Time and Progress: A Few Favorites

In honoring the month of May, the month which holds National Pilates Day in the heart of its days, we have decide to share a few of our favorite quotes and passages from the man who created Pilates, Joe Pilates himself.  (Did you know that he actually called it "Controlology," not Pilates?  Fun facts!)

"Remember, too, that "Rome was not built in a day," and that patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor."

"The human body, fortunately, can withstand more neglect, successfully, than can the complicated machinery of modern steamship.  However, that is no good reason why we should unnecessarily and unreasonably tax our bodies beyond bounds of endurance, especially since doing so results only in hurting ourselves. Schopenhauer, the philosopher, said: "To neglect one's body for any other advantage in life is the greatest of follies."

"Time and progress are synonymous terms."

Do you have any favorite quotes from Joe Pilates?  Please feel free to share them here with us!

Principle of Pilates: Centering

Over the next weeks we will be exploring each the Pilates Principles.  These principles are the pillars to our practice, our philosophy, and part of the reasons why we love and rely on Pilates in our lives.  Please let us know, by commenting on this post, what these principles mean to you and your Pilates practice.

Centering is the act of drawing your own mental and physical focus during each exercise into the core, or center of your body. Even with our simple breathing, we ask you to exhale, drawing your ribs into the center of your body.  When we are balancing on the moving carriages of the Core Align, we ask you to find your center and lengthen from there. When we lie you down on the rounded mobile surface of the foam roller, we ask you to center yourself over this thin, rolling thing. If we can find our breath, move from a deeper internal place, we center in our minds as well.

Bradley Coffee Celebrates 400

In late 2014 a tall, lanky man sauntered into the studio, curious and possibly incredulous about what Cascadia and Pilates could do for him.  With a little charm, a lot of knowledge, and bright encouragement, Bradley regularly started coming to the studio.  His spine became a little longer and his pain a little less.  Our Bradley just completed his 400th class here at Cascadia Pilates....yep!  400!!!! 

Mr. Coffee, you challenge us intellectually, your curiosity pushes us to study more, and you are simply a joy to have around.  You are a pillar in our small Pilates community.  Thank you for your presence, your steadfast encouragement, and your determination.  We all learn from you everyday.   Here's to 400 more, and then some. Onward!

The Principles of Pilates: Balance

Over the next weeks we will be exploring each the Pilates Principles.  These principles are the pillars to our practice, our philosophy, and part of the reasons why we love and rely on Pilates in our lives.  Please let us know, by commenting on this post, what these principles mean to you and your Pilates practice


We strive to find balance in all aspects of life.  In the Pilates studio we find the balance between the mind and body, encouraging the communication between the two into a healthy relationship.  We seek to find and correct the muscle imbalances perpetuated over time through movement patterns and habits.  We are also called to the studio to find balance between our sedentary and active lives.  

krista bridge.jpg

Magical Mat With Magical McDonald (Jo that is)

At Cascadia Pilates we continue to push ourselves in our industry and offer you, our clients, creative ways of Pilates movement philosophy with precision and focus.  One of the ways we are able to share this nerdy awesomeness with you is through our specialty workshops, and we have one just around the corner.  We decided to take this moment to pick Jo's brain on her upcoming Magical Mat workshop This is what we found out.


Q:  What inspired the name "Magical Mat."  Are you going to teach us how to levitate, or use our mat like a magic carpet and ride around like Jasmine and Aladdin? (Interviewer asks in hopes to hear a resounding "yes!" to the magic carpet ride.)
A:Though it would be awesome to throw all the rules of physics out the window, I simply love alliteration!

I also thought Magical Mat sounded better than super-duper butt-kicky mat. Think I should've gone with the first one?

Q:  What are some of the things you will focus on in the workshop?(...or if you tell us will you have to kill us....with ab work!!!!!)

A:  I'm not planning to "kill" everyone, but I love taking those great fundamental movements and adding all sorts of fun, crazy variations to show people there is always more progress to be made. I love when people are surprised by their own ability!

Q:  What makes you love the mat so much?

A:  What's not to love? You need a little TLC because you're hurting somewhere? I got some mat stuff for that. You need to unwind your stiff, tense body? I got some mat stuff for that. You want to push your body to the best of its ability? I got some mat stuff for that

I love how portable and approachable mat work is too. It gives clients a tool to take home and care for themselves when they can't get into the studio.

Q:  Most of us know you taught a full capacity, people had to wait in line at the door and still couldn't get in, mat class at the PMA's.  How was that experience?  Did you learn anything about mat, teaching, or yourself (besides that you look fabulous under a cool blue hue with bright pink lipstick)?

A:  Aw, shucks! I am blushing!

It was a great experience! So great in fact, I'm teaching again this year! I was very intimidated because at the conference, I take classes from all of these well-known teachers who are just one or two "generations" away from Joe Pilates himself, or they have masters degrees in movement and travel the world, teaching teachers. As lame as it sounds, I'm just a Kentucky gal who loves Pilates and learned through apprenticeship. I learned that I can step in front of all these impressive people and teach them a great mat class. It gave me a lot of confidence ( though I did spend a lot of time deciding on my outfit!).

Q:  If I have never taken a mat class before, or am new to Pilates, should I sign up for this workshop?

A:  Magical Mat is going to be challenging, for sure, but we're going to have a lot of fun, and it's my job to make it accessible to anyone who may be in my class. Everything can be modified!

Q. Seriously, how are you so awake in the morning?

A: It just comes naturally! The amusing thing is that the rest of my family are all lions. They all could sleep until noon if time allowed, so can you imagine how annoying I was growing up, trying to get my sisters to get up and play with me? Now that I'm an adult, it's a skill!

Principle of Pilates: Breathing

Over the next weeks we will be exploring each the Pilates Principles.  These principles are the pillars to our practice, our philosophy, and part of the reasons why we love and rely on Pilates in our lives.  Please let us know, by commenting on this post, what these principles mean to you and your Pilates practice.

"Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.  Our very life depends on it." -Joseph Pilates

In Pilates we ask you to breath fully while connecting with your pelvic bowl and core muscles.  This encourages our 3-dimensional breathing so we may expand our breath into our back body and side body as well as our belly. 

Our breath is the fuel to our practice.  We exhale on the exertion of our movements coordinating the involuntary lift of the pelvic floor as the diaphragm contracts and moves up the torso.

Breath is the music to our choreography.  When we move with our breath we feel energized, warm.  We become the fluid movement associated with air and we can support our bodies through new, expansive movements.


Nominate Cascadia!

Every year Portland's best-known independent news source, The Willamette Week, puts out a "best of" list.  Have you ever wondered how they come up with the list in the first place?  Well, good thing you are reading this blog to find out!  It all starts with a simple nomination by loving, dedicated clients who are supported through many facets of movement and life by wonderful, knowledgeable, fun staff...such as Cascadia Pilates and Core Align.  So, if you love the way we move you and want us to keep growing, helping our community at large feel more in their bodies, see more smiles walk into our doors and be walking in happiness and health, then you can nominate sweet little Cascadia as the "Best Pilates Studio."  And oh my goodness: here just happens to be the link!


How easy!


Team Cascadia

Is Pilates For Rehab?

Here is a great little read on a constant debate we have in the Pilates world.  As a Pilates instructor, I find myself saying many times throughout the day "But I am not a doctor."  The fact is that most of us are in this industry because we sincerely care about your health, (but we aren't doctors).  We are community focused and want nothing more than to make you feel and behappy in the space you keep.  We get nerdy too!  Think about how many times you have heard a five-syllable Latin word come out of our mouths when we are talking about your muscles and particular actions. Well, this article addresses a snippet of the many things that spin through our Pilates instructor brains, (if we wanted to dive into the rest...well, it would be a much longer post).




Principles of Pilates

Over the next weeks we will be exploring each the Pilates Principles.  These principles are the pillars to our practice, our philosophy, and part of the reasons why we love and rely on Pilates in our lives.  Please let us know, by commenting on this post, what these principles mean to you and your Pilates practice.

Hands holding).jpg

The first principle is Awareness.  Being aware of our body; emotionally and physically.  Being aware of where we are in space and our surroundings.  Being truly present in the moment. 

One of the more frustrating things of Pilates is there is so much to think about during one movement!  On the other side of this coin, this beckons us to be completely with ourselves, where we are, and how/what we are feeling.  And though we may at times be overwhelmed with all the information, when we walk away from the studio we realize we just spent the last hour completely with ourselves in movement and breath.  We just gave ourselves an hour to be present and aware, carving out time to feel and be with ourselves. That is part of this medicine we call Pilates.

You Are Not Broken

Being in the industry of health and movement, I am somewhat on the front lines of perception: the perception of health and the perception of “the right way.”  And, as a former gymnast and current performing artist, I myself am the subject of the perception of health and “the right way.”  

There are many times when I meet a client, in both the Pilates and dance worlds, who want to be “fixed.”  They hear from this instructor over there, this massage therapist here, this chiropractor around the corner, that they are not moving, breathing, being what is perceived to be “right” and healthy.  It is an interesting, erroneous lens, and a lens that is more concerned about our high aesthetically demanding society, ignoring the the individual.

When I am approached with these comments, these agonizing eyes, I want to hug them (an extra long version of my already very long Madison Wisconsin hugs) and help them realize how healthy they in fact are. 

The fact of the matter is we are all working toward things in all aspects of our lives: to keep expanding in our chosen professional fields, to guide our children well yet give them room to grow, to be a better partner, to be a better parallel parker (ahem).

Our physical journeys within our bodies are no different, (to alleviate pain in my neck, to find better posture, to lift my child without hurting my back), though there seems to be a lot more negative undercurrent with this specific physical/movement aspect of improvement.

I have been trying to wrap my psychoanalytical brain around this, but the thing is, health is not linear.  Health looks different, and it’s as varied as the characteristics of human beings. I also recognize the inner dialogue that we tend to have in regards to our bodies.  We are not this enough or that enough.  And immediately we are met that we are too much this and too much that…I NEED TO BE FIXED!!!  Where am I supposed to go from here!!!!  We need to remind ourselves:

We are standing

We are growing in many facets

We are eating and finding nourishment through different avenues (this absolutely includes chocolate chip cookies)

We are breathing

We are learning

Our hearts are beating

We are proactively pursuing life

We are not broken

With the coming of the New Year I want to challenge myself, and my community, to question our inner dialogues pertaining to health.  To recognize the strength of the legs that carry us, the balance of the feet that support us, the length of the arms that reach for us, the fullness of the belly that nourishes us, and the enormity of the breath, heart, and mind that keeps us vital.   After taking honest inventory of these things, the journeys on which they have and continue to travel, then ask “Am I really broken?  Do I need to be fixed?”  Hopefully we will recognize our strength, we will be with our balance, we will see our bounds and keep pushing, we will relish in our bellies, and we will recognize the grandeur of our beings. There is no “right way” or “one way” to look, to move, and to be walking in health. 

We are far from broken.  Quite the opposite in fact… we are all movers in our own healthy, beautifully quirky ways.  And we continue to pursue to see, feel and be the difference we need in our own individual healthy lives.

Meet Yvonne!

Yvonne Vallette has been a client with Cascadia Pilates and CoreAlign since December of 2013 - just a couple months after we opened, so she knows us well.

She has taken CoreAlign, Reformer and mat classes, so she really knows her stuff. She loves all the equipment for different reasons, but anything on the ladder barrel is great for opening up her ribcage that’s stiff from years of gymnastics. CoreAlign challenges her balance, and keeps her bad knee happy. And, everything on the reformer feels like dessert to her!

Yvonne found Cascadia after her gym closed downtown, and she wanted a new place close to home so she would be consistent. She also appreciates the flexible schedule with lots of variety of classes early in the morning plus in the evenings after work. Plus, she LOVES the instructors (Her words, we swear!)

Yvonne sees the difference that Cascadia has made in her body and her everyday movements. She's thinned out and gotten more toned, and has a "stomach like a rock!"

On the functional side, her bad knee doesn't get torqued anymore and (though she's still working on it), her ribcage is a lot less rigid.

When’s she not doing Pilates, Yvonne loves speed walking… she walks to work almost every day from March to November. She also loves getting out in the great outdoors to hike, snowshoe and kayak. Phew!

Find out more about the range of classes Cascadia offers for yourself – at Cascadiapilates.com

Meet Eva!

Eva Strickland joined our fair studio this September, and we welcome her calm energy, grace, and all of the experience she brings to our members after being a body worker and yoga teacher for 11 years.

Eva grew up all over the Pacific Northwest, so she was influenced by the Seattle grunge scene and sought her own path to self-realization, learning to love break dancing and street dancing. Eva sees strong correlation between these non-traditional dance practices and Pilates – both require going beyond the “self,” and really giving into freedom of movement.

At Cascadia, Eva teaches a variety of mat and Reformer classes, including a Restorative mat class on Monday nights, that’s all about foam rollers, self-massage and “turning people into jello!”

Come meet Eva, and don’t be surprised if you leave her class or private lesson feeling stronger, freer, and more relaxed!


My year in Pilates

Just about a year ago, I came back to Cascadia Pilates + Core Align after a bad knee injury that kept me out of the studio, stopped my (admittedly halfhearted running habit) and had me on the couch way more than I should have been.

I’d done CoreAlign classes at the studio when it first opened, and thought I’d try a few of the mat classes and Reformer classes, since I figured I would have less time on my feet. I fell in love with both.

Months 1-3: It was a challenge getting back into the groove, unable to do things like cross my legs or sit in child’s pose, but the teachers all made me feel right at home, and that I could do it. I learned their different styles (and quirks) and started to feel stronger in my body. I also realized that I’d been walking around holding myself so that I wouldn’t hurt myself… and by doing that had created other problems!

Months 4-6: I was cruising along, taking about three classes a week, and felt good enough to work back in some CoreAlign classes. That helped even more with alignment – particularly, the scapula wrap retrained me to watch the tension in my neck and shoulders that I carry around like a bulky turtleneck.

Months 7-10: I felt pretty good in my body, but thought maybe I had hit a plateau. But then one night, I was reading to my daughter, and she poked the side of my leg through my Pilates pants and said “your legs are hard, mommy!” And she was right… as a voluptuous person I have always been on the soft and curvy side, so it was really exciting to realize that my muscles had snuck up on me! Around the same time, I also finally got the stitch your ribs cue (thanks, Savanna!) and felt the muscles under my rib cage sweetly sore from being toned for the first time in my life.

Months 11-12: Was really excited to have Cascadia add some new classes and let me pick the activity level that I’m in the mood for, and to realize that even a gentle or reboot class is still a work out and still good for my body. I love walking into the studio and getting a friendly greeting, and seeing people who are now friends in my classes. I’ve brought several folks into the Cascadia family, and would recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone…I have seen what it’s done for me, and I’m a believer!

Release Your Upper Traps

This week we feature a blog written by Casadia's very own Eva Strickland on http://www.instillbodywork.com. For those who have not met Eva, she is not only certified in Pilates but also in Yoga and is also a Licensed Massage Therapist.  She does a body good!

This week she sheds some light on why those upper traps might be so tight, explores ways to release them while engaging the lower traps to help with the cause.  Come check out Eva's regular classes at Cascadia to find out more about sweet release. 



Release Your Upper Traps

“You’re wearing your shoulders like earrings!” My acupuncturist evaluates my shape. Her tone is objective and observant as she approaches my details prior to treatment. It makes me smile… I thought I was wearing my shoulders as shoulders, where my cape should be, or in another life where my wings would root! Yet how often do we find ourselves here, with our shoulders attempting to swallow our necks, fighting gravity all day at work, elbows on a table chasing a “mouse,” creating force from our shoulder girdle when we should be utilizing our core, or simply forgetting to put our things back where they belong. I’ve also encountered this situation nearly daily with my clients, as a licensed massage therapist and Pilates instructor. The stories vary, but the results are the same.

“Drop your shoulders like you’re wearing huge hoop earrings from the 80’s!” My first Pilates instructor used to say. She flowingly commanded my movements with her archive of cues. That one really stuck; I instantly understood. My subconscious patterns were becoming conscious and it literally felt like parts of me were waking up. That was reason for my pursuit into Pilates after eight years of being a bodyworker. I found that massage was half of the solution, but exercise was the other part of finding balance in my posturing as I met the world.

So how do we manage these beautiful bones, the scapulas, that are nearly floating on our ribcage as our shoulder blades? The only real bone to bone connection to the torso is at the acromioclavicular joint, where the end of the clavicle (aka the collar bone) connects to the acromion process, a fingerlike projection of the shoulder blade that protrudes anteriorly. Mostly, the muscles of the shoulder girdle help to keep this bone held in its place, and those muscles can end up playing tug of war.

We all have repetitive patterns, which are shown in our bodies and tell our stories. Muscles can be “locked long” or “locked short,” meaning that you can have tension from both weak or over-tight muscles. In both scenarios, the nerves are screaming from somewhere in the muscle fibers due to stress. One of the keys is taking some of the load off of what is working overtime, and giving some of the strength-bearing to other muscle fibers.

With high shoulders, the upper trapezius and levator scapula muscles are often locked short, and the muscles on the lower part of the scapulas are locked long, in this case the lower trapezius muscles. To break this pattern, it can help to get massage to lengthen what is short and hypertonic. The next step is to start firing the lower trapezius muscles, breaking their under-use and pattern of being locked long. A few good exercises for this are the Yoga “Cobra” or the Pilates “Dart.”

Both of these are done lying belly down, legs out long. Cobra has the palms of your hands on the floor near your shoulders, forehead on the ground. You leave your low back out of it and on an inhale, slide your shoulder blades down into your back pockets as you find a slight lift from your mid-back. Do this without cranking your head up; keep the back of your neck long and collarbones wide. Keep your upper shoulders relaxed and feel your lower trapezius muscles fire, or begin the process of learning this action. Don’t work too hard, as you don’t need to over do it and introduce any unneeded tension into this wonderful movement.

The Pilates Dart exercise also starts with you on your belly, legs straight and forehead touching the ground, arms long by your sides. Find a nice abdominal engagement with a feeling of your navel in and your pubic bone pressing into the ground. Without any tension in your low back, extend your thoracic spine as you lift from your mid-back; keep the back of your neck long, keep your eye gaze down off your nose instead of up to the ceiling. Exhale into the movement. Your hands face your body as your fingers reach toward your toes when you lift. You can leave the legs out of it, or include a lift of both straight legs by using your gluteal muscles (your booty) and hamstrings; again, no crunching into the low back. Your lumbar spine should feel some length here.

Massage is key to maintaining healthy and pain free muscles as it gets the nervous system out of “fight or flight” and into the parasympathetic nervous system: “rest and digest” mode. Massage gets blood flow into the tissues to hydrate individual muscles or in between them (muscles can become adhered together), and helps to release the nerves that lock the muscles up: aka “trigger points” that can refer pain elsewhere, as in tension headaches. For optimal change, I usually send my clients home with an exercise or two to help change their patterns as well. But it always helps to have another set of eyes on us to ensure good form. 

Cobra Pose                                                                Dart Pose (can do with or without lifted legs) 

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