Sher Borrell is Back! September 30th – October 12th!

 Guess who is coming back to town and will be guest teaching here at Align?  The fabulous and amazing Sher Borrell!  Sher will be teaching some kickass Pilates and GYROTONIC® private sessions and classes. 

Sher will be in the studio beginning on Wednesday, Sepetember 30th through Saturday, October 12th. 

SIGN UP NOW before she books up!  Schedule sessions with your trainer or call the studio TODAY!

 

Fight For Your Right…To Move

th

 

When I moved back to Los Angeles – my hometown – after a nearly 20-year hiatus, I sensed I would experience some wonderful reunions. I’ve been enjoying getting reacquainted with childhood friends, and some of them have become clients. The pleasant surprises I hadn’t anticipated have been that some of my school friends’ parents have come into Align, on their own, seeking out the strength and balance Pilates provides. It thrills me beyond words, knowing that I am helping my classmates’ parents enter their golden years with the feeling of purpose and control that the method can provide.

Some of my older clients come to me having lived active lives and have retained a strong level of agility and flexibility. For those who haven’t – let’s just say that they struggle. Many of them never sought out exercise in their youth and middle years, and are now seemingly starting from the beginning again. Even though some of these people were fit when they were young – through high school or college sports – if they didn’t keep it up into their 30s and 40s, they are (I’m saddened to say) paying the price for it now.

Our bodies are remarkable and can be healed. Even my weakest clients with the most brittle bodies will expand their range of motion if they work at it. The contrast between how hard those people have to work vs. my clients who found ways to stay fit in their middle years is staggering.

I had a client come to me as he approached the age of 60, because he literally couldn’t sit at a desk for his work day anymore. The pain was agonizing for him when we started, but we’re turning it around. His condition was not caused by diet as much as it was caused by inactivity. I can’t help but ask, “Why?

I commend my older clients for having the courage to start working on themselves now. They are committed; and I am humbled by how hard they work. To all thirty and forty-somethings of the world, I have this to say: start now. Don’t wait. I’ve seen what you have waiting for you at on the other side of the road if you don’t. It’s a path that most of us want to avoid.

As I age, myself, I realize that the process is a strange tug of war between fierce determination and total surrender. The mirror doesn’t lie, and some of the things that the mirror tells us…well, we just embrace as best we can. Those are the moments when we shrug our shoulders, engage our senses of humor and let go of the rope. Good habits, however, are the things we can control. Healthy living is a battle in which we all must take part. Living in pain is not an inevitable part of aging. It may be unavoidable, however, if we don’t fight it.

 Pain is only an inevitable part of our aging process if we don’t prevent it.

I took up the practice of Pilates when I was studying dance in junior college. I am very fortunate that my love for this work hit me when I was young. I am certain that this discipline is why I have remained flexible, fit and agile at my age. Pilates has ensured that the back, hip and knee pain my mother experiences are not necessarily a part of my future.

Muscle memory is real, and my older clients who only stepped away from exercise for a few years are on an entirely different level than those who never embraced it at all. After a few sessions, their muscles literally remember what they’re supposed to do. And those clients reap the rewards of Pilates on a stunningly faster scale than the clients who have never led an active lifestyle.

While it’s never too late to start, your body will age much more gracefully and far less painfully if you start strengthening your core, increasing your flexibility and building body awareness as soon as possible. We all need a strong pelvic floor, combined with supple muscles and connective tissues. We need them now. We will need them for the rest of our lives.

The physical investment you make in your 30s and 40s will pay dividends in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. If you are athletic, the flexibility that Pilates provides will help your muscles recover from regular strenuous activity. (For the record, that’s what we all mean by a “smart” muscle—a muscle that is both strong and flexible). If you have never led an active lifestyle, we tout that Pilates isn’t for everybody it’s for EVERY BODY. We will build strength gradually, one practice at a time, and pace ourselves based on what your body can handle.

If the Beastie Boys told you to fight for your right to party, I’m telling you to fight for your right to move with less pain into your golden years. The act of living becomes more stressful as we age – yet a strong Pilates practice eases many of the stressors of aging and decreases the likelihood of chronic pain. Yes, it’s never too late to start. It’s never too early, either.

Celeste Knickerbocker

www.celesteknickerbocker.com

It Should Only Hurt a Little

By Celeste Knickerbocker

A client (who also happens to be a dear friend of mine) recently, and quite literally, limped into the studio for pilates a session. She is in her mid 40s and I would comfortably describe her as fit. She has been doing yoga for a long time and recently started working with me. She was clearly in agony.

“What happened to you?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking, concerned that she may have injured herself.

“Would you believe,” she said, “that I went to a pilates class that almost killed me?”

She went on to tell me that she tried out a local reformer class close to her home. She and I meet twice a week, but she wanted to try out a class within walking distance. The class, she went on to describe, is not the pilates that she knows and loves.

“It’s a short reformer class. They never adjusted the tension on the reformer, so the level of difficulty was set to “impossible” the entire time. I’ve never sweat that much in my life. We didn’t stretch once and it was all about muscle exhaustion.”

She said that her lower back was in pain, her inner thighs were shot and from the way she sat down on the reformer, I gathered that her upper thighs were clearly not having any cakewalk either. We worked to release the stiffness slowly, working our way through her hips and legs, focusing on lengthening her overtaxed muscles rather than exhausting them again.

Exhausting. That’s a familiar word for people in L.A. We live in a city of Type A personalities. This is so true of the Southland, it’s almost a cliche. This is the land of what another friend calls “the firm and the tan.” That Los Angeles is an athletic community is a given. My question for Los Angeles is: why do we push ourselves so hard?

A lot of clients that I work with have tried other forms of fitness. Sometimes, they come to me with a little shame in their eyes.

“I took a hot yoga class, but it was just so hard…”

“I tried Crossfit and I thought I was going to have a heart attack…”

“A friend of mine wants me to run the marathon with her, but I can’t even run a 10k without falling over…”

“I used to work out with a trainer, but I was always so sore and tired afterwards…”

To be clear: if you like a good sweaty workout, more power to you. We all have to gravitate towards forms of movement, sports and exercise that feel natural and fun. If we don’t, we’ll never do it. The friend I mentioned above–she and I always laugh about how we don’t “do” gyms, but we love studios. We both have dance backgrounds. That’s who we are. I have a lot of colleagues and friends who adore weightlifting, treadmills and ultra marathons. This isn’t a matter of judgement.

This is a matter of clarification.

The truth is simple. The body doesn’t need to become exhausted in order to become strong. (I could make a reference here to “no pain, no gain” but that’s a bit on the nose.) Getting stronger requires some sacrifice. It will hurt, but it should only hurt A LITTLE. Exertion is necessary. Exhaustion is not.

I am very wary of pain. I am extremely cautious when it comes to exhaustion. I have to see a little of it from clients, because that’s how I know where their edges are. In our sessions, we will approach those edges delicately. In fact, we will honor them. I want to push you, but I won’t push you over your edge.

Subtle practices like pilates don’t always necessarily feel like you’re doing much to your body initially. I get that feedback all the time. Pilates impacts sets of muscles deep in the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor. It develops range of motion, flexibility in the joints and “smart” muscles. Los Angeles is full of movement classes that are solely focused on cardio fitness, calorie burning and external results. An expression I hear all the time is “break a sweat every day.”

When our bodies are young, we can push them much harder than we can as we age. I mention again my friend from above: she is in her mid 40s. Her body has limits now that it didn’t when she was younger and more active with practices like power yoga. She needs the strength pilates provides that doesn’t tax her joints as much. Younger clients can benefit, too, as pilates will support their ability to push themselves in more assertive activities.

I always caution people that their bodies are signaling a boundary for a reason. Pain is the only signal it has to tell you to stop. Please, by all means, push yourself, but understand what that pain is telling you. It may be asking you to slow down. Just a little. I promise, as a trained instructor, that there are ways to become stronger and leaner without looking like you just stumbled out of of a sweat lodge.

Welcome to Spring!

by Celeste Knickerbocker

March is the month of the Spring equinox, the month when we suddenly have an extra hour and a whole lot more daylight. Spring doesn’t feel quite as remarkable here in Southern California as it does in other parts of the world, but it’s still a time of change. While the rest of the country starts to thaw out from the cold winter, many of our fellow Los Angeles are already starting to look like it’s beach season.

Many of us define our lives by how we look in a swimsuit. Male or female, we project unrealistic standards onto ourselves, standards we’d never expect anyone else to achieve. We live, after all, in a city of beauty, a city of healthy, a city of fitness. This gorgeousness is everywhere: our gyms, our fitness studios, jogging paths and hiking trails. Sometimes, when it passes us by, we wonder if that’s what perfection looks like. We assume that the perfect person who just jogged past us in Runyon Canyon is happier because her thigh gap is wider than ours.

Of course, we know perfect doesn’t exist. Fitness and Pilates Instructors have the privilege of working with bodies of all shapes, sizes and styles. We get to interact with people from nearly every type of background. Our own education in the method and training endows us with the edict that “Pilates is for every body.” We approach each individual body with a sense of appreciation and respect. What we see, over and over again, is that the attitude with which our clients come into the session – and the self-image they take with them when they leave it – plays a huge role in the success of the individual on their journey of self-improvement.

Slow down and examine your internal dialogue. Our inner and outer lives really aren’t so different. If you were constantly criticizing and chastising a friend over his or her appearance, would you truly expect for her to stick around? If a friend were constantly reproaching you for the size of your hips, would you define that as a healthy relationship? We abuse ourselves far more than we would anyone else; we expect more unrealistic things from our own bodies than we do anyone else’s. The more we do this, the further and further we lead ourselves away from happiness and emotional security. Toxic language is as harmful when spoken silently and internally as when we project it onto others. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, why are you saying it to yourself?

Here’s an idea: stop sizing yourself up to the person next to you. Retire your inner critic permanently and replace that nasty voice with something far more encouraging and positive. If this sounds like a Herculean task to you, check out “Words Can Change Your Brain” by Dr. Andrew Newberg. What better way to usher in the season of renewal by clearing out all of your negative thoughts?

Here’s to health, happiness and self-love during this season of change and birth! Happy Spring!

IMG_9581_slider

Thank Joe for Pilates…

 

At year-end, when we celebrate with our loved ones, we often reflect on the abundance in our lives. Reflecting this way as a daily practice keeps us centered and happy. Personally, I find myself struck several times a day, by all the wonderful people and experiences I am so fortunate to have. In particular, I am overcome by the sincere appreciation I have for the Pilates method and all the stellar people who come into my life, thanks to the Pilates community.

Recently, while working with one of my dear clients and the other instructors at Align, I was moved by an overwhelming sense of happiness at that moment: there I was, training an intelligent and entertaining client using a method I find profoundly brilliant and important.

 I am graced with the opportunity to be a Pilates instructor – to help people improve their own health and well-being by practicing a modality I consider movement ‘therapy’. When I first found Pilates (or it found me) there was a moment of spark, and I knew it would carry me throughout my life. This method connects me with my body in a way nothing has, and helps me work from my center. No matter how unstable the rest of my life may seem, it is the one constant which I have always been able to rely on to feel at one with myself again.

As a new Pilates teacher first starting out, I felt privileged; even glamorous. I didn’t have a grasp of the genuine and meaningful interpersonal relationships I’d develop in the course of my career: the amazing stories and advice I get from highly astute clients; the friendships with other instructors based on a very specialized understanding of body movement and our shared passion for anatomy and kinesiology.

Watching clients gain strength and height, seeing my client’s bodies become lithe and agile, is one of the most rewarding things a Pilates instructor can imagine. Even more important is the knowledge that we are supporting improvement from the inside out. The knowledge that Pilates has helped me to maintain my own height, balance and deep core strength to support good posture, and allow me overcome one or two injuries, allows me to approach each client with the confidence that Pilates is the answer.

And like anything worth having, it’s been hard work to get to this place. For years, I dreamt of taking the leap from the material security of the corporate work world to the world of Pilates. So when the time was right – and without having any idea what the outcome would be – I worked hard to reinvent myself and pursue my dream.

To inspire people to become stronger and healthier means I must continue to educate myself in new ways and apply what I learn to my own life, and I am thrilled by this prospect. I’m thrilled by the vast healing potential of Pilates to uplift the spirit and create a positive upward spiral that reaches into every area of our lives. It makes me smile, knowing that I’m helping women sustain a stronger pregnancy, as well as an easier delivery and post-birth recovery. And it thrills me to know that I’m helping my mom and her peers maintain better balance well into their golden years.

So, one of the things I find I am always most thankful for during this magical time of year is Pilates, and all the great people that have come into my life because of it. I’m certain every instructor at Align joins me in saying: Thanks, people, for making our lives so meaningful. We all look forward to a successful new year of working with you in health, strength and feeling totally amazing!

 – Celeste Knickerbocker

My Journey to Align

It was the glamorous side of pilates that first drew me in, its promise to redefine my body to the long and lean temple I always dreamed it to be.   Sign me up!  

I first committed to bi-weekly mat based classes at my gym and in my zeal to shed those extra pounds, I lifted my torso higher, pumped my arms with more vigor,  and squeezed the ring harder than my classmates…I was on my way!  It wasn’t long before I began to see the fruits of my labor but while my waist may have been shrinking, my back pain started growing.  After six weeks into my pilates journey I found myself literally unable to sit at my desk.  One visit to the chiropractor later revealed that I had been living with a spinal fracture for many years and as a result of the pressure pilates was putting on my spine, I had bulging discs around my L5 and subsequent strain on the surrounding nerves.  So at the age of 25, I traded in my pilates mat for a lifetime membership to physical therapy.  Needless to say, I was devastated.
Fast forward thirteen years and three physical therapists later, I found myself back in rehab for the same issues that have been plaguing me since last century!   And as forty was fast approaching, I knew the road to recovery would be longer and bumpier.   

Therapy began as usual, with my initial sessions of deep tissue massage, heat and later ice and stimulation.   Within a few weeks my therapist brought me out to the exercise floor to begin incorporating strength training into our workouts.  As a veteran PT patient, I knew the importance of building the muscles surrounding the injury.   However I was completely surprised to find a pilates reformer among the equipment.   When I asked my therapist about its role in recovery, he explained the difference between the muscles surrounding the spine and pointed out that it’s the smaller muscles (those we tend to neglect) which pilates hones in on.  Armed with this new awareness, I immediately started researching nearby pilates studios when I got home and found great reviews about Align.   The next day, I signed up for my first private.  

It’s now 10 months since I first began working with Anne and Julie and a lot has changed since then.  When I first came to Align, I was barely able to walk.    Today I’m not only expanding the breadth of exercises in the studio but have incorporated tennis, hiking, biking and dancing back into my fitness routine.  And because pilates is all about form in every movement, it has also helped me become more self-aware in everyday activities.   Not only has pilates helped to shape and strengthen my body, it has also had reduced my stress and anxiety levels.  

It goes without saying that pilates has played a tremendous role in my recovery but the key to its value lies with good instructors.  Through Julie and Anne I have realized that pilates wasn’t the culprit for my pain all those years ago, but rather improper form and lack of personalized training.   Their knowledge and expertise has made all of the difference in my progress.  I may not have the body of a ballerina but I have my life back.  I have Align to thank for that!

I Heart Pilates! by Diane Burk

 

Admittedly, I am not a fitness enthusiast.  I was never a fan of P.E. as a kid and I love my couch like it’s a member of my family.  So, as an adult, when I finally admitted that a stressful job hunched over a computer and my on-the-fly meals of candy and potato chips were probably less than ideal for my overall health, I begrudgingly joined a friend for a Pilates class.  I immediately fell in love: not only is Pilates challenging and the routine ever changing so I never get bored, after sessions I feel energized and de-stressed as opposed to exhausted.
 
I’ve never been able to force myself to stick to a gym routine, but I find myself looking forward to my Pilates classes—even more so as I’ve gotten stronger and have seen the incredible changes in my body.  Pilates actually lives up to the hype: I go twice a week and my body really looks longer and leaner (and I’m only 5’ tall, so that’s quite a feat!).  The instructors at Align Pilates are fantastic and the individual attention they provide is unparalleled, even in a class setting.  They’re incredibly supportive and knowledgeable, and they’ve helped me attain my fitness goals without being pushy or overbearing.  I am so happy with my increased strength, flexibility, stamina and general feeling of health.  

I’ve been practicing Pilates for seven years and plan to continue for the rest of my life.  I even got my parents into it—Pilates helped my mom rehab and lose weight after a knee replacement surgery, and my dad, who has had back issues his entire life, hasn’t had a single problem with his back since starting Pilates four years ago.  I think it’s safe to say we’re all converts at this point!

Julie’s Workout Trifecta

 

IMG_2957

 

Our fearless Pilates leader, Julie Amick, wanted to share her story of her life changing injury and how she used Pilates, GYROTONIC®GYROKINESIS® and Zumba® to make her body strong.

 

I woke up this morning sore. Sore from muscle fatigue not pain. This is a amazing feeling for me that I’m truly grateful, because pain, my constant companion for 20 years, has always been my morning feeling, specifically in my lower back. To wake up and be just sore… this is a gift.


Before my spine injury I was a dancer,  I still am , but with huge modifications. I was a focused and devoted child to dance. I did any form or technique and loved every minute of it. I loved performing, touring and challenging myself of its physical demands; always waking up with sore muscles. I would eat, sleep and breathe dance.  I was beginning to make a career out of it with no other focus. It was my passion.


20 years ago I had a injury that tore my spine in half on my left side. I had to make a choice: either have surgery that would prevent me from dancing and walking upright with lots of metal in my hip and spine; or
do tons of physical therapy, strengthening the area of muscles surrounding  the injury to help fuse the joint back together and living with the pain while healing… slowly. Of course, I chose the second option.


I was in Physical therapy 5 days a week. For the first year I couldn’t walk without a cane. Some days , I just couldn’t walk at all. But I was determined to dance again, so I went after my therapy with the same determination and focus I put into dance. I started to heal… slowly.


Year two, I was walking and doing everyday functions without assistance. Pain management was ice, heat and Advil. No drugs. This was the year I discovered Pilates. I started doing pieces of it daily for my rehab. I was amazed that through Pilates my healing and strength came at a much more rapid pace. I was able to gain core strength that supported my spine. I was blown away on how fast I was healing.


In year three, I began to dance again, while studying to be a Pilates instructor. Pilates was my daily routine and dance was making its way back into my body… with limitations and, yes, lots of pain, but I didn’t care. Dance was my life, my passion. It’s where I lived and my spirit soared.  I wasn’t giving it up just yet.


The next year, I started dancing professionally again. I was also a Pilates instructor and personal trainer. I was doing what I loved to do, though with large amounts of pain on a daily basis. I was dancing and performing for two years total, but the pain was too much.  Emotionally I was passionate about continuing to dance, but physically my body couldn’t keep up with the demands. It was too painful and I had to quit it professionally and just do it for me. This was a life change. It was the hardest choice I ever made. It’s like changing the planet you live on when a dancer stop dancing. It’s foreign and a total different way of life. Even with all that pain I wish that I lasted  a little longer.

I put my focus to teaching Pilates and started creating a business. I danced for fun and no matter what, every time, it would take 1-3 days of pain until recovery. I knew I made the right choice for me.


I’ve lived as a teacher and Pilates instructor for a good 15 years, dancing once in a while for fun, until my good friend and colleague, Sher Borrell, brought GYROTONIC® into my life and my studio. I did not gravitate towards this movement theory at first, but once I got serious in studying it, I was absolutely floored on how my spine got stronger. It’s a brilliant  movement art for the body. It reprograms nerve endings through movement. It moves your body at a very deep level.  I was in pain at  first, but I learned to release while I was strengthening. I discovered that I was in pure movement heaven. I got stronger and movement returned to my body that hasn’t been there since my adolescence. My body was free but with support.


 I was  dancing again through GYROKINESIS® with grace , flexibility and spinal release. I am certified in GYROKINESIS® now and working on my way to becoming a GYROTONIC® teacher so that I can share these amazing movements with my clients. To have freedom and  support in one’s spine is like receiving gold.


Recently, I rediscovered Zumba®. I needed cardio in my life and I tried hiking, biking and power walking. Nothing stuck until Zumba®. I have been Latin dancing, street dancing, funk and swing dancing in these classes. I’m sweating and enjoying every minute of it. I glow when I’m in class from pure movement euphoria.
 

For the 1st time in years I’m not waking up in pain. I’m just waking up sore. I’m so grateful for all the rehab of Pilates and GYROTONIC®. Now I’m grateful for Zumba®, I’m having fun again while moving. I’m dancing pain free after 20 years. It’s the best gift I could get.


Last night my Zumba® teacher came up to me and said.” You smile through the entire class. You look like you’re really enjoying yourself.” My response… ” I’m so happy, I’m dancing again!”

Exercising While Sick

 

 

Being sick is no fun, but it’s especially not fun when you feel like you are missing your workouts and getting that out of shape feeling.  A lot of people think they should “sweat it out” when they are still not 100%, but that’s not the best thing for your body, especially if you have a fever or any chest congestion.  Here’s why:

When you exercise, your body heat rises. When you already have a higher body temperature due to a fever, the increase in your temperature from a raised metabolism is only going to hurt you: potentially breaking down proteins in your liver or kidney. If you have a fever, you really should just rest, drink liquids and try to get better. Wait until you are totally healthy to return to working out to avoid making yourself worse.

If you have a cold, if the problem is neck up, you can be active, but not too active. Rest is best, but if you must get up and go, try a 20 minute walk in your neighborhood.  But don’t forget to keep hydrated and try not to get your heart rate up.  If your cold is neck down, such as in your chest, just try to stay inside and rested to keep yourself from getting worse.

And of course the obvious reason not to jump to the gym when you are sick is that you can get everyone else sick who uses the same equipment as you.  It’s not worth it to risk your own and other people’s health.

But the best way to avoid getting sick is to keep your immune system up and that’s when you do want to keep up your workouts. Working out is one of the best ways to protect your body from seasonal flu and colds. So remember to workout when healthy and rest when sick. 

Hot Water with Lemon

 

 

Being pregnant (like I am), you get scared of putting just about everything in your body, including things that one would think would be good for you, like tea.  Herbal teas are not FDA approved and so you don’t know how they will interact with your pregnancy and what unwanted processes they could cause, and that the tea of all teas, green tea, blocks the body’s absorption of folic acid (which I am spending tons of money on supplements to get). And then there is the caffeine factor with the other caffeinated teas and the pasteurization factor with kombucha. You just can’t win with tea.  So what is a pregnant gal to do when in the middle of winter, she just wants a relaxing warm beverage that is safe, comforting and healthy?

Hot water with lemon.  I kid you not.  This is my new best friend. 

The best time to drink it is in the beginning of the day, as it kick starts your digestive system (weight loss!!!). But other benefits include balancing your pH levels, clearing your skin, flushing out wastes and toxins from your kidneys and liver and reducing hunger (more weight loss!!!). Let’s not forget all that Vitamin C that is boosting your immune system, which is especially helpful in the winter when colds and flus are abound.

Plus it is so easy to do and super inexpensive.  Every morning when you wake up (or whenever you get a craving), heat up water to the temperature you would drink tea and squeeze half a lemon into it. No steeping necessary, just sip.

Check out these links for more information on the benefits of adding hot water and lemon into your diet:

http://tasty-yummies.com/2013/03/18/10-benefits-to-drinking-warm-lemon-water-every-morning/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/215380-drinking-hot-water-lemon-in-the-morning/