Ep 41: Unraveling Pilates mythology with Wendy Leblanc-Arbuckle

What an absolute thrill it was to make this podcast! In episode 41 we are talking to Wendy Leblanc-Arbuckle, a dear and wonderful human being and a consummate contributor to the Pilates, yoga, and movement industries. If I were going to choose one way to describe Wendy it would be a movement astronaut; she’s not only ALWAYS curious, she’s actually always exploring, pushing the edges, going to the far reaches of understanding the body, the mind, and the beautiful configuration of all of it as it manifests in our lives. Wendy is a true pioneer in our industry and if you’re not a fan already, you’re likely to be after this.

We’re talking about the heart of teaching: practice. Posing questions like:

  • How does our own personal “practice” feed and inform our choices in life and our perceptions.
  • What does our “practice” look like? Why?
  • How has it changed and why? What have been the catalysts?
  • Why does it matter to us and to others (those we interact both personally and professionally)?
  • How does our “practice” perpetuate (or not) the way we teach: moving from the fixing mentality to the facilitating mentality.

What’s also really rather magical about this podcast, is that it’s our first trifecta co-hosting with Debora, James, and myself, along with a guest. Although James and I wanted to jump in and interrupt with questions and ideas at every turn, we managed to maintain a level of considerate decorum and uphold the listenability of the show. I know your’e going to love this episode. Grab some popcorn and/or a cup of tea (maybe wine), sit back, and take it all in. It’s going to be a wonderful ride. 


From Wendy:

Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau’s  book “Architecture of Human Living Fascia” and his DVD’s and videos online.


Pro Tip

Also from Wendy…

Either lying down on a mat, or sitting up, sense where you can sense feel the weight of your body resting down through your sitting bones (sitting) or throughout your spine, back, head and feet (lying).   

Rather than “controlling your body’s breath”, practice being in touch with your “fascial elastic recoil breath”…the natural, cascading massage of your bones, muscles, internal organs and  rhythmic orchestration of your body’s fluid movement.  Allow your breathing body to guide you, by placing one hand on your low belly, and the other hand on your low ribs.  

Notice that you can “allow” the relaxation toward center (a natural squeeze) of your ribs, as though they have weight,  as you EXHALE, then just “allow” your natural, expansive INHALE, through your nose,  (without “making it happen”), which opens your throat and back to breath.   

Can you “sense” your natural EXHALE, which is a “fascial release” deep within your body, that can open your hips and soften and widen your chest, neck, jaw and eyes… from your pelvic floor to your palate.

 If you have a challenge sensing this, don’t make yourself “wrong”, it’s just “what’s missing” that you can discover and explore how to access.


Wendy’s Bio:

Wendy is an International leader in embodied movement, with a 40 year background in holistic health, and lifelong studies and collaborations with distinguished pioneers in yoga, Pilates, Structural Integration bodywork, somatic arts and sciences, dynamic breath work and energy medicine.

As Director of Pilates Center of Austin for the past 25 years, Wendy  studied originally with Romana Kryzanowska and then with Kathy Grant, Ron Fletcher, Mary Bowen and Lolita San Miguel…Pilates Elders who studied directly with Joseph Pilates.  She has been deeply inspired by the diversity of their teaching expressions.  Additionally, her extensive yoga background,  along with studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Emilie Conrad, Susan Harper, Judith Aston, Tom Myers, The Guild for Structural Integration,  Hubert Godard,  Phillip Beach and Jaap van der Wal,  with profound breath, fascial biotensegrity, embryology and ontological studies, helped Wendy cultivate her own “biointelligent” voice.  Her vision has been to illuminate the universal core principles that underlie all great bodymind practices, enabling students and practitioners of any discipline to discover their wholeness by cultivating their own voice, through the portal and brilliant guidance of their biointelligent wisdom.

A founding member of the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), the Fascia Research Society and International Association of Structural Integrators, (IASI) she was on the original role delineation committee for the creation of the PMA exam, is a PMA-CPT, a presenter for Pilates Anytime and FusionPilatesEDU , and honored to be a Second Generation Mentor in Balanced Body’s Passing the Torch Mentoring Program, and a Wellsprings of Continuum Practitioner.


Upcoming Workshops & Learning Opportunities With Wendy

  • July 29th & 30th, 2017
    Embodying your Living Architecture…
    Through the Portal of the 3Core Connections® Embodied Perspective
    The Mind-Body Institute Gen-Do | With Yuki Yoshii
    Walnut Creek, California
    More Info
  • September 23rd to October 1st, 2017
    Fribourg, Switzerland | With Iva Mazzoleni Macherel
    Strasbourg, France | With Katia Hammouche
    Workshops to be offered:

    • Embodying Your Living Architecture…Through the Portal of the 3Core Connections Embodied Perspective
    • Teaching CORE to CORE…An Embodied Approach to Seeing, Sensing, and Cueing Movement Awareness
    • Cultivating Your Embodied Primordial Midline: Abdominal…Psoas…Diaphragm Balance
    • Upper Core Awareness: Free Your Neck…Free Your Whole Body
    • Journey to the Advanced Pilates Work…Advanced Thinking for a Vital Life

More Info: katia hammouche studio.pilates.strasbourg@gmail.com OR
Iva Mazzolni | Pilates Alliance iva@pilates-alliance.ch

  • October 26th, 2017 11am – 1pm
    2017 | 17th Annual Meeting of the
    Pilates Method Alliance | Wendy Presenting
    Embodied Pilates workshop…
    More Info
  • Ongoing
    Wendy’s yearlong Passing the Torch Mentoring Program is now open for registration…maximum 6 practitioners…4 spaces available for 2018-2019 program
    More Info

Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com
  • James – evolvedbody@yahoo.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 40: Nikki Naab-Levy – A fresh conversation on “Body Diversity”

Ep 40 Nikki Naab-Levy

Nikki describes herself as a kind of interpreter of ideas in the movement community; someone who looks at all that’s out there and helps others make sense of it, how it fits, and how it supports us as movers and professionals who teach movement.

When I was exploring Nikki’s website and podcast there was one line that jumped out at me that will give you a pretty good sense of this chic. She writes: “You know when your mind says yes but your body says hell no? It’s frustrating! I’ve been there too, I totally get it and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this hard!”

I think you’re really going to enjoy this conversation between me, James and Nikki, especially because the subject of body and movement diversity is something James is a huge proponent and promoter of in his studio and his work. So, let’s meet Nikki…


Both our Heroes and Pro Tip come directly from Nikki this episode. 

Many of the shifts I’ve made in cuing at letting people feel things, has come from studying under Judith Aston for the past year and a half. She often speaks to “teaching from the yes” and it’s shifted my mindset from right and wrong ways to do things to movement options.

On the empowering people to feel good in their bodies end, I’d def give a shoutout to Molly Galbraith and Girls Gone Strong. They’re more on the heavy lifting side of things, but that org is all about having conversations about how we can bring more people to fitness and how we can empower women to feel they have the right to love and take care of themselves.

Pro Tip

From Nikki…

When you’re struggling with the idea of putting yourself out there or using a new teaching technique, the best way to get started is simply to start – preferably with a small action slightly outside of your comfort zone.

This doesn’t need to be a huge bold action. It doesn’t need to be perfect and there doesn’t need to be a beautifully drawn road map (which doesn’t exist and won’t be followed anyways). Small, consistent steps in the direction of where we want to go + patience is enough for us to grow into the people we want to be and create the shifts we desire.


Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com
  • James – evolvedbody@yahoo.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 39: Cognitive overload – A trap laid with best intentions.

Welcome to Episode 39…another wonderful exploration with James Crader. We’re just so damn excited to have him as a part of the team…the conversations we’ve had on and off recording have been incredibly rich, stirring up all kinds of edgy and fun topics we can’t wait to share with you.

In this episode James and I use one of his recent articles titled: “What They’re really saying is…”, which we’ve linked to in the show notes. In the article James shares a teaching experience, perhaps you’d even call it an epiphany, and it has everything to do with listening to what are students are NOT telling us, what they’re NOT saying.

We dive into some really cool stuff I’ve been exploring this past year including: how the brain learns, cognitive overload, and top-down vs. bottom-up processing. There are some really great ideas in this episode…AND of course, lots of laughs. We hope you enjoy listening. 

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We want to hear from you. All the ways in which you can reach us are below…



Our hero for this episode is Dr. Dan Siegel, author of the book “Mindsight.” Dr. Siegel is a is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. He is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute.

Among other topics, Dr. Siegel explores mindfulness, the mind and brain and interpersonal neurobiology. His work is relevant to us as teachers because it helps us understand another aspect of the human experience as well as the depth of how we form relationships with our bodies, ourselves, and the world.

Dr. Siegel’s work has made a significant impression on both James and I and we hope you enjoy exploring it for yourself.

Other books by Siegel that you might enjoy: Mind, Healing Trauma, The Mindful Brain.

Pro Tip


Our Pro Tip for this episode is to play with Open Questions. 

This may not seem like a very unique idea, but open questions, are a significant part of many coaching and therapeutic methods that not allows a practitioner to extrapolate information from a student’s own insights and internal experiences, but helps the teacher to shift from the perspective of needing to know, to being comfortable not knowing; shifting the priority to curiosity and listening rather than problem solving and fixing.

Open questions are a critical part of a method called Motivational Interviewing and used to help a person discover for themselves the truth of their situation; to become more aware of their current state, their motivations, and space between where they are and where they want to go.

Open questions, are just what they sound like: NOT yes or no questions. They’re questions that evoke a thoughtful response.

Scenario: When you’re student is struggling with achieving a movement, instead of cueing them to correct, try asking questions like:

  1. How could you do x differently?
  2. Can you tell me what x feels like right now as you push out/pull in/roll back et cetera.?
  3. Pause for a moment, and rest. Can you tell me where you’re feeling the strongest sensation? (You could direct their attention to an area of the body for more specific inquiry and insight.)
  4. How would you describe what it feels like to x (roll back, roll up, curl up, push down… ).
  5. If you could choose one word to describe how this movement feels, what would it be?

These open questions empower the student to feel their experience rather than think their experience. Feeling experience — felt sense — can be a much more powerful guide for a student when developing new strategies. It allows the strategies to arise out of the current state of the body rather than to be manufactured based on some string of things they have to DO.

This kind of questioning promotes bottom-up processing rather than top-down. Open questions can help us bypass cognitive overload (CO) AND shift out of CO. When a student is experiencing CO, they stop processing, they stop listening, they stop being able to feel and it often triggers other fears: “I’m not capable. I’m not good/smart/fit enough to do this.” And more.

Open questions allow us to reframe the movement experience and shift the “authoring” of the work from us to them. We’re not in charge. We’re just witnessing and nudging.

How can you nudge your students toward a more bottom-up experience using open questions?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Next time you’re inclined to cue your student out of trouble, DON’T! Instead ask an open question. Keep it simple. See if you can get them to author their own experience; to notice what’s really happening within them and allow that to lead them.

Can’t wait to hear how this goes! Share with us via email or the comments below!



Evolved Body Blog by James Crader as referred to in this podcast:

“What They’re Really Saying Is…”

“Why I Don’t Teach Fitness”

And we want to bring you back around to Vanessa Rodriguez’ book “The Teaching Brain” as she dives pretty deeply into the topics we’ve broached in this podcast.


Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com
  • James – evolvedbody@yahoo.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 38: Down the rabbit hole with James Crader – Developing presence and other delightful nonsense

jamesToday is a good day. Today you get to experience the continued brilliance of James Crader, but this time as an official co-host of the Thinking Pilates Podcast. Join me and James every other episode as we explore another parallel thread to being and thinking within the Pilates Method.

It’s total shenanigans (obviously) AND such a rich exploration of our role and responsibility as people in our current culture and teachers in the movement profession.

This first episode is a bit of a teaser where we talk about how we came together, how James and Debora met and the coalescence of the three of us. We also give you some ideas about what we’re going to be talking about including:

  • developing presence in teaching
  • developing presence in life
  • the value of stopping and checking in re:
    • what do we really feel
    • what do we really think
    • what’s important to us
    • what’s motivating us at any given moment
  • attuning to personal wisdom in the body
  • how to cultivate awareness of self mentally, emotionally, physically
  • the difference between the qualities of feeling in the body, mind states and emotional states
    • pleasant
    • unpleasant
    • neutral
  • how to become aware of change
    • change as not always pleasant
  • inviting students to “know” for themselves
  • the language of movement
    • the interpretation of movement and who’s interpretation is it (whose is more important the teacher’s or student’s?)
  • and so much more…

We hope you’ll enjoy this addition to the TPP!



You are our hero for this podcast and we want to HEAR FROM YOU! We want you to send us your comments and questions. We want you to be ON THE PODCAST with us. We want you to share your heroes with us.

This is your official call to action! We’d like to feature one teacher comment or question each episode and we’d love it to be you. You can email us or submit your questions via the form below.

Pro Tip

What would it be like to not cue anything technical – one time with one student? Just one session?

We’d like to invite you, as the teacher, as well as your student, to simply observe the pacing, the strategy in the moment, what feels comfortable and uncomfortable, and to be present with what’s taking place rather than trying to change what’s taking place.

You can direct your attention to the overall quality of movement, moments of hesitancy, facial expressions, resistance of any kind, body language, and moments of success and pleasure.

You can direct your student’s attention by having them verbalize what they’re experiencing both mentally and physically.

Can you take it all at face value?

We’d love to know how this goes for you.



Evolved Body Blog by James Crader

“It’s Not a Weak Glute…It’s a Weak Relationship With The Glutes.”

“What They’re Really Saying Is…”

Thoughtful Reading:  The Art of Stillness  by Pico Iyer

Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com
  • James – evolvedbody@yahoo.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 37: “We Are Not Trees.” The pitfalls of comparing, the folly of self-improvement.

Happy to be back with Debora Kolwey in this episode talking about a very interesting topic that plagues all of us to some degree…comparing. Whether we are comparing yoga to Pilates, classical to contemporary, or ourselves to others, the comparing mind can assume a state of right or wrong, that one way, one thing, one person is inherently better than another. We talk about this in terms of teaching and also as a habit of mind in general. Our discussion leads us to ask questions like why are we compelled to compare, why does being on the right side of the equation buy us? I think you’re going to enjoy this thought provoking conversation.

Here we go.


Our hero for this episode is Sara Raymond and her podcast The Mindful Movement. Sara and I have done some work together through Skillful Teaching and she’s always impressed me with a strong vision and purpose for her teaching, her studio, and the way she supports her teachers. In November of last year, Sara launched The Mindful Movement Podcast and it really is a wonderful addition to your resource library.

The MMP is for anyone who wants to explore the quiet side of teaching, moving, and being; who wants to develop a meditation practice or cultivate a strong self-care practice. I think you’ll really enjoy Sara and the MMP offerings, which include short video podcasts.

Learn more about The MMP here: http://themindfulmovement.com


Pro Tip

And last but not least, the Pro Tip for ep. 37…to find one way in your next session or class to NOT compare. What this will likely look like is to first notice where you DO compare. In teaching, it’s really not that hard to find a place where we have a preference for something to be done a certain way; to see a movement as right or wrong.

Take this one thing and see what it would be like to just let it be. What could it teach you? What might you be able to see differently without your attachment to having it be a certain way?

For example: Maybe you have a strong opinion about the bird-on-a-perch (prehensile) foot position being set just under the ball of the foot rather in the center of the arch. Maybe you are typically pretty adamant about the foot being in this particular position and you have all your reasons why this is better than being on the arch of the foot, but just drop all your “knowing” and opinions about it just this one time. Allow the foot to be on the arch and notice what happens in the ankle, knee, leg, pelvis. How does your student respond overall? How does this position change the ease or effort?

Caution: DON’T search for all the ways you can prove yourself RIGHT! Instead be aware of all the ways in which you can be proved wrong. That’s was scientists do. They put for a hypothesis and then work to prove themselves/it wrong.

This can be a little uncomfortable, but try to enjoy the freedom it creates. Listen and be open. Life is boring when you’re right all the time 🙂

Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 36: Our changing industry – Do we fear or embrace change?

I’m excited to share this podcast with you for a couple of reasons. One, Melissa Kakavas and I met and connected several years ago while in the Balanced Body faculty training. We were thrust together spontaneously to make some videos for their enthusiasts collection, but had never even met. It’s not all that often that you meet someone and you instantly feel like “I get you.” Making videos is not easy, period, but trying to make videos WITH someone you’ve never met is, well…close to delusional. Somehow we just jived and that was that. Since then, we’ve developed a special kindred friendship.

The second reason is because there is a really sweet, and unexpected, connection we make toward the end of the podcast that is going to set you up for the release of episode 37 with Debora Kolwey where we talk about the mind’s habit to compare; the need to see things as black or white, right or wrong, better or worse. This is an important idea and really relevant to the teaching environment. I think you’re going to enjoy the flow from this conversation to the next.

And, there is a third reason, and that’s because the foundation of our conversation (although we don’t get to it for a while) is all about values. In the Skillful Teaching cohort we talk about values as Core Commitments, which is a term I stole from meditation teacher and author Sally Kempton. But no matter what you call them your values, what you’re most committed to is the river you’re floating in. And that river is not only ever-flowing, but it is also ever-changing. It is also the thing that can set you apart, help you stand out, carve out a niche, but above all else it’s literally what buoyies you to a good life worth living. Not an endlessly happy and perfect life, but a good life, one in which you can navigate all the suffering, changes, and ups and downs and still say I’ve grown a lot, learned a lot, and loved a lot.

I don’t want to draw this out too much longer, but I will say that I’ve also been titillated lately by a new book (many of you know I’m a total bibliophile), called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson, which is all about giving a fuck; it’s all about values. It’s not only super funny, it’s also pretty right on when it comes to why we struggle so much in life and how we might struggle less if we just decided what we value.

This is a lengthy conversation, but well worth it especially if you find yourself struggling with how to navigate the challenges of our industry growing by leaps and bounds and deciphering a way to not only stand out and stay afloat, but stay true to your passion and reasons for teaching.


About Melissa KakavasScreen Shot 2017-03-14 at 9.25.37 AM

Melissa Kakavas is the Director of Pilates Education and Programming at EVOLVE Movement in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also a master instructor for Balanced Body and has been teaching and mentoring teachers for the past ten years. Melissa originally found Pilates in the early 90s while living in New York City and has been practicing and teaching ever since. She also teaches Gyrotonic, Gyrokinesis, and practices Thai Yoga Body Therapy. Melissa”s teaching style is warm and energetic, inspiring a healthy understanding of  the body, and a strong passion for movement.

Learn More


Upcoming Workshop w/ Chantill at EVOLVE Movement


  • Saturday, April 29th – Fearless Extension
  • Sunday, April 30th – Scoliosis & Osteoporosis Unraveled

For all the details: http://www.evolvemovement.com/events-workshops


Sans Heroes and Pro Tips


This podcast was a bit of an impromptu project, so we’re keeping it low key. We’re forgoing the Heroes and Pro Tips elements of the podcast this time around, but did want to share a few things we mentioned in the podcast with you.

Links and Resources

Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 35: Circle of Trust – LIVE Round Table @ Village Pilates, Chicago

What is a circle of trust? It’s a gathering of people who honor the process, not the outcome. It’s a coming together of diverse histories, experiences, strengths, skills, motivations, and talents in order to discover…something or maybe nothing.

The first and only place I’ve ever heard of a circle of trust is from author Parker J. Palmer in his book “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey to an Undivided Life.” He also talks about the COT in one of my all time favorite books, “The Courage to Teach.” Palmer talks about the essence of a COT this way: “Honest, open questions are countercultural…”

Honest and open questioning is what you are about to listen to.

This episode is a very special moment in time with teachers who are exceptional, not for their technical skill, although that is in no short supply, but for their willingness to be vulnerable, to discover, and to be neither right nor wrong but instead aware and awake.

It might sound like I’m over-reaching or over-congratulating them, but if you were there you’d undoubtedly agree that there is something in the community at Village Pilates Studio that far surpasses most of the studio environments that you’ve experienced.

A heartfelt THANK YOU for all of the kindness and generosity extended to me by Regan Zubak and the teachers of Village Pilates, including Len Palomi, Kay Harmon, Julia Haptonstahl, Andy Cox, Cathy Ditto, Krystal Lee, Misti Fredstrom and those who came from afar: Sarah de Guia, Stephanie Constadine, Becky Vento, Becky Lenski, Naydia Miller Kull and so many others.

What an honor.


Our “hero” for this episode is the aforementioned Parker J. Palmer and his book “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey to an Undivided Life.”  I’ve “read” (listened to) this book several times now and it never disappoints. Along with his other book “The Courage to Teach” have helped me make some of the greatest shifts in my life and in my teaching and in bringing the two into balance, aligning them along the mobius strip.

A Hidden Wholeness is a relatively short read and is likely to nudge you in a direction that brings you a little closer to cultivating not only a fulfilling and successful teaching career, but a joyful and fulfilling life.

Here are a couple of quotes from A Hidden Wholeness that have been top of mind for me lately:

“Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other. In the process, we become separated from our own souls. We end up living divided lives, so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the “integrity that comes from being what you are.”

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self.”

“First, we all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader. Second, we all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the inner teacher’s voice”

I hope you’ll investigate this resource and that it might take you to new and unknown, or rarely frequented, places.


Pro Tip

The Pro Tip for this episode is super simple: Allow your students to LEAD you.

This is different than teaching to the person/body in front of you. It is allowing the student and the body to make decisions independent of you and your feedback, cueing, opinions.

I worked with a wonderful and incredibly talented teacher at VPS who allowed me to help LEAD her out of herself and her present moment stories into a reclaimed sense of joy in movement. You’ll just have to listen to the podcast to get the juicy stuff, but the bottom line is this:

After you’ve cued, aligned, taught, touched, and demonstrated, it’s TIME TO SHUT UP AND BACK UP! Get out of the way. Students can’t find their own path, honor their own journey unless you get out of the way.

Consider the difference between guiding a student toward understanding and allowing a student to let their body guide them. In my experience this is the difference between “telling” our students what and how to be and giving our them permission (and an opportunity) to trust themselves.

Ultimately this is about letting your work migrate from higher brain function where there’s a steady list of things your student needs to accomplish, to lower brain function, where the list dissolves into knowing, intuitive, and responsive.

All it takes is this:

“Now, just move. Allow yourself to move and find the easiest, most enjoyable path into and out of the exercise/movement. Don’t think about the pieces, FEEL the whole. Move when you’re ready and at the pace and within the rhythm that feels organic.”

What would happen?

We risk very little in this moment. In fact, we take US out of the equation entirely and leave it up to the student to truly DISCOVER what is in them.

How could you do this today? Tomorrow?

(Good luck and we’re all counting on you 😉

Links and Resources

Learn More About Village Pilates Studio

Learn More About Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal

Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 34: Brain, Mind, Body – The Missing Pieces w/ Anne Bishop

Ep 34 BBCWhat’s your brain got to do with it? What is your mind?

We are taught that Pilates is a body, mind, spirit approach, but one sometimes wonders (in my case a lot of the time) where the mind and spirit fits in when we were being taught.

Our podcast guest, Anne Bishop, founder of Body Brain Connect, is going to help us gain some insight into just how the brain fits into our mind/body approach and I dare say clear a more wide open path to spirit — in that trifecta.

The brain we really just don’t talk about. As for spirit…

We’re often told that the spirit part is subtle, an undertone, not something to be talked about overtly or directly because it’s too out of our scope, or because people are uncomfortable with the idea of what spirit might mean. It’s unfortunate that they’re not totally wrong when it comes to the latter part. However, Anne helps us find a way to connect the brain and the mind with the body in a way that is not only clear and concise, but incredibly powerful.

Hope this blows your mind, changes your movement and elevates your spirit!




Our “hero” this week is Vanessa Rodriquez, author of the book “The Teaching Brain: An evolutionary trait at the heart of education.” This book was recommended to me by Anne and it’s also one of the required reading texts for the Master’s Program. AND it’s utterly insightful and delightful.

One of the stand out points for me in this book is how the author explores the importance of awareness of self and others in the teaching paradigm. She lists 5 areas of awareness that are critical for cultivating your craft and becoming an expert teacher. She calls them the Five Awarenesses of The Teaching Brain and they are:

  1. Awareness of self as a teacher
  2. Awareness of learner
  3. Awareness of interaction
  4. Awareness of context
  5. Awareness of teaching practice

Here’s a tidbit from the book for you to enjoy:

She’s quoting Sanjoy Mahajan in this first paragraph:

‘Deliberate practice requires sustained concentration, and the rewards are subtle and apparent only in the long term. Thus, one needs motivation in order to enter into and sustain the hard work of deliberate practice. But the learning happens not simply through putting in the hours, but through doing so intelligently.”

In the most basic way, expert teachers are deliberate about how they reflect on their practice. They are aware of the multiple areas that they must consider in order to hone their craft: the learner, the interaction, the context, their teaching practice, and their overall lens as a teacher. Expert teachers ask themselves: “Why did I become a teacher? What are my assumptions about teaching? How do I approach teaching? What do I expect to get out of this enterprise?”

Wow!!! So good!

I hope you’ll check out this wonderful HERO! Here’s where you can pick up the book: http://www.teachingbrain.org/

Pro Tip

Thanks to Anne, we have a wonderful teaching tool called Visual Enhancement of Touch (VET) based on her work with bridging the gap between brain research and movement practice. This is a tool that Anne introduced to the Skillful Teaching Mentoring cohort last January and not only has it been helpful to me in my teaching of teachers, but to the teachers working with students a all stages.

Here’s how Anne first introduced the technique, although you can use it ANYTIME, ANYWHERE, with ANY EXERCISE.

Teaching/Informing Neutral Spine:

From your normal supine hook-lying position (the most common place for us to teach neutral spine) here’s what you do:

  • Students place their own hands on the ASIS
  • Cue them to rock the pelvis from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock (anterior/posterior tilting), making sure to tune them into the outer sensations of their pelvis and back touching or not touching the floor, movement under their fingertips, areas of tightness, effort etc.
  • Then have them curl up just enough so that they can SEE their hands on their pelvis and continue the rocking.
  • Cue them to notice what it feels like when it looks a certain way. Where is their body in space when they experience a certain sensation. Trying to draw their attention to the visual experience while coupling the more felt experience (bridging the gap between seeing and feeling = enhanced proprioception)


This VET can be done standing as well. One of my favorite ways to teach finding neutral is to have a student place their hands on their ASIS as above, but stand perpendicular to a mirror. They rock their pelvis as before but now turn their head to SEE what the body looks like as they experience what it feels like both from their hands and tracking any “felt sense.”
I tend to use a mirror A LOT for these purposes and get the students to inquire about what they’re experiencing as they move vs what they’re seeing as they move. I find this has a tremendous impact on their spatial awareness as well as their ability to formulate more articulate questions and problem solve for themselves. In short, you’re empowering them to discover their bodies for themselves rather than depending on you to always TELL THEM.

Links and Resources


Learn More About Body Brain Connect & Anne Bishop M. Ed

Learn More About The Science & Psychology of Teaching Master’s Program


Connect With Us

Reach us Individually

  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 33: How to break the rules – When questioning is the answer.

Today we proudly bring you episode 33 staring one of our new co-hosts, mentor and teacher, Trinity Minty. Even though we are technically one third of the way to 100 it somehow feels like this is still only our second episode. We’ve gotten so much wonderful feedback as a response to our new and improved production and to the additional elements, that I’m having that same giddy feeling as when we first launched.

I’m particularly excited about today’s podcast because not only do we get to be a part of an interesting discussion that challenges the way we think about some of what teach — it’s all about questioning and not taking things at face value — , we’re also going to witness something that, for me, is truly tremendous, something that deeply reflects the why of what I do…



As the co-host of today’s show, I asked Trinity to choose who or what she wanted to share with you in this section and her answer was so totally perfect, but not at all where my head was. Her answer was a group of courageous and sincere teachers that are taking big risks and making big changes. To hear Trinity talk about the teachers currently participating in the Skillful Teaching 28-Day Fulfilled & Successful Pilates Teacher online course:

Listen to the podcast at around minute 52:00.

Another hero I thought you’d all enjoy, which in some way totally plays into being able to seek out your own answers and be authentic, is infamous TED Talk presenter and social psychologist Amy Cuddy and her new book “Presence.”

“Presence” is straightforward and insightful, although not entirely astonishing if you’re a movement teacher. What I’ve loved most about the book is learning about the plethora of research that is proving how the state of our body informs and influences, changes even, our sense of self, security, power, confidence, and how in turn these things help us face our most challenging moments.

Here’s a short excerpt I thought might entice you:


“The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power — the kind of power that is the key to presence. It’s the key that allows you to unlock yourself — your abilities, your creativity, your courage, and even your generosity. It doesn’t give you skills or talents you don’t have; it helps you to share the ones you do have. It doesn’t make you smarter or better informed; it makes you more resilient and open. It doesn’t change who you are; it allows you to be who you are.”


  • Amy’s TED Talk: Your body language shapes who you are – HERE 
  • Presence” on Amazon – HERE

Pro Tip

Because we wanted to encourage you to explore the idea of questioning after the show, our Pro Tip for this episode looks at how you might change your perspective on one of our most loved and loathed Pilates exercises…(of course you know what I’m talking about, I can practically hear you all saying it from here)…the 100!

Here are our suggestions:

From the starting position, lift and lengthen out reaching the arms long, collarbones wide. Begin pumping the arms, inhaling for a count of five, exhaling for a count of five. With your exhalation, can you curl up a little higher?

The above is a typical way you’d hear the 100s being taught.

What if we simply omitted the cue of reaching the arms and collarbones wide and instead focused on creating spinal flexion that is deeply supported from the back body, which has the potential to relieve some tension in the throat and shoulders and improve breath?

Something like:

When you begin to lengthen the legs out, soften the sternum downward and draw the ribs into the body, curling up from that initiation point. Allow the arms to lengthen and begin your pumps. The arm pumping works in a way that gets the circulation working.

What you may see when cueing with this focus is the ribs moving toward the back body in a way that lends to the appearance of the collarbones narrowing. However, how does the abdominal curl itself look? Does the spine look fully supported in flexion? For me, coming into spinal flexion from supine with a strong cueing of the arms long and collarbones wides, feel like I am working against myself.

Also consider starting the 100 not from supine, which requires so much more of the body and not always in a good way, and come into the position from sitting or balance point, then rolling back, gradually coming into the position with your shoulder blades and ribs completely off the mat (this is reminiscent of a more classical position for hundreds – in a deep imprint). Explore whether or not the flexed position feels more supported from the back of the hips, legs, and spinal extensors and whether or not you still feel like you’re hanging off the front body, the neck especially, in an effort to fight the tireless pull of gravity?

Our experience is that this way of working into the 100 helps people find greater joy and value in the exercise and motivates them to work at it.

We’d absolutely love to hear what you think about this.


Links and Resources


Connect With Us

Reach us Individually


  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us

Ep 32: The Absolutely fabulous women of Primal Movement WORKS

tpp-ep-32Join me in this fantastic interview with the talented, funny, and successful band of mighty misfits, the founders of Absolute Center in Lafayette, CA: Claudia Moose, Katie Santos, and Louise Johns.

In this episode you’re going to get a lot of laughs (that’s I think par for the course with us), get a ton of great insight into how to make business partnerships not only work, but thrive and discover more about the origins of Primal Movement Works and their upcoming teacher training.

You may have heard Claudia on our last podcast “Live from the PMA”. If you did, then you know that you’re in for a treat. If not, let’s not waste any more time…

Below you’ll find two of our cool new podcast elements: Heroes and Pro tips. We hope you love these new additions and they bring a little more value to your teaching.



First on our list is one of Claudia’s favorite books:

And if you haven’t checked out what osteopath and acupuncturist Phillip Beach is doing, we highly recommend you investigate his book:

Not only does the Primal Movement Works training program draw from Beach’s work, his archetypal postures and erectorcises are making a huge impact in the Pilates community as we look beyond fixed structure and predetermined movement to something that’s more resilient and truly human.

Our final “hero” is a little self-serving but also deeply in the service of moving our professional industry into the digital health arena. If you’re a regular listener you heard me interview Pilates Metrics founder, Joseph Quinn in Episode 29.

Pilates Metrics is an outstanding and powerful new cloud-based ipad app that is ultimately helping Pilates become more credible and viable as a proven tool for injury prevention and rehabilitation. What it does for you is help you plan, program, track and assess digitally, which provides more concrete data and more motivation for you and the student to stay the course, adapt, build and progress through the Pilates work.

The app itself is incredibly malleable allowing you to choose from 9 or 10 exercise libraries to work from. The libraries provide a technical and philosophical platform from which you teach. Some of them are based solely on a school’s training curriculum like Polestar and Fletcher Pilates. Others, like the one Skillful Teaching created, is based on a teaching philosophy.

The heart and soul of the Skillful Teaching library is a WHOLE PERSON TEACHING approach.


Pro Tip

Given all of that, our pro-tip for this episode is Keep it Simple and Let it go. Let go of form and explore what movement potential exists in the body as it is. See if you can find ways to open the body up to it’s own current potential rather than being so focused on what movement should look like. One way I’ve found to do this, working with the spirals of the feet in foot work is to deliberately work off center and to move through the varying angles and positions of the foot as the load of the springs oscillates and progresses. Watch how your student adapts, where they’re compensating in the knees, pelvis, low back and shoulders.

The caveat is that you work on a relatively light spring (1R, 1B to 2R) and the body you’re working with doesn’t have any acute foot, ankle, knee or hip issues. Keep your students safe, of course, but let them see how their bodies can move out of alignment. I think what you’ll find is that they have way more potential than you thought.

I’d love to know how that goes.


Links and Resources

Upcoming Primal Movement WORKS Training:

  • Primal Foundations
    • January 28th & 29th
    • Register HERE

Connect With Us

Reach us Individually


  • Chantill – chantill@skillfulteaching.com
    • Phone – (707) 738-7951
  • Debora – dkolwey@gmail.com

Thinking Pilates Podcast - Connect with Us