PREGNANCY and PILATES

Dichotomy of allowing yourself to be held before you can be independent and free…

Generally speaking this pregnancy compared to my other 2 (Ginger – 13 and Coco – 10) was challenging.  I have had more minor inconveniences, such as hormonal acne around my smile which in the big picture is no big deal (especially with all the mask wearing I am doing these days), but it still makes me feel self conscious.  I also experienced a major episode early in my pregnancy which made me appreciate the “gift” of being pregnant and getting another chance to hold and nurture another beautiful creation.  

When I was 14 weeks pregnant, and had traveled to Texas for a Pilates conference, I had a major bleeding event.  I woke up in the middle of the night after my first day at the conference to go to the bathroom but instead bled a lot of blood.  My first thought was that oh-no, I lost my baby!  I was shaking with fear and felt so much shame for what just happened.   In my head, I told myself that it was stupid to come to the conference in the first place!  I was upset at myself, as I was thinking that I must have “overdone” it again, in addition, to drinking too much coffee and matcha tea.  What did I do?  What lesson do I need to learn now?  Can’t I be done with learning lessons for a while?

I called Pontus and sadly, still in a lot of shock, told him what I just experienced.  He tried to comfort me and told me it would all be okay and that we do not know anything for certain.  “Try to get some rest,” he says!  It was 3am and I was wide awake and even though I was tired, there was no way I would have been able to sleep.  I ended up changing my flight and came home on the next earliest flight possible.  As I was packing my bags to leave for the airport I knew that worrying and looking up stuff on google would not help my current emotional state so I decided to sing to try and calm myself.  I just started singing without knowing what to sing.  I was so frightened, but was determined not to worry about it.  I told myself “I am okay, I know my baby is okay and I started singing – 

i love you

i love me

i’ll be gentle with you

i’ll be gentle with me

i love you

i love me

you are my baby

all of my dreams

i care for me

i care for you

i’ll be gentle with me

i’ll be gentle with you

stay with me

i’ll stay with you

please my baby stay with me!

i love you

i love me

i promise to be gentle with you and with me.

Baby, stay with me

i love you

i love me

Arriving back at Sea Tac, Pontus and the girls picked me up, and as soon as I saw their faces I could not hold my emotions, and the tears came streaming down my face like waterfalls. Pontus held me and I soon realized that the girls had no idea what was wrong with their Mamma as Pontus had not mentioned anything to them yet.  We got in the car and I told the girls what happened.  They were sad, but so sweet, as they tried to make me feel better.  That whole day still remains a blur, I simply rested and prayed that my baby was okay.  The following day, I saw my doctor.  I held my breath as I lay on the table for the ultrasound.  I closed my eyes, said one more prayer and soon I heard a strong little heart beat inside.  I opened my eyes, smiled and cried, and knew that everything would be okay.  I made a promise to myself to take it easy more, and continue to practice listening to what my body is telling me.  Less pushing, doing, efforting, and instead, more yielding, softening, and surrendering.  At that moment, I knew that this pregnancy was a beautiful gift and I am lucky to have another opportunity to experience the miracle of life within me.  

I am now going on 38 weeks and I have kept my promise.  Although I practice everyday, I have been gentle and loving to myself and my baby.  I take it easy, rest when I need to and I am proud of myself for listening and not competing.  I understand now that my bleeding experience needed to happen for me to slow down, and not continue with my old habits of being in autopilot – doing things just to do them.  In a way, I am grateful for that experience and what it taught me.  

Even if you are not pregnant, sorry men, …you can still visualize and imagine what it is like to be pregnant, holding and nurturing a miracle inside(your heart center) will help you lift your middle and enhance your breathing to help you sustain more space within, then maybe you are used to practicing.

With this heightened body awareness and my vow to soften and listen more, my connections have been so much deeper and allowed me to access parts of myself that have been challenging.  I’ve gotten better at letting go of my expectations of what the practice SHOULD bring me and instead have allowed the practice to literally hold and support me.  Listening to my body and asking what it needs that day to feel better in that moment to accommodate myself and the needed space for my baby has been such an important practice.  I am not simply “logging in another session.”  My breath has been deeper, my body more lifted and spacious and I treat each movement I take with a little more care and percision just how Mr Pilates intended the practice to be.  

The mindfulness that both practices of Yoga and Pilates require have helped me feel held and supported. The more consistent I am with practicing the more held and supported I feel.  This idea is so important in the practice because it will allow you to feel and experience more of yourself to make the deeper more meaningful connections that you need.  

My early  experience during this pregnancy has helped me allow the practice to literally “hold me.”  Just how the loving faces of my girls and Pontus holding me at Sea Tac, I was able to let go, soften and let my emotions flow out to and clear my state to literally, get myself back together.  I  feel fortunate to have not only a loving husband and 2 amazing daughters, but also 2 disciplines that I can count on to hold me.  I do hope you have found people and things in your life that also hold you!  

Now, about to give birth to another baby girl, I feel so lucky to be the one to hold her.  I feel our amazing connection and hope I can continue to hold her and support her out of my womb in the ways she needs so she can also feel and learn what she needs, to be free and independent without me. I was given such a beautiful gift, I know it is an opportunity that will teach and show me how to navigate and proceed into the next chapter of my life.

To being held,

Brooke

WAKE UP FLOW

I have a new practice posted on my Vimeo site!  I name the mat practice, “wake up flow.” It is a 50 minute mat practice that includes some of my favorite ‘go-to’ stretches.  The practice is a nice gentle full body flow that is also suitable for active prenatal women (like me!).  I spend some time lubricating our shoulders and hips with some nice circular movements and end with some strengthening movements to reinforce our lower and upper body connections.  When I do this practice I feel more alive in my body.  I hope you do too!

 

ON DEMAND PRENATAL PILATES

On Demand Prenatal Pilates Mat classes, available to view at Community Fitness

Introducing “Sideways Pilates”

Feel good Pilates flow targeting opening up the sides of our body to unravel and relieve our low back.  Pilates class that empathizes strengthening and opening the side of the body, working our transverse and oblique abdominal muscles!   This Pilates class will still include several “classical moves,” however, limiting the amount of time spent on our backs and also lying prone, therefore making this class suitable for individuals with stiffer upper backs and prenatal women!

Below shows the DATE & the FOCUS of  each class:

5/12 – “Sideways Pilates” – prenatal  CLASS #1, week 22

Standing warm up is 15 minutes, followed by an additional 10 minute ‘plank variation’ warm up on the mat.  Expect a Mat Pilates sequence that accents more work and fresh variations on side planks and lying on your side.

5/19 – ”Sideways Pilates” – prenatal  CLASS #2, week 23

Standing warm up is about 10 minutes, followed by a 20 minutes of plank and forearm quadruped work.  Expect to feel your whole posterior chain as I will feature small deliberate movements that create serious heat targeting our upper back, glutes, and hamstrings. 

5/26 – “Sideways Pilates” – prenatal Class #3 week 24

Standing warm is 20 minutes.  this warm up opens up the chest as we stretch strong through the arm bones, shoulders and wrists as well as the lower body with some nice low lunges and stretches to open up the sides of our body.  The mat work included the hundred, series of 5, side lying kicks, kneeling side kicks, and planks to close the workout.  Feel more supple and spacious  after completing this balanced practice.

6/2 – “Sideways Pilates” – prenatal CLASS #4 week 25 

In this class, I do not do the hundred!!!  I do a light warm up, strong standing arm sequence, followed by some single leg lunges and squats.  On the mat I present a challenging quadruped sequence, followed by a  side lying sequence, leg pull front, modified STAR on knees, and end with some forearm side planks, before coming back to standing.

 

 

ON DEMAND PILATES MAT CLASSES

ON DEMAND PILATES MAT classes!! available to view at Community Fitness

*all classes start with a dynamic standing warm up before beginning a more classical Pilates mat sequence.  The length of ‘warm up’ varies depending on the class, but may include cat/cows, squats, lunges, some balance work, and plank variations.

Below shows the DATE & the FOCUS of each class:

3/24 – “Balancing Mat”

Warm up is 20 minutes. Mat sequence is intermediate including side leg series, teaser, mermaid.  The class concludes with a 2 minute standing arm weight sequence.

3/31 -“Boomerang Mat”

Warm up is 20 minutes.  Mat sequence is a strong intermediate including the roll-over, fun variations on side leg series, kneeling side kick, side bend, and my personal favorite, boomerang!

4/7 – “Toning Mat with small weights”

Warm up is 5 minutes.  Arm standing weight sequence is 10 minutes.  Mat sequence is shown with small light weights(optional).  Some highlights include some reformer exercises such as rowing, pull straps, arm swatqutee, chest expansion and thigh stretch.  I also highlight leg scissors and bicycle(option to use block for support).  A nice variation of teaser is also shown.

4/14 – “Dynamic and Fluid Mat”

Warm up is 5 minutes.  Continued warm up including arm weights is 8 minutes.  Mat sequence is shown with some exercises using a thera band(optional); such as roll down, single leg stretch and a lying prone stretch.   Some highlights include an overall fluid sequence with a focus on opening our front spine integrating movements to stretch open our hips and shoulders/chest.  Some new exercises I will highlight in todays class are leg pull back and the ⭐️ star.   The computer crashes before I can show star on the second side…you’ll figure it out though!

4/21 – “Planking Mat”

Warm up is 25 minutes with several plank variations.   The mat sequence is a fluid flow that keeps the body moving!  I highlight a new way to stabilize hips in single leg circles and revisit the exercise, star.

4/28 – “Sideways Mat”

Warm up is 13 minutes focusing on opening up the side of the body!  The mat sequence includes several classical moves, but is more modified and does not show the “series of 5,” rolling exercises, and lying prone for swan and single/double leg stretch.  The highlights include fresh variations on side planks, lying on your side etc.  The class concludes with an 8 minute standing arm weight series.

5/5/ – “Creative balancing Mat” 

Total warm up is approximately 30 minutes including 5 minutes standing no weights, 20 minutes standing with weights incorporating some balance work, and another 5 minutes on the mat working with plank variations.  The mat sequence is about 20 minutes and starts with some pelvic mobility exercises.  The sequence also incorporates weights in several exercises including a quadruped sequence that enhances our lower body integration.

 

Pieces

Pieces

Trusting myself enough to let go, in an effort to better connect and grow.

 

I returned from LA a few weeks ago.  What a fantastic time with The Vintage Pilates staff, and other “Work” participants.  I feel so blessed to be a part of this beautiful like-minded yet diverse community. My understanding of how I can use the method of Pilates to better myself in “The Work” is coming together and I know this is just the beginning.  In this post I will be reflecting on the idea of connection; how can we better connect all our pieces to what or whomever we are interacting with, to better understand ourselves?

Jay Grimes, Pilates elder, along with the amazing Vintage Pilates Teachers for “The Work”, will usually never end a session without first saying; “do not neglect your ‘partner’” (meaning the apparatus; whether that be the reformer, the chair, barrels, cadillac, guillotine, ped-a-pul, etc).  Jay would then typically follow this statement by saying “KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT and JUST MOVE.”

Although not a Jay Grimes nor a Vintage Pilates saying, this next quote(also a favorite of mine from the movie “EAT, PRAY, LOVE”) complements what I believe Jay and my teachers for “The Work” are saying…

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person that you will ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. Soul mates, they come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you.”

I think Jay and my other teachers of “the Work” would agree that their idea of a ‘partner’ is our ‘soulmate.’  We should then treat the apparatus we are using with that awareness and allow it to teach us something about ourselves.   The more connections  we make with our ‘partner’ the more lessons we should receive.  Hopefully, we come away from our workout or our interaction having learned something about who we are.  Perhaps also discovering something we need to work on.  Can’t have one without the other.

I believe finding more connection is different for everyone.   Perhaps for some of you, the struggle lies in concentrating on connecting to your “partner”; for others it is trusting what your partner is revealing to you and giving in to this trust as you continue…   Personally, after this past trip to LA, I am discovering that when I trust more in my “partner” and act more instinctual I am able to make stronger connections and learn more.  Listening and trusting what I feel is right and acting accordingly is definitely hard work, but I believe a challenge worth fighting for.  Be persistent and listen to yourself!

How about you?   How do you stay connected to your “partner?”  Do you need to trust more in yourself to connect all your pieces like me?  Maybe you just need more of a steady effort?  Some need more of one than the other.   We all need to find our own ratio.

I hope you all can trust your “partner” and continue to strengthen and make new connections that bring meaning to you.  Every day is a new day and another opportunity to expand your awareness and your connections and put the little pieces together one by one.  If you feel disconnected and loose your pieces trust your partner more!  Can you trust and listen to what your connections are telling you and act accordingly?  Takes a lot of courage to follow through!   You can do it!  I believe in you:).

Do it right, keep it tight!

Brooke

ps – check out the song “Pieces” by Andrew Belle

 

Life in Control?

How was my last experience with THE WORK in LA?

Besides being a nice excuse to get away from my daily routine, soak up some needed warm sunshine, and reconnect with some wonderful inspiring people, this time I was not so thrilled to be doing “The Work…” I left Seattle in pain and knew I could not cancel my trip, and still stay in the program due to my pain. It would also not be sufficient to just go and observe. I know that they expect to see us participating, moving, and working! If I did not go and experience first hand the work in my body I would have to drop out of the program. I have worked hard to get in and stay in the program thus far, and their philosophy, which I also believe in, is that you have to experience something if you want to teach it.

What was my pain?

I had intense pain in my left neck, trapezius, and shoulder. At the time I did not know that my pain was due to a big herniation between C6 and C7. Just found out this past week (1 full week after completing my week in LA).

How was my experience?

One word can sum up my last trip to LA for “The Work,” “OOOUCH!”

How did I get my herniation?

What can I say? It’s always a dynamic! As we all know, life is just that, one messy but beautiful dynamic. Whether we like it or not it usually makes sense, if not right away then it will down the road of life. Personally, after contemplating how I got so badly injured, I would have to say that its my own damn fault. For starters, my injury has been accumulating all my life and I have done my fair share of slouching! Also, having broken my back when I was 7 at L1/T12 (another story) does not help either. I have always felt an unrelenting stickiness in my low back that I constantly try to pull out of. Maybe that’s why my love for yoga grew at such a young age? Unfortunately, my stretching efforts to get out of my low back usually only manifest up at my neck. My husband can confirm this as he hears me crack my neck every night before I get in bed after my nightly yoga stretch routine. He always warns me often that I should not crack my neck so much and that “cracking” was not a ‘good’ thing but it felt good to me and I never thought I would be where I am now.

More recently, around the beginning of February I also fell on my head. It was a nice fall, but none the less, it did have some impact and I felt the consequence in my low back and my neck the following day. If any of you Pilates Enthusiasts are familiar with an exercise called the ‘squirrel’, I was doing a variation of just that on the Cadillac with my feet in the fuzzies, except I was in a backbend and to what I recall a bit twisted. I cannot even remember how I got in that position to be honest. I was in my bi-weekly pilates session and at this particular moment I was just playing and having fun. My Pilates sessions, to be honest, are usually my “recess”:). Simple fun!

Almost 2 months after my fall, and I was still feeling a nagging tightness in my neck and upper left back. Part II of The Work was soon approaching and I was a little nervous because I knew my body was not feeling the best. I was convinced that it was just a rib or part of my upper thoracic that needed to be adjusted back into alignment. My husband, Pontus, as most of you know is a Doctor of Osteopathy and can help me time to time if i’m nice of course! I was nice(he’s usually nicer), so he did try to help me on several occasions. He was not able to manipulate what I was sure I needed to be manipulated and was blown away with how tight my left trapezius muscle and levator scapula had gotten. He advised me not to mess with it any more and just do gentle stretches and ice as he thought I had a nerve pinched.

I however, being stubborn and wanting “a fix” decided to go to a chiropractor I had seen before for iliocecal valve difficulties when I was having trouble with digestive issues. I was able to make 2 appts back to back right before I were to leave for California for The Work. I was so happy that I was able to get in and I thought I would finally be able to get some relief before the MAT portion of The Work(the most challenging module as you do not have any support from the apparatus). I had worked hard on my homework and felt prepared but I also wanted to feel better in my neck and shoulder before going into the big demanding week ahead.

My first chiropractic appt went well. The chiropractor was able to adjust my low back and also my upper thoracic. I felt some relief, but still had the nagging pain in my upper neck and left shoulder. I went back the following day and before I left Pontus said to me, “do not let him touch your neck!” However, when I arrived at the chiropractor, I said I was still feeling tight and stuck in the same places. He listened and told me that he thought he could help as he just returned from a course that was all on the neck and upper traps so I said, “ok, see what you can do.” Well, I know now that saying that was a BIG mistake! Right away I felt and heard a huge ‘POP.’ I did not know what to think…so what did i do? I continued with my day in auto pilot and even went to a yoga class and did Headstand(how stupid am I?). I should have iced! That night I was in so much pain I barely slept as my left trapezius and neck were hurting more than ever.

I left to teach that morning before I left that afternoon and was in pain the whole time and realized I even had a hard time bending over and tying my shoe laces! I called Pontus at work and asked him, “what should I do?” He said, “Brooke you will be okay, just take some pain meds, turmeric, anything to reduce inflammation and ice.” I am thinking, okay, I will be okay, just take it easy.

IN LA…

The following day, my demanding schedule was looking straight at me! On average I had 3 Pilates sessions/lessons a day. On Saturday and Sunday it was an all day MAT workshop with Jay Grimes. We must have performed the Mat sequence at least 5 times each day. It was actually okay when I was warmed up and moving and continuing to reach and create my own traction and length, but very painful to just lie down and put pressure on my back or the transition from lying to seated to standing etc. IN between moving I iced and lathered on arnica gold cream and red tiger balm like never before! Everyone knew I was not feeling the best and asked me if there was anything they could do, I thanked everyone for their concern. There were several others who were also going through some their own issues they were working out as well. One individual had a torn rotator cuff and there were also some other interesting cases! We were all in it together and I think just knowing I was not alone helped me in addition to just continuing to breathe, believe, ice, and take epson salt baths in between my sessions as I counted the days till I could go back home!

So what got me through probably the most painful week of my life(beside child birth of course)!

I know I was in pain and I needed to come up with a plan to hep myself get through the intensive week and Mat workshop with Jay Grimes. Besides reminding myself to “take one day at a time” and also calling my husband and hearing him reassure me “that everything will be okay”…I knew it was important for me to start my day off right. Some of you that I teach may here me say, do not rush, take your time, and most importantly set yourself up for success! I used this for myself and this helped me in my misery! Here’s a look at my morning routine and how I set my day up for success.
-literally rolled out of bed at 6am. Sat and on my bed and breathed deeply to create and find space in my back and neck.
-Drank my morning ritual of warm lemon water and and also some l-glutamine as I caught up on the morning news briefs and iced my neck.
-I followed with my bullet coffee(I brought my inversion blender with me) and my berries and a coconut chocolate drink with bone broth to kick start my day with sustained delicious energy. UMMMM, so good.
-I would then normally do a 15 minute full body yoga routine to help wake me up and uplift my body from the nights sleep. Unfortunately, the routine was too painful and instead I did some light stretches targeting my upper back, chest, and neck all while I held and gently lifted my head to create traction for my compressed hurting neck. I usually stood up against the wall in my room just breathing and lengthening my back in and up against the wall. This would help me align myself so I could work on melting my front body into my back and the wall to give me support all the while lifting my spine and creating more length in my neck out of my shoulders.
-9am – walked 1 mile to the studio listening to some Hawaiian happy reggae to continue my beautiful day.

Some of my mantras that were particular useful to me were…
take care of me
start with a good position
be present and observe
less is more
work smart
control and contain self
release
let go

We cannot always control the ‘life’ that is presented to us whether that be a particular situation, disagreement, argument with family or friends, problem at work, or personal challenge possibly with the state our body is in. Regardless, if there is a reason, deep down we know that there always is (whether we like it or not)….we do have a choice to control our mind and our actions to help better our situation. This in a nutshell is Pilates….the art of Contrology. THE ART OF CONTROL. I hope, that I can continue to fine tune my Pilates in and out of the studio to better serve my life and as a consequence the lives that surrounds me. I am so grateful.

LOVE,
Brooke

stay tuned on what comes next…:)

RETREAT UPDATE

Dear Friends,

I have an update regarding the Roots Down Revival Retreat for 2017. Those of you who have signed up already know that I needed to cancel the retreat this past week due to some very exciting news…unfortunately, it was obviously not the best timing.

The reason I had to cancel the retreat is that I am one of the few who have been accepted into Jay Grimes’ Master Pilates Program, “The Work” out of Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles for the class of 2017. Being accepted into “the Work” is an opportunity of a lifetime that I couldn’t give up. I hope you all understand and appreciate my decision. “The Work” consists of several modules that are 7 consecutive days, all in LA. The first module is from January 11-18th which would have coincided with the retreat (January 9-13). It was very hard for me to disappoint those of you who were planning on coming and participating, especially after pouring my heart into this retreat. As I plan on the retreat being an annual occurrence I hope to share this special and beautiful place and retreat experience with all of you in January 2018.

It takes a lot of WORK!

It takes a lot of work…

to recognize that…

“We’re not perfect, and it takes a long time to get there!”

I hope you can laugh and love this phrase as much as I do.

Jay Grimes, first generation master instructor(learned the method of Pilates from Joseph Pilates himself) said this to over 50 classical pilates instructors this weekend at Vintage Pilates in LA. What a great weekend! As some of you may already know, I am hoping to be accepted into Jay’s Pilates Master Program, called, “The Work.” I performed my assessment on the reformer this weekend and overall, I believe, I had a strong performance. I will find out in November wether or not I am one of the few chosen to participate in his program. The program is an intense 1-2 year graduate program for certified teachers who desire to go beyond Pilates workshops and truly understand how all the Pilates exercises and the apparatus work together efficiently and effectively.

Back to, “we’re not perfect, and it takes a long time to get there!” I love this saying as it reminds me that making any shift/change in my attitude, in my body, in my actions takes time. It takes a lot of “WORK” also. WE need to choose and become consciously aware of our actions and recognize what we can do to ease the discomfort. Being disciplined and steadfast in your actions will hopefully affect your realistic goals:) you set for yourself. Doing all of this we will still have more, and more, and more to work on. Enjoy your journey, learn from it, love yourself, and repeat!

Ciao,

Brooke