Covid-19, Social Distancing and Staying Sane. Advice from a Pilates Instructor.

I know I’m about to go bonkers and just about to blow my lid as I face 2 weeks off (so far) and so unsure about where this is all headed. When I realized that I have absolutely no control over the world economy, our national economy, state nor city economy, nor even my own economic health at this very moment. I have determined that the only true control I have is over myself.That is the power to make decisions and hopefully the right ones for myself, my love ones, my community and my country.

I decided to take the advise I would give my clients. So consequently I have been taking amazingly great care of myself. I have been getting more sleep and this is something I have been working on for ages. I have been cooking for myself daily and it has had such a positive effect on my health and digestion. I have not stopped taking my weekly runs nor my daily walks, for without them I would be truly lost. The snacking may kill me though. I am doing Pilates on the Cadillac in my living room as well as using my foam roller. My boogie board is my new best friend and burpies and lunges are all serving me well.

I have always wanted to learn how to type and by-golly here is my chance. I have my new typing program and I have been practicing every day while improving significantly. Spring cleaning has started with a vengeance . Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, window sills, carpets are all getting a thorough detailed cleaning. I certainly have plenty of time ! I’ve also have had plenty of time to organize and time to write, read and play with my Xbox. Other than having no human contact except with my running partner and best friend this has been a glorious time for me. Seriously ! Having time to do all the things I have almost ever wanted and never seemed yo have time to do!

Finally, giving has been a blessing for me. Knowing there are people who were already struggling before Covid-19 and the bottom is falling out for many. Giving helps me feel like I have some control over our “collective” health and wellness, because we are not in this alone. Food Lifeline is my organization of choice.

So here you go my list for “How to Stay Sane” during this incredibly stressful time. Good luck to all of you. Stay in touch with your friends and family and me!

  • Get your exercise. You may have to get very inventive but it makes a difference
  • Eat well, learn news ways to cook, experiment. Lets take it easy on the snacks
  • No time like the present for Spring Cleaning
  • Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or learn? Do It !
  • Save time for Face Time, Skype, Zoom or the telephone to keep in touch with loved ones, friends and clients.
  • Give so others can survive. It’s all about karma…….!
  • Make the right choices for yourself and everyone else.

The Powerhouse. Core Muscle Review: The Erectors and Multifidi

As I stated in the first article that the abdominals are a bridge between the torso and the hips. The Erectors are similar in that they also form a bridge but are formed on the posterior portion of the torso. The erectors connect the the torso to the hips as well as connect the head to the torso. So in this case they pass two major joints the hips and the neck. The Erectors like the abdominals support the body in posture. Erectors support in the back and the abdominal support in the front. Together they provide a strong tall skeletal structure. They also perform rotation of the spine to the right and left and side bending right and left. I love the image of the spine and hips muscularly constructed similar to a suspension bridge with anchors a span, with cables and post positioned to maintain suspension, stability and durability.

The Erectors come in three separate muscles in a common facial sheath. There is a medial, a middle, and a lateral erector on both sides of the spine. They almost look like braided rope as the descend from the head to the tail. Each side come together with one large facial sheath around them. They run from the top of the neck attaching to the skull base to the end of the sacrum at bottom of the hips (the coccyx). Since the Erectors are so long and have multiple origins and multiple insertions I will simplify many of these connections so it does not become too tedious to try and remember.

Now for a description of the three muscles of the Erector Spine. First we have the Spinalis the smallest of the three and the most medial this one goes from the head to the tail. Then the Longissimus the longest of the three this one also goes from the head to the tail. Then we have the Iliocostalis this muscle is the most lateral of the 3 and connects in the rib cage as it descends towards the sacrum. These muscles as well as the abs in front have a connection along the Thorocolombar aponeurosis (that wonderful broad flat tendon that is home to so many muscles including the transverse the external and internal abdominals. The Erectors muscle truly helps us stand up straight.

I am personally not crazy about working muscles of extension. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, sometimes it can even hurt (if so I take these exercises slowly and modify when needed) but working the muscles of extension are vital part in posture and helps us to be our tallest. Let’s say you only worked muscles of flexion of the torso and never did exercises of extension or the other way around? “Not good!”

Finally we have the Multifidi muscles. These are short strong little ones arising from the sacrum and transverse processes of the spine to the spinous processes, between 2 and 4 segments. They are lager and more numerous in the lumbar spine. When contracting they rotate the spine from right to left. Rotation is a strong and necessary action of the spine and our ability to move freely in this plane is so important.

And least we forget, our muscles do not work individually but in concert with one another. They have redundant operations. Which means if on muscle is damaged there are usually others to take up the slack. Pilates is so powerful because we use full movements using our full body. Mind/Body forever !

Next up (The Gluteus Muscles)

The Powerhouse. Core Muscle Review: The External and Internal Obliques

Photos Courtesy of The Muscle System Pro III
(from left to right fig 1-4)


This is the second article in a series about the powerhouse “core muscle review”. Anatomically these muscles work together to maintain balance and stability in the core. The external and internal obliques act as a bridge between the upper torso (rib-cage) and hips. This is a major point that I repeat over and over again in class. The powerhouse connects upper to lower and provides stability from which the limbs move freely. First starts the thought, then the breath, then engagement of the core, then the movement.

The first structure to look at is in figure 1. This is the broad flat tendon in front of the torso called the Abdominal Aponerouses  (an aponerouses is a “broad flat tendon). An important characteristics of this structure is that it is a “common” tendon for multiple muscles. It is thick and strong and has layers of fascia creating a strong connector. Both the externals and internals find their way to this structure.

External Obliques (figure 1)

(Visualization) Imagine you have your favorite jacket on or vest. We’ll start on your left side. reach your left hand up towards the outside upper edge of your rib cage. Move your hand downward in medially towards your belly button and hips. This is the direction of the fibers of the external obliques.The external obliques originate at the outer surfaces of the 5th to the twelfth rib and insert along the linea alba the pubic crest the anterior iliac spine and iliac crest. Movements that occur are rotation of the torso to the opposite side and side bending on the same side.

Internal Obliques (figure 2)

(Visualization) Imagine you are about to reach into your left pant pocket with your right hand. Continue upward and inward towards the ribs and mid-line to demonstrate the fiber direction of the internal obliques. The internals originate around towards the thoracolumbar aponerouses, anterior iliac crest and inguinal ligament just above the pubic bone.  Movements that occur are rotation of the trunk to the same side and side bending to the same side.

I talk about these muscles in a singular view but it is important to keep in mind that they all work together. Especially in Pilates. Some muscle support and stabilize while others move. It certainly is exciting to think about ! Also both muscles wrap around to the back and act as a girdle or corset to provide lift, protect our organs and are the “front” part of the core muscle group. By the way, our “love handles” are composed of the obliques. Do you want a tight waist? Work your Pilates.

Next muscles in the series” Hamstrings” Stay Tuned !

Written by
Scott Miller
Certified Pilates Instructor
Licensed Massage Practitioner
Massage Educator

Wind Shift Nutrition

My Testimonial

I had been overworking, eating poorly, drinking more than I should and not getting enough sleep. My mother had also recently died and the weight of the her death was finally sinking in. I was dragging. I was forgetting things, like which exercise comes next in the mat order or repeating an exercise I had already done. I truly thought that this was it. My age was catching up to me and dementia was on the way. Enter Gay Marcontell ! A Nutritional Therapist and owner of Wind Shift Nutrition.She asked if I wanted to try out her services and I thought,”well yes, what can I lose?” Perhaps this is just the thing I need. I had no idea at the time how right I was about the decision and that I would celebrate this decision later.

I filled out legions of paper work to get a base line on my digestion and eating habits. We talked about “digestion” and ways to increase the bodies ability to digest. She palpated all of my organs to determine what organs were under stress. She reminded me of a modern day Shaman or something. Her touch was sensitive and true. I had some discomfort in some place and pain in others. After getting the results of my questionnaire and from the palpation session she discovered several problems she could see that we would work on. I also felt like I was in the right place.

Our next meeting was totally enlightening. It appears that the coffee with sugar and pastries I ate and drank each morning was catching up to me. Also I wasn’t drinking enough water. I was dehydrated. My eating habits were not as good as I thought they were. My adrenals were under attack and the symptoms were numerous. Who in the hell is responsible for teaching us how to eat properly. Our parents? Who taught them? My point being is that we all need instruction on proper diet and we deserve the right information on nutrition.

6 week Plan: No caffeine, no sugar, no dairy ! No eating late. Eat Breakfast. Make lunch my biggest most substantial meal. Take a moment before meals to appreciate the food and quite the mind (some people call this prayer). Sit down for meals.Take time for mindfulness. None of these things were complicated. All extremely simple. What was amazing was after a week my short-term memory began to get clearer. I was astounded. I was sleeping much better. I seemed to be getting more out my exercising with better recovery. Into my second week my high normal blood pressure began to lower. My resting heart rate began to lower. My skin got creamier. And I know I’m repeating myself but my clarity and mental acuity sharpened and I was no longer searching for things that I would find almost right in front of my face. (Thank you Lord) My energy levels also became much more even. And this was just the 1st phase.

2nd phase: 30, 30 40
30 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats and 40 percent protein. It appears in my diet I wasn’t getting enough protein. Protein is so important in building and maintaining muscle. I still am working on getting the ratio’s right but as I move forward it does get easier. And I understand that good eating habits take a while to form. It doesn’t just happen but becomes into being as you become more consistent and have a better understanding of how your body works and responds to food. Foods seems to be either a great cure or a horrible curse. And the decisions I make today effect me down the road.

But enough about me and more about Gay. She knows what she’s doing. She has the skills to direct you in your nutritional goals. I urge you to connect with her. To all my friends out there this is a personal referral to someone who can help. She certainly has helped me. But you have to take the first step. As a Pilates instructor I’d like to take 100% credit for my clients health and great looks. The only problem is I can only give you about 20% of this equation. The other 80% comes from “proper nutrition”.

To contact Gay click on her web page link at WindShift Nutrition

hr chart rz
My Blood Pressure Graph Shows a 5 month steady decline in blood pressure

The Powerhouse. ( Core Muscle Review ) The Transverse Abdominus


Photos Courtesy of The Muscle System Pro III

This is an explanation of the muscles that define the core and secondary muscles that assist in a balanced musculo-skeletal structure. If there is one thing I’ve found, it is that Pilates works to shape and balance the body/frame by aligning from top to bottom, front to back, and from the inside out. One can enjoy length, balance, stamina, poise and an internal strength that makes one feel wildly in-tune with nature. In my teachings, I frequently talk about the core muscles. So I wanted to review what muscles constitute the powerhouse. In order not to overwhelming my clients or myself, I’ll introduce them over time to give you a chance to digest the material. So you can look forward to reading several articles pertaining to the powerhouse muscles. I will be using powerhouse and core muscles interchangeably through out this discussion.

We will start with the transverse abdominius. This muscle is the deepest of the abdominal trio. It is similar to a girdle as it wraps from the pubis bone around the hips (illiac crest, love handles )and attaches into the thoro-columbar aponerousous, which is a large flat tendon that starts at your sacrum up into your back. Other muscles also attach to this structure, like the lattisums dorsi (lats). The TVA also attaches well around the ribcage starting in from the xyphoid process around the anterior 8th rib and around back to the 12th rib.

So the TVA attaches from the front of the body all around to the back. Now this fact is very important. It’s right in the middle of the body, attaches to the hips inferiorly and attaches to the ribs superiorly front and back. The implications of this connection are tremendous! Here we have a muscle that can control the relationship we have with the upper and lower parts of our bodies. If this connection is loose and not controlled the ability for us to maintain an erect balanced posture are lessened. The stronger this connection the better our posture and control can be.

We find that head , shoulders, ribcage, hip, knee and foot alignment is so important in controlling posture. Controlling the hips and ribcage generally allow for alignment of the head and shoulder and knees and feet. Again working from the inside out. This is the first muscle I attempt for my students to understand and access. First by breathing! You can access the transverse-abdominus quite readily by doing costal-breathing, which is characterized by the ability to inhale and pull the belly-button in and up and exhale pushing the belly button back towards the spine. During both phases of breathing there is an action happening at the belly button. The rib cage expands like an accordion during the inhalation and folds like an accordion upon exhalation. To add just another part to the conversation, the transvere abdominus’s main action is to hold the contents of the abdomen in. That is the organs and the rest of the stuff within the abdominal cavity. The organs were meant to hold the contents of the abdominal cavity into place. Our organs don’t like it when they are unsupported .

transverse small
Photos Courtesy of The Muscle System Pro III
(from left to right fig 1-4)

Next the external and internal obliques here we come!

Written by
Scott Miller
Certified Pilates Instructor
Licensed Massage Practitioner
Massage Educator