Take it Outdoors

By Marilyn Koval

This Summer I have had the opportunity to work with over fifty athletes who are members of Long Beach Poly High Girls Cross-Country team.  I meet with the championship team once per week, and we do Pilates underneath shade trees in a local park.  These girls are awesome.  They’re strong, positive, ready to work, and fun.  The Pilates work benefits and compliments their sport is so many ways.  I have developed a routine of exercises specific for runners, and each week we incorporate something new;  sometimes I include an extra challenging move, or maybe an additional stretch.  I’ve discovered too that Pilates, like running,  has a different level of enjoyment when practiced outside.  I have a new appreciation of exercise while breathing fresh air and being surrounded by nature.  Yes, we have the occasional noisy truck driving by, but the tall grass, fresh breeze, birds chirping, and the sound of kids playing in the distance exudes a deeper sense of calm, connectedness, and freeing sense of movement.  I am thrilled that Pilates has now become part of the team’s training routine, and am looking forward to continued work with these young and inspiring athletes.               

Taking a Little Piece of Viva Pilates to South Africa

by Kathryn Russell     

Last week Samantha Wood, the director of BASI education came by the studio. In addition to her work for BASI, Samantha is a Pilates certified Physical Therapist with a clinic in Pacific Palisades.  She was getting ready to leave for South Africa where she will be teaching a course that includes a section on Pilates for Chronic Pain. We spent some time going over modifications designed to assist those suffering with fibromyalgia to successfully perform Pilates exercises and discussing the application of those modifications to other chronic pain syndromes. I am so excited about this topic and so  strongly believe in it that I am afraid I talked her ear off. Please come back Sam, I promise to be quieter!! 

When I began researching fibromyalgia I found exercise to be listed as the central component in the management of this syndrome. But my experience told me that people suffering from chronic pain often don’t feel they have the energy for it or are afraid that the movement might trigger a new pain. The fear of more discomfort often outweighs the recommendation to exercise. The challenge was to develop modifications of fundamental Pilates movements that would develop confidence and strength so that Pilates exercises could then be performed. Pilates exercises are designed to balance the muscles, easing tension and tightness and promoting more efficient movement. This increased ease of movement along with the confidence and sense of well being that Pilates develops goes a long way in the management of fibromyalgia.

My interest in fibromyalgia led me to look into other chronic pain syndromes as well and again I found exercise listed as an important management tool. The types of exercises mentioned were core strengthening, range of motion, balance, joint stabilization and improvement of posture – all things specifically addressed in Pilates exercises. People with chronic pain live with pain and stiffness every day. I know Pilates can make a positive difference in their lives and I am thrilled to know that Sam is spreading the word at her conference in South Africa.  

Movement Inspired by Life

By Marilyn Koval

My daughter will begin her first year of high school this Fall. In preparation, one of the first things she has done is join the girls’ cross country team. She has just completed her first month of rigorous training with a supportive coaching staff and teammates. I am in awe at the dedication, enthusiasm, and strength she has developed in this short time. 

I recently had a pilates’ session with her, and was amazed at not only her new strength, but her improved control and focus on her movement. As a pilates’ instructor, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity over the past few years to teach my kids the value of basic pilates’ principles such as breath, posture and core in everything they do. Now, as my daughter takes her journey as a competitive athlete to the next level, her pilates’ movement is even more important to support and enhance her sport currently, as well as to protect her body for the future. 

Our shared mother/daughter time in the studio gives us the opportunity to bond at a level that literally goes to the core.  My daughter has had the pilates’ foundation for some time, but with her new strength, she finally got a sense deep within her body of what her mom has been talking about all this time. She has a new enjoyment and appreciation of movement, and it is my hope that she embraces pilates at this stage in her life, and continues to do so for years to come.


Last week I went to Scottsdale, Arizona to meet a friend I have known since we both were three years old. We grew up together in Minnesota and although our paths have taken us to opposite sides of the country, we have stayed connected and remain “family” in everything but biology. We spent a long weekend catching up and simply enjoying being around each other again. I realized that this sense of community, of friendship and connection with other people, is essential to well being and is priceless. 

I have often thought about the friendships and sense of community that have developed at this studio. People who come here find themselves with stronger bodies and new friendships that will last a lifetime.  I am so proud to be part of this! 

So, I have good news – a new restaurant is opening in the center.  It is going to be beautiful and comfortable and will be the perfect place for us to enjoy our Viva Pilates community outside the studio. We are even going to move our book club meetings from our studio lounge to the new bistro!

And, my friend who joined me in Arizona? She was inspired and has signed up for private Pilates back home. I am thrilled for her and hope her studio provides her with both strength and friendships to last a lifetime. 

Looking Forward

by Paul Meripol

The other day I was speaking to a client and she said to me, “I look forward to this hour all week.” Her words took me back several years to when I first began my Pilates practice. Kathryn was my teacher. Within my first very few sessions, I had that very same feeling. I signed up for a Monday night class and I actually found myself looking forward to Mondays! It was a time that was all mine in a very personal way, set aside from the cares of the day, a time to focus on movement, and breath, and learning. I quickly came to see my time in the studio as the best hour of my week. This wonderful system of exercise, taught by a thoroughly knowledgeable and caring teacher, came to be a cornerstone in my life.

So now I am a teacher. And the clients I teach look to me to help make their hour in the studio a time to look forward to, just as Kathryn once did (and still does!!) for me. I am grateful to the client I spoke to for reminding me of that feeling I had when I was a client, and for showing me that I am not the only person to have felt that way. I believe that what makes our studio special is that feeling we have when we walk in the door; that we are going to spend some time doing something we really enjoy and that we know is important to our well-being, with people we care about, like, and respect. I hope that as a teacher I can communicate not only the movement, but also the abiding joy in the practice and in the sense of community – just as Kathryn taught me.

I am fortunate to be in our beautiful studio with my wonderful colleagues every day now. Especially I am fortunate to have great clients coming through our doors to teach and to learn from. Each is unique and special in her, or his, own special way. They meet their lives head on, with courage, grace, and boundless good humor. Their stories are amazing and often quite humbling. In future blog posts and newsletters, we hope to introduce you to some of them and to tell you something about them.

What a great job I have. I take my shoes off when I get to work! And the very best people in the world come through the door to see me every day.

My Passion for Pilates

by Kathryn Russell

I hadn’t taken very many Pilates classes when I began to notice how differently I moved and how strong I felt.  I simply wore my body differently and that feeling made me feel confident and powerful.  The longer I took classes the more I loved Pilates with a thoroughly unexpected passion.  After a couple of years, my husband began to encourage me to quit my job and get certified to teach Pilates.  In spite of the fact that I had been talking aboutPilates for two years, I was thunderstruck at the idea that this passion could become my JOB. Suddenly there was a silly grin on my face that I couldn’t seem to wipe off. It’s still there.

So much has happened since then. I worked at a studio in Huntington Harbour for two years and then moved to another part of the Harbour to open my own. But those are just the business details. The amazing part of this story is the people I have met along the way. And the privilege of watching them discover how Pilates changes their bodies. And watching the silly grin appear on their faces.

People come to Pilates studios for a lot of reasons – flexibility, toning, core strength…the list is a long one. But I was surprised by the large number of people who come specifically for pain relief. Many come to help rehab an injured or painful low back, knee, hip…  But in addition I found people coming to find relief from syndromes that cannot be exercised away. These people came with chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia. This was very different than the work that I did to help people out of low back pain, or to improve movement in a knee or hip after surgery. These clients responded well to the Pilates method and report feeling better, but I wanted to be sure that I was doing all I could to help them in the management of their pain.   

To better understand fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes Marilyn Koval, an instructor at the studio, and I turned to my husband who is a chiropractor in a pain management clinic. He shared his experience and his wealth of knowledge on this subject and helped us more fully understand chronic pain. He armed us with a great deal of research and for the past year we have been working together to develop a system to work with this population based on the research and our experience with our own clients.  

Chronic pain is a terrible burden that sabotages sleep, makes movement feel risky and chips away at a person’s sense of power and strength. When working with this population I am constantly reminded of the sense of power Pilates gave me when it taught me to wear my body differently. That is my goal for all of my clients with chronic pain.