MELT is….

Hands off bodywork
Sophisticated Self Care
Something relatively new and revolutionary

I was in chronic pain when Pilates came into my life in my mid-twenties and Pilates didn’t change that.  Pilates helped me stay strong in spite of my challenges.  Pilates helped me cope with my challenges.  Pilates gave me temporary relief.  These were great benefits of my Pilates practice and they are why Pilates remained a cornerstone of my self-care for over 15 years.

With over years of regular Pilates workouts under my belt I realized that I ultimately wanted more than coping strategies.  Around this time I spotted a MELT roller in a friend’s living room and I started to learn about the method behind the roller.  It took a few more years before I had the resources to learn MELT fully and begin to notice the dramatic improvements that Sue Hitzmann promised came from regular practice of her techniques.

MELT is based on hands on body work techniques.  With considerable time experimenting, Sue was able to recreate the specialized work she did with her hands that had such remarkable results for her NYC clients.  Generally speaking, Sue drew from light-touch modalities such as cranial sacral therapy and neuromuscular therapy when she developed the MELT method.  These are sophisticated techniques that aren’t easy to find but that do offer relief for many.  Even with that though, repeated visits are key to finding relief.

Sue became determined not only to help her clients when they were seeing her regularly, but to help them help themselves so that they didn’t need to keep seeing her. By practicing the do-it-yourself portion of their self-care regimen at home Sue’s clients were empowered to find full resolution to their concerns.  This is a key component that sets MELT apart.  When we engage in the work for ourselves, the results are different.  

That said, there is no permanent cure-all.  As long as we are living, our bodies are designed to repair and restore on a daily basis.  MELT helps us to help our bodies to do that work consistently.  We do need to MELT regularly to continue to derive benefit from the techniques.  And it’s also reasonable to expect that we will need the help of highly skilled bodyworkers periodically.  When we MELT regularly, our bodywork sessions tend to be far more productive which means we don’t need to spend as much time or money to get the good results that we are after.  All told, with MELT we have a far better chance of getting out and staying out of chronic pain AND ensuring that the time and money that we invest in bodywork sessions will be a good use of our resources.

MELT ushers us into a paradigm shift around what it means to be healthy.  Joe Pilates spoke to this idea when he talked about normal health.  Sue has given us even more sophisticated tools than Joe had to offer.  This is partly because her point of departure was bodywork whereas Joe’s was movement, and partly because while a lot was known about the body when Joe developed his work, a lot more is known now.   

When we make the shift toward maintaining a regular self care practice we still need the help of highly skilled practitioners we just aren’t as dependent on them for the daily management of our physical bodies.  Rather, we are able to use bodywork sessions for periodic maintenance and to make bigger and more sustained progress in our process of resolving what before may have seemed like unresolvable issues.

As inquiring minds continue to increase their understanding of the connective tissue system and the nervous system through scientific based exploration, the basic underpinnings of the MELT method are verified and better understood.  Sue could always feel the effects of her touch because of her sensitivity to energy which certainly enabled her to develop MELT in the first place.  But when bringing something that is truly new to the world at large, the more ways its efficacy can be explained and understood, the better.

Proof remains the bottom line for everyone (Paul Simon was right).  When it comes to those of us who have MELTed our way out of chronic pain, the understanding and deeper explanations are good to help sustain us.  Just as Pilates was critically important to me for so long because it helped me cope, the bottom line is that MELT is part of my daily life because it helps me feel healthier with every passing day.

Pilates is….

…Exercise.  Yes it it.
…Therapeutic movement.  Yes it can be.
…A long-term practice.  Ideally, if we make it so.

These to me are the three main aspects of a Pilates practice and we each make determinations about how we use Pilates based on these aspects.  

When we commit to Pilates as a long-term practice it can serve us either as exercise or as therapeutic movement depending on our current situation.  

Over my nearly 20 years of maintaining my Pilates practice has mainly served me in two ways – it helped me stay strong in spite of my physical limitations and it has helped me cope with the pain that is part of my physical challenges.  Some days my Pilates is more of a workout, some days it’s more of a therapeutic movement session.  The fact that I have both as options sets Pilates apart from so many other types of exercise and I’m grateful that I learned Pilates in my mid-twenties because the more people I meet, the more I realize that it’s not a question of if you have a physical challenge, it’s a question of WHEN it shows up.

“In order that one may receive the maximum benefit and resulting normal health from one’s daily activities, one should understand at least some of the rudimentary underlying principles governing the mechanism of the human body in motion, rest and sleep.  For example, knowledge of the leverage possibilities of the skeletal framework, the range and limitation of proper muscle tension and relaxation, the laws of equilibrium and gravity, and last but not least, how to inhale and exhale  (ie, how to breathe properly and normally) are essential if we are to benefit from any exercises.”

Recalling Joe’s words, even when Pilates is a workout, we pay attention to the details of our alignment and we are exercising our whole selves.  That level of practiced body control puts us in an excellent position to address problems when they arise.  While we are dealing with a situation that compromises us our work becomes very careful and guided by these three ideas:

1 – Create circulation to help the body in it’s daily work of repair and restoration.  In Pilates we work around the troubled area rather than directly on it.  

2 – Strengthen support of the troubled area by keeping focused on the body as a whole and the critical importance of true core strength.

3 – Complications always teach us at least one thing, probably more.  Generally, complications are going to show us where we have a weakness and this is important to know.  We all have strengths and weaknesses that we must strive to keep in balance to maintain normal health.  Complications always make us work better because we have to be more careful and attentive to our alignment and muscle coordination.

Pilates is DIY exercise.  Part of what this means is that it is not necessary for us to know / understand the anatomy, PT, MD perspective.  We certainly have that available to us in today’s world if we are able and interested in working with the necessary diagnosticians. But such an understanding is not imperative for practicing Pilates.  If we were to look carefully at the details each of our bodily forms we would see that not one of us looks like the picture in an anatomy textbook, and that’s fine!  Diagnosis can serve a purpose but in terms of the practicality of building and sustaining functional strength, it is merely a point of departure.  Far more important than a diagnosis is our mindset around self care and maintenance and our ability to feel what is happening in our body.  Many of us live up in our head, in this case it may take a while to relearn how to feel our body.

A few years ago, I decided to distill my love and appreciation for what The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning has given me into a book  – it’s called Embodying YES, The Core Mindset that Will Alleviate your Back Pain.  In that book, I share five stories including my own about how Pilates serves those of us who live with back pain.  Since then I’ve made rapid progress in what became my quest to be completely done with chronic pain thanks to the MELT method.  I invite folks to purchase and read my book and to stay tuned for the next half that I promise to write when my quest is finally and mercifully complete. In the meanwhile, you can follow my progress in this blog where I devote a post each to Pilates and MELT every month.

Benefits of the MELT Method

How I’ve managed to control the uncontrollable with the MELT Method, where I was and where I am now thanks to MELT.

Given that Joe Pilates called what we now call Pilates, Contrology, it’s clear that control is central to his method.  Joe certainly was onto something when he introduced the idea that exercise could transform the shape of our body in ways beyond simply building up our musculature – he knew that breath was an important to include and he knew that the whole body must be worked in a coordinated way – no part ignored or neglected.  While I’ve devoted much attention and effort to my personal Pilates practice with complete faith that I could indeed use it to regain normal health, at some point I had to admit that something else was needed to address my situation that instead of getting better, was worsening.

The second time that I took on a daily MELT practice, I was in the midst of a very stressful time – moving our family home and my business while also taking over a new studio. I’d been practicing Pilates 2-6 days per week with considerable discipline for 18 years. While that certainly did me good, it didn’t address my concerns around the functioning of my nervous system and the poor state of my connective tissue system (most obviously indicated by daily physical pain, my distended abdomen, tendency toward weight-gain, regular break outs, uncomfortably dry skin, and insomnia).  I was able to exercise some degree of control over my body, but not enough to reclaim normal health.  All I can say is thank heavens for MELT because I’m in far better condition today than I was 15 months ago.

At a more basic level than our musculature, our bodies’s basic functions are determined by the functionality of our connective tissue and nervous systems.  True core function is meant to happen outside of our conscious control.  If that is so, what do we do when we know that our core functioning is compromised? We need to exercise just enough control over the uncontrollable to get it back functioning outside of our control.  With MELT techniques, we can support our ideal core functioning with very specific exercises.  Once our core is back online, we can build our strength on that solid foundation with Pilates.

Progress Report – After 15 months of daily MELTing, how am I doing with my list of ailments?  

My daily physical pain is significantly better.  Fifteen months ago, I would have put my daily pain at about a 9 on the scale of 1-10.  There were times when my physical limitations put a stop to anything and everything.  Now, I’d put my daily pain at about a 2.  It’s still there, it still irritates, but it resolves and is barely noticeable for most of the time.

My abdomen is significantly flatter.  I’ve averaged 1-2 Pilates workouts per week in the past 15 months.  That’s not ideal nor sustainable.  For this period in which I’m actually making significant headway in getting out of pain for good, it makes more sense for me to focus on MELT than Pilates as my daily practice.  MELT is helping me to regain true core integrity so the bloat is diminishing.  What’s more, my tendency to put on weight has diminished.  I have long held that metabolism and hormone levels had more to do with my body size than calories in and out and it would seem that I’ve found the way to positively influence those systems so that I can support my full days with good quality food and fit comfortably in my clothes..  

My skin is much better – breakouts are not nearly as severe or regular.  Dry skin is still present, especially because I wash my hands frequently.  But it’s not nearly as severe as it used to be in the cold, dry winter.

And insomnia?  I still don’t sleep like I used to in my 20’s when I was single and hadn’t accumulated 20 more years of unaddressed stress.  But my sleep is improving.  My hopes are buoyed that more restful sleep awaits me as I continue to restore my normal health.

15 months ago, I had to work really hard to keep my morale up.  I’m grateful that I didn’t give up on myself because in addition to my physical state improving, my overall mindset is significantly better as well.  

Pilates and MELT are a great combination for the ideal that Joe had for us all – normal health.

If your are sorting out how to restore your normal state of health, I highly recommend that you give MELT at try!  Email us to find out your MELT class / session options.

Joe and the Snow

Uncle Joe, why do you like exercising in the snow? Inquiring minds want to know…

This winter as I looked anew at the photos of Joe exercising in the snow (for images, google search “Joe Pilates in the snow”), I decided to finally put all the bits and bobs of information that I’ve gathered on the topic into writing.  Joe Pilates had some habits that were determined by what he knew rather than what was considered “normal”. (Remember that Joe had his own standard of “normal health” which surpassed mainstream expectations and most certainly influenced his choices.)  We can come to a better understanding of the subtle underpinnings of the Pilates method through looking closely at Joe Pilates’ choices around his own health.

Look at a few photos and you know that Joe preferred bare skin to being fully clothed, he was interested in naturism and adhered to the idea that it was important to let the skin act as a means for absorbing nutrients from the sun.  While his “eccentricity” of letting his skin “breathe” may have caused some to raise their eyebrows, there was actually good sense in in.  Our skin does need to be unblocked in order to properly function.  

To know why this is true, we need to understand our skin functions with the passage of materials through its many layers.  Think of any dispenser of liquid that has some sort of valve to open or close in order to release or retain the liquid.  At regular intervals air needs to replace the released liquid otherwise the valve ceases to be able to release any more.  Similarly, when the outer layer of our skin is blocked, the passage of materials through the various layers is inhibited.  One of my hobbies before being a mom was skin care and I once attended a conference where I learned of a research project that had been conducted comparing the health of skin cells to which two different products had been applied – one contained waxes, the other didn’t.  The difference in the cells was obvious, the cells that had been coated in wax appeared compromised, the ones with the wax-free products appeared to be in good condition.  

Wax-free skin products are one thing, and do require a commitment to an uncommon standard.  Even if we do chose to start using higher quality skin care products it isn’t likely that we’re going to start wearing bathing attire for most of our waking hours.  While we may not have an interest in joining the “skins” team, choosing natural clothing fibers rather than synthetic will make a subtle difference.  Personally, I can feel the effect of clothing made of plastic on my skin and it feels just as uncomfortable as wearing nail polish – as if my pores and my nail beds are being suffocated (go ahead call me strange).  Now we don’t just wear plastics while we are going about our regular activities, we wear them especially to exercise.  I do feel that it is noble to re-use plastics rather than letting them float around in the ocean, it’s not great for our bodies to essentially shrink-wrap ourselves and then have a good sweaty workout.  I can only imagine what Joe would think of that practice!  All in all, it seems to me that once again Uncle Joe’s wisdom prevails as worth our respect and attention.

But I haven’t even gotten to the snow yet.  First, I was compelled to first delve into why Joe may have been exercising in the snow in just a pair of shorts.  With that out of the way we can proceed to considering the practice of exercising in the cold.  When it comes to being in the cold, we can look to the old Scandanavian traditions for some insights (here’s an article on the practice of napping wee ones in the great outdoors just for some extra fun).  And we can learn from Wim Hof who has created a methodology for good health of which I’m pretty sure Joe Pilates would have approve (cheers to working class hero for the introduction!).

Wim’s e-book discusses the scientific studies that have examined controlled cold exposure.  In short, being in the cold amplifies the benefits of breathing and concentration techniques.  We know this based on a few key indicators that have a lot to do with the body’s imperative to keep warm

  • increased metabolic rate
  • enhanced immune system functioning
  • increase of brown fat in the body

If you’re interested in fortifying yourself in order to experience what Joe did and surely gain some insights and improved health, consider joining me in my foray study into the Wim Hof Method which works with the three components that Joe Pilates was working with when took his exercise out to the snow – breathing, concentration, and cold exposure.

The 3 R’s of Wintertime

In Pilates training we learn about the 3 R’s – resistance, ratio, and repetitions.  This time of year, I’ve got another set of three on my mind:  Reflection, Redemption, and Resolution.


Either through quiet time indoors or through lots of social time with people who we don’t regularly see, I’ve noticed that in this dark time of year, we are given many opportunities for personal reflection.  Where have we come, what have we done, how do we feel, what do we want next, how have we changed, how have we remained the same – so many questions to ponder!


We can chose the lens through which we take stock of whatever comes to the surface of our minds.  I prefer love, forgiveness, and light over the less nurturing alternatives.  With love, so much more is possible.  With forgiveness as a point of departure, we can do the real work of living purposeful lives.  Only with light we can drive out darkness (thank you Dr. King).


It is much easier to chart a new course or regain an abandoned one with a spirit of hope and promise for good things to come.  As a Pilates instructor, I get to practice staying the course personally and facilitating it in others.  With the beginning of 2016, I’ve got some new tools for doing that in the making; and I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the work that I love with enthusiastic clients.  The business of self-betterment is, by far, my favorite one to be in.

Through this season of darkness, may you be the shining star that you are.  Shine brightly for yourself and for all of us.

Pilates Practice Pointer: Make the Most of the First Day

First Official Day of School (photo taken upon returning home)

First Official Day of School (photo taken upon returning home)

Today’s the day I’ve been waiting for – my son’s first official day of school!  It’s not actually what it seems, I haven’t been suffering through a seemingly interminable summer of boredom or hyperactivity.  No.  More importantly for me, his first day of school is the first day of my new schedule, the one that I’ve been gearing up for for weeks.  Yes, I’m an organizational nerd.  Yes, I’m just happy that my plans are finally happening.  And yes, I love symbolism.

I’ve realized that this is just the beginning of first days and new routines in my life as a parent.  And isn’t that similar to our fitness rhythms?  Life is so full, it seems that not many routines last too long.  And why should they?  Our bodies are constantly changing, our care and maintenance of them would logically shift too.  Anybody that knows me realizes that I’m not a typical fitness instructor in that my exercise has always been balanced with a fair amount of self-care work to manage my delicate back and I’m certainly not into high reps and feeling the burn, but I have come to understand that our bodies respond positively to variety.  I’ve been setting up routines for myself for a while, and I love doing the same with clients because it enhances our focus in the studio.

Pilates has been a constant for me since 2000, so I’ve come up with a few ways to vary my Pilates practice and begin again.  Here’s my summary.
It’s a good idea to establish a start and end date for any routine.  Having a particular goal in mind and a way of measuring attainment of that goal is the best way that I’ve found to stick to my plan.  Sharing before and after photos has worked well for me as a mom who has precious little time to go out in the world and get external feedback.  That framework has kept me disciplined with my workouts.  In the past, I had teachers and colleagues, now I’ve got a camera and the internet.  Lucky for my clients though, they’ve got me to cheer them on.

1)  Start with selecting an apparatus to work on for a set period of time (although, in some cases the area of the body or the specific goal will be the more logical point of departure.)
2)  Next select an area of your body that you want to improve.  overall flexibility or strength, connection of legs or arms to center, reducing neck tension, backbends, eliminating aches and pains, and fixing the feet are some good examples.
3)  The apparatus and area of your body will help you determine a specific goal or two to focus on during your workouts, select one or two:  minimum of motion, alignment, precision, back connecting to the mat, breathing coordination throughout the workout, frequency, rhythm and duration of sequence are some good examples.
4)  Based on your selections, you will most likely have a pretty good idea of the exercises that you’ll be doing.  But you may want to put together a special list based on your parameters.

Pilates Practice Pointers: The Transitions

Gearing up for the school year ahead got me thinking about the power of transitions:  they can either make or break an experience.  It wasn’t long before I realized that as goes in life, so goes in the studio.  Threading the exercises together with a minimum of motion can take your Pilates workout to a whole new level because you NEVER STOP moving through your breathing center.  Your only break comes at the end of your sequence which will last anywhere from 10 minutes for a simple mat workout to 40 minutes for a complete reformer workout.  Your heart will be pumping, you’ll be sweating, and your breath will be quickened, but the workout is still moderate, isn’t that fabulous?!  And if that’s not enough…I can’t remember a time when such a workout didn’t lift my mood.

If you are interested in perfecting your transitions, be prepared to climb a learning curve.  It will take a considerable amount of focus on deliberate movements and you’ll need to exercise your mental ability to remember the sequence.  Once you’ve done it though, the payoff will last for the duration of your life – once you’ve got Pilates in your body, it’s yours to keep forever.

Pilates for Busy People

Here’s a cool and rarely noted fact about Pilates:  once you’ve established your routine, Pilates workouts deliver whole body benefits for a small investment of time.   If you’re keen to exercise but haven’t got the time to become a gym rat, then Pilates may be the workout for you.

A Pilates routine can last anywhere from five minutes to one hour (although most folks are not going to perform that lengthy of a routine, the hour-long series are for the die-hard enthusiasts and instructors).

While Pilates is best practiced as a whole system in which all the various pieces of apparatus are employed to give your body the individualized workout it needs, part of that practice is the home-based mat series that devotees do from once a day to a couple times a week.  The longest mat series when practiced as a flowing routine will take around twenty minutes to complete.  Most people will practice a routine that takes between five and fifteen minutes to complete for their Pilates homework on the mat.

At Bayside Pilates, homework is a part of nearly every client’s practice because it is so important to experiencing the tremendous benefits that Pilates delivers.  Folks can use their home Pilates routine in a variety of ways.
*  After a walk, run or bike ride, Pilates can give you a good stretch and bring all your strength back to your center.
*  Before golf, tennis, or your sport of preference, Pilates can focus your physical and mental engagement for optimal performance.
*  And generally, anytime you need a mental or physical reset, Pilates can energize and revitalize you so that you can complete your next task with zest and pleasure.

All you need to get moving with Pilates is a working knowledge of the sequence and the underlying coordination that makes the moves so powerful.  By attending classes at Bayside Pilates you will lay your foundation for a lifetime of feeling good with Pilates.