Pilates Studio Seattle

Can Pilates Help Your Yoga Practice?


Why yes, it can! Really, Pilates enhances one’s performance of any physical activity or sport. This video is of Dr.Oz performing a classic Sun Salutation flow. Dr.Oz does an overall great job of this invigorating sequence and his coach provides some important reminders like to breathe deep and engage your core. With this said there were some elements of Dr.Oz’s flow that deserved some more detailed feedback. For those of you who have taken Pilates, you will recognize this to be an intrinsic and critical element to any Pilates practice – detail. You can think of Pilates instructors as your anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology geeks of the fitness world. This geekery may cause us to be a little on the type-A side, but the best instructors also teach this attention to detail with creativity and empathy. With this said, here is a critique of Dr.Oz’s Sun Salutation through the eyes of your very own Pilates instructor, moi!

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Given the above issues with alignment, here is a list of the corrections that need to be made:

1.      chaturanga dandasana

  • Correction – protract scapulas, pull cervical vertebrae posteriorly as if making a double chin, bend elbows less so they just touch the ribcage.

4.      urdhva mukha – went from dorsiflexion to plantarflexion in both feet simultaneously.

  • Correction – Plantarflex one foot at a time, less general extension to facilitate less lumbar and cervical extension and more thoracic extension.


Advanced Breast Stroke


Today’s vlog post is of an advanced breast stroke variation I developed. My motivations for developing this variation were:

  • To provide greater to challenge to my advanced clients
  • To integrate more dynamic shoulder and arm strengthening into this exercise.

More specifically, I wanted to target muscles that abduct the arm, abduct (or protract) the scapulas, and upwardly rotate (or elevate) the scapulas.

Pro Tip: If you attend training session where the trainer in constantly barking at you to press your shoulders down or squeeze your shoulder blades together no matter what your arm position is, think twice about this. Remember that as your arms move, in order to maintain glenohumeral congruency (i.e.- safe and strong shoulders) the position of your scapulas should reflect the position of your arms to a certain extent.


Motherhood, Leaky Bladders, and Low Back Pain – Part 1


I recently mentioned that I am a new mother. Becoming a mother has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. So much joy, anticipation, and learning to be had. Of the many things that women anticipate through their journey of pregnancy and motherhood are the physical changes that lay ahead. I have personally always thought that pregnant women are the most beautiful, perhaps it’s the delight of life blossoming within us that shines through somehow. With this said, I actually really enjoyed being pregnant, both emotionally and physically. After my sons birth and the day after our discharge from the hospital I immediately started taking daily walks and doing very gentle rehab oriented Pilates. I took it slowly initially as I could feel that my pelvis had sustained some serious changes; it literally felt like my coxal bones were less attached to my sacrum. I felt physically ready to return to my pre-pregnancy physical activities, along with my popular nerve support supplement regime at about 5 weeks postpartum, but wasn’t emotionally ready to leave my babe, so I waited until 8 weeks to return to my pre-pregnancy exercise routine. Enter more anticipation. What I wondered most was how my pelvic floor would hold up during plyometric exercises such as jumping jacks and burpees. It did not. I totally peed myself in kickboxing. As I continued to get back in shape and focus on pelvic floor rehabilitation I gradually leaked less and less during plyometrics and by around 3 months postpartum was able to perform jumping jacks with zero leakage.

This brings me to my main point, the importance of pelvic floor rehabilitation for postpartum mothers, not only so they can perform jumping jacks without peeing themselves, but also because the pelvic floor muscles play an important role in back stability and strength. For the remainder of this post I will introduce:

  • Skeletal Structures of the Sacroiliac Joint
  • Skeletal Structures of the Lumbar Vertebral Column
  • Muscles of the Pelvic Diaphragm (with images, so you have something to visualize when your Pilates or yoga instructor cues this evasive and mysterious muscle group)
  • The Purpose of the Sacroiliac Joint
  • How the Muscles of the Pelvic Diaphragm Support Sacroiliac Joint Stability

Next week, I will post Motherhood, Leaky Bladders, and Low Back Pain Part Two. In this post I will cover:

  • Correlation Between Chronic Back Pain and Stress Urinary Incontinence
  • Pelvic Diaphragm Facilitation and Multifidus Facilitation
  • Exercises to identify the Muscles of the Pelvic Diaphragm
  • Exercises to Strengthen Muscles of the Pelvic Diaphragm

Now please bear with me as I take on a much more formal tone… 🙂

SI Joint
Sacroilliac Joint

Skeletal Structures of the Sacroiliac Joint

The sacroiliac joint is a large diarthrodial joint comprised of the lateral surfaces of the sacrum and the medial surfaces of the iliums of the coxal bones.  The areas of articulation are known as the auricular surfaces.  The auricular surfaces are textured with symmetrical ridges and depressions which facilitate stability and guard against vertical shear forces.  According to Nestor, the motions of the sacroiliac joint involve two to four millimeters of nutation and counternutation.  During nutation the superior surface of the sacrum moves anteriorly and inferiorly while the coccyx moves posteriorly.  During counternutation, the superior surface of the sacrum moves posteriorly as the coccyx moves anteriorly.

Lumbar Vertebral Column
Lumbar Vertebral Column

Skeletal Structures of the Lumbar Vertebral Column

The lumbar vertebral column consists of 5 articulating vertebrae which sit just superior to the sacrum.  According to Floyd (2012), the lumbar spine is responsible for the majority of trunk  movement as it flexes eighty degrees, extends twenty to thirty degrees, laterally flexes thirty-five degrees, and rotates forty-five degrees (p .333).

Muscles of the Pelvic Diaphragm

The primary muscles of the pelvic diaphragm are coccygeus, iliococcygeus, pubococcygeus, and the external anal sphincter (Martini, Nath, Bartholomew, 2012, p. 347).  For the purposes of this article, it is only necessary to examine coccygeus, iliococcygeus, and pubococcygeus



Coccygeus originates at the ischial spine and the sacrospinous ligament and it inserts at the lateral and inferior borders of the sacrum and coccyx.  It’s action is to flex the coccygeal joints, tense the pelvic floor, and support the pelvic viscera (Martini, Nath, Bartholomew, 2012, p. 347).




Iliococcygeus originates at the ischial spine and the tendinous arch that runs along the obturator internus fascia.  It then inserts at the coccyx and anococcygeal raphe.  It’s action is to flex the coccygeal joint, tense the pelvic floor, and elevate and retract the anus (Martini, Nath, Bartholomew, 2012, p. 347).




Pubococcygeus originates at the inner margins of the pubis and from the anterior part of the obturator fascia.  It then inserts onto the side of the anal canal towards the coccyx and sacrum.  It’s action, like iliococcygeus, is to flex the coccygeal joint, tense the pelvic floor, and elevate and retract the anus (Martini, Nath, Bartholomew, 2012, p. 347).

The Purpose of the Sacroiliac Joint

The vertebral column and trunk are supported by the sacrum, and in turn, the sacrum is supported by the two coxal bones.  Given this, the primary role of the sacroiliac joint is to support the weight of the body, transmit forces from the upper body to lower body, and to provide shock absorption against vertical shear forces that may occur during spinal loading or movements such as walking or jumping.

How Muscles of the Pelvic Diaphragm Support Sacroiliac Joint Stability

According to Pel, Spoor, Pool-Goudzwaard, Hoek Van Duke, and Snijders (2008), vertical sacroiliac joint shear is reduced by transversely oriented pelvic muscles that increase the interlocking and compressive forces between the coxal bones and the sacrum (p. 415).  Research conducted by Pel, Spoor, Pool-Goudzwaard, Hoek Van Duke, and Snijders (2008), suggests that contraction of transversus abdominis along with muscles of the pelvic diaphragm can increase compressive forces of the sacroiliac joint by 400%, producing a reduction in sacroiliac joint shear force by 20% (p. 415).

The pelvic floor muscles, M. coccygeus, and M pubococcygeus, and iliococcygeus, contribute to the stabilization with respect to the sacrum.  It has been suggested that this stabilization by force closure has an analogy with a classical stone arc.  When sideways displacement of both ends of the arc is opposed, mechanical equilibrium of the stones is achieved by compression forces and not by shear forces.  In the pelvis, the pelvic floor muscles may help coxal bones to support the sacrum by compression forces, while shear forces between the sacrum and coxal bones are minimized  (Pel, Spoor, Pool-Goudzwaard, Hoek Van Duke, and Snijders, 2008, p. 419-420).




Bush, H. M., Pagorek, S., Guo, J., Ballert, K. N., & Crofford, L. J.  (2013).  The Association of Chronic Back Pain and Stress Urinary Incontinence: A Cross-Sectional Study.  Journal of women’s health physical therapy, 37(1), p.11-18.  doi: 10.1097/JWH.0b013e31828c1ab3

Calais-Germain, B.  (2003).  The Female Pelvis: Anatomy & Exercises.  Seattle, Wa.: Eastland Press Inc.

Floyd, R.T.  (2012).   Manual of Structural Kinesiology.  New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Huang , Q., Li, D., Yokotsuka, N., Zhang, Y., Ubukata, H., Huo, M., & Maruyama, H.  (March 1 2013).  The Intervention Effects of Different Treatment for Chronic Low Back Pain as Assessed by the Cross-sectional Area of the Multifidus Muscle.  Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 25(7), p.811-813.  doi: 10.1589/jpts.25.811

Jellad, A.,  Bouzaouache, H., Ben Salah, Z., & Sana, S. (July 2009).  Osteoarthritis of the sacroiliac joint complicating resection of the pubic symphysis. Interest of a rehabilitation programme.  Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, 52(6), p.510-517.  doi: 10.1016/j.rehab.2009.03.002

Martini, F. H., Nath J. L., & Bartholomew, E. F.  (2012).  Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology.  San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education Inc.

Nestor, K.  (n.d.).  Sacroiliac Joint.  Physiopedia.  Retrieved from: http://www.physio-pedia.com/Sacroiliac_joint.

Pel, J. J. M., Spoor, C. W., Pool-Goudzwaard, A. L., Hoek Van Dijike, G. A., & Snijders, C. J.  (18 January 2008).  Biomechanical Analysis of Reducing Sacroiliac Joint Shear Load by Optimization of Pelvic Muscle and Ligament Forces.  Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 36(3), p. 415-424.  doi: 10.1007/s10439-007-9385-8

Visible Body Software.  (2014).  [All images].  



First Vlog – The Teaser!


Over the past year or so I began video documenting myself performing various Pilates exercises. The purpose of this is 3-fold: 1) to document exercise ideas, 2) to serve as a visual tool in finessing these exercise ideas, and 3) to critique my own form during certain exercises. I returned to teaching from maternity leave recently and found myself visiting some of these videos for inspiration. While reviewing these videos I thought why not share these with the world? They offer an interesting peek at the exercise creation process, plus show off some of the fun exercises that Bodytonic Pilates clients perform.

My video debut features advanced Teaser variations. I start with the Teaser simply because it is a classic. I created this particular video more so to critique my own form as the variations seen in this video have long been in my advanced clients repertoire. The video starts out with me performing a few basic teasers, then I gradually move through a few advanced variations. I never intended for anyone to watch these videos aside from myself, so please forgive funny hairdos and faces. 🙂

My main critique to myself:

  1. Slow down. 🙂 (something I frequently ask of my clients)
  2. Be more mindful of harnessing iliopsoas with regards to hip versus lumbar flexion.

Now for a little anatomy geek-out. Iliopsoas is a group of muscles: iliacus, psoas major, and psoas minor. Iliacus flexes the hip, rotates the pelvis anteriorly, rotates the hip externally, and creates transverse pelvic rotation contralaterally when the ipsilateral femur is stabilized. Psoas major and minor does all that iliacus does, plus flexes the lumbar spine, laterally flexes the spine, and rotates the pelvis laterally to the contralateral side. During this teaser I needed to tease out lumbar flexion from hip flexion to create more lumbar stability. Pun intended. Hardy-har-har!

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Back to School Special 3 Privates/$99


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Back to School Special! Back-to-School

3 Privates for $99

To help you settle back into your fall routine we are offering a special package of 3 private lessons for $99. This package serves as great introduction to Pilates or is a great way to dust off your Pilates bones if it’s been awhile since we’ve seen you.

Offer valid for first time clients & for clients returning from a 3+ month hiatus from the studio (AKA summer vacays).

Offer Valid until 10/31/14.

Contact us to Schedule your Appointment Today!

Too little movement or too much food?


Take a Booster Break!


booster breakHow do you spend your work breaks?  Do you find yourself munching on M&Ms, smoking a cigarette, or even working more?  A qualitative analysis conducted at the University of Texas investigated the effectiveness of structured work-break activities designed to enhance physical and psychological health.

The study involved 35 subjects across 5 worksites and was conducted over a period of 6 months to one year.   While Booster Breaks may involve physical activity, meditation, and rhythmic breathing, this study focused on using physical activity oriented breaks to reduce sedentary behavior.  Subjects were required to participate in one 15-minute physical activity booster break per work day.  Researchers found three themes among the subjects response:

  • Reduced stress and increased workplace enjoyment.

  • Increased health awareness and facilitate positive behavior changes outside of the workplace.

  • Enhanced interpersonal relationships with coworkers.

Subjects noted two barriers to participation in the interventions:

  • Desire for greater variety in intervention’s activities.

  • Lack of permission, encouragement, and support from managers and supervisors.

To support workplace health promotion, Bodytonic Pilates is now offering 30-minute private sessions!  We hope your bosses support you in creating a healthier, happier, and more efficient workplace.   See our rates page for more pricing details.  For a limited time we will be offering a booster break promotion:

3 30-minute private lessons for $99!



Taylor W. C., King K. E.,  Shegog R., Paxton R. J., Evans-Hudnall G. L., Rempel D. M., Chen V., Yancey A. K. (2013).  Booster Breaks in the workplace: participants’ perspectives on health-promoting work breaks.  Oxford University Press Health Education Research, 28(3), 414-425.   doi:  10.1093/her/cyt001


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PNW Hikes


summerlandI’ll admit it, when it comes to outdoor exercise I’m a fair-weather friend.  I consider myself, of course with the proper skin protection, much more of a sun bird than a snow bunny.  Yesterday was the most gorgeous spring day I can remember in Seattle with temperatures reaching the mid-80s.  All this sunshine has me really excited for an amazing Pacific Northwest Spring and Summer full of beautiful and temperate, outdoor exercise.  In my enthusiasm, I created a pinterest board of hikes within a 3 hours drive from Seattle and with a minimum roundtrip distance of 5 miles.  All of these hikes feature waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and/or wildflowers.  I guess I’m a sun and water bird!

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The Limitations of “No Pain, No Gain”


23physed-tmagArticleA New York Times article published on April 23rd, 2014 references a study conducted at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City that investigates the the relationship between neuromuscular activity and perceived as opposed to actual fatigue.  During the study mice were injected with equal amounts of lactate, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and other chemicals.  The scientist found that the neuromuscular response demonstrated in the mice varied depending on how much lactate, ATP, and other chemicals were injected.  Next, the scientist injected the abductor pollis brevis muscle (thumb) of ten humans.  The scientists produced three different dosages of these chemicals to simulate the amounts that would be found in the muscle during moderate exercise, strenuous exercise, and finally muscular exhaustion.  Following the moderate exercise dosage, subjects reported feelings of fatigue, puffiness, and tiredness in their thumbs.  The strenuous dosage was associated with increased fatigue and the onset of slight pains and aches, and the muscular exhaustion dosage was associated with considerable soreness.  The findings as interpreted by NYT reporter, Gretchen Reynolds (2014), suggests that “Each subsequent increase in the levels of lactate and other substances amplifies the sense of fatigue, Dr. Light said, until the substances become so concentrated that they apparently activate a different set of neurons, related to feelings of pain”.  Furthermore the article suggest that working through some levels of fatigue and achiness is associated with improved physical performance, though working through symptoms of pain can cause muscle damage.  Hence the adage “no pain, no gain” is not the wisest strategy to use in improving athletic performance.

I appreciate and agree with Reynolds conclusion that “no pain, no gain” is an antiquated training approach.  She references the original article (which unfortunately was not available in it’s full version on pubmed) and sought out to personally interview a researcher associated with the study, which lends to the article’s credibility.  Though one issue takes away from her credibly; she states that ATP is released during muscular activity, whereas according to sliding filament theory, it is actually hydrolyzed during muscular activity.  In other words, Reynolds suggestion that ATP is released or produced during muscular activity is incorrect, rather ATP is consumed and broken down during muscular activity.

Aside from the details relating to sliding filament theory, I like and appreciate this article.  I believe the attitude “no pain, no gain” has cummulative negative effects on the physical activity levels of communities.  The belief that exercise should be painful not only discourages people from participating in physical activity, it also creates more injuries and prevents people from exercise.  It’s important for people to have healthy and realistic expectations for themselves with regard to athletic performance and understand that experiencing some fatigue and mild to moderate discomfort can improve athletic performance, but acute pain is more frequently associate with damage and injury and will likely impede, if not recede athletic performance and health.

Reynolds, G.  (2014).  The Limit’s of No Pain, No Gain.  The New York Times.  Retieved from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/with-exercise-the-limits-of-no-pain-no-gain/?partner=rss&emc=rss


Exercise and Your Pleasure Center


09well_physed-tmagArticleYesterday, the New York Times published an article titled “Are you programmed to Enjoy Exercise?”  The article reports on a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia and published by the Journal of Physiology that investigates the genetic and environmental influences that impact the subjects behavior surrounding exercise.  In this study, the subjects were rats who were bred and divided into two subgroups; one group consisted of rats who spent hours on running wheels and the second group consisted of rats that spent zero to little time on running wheels.  The NYT article implies that active rats were hypothesized to produce active offspring and inactive rats were hypothesized to produce inactive offspring.  It was discovered that a portion of the brain called the nucleus accumbens was more developed in the rats who liked to run as opposed to the rats who did not like to run.  The nucleus accumbens is the portion of the brain, sometimes referred to as the “pleasure center” and is associated with motivation, pleasure, and addiction.  Two other noteworthy facts were discovered: 1) regardless of running behavior, the rats who were bred to run had a more developed nucleus accumbens than those rats who were bred for malaise and 2) when the non-running rats were encouraged to exercise on the running wheels, they started to develop more mature neurons in their nucleus accumbens.  In essence, both genetic and environmental factors influenced the rats behavior with regard to physical activity, and specifically the environmental factors may have a long-term influence over genetic factors.

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