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  • 02/02/2021 - Tracie Matthews 0 Comments
    Breathe, Masks, and Exercise

    What is breathing? Simple question, right? Well, breathing is perhaps our most basic biological function keeping us alive. It is what sparks the flow of energy in our bodies, which in some Eastern and holistic practices is referred to as Chi, Qi, Xi, Ki, Prana, Spirit, or Life Force.


    Biologically, breath is the taking in and letting out of air. During inhalation the air comes in consisting mostly of nitrogen and some oxygen. Our bodies resource the oxygen to sustain and nourish our cells, while during exhalation the air exits, mostly releasing carbon dioxide. These processes lead to a slew of other biological functions that occur instantaneously, including: the lungs filling up and emptying out, the ribs expanding and contracting, and the red blood cells being filled with oxygen to start their journey through the heart and arteries to distribute all that vital oxygen to every single cell in our bodies (referred to as arterial blood flow). Once the blood is depleted of oxygen it flows back to the heart through the veins and is referred to as venous blood flow and the cycle repeats. Without breath we would not exist; breathing allows us not only to nurture our cells but also our minds as it is the first inroad to meditation.


    Why wear a mask? Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I suppose like many readers, I generally associated masks with Halloween, scary movies (Jason or Michael Myers, anyone?), historical art, and winter sports. I didn’t really think about medical masks because I am not a surgeon. So shifting our focus toward the medical purpose of masks it seems obvious that it is a barrier to prevent the spreading and receiving of germs. Unfortunately they are a barrier needed by everyone during these times.


    Does exercising with a mask restrict one’s breathing? The answer is it depends on the mask and the person. The first time I tried walking or running outside with an N-95 was truly difficult. Many people have found the security of N-95 masks worth the discomfort but for me it felt like wearing an oven on my face.  Luckily, there are many options and I kept experimenting. Next, I tried doing Pilates with a cloth mask with a carbon filter in it. This option was okay but again if it was hot and humid weather my face would quickly get sweaty in uncomfortable ways. Then I tried paper masks which, for me turned out to be the most comfortable for exercising even when I double them as Dr. Fauci suggests.


    While wearing a paper mask, my breath doesn’t feel as limited and after a few exercise sequences I even forget I am wearing one unless the mask starts to drift down my face and I need to reposition it. The really good news is I have seen so many people exercising with N-95s, K-95s, buffs, cloth, and paper masks—so embrace that individual choice! The key is test out what works for you and protect yourself and others while continuing to exercise.


    Finding a comfortable breath while wearing a mask and exercise has been an adjustment for many, but it is possible. Stay safe and test out the masks with the exercise regimen you enjoy. Stay fit and keep moving. Consider meditating to encourage the natural mind body balance found from focused calm breathing with or without a mask.


    Bottom line: even when you wear a mask, you can uncover meaning through personal fitness.

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  • 01/11/2021 - Tracie Matthews 0 Comments
    Smile with Your Eyes

    Embody what you want, and you can change how your body feels. 2020 has been a year of missing everyone’s smiles behind their masks but are we really missing our smiling connections? Smiling is felt everywhere in our bodies, and although my Smile series was inspired by a client with Parkinson’s disease to help her exercise her fascial muscles and connect energetically outwardly; it immediately became much more because we are all living behind masks these days. This everyday safety precaution has changed our lives and made me miss seeing everyone’s smile throughout my day. From the cashier at my local café to greeting my clients, smiling while wearing a mask needs more attention. Our current normal has allowed me to think about how we do connect and feel a smile in our bodies. Smiling energy can be found in any part of our bodies, so I created a Somatic series to help us all connect to our smiles and each other. Like anything else worthwhile, it’s worth practicing!

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  • 02/12/2020 - Tracie Matthews 0 Comments
    To Roll or Not to Roll?

    To roll or not to roll IT Bands, that is the question. Everyone seems to use a foam roller and, like me, learned to roll out their IT Bands

    (illiotibial bands; i.e., the sides of your legs). Well, news flash: opinions are changing! Apparently, although rolling out the IT Bands feels good it’s no longer considered the end all be all of Myofascial release techniques.

    The illiotibial band is a long fibrous buttressing of connective tissue that supports walking. When rolling them, we are actually rolling the adjacent muscles, which, unlike IT Bands, have the ability to change length. To find relief it is better to get a ball designed for body rolling and focus on releasing your Tensor Fascia Lata referred to as the TFL. The multifunctional TFL is the muscle alongside the front of your hip above the IT band that in abduction assists internal rotation of the hip and hip flexion. It can have trigger point knots that feel tender or rope-like and you will get more relief through your IT Band after you’ve release the knots in your TFL.

    Now, all this doesn’t mean that rolling doesn’t feel good! But I’d recommend going with a softer roller because roller density does matter. If you are working out at a gym, those popular dense black rollers are probably too hard for the job. Rather, look for the original white rollers introduced by Moshe Feldenkrais to the Somatic movement community in the 1920’s. There are still plenty of usages for the familiar foam rollers of all different densities, so if you already own one here is an option. One of my favorite things to do on a three-foot foam roller is to lay on it head to tail and work on balancing. Once my center settles and my breathing easily engaging my core on the exhale I will add the challenge of lifting one leg at a time, then progress to single arms and, if I feel really stable, while lifting one leg I will add the opposite arm creating a cross-lateral challenge to the core.

    For body rolling, use various soft- to hard-density rollers for more muscularly dense areas such as your quads, hamstrings, calves, and back. Experiment with the different rollers to figure out which density you prefer to use where on your body. For example, I love the white Feldenkrais roller for my back and I prefer the medium white and blue/green marble-colored rollers for my quads and hamstrings. As they say these days, "you do you!"

    While to roll or not to roll remains a perennial Pilates question, please always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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  • 06/11/2019 - Tracie Matthews 0 Comments
    Pilates Pre and Post Natal

    Let me answer the most pressing questions first: Yes, Pilates can help with back pain, sciatica, and diastasis recti. In fact, it’s a great solution for overall wellbeing while pregnant. Learning to move through the Pilates exercises is equally challenging and supportive as your body changes and prepares for childbirth.

    One of the most important things I teach my expecting Mom’s is how to gain support for their changing body by connecting to their transverse abdominals. Knowing how to find, feel and cue abdominal engagement intrinsically helps soothe lower back pain with the added benefit of helping to prepare for delivery. The transverse abdominals start in your back connecting from the inside surface of the seven lowest ribs, all your lumbar vertebrae, and wraps horizontally around to the front body. When the transverse abdominals are engage and connect with all the core muscles they create a natural weave of muscle layers to help support your back, improve stability and assist with pushing the baby out when the time comes. To experience the engagement of the transverse abdominals in a safe, spacious room, walk backwards and then run a little backwards; the transverse abdominals should instinctually turn on to slow you down and protect you from moving too quickly. This instinct kicks in to protect you from falling or banging into something because you can’t see where you are going.

    Play with finding your transverse abdominals and share your experience in the comment section. In my movement training we improve by learning from our shared experiences,, which includes being present and attuned to Mom’s wellbeing as well her growing baby’s.

    Nowadays, there are so many kids out in the world that unconsciously smile when they hear my voice because I was their Mom’s Pilates Instructor during her pregnancy. Pre and Postnatal Pilates is a wonderful experience, and I look forward to bringing my experience to help support many more healthy pregnancies.

    Check back soon for more Pilates Pregnancy blogs addressing, connecting one’s Pelvic Floor, movement tools for managing Sciatica, and the realities of diastasis recti.

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  • 02/26/2019 - intuitivemotionpilates 0 Comments
    Conquer Your Pilates Fears

    Pilates can be as much an emotional experience as a physical one. The most common fear I have encountered amongst my Pilates clients is the fear of falling. Imagine you are taking a group class or a private lesson and the instructor cues you to stand on the reformer and move or hold a bar while leaning back in space. This could rattle the bravest and most physically confident of any of us.

    This fear is an anxious feeling one gets from the possibility of falling and hurting oneself. My client Emily colorfully explains her fear as, "Anything that involves the potential of my face hitting equipment or the floor is a fear of mine. This usually involves moves where I feel I am not strong enough in my core or arms to keep myself upright." When Emily first began training with me over a year ago, her fears were intuitive and warranted. Her core was much weaker and disconnected when we began training together, and her arms had been injured and needed physical therapy to heal. Today, however, Emily has done the work! She is ready for new challenges and conquering her fear of falling is one of them. In fact, it is through consistency, patience, and discovering how to trust the work and her body that she will continue to work through her fears and persevere in her Pilates practice.

    There are many Pilates exercises that challenge one’s sense of feeling safe and secure but that does not mean you should avoid these movements. I asked Emily what has helped her the most to conquer her Pilates fears? She said, "When we discuss in detail what I need to do with my body, it helps me mentally prepare for the move. The tiny adjustments we make to shift my focus or weight and the experience I go through realizing that it is possible." Her response inspires me to continue cheering Emily on through her most challenging Pilates exercises. All successes deserve celebration, especially those moments when your body shows up efficiently and proves to your mind what is now capable. 

    I find the best strategy for conquering your Pilates Fears is patience with yourself and your body while working through modified exercises to build up to the more advance choreography. Check back in the future for Pilatesgrl blogs on other common Pilates challenges, such as fear of inversions and seniors’ fears of falling.

    It is important to know that there are inherent risks of injury with any exercise program without proper guidance and supervision. Please consult with your physician before attempting any exercise routines offered by Intuitive Motion Pilates.

    Client names are changed to protect their privacy.  

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  • 11/13/2018 - intuitivemotionpilates 0 Comments
    Nemesis Exercise – Pilates Roll Up

    After so many years teaching Pilates, one of my favorite beginner mat exercises is still the Pilates Roll Up. For many people, though, the Roll Up is their "nemesis" exercise—the one that they dread the most.

    People tend to assume the Roll Up is only an abdominal exercise because it is so challenging to your abdominal strength and coordination, but if you deconstruct it, it is really about spinal articulation and hip flexion. My client Patty, for example, struggles with the Roll Up, popping her feet or thrusting herself forward to find her balance on her sitz bones. She is overusing leverage and momentum to come up, instead of curving her spine with her breath and abdominal control. Here is my basic Roll Up:

    • Lay down on your back, knees bent.
    • Lift your arms up, reaching forward like an active zombie.
    • Lift your head up, while breathing, and curl up through your spine to sitting.

    Sounds easy enough and if this works well, it will feel effortless and fluid. However, if you are like Patty and it doesn’t come easily, then here are some things to observe:

    • Notice whether you feel a drop point on the way up or down. This typically means you need to strengthen your abdominals to support the choreography.
    • Notice whether your pelvis immediately tilts toward your head.

    Check to see if you are squeezing your butt muscles, sitz bones or gripping in your hip flexors.

    • Notice whether your weight immediately shifts to the bottom of your ribs while coming up. This is typically a result of squeezing your butt muscles, sitz bones and/or gripping in your hips.
    • Notice if you are doing a combination of these or all of the above.

    There are many ways to approach each one of these habits, and if I were working with you in person I’d tailor the exercise to your needs. Instead, I am going to offer my favorite precursor to building your foundation to a Roll Up. It’s called Mini Roll Downs.

    • Sit up on your sitz bones, knees bent, adjusting your feet forward away from your sitz bones so you are balanced and not gripping in your hip flexors and your feet are flat on the floor.
    • Place your hands behind your thighs and gently lean back, curving your lower spine, allowing your arms to extend if needed. DO NOT GO ALL THE WAY DOWN. There will be a moment when you feel your abdominals struggle, and your body will want to fall back into gravity. RESIST. Do not pass that point.
    • Take an inhale and an exhale pull into your abs to come back to the start position.
    • Repeat 4 to 6 times. Try this a few times a week, and when you notice the fall-back position is shifting closer to the floor, then congratulations—you know you are getting stronger.

    Over time, your Roll Up will improve. Just last week, Patty had her first real success with curving her lower back in a Roll Up. We are still working on it, but it was a beautiful moment to see her body embrace the beginnings of spinal flexion. Feel free to write comments to let me know how this is working for you at home. If the Roll Up is your nemesis exercise, please be kind to yourself. It will take consistency and patience to strategize out of your habits.

    If you are injured, please do not attempt any exercises described here without the explicit consent of your doctor.

    It is important to know that there are inherent risks of injury with any exercise program without proper guidance and supervision. Please consult with your physician before attempting any exercise routines offered by Intuitive Motion Pilates.

    Client names are changed to protect their privacy.      

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  • 04/24/2018 - intuitivemotionpilates 0 Comments
    A Surprising Discovery Leads to a Career I Love

    When I first found out about Pilates in the 1990’s, it was one of the best-kept fitness secrets in New York City’s dance community. Prior to hearing about Pilates, I had unwittingly created a home routine based on my favorite mat exercises from various fitness and aerobics classes, and I made a fascinating discovery: all of those exercises were designed by Joseph Pilates. These exercises made sense to my mind and body before I was even aware that the mind-body connection is the foundation of Pilates.

    Before I became a Pilates instructor, I was a stressed-out producer. In the television world, everything needed to be done yesterday. To meet deadlines, I spent most days sitting behind a desktop computer, allowing my head to fall forward into my monitor, or collapsing my ribs to one side while negotiating a deal on a corded phone. My posture was terrible, and my habit was to forget about my body as I plowed through the various tasks of my busy day. By this time, I had lost the disciplined habit of my home exercise routine but the idea of Pilates and how everything connected kept gnawing at me.

    During my first "official" private Pilates lesson, the instructor asked me to touch my toes. I was mortified when my fingertips could not pass my knees. When did I get so tight? I was always the flexible one in workout classes. How could this be where my body was at? Had it been that long since I worked out? My memory of my flexible youth was just that—a memory. The reality was, I spent most of my days at a computer, in front of a television monitor, in an edit suite, or in meetings, sitting, sitting, and more sitting.

    After I learned how to properly stretch my legs with the assistance of the Pilates reformer, my flexibility began to return to my hamstrings. Now I could proudly touch my toes. The Pilates exercises allowed me to find a strength and support for my mobility that I had never experienced in my youth. Pilates became my bridge back to my body, and it led me to a career I love.

    I wrote a little Pilates poem in the acrostic format. Can you identify the exercise I’m describing? Let me know in the comments!

    Plant your feet
    In the straps
    Lift your legs
    Allow your breath and abs
    To connect your core
    Effortlessly through your
    Spine and limbs.​

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  • 11/30/2017 - intuitivemotionpilates 0 Comments
    Intuitive Motion Pilates Site Launch

    Our new website is finally up. We’ve worked hard to get a beautiful new site ready and we’re proud to show it off. Thanks for reading our blog. We have lots of great blog posts in the works. Please check back or contact us now to find out how we can help you.

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