE with Pilates

Lacy Shares Her Journey to Empowering Her VOICE with Pilates

Lacy Rose is a passionate opera and jazz singer and coach, who is also a client at Pilates Center of Austin. I have spoken with Lacy about her journey with following her passion for music, and our mutual love and respect for Lady Day, also known as the legendary jazz singer, Billie Holliday.

It’s so special to hear Lacy share her rich journey, and those teachers and mentors who have helped her to discover her voice.
In this interview, she also shares how our embodied, biointelligent approach to Pilates is helping her to fine tune her vocal talent by softening her throat, and assisting her natural breath control.

Thanks to Beth, our fabulous studio manager, for holding the Samsung camera phone as we had this spontaneous interview… ENJOY!

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Margaret Explores a Deeper Relationship with the Reformer as Environment…Unwinding Her Scoliosis – Part 2

Margaret Explores a Deeper Relationship with the Reformer as Environment…Unwinding Her Scoliosis – Part 2

In this video, which builds on Part 1 where "Margaret Discovers How Primal Floor Seated Postures Help Unwind Her Scoliosis", we are taking the information gathered in exploring the Primal Postures on the floor, to lying down on the Reformer in Footwork.

Right away, Margaret noticed that she was not able to sense her whole back on the Reformer carriage. We placed a pillow under her whole back, and placed a sandbag on her pelvis which awakened her "lateral awareness" and sense of "yielding her weight to gravity "….allowing her front ribs to settle down, softening and widening her chest… and cultivating her body's sense of its wholeness and ability to "back" herself (allowing gravity to support her, thereby releasing unnecessary tension).

Many years ago, Dr. Valerie Hunt, a former research scientist at UCLA, who studied human primal patterns, wrote that "the dominant movement wave of most modern people is a forward thrust movement into space. If we look at a person lying down, we almost always see some sort of forward pattern in the chest, ribs, pelvis, etc. Increasingly, we are becoming a sagittal plane (forward oriented) society due to postural demands of using computers, cell phones, and other high tech devices that exaggerate this pattern. This pattern overworks the abdominals for support and reduces access to our gravity based postural muscles. Additionally, we lose our ability to "back" ourselves by not orienting to gravity's support."

The "Set-up" of the pillow under her spine and back, and the sandbag on her pelvis, allowed Margaret to sense the weight of her body, which released her back on the inhale and allowed her belly wall to fall more naturally back on the exhale as it follows the diaphragm's movement in expelling air from the lungs.

The Set-up of Footwork on the Reformer is such a valuable way to create a more spatial relationship with gravity from the shoulder blades waterfalling " Down the Back" into the tripod of the feet, which allows internal lift "Up the Front" to "wake up" from inner ankle to inner ear.

Other ways that Margaret learned how to communicate with her body through her hands and feet, were by using a theraband in her hands to laterally press out, widening her chest and back….and placing the theraband behind her mid-back to press forward. She also found that using the long straps in Leg Circles, the pillow under her back, and the sandbag on her pelvis allowed her, for the first time, to feel her legs moving freely from her spine and breath..rather than feeling locked in her hip sockets and low back.

These distinctions of straightening her arms and legs from her "shoulder blades to internal belly" breath support, allowed Margaret to sense a NEW relationship with her spine through her arms and legs…which energized her spine's whole body tensegrity, and deepened her awareness to her environment as support!

Given our common environmental situations (forward-oriented motions and tendencies to restrict breathing)…how do we open our "potential for action" in life and in our teaching? One primary way is by addressing our perception…the way in which we see/perceive ourselves being in the world. Our physical structure, movement and psychological profile are influenced and affected by our perception. With scoliosis, a distorted perception of physical alignment and body image can occur, which can deeply interfere with how we function and interact with our environment on a physical and emotion level.

How are we affecting our ability to non-judgmentally notice and sense, in ourselves and others, movement and perceptual organization that empowers and opens us to new perceptions? The 3Core Connections Perspective allows us to dive deeply into this conversation, by opening our awareness to the 2 directions of the spine as a natural biological function by using gravity and space as partners, and full body breathing as energy for movement.

Through this inquiry, we are awakening to our biointelligence, a deeply intelligent, responsive ability to innately organize, regulate, heal and explore the depth of our nature and our relationship with all of nature. Our body tells us what it needs when we truly pay attention.

Margaret with Stretch-eze

Margaret with Stretch-eze 2

Margaret with Stretch-eze 3

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Margaret Discovers How Primal Floor Seated Postures Help Unwind Her Scoliosis – Part 1

Margaret Discovers How Primal Floor Seated Postures Help Unwind Her Scoliosis – Part 1

In most movement disciplines, the approach to scoliosis is usually from a pieces and parts "fixing" perspective. In this video we will be exploring a biointelligent approach to scoliosis, which is seeing the body as a living process, as Margaret and I share how we have helped our scoliosis by listening to our body's guidance.

What is usually missing when addressing scoliosis is an understanding that each side of our bodies are unique…there is no one in the world who is perfectly symmetrical…just as there is nothing in nature that is totally symmetrical.

When we set-up our bodies in the field of gravity so they can rest down, we open ourselves to a primal way of being as self-regulating, adaptive whole human beings…and allow our body to guide us in order to address concerns.

In Part 1 of this video series with Margaret, she is noticing that the primal postures have woken up internal spinal muscles that she didn't know she wasn't using…these are her spine's gravity based muscles, which do not tire as quickly as the extrinsic muscles that move us. These postures also create a release in the torsion tension patterns from legs to spine, which allows a more flowing, articulate movement between the pelvis, spine and legs.

We begin with: TOE SIT – sitting on the metatarsal heads of the sole of the feet, which wakes up the whole extensor pattern of our body. It's difficult for Margaret to rest her sitting bones on her heels, so we prepare with a Downward Dog..Floating Knees movement that opens her feet and creates an ability to sit down with help from pillows..without hurting her knee. Listening for her knee pain to tell her how much support, allows Margaret to be "guided" to use more or less pillow as she progresses over time.

What this approach to the body teaches us is that, if you don't use enough support, your body will never change because there is not enough "safety and support" to change. What I have noticed over time is that giving enough support in the Lower Core..spine to feet, so we become more "grounded"…allows the Upper Core to let go of neck, shoulder, jaw pain. Opening and awakening the feet releases tension in the whole body.

Margaret then moves to: HERO – sitting on the tops of both feet with the heels released out. She noticed that she needed less pillow in this position, and that her knee was relaxing more into the movements.

The next Primal Posture is: 1 LEG HERO - keep sitting on l knee and bring the other foot forward on the floor. This posture places a lot of pressure on the leg you are resting down on, so use enough pillows to create ease on that side, which allows the opposite hip that is in the air to release toward the floor.

The next Primal Posture is: Z SIT – external rotation of your left leg so it is in front of you, and internal rotation of your right leg so bends to fold alongside your right side – using pillows under your hips to allow each sitting bone to sit down so your hips feel released and your pelvis doesn't feel locked. This posture is one we use a lot in Structural Integration for movement awareness that teaches the articulation of the pelvis on the legs.

I'm grateful to Phillip Beach for deepening my understanding of the power in these postures. Even though I have practiced these postures for many years, my work with Phill, coupled with profound studies over the years of a deeper understanding of how our biointelligent bodies guide us in movement has transformed my teaching and practice.

We are whole beings, and when we get in touch with how the gravitational field can allow our fascial body to support our muscles, bones and organs in movement, we no longer feel it is necessary to STRETCH the same overworked muscles constantly. What can we let go of that we don't need to be doing? Learning how to rest down, opens us to a whole body way of being with ourselves that releases tight muscles…we move from a pieces and parts way of being to a whole person way of being.

Set-up is everything…so set yourself up for the gravity based muscles in a "core coordination" concert with the body's fascial web to take the load…and the result may surprise you!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this video series, where "Margaret Explores a Deeper Relationship with the Reformer as Environment…Unwinding Her Scoliosis"

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Michelle Is Helping Her Vocal Chord Paralysis with "HA" Breath

Charles Discovers a Whole Body Fascial Release in Reformer Footwork for his Plantar Fasciitis

"HA" breath is a distinction that is sometimes called "Ujjayi" breath in yoga. It is a breath that I have studied with many teachers, and is one that can have many interpretations. What I have noticed in studying breath over the years is that, as Michelle mentions, it is not about "doing it right"…it is about noticing what we are doing that is in the way of our natural breath as it shifts with our movement patterns, and letting go into what is more natural.

The value of "HA" breath is that, in making the sound of "HA", first through slightly open lips so you can hear the ocean sound at the back of your throat, and then through your nose (still imaging that HA sound), you begin to sense how it:

  • Awakens deeper gravity based muscular and fascial support throughout your body
  • Warms your spine with a frictional sensation that happens because your glottis (the flap that slightly closes your windpipe) is slightly closing to make the sound of HA
  • Creates more stability for your spine, without locking it, or your throat, in muscular tension

As Michelle says, on the "HA" breath, when the breath moves through her nose, down her throat and enlivens her spine and diaphragm on the inhale, she feels she is taking a bigger breath, without efforting. As she relaxes on the exhale, through her nose, she feels a deeper "shoulder blades waterfalling down toward the internal belly lifting up" connected feeling, which creates more space in her shoulder and hip areas for functional movement to flow in everyday activities.

Practicing this deeper, more fascial breath is helping to heal Michelle's paralyzed vocal chord, because of how her breath is massaging her internal organs and supporting her primordial midline…and Michelle says she feels so much more connected in her Pilates mat and reformer classes!

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Charles Discovers a Whole Body Fascial Release in Reformer Footwork
for his Plantar Fasciitis

Charles Discovers a Whole Body Fascial Release in Reformer Footwork for his Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is a painful inflammatory condition that occurs when the superficial fascia of the foot over-works, rather than the deeper internal dome of the foot which is connected to whole body movement.

Charles has been a client at PCA for about 3 years and is sharing that he has so much more awareness in HOW he is moving , and that he can come in to the studio feeling tense before class…and after class feels that his whole body has been re-energized.

Charles and I explored how in Footwork on the Reformer, his tendency was to over-work his calves and knees, which created a tightening of the superficial fascia Plantar Fasciitis condition. What Charles noticed is that:

  • By placing a rolled yoga mat under his thighs, right at his sitting bones, his Hamstrings were triggered to engage, which allowed him to "sense" his sitting bones to heels connection, and feel how he could "open his hips" , from a functional/kinesthetic perspective… this gave him a deeper awareness of his back body releasing, through his heels..grounding "Down the Back"
  • By placing a 4" ball between his heels, he could soften his tendency to hyperextend his knees, and his lift "Up the Front" was ignited from inner ankle to inner ear.
  • That his breathing pattern is actually connected to his postural integrity, and ability to extend his legs, without tightening his back….yes, the Diaphragm is a postural muscle!

What Charles noticed in our session together is that when he could release his heels, without tightening his knees, in Footwork's Lower Lift and Running, that his inner thigh lift occurred, and the Plantar Fasciitis that had plagued him was not noticeable. Our biointelligent body is so amazing when we allow gravity to support us in movement!

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Michelle Goes Deeper with Pilates One Leg Rollup and Repairs her Internal Midline

Michelle Goes Deeper with Pilates One Leg Rollup and Repairs her Internal Midline

You will remember that Michelle and I posted a video several months ago (see that video below), where she shared that her doctor told her she would never be able to flex her spine again due to the tram flap breast surgery that removed some of her abdominal and oblique muscles. You can see that the 3Core Connections distinction of One Leg Rollup, along with a kinesthetic awareness of allowing gravity to support her, has allowed her back's fascial connections to soften and widen, so the front of her spine can re-learn how to fall back into a flexed position.

Now we are with Michelle months later. I did a special session with her about a month ago where we introduced the Stretch-eze band and a deeper breath awareness, and Michelle's body LOVED that we were giving more support for the movement….as a result, it has responded in profound ways.

You will see that Michelle is using the Stretch-eze band around one foot and across the opposite shoulder to deepen her sensory/kinesthetic access to her shoulder blades "waterfalling… Down the Back" on her EXHALE, and allowing the pause of her INHALE to enable her inner ankle to internal belly to inner ear create a deeper lift "Up the Front".

She is also utilizing a new breath awareness of the "HA" nasal breath (more about that later). This is based on the Ujjayi breath from yoga, that is a calming, yet invigorating support for movement. The combination of deepening her biointelligent understanding of movement with a breath that supports her bioenergetic internal midline connections is not only giving Michelle new access to movements that she could not do before, but is softening her throat and healing her vocal chord paralysis!

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Marie Re-Discovers her Biointelligent Whole Body following Severe Knee Trauma

Marie Re-Discovers Her Biointelligent Whole Body Following Severe Knee Trauma

When Marie's right tibia was shattered in a bike accident (see x-ray of extent of repair to bone), she found herself caught in the allopathic medical model of focusing on the part, without regarding its relationship with her whole body. Her world became her bed and wheelchair, with physical therapy exercises that focused on re-gaining range of motion within her knee joint.

Fortunately, Marie has been a long time client of ours, and I knew that the early stages of an injury can be a critical time to re-establish a fluid whole body approach to the injury, guided by the biointelligent body's innate wisdom to "know" how far to straighten and bend the knee in relationship to the foot , hip and spine supported by breath and functional movement.

I set Marie up in a program with April Perez-Moore, one of our dedicated PCA teachers, with a focus on having her biointelligence leading the healing process. Our whole body breath focus engaged Marie's fascial body and internal organs to deeply support her muscles, bones and joint capsule tissue so a rapid healing occurred at the site of the injury. Her doctors were amazed!

We know that the body doesn't know exercises, it knows movement. An example of our focus was:

  • Lying on the reformer and simulating bending and straightening her healthy left leg from foot to knee, to hip to spine to head/inner ear (as though standing up and sitting down)…while her injured right leg rested by Marie placing her hands behind her thigh and softly allowing her right hip to release into the reformer mat. By allowing her body to feel SAFETY, SUPPORT and ENCOURAGEMENT …her nervous system is able to rest down into a parasympathetic response which encourages healing;
  • From that same position on the reformer, with a heavy right hip, beginning to straighten her right leg, without forcing anything. Softly bending her knee just enough to sense a heavy hip, and connection to her standing foot, awakens a primal relationship …so the back of her leg and front of her spine find a deeper connection which allows her fascial tightness in her right leg and knee to release into her whole body support.
  • The Stretch-eze Band is an integral part of our 3Core Connections approach to whole body movement and trauma support. Placing her whole right foot, or just the inner arch, in the width of the band as the other end of the circular band wraps behind her back, while bending and straightening her leg, can provide valuable awareness of how much resistance is needed as healing is occurring, in order to become weight bearing on that foot.

The most important message to hear in Marie's language is that she was guided to ask "What can I do now?" By suspending her judging mind, and befriending her body by continually finding more and more space physically, mentally and emotionally , she was able, as she says " to have her WHOLE BODY be spoken to INCLUSIVE of the PART IN RECOVERY". I am suggesting that is the true vision of Joseph Pilates. Remember that he was inspired to create his method and spring-based apparatus by working with people in hospital beds, taking the springs off the beds, and, as he says in his book, "Return to Life"…. "rather than letting the body atrophy by waiting for the injury to heal…I started working the whole body around the injury"!

Let's keep standing on the shoulders of Joseph Pilates vision, by awakening to our innate biointelligent genius, as we continue to gain deeper awareness of how our bodies work, and how we can empower our ability to self-heal, self-regulate and adapt to our ever changing environment!

~Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle

Marie x-ray

Wendy Stretch-eze

Wendy Stretch-eze 2

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Camila Explores Side Arm Twist on the Pilates Chair with Biointelligent Flow

Camila Explores Side Arm Twist on the Pilates Chair with Biointelligent Flow

Pilates teacher, Camila Raeder, came to study recently from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Camila is a dancer and is very accomplished in her movement awareness. What is creating a new distinction for her is how profound it is to fully release into gravity's support to free up her arms, legs and head.

As she uses the wall for feedback for her feet, enhancing her "Down the Back -Grounding", her twist is able to come from a deeper midline relationship, which wakes up her internal lift "Up the Front – Suspension" from foot to head. Moving from her spine's "postural" relationship to her diaphragm's midline support releases her bottom hand into the footbar, and creates a tensional balance throughout her entire body, which creates freedom for her head and top arm to move and tone her internal organs as she twists. This distinction of "fascial tensegrity", creates a deep sense of internal support, de-stresses the nervous system and empowers the entire body with external freedom to move with ease.

What a joy it was to explore with Camila, cultivating movement with BIOINTELLIGENT EASE!

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The Cat In The Hat Springs Back

Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle | The Cat In The Hat Springs Back

About 8 years ago, I was driving one night with a dear friend on a very dark highway from Longmont to Boulder, Co. Some kids (the police told us later, as they did it again) thought it was funny to move the cones in a construction area so that we ran head-on into a 75,000# piece of road-building equipment. We were in a classic, heavy Lincoln that was crushed, and that probably saved our lives. There were no air bags, so my body took the crash by wrapping around the seat belt, which cracked my sternum and gave me a severe whiplash…I felt like every bone in my body was broken. Before the EMS arrived, my friend carried me from the car and as I was lying on the side of the road, I could feel my body going into shock. What happened, almost magically, was that I could sense my BREATH practice wrapping its arms around me. By the time EMS arrived, I was calm and able to speak clearly. The doctor told me later that, had I not been in such good shape, I would have probably been more severely injured.

The most powerful part of this experience was how the body of work I have developed over the years, through studies with brilliant teachers, helped me heal. Being able to release into gravity's support allowed my body to resource itself every moment. As my nervous system was on high alert, listening to and being guided by my body's natural intelligence while lying on the floor became deeply nourishing. I learned how far to go when lying on my back and rolling from side to side….each day became a new awareness of more range of motion as I progressed from very limited, painful movement to full vibrancy. Today, even though I have no more pain, being able to do a full split is not possible as there is still deep trauma inhibiting my body tissues that is slowly unwinding through embodied movement, breath, sounding…and I can feel it coming!

A beautiful experience happened when I was walking on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder with a friend about a week after the accident, wearing a neck brace. A little boy, about 3 years old, saw me, raised his arms and ran toward me yelling, "Daddy! Daddy! The Cat in the Hat!" I looked at him and it took a minute to register that I was wearing a large, blue and white neck brace, which looked to him like a hat….."YES!" I said. His eyes widened, as he began circling me, calling out "The Cat in the Hat!…The Cat in the Hat!"

I looked at my friend and said "the healing has begun!"

Cat in the Hat Wendy

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Tokyo teacher, Yuri Kajima, deepens her Pilates SWAN

Tokyo teacher, Yuri Kajima, deepens her Pilates SWAN

It is so special to have Yuri come back to Pilates Center of Austin again to deepen her understanding around Pilates and whole body movement from the perspective of "core coordination" rather than "core control". I first met Yuri in 2013 when I was teaching in Tokyo. She was one of 8 teachers who came to PCA in April 2014, thanks to Passing the Torch graduate, Taeko Boyle, to go deeper in their work together. She is again returning to PCA, as she says, "to continue to deepen my journey in my body, so I can communicate in more depth with clients".

Normally, Yuri said that her experience of doing the SWAN would leave her with a tight neck, back and hips. By using her 3Core Connections Perspective distinction of "Down the Back", she was able to release into gravity's support, freeing her diaphragm's relationship with her midline lift "Up the Front"….and she created a relational way of being with her body that "opened" her hips and back, and gave her a deeper connection within her whole body for the movement.

What is exciting to Yuri is how this embodied way of being in her Pilates practice gives her skills to apply directly to her passion of dance!


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Wendy Honors Her Dad, The Fig Man, On Memorial Day

Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle Honors Her Dad, The Fig Man, On Memorial Day

Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle Honors Her Dad, The Fig Man,  On Memorial DayThis photo of my Dad with his beloved fig tree is one I cherish. He was a proud Marine, a New Orleans native, an avid golfer, and he called himself "The Fig Man", because, during fig season, he would put on his "fig harvesting uniform" to harvest the figs off his ONE fig tree. He carefully recorded how many figs he harvested each day on a schedule on the refrigerator, until he finally had enough to make his famous "Fig Preserves". This was a ritual that he practiced religiously for 40 years. It was one of the few times I saw him truly happy. What I'll never forget is that the year he died…the fig tree died too.

Dad told me at the end of his life that he had lived a life of regret. He was also a deeply injured, abused child, who became an abuser. There were many years that I did not have any communication with him, and we were both uncomfortable being around one another. But that relationship changed profoundly…and not because he changed, but because I did. Through participation in personal growth work and leadership training, seeking out coaches who helped me move toward and through my fears, and somatic teachers who helped me discover how to nurture my wholeness in my personal practice. Dad and I healed our relationship before he died…and for that I will be eternally thankful.

Our most challenging relationships are often our greatest teachers...and our greatest gifts. I know that my willingness to let go of the past, forgive and learn to live in the present, has enabled me to have a truly authentic relationship with myself, my incredible husband, Michael, and an inspired career filled with passion, purpose and vitality! If nothing else, there is one thing of which I am absolutely clear, and that is this…the extent to which I am able to create a space for clients and teachers to feel safe, loved, respected, enlivened and empowered is wholly a function of my ability to create that kind of space for myself.

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Wendy On The Passing Of Her Mentor, Emilie Conrad

Wendy On The Passing Of Her Mentor, Emilie Conrad

Wendy shares how her Continuum Movement practice feeds her Pilates practice.

Continues Part 2

Silke Shares Her Pilates Opening Awareness With Wendy

Silke Shares Her Pilates Opening Awareness With Wendy

"Silke Lamotte, from Germany, shares a breakthrough she has had in her Pilates practice, by opening her awareness to her body's bio-intelligence. Rather than "pulling her navel to her spine", which tightens her low back and throat, Silke demonstrates the difference it makes in her body to "yield to gravity", which opens her back to breath, and allows her belly wall to fall back naturally into her widening back as she curls down and up."

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Pilates Teachers From Tokyo Share Their Experiences of Studying With Wendy | Part One

Pilates Teachers From Tokyo Share Their Experiences of Studying With Wendy | Part One

These fabulous teachers from Tokyo, Japan: Yuri Kajima, Taeko Boyle, Michiyo Nagata, Natsumi Mori, Kaori Ohkawara, Megumi Orito, and Yukari Kuwahara, share how studying the vision of the 3Core Connections Perspective with Wendy in Japan and Austin, has opened them to a more authentic, embodied experience of practicing and teaching Pilates. We are inquiring into how, by partnering with gravity and space….we nourish, restore and strengthen ourselves, so that Pilates becomes about enlivening the whole person! Translation by Taeko Boyle

Tokyo Teachers Part 2

Pilates Teachers From Tokyo Share Their Experiences of Studying With Wendy | Part Two

Pilates Teachers From Tokyo Share Their Experiences of Studying With Wendy | Part Two

These fabulous teachers from Tokyo, Japan: Yuri Kajima, Taeko Boyle, Michiyo Nagata, Natsumi Mori, Kaori Ohkawara, Megumi Orito, and Yukari Kuwahara, share how studying the vision of the 3Core Connections Perspective with Wendy in Japan and Austin, has opened them to a more authentic, embodied experience of practicing and teaching Pilates. We are inquiring into how, by partnering with gravity and space….we nourish, restore and strengthen ourselves, so that Pilates becomes about enlivening the whole person! Translation by Taeko Boyle.

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Vivian Self Heals Her Sacrum

Vivian Shares with Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle How She Self Heals Her Sacrum

Vivian shares how she healed her chronic sacral issue by discovering her body's bio-intelligence and its ability to be self healing.

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One Leg Rollup with Michelle

Wendy Demonstrating the One Leg Rollup with Michelle

"Michelle shares her incredible healing journey after breast cancer surgery....she was told by her doctor that she would never be able to flex her spine again…..that was before she discovered the One Leg Roll-Up at Pilates Center of Austin!"

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Wendy's Mom Discovers the Power of Pilates

Wendy's Mom Discovers the Power of Pilates

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