Choosing Your Guru or Mentor

I have blessed with my life as a movement teacher and practitioner because I had incredible mentors and guru’s along my journey. The terms mentor and guru may be analogous to a teacher, who has the experience and knowledge of a particluar subject, is an influential and trusted guide. I chose my influencers by being in their space through sessions, workshops or work place. I did not search them out before having interaction with them. Nor did I ask them if they would be my mentor. It happened organically. I felt the strong desire within myself to learn from them. I did what ever it took to be around them creating a relationship. I knew in myself that their work with the body was so transforming as I observed and experienced their work. And I knew this is how I wanted to work.

Guidance became the gift of being with my teachers. We all have blindspots in our life, the inability to see others clearly without our own projections. I recognized how difficult it is to see one’s own perspective or narrative that blocks the ability to see what is possibly obvious to others. I also see a similarity of a blindspot with the ability to see a person’s movements for assessment purposes and how to approach their body for the best outcome. It takes a mentor to lighten the dark place by speaking their truth, and simply pointing out the obvious which of course was not so obvious to me!

As I grew, developed my work and embraced a way of working with the body, my teachers became my friends and colleagues. I still look to them for advice as I would a dear and trusted friend. Life and work with the body is a constant progression of waking up to ourselves and our perspective. I learned to ask my self, “Is this true?” “Is it kind?” Is it necessary?” When I become overwhelmed, it is easy to fall into the dark place and forget the obvious. We fall asleep or slip into a blindspot, then we wake up. Like trying to be stable, one is always falling away from center to then find the pull to return to our true nature.


Contemplations by Madeline Black


Contemplations by Madeline Black   in Pilates Style Magazine

March/April issue 2018

Red dust falls
Red flames sparks
Red trucks hauls
Red dog barks

Red helicopters soar
Red phone alerts
Red hot door
Red bruise hurts

Red hills smoke
Red panties packed
Red hose soak
Red generator jacked

Red autumn leaf falls
Red tomatoes on the vine
Red bird calls
Red glass of wine
Red light stop!

igniting terror and destruction throughout the once-idyllic landscape. “At 4:30a.m., I was awakened by my husband saying there is a fire and that I need to get up. At first, I was in shock,” recalls the Sonoma, CA-based teacher of teachers Madeline Black. “At sunrise, we began preparing the house; we had no power or internet. We could see the flames on the hill near us. All we could do was to wait and watch for eight days.”
During the time, Madeline opened her studio, Studio M, which had regained power, for anyone in need. “On the second day, I led a free restorative movement class focusing on calming the nervous system. When the fires were contained and people were returning, we held a gathering to reunite and ground ourselves to help start getting back to life’s routines.”
Here Madeline shares a piece she crafted amidst the chaos.


“Your psoas is tight”

“I have a pain here (pointing to the anatomical muscular attachment place of the psoas on the inner thigh) and I think it is my psoas”

“I am told my psoas is my problem”

Have you said, been told or heard someone express these statements in one form or another? As a movement professional, I have heard and been told, even about my own body by other professionals, these very thoughts about the psoas.

For those who are not body professionals, the psoas is a complex, very long muscle that runs from the base of the ribs (12th rib) and 12th vertebrae of the thorax and runs along the spine merging with all sorts of other connective tissue (other muscles, fascia, bone and more). According to the muscle anatomy books, the psoas attaches to a bony protuberance on the inner upper thigh bone called the lesser trochanter. The body professionals, who are very committed to learning and discovering how the body thrives, moves and heals, have different opinions of the actual function of the psoas in terms of posture and movement.

How do you know your psoas is tight? Many answers would be my hip flexors are tight. Yes, the ability to extend your hip may be limited. Is it only the psoas restricting the movement? Are you purely moving the hip joint (normal pure hip extension is 10°-15°) or is your range including the movement of the pelvis and spine creating a larger range? Your hip flexors include all of the muscles that are on the anterior (front and inner sides of the hip).

See the illustration to save me from typing the names of many muscles! What you may not be aware of is that the fascial connections and relationships of the front of the hip allow for good range of hip extension.

Is the psoas a hip flexor in active straight leg raise?

It is possible that fascial restrictions are limiting the range of motion, causing discomfort or torque of the spine and pelvis. An example would be a restriction of the fascia of the scapula that merges into the ribcage and pulls on the opposite side pelvis. This will spiral the body in a direction where extension of the hip and spine can be restricted.

In a recent training, Madeline Black’s Immersive Body Training, I was demonstrating and teaching the details and techniques for working the “psoas”. We cannot talk about or work with the psoas without addressing other structures. The psoas does not perform alone nor does it affect our posture and movements alone. We decided to say “Psoas Plus”  rather than “psoas” to be inclusive of all that is in the neighborhood of the psoas and how other structures influence movement.

Another reference that is made to a tight psoas is the pelvis position and spine while standing. Most people are told that an anterior pelvis (when the top of the pelvis from the front is tipped forward which increases hip flexion) is an indication of a tight psoas. The reasoning is the notion that the psoas influences the spine. There is no objective data determining actual skeletal position or where the curve is coming from. Someone may have very tight back muscles (erectors) without the support of the abdominals in the front and around the waist (myofascial core ring) and tight hip flexors (see illustration again) that pull the pelvis forward. If this person lies down on their back, the spine would be extended off the table, and the pelvis in an anterior tilt. Saying this is a psoas issue is simply inaccurate.

What is the function and dysfunction of the psoas? As is cited by Gibbons, Comerford and Emerson, the function of the psoas is lumbar stability and the initial action of drawing the head of the femur into the socket prior to hip flexion.
Stability Function of the Psoas Major by Gibbons, Comerford and Emerson

I think of the psoas as a lumbar spine stabilizer and femoral head spinner (the micro-movement initiator of hip flexion), and a hip stabilizer. One indication of a non-functioning psoas is when someone expresses a pinching pain when performing hip flexion. The head of the femur is not sitting well in the socket and the psoas is not able to draw the head into the socket. Teaching the clients or yourself how to engage the psoas prior to moving the leg is a necessary exercise to begin retraining the psoas.

When we do movements that are called psoas releases or stretches, remember you are actually moving the whole system –  the spine, intrinsic muscles of the spine, and again all that is living in the neighborhood. These movements and stretches do feel good and have benefits of improving body movement. And there are so many ways to move and change the tensions so that we have a supple spine.

You can learn more about how to work with the Psoas Plus by attending my Psoas as a Core Muscle workshop at Pilates on Tour in London, Pilates on Tour London
or Pre-conference Pilates on Tour in New Orleans Pilates on Tour New Orleans Pre-Conference Spine by Design
or attending one of the Madeline Black Immersive Body Trainings.

Below is a video where I am working the Psoas Plus by engaging the leg through hamstring activity, at the same time reaching the same side leg by pressing into the wall, and moving the spine into flexion using the opposite leg so that the spine can move toward the floor creating an active lengthening of the Psoas Plus! I will be posting more Psoas Plus movements in my Member Blog.

Illustration of the psoas is from “Centered” by Madeline Black, permission by Handspring Publishers

New Year message from Madeline Black

2018 Happy New Year

The start of a new year is a wonderful opportunity to give your inner focus the time to come forward. For me, this happens when I sit quietly with few distractions and while I move my body. Today, my inner thoughts and feelings bring me to my desire for ease, grace, and joy. How am I able to live my daily life with my desire to have ease when faced with external stresses. One way I do this is to reference my body. If I track my breath, I am able to read how well I am feeling ease. My breath reminds me what state I am in the moment. At times when in a calm state of rest then my breath is slow and even. Then I have a need to excelerate my energy to do a task, be productive and work, my breath increases. When I find myself holding my breath, my body feels stiff, and rigid. Certainly no ease or joy is present.

Movement is breath and breath reminds me to move. What moves me is not only the breath, it is my friends, relationships, sharing and caring for the human body and human being. I am influenced by all of these interactions. Recently, dear friends gifted me a book, titled “The Book of Joy” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. In reading this book, I am moved by the wisdom and love Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama share between themselves and for all humanity. I am taking to heart their words and the feelings I experience as I read.

The quote from Desmond Tutu: “Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitablity of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”

In my own life and my approach to movement is helping people find joy in their body. I am intending to manifest more joy in my body too.

Inspirit and Joy


SHOULDERS: Metaphors and Physical Body

Metaphors abound when it comes to the body’s shoulders. What comes to mind when we say or hear the word, shoulder, is a sense of being strong, supportive and to take upon oneself a task. The expression of shoulders is used in familiar quotes, such as, “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”. “She has a good head on her shoulders”. “Lifting the burden off our shoulders”. “I got a cold shoulder from him”. Shoulders are very expressive in communicating our feelings. When we are in doubt, we shrug our shoulders. Shoulder is also used as a verb, shouldering. Shouldering is defined as “to put something heavy over the shoulders to carry” and “to push or shove someone out of the way”.

In the physical body, we tend to not think about our shoulders if they are healthy and happy. The moment a restriction is present, our daily movements are inhibited making our life more difficult to navigate. Healthy and functioning shoulders give us the sense of strength in our lives.

Shoulders require a combination of mobility and strength. The shoulder is the head of the humeral bone. The arms, scapula, clavicle, the ribs (first two ribs especially) and the neck are all involved with the dynamic motions of the shoulder. You can read more detail about the shoulders and neck in my book, “Centered” chapters 7 and 8.

In the next series of member videos, the Bow and Arrow Series, was inspired by my archery hobby. Shooting an arrow requires a balance of strength and flexibility of the shoulder. I developed a series of shoulder complex and spine movements that enhances the strength with the mobility of the shoulders.

A way to assess your mobility of the whole complex is by performing the Apley scratch test. Dr. Alan Apley, (1914-1996) an English orthopedic surgeon, developed the Apley scratch test to assess the simultaneous movement of the shoulder girdle, primarily scapulothoracic and glenoid humeral joints. The movements include shoulder flexion, extension, internal and external rotation of the humerus at the shoulder, scapular adduction and abduction. One movement is to flex, externally rotate the arm and scapular abduction. The other is to extend, internally rotate the arm and scapular adduction. The right arm reaches behind the back to touch the opposite inferior angle of the scapula. The left arm reaches upward reaching behind the back to touch the spine of the same side scapula. Repeat it to the other side. Watch for thoracic extension in the attempt to touch the scapula.





Normal mobility is to touch the spine of the same side scapula while reaching up and over the back. The other hand is to touch the opposite tip of the scapula. Increased mobility is to touch the finger tips together or actually grabbing the fingers.

You will feel a difference between one side with the other. Moving the thoracic spine, in coordination of the shoulder full range of motion is important for healthy and pain-free shoulders.

Test yourself first. Try all of the Bow and Arrow Series movements and re-test. You will feel a change when repeating the test.

While shooting the bow and arrows, I realized how the combined movements of shoulders, spine and scapula are important to being able to shoot well. The benefits of the training of the shoulder girdle, arms and spine with the combined motions will help my mobility and strength of my upper body.


The stance is the base of support for the ability to shoot. Adding the work of the legs with the combined arm motions made the training benefits even greater. This is why I decided to create a Bow and Arrow shoulder series.


Whole Body Connecting Force: Biotensegrity Model for Movement

We are always in motion. Even when we are still, the breath is circulating, as well as other internal functions flowing within us. And the earth we stand on is in motion. Human movement is time, space and rhythm. We are in a constant process of time. We move through space in changing time. The muscles and connective tissues, yes our fascia, are the rhythm of the body in motion. Movement is changing our body form rapidly in space. Our form is a whole body architecture made up of billions of cells, also moving! A movement challenge for our body is to stop. Stop and go motion is the changing of the body’s architecture, morphing its form. We physically train our continuous tissues, fascia, muscles, bones, and all connective tissues by moving our whole body in space, through time with varied rhythms. There are many movement methodologies that challenge our body to improve health, strength, and adaptability to our environment. Do these current methodologies address the whole body connectedness in physical training? Or is there an opportunity to create new movements and fine-tune our current systems of physical training with a perspective of the body as a biotensegrity whole?

These are my thoughts as I synthesize my experience of participating in the “Biotensegrity Focused Human Dissection” seminar I attended at the University of Dundee, Scotland led by John Starkey and Joanne Avison in June 2017. As a dancer, movement teacher and physical trainer for most of my life, the language presented here around human movement resonated with me. In any movement we perform, we are shape- shifting the body through the myofascial system. We are hearing and reading about the term biotensegrity. Biotensegrity is a biological-tension-integrity model, a term credited to Dr. Stephen Levin (1) , who saw that living structures demonstrate similar qualities of the tensional integrity being used in architecture and engineering since the mid twentieth century. Today, biotensegrity is a useful model for a different perspective on human anatomy and form. It intuitively feels like a metaphor for whole body connecting forces effecting our movement potential. This is how we dance, move in Gyrotonic®, yoga, Pilates, sports and all human movement.

Which system gives us a sound movement training effect for the myofascial system? Shall we shift how we are training our clients? Does a new paradigm of movement necessary to better address the biotensegrity concept? Or are we already moving with the biotensegrity concept?

First, we have to understand the principles of tensegrity (tensions and integrity) and relate this to movement. The principles of the tensegrity concept are that a structure is a tension-compression network with connectedness of all parts supporting discontinuous struts. This definition in the human body looks like this: the myofascia is the continuous connectedness and the bones are the struts. Our bones are not in direct contact with one another, or shouldn’t be and thereby discontinuous. The bones are suspended or appear to be floating supported by the connective tissue. The myofascial connective tissues are the web of tension and compression suspending the bones.

Another principle is that each part is reliant on the entire structure for its ability to move. There is a parsimony nature to biotensegrity, doing less for more, efficiency of movement. Tensegrity models have no lever arms or fulcrums. This challenges our idea of stability and disassociation of limbs moving in relation to the pelvis for instance. Forces are transferred globally throughout the entire structure. The whole body is dynamically linked so that forces are instantly translated everywhere. You raise your arm up, the trunk shifts, and the weight changes on the legs. A movement has an associated response body-wide. It is not an isolation of one muscle or bone.

The tensegrity models are geometric forms that use triangulation, triangle shapes. In engineering, to stabilize and constrain a structure triangulation surfaces are utilized. I am not a geometer or engineer, but I do work with forces and anatomy that seem to have many triangles. Imagine the inlet of the pelvic bone for example.The thoracolumbar fascia can be seen as triangular, especially at the sacrum.





And it is helical in nature. Movement is also helical, a spiraling in four dimensions, the fourth dimension of time. The tensegrity forms show how forces act upon the body and can help explain function and dysfunction in movement.

My focus when working with a client is to restore better function and increase the person’s movement potential. To do this, the myofascial system needs a balance of the tensile structure with stability and mobility. Let’s define stability and mobility in the tensegrity model. Stability comes in the form of two forces, the tension or traction and compression. The tension and compression pairing is a polarity or “contrast” occurring during movement. Sound familiar? We move with contrasting forces coming from inside and outside of us. In movement, our shape morphs as we move, changing the contrasting poles. Is there a point of stability from where we move? If one uses the tensegrity model for movement, the answer is no. But there is stability created by our structure using dynamic movement to maintain the balance of tension and compression. It is not holding or bracing a part in order to move but the use of the economy of movement. Strength comes from the ability of adapting and diffusing force impact. This form of resilient strength maintains our balance in any shape-shifting (movement).

A mechanical analysis of movement defines that a joint has a number of degrees of freedom to move. Controlling the degrees of freedom of movement increases stability. The leg range of motion comes from the motions at the hip, knee and ankle. Each joint is necessary for a whole leg movement. Each joint has its own tensegrity model within the larger tensegrity of the whole body. Tensegrity has a fractal quality to it. A tensegrity shape, the triangulations, bends and accommodates the force vectors by morphing its shape. It becomes an articulating tensegrity. The stability comes from its ability to be mobile and change its shape responding to the force vectors.

In the body, we find more stability in the proximal location of myofascia. I see this as the center of the trunk, the spine and pelvis. These bones are the struts that are discontinuous. Every vertebra is floating within our tissues. They are suspended in the connective tissues (fascia and muscle). There is no one attachment point, but a location. The proximal location in the body is more stable than the more distal location such as our hands and feet. The distal parts of us are disconnected and able to have greater ranges of movement, mobility. There is more stability toward the center with greater mobility at our ends, the hands, feet, top of the head and tail. This gives us six poles, or struts with the connective tissues as the tensile components acting together creating a stable form, our whole body. With our conscious awareness of the dynamic contrasting poles presetting its tension prior to performing a movement provides the articulating stability for movement. This six pole image is a larger field and we have the same possibilities at every juncture of bone and tissue. Each vertebrae has its own energy of suspension as well as our whole. The potential of dynamic and articulated movements at this level is possible with consciousness.

Stability and mobility are polar properties that are required for strength resiliency. When we think about the joints and stability, we know that our ligaments help stabilize our joints or if there is laxity it creates hypermobility. Keeping with the principles of tensegrity, the ligaments are part of the fascial elements and play a roll in the tension-compression necessary for stability and mobility. Jaap Van Der Wal called ligaments “dynamits”. They are dynamic and also inform us of all positions of the joint at all times (2) . The dynamits (ligaments) are automatically tensed throughout the whole movement, not just at the end range of the joint. If the muscles are tensed, so are the dynamits.

Fascia has different qualities depending on its location. It may be more fluid with great mobility in one area, such as the loose connective tissue situated just below the hypodermis and above the deep fascia that surrounds muscles, and tendons. The ligaments also have a stiffer quality from the densification of the fascia. Fascia facilitates muscle contraction and sliding movement (3) . Fascia has contractile properties.

Fascia research led by Robert Schleip has shown that fascia contains myofibroblasts that have the ability to contract (4). See study here. The myofibroblasts are necessary for wound healing. As they contract the myofibroblasts pull the wound together. And the myofibroblasts are found in areas of the fascia under greater physical stress. In younger subjects, their cells contain alpha smooth muscle actin and a collagen crimp.


Their fibers have a clear lattice orientation with a strong crimp shape. Older subjects, however, lacked the density of intrafascial contractile cells and collagen crimp. The orientation of the older subjects’ fibers is more irregular. The irregularity of the fascial fibers will affect the transmission of forces through the lower back necessary for stability. There has been evidence that application of proper exercises can change the architecture of the fibers and crimp. Now, we have to understand the relationship of the muscles and fascia when moving.

What about the length changes of muscle fibers and fascial components? Are there no eccentric and concentric muscle contractions? The fascia researchers are discovering how the muscles and fascia behave differently depending on what type of movement is being performed. In conventional physical training, the length changes of muscles do shorten the muscle fibers without much length change of the connective tissues. The connective tissues are the tendons and aponeuroses, which are similar to broad flat-like tendons and are fascia. The shortening (concentric) of the muscle without length of the connective tissues occurs in steady movements such as riding a bicycle. In steady movements, the fascia stays passive (5) . In conventional weight training, sitting on a bench performing bicep curls is not training the whole complex of the myofascia. It serves no functional purpose except shortening the muscles fibers of the biceps.

Movement is the change of the whole shape in time and space through the tension and compression elements of the fascia and the bones. So, if we are moving with the concepts of changing the tension length of the fascial components, it changes how we perceive movement. This is a different way of conceiving how we move from the conventional study of muscle physiology.

In a healthy individual, fascia quality in movement is springy and elastic. The muscles fibers change their length slightly, in an isometric way while the length of the fascia changes and recoils back to its original shape. Movement is created by the fascial components lengthening and shortening and the muscles are stiffening to support the movement of the fascia. The recoil and tension changes of the fascial components create movement not the muscles. Shall I say that again? The muscles do not create movement, instead movement occurs through the length changes of the fascia.

Quality of movement is showing to be important to how fascia responds. The fascial elastic movements are jumping, dancing, hopping or small bounces performed very softly and quietly. Have you ever heard someone running with heavy and slapping feet? This sound tells you there is no spring and absorption of the forces of the body and ground. The fascial components are not performing properly. To train the elastic quality of the myofascia, encourage springy type movements, such as bouncing with soft and quiet landings. A sensual movement while being kinetic gives resiliency to the tissues. Imagine running and feeling the movement as sinewy rather than hard hitting.

Sinue Wave

Preparatory movements or stretch-shortening cycle improves the recoil effect of the tendon and aponeurosis (fascia). A recent study by Fukutani et al, February 2017 was published showing joint torque was enhanced by a stretch-shortening cycle. See 2017 study here. There is slight pre-tensioning in the opposite direction before moving into the actual movement. In Gyrotonic® for example, performing the arch curl series, there is a pretension of the back (arch) prior to moving forward (curl). Timing is most important so that the body is not relying on the muscles but invoking a fascial recoil effect. This happens by finding an ideal motion that is fluid and pleasurable.

Stretching is a broad term and interpreted many ways. The days of holding a static stretch, such as using a long belt to hold one’s leg up for a “hamstring stretch” is not useful or effective. Dynamic stretching in multiple directions, and changing angles focuses on the whole dynamic tensegrity shape rather than one isolated muscle. Moving slowly through various diagonals, spiraling rotations utilizing the limbs to change the traction (tension) of the trunk effectively change the compression and tension felt in the body. A sinew wave is an ideal motion for fascia movement. If however, someone stretches beyond their boundary, it causes a reduction in the hydration of the fascia and subsequent stiffness. Dynamic stretching helps rehydrate the fascia.

Proprioception is necessary in order to move our body. We “feel” our body move. Bringing the client’s attention to the felt sense of movement is training their proprioception. Touching the body with one’s hand, or using a prop can stimulate a sensation bringing their attention to a place that maybe has “amnesia”. Our skin and surface tissues are more effective in detecting and regulating movement than joint receptors. Tactile cues as well as verbal cues that evoke sensory feelings encourage the client to tap into their proprioception. We use all of our senses for proprioception. Draw the attention through the eyes, sound and smell.

One very interesting quality of fascia is its ability to distort and return to its original form. In movement and our anatomy, form follows function and function influences the form. Many aspects of our life, such as stress, emotions, long term sitting or repetitive movement may cause a distortion that is not being restored. If one tension member becomes tenser than the others, it will distort the shape into a form that is not functional. For an example, in the pelvic diaphragm, if there is a change of tension in only one component of the structure, then a distortion occurs in all three planes. There will be a change in either an increase or decrease of mobility or stability of the pelvis. Through specific movement protocols and techniques such as muscle energy techniques, we can affect the distortion and restore the functional form. Seeing the body as a whole tensegrity shape and understanding how to alter the distortions, increases elastic recoil and use the nervous system for dynamic responses (motor control). We can increase our client’s ability to actualize their movement potential, become pain-free and be mobile into the later stages of life.

The biotensegrity model is one of strength, resilience and weight. I believe cross training with Pilates, Gyrotonic®, yoga, cardiovascular work will help balance your structure and lessen distortions so that you body will move with resilience and strength. As we age, we want to keep those fascial fibers lattice-like with a nice crimp. Seeing a movement practitioner with the skills to help restore your structure as written in my book “Centered: Organizing the Body through Kinesiology, Movement theory and Pilates Techniques” is part of a healthy whole body including fascia focus training. Find book here
I have posted short movement videos on my member’s blog exploring ways to incorporate the biotensegrity into movement. Click here

Come and study with me in an intensive setting, London in September and March 2018 info here San Francisco in January 2018 info here

  • Facial Refinement Training Summary (not in any particular order)
    • Multi-directional movements
    • Rapidly changing positions in space smoothly
    • Tensioning Motions
    • Varied movements
    • Creative experience
    • Extreme slow-motion
    • Very quick micro-movements
    • Large macro-movements involving the whole body
    • Unfamiliar positions
    • Awareness of gravity
    • Proprioception fine coordination
    • Introception
    • Pleasurable experience
    • Preparatory counter movement, recoil concept
    • High kinetic activity with quietness of landing
    • Dynamic stretching
    • Hydration of tissues through squeezing water out and the release to refill fluids. I didn’t address this important aspect. Manual work and use of props help with a sustained pressure on the tissue for rehydration.

Special Note:
Fascia is continuous and connecting. The world of fascia seems infinite in the role it plays in the body. Beyond movement there is healing potential, consciousness and communication. When I have my next time period for writing, I will explore my synthesis of how I experience the healing wonders of the body.

With Presence,

Madeline Black

Television documentary on fascia click here
Dr. Jean Claude Giumberteau Strolling Under the Skin click here
Handspring Publishers, current books on fascia and more click here

Black, Madeline, Centered Organizing the Body through Kinesiology, Movement Theory and Pilates Technique, Handspring Publishers 2015

Giumberteau, Jean Claude, Architecture of Human Living Fascia, Handspring Publishers 2015

Meyers, Thomas W., Anatomy Trains, Churchill Livingstone, 2001

Schleip, Robert, Fascia: The Tensile Network of the Human Body, Churchill Livingstone 2012

Schultz. R/.Louis, Rosemary Feitis, D.O., The Endless Web, North Atlantic Books, 1996


  2. Jaap Van Der Wal, lecture : “Architecture of the Fascia as Complementary Notion to Understanding the Organization of Proprioception Continuity and Connectivity” Dundee Biotensegrity and Human Dissection course June 2017
  3. Architecture of Human Living Fascia by Jean-Claude Guimberteau and Colin Armstrong, 2015 Handspring Publishing, page 38, 39
  4. Schleip R, Klingler W, Lehmann-Horn F: Active contraction of the thoracolumbar fascia – Indications of a new factor in low back pain research with implications for manual therapy. In: The proceedings of the Fifth interdisciplinary world congress on low back and pelvic pain. Melbourne. Editors: Vleeming A, Mooney V, Hodges P. 2004; ISBN 90- 802551-4-9
  5. The Tensional Network of the Human Body, Robert Schleip et al, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier 2012 pages 466-469



Silly Walks

Is there a right way to walk? Walking is one of those every day movements that is on auto pilot.
We began walking around 1 year of age and never looked back. Our gait changes throughout our life, even daily as we adapt to a variety of surfaces and environments. We walk slow, fast or with a hitch in our step that is directed by our nervous system feedback from our body to brain and back again.

Watching someone walk with smooth easy steps is graceful. There is an efficiency of the body as it moves along the ground. You can see and feel how the body is synchronized when the gait is more fluid. When our structure is a bit off due to an injury or a tightness from some activity, it appears in our gait’s style and rhythm as an asymmetry or silly way of walking. The forces of our body are getting stuck or held somewhere in the body’s tissues. Then our function of walking is adapting. It may not be efficient and over time cause some physical issue such as back pain.

John Cleese is a great example of silly walks. The choreography is fun and his timing is repeated with each cycle of his step. Over a lifetime, how is his function going to change his structure? Quite significantly! Our bones and tissues respond to tension and compression that is present during movement. (See my “Whole Body Connecting Force” blog post). The shapes of our bones are like the stones near the ocean where the water over time has shaped the stones. Bones are not rigid structures but are a denser fascia. Bones actually bend and move where rocks do not. Any repetitive movement pattern will influence our structure. Form follows structure and form influences the structure.

Purposely walking silly as an exercise can change how your nervous system is working and bring us back to a relative normal gait pattern. The dynamic motion of walking silly challenges our muscles and fascia in ways that it normally does not move. When we move into diagonals and other directions, we are shifting the nervous system norms and waking up our proprioception. The body begins to pay attention. You will find that after a few minutes of walking silly and returning to your normal gait, it will feel more fluid.

Try walking differently in some way. Be sure you are warmed-up by doing easy movements of your joints. Focus your eyes with a distant and peripheral vision as you move. I have a series of short videos coming up in the member’s access for guiding a warm-up, and a series of silly walks. Please do not try to walk like John Cleese.

Contemplations by Madeline “Behind Your Heart”

Behind Your Heart -by Madeline Black
from Pilates Style Magazine July/August Issue

The space between the heart and spine
Dark, secret space
Unknown space to your consciousness
Until it hurts
Until it rears its memories

Conditioning hides behind the heart
Space being compressed and released with every beat
Compressed against the spine like a knock on the door
How long will it take to hear the knock
And how long before you go inside

Fearing to go inside the darkness behind the heart
The room of unknown memories, people, spirits
Facing the conditional you
Ignoring the pounding sound
How long before returning to the knocking
Pain that is felt stored in that heart space
Tucked away, hidden

I don’t know what lies inside
Fear, anger, sorrow
Love, joy and peace
Standing at the doorway
Peering in, curious now

Breath expands the space behind the heart
Opening the space, allowing the darkness to see the light
Slows the knocking of the heart against the spine
Softens the space
Easing resistance to enter the darkness

Revealing the mystery of the back space of the heart
To heal the pain
Return to the breathing
Soften, feel the back of the heart

~madeline black



Continuing Education the Fast Track or Transformational Track?

Continuing Education: The Fast Track or Transformational Track?

Every year, we all participate in workshops to elevate our work to better serve our clients, to be inspired, and hopefully increase our value. Continuing our education brings us up to date on new research, and provides expansion of our repertory tools. Education is costly in terms of our time and money. And it is important to receive the value of the investment by actually having the ability to implement well with confidence what was taught.

I raise the question about the amount of time spent in workshops and weighing the benefits. The benefits are relative to what a teacher wishes to learn. Is it choreography only? Or is it learning a script for cueing? As Eve Gentry said “ Are you a conveyor belt or a teacher?” In a two to three hour workshop format, it is not likely the experience provides enough practice time, nor allow for the teacher to embody the work. I am not speaking about a workout session. I am speaking about education that brings the teacher into a different place in their work. This only comes from more time spent with the continuing education provider, practicing with guidance, asking questions, exchanging ideas and a supportive experience.

To be a teacher, one must be able to see the vast number of possible strategies people perform when moving. It is being able to identify the preference versus non-preference movement patterns. Then use this information to verbally cue, use hands-on to direct the movement and facilitate change in the client’s body. Choosing a sequence that best serves the client in the moment because you can see how the body’s tissue tension is inhibiting their movement potential. The movement may appear the same, such as footwork, however, is the sequencing from the feet to the spine a functional one? No two people move the same way. If they do not move the same way, then the musculature is not engaging in the same pattern. Strengthening poor patterns does not serve to improve the person’s movement potential. Guiding the client to make a conscious shift in the patterning will strengthen a healthier functional pattern. This will actualize their movement potential in life, sports and activities they enjoy. This is the depth of the physical work in Pilates and the magic that transforms people.

Teachers, who are aligned with my message, know that a deeper experience helps them improve their teaching and thereby increases the impact on their clients. It is a dedicated teacher that searches for a learning environment to enhance their own well-being as well as acquiring new skills. I am reaching out to teachers that tend to either have little to no continuing education or perhaps are not aware of the possibility of receiving more from an educational experience. My advice is to begin the journey of exploration in discovering the endless possibilities of how to powerfully work with the body. This will set you apart from other teachers who are conveyor belts. Stretch and expand your field around you with a different way of learning. Measure what are you receiving from the workshop or intensive with your needs and goals. Expect to receive plentitude!

If you are a teacher seeking to guide, teach, offer the depth and true function that Pilates offers, the fast track of education is limited. We all start where we are in our lives and passion. I am not one to say any continuing education is better than none. Find a committed, responsible and highly recommended teacher that resonates with you. Spend time, practice and read current movement-based information. Begin to formulate your own perspective and beliefs based on sound knowledge and science.

Walking out of a workshop, my sense needs to be that I am able to understand with my brain, feel it in my body and know I can translate it to my clients through my body, voice and hands. Walking away with only one “take away” is not a good use of my time or money spent on a workshop. Be clear if you choose to attend an event for camaraderie and networking, or are you are spending your time and money where you receive a return for your work.

I advocate for longer intensives on an annual or biennial basis to fully be transformed by your continuing education. Imagine participating in one full experience, biennially versus many shorter courses annually. Take the time to immerse yourself in order to grow your practice with abundance.

I offer five and three day intensives annually. Upcoming is in London, September 1-5th at the Garuda Studio and in San Francisco, CA, January 2018. Please go to the calendar section on this website.


To watch and hear how I work with teachers go to the 5:20 minute mark. At the 7:20 minute mark, I speak about why intensive study is beneficial.

Pilates Whisperer