Joe Talk with Madeline Black

Touch is an integral part of Pilates instruction that has become minimized or lost over the years. In this Joe Talk video on Pilates Anytime, I explore the power of touch and urge us to explore, study, and embody trusted touch. By learning how to integrate touch through educating our hands, we can enhance movement and go deeper inward. When we can take someone inward during movement, we will find change.

Click Image to Watch This Talk Now
Click Image to Watch This Talk Now

This second series of JOE Talks by Pilates Anytime was filmed at the 2014 Pilates Method Alliance Conference in San Diego, California.

Upper Thorax: Vertebromanubrial Region

Check out my new workshop over at Fusion Pilates.

Upper Thorax: Vertebromanubrial Region
I will guide you through the intricate relationship of the 1st- 2nd ribs, sternum with the cervical spine, shoulder mechanics and overall posture. Discover the power the upper ribs have when moving the head and arms. Also this area is one of great discomfort for many people. I’ll teach exercises on the Pilates apparatus and mat that specifically address mobility and stability of this region. See how a new perspective of the upper ribs changes your cueing that translates easily into your client’s body.

This workshop is approximately 1.2 hours long and you have 30 days of access when you purchase. Go to for details.


Madeline shares her insight of Phillip Beach, D.O. “primal postures” the full squat, and descending and ascending to the floor. The ability to move down to the floor and back up is essential to the human body. We loose this ability. Practicing the full squat, getting up and down from the floor strengthens all the large muscles and is at the core of the human structure.

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Shoulder Series #3: Using a Belt

ibcage and shoulder girdle cat
click to enlarge

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 my blog post about my “Pancake Theory,”  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

Third in a series of working the shoulder region. See the first in the series, Wall Circles, and the second, Doorway Contract and Release.

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Shoulder Series #2: Doorway Contract and Release

shoulder series exercises by madeline blackSecond in a series of working with the shoulder region. (see first, Wall Circles and third, Using Belt)
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.

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Shoulder Series #1: Wall Circle

shoulder exercises by madeline blackThe 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.

First in a series of working the shoulder region. See the second, Doorway Contract and Release, and the third, Using a Belt.

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Improve Your Balance and Prevent Falling Tips

At any age, poor balance can cause disabling falls. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can take steps toward eliminating the risks of falling. Maintaining your physical practice will keep you strong and grounded. Madeline offers a simple movement sequence for improving your balance.

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Personal Safety Checklist

  1. Good posture centers your body for better balance, be aware of how you stand, sit and lie down
  2. Muscle strength and function particularly in the lower body, increase reflexes and flexibility
  3. Healthy feet allow you feel the surface you are walking on and is your base of support
  4. Eyesight less than 20/60, cataracts, decrease in depth perception and eye disorders, have annual eye exams
  5. Wear sturdy shoes, high heels, slip-on shoes, loose slippers, smooth and slippery soles may promote falls
  6. Health problems such as blood pressure fluctuations, heart problems, inner ear disorders and nerve damage contribute to falls, see your doctor and be aware
  7. Medications cause dizziness or drowsiness
  8. Alcohol use impairs judgment and slows reaction time

Home Hazards Checklist

  1. Bedroom: keep a phone and lamp close to your bed; a firm mattress and a low bed height so that you can place your feet flat on the floor when you’re sitting in the edge helps balance as you rise from the bed
  2. Bathrooms: Install night lights; grab bars, nonslip mats, textured tiles so it is not slipper when wet; a low threshold shower
  3. Kitchen: store often-used items where you can easily reach them; a sturdy step stool to reach items in high cabinets
  4. Entrances and Hallways: light all outside doors; walkways free of cracks, holes and clutter; repair any rotted or crumbling steps; non-skid backing on mats inside the door; Hallways well lit
  5. Stairways: Place a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairway; install a handrail that runs the full length of the stairs; keep stairs in good repair and clear of clutter; tack carpeting on the stairs tightly
  6. Keep floors clutter free, wires tucked away, turn on lights when walking into rooms; lighting needs to be even with no shadows or glares; all carpeting needs to lie flat and have non skid backing;
  7. Door thresholds create tripping hazards, replace them with lower thresholds
  8. Program emergency numbers into phones