10 postures, 50 rounds of breath to promote a divine nights sleep:)

 

Check this sequence out on you tube!

I do this sequence when I am experiencing an achy lower body in the evening before I go to bed.  My legs and feet can be irritated to the point I have a hard time relaxing my body so I can fall asleep.  

The following sequence done with the breath can help flush lower body, releasing tension and tight muscles in the lower body – feet, legs & hips.  

Heres to a divine nights sleep…

SEQUENCE

1.  cat -inhale/cow – exhale(dynamic stretch)

2.  toe stretch “toe breaker pose”

3.  quad stretch

4.  calves stretch

5.  lying supine – use hands to push thighs back to stretch open and decongest low waist and pelvis

6.  hamstring stretch

7.  figure 4 stretch

8.  windshield wiper/supine twist-inhale one way and exhale the other(dynamic stretch)

9.  hug knees to chest or plow

10.  seated forward fold

 

UPLIFT YOUR SPIRIT TO HEAL YOUR BODY

“Miracles are natural.  Something is wrong if they don’t happen.  For instance, you can be a vegetarian and run 6 miles a day, but if you are in an abusive relationship, or hate your job, or have daily fights with your parents/spouse, you are losing energy – or power – in a pattern of behavior that can lead to illness or can prevent your healing from an illness.  On the other hand, if you are spiritually centered and call back your energy from negative beliefs you can eat cat food and still stay healthy.” 

pg.26 – Anatomy of the Spirit, by Caroline Myss.

 

This month I attended both a Yoga and Pilates conference.  I had a great time reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, and of course gaining fresh insight on different ways to teach both these disciplines.  As I reflect back on my experiences and the people I met and worked with I am amazed by how different each and every body is, although some things will work for most people, there are always several exceptions!  Its been fascinating for me to  learn peoples stories and how their stories are visible to some degree in their bodies.   Of course, every ‘body’ is different in its own DNA , but it is interesting to me how a person’s past and present experiences can further shape and influence their body.  That said, I believe the physical actions and postures in Yoga and Pilates are not enough to transform and heal one’s body to find better equilibrium.  I further believe that there has to be a strong importance on “our” spirit(s) as we work.   If we just emphasize the physical/ body without including the spiritual we will fall short of reaping the benefits of both methods. 

I just read the book, Anatomy of the Spirit, by Caroline Myss.  Caroline Myss is a medical intuitive.  In her book, she gives examples how illness generally corresponds to a held pattern of emotional and psychological stresses, beliefs, and attitudes.  These held patterns influence 7 particular areas in the body.  The 7 energy centers of spiritual and physical power in the body integrate with ancient wisdom of 3 spiritual traditions – Hindu chakras, the Christian sacraments, and the Kabbalah’s tree of life.  If one energy center is lacking energy or ‘sleeping’ for whatever reason this energetic imbalance will have a direct influence on that particular part of the physical body.

You may wonder, why I am writing about a medical intuitive and energy centers and their corresponding connection to the physical body?  It’s fascinating!, and after all, we are simply matter and spirit.  To be healthy and strong I believe its important to understand how matter and spirit interact to ultimately feel our best.  If your spirit is drained our bodies will be too…   We all have our challenges and maybe you are currently, or have experienced, a feeling of disconnect in your body that all the cues and physical therapy etc cannot help undo.  How does that particular part of your physical body coincide with an energetic center in your body?  Read the book!!:)

It’s our human condition to experience suffering and although it’s humiliating, and painful, I believe it is happening for a reason and if I listen and accept the lesson I can find more energetic and physical balance and joy within that will help me ultimately grow and transform into someone greater than before.   I have tried denying my pain and continued to ‘get in the ring’ pushing my feeling aside, but it wasn’t until I accepted my current physical and emotional state and decided to work with it, not ignore it, that my body finally started to heal, open, and recirculate.  All the technical cues and training lessons are a waste of energy and money if your spirit is not also awake and participating with your body.  

I am sure most of us agree that we do not ask ourselves how our spirit is doing when we go to Pilates or exercise class, but I believe it is something to pay attention to, especially if you do want to improve, find more connection within and ultimately feel better.  What enlivens and fuels our spirit also fuels our bodies.   “The power that fuels our bodies, our minds, our hearts does not originate in our DNA, Rather, its our roots in divinity itself” – pg 78

Here’s my 2 cents on how you could uplift your spirit

-show up 

show up with full presence and awareness in and out of class

-remind yourself

remind yourself you are not alone.  There are other beautiful souls that have the same work to do.

-breathe, breathe, continue to breathe

The breath is the piece that connects us. When we are breathing deeply and consciously we are in union with the divine and  and can move our energy, and transform our spirit.

-listen deeply and pay attention to the  reasons why  – you are doing something.

listen deeply to yourself and others with kindness to better understand.

-be kind and accept yourself and others.

especially in a states/periods of stress, how can you respect yourself and others?  Stand tall, look forward and see one another.   Look for the good in the situation.  Find the lesson to be learned and be a model for others.

15 minute workout -standing arm sequence

I have a new video to share with you on my vimeo account. 
 
 
The workout shows a 15 minute standing arm sequence.  The workout focuses on the upper body connection between your hands and your back.  The first 3 minutes is a basic dynamic warm up to open and wake the body up.  The following 12 minutes shows the standing arm weight sequence.  
 
Its a great add on to any workout especially a nice long walk(like I did yesterday).  Its also short enough to squeeze in at any time in your day to build strength in your back and enhance more openness in your chest….a great primer for backbends:).
 
A few things to keep in mind:
1.  weights are optional.  However, be sure to hug your muscles to your arm bones –  start to finish –  in the workout with/without weights to enhance your connection.  Use your muscles to stretch!  “You are as strong as you are flexible.”
2.  head, throat, shoulders move as an integrated piece.  
3.  with every move you make, think how you are connecting to your back either for the purpose of strengthening or stretching.
 
I hope you enjoy it!
 
Brooke

BACKBENDS…Free your heart & let go of your mind

 

If you are familiar with my teaching you may have heard me voice one if not all of the following…

Root to rise.

Ground to grow.

Connect within to expand out.

Dig deep to shine bright.

I love it how these complementary phrases can remind us of seeing another perspective.  I do believe that there is always a flip side to everything.

I find these contradicting sayings very valuable as I work in my Pilates practice where much of what I am concentrated on is strengthening my center.   If I just focus on rooting, grounding, connecting (strengthening actions), etc…and do not give equal attention to the rise, growth, expansion, and overall reach out, I could create more stress and congestion in my pelvic center instead of what I want which is a strong, yet spacious connection.

As I am sure most of us can agree, it is natural to sometimes resist a difficult situation/hardship, or feel sad, upset, angry, and possibly even out of breath.   Remembering that this is only one side to our experience or our ‘play’ (and the play will go on if we allow it) brings me peace and hope.  It helps to be aware of the flip side of all situations when I am struggling the most. 

I find Backbends to be a perfect remedy to help me when I am feeling sad and resisting the present moment.  Experiencing the pure physicality of a backbend of being flipped open helps me breathe deeper and encourages me to let go, be courageous, playful, and trust in myself.  As you can imagine, the nature of a backbend exposes the front body which we generally are very protective of.   As a result of “exposing ourselves,” I truly believe we can release held tensions and emotions that we sometimes can’t let go.  It the best kind of posture to practice to lift us up, “unstick” ourselves, and release tension within.  It can also enhance our flexibility and overall elasticity, giving us a feeling of youthful lightness and the ability to take a fuller, deeper, breath.

Another great benefit to practicing backbends is that they can give you tremendous strength in your back body.  The muscles of the back, legs, buttocks, and shoulders are generously strengthened.  Backbends may seem scary at first, but  they are not that complicated when broken down and truly worth the effort.  Backbends are definitely a challenge for most people as it is not a posture we practice on a day to day basis.  Most of us spend the most of our day sitting, possibly looking at screens for too long which encourages opposite actions of a backbend; such as flexion in the hips, short front bodies, round upper backs and tight shoulders.  I hope writing this will encourage you to all get up off your chair and do a backbend or at least give your self a moment to extend and lengthen the front of your spine and open your collar bones wide!!  Take a few breaths and feel more spacious and alive!

If you are curious about backbends and want more insight on how you can enhance yours, I would be happy to help you at my next social hour, scheduled for March 6 2020.  My 41st birthday is just a few days later, March 10th, and it is my wish and my hope to have a backbend party!  I hope you can come and help me celebrate.  I also hope we all can remember that sunshine and brighter days can be a beautiful result of dark gloomy storms, in our life and also in our practices.

 

REMINDERS FOR PRACTICING BACKBENDS!

-Heart leads the way.  

-Back body is active and front body lengthens/drapes over the back.

-Use your legs and ground consciously through your feet!!

-Observe your behind…it should be a spacious container where your abdomen can connect down through your feet.  If you tighten, clench, squeeze your seat too much you will not only compress your low back, there will also be no connection:(.  It helps to inner rotate upper thighs when lifting sit bones and extending through hips to keep the pelvis in a neutral state.

-Work from your ‘inside out’ to transform yourself breath by breath into a deeper more fuller expression of your backbend.

Here’s to bending over backwards,

Brooke

 

Clear Boundaries & More Letting Go…

When I am unsure of where I should be or where I belong whether that be in life or on my Pilates mat, I find either 1 of 3 things can happen.  

  1. I put forth too many boundaries and too much effort, making me rigid in my body and impatient in my actions.  As a consequence, I leave the situation or my mat either frustrated and/or unsatisfied with my performance.
  2. I chose to ignore and neglect the situation at hand and do not pay attention  to what I am doing in life nor on my mat.  I am careless and sometimes can hurt myself and others around me simply from not being attentive.
  3. I choose to make a plan!  I focus on the things I know and what I can do.  I use this     to give me leverage to face the challenge(s) at hand.  If I continue to focus on the things I can do, I find, that I can more easily soften my efforts that ultimately help me navigate not only in life but also in my Pilates practice. 

Below I share an example of this idea from my own life, and I also share some Pilates tips that have helped me be more aware of my boundaries when I practice to enhance my workout to the fullest and at the same time soften within. 

I hope you enjoy my reflection and Pilates tips below…

My personal example I will share with you is a reflection on my own experience from moving communities/states 7 times (5 different states; WA, IA, OH, CA, UT) within 10 years (2003-2012).  Through this amazing opportunity I was challenged to integrate myself into a new community knowing that my stay wouldn’t be that long.  I married my husband Pontus the week before he started medical School, at Des Moines University, in Des Monies, Iowa.   As a newly wed and fresh out of my masters in Teaching program at Seattle University, it was tempting not to involve myself that whole heartedly in a new community, and instead stay more to myself.   I learned pretty fast that not participating in my surroundings and just doing the “status quo” was no way to live.  My attitude shifted quite swiftly, and it wasn’t long, until I chose to dive right in and try my best at what I was doing.  In the beginning, I taught HS french, tutored french, worked at a restaurant, worked in several boutique studios/gyms, and then eventually followed my own hearts passion to learn about the body taking classes to become a personal trainer and fitness instructor.  Committing myself to teach Pilates and Yoga did not take long, as I recognized that this was someplace I belonged.   Each time we moved, it definitely took a lot of courage to step out in a new environment and re-root myself in that new community, but I knew my efforts paid off, when I was accepted and felt  joy within with what I was doing.  As I contemplate back on that particular journey I see a reciprocal relationship between the effort I put out to the joy I got back.  I also see a relationship between the energy behind my efforts to what I felt in return.  Each time I moved to a new community/State my efforts to involve myself in the community were much clearer.  I did not only have a better idea of who I was, but what I could offer.  I was expanding in my understanding of myself and in my abilities as a teacher.  Furthermore, every time we moved I had more insight in to what worked, what didn’t work, what I liked, what I did not want to do again, and how I wanted to live/be.  I believe, for me, having the opportunities I did to start a new so many times, helped me clarify my boundaries and routines. This knowledge and awareness contributed to making my efforts less exhausting and more joyful.  Now being in Seattle since 2012, although we do not plan to move states/jobs any time soon, I do try to make a conscious effort every year to be clearer with my own boundaries, so I can enjoy and soften into the opportunities that present themselves.

In the practice of Pilates, I find that when I practice with clear boundaries, I am more able to soften and expand my efforts within those boundaries.  Overall, I have a much better outcome and I experience feeling of spaciousness and lightness  within.

You may ask, what are boundaries in my body exactly?”  Simply put, your structure or your bones!  They are the frame within which you have to work.

With the practice of Pilates, I encourage you to really pay attention to your structure.  There are several boney landmarks as I am sure you know:). 

Within the method, the following are the most useful to pay attention to when you are practicing:

1 – sacrum, lateral base of your pelvis.

2 – ridge of your scapula

3 – middle base of your skull

4 – “sits” bones

5 – heel bones

6 – lower tips of shoulder blades

7 – collar bone

8 – frontal hip points – ASIS and pubic bone

As you practice Pilates, consider asking yourself what boney landmarks you are experiencing as you transition in and out of your exercises.  The more you practice with this awareness you can use these boundaries as leverage to help you become clearer and clearer with where you should be and what you should feel!

Focusing on your own unique structure, will provide you with information and feedback when you integrate them with full awareness in your actions.  You will learn quickly what step to take next.  Instead of being unsure if you are in the right position, you will know your framework and be able to fully expand greater into yourself by using your muscles to support your structure as you move without tensing. 

I hope this season inspires you look inside, and see what matters to you!  Having your own truth as your platform, I hope, will encourage you to deepen and expand not only your perspective, but your understanding of yourself and the others around you as well.  Always come back to your own truth and let that knowledge present you with beautiful new opportunities for growth and self discovery in 2020.  

Aloha,

Brooke

 

Pilates = Big bottoms + Spacious shoulders… such BS or is it?

My most “popular” frequently visited post on this site by a long shot is “blossom or squeeze”  If you are unfamiliar with this post or would like to revisit please check it out.

If you read it, you may recall it was a reflection on my own experience in learning how to balance these two opposing actions (blossom and squeeze) to find ultimate connection through my pelvic center.  I shared my experience around the action of “squeezing.”  Overdoing this action prevented me from connecting and strengthening the parts of my pelvic center that needed work and attention. 

Well, today I am going to share some insight with this same line of thought to describe the importance of blossoming your upper back/chest to create strength and connection between your arms and low back.  Prioritizing the action of creating more inner space will help you find more clarity in what parts of your body need to be strengthened.

I hope this  following post will encourage all of you to be your own best cheerleader and ask yourself questions if things are not working out.  If something does not feel right, and the cues you are given do not help you to better connect, please remember, words are just words.  It’s how you interpret the cues and then apply those words that matter…I believe  the body does not lie and  when something does not feel right it’s probably because there’s more work to do!

Time to step into Le Bureau:)!

Pilates exercises encourages one to work from ones center.  Therefore, in a Pilates class, to encourage this effort in the upper body, you may hear the instructor say, “connect your arms out of your low back,” “put your shoulders down your back,” “get out of your shoulders,”  or my personal favorite…”don’t use your shoulders use your stomach!”  UGH..so frustrating right?  I don’t know about you, but from my own experience, I understood what the teacher was telling me but the cues were not helping me connect my hands to my low back.  WHY?

I have, by nature, strong shoulders.  My shoulders definitely take the spotlight.  That said, my broad shoulders coupled with my long limbs and hyper-mobility in my joints makes the action of connecting my hands all the way into my stomach/low back a challenge.  You see, it’s easy for me to get the “job done” using mainly my shoulders!  However, getting the job done doesn’t always mean it was executed well in a sustainable healthy way.  Furthermore, is the job ever done?  What do you think?  

As a student and a teacher I know how difficult finding more space in the shoulders can be.  Luckily we have Pilates to help encourage  this practice of learning how to round our backs as we strengthen our bodies.  To be clear, a collapsed, slumped weak back is not a round, spacious, strong back.  

*remember, round back exercises are the majority in your beginner system…

Hundred
Roll up
Roll like a ball
Series of 5
Spine stretch forward 
Saw 

I know some of you will argue that you first want to strengthen your low belly before you focus on your shoulders.  I hear you!   However, please do not forget that your pelvis is not a separate entity from your shoulders and Interestingly, the action of rounding and creating width and space in your upper back you will indirectly create more opportunity for your low back to create more width and space.  It seems counter intuitive to tell someone to focus on rounding their upper back to help them round their lower back, but trust me, it works.  It’s just a different way to see the situation at hand.  Sometimes focusing too much on one thing will close off possibilities to see different solutions to help.  You have to deepen your perspective and look at your body as a whole as opposed to singular separate pieces.

Below are some ideas that have helped me in my efforts in connecting my hands to my low back/stomach center!  Before you do so, pease consider visualization.  I have discovered that visualizing my upper body as a round cylinder container of energy can really help!  This simple and effective visualization gives me dimension and boundaries to work with(front body, back body, left side body and right side body) in my efforts to make a deeper connection from my hands to my low back.  Using the visual of my trunk as a round cylinder I have found that there is space for me to soften and deepen my front body (sternum, ribs, stomach) into my back body and this action has helped in my efforts to better connect my mid back muscles as i make my way to my lower back!    This may not be your issue but I do find it is a common one. 

IDEAS:

1.  Space precedes strength.

Having a strong background in YOGA, I know how important it is to lengthen and lift your side body/side ribs  FIRST!    If you jump right into strengthening without taking a moment to lift and lengthen yourself you are missing the point.  The action of shrugging your shoulders is an excellent way to create more length and space and essentially unstick yourself!  

2.   Shoulders back precedes shoulders down.

Take your arm bones back!  Sustain wide collar bones even when you are rounding your back.
Find the shoulders first up, then back, and then let them relax down(never need to pull anything down including your smile:))

3.  Midline, midline, midline!

The more you pull to your midline the more lateral space you will create!  For example, place your hands your shoulder width apart  when overhead, on the foot-bar/floor etc. and energetically gently squeeze your hands forearms to your center line.  keeping this effort, you should right away be able to feel more lateral space between your shoulders.  

4. Breathe, keep it flowing.

Don’t shy away from using your breath to  of create some lateral width in your upper chest/back area; especially before you attempt to “crack a walnut”(common Pilates cue to help one draw their shoulders on their back).  The breath will help everything sync up in creating more space to better facilitate your arm bones drawing back in the shoulder socket without creating any tension.

5.  Reach!

In Pilates, although you will be initiating the movements and the exercises from pulling into your powerhouse aka, stomach, pelvic/hip, buttocks, inner/outer-thighs; you still need to create and sustain good posture practices so the energy flows back out through your body.  Therefore, practice long wrists(or minimize wrist flexion when possible), and also long fingers, and keep the exercise growing through your peripheral parts.

6.  The exercise never stops…

Even when your upper-body is stable.  There needs to be persistent and infinite pulse of pulling energy in and reaching energy back out.

It has been essential for me to pay attention and listen to my body in my efforts to connect and integrate my hands better to my low back/stomach.   Working on rounding while at the same time lifting my upper back with strength has really helped me in my efforts while being mindful of all my other above tips. 🙂

Remembering, that Pilates is therapeutic exercise and not PT,  I hope you strive to continue to work in the movement as effectively as you can.   I hope you have fun as you work to create and sustain deeper connections in all of your relationships.

Ciao,

Brooke

Le Mat Avance

Good evening beautiful friends,
 
I have an advanced mat workout to share with you that will be sure to make you smile if not feel amazing! 
 
 
The workout is almost identical to “le mat” workout I have on my vimeo account except that it is presented in actual time:).  I do not give a ton of technical cues as it is advanced and at this level most of you know the general principles to at least set you up and keep you safe, but that said, I do talk you through the workout.
 
I hope you practice, you are worth the work:).
“Vaut le travail
 
Some tips before you start your workout…

-lift and lengthen yourself in your movements and in your transitions from exercise to exercise.
-look slightly forward rather than down or up
-Observe yourself in your practice to help you recognize how you could enhance your own inner connections
-Allow your internal experience to guide you into your external frame.
 
 

Ciao!

Brooke

 

PROVE or IMPROVE

Most of you are aware that I just returned from a yoga intensive in Encinitas, CA with Desiree Rumbaugh and Andrew Rivin.  This year there were 66 participants from all over the country ranging in age 30-mid 80’s.  Despite the diversity of our age and our experiences, the group was united in how we all came to learn from each other in an effort to grow in ourselves.  The focus on the intensive is to “raise our vibration”  and throughout the week we discussed and reflected on how we showed up in the world and also how we would like to start showing up in the world to promote a higher vibration:).   We discussed  the idea that we are ‘experience’ beings and we agreed that we suffer more and therefore have a lower vibration, when we do not take ownership of our experience….  

Personally, I could think of several times when I do not take ownership and I allow “my buttons to get pushed.” 

Just the other day, I asked a question to Pontus and instead of acknowledging what I said, or asking me to clarify, and answering my question, he skipped ahead and started to ramble out some unsolicited ideas (this by the way is a normal occurrence and is also the reason why I love him so much).  Anyhow, I got really upset because he did not recognize the simplicity of what I was asking and skipped ahead to what he was assuming the bigger issue was.  In my frustration of the situation I lost my filter and said things I shouldn’t, thus bringing nothing positive or uplifting to our current state.  BIG SIGH…  Things eventually calmed down and I recalibrated my state once I chose to soften and tenderize my own idea of what’s right and wrong, and instead chose to listen and see the bigger picture of US.  I know that Pontus was only trying to help me in his own way.  I should be more grateful for his suggestions and get less upset on the outcome and instead focus more on what I can control, which is how I handle my response.

Being the creator of our experience requires us not only to “show up” physically but also “show up” with a bigger awareness that encourages us to be curious, ask questions, and ultimately improve our situation.  Do you have someone in your life that pushes your buttons?  Such good teachers!:)

Connecting in our Pilates practice requires the same amount of awareness and willingness to show up! 

 

Here is my unsolicited advice to maximize more connection in your Pilates practice 

 

Stay curious and ask yourself questions!

 – Are you allowing yourself to take full breaths?

– What position are you in?   Is the exercise/posture a tall back or round back position?  Once you are aware of that knowledge, then be sure you are integrating your feet/knees/legs into hips and beyond appropriately.

 – Do you feel your body balanced in your work effort? Or are some parts giving too little/too much effort?  

– Are you using the exercises and especially the apparatus whether that be the handles or leg spring to grow  your body? 

 

Some actions we can take if an effort to “raise our vibration”:

Stack/connect your structure in the position you are in whether that be your tall or round back.

 Pull into yourself in all you do.  HUG your midline from your front, back, left, and right side bodies!  

-There is always potential for more SIDE BODY LONG (the length between your hips and armpits).  Forget about putting the shoulders down your back, at least until you can lift your torso and draw your shoulders up on your back.:)

– when hands or feet are connected on the apparatus its always a good practice to…squeeze forearms energetically towards one another to create more space in shoulder girdle and squeeze shin bones energetically toward one another to create more space in hips/pelvic center!  Be sure to keep your elbows and knees stay a little bent.  Connection is easily lost  if you  lock elbows and knees.

Soften, soften soften!  Keep softening your front body into your back body; including your thigh bones, abdomen, front ribs, sternum, throat, head!

REACH, SHINE, EXPAND YOU!  Remember that our limbs are extensions of our center, so fully reach, don’t hold back!

 

What do you need to raise your vibration?  For me, I am trying to let go of the need to prove myself and instead allow myself to improve!  Opening up to a bigger picture and getting curious is helping me ‘raise my vibration’ and I hope it will help you too.

Ciao,

Brooke

Twisting practice

Here is a fantastic workout to complement your Pilates practice…
Twisting Practice, to “complete” your Pilates.  Although Pilates is a fantastic method to practice it can also be linear as it does not incorporate much twisting.  Done correctly, twisting (not turning), is a powerful action you can do to transform and tone your entire “center!”   You will also benefit from breathing better as twists bring better circulation, create mobility, and detoxify your inner organs providing you with an internal boost.
Check it out!