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Pilates 101 with Expert Stacey Philipsen

Many thanks to Stacey Philipsen, Owner and Instructor at JOE & CLARA Pilates Inspired Health Club in Westlake Village, for being our featured Guest Blogger!

What is Pilates (pila-teez)?

Pilates is a powerful, dynamic method of movement developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s. Originally called “Contrology” because the mind’s connection to the body was considered integral in achieving optimal strength, flexibility, and a sense of physiological balance.

Who should do Pilates?

Pilates is a low-impact exercise program that can be easily modified to suit each person’s physical capabilities and wellness goals. In addition to the fast paced mat exercises, there are over 600 exercises performed on equipment, like the reformer and tower, intended to support the body’s correct alignment through each stage of movement. By simply adjusting the spring tension on the equipment and introducing supportive props Pilates can help achieve a tailored modification for every type of practitioner. Whether you are seeking a more restorative workout or one that will enhance your athletic performance Pilates can help you.  

Invigorate your mind-body connection

Pilates doesn’t involve mediation but it does involve concentrating on proper breathing and alignment. When compared to a traditional gym workout Pilates favors moving the body correctly through a wider series of exercises with lower repetitions of each one. This flowing movement combined with deep purposeful breathing is often noted as being meditative and integral in reducing stress.

Strengthen your core from front to back

Pilates focuses on the entire core by building the abdominals alongside the muscles closest to the spine to target the true core muscles located in the front, back and both sides of the torso. If you’re new to Pilates, you’ll be amazed when you start being able to integrate the movement of your arms and legs with your abdominal muscles to achieve a true Powerhouse. Working your arms through exercises that resemble the bicep curl and tricep press you will also tap into both the upper abdominals and upper back. Just as the leg exercises will work together and strengthen your pelvic girdle and lower abdominals. Every individual exercise challenges the entire body. 

Balance strength with flexibility and retrain your body to move more efficiently

Conventional workouts are more apt to focus on the primary muscles often neglecting deeper muscles. As these superficial muscles gain strength the intrinsic muscles tend to become weaker in comparison. This can lead to muscular imbalances and possibly cause injury or chronic back pain. Pilates aims to achieve ‘uniform development’ throughout the entire body by equally training all the muscles. It also incorporates lengthening into every exercise in order to improve joint mobility. The end result is a better balance of strength and flexibility allowing you to perform your daily activities with greater ease, better performance and less risk of injury not to mention a much improved posture. 



Try this simple exercise right now. All you need is a wall.

Starting Position

  • Lean your back up against a wall and walk your feet out about 10 inches keeping them hip bone distance apart.
  • Inhale and pull your abdominals in cinching your waist and lengthening your spine from tailbone to head.

Rolling Down

  • Raise your arms straight up toward the ceiling lining them up with your ears but keeping your shoulders down.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose as you nod your head forward to begin rolling your spine down and away from the wall. Your arms should travel alongside your ears.
  • As you approach your mid-back keep your waist cinched and your ribs knitted together by exhaling deeply like you’re fogging a mirror. Take your time during this exhale. Feel every section of your abdominals contract right down to your lowest depths of your pelvic floor. Imagine squeezing every last atom of air out of your body.
  • Throughout the roll down visualize each vertebrae slowly peeling off the wall one at a time while allowing your head to hang like a heavy bowling ball so your neck relaxes.
  • Go down as far as you can and if you’re nearing the floor make sure your tailbone remains on the wall.
  • Depending on how low you can go, you might even feel a good hamstring stretch.

Returning Upright. 

  • Inhale deeply through your nose and actively press your feet into the floor while pulling your navel in towards your spine to engage your lower abdominals.
  • Begin by rolling your hips back onto the wall first then continue by stacking your spine back onto the wall one vertebrae at a time. Imagine stacking each row of ribs starting from the lowest.
  • As you lift your shoulders onto the wall exhale again and remember to keep your arms alongside your ears but your shoulders down.

Repeat 2-5 times. Remember to breathe deeply and purposefully, in through the nose and out through the mouth. 


  • Restoring range of motion
  • Regaining both flexibility, strength, endurance and increasing local and global stabilizing muscle strength
  • Improving lymphatic drainage through specific breathing techniques
  • Developing  pelvic and shoulder girdle mechanics which aid the break down of scar tissue
  • Reducing physiological and emotional stress brought on by the illness and treatment
  • Increasing self-confidence and overall well-being as it restores posture and overall body awareness

StaceyPhilipsen2Stacey Philipsen is the owner of JOE & CLARA Pilates Inspired Health Club in Westlake Village and a PMA® Certified Pilates Teacher with over 3000 hours of teaching experience. In partnership with the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara, JOE & CLARA is home to Pink Pilates, a complimentary program for women dealing with the effects of breast cancer.


Celebration of Hope: Lynn Buchanan


Photo by Ken Taylor

“I beat it before and I can beat it again.” That was Lynn Buchanan’s first thought after learning she had breast cancer again, 24 years after her first diagnosis. To mask her fear, she put on a happy face and tried to “auto-pilot” her way through treatment. When she realized that “auto-pilot” was making her feel out of control and unable to communicate with her family and doctors, she knew exactly where to turn for help.

Lynn had been volunteering for the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara (CSCVVSB) for five years before her second diagnosis. In her leadership roles in major fundraisers like Holiday Homes Tour and Gala, Lynn had seen many participants benefit from CSCVVSB’s programs.

CSCVVSB helped Lynn regain control after her second diagnosis. She began going to doctor’s appointments armed with a list of questions, and took copious notes. Her new confidence allowed her to communicate more effectively with her caregivers and “be a better care-receiver,” as she puts it. A weekly support group gave Lynn a circle of fellow breast cancer survivors she could count on for encouragement and information.

Through her treatment and recovery, Lynn has remained a dedicated advocate for CSCVVSB and now serves on the Speaker’s Bureau, educating community groups about the organization’s programs.

“After becoming a participant and benefiting from CSCVVSB’s services, I realized volunteering in their fundraising and awareness events is beyond important, it is imperative,” says Lynn. “We need to ensure that our family members, friends, and neighbors in our community have that same access to CSCVVSB that I have enjoyed.”

Help us honor Lynn at our Evening of Hope Gala on Friday, May 2, 2014! Click here for details.