Madeline Black, Continuing Education in Pilates, Gyrotonic and IMT: Information & Updates


View Archive
Madeline Black, Continuing Education Blog

Category - Biomechanics, Movement
Posted - 12/01/2013 08:14pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
What Drives Movement?
Contemplations after attending “Muscles and Meridians” Workshop with Phillip Beach
After spending three days with Phillip Beach, D.O. from Wellington, New Zealand, I ask how can anyone imagine and think about the human body in parts? However, we all do, it has been ingrained in our consciousness. We learn early on “the foot bone is connected to knee bone” instantly conjuring up the Halloween skeleton. We are taught in school about the individual parts, the organs, blood, nerves and the brain. Then we advance in the different systems circulatory, lymphatic, and musculoskeletal. Today, medicine is practiced with specialties in isolation.  Movement and fitness trainers always reference one muscle when exercising. Think about it, we are a whole organism. My studies and practice of Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) taught me to expand my view of the body as a holistic one. The influence of all the systems,   our emotions, and our relationship in the world all acts on how the body moves, feels and functions. Dr. Phillip Beach is asking for a clearer, more accurate model on whole organism movement. He has been synthesizing his Osteopathy and Acupuncture practices to create a new model. His workshop was all confirming for me on how I perceive whole body movement.

When we perform any movement or even think about moving, the body responds in its entirety.  When someone is performing a movement and asks “What muscles am I using?” is a naïve and silly question (to quote Dr. Beach “a bloody stupid question!”). ANY movement you do, your whole body is engaged. Even if you are sitting on a bench and only lifting a hand weight as in a bicep curl, you are not only contracting the biceps. The blood is flowing, nerves are working, the breath is moving, and organs have movement. You simply cannot move with only muscles!

Movement has patterns and the patterns are typically described in the form of planes of motion. If we watch fish, for instance, they move side to side through the water. Mammals have different motions. The dolphin has a combination of side to side and forward to back (we call this flexion and extension). Humans mastered being upright and walking. The evolution of our structure, the shape, allows us to rotate. Rotation and counter rotation enables us to be bipedal and walk. We have fundamental movement sequences. As we age, or become injured, we loose some of these basic movements.

  images_1_2.jpeg      images.jpeg      images_1.jpeg    Unknown.jpeg          

An interesting model of movement presented by Dr. Phillip Beach was one of contractile fields. The word contractile is used to avoid any reference to any specific anatomical term or structure. Fields gives a dynamic description of “spacio-temporal activity” meaning we move in space from a response rather than “a geometric image of a momentary time-slice in the organisms history”.  In early development of the human embryo, the subdivision of the embryonic body happens in fields prior to development of specific organs or structures. It is a mystery how the fields creates the development, and movement of cells that evolve into a highly sophisticated human body.

I highly recommend you read his book, Muscles and Meridians to fully comprehend the description and analysis of each of the contractile fields. Side to side movement would live in the lateral contractile field. In Pilates, I think of Lateral Tilts on Large Barrel. The dorsal/ventral field is the front and back movement or flexion and extension, think Rollup. The helical field is a spiral field, think Seated Push Through (Around the World) on the Cadillac. Radial field, (one of my favorites) think any and all movements it creates elongation! All the fields interact with each other and cannot exist without the other. The fluid field, and chiralic field are equally important to our movement model. Read about them in his book, very enlightening.

So, what drives movement? Dr. Beach presented seven primary building blocks to model whole organism movement patterns.
  1. Mesoderm, an embryological term describing a mid layer, between an inner and outer layer of the embryo    body. It formed your muscles, bones, blood, heart, 2 kidneys, gonads, dermis of the skin, lymph cells, and spleen. It is the part that moves us. We wouldn’t be able to move if we never had this layer.
  2. Mammalian movement patterns
  3. Sense organs
  4. Suboccipital complex (upper most part of the neck) and spinal gearbox (three dimensional motion of the spine specifically the lumbo-pelvic-sacral area), both necessary for the rotational movements
  5. Limb rotation, legs a spring
  6. The coelom (fluid space)/kidneys, the fluid field
  7. Pulsatile (heart) and peristaltic (gut) movement

As I review this list, I see a picture: the original body map in the embryonical development of the tissues from the same layer, therefore of the same field. Our distinct movement patterns are driven by our sense organs, connection to the nervous system with the unique mechanical advantage of the ability to move in a helical spiral to walk. The body’s squeezing and dilating movement influences our tissue quality and ability to move freely. The brain works with large fields, not individual muscles. All the fields are intertwined creating the whole.

Those of you familiar with my work, I use other models to define movement and understand how to approach it in the best possible way in order to perform better in any movement. I always refer to Kapandji, my IMT manuals, and other books that describe mechanics. These are all models of movement defined by a person, the author. The intention of creating a model is to simplify and explain the complexity of the body. A currently popular model is Anatomy Trains by Thomas Meyers. His model is a fascial and muscle (myofascial) one based on his dissections and Rolfing. The pattern of movement of a living organism is missing, the fluids, heart and gut movement greatly influences our tissues. If the blood flow is restricted, the pressure increases and stiffens our tissues. The movement is restricted and tight feeling. Or if your gut has an issue, it can upset the whole biochemistry and movement of the lower area of the body. For example, when potassium is low, muscles tend to cramp up involuntarily. Each aspect of our whole organism is interactive. Balance of all parts of us, the whole of us is important for healthy movement.

How will I integrate this work into my practice? I am just beginning to in terms of using it as an analogy and thought process on how to approach the body. It has increased my level of perception. Will my movement repertoire be that different? I don’t think so because the fields are living in our body (and off our body). Any movement practice, Pilates, Yoga or Gyrotonic™ all move from the fields. There are basic Archetypal Postures that according to Dr. Beach retune and self –correct your body when you are out of tune. I took his advice and have been practicing these since the workshop. He also promotes walking barefoot on uneven surfaces like a rock garden. My husband is building me my own little rock pathway to walk on. At Studio M we are using a rocky area to walk on.

I encourage you to walk barefoot in a rock garden (work up to 20 minutes) and add these simple but not so easy movements to your daily routine. Work yourself into it easily and remember to judge the discomfort.




Category - General
Posted - 08/28/2013 12:09pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
Shoulder Series #3 Using a Belt

The Human Shoulder Girdle                               A Domestic Cat

I came across these two images both of which are views from the top of the ribcage and shoulder girdle. The human image is a skeletal view without the myofascial (muscles and fascia) slings. The cat's image shows the slings. Notice the breast bone of the cat with the sling attachment to the leg (arm in our case) bones. Also, view the shoulder blades with its posterior sling attaching on the spine, to shoulder blade, spine to ribs and inside the shoulder blade to the ribs. We have similar structures that allows us to reach, pull and push. For the cat, imagine the cat running or jumping and how the sling would elongate on one side and shorten on the other to create the tension and spring to pounce.
Even though we do not run on all fours, we still need to have the ability to be pliable, like a cat, to move efficiently without causing damage to our joints. My shoulder series is more than about the shoulder. The movements play with the slings, moving through the elongation and tension from as far away as the pelvis giving us the elasticity to move fully with our arms.

MODIFICATIONS: The range demonstrated is a normal and full range of movement necessary for healthy shoulders.

Start where you are, practice and change is coming.

Choose some of the following to ease into the movement:
  • Use a stretchy band so that when needed the width can increase
  • Start very wide with the hands, progress toward narrowing the grip
  • Progress from lift the arms straight up to or just before a place of discomfort, stop and begin again     repeating. See "Pancake Theory" in my blog, the first repetition is like the first pancake. Repeat and each one gets better and easier!
  • Pay attention to your placement of the ribcage, maintain stability


In 2009, I first presented "Sole to Spine" at Roberta Kirschenbaum's studio in New York organized by Jennifer Whittemore. Since then I have evolved the course into a solid, grounded course in the influence the feet have on the pelvis and spine. With a few simple movements using the assistance/resistance of the apparatus and specific hands-on to facilitate significant changes in a whole body alignment. I am thinking of the "calcaneal spiral" for those of you who have participated in this workshop. Each time I teach this workshop, I go back, edit, add-on and improve the language, details of the techniques and format to make the progressions more logical in terms of learning the material. I encourage you to re-take the workshop to fine tune what you gained and see new additions to the work. If you haven't participated in this workshop, come to learn the why placing the feet is critical to achieving functional firing patterns up the leg into the spine. If the feet are compromised, then learn to help improve the feet so that foot and leg work is more effective. There is a foot article with exercises on the blog, that I wrote for Pilates-Pro  you may be interested in. See you at the Bay Club!

"From Sole to Spine-Looking from the Ground Up: An in-depth Exploration of the Relationship
between the Foot and Structures of the Pelvis and Spine"

This workshop is one day for 6 contact hours.  You can choose Saturday or Sunday to attend.

Ever wonder how feet influence the core? Discover how to correct misaligned feet and achieve better overall movement function for your clients. Help those with foot issues and see how the alignment of the leg changes. This one day workshop will explore the anatomy and function of the feet and the relationship to the trunk.

Participants will:
    •    Learn to identify and assess the movement function and dysfunction of the bones of the feet, ankle and leg alignment through palpation, observation and movement.
    •    Apply corrective exercises specifically for the feet
    •    Use Pilates apparatus, props and manual techniques to facilitate postural change through the feet
    •    Specific cueing and practice for optimal placement of the feet on the apparatus
    •    Understanding the movement muscle recruitment patterns for specific leg alignments

6 PMA CEC'S available

    Location:  Bay Club of San Francisco
                     150 Greenwich (between Sansome & Battery)
                     San Francisco, CA
    Date & Time:  Saturday, September 21 10am - 5pm   OR   Sunday, September 22  10am - 5pm
    Cost:  $325 per day
    To Register:   email  Lori Van Craddock
                          or call, 415-938-3407

Space is limited to only 15 participants each day, so sign-up early to get your spot!!

 For more of my up-and-coming workshop's click on schedule

Category - Workshops
Posted - 08/05/2013 03:20pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
Teaching in Japan, September 2013


A picture taken in 2010 after completing a workshop, as you can see we love what we do and have fun along the way!

I have the honor to be associated and connected to a wonderful group of Pilates teachers in Tokyo and Hayama, Japan. I believe, Rie Sakai of Pilates Movement Space, has invited me for the last 7 or 8 years to share my knowledge and way of working with the body. Each time I go, there is the core group, who I see each year in addition to teachers whom I have never met. I love seeing old friends and colleagues and seeing how they have grown in their work. Rie has a specific vision in advancing the work of Pilates teachers in Japan. Like myself, she is interested in other aspects of the body that we can draw into Pilates work. This year, she has requested a workshop that I taught only in New York at Studio 26 called "Sole to Spine: Biomechanics and Biorhythms". This is a highly advanced course using hands-on skills to work with biorhythms of the lower body to enhance movement potential and healing. Both Rie and Jared Kaplan of Studio 26 are expanding the field by offering workshops like this one. 

Rie makes the most of having me come so far to be at her two studios. This year, we are offering the following workshops for teachers who are new to my work and more advanced to the returning teachers. We, of course, have wonderful meals together and spend time socializing. I look forward to being with everyone soon. 

For more information, click the schedule page on my website.

September 12: Scoliosis

In this workshop, you will learn to identify structural and functional scoliosis using simple assessment skills and understand the movement mechanics of the spine along with the dysfunction created by scoliosis. Create an effective exercise program for your clients with scoliosis using specific exercises that target the balance between release and support of the structure. Madeline Black will utilize the Pilates apparatus, mat, rollers, balls, and spine corrector to identify movement patterns and develop corrective exercises. 

September 13-14 Supple Neck and Shoulders

Organizing the head and neck in life is challenging for most people. In Pilates, it can be what makes or breaks a good experience enabling the client to connect into the core. A supple neck also plays strongly into how the shoulder girdle functions. Madeline will lecture on the anatomy and fascial relationship of the cervical spine into the upper trunk and shoulder region. You will learn specific neck exercises both non-apparatus and with Pilates apparatus. Learn how to work with neck issues effectively.

September 16 JAPAN Sole To Spine ONE DAY

Ever wonder how feet influence the core? Discover how to correct misaligned feet and achieve better overall movement function for your clients. Help those with foot issues and see how the alignment of the leg changes. This one day workshop will explore the anatomy and function of the feet and the relationship to the trunk.

September 17-18 Sole to Spine: From Biomechanics to Biorhythms

Madeline Black is known for the continuous evolution of her work bringing science, biomechanics, energetics and advanced concepts to Pilates. Sole to Spine is now a highly attended course focused on the foot’s influence on the adaptability of the pelvis and spine. Now, Madeline is ready to take Sole to Spine to a new level—from Biomechanics to Biorhythms. She will explore the primal structures of the lower limb that influence the cavities of the body; she will help participants identify fluid motion in the tissues initiated by the bones to balance mobility and increase vitality; and culminate the day with a foray into fascial breath. 


Category - For Your Shoulders and Torso,Workshops
Posted - 07/29/2013 06:52pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
Shoulder Series #2 Doorway Contract and Release
200px_Leonardo_da_Vinci___Anatomical_studies_of_the_shoulder___WGA12824.jpgThe second in a series of working with the shoulder region. The "Doorway Contract and Release" works the rotator cuff and the pectoral and latissimus connection to the arm. A simple contraction by pressing into the door frame and a release as the forearm moves away from the door frame moving the shoulder into external rotation. This increases range of motion, and restores strength to the shoulder. Start at a comfortable angle of the elbow to shoulder. Start lower than the shoulder and gradually move the elbow up the wall. You should NOT experience any pain while doing this. If you do, lower the angle of the arm. Have awareness of the lower ribcage by not allowing the ribs to move forward as your arm moves backward. Exhale on the movement of the forearm away from the wall so that you create a connection into the core to stabilize the lower ribs. It increases the motion at the shoulder.


Category - For Your Shoulders and Torso
Posted - 06/27/2013 08:18am
1 Comments | Add Comment
Shoulder Series: Wall Circle
The shoulder has attachments as far away as your pelvis in the back and in the front. These attachments are not only arise from the same side of the pelvis but also cross from the shoulder to the opposite hip. This allows for the whole full circling of the arm. At any point along the attachments there can be restrictions impeding the movement of the shoulder. Performing the wall circle will free up the restrictions. You may find that movement if the spine and pelvis also improves. Be mindful of your ability. Never move into pain, and allow your body's intelligence to guide you how the movement is performed. An example is you may need to be farther away from the wall or you begin with a partial circle. With continued practice, you will find the movement changes.

Category - For Your Shoulders and Torso
Posted - 05/21/2013 03:03pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
Self Release of the Forearm

Madeline Black demonstrates how to release your forearm for improved movement of the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Learn more about the connection of the wrist to the shoulder, attend her workshop, "Thorax to Wrist". See her schedule for location and more information.


Category - Workshops
Posted - 05/16/2013 03:51pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
Teaching at Pilates Leadership Program in Sao Paulo, Brazil

We are focused on the spine, specifically a scoliosis spine, giving the spine gentle elongation with breathing into the concave side of her thorax. This created a translation of her spine and corresponding ribs toward the mid line. The breath opened up the tissue and at the same time engaging the opposite side of her spine imprinting the new position. We spent the day working on this principle in various positions using and moving with the Pilates apparatus.

Category - For Your Pelvis-Lumbar Spine
Posted - 08/27/2012 02:51pm
3 Comments | Add Comment
Balance a Sacral Torsion/Pelvic Rotation
See how Madeline Black uses a shoe in a restorative position to change a pelvic torsion or rotation. It is simple and can release sacral tension, piriformis discomfort (also recognized as a pain or tightening of you buttocks) and hip tension. Also see Madeline in her secret studio in the redwoods, called CalmQi studio, where she gets away to restore.


Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 06/23/2012 08:22pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
The Pancake Theory: Learning Like Pancakes
How are cooking pancakes analogous to learning to move? In my observations over years of teaching movement, I noticed the process of how people learn a new movement. The first try at executing a movement instruction, whether it is a verbal, visual or tactile one, is hardly natural. It is out of sync, a bit awkward and frankly an uncoordinated effort. I certainly experience this feeling on a first attempt at a new movement skill. So, allow the client to move through the movement without any suggestions for improvement on their first run through. Know it is the same as the first pancake on the grill, throw it away. The second repetition is considerably better. However, I see the connection of the kinesthetic chain is not completely apparent. Part of the movement is clearer, usually the beginning, but somewhere in the middle the movement becomes disjointed or incomplete. The magic comes with the third repetition where the mind and the body coordinate, allowing for the movement to feel coordinated, in the body rather than a thinking action. It is truly a physical and kinetic whole body experience.

What about the pancakes? I love to cook. I rarely eat pancakes except when we are in the redwoods of Comptche, California. There is nothing like eating delicious pancakes on a morning in the woods. When the first batch of pancakes are poured on to the grill, they tend to be cooked unevenly and a bit lighter in color. The second batch is better, but doesn’t produce an even golden brown color that is desirable. The third one is always superior. It is known in our family to wait for the third or fourth batch of pancakes if you want the best ones. We may seem to be polite and offer the first two batches to others, but really, deep down inside, we know the better cakes are coming. And the cook always eats last!

I began using this analogy in teaching teachers cueing. Be patient, allow the client to be the first pancake. Let them move the first time without any great expectation. Know that the connected, fully realized movement is coming on the third try.  Hold back the urge to give them a correction on the first attempt. Allow them to be awkward. Give them a positive comment and say “let’s try it again”. Follow with another positive comment and a helpful hint to connect into the whole movement from beginning to end. Then, smile because their third pancake is arriving.

This is a simple idea and a fun way to look at a client’s process in taking in movement instruction, assimilating it and then embodying it. Enjoy watching the pancakes cook, just do not eat too many!

The First Pancake                                   Second Pancake                              Third! Pancake                                         

IMG_1620.JPG           IMG_1624.JPG     IMG_1636.JPG

Mmmmm Evenly done!



Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 04/16/2012 05:38am
0 Comments | Add Comment
My Week with Alan Herdman Final Day
Shamanic Studio
Monday is my day off. I made plans with Alan to meet him at his main studio near Marble Arch. I jumped on the tube and disembarked at Oxford Circle and walked in the direction of Alan’s studio. I arrived at the studio where there were many clients busy working on their bodies. As I looked around, the clients were confident in their movements, obviously focused on the precision of the exercises. The studio’s energy was one that grounded but light. There was very little interaction, meaning talking between clients, and the sound level was low but not hushed like a library. It had a comfortable and friendly feel.

Alan and I traded sessions again. We both repeated our techniques on each other, because we needed it. I showed Alan a single leg pump on the Wunda Chair that specifically targets the medial line of the leg, the line I am working on for my knee. It engages the VMO/adductor and medial hamstring in knee flexion. Alan was focusing on my knee extension to activate this line. Alan and I discussed the need to also feel it working when the knee is flexed with the lower leg pressing downward.

We went for a salad nearby. Alan explained to me his model of the studio. It is a cross between a private session and a class really. He has two to three teachers on the floor. Each client has their specific program that changes regularly depending on what their need is when they arrive, similar to a private session. Each client is not doing the same program. The clients have been taught how to work well for themselves, what they need to concentrate on, and of course the Pilates exercises that are best for their body. The clients come in, are supervised but also independent. If a teacher is working with another client, the other clients in the room are busy setting up their next movement and working. I never saw any one person idle, not knowing what to do next, or waiting for assistance. I also never saw a client calling a teacher over to help. It seems to just flow.

The teachers on the floor have a keen eye for seeing all of the clients and stepping in to assist or change the exercise. No one is talking loudly or being demanding wanting to be waited on. Alan tells me he has no tolerance for people who are loud and unconscious of others in the room. He has told three clients that they could no longer come to his studio for this very reason. Alan said, if he doesn’t like them, then he doesn’t accept them into his studio. I interpret  Alan’s word “like” to mean that he resonates with the person and they with him. He said it has to work this way. It clearly does. The energy in the room is like no other studio I have been in.

At dinner, I commented on the feel of his studio. He said he likes to be the first person at the studio because he sets the feel. On Tuesdays, he starts in the early afternoon and works later. Alan tells me he can feel the difference in the studio on this day when he is not setting the day. I told Alan I sense his ability to work with energy and we call it energy work or energy medicine. I called him a shaman! I reminded him of how on my arrival he created the energy field for me to ground and be in my body. He laughed at me but I think deep down inside that English way, he knows he is a shaman, an Englishman one.

Tuesday, my last day in London before heading off to Florence to teach for four days. Alan instructs me to get some culture and recommends two museums to go to. Tuesday is his late day at the studio. My plan is to experience culture and then meet Alan at the studio for another session. Then we will have dinner together again for the final time.


Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 04/08/2012 09:17am
0 Comments | Add Comment
My Week with Alan Herdman Day 4
Sunday, I taught my third day for Pilates Umbrella. It was a day off with Alan. I had dinner with Janie Miklaunus, who works with me at Studio M and her niece. Janie came to London to visit her family and assist me during the workshop. Her niece asked me what the difference is between an American Pilates and European Pilates. That was hard to answer in a brief way and to someone who is not familiar with Pilates, she practices yoga. I began to think of my conversation with Sarah and Alan about trainings the night before. I do find in Europe, mat only teachers showing up to my workshops. They ask me, how can I do this in my mat class. I simply say you cannot because the mat is only a part of Pilates. To answer her question, I thought of an image. I compared a mat only teacher to a yoga teacher. Would a yoga teacher only learn standing poses and not the seated poses? Would a yoga teacher only trained in standing poses be qualified to be a yoga teacher?  Of course, she agreed that would be weird if a yoga teacher was only qualified to teach standing poses and nothing else. This may be reaching for a comparison, but I strongly feel a Pilates teacher is comprehensively trained.

Joseph Pilates was known for his innovations and ability to change people's bodies. He was a problem solver using his apparatus, and all the skills that Alan and I discussed the day before, listening, critical thinking, knowledge and intuition. The mat only phenomenon is also present in the US. However, in my workshops throughout the US, I have not had one teacher ask me how an apparatus exercise be done without the apparatus. In my conversations with European mat only teachers, it sounds as if they have no intention of being fully trained. I know there are many reasons for being mat only trained, the expenses of training, and access to working on equipment. Plus, the cost difference for the client. A mat class is cheaper than attending a full Pilates session.

I believe, even if a teacher only has access to mats  or just one piece of apparatus, studying the body of work of Pilates enhances your teaching. The movements are interrelated. The knowledge of the repertoire and movement science deepens the understanding, all making teaching a mat class have depth and clarity. Then, when a student walks in with their preconceived idea of their movements, you can offer them a different choice that can really shift them into a healthier place in their body.


Pilates Mat Exercise Mermaid

Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 04/03/2012 08:26pm
1 Comments | Add Comment
My Week With Alan Herdman Day 3


On Saturday, I taught a full day and met up with Alan in the evening. Alan invited me to join him and meet a few of his teachers. They were meeting at a bar on the Thames River near the Millennium Bridge to celebrate Brian’s birthday. He is the teacher I met at Alan’s studio in the Reebok Club. Alan had told me about two of his teachers who I would be meeting. He spoke highly of them as a proud teacher would of their best student. 

I ended up sitting between Sarah and Alan. At first, there was quite a bit of bantering between them, all in good humor. Listening to their dialogue, I am working hard trying to understand some of their expressions. I realized that their use of light sarcasm is a way to be direct with a comment without being blunt. Alan told me that in one of his trainings, a student asked him when will they have the lesson in sarcasm. It is all in good fun. Alan and Sarah are very good at it!

I had been talking all day in workshop so listening was perfect. Sarah is also a teacher for Alan’s training program. She and I discussed teacher trainings, especially in England. Sarah confirmed an impression I have of Pilates training in Europe having taught in Italy, Ireland, Germany and now England through a story she told me. The story is, a Pilates teacher from the US had arrive in London. After a long flight, she felt she needed to do Pilates to counteract the affects of the flight (stiffness!). Near her hotel was a place that offered a mat class. The visiting teacher also had a back issue on top of being stiff from sitting for so long. When she set up her place to start the class, she placed a folded towel under her lower back to ease into flexion. The teacher of the class came over to her, grabbed the towel and told her she does not need the prop and that she needs to stop pampering herself. This teacher of the class then pushed on her in a way that increased her discomfort. The visiting teacher, who was a student in this class, experienced a teacher who had no regard for her student. Sarah and I discussed that this mat trained teacher most likely did not have enough knowledge to deal with many issues. One, a new student arriving in your class, knowing if the student has any issues, how do deal with a person with issues and respecting the body.  Sarah shared this story with me to paint the picture of how comprehensively trained teachers are educated with more depth and understanding of the body. Also, a comprehensively trained teacher spends more time looking and adjusting movement in a variety of ways. Mat only teachers’ course work and hours of practice are limited compared to the comprehensively trained teacher. Sarah and I also wondered why this teacher did not get up and leave the class. We agreed that both of us would.

In Germany and England, people have divided up Pilates work into two categories. One is the mat teacher, and the other is called equipment or studio certified.  Mat trainings are generally done in a short time period of time, say two weekends. The teachers are taught mat class sequences. For some, the training stops there. In England’s governing body over fitness declares a mat teacher qualified to call themselves a Pilates teacher. In fact, in England, there is an accreditation of training programs that teach only mat yet no accreditation for a fully comprehensive program like Alan’s, which is 1000 hours. I understand from a teacher at Studio M, who taught in France for two years, that the government required Pilates teachers to take the fitness exam where the questions had no information or similarity to Pilates. A personal trainer, who already passed this exam would be allowed to teach Pilates even though they had no formal Pilates training.

In the US, the training programs, vary in terms of as hours, requirements and qualifications of the teacher training programs. Over ten years, the PMA has worked to set guidelines and standards, giving us a reference for qualifications. In Europe, the government, who has little or no knowledge of Pilates lumps us into the fitness arena. With this view, I can see why the government in England has a mat accreditation if it thinks it is similar to an aerobic class. I became aware of how important it is that we regulate ourselves for the longevity of Pilates with its unique whole body approach not a fitness fad. I know that sounds a bit Republican but I must say, we know our work. It makes me feel that having the PMA’s third party certification exam and standards gives us, the teachers of Pilates, the power to direct the future of Pilates in the US. I hope that the in the future, other countries may have the same opportunity to live Pilates beyond our life time. 

IMG_1503.JPG  Sarah and Madeline at Alan's studio
  March, 2012

Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 03/29/2012 04:37am
1 Comments | Add Comment
My Week with Alan Herdman Day 2
End Range
I met Alan at his flat on a sunny and warm day. A construction worker was there pounding away with the tools and electric cords strewn everywhere. Alan led me upstairs to his office. I noticed his book shelf off to the left. To be expected, it was filled with anatomy, exercise science, manual therapy and Pilates books. I smiled feeling comfort from being with a familiar place of books.

We ventured out together, walking to the tube (metro). We were headed to his studio in the Reebok Club in Canary Wharf. Alan has three studios in London. The one in the Reebok club is the newest one. It was closer to Moss Pilates, where I was teaching a master class at 5:30. Our plan was to give me time to warm up and prepare for my class while Alan did some errands. After, his errands, we would work with each other.

I began moving, while Alan’s assistant, Brian, was working with clients. Again, I have a feeling of comfort, like being at home. Alan returned from his errands and asked how my knee was doing. I have a medial meniscus tear. My daily practice is restoring the mechanics and muscular connections from my foot up into my spine. I exercise my feet with my foot program with the consciousness of the alignment and movement of my tibia with the subsequent firing of my hip. This is the topic of my workshop this weekend and I am a living example of how it works.

Alan says to me “well, let’s take a look at your footwork on the reformer”.  After watching one repetition, he places his hand on the inside and just above my knee as I move into my second repetition. He says “your VMO is not engaging well. Try using the adductors more.” I did another repetition, “no, not good enough, come over to the table”. We move on to the trap table. I am experiencing a mirroring of myself in Alan. I thought, if my clients could see me now, they would be satisfied knowing I too have to be guided to wake up sleeping muscles. That is what happens to our strength when we get out of alignment. It is amazing how quickly certain muscles turn off when there is tightness and dysfunction in one’s movement. My knee injury is causing my foot to favor the outer edge (arches out position) which then places my weight on my leg too much on the outside line not in the center. And then my pelvic rim moves back and up which displaces my hip joint out, all turning off my posterior hip muscles (back and side of the hip). This in turn weakens, through inhibition, that inside line Alan was focused on restoring for me.

I am now side lying on the table on my left side (the not functioning inner line of the leg) with my left leg straight. The right leg is bent being supported so that my pelvis stays stacked. This position is a common side lying position for working the adductors. Typically, one would lift the leg up and down. Alan cued me by placing his hand on the center of my heel. He asked me to press into his hand. As I reached my leg long, he said, “more, straighten your knee fully, more, press more”.  “Bend your knee slightly and relax it”, he said after my efforts to engage that inner line of my leg without lifting it off the table. His hands-on cueing is exactly how I would coach someone. We repeated this movement, he pressing on my heel, me pressing on him while fully straightening my knee. After about three to four repetitions, I finally felt the VMO and whole inner line of my left thigh engage fully. I stood up and could feel my whole leg adjust into a more centered place through my leg into my foot. Now, I am ready to do the foot work to truly strengthening my whole leg, which I was unable to do before.


    Alan using MET for release of my Iliotibial band

Alan and I are like minds when it comes to defining what physical training encompasses. Strength is when you move, the motion is present in the joints, the bones, (not at an end range stuck place) and the musculature is called upon to engage appropriately allowing for development of strength. Strength is also a balance between stability and mobility. When one plays a sport, the interplay of the motion  between when the body is stabilizing while the other side or diagonal is mobilizing or moving without being stuck in the end range. As we walked through the large gym, watching people doing all sorts of movement, mostly not healthy, he says “why is everyone pushing so hard and moving in their end range, you cannot strengthen if you are at your end range continually”. I look over at a man on a rowing machine and I see is neck is locked out, his spine in the end range of flexion and his hips are also not moving. As he pulls, it looks like he is getting whiplash with each repetition, and his knees are doing all the movement. The parts that should be moving are not and the parts that should be stable are well, taking the brunt of his efforts.

My turn to look at Alan’s foot. I began with orthopedic massage of his foot, specifically the medial arch, the spaces in between the metatarsals opening the lumbricals, and a maneuver for the first toe joint to restore movement. I had Alan do the foot exercises, moving his toes in flexion and extension at first. Then, I added the toe waves with dorsi and plantar flexion. I tied a light theraband around his big toes and in between his toes to maximize the alignment of his toes while he moved his ankles. I also did the compression and decompression of the first toe joint (MP joint) and enhancing the movement of that joint. I recommended that Alan do more prehensile work on the Reformer. Afterward, we went walking. Alan said his foot felt so much better. I was concerned he would be very sore the next day.


Madeline working on Alan's left toe prior to having him work his feet

Alan and I boarded a bus at Canary Wharf toward the Fruit Exchange Building where I was to teach my master class. Alan attended the class, wanting to watch. My class was focused on the feet up to the spine. It was a movement class with no apparatus. When I got to the part of working the whole leg in extension, some of the participants were struggling with the specificity of how to connect the foot to the hip. Janie, my assistant and I were running around the room helping them find the alignment and subsequent muscular engagement. I turned around to see Alan off his chair and cueing one of the teachers. He just couldn’t sit still while seeing the bodies that needed some guidance. I smiled and felt I would do the same!

Alan and I headed to a restaurant in his neighborhood. We discussed my class. Alan appreciated the sequencing of the class. He kindly said, “I hope it was okay to step in and help during the class”.  I told him that I felt supported by his participation and really appreciated it.

Our conversation centered around the need to listen. Alan spoke about how teachers hold on to preconceived ideas. If they would listen to the instruction without jumping ahead in their thoughts, their body would have a different experience. I saw this during my class. I was explaining exactly where to place a ball under the foot using a skeleton of the foot, pointing to the landmark. I looked around and saw a few people had the ball in a completely different location on the foot. It was as if they were somewhere else, not present in their body. Alan noticed this and confirmed I was exceptionally clear but that these few teachers were not listening.

Alan and I continued talking about how listening is a skill that needs to be practiced. Alan commented on how some teachers are stuck on knowing one way to teach an exercise. He recalled a number of times, while teaching workshops, a teacher will say to him “well, I learned it a different way”. Alan’s response is “it may be helpful to learn a different approach so when the way that you were taught does not work for a client, you have another way that may work for that person”.  Alan’s philosophy of listening and seeing as a teacher means flexibility in your approach. We discussed how some training programs today teach set formulas rather than teaching a teacher to use their critical thinking skills, listening and having options of movement choices. It is important not to be stuck on preconceived ideas and work with what is in front of you, the client. I suggested maybe we expand these ideas into the teacher training program.

Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 03/27/2012 04:27am
0 Comments | Add Comment
My Week with Alan Herdman
Low Tea
After a journey through Frankfurt Airport walking on the brink of running from Terminal A, past many A gates, down many spirals of stairs, a long tunnel that feels like the bowels of Frankfurt airport, up the spiral stairs into Terminal B, I made it to B26, boarding in progress. I found my seat and changed my breathing. Now, I can feel the anticipation of meeting Alan in his home turf, London.

I have been looking forward to my trip for it is my first time teaching Pilates teachers in London. The bonus for me is being able to spend time with Alan. Over the years, we have spent time together at the PMA conferences and at Pilates on Tour. I have always found Alan to be a kindred spirit not only because we both teach Pilates, but his openness to learning, and sharing his knowledge freely. Alan, to me, is ageless in his spirit. He recently turned 70 and continues to help people maximize their movement potential. Outside of our interactions “on the road”, I have not spent a lot of one on one time with him. Nor has he worked on my body, or I on his. The body is all telling! It is another level of getting to know a person. I plan to have a session or two at his studio.

Upon my arrival, I was detained at the immigration entry for an hour and a half. They had questions concerning my purpose for visiting. I sat there repeating a new affirmation. It calmed me and allowed me to be non-reactive. I thought this is helping me stay present and not get out of sorts. I thought I was in control. But, once I arrived at Alan’s I started to feel a little shook up. Here I am, getting out of the cab in front of Alan’s flat. I am gathering all my things that exploded out my back pack. I feel a bit fragmented, trying to keep track of my belongings. I turn around, and there is Alan, standing in his doorway, smiling at me.

He invited me in. We walked past many boxes stacked in the hallway and his belongings in piles on the table. Alan is just moving into this flat from a very large space to a smaller one. It is about 4 o’clock now. Of course, tea time. Alan served tea in a small space he carved out with a view of his garden. I shifted easily, relaxed and felt more connected to my self. Alan, whether he is aware of it or not, created a field allowing for some discharge of my fragmented feeling. He was giving me some grounding. I instantly, felt connected to my self and able to start our first chat.

We discussed our teaching schedules to see when we were going to be teaching at the same place. We are both teaching for Pilates on Tour in Hong Kong and Chicago. Plus we will both be at the PMA conference in Las Vegas. Conversations generally start in a comfortable place, like talking about the weather. In our case, it was about where are you teaching this year. As the tea cooled, we were just getting warmed up.

That is when I had a thought, it would be fun to write about my experience with Alan. I am certain, you reading this, would like to know what do two, what do I call us? Not elder teachers, we are certainly not elderly. Master teacher is over used these days. I think of what Al Harrison called me once while introducing me at POT, “an elder in training”....hmmm I didn’t take kindly to that. Alan is chronologically older than I am but as I said he does not match that age. Alan also has been teaching many more years than I have. We try to give ourselves a place, a category or label positioning ourselves in the industry. It is a way to reference where, and in some cases, who one is. Then are we comparing and judging our ability to do our work? When I self reference my core values, knowledge and use my senses, I know that I am on the right track. I wish not to choose a level, or name for our status in the field of Pilates. I know from my heart and core where I am. 

Moving on, I thought you, the reader may be interested in what do two teachers like Alan Herdman and Madeline Black talk about? I also had inquiries I wanted to ask Alan about his work and experience. I thought it would be fun to write about it. Alan liked the idea too.

One interesting area, we talked about was, of course, clients. We started talking about the notion of cutting a body part off that is giving us problem rather than working on it. We hear those comments, oh just cut it off. I recalled a client who had part of the toe removed because it caused rubbing and it was turning inward. It bothered him while wearing shoes. We both expressed the other option of working on the foot and changing shoes would be less drastic. Then again, it is the person’s choice, no judgement. It did solve his discomfort and pain. Alan said he sometimes wishes to cut out tongues of people who talk incessantly, we laughed.

This line of talk sparked an old experience, I had with a client’s boyfriend, whom she gave a session to in hopes he would start a Pilates practice. I told Alan about this man of 50 + years. When I referred to his navel as a landmark for him to concentrate on, he paused and looked at me with all seriousness. He said, “you know, I have been in therapy for many years over issues with my mother”. I listened. “I decided that I hate my mother so therefore, I had my navel removed”. I was acting professional and did not know how to react to that. So, I recall just moving him off the trap table and onto the reformer. Change of equipment, change of topic, a good avoidance technique. I asked Alan, how would you respond to a comment like that? Without missing a beat, he said “ Let me see it!” We laughed so hard. I think I am too serious, yet he is the Englishman!

Alan, living in London you can imagine has had very interesting types of people come through his studio. His first students were dancers at the Martha Graham school in London. Since 1970, the many actors (some very famous ones though he prefers not to work with them), opera singers, and all sorts of people. The stories he could tell about these people was so colorful. My favorite one was the “Madam” he works with till this day. One day in session, she asked Alan if his ears were burning last night. He said “no, why”. She said “I had my legs overhead, hooked on to the bed head and said if it weren’t for Alan, I wouldn’t be able to do this!!” All kinds of professions are improved with Pilates!

I asked Alan about his body. I wondered if he is experiencing some of the sensations that I am. Is his fascia getting tighter by the year, or has he had injuries that did not come from an obvious accident? I was fishing for what it is like getting older, how the tissues changes.  Does Alan have any insight? Well, Alan said no. His flexibility is good, he does not feel tightening of his fascia, he has had no joint pain nor injuries. Except, recently, his big toe joint has been bothering him, enough that he notices it is affecting his gait. I offered to work on his toe. We will spend time together after my workshop for Pilates Umbrella in London, working on our bodies. More to report then.

Alan greeting me upon my arrival March 22, 2012


Category - Teaching Concepts
Posted - 02/18/2012 02:13pm
2 Comments | Add Comment
Working the Structure verses Working Out
  My personal workouts have always been about bringing strength to the areas that are weak and flexibility to the areas of holding, the restriction of movement.  One cannot happen without the other. I then create a balance to my structure, which gives me strength.  My mission is to spread the idea that working out is not about boot camp mentality. A precise, efficient and a structure-based focus in a workout results in better strength gains, looks and YOU FEEL GOOD! 

As I was writing a workshop manual for my upcoming workshop in Florence, Italy (yes another manual), I was explaining how a structural imbalance causes the compensated movement and poor mechanics. A quote entered my head, that I first heard from Sharon Weiselfish-Giammatteo of IMT, "structure follows form, form follows function". I wondered, who said this first? I googled it, and came up with the whole quote. It was stated by Louis Sullivan, the architect, who developed the shape of the first steel skyscraper in Chicago in 1896. I find it interesting how in the late 19th Century, like minds were conceiving similar principles of tensegrity. It is also the time when Joseph Pilates was born and growing up. 

Here is the quote:

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.

Louis Sullivan 1896


Madeline age 54 January 2012 Costa Rica

Category - Pilates
Posted - 12/27/2011 05:11pm
0 Comments | Add Comment
Welcome to the Dialogue!
Many innovators of movement, Joseph Pilates, Moshe Feldenkrais, Rudolf Van Laban, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Emilie Conrad, Hanya Holm, Juliu Horvath, Jean Claude West, Judith Aston and beyond have contributed to the field of the body in terms of how to feel, and see the pathways that create positive changes and increased vitality in ourselves.
Fitness and health means moving with ease, pain-free, feeling "spontaneous zest and pleasure" (to quote Mr. Pilates) in our daily life. To me, defining what is fitness, strength building, core not the madness of thinking the bootcamp workout is the way to becoming fit. I plan to report my findings in this area, bridging the movement world from which I started and the fitness world, the one I try to stay on the periphery of. I believe in a strong and healthy body through sound mind and body (a hint of Mr. Pilates again!).

I am grateful for the help and support of many people who encourage me, advise me and help me when it comes to updating technology for communicating my work. It allows me to truly begin a blog offering ideas, articles of interest on the body, health and life and an opportunity to create a like minded community of movers and believers in moving consciously for health and fitness.

Thank you to Jane Siegel, my foundation and holder of the studio; Wildfireweb folks in Sonoma; Celeste and Donna of WordMice helping me enter the social media world and my husband, Bill, who is always there for me as I come and go!

Happy New Year, I wish you all the health bodies, mind and lots of wonderful movement in your life!

Category - General
Posted - 04/04/2011 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Pilates Anytime Foot Work Class
Foot Work Class – Madeline takes us through a sophisticated footwork classes using simple tools for assistance. A small tennis ball (pet toy) and a broccoli rubber-band are all you need to enjoy this invigorating and therapeutic class.

Category - General
Posted - 04/04/2011 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Mat Class with Madeline Black on Pilates Anytime

Category - General
Posted - 12/14/2010 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Ball Props on the Reformer: Helping or Hindering?
Read Madeline’s article in Pilates-Pro regarding props on the reformer.
It is not uncommon to see Pilates teachers use props during a session. The intention is to enable the client to move in optimal alignment. But, is it appropriate to use a prop?

To read more click on

Pilates prop ball

Category - General
Posted - 05/11/2009 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Testimonials regarding Sole to Spine Workshop May 2009 in New York

“Madeline, is the da Vinci of movement. No other instructor unites
science and art so masterfully that observers are immediately
empowered to make the work their own. She is not to be missed.”
-Jennifer Whittemore

"Madeline is truly a genius. I appreciated the balance of anatomy/kinesiology & practical demos."
-Pam Yourish

"I enjoyed the Sole to Spine workshop with Madeline. The course material was well organized and stayed directed. I wanted more!"
- Laura Pennock

"I took the workshop this past weekend at Rolates. I went to my ballet class (that I take for fun with a bunch of old dance enthusiasts) today and my hips and body felt amazing. I almost did not want to do the class because I didn't want to mess myself up! My hip sockets felt free and my legs moved better than I have ever experienced. I am so surprised because I did not realize I was doing so much at the workshop for myself- for my own body. The workshop was fantastic. I thought I was learning for the sake of understanding and teaching others, not in my own re-hab, but what an effect. I cannot express how exciting that was."
- Vivian Piccone Jung

Category - General
Posted - 04/10/2009 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Pilates for Feet

Pilates for feetMadeline Black has written an in-depth article for titled Pilates for Feet. Madeline explains how important the feet are to how we engage the body. From the article, you can gain an understanding of how the feet have a direct influence on your core, influencing pain issues in the hips, knees and neck. Included are some foot corrective exercises.

Read the Pilates for Feet article on the Web site.

Category - General
Posted - 04/07/2009 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Madeline Black Audio Interview

Inspired by a Madeline Black workshop, New York Pilates and Yoga instructor Jennifer Whittemore is producing a Madeline Black workshop entitled From Sole to Spine: An In-depth Exploration of the Relationship between the Foot and Structures of the Pelvic Bowl, May 2-3, at Rolates Pilates in New York City.

To help spread the word about Madeline to the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Pilates community, Jennifer conducted a series of audio interviews where Madeline talks about her background and work related to her upcoming NYC workshop.

Listen to the three-part interview by following these links:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Category - General
Posted - 04/18/2008 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Testimonial from Judy Anderson
“I so enjoyed the workshop last weekend in Austin. I’ve been utilizing the concepts you taught with great results!”
- Judy Anderson

Category - General
Posted - 04/15/2008 10:00am
0 Comments | Add Comment
Testimonial from Kati Freytag

“I wanted to express to you how amazing I feel after finishing the weekends workshop with you. Not only does my body feel better physically, but emotionally I feel inspired. I am so fascinated with body mechanics and feel that the information I learned this weekend is what I have been thirsting for. I am so thankful for the opportunities I have had to learn from you and look forward to more. Thank you for making the trek to Austin and for sharing so much with our group this weekend. I cannot wait to get my hands on my students this week and help them to feel more freedom in their movements. I wish you all the best in your teaching and traveling and hope to see you again soon!”

- Kati Freytag

 Log In