Pacific NW Pilates blog

Therapeutic Pilates is Built for Injuries and Special Populations

by Melanie Byford-Young on September 19, 2014

The longer I work in the movement therapy profession, the more I wonder if anyone is “normal.” What is normal? Why is it that some people who look perfect suffer from more pain and issues than people who have arthritis, joint replacements and scoliosis?

Why do so many North Americans have hip and knee replacements? Why do people not know if they have osteoporosis? Why do so many athletes end up with injuries that prevent them from continuing in their sport? Why do some people feel worse after exercising? Is there really such a thing as a motor moron?

These are just a few of the questions I will address in my upcoming “Injuries and Special Populations” (ISP) course at Pacific Northwest Pilates.

The reality is walking on concrete, sitting for prolonged periods of time, and being a weekend warrior takes a toll. The human body was designed to move, and to move in a variety of ways. One sport or movement pattern over and over will give you accuracy in the short term, and arthritis in the long term. We need balance and variety to stay healthy.

To movement professionals, knowledge is power. Power is not merely torque output. Power is the ability to blend intelligent assessment with appropriate strategy: To work from the inside and the outside.

ISP is an overview course to help instructors begin to develop clinical reasoning skills to effectively work with clients who were born with, or have acquired movement challenges. Instead of giving a recipe for working with a condition (e.g., spondylolisthesis, when a lumbosacral spinal vertebrae slips out of place and onto the neighboring vertebrae), we educate instructors to understand, reason and be able to work with an individual who happens to have spondylolisthesis, and any other issues.

I teach the influence of the neural system on learning and motor programming, and vice versa. Most of all, I teach instructors how to be comfortable working with every individual who walks in the door.

That defines our studio. Were you to visit Pacific NW Pilates to observe our exceptional instructors for a day, you would see them working with a wide range of clients:

  • without injuries
  • with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy
  • hip, knee or shoulder replacements
  • athletes working through shoulder impingement and patella femoral issues
  • ballet dancers
  • stiff clients and those with hypermobility issues.

Everyone has an individual program and is progressing using the Pilates principles, programming and equipment as an intelligent approach to movement.


Melanie Byford-Young, STOTT PILATES Master Instructor



Analysis of Foot & Gait with therapeutic Pilates solutions for walking and running performance


Pacific NW Pilates Education (PNWPE) is the professional training side of our mission. We just wrapped Melanie’s Foot and Gait Workshop yesterday afternoon. Here’s a peek into what has been attracting physical therapists, physios, expert personal trainers and Pilates instructors to Melanie Byford-Young’s Pacific NW Pilates Education  workshops and courses. She has been studying — and refining — biomechanical and orthopedic therapeutic solutions for more than 25 years. Her knowledge, skill and zesty, rat-a-tat delivery has made her a magnet for professional movement audiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.


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Melanie Byford-Young uses expressive gestures. Gait patterns are demonstrated with theatrical style. She reveals the secret source of — and reasons for — biomechanical accommodation. She shows videos of her willing parents, business partner and a client demonstrating their particular style of walking. And a sold out group of attendees was on the edge of their seats.

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On Saturday afternoon, Melanie — known for her exuberant and deeply insightful workshop presentation style — started out with an exercise to anchor the position and function of the bones and function of a foot.


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“Very little range of motion is required to walk or run efficiently. Only hip extension, ankle dorsiflexion and first toe extension need full range of emotion.”

The workshop moved between classroom, in-studio demonstrations and live action assessments. We commandeered the entire studio and half the building’s empty weekend corridors. Attendees had a chance to pose their burning questions and get full advantage of Melanie’s workshop curriculum and on-the-spot diagnostic and prescriptive insights.

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She employs a unique blend of researched theory in a lecture setting. This workshop about the mechanics of walking and running — a Pilates-based approach, was rich in fast-flying facts and illustrations. Melanie addressed what professionals are likely to encounter with individuals ranging from elite athletes to seniors.

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PNWP owner Leslie Braverman and PNWP instructor (and Portland dancer) Holly L. Shaw were part of Melanie’s expert team. Workshop attendees included fellow Oregonians; others traveled from Vancouver, B.C., Toronto, and San Francisco. The prize for travel miles went to Carolyn from  Christchurch, New Zealand.


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We are mad about every one of our Foot and Gait Workshop attendees. Every ONE!


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(For more images from the workshop, LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And check out Melanie’s blog post about her workshop.)

PNWP is finalizing its 2015 roster of STOTT PILATES® courses, PNWPE workshops, and guest courses. Visit our website and keep track of what’s new on our social media. Note: Workshops sell out fast.


Remarkable, accomplished people are drawn to Pilates. Over time, shared solutions build trust and respect, binding our clients and instructors into a PNWP family.

One such PNWP client, Ellen Stauder, is our guest writer this week. Here, Ellen generously describes her relationship with the customized benefits of Pilates — and photography — during life transitions.

We’re crazy about Ellen. She inspired many classes of poetry students. She now inspires us and encourages us to examine the world, up-close, in a state of full wonder. Visit PNWP to see Ellen’s photographic study of dogwood, on display in our reception area through November.

You’re going to enjoy this.



I began at PNWP in January of 2012 at a point in my life when my health was bringing my 30-year career as an English professor and Dean of the Faculty at Reed College to an end. To say that this was a time of transition is a bit of an understatement. The sense of loss was quite palpable—my career, my health, and all of those things I counted on being able to do readily had question marks next to them. What I didn’t know at that moment was how much more radical the changes would be and that the transformations lying in wait would shape, out of the slag heap, a new, unimagined and wonderful life.


Working with Melanie and Jean, as well as Janet, Ishbel, Leslie and Traci, has brought dramatic changes in my body. I had never heard of “fluffy armpits” before or known that five repetitions could be, if Melanie was counting, as many as needed. And needed not for some mythical perfection but for the ongoing process of remaking my nervous system, muscles, fascial tissue and energy. If my body was a system of government it would, before, have been best described as a collection of tyrants each bent on preserving his or her own territory at all costs. The tyrannical kingdoms have now been banished or diminished in favor of freedom of movement; I now have a set of parts each mostly doing her own job as best she can in service of a whole that is more than the sum of its increasingly happy parts.



DSC_0353I am immensely grateful for the physical transformations that Pilates has brought about in conjunction with my other medical practitioners. But my bodily transformation was not the only change afoot. January of 2012 is also when I began my life as a photographer, though I did not know that at the time. What I did know is that I wanted a way to step out of my self and my pain. I began by walking around my garden and simply looking at what was there. Despite the apparent midwinter bareness, I was repeatedly surprised and moved by the varieties of beauty: the way the low winter light threw the well-formed shape of a paper bark maple on the fence; the way the podyphyllum (Chinese may apple) thrust its prehistoric-looking leaves out of the ground like some primordial bubbles; and the way the hoar-frosted spider webs were made briefly and tenuously the most visible aspect of the landscape.


DSC_3369I wanted to express what I was given to see and turned first to language, the stuff of so many years of teaching poetry, but surprisingly, it wasn’t words I wanted. I turned to photography, an art that had interested me but I had never practiced in any serious way. I also wanted my winter wanderings to be regular so every day I took myself out to look at what was there to be seen.

Gradually these outings became a kind of meditative practice that was dictated less by my agenda than by what wanted to be seen. The more I gave myself over to that practice, the more exciting photography became and the more I wanted to work at it; it became irresistible. Macro, or close-up photography seemed the best way to embody the sense that what nature gives and what the lens gives are in dialogue, reshaping perception by constantly re-seeing the given natural world. In this close-up world, every detail counts: each unfolding of a leaf or petal; each shading of light; each traveling, waiting insect became for me moments of revelation, moments where pain was not so much forgotten as it was transformed, lodged firmly inside of aching, haunting, transient beauty.


In the particular case of the Pacific Dogwood photos currently on exhibit at the studio, my re-seeing began when I started looking at the flowers from all angles and discovered that when I moved away from our conventional frontal view that the backsides of these flowers was its own magnificent world. I was compelled by the way the light illuminates the textures and colors of the flower, especially around the stem. In turn, the stem revealed itself not just as an appendage holding the flower up but also as an energetic movement that connects the front and back worlds, allowing us to see the flower as fully three-dimensional.



Such blossoming into fullness, into dimensions not previously perceived let alone fully occupied, is what my experience as a photographer and at the Pilates studio share. Each activity is fundamentally about the art of seeing, re-seeing, reshaping, and imagining the potential of what is yet to be. This capacity is what, for me, makes the PNWP community such a special place. It is a place where making a new life isn’t just possible; it actually happens.

Ellen Keck Stauder


Ellen’s photographs are available for purchase and can be printed in a variety of sizes. Please contact her for more information:     (503) 292-1049


Therapeutic Pilates Aids Post-surgical Breast Cancer Movement

by Melanie Byford-Young on August 27, 2014

In my years working in therapy and Pilates, I have had the honor of working with many people diagnosed with breast cancer. It is one of my personal commitments and passions to be a partner to those fighting and surviving this disease — to be there on good and bad days and be a supportive, compassionate, resource.

For three years, Pacific NW Pilates hosted Pilates for Pink and raised thousands of dollars for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The studio has been a conduit for connecting our community with professionals who specialize in this field and educating people about the importance of exercise to prevent and treat breast cancer. And, as a Pilates educator and studio owner, I believe I can be a part of the solution by teaching other  movement professionals and clients about the importance of exercise for prevention, recovery, and, ultimately, survival.

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Exercise has been proven to be a critical component of treatment: it helps to boost immune function, decrease fatigue, decrease morbidity, and decreases the risk of cancer recurrence.

Breast cancer is complicated. One needs to understand the treatments for breast cancer, be able to create an appropriate exercise program when a client is going through breast reconstruction, know how to manage lymphedema and when to be concerned about osteoporosis. Movement professionals need special training to safely work with clients going through breast cancer treatment. I teach those classes at Pacific NW Pilates. Following are some of the issues we cover:

Therapeutic Pilates after Breast Cancer Surgery

Radiation changes the structure of the chest muscles and fascia; the pecs and pectoral fascia that have been irradiated will never again be as stretchy and pliable as they were before.

Breast reconstruction can be achieved with a variety of approaches. Each approach has potential side effects. A movement therapist’s major goals are to restore as much symmetry as possible, protect the shoulder and spine, and optimize the ability to breathe effectively.

Lymphedema can come on days, weeks, or years after treatment  Therapeutic Pilates instructors need to be aware of this and look for signs of it. Movement can help manage lymphedema; clients wear compression garment as required.

Osteoporosis can result from many of the medications and chemo drugs used to treat breast cancer.

Exercise has been also been proven to help with breast cancer prevention. Research shows that females who exercised four-plus hours per week during their reproductive years had a 59% decreased risk of breast cancer.

Movement and exercise should be enjoyable and a positive experience. There are many stresses when a woman or man is going through breast cancer treatment. Being able to exercise in a supportive environment with a skilled Pilates professional or other movement therapist can empower one to stay positive.

Helping someone going through treatment get up and moving a little bit every day is a gift.


Melanie Byford-Young

STOTT PILATES Master Instructor



Emily Takes Pilates Long Stretch on Reformer

by Trixie August 7, 2014

Our lovely long stretch demonstrates a long stretch Emily Keane has progressed through PNWP —from front desk to PNWP Education manager — all while mastering the progressions of STOTT PILATES exercises and attaining her certification. She’s been sunshine to work with and a joy to observe in the studio. The event of her career transition […]

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Robin Wright Shoulders 101

by Trixie August 1, 2014

 Pilates Reformer for Claire Underwood Look Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards is a terrifying personalitiy and a physical ideal. Her character’s image and power is evident in Wright’s shapely neck and strong feminine shoulders. Her dresses — all drool-worthy — showcase her extraordinary shoulders and arms. It all makes me pea-green […]

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Pilates for Runners: Foot and Gait

by Trixie July 26, 2014

The Foot — in Action PNWP Owner Melanie Byford-Young is an expert in her own right, and, like passionate trailblazers, she never stops learning. That’s one of the traits that makes her such a sought-after teacher. Melanie will be teaching a foot-and-gait workshop for PT, medical and therapeutic Pilates professionals this September in Portland, Oregon. Here, […]

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Pilates Posture: The Right Curves

by Trixie July 18, 2014

 Good posture is not a straight line habit   Pilates is known for enabling and enhancing beautiful posture. But here’s the truth: Developing good posture and movement patterns doesn’t follow a straight path. For the record, the back is meant to have lovely curves. If it took you 40 years to learn how to stand […]

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Pilates Inspired Balanchine Dance

by Trixie July 8, 2014

Imagine my delight to discover—in the middle of a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary about ballerina Tanaquil le Clerq—that the legendary choreographer George Balanchine drew upon Pilates movement in one of his ballets.   Ballerina Tanaquil le Clerq, Balanchine’s wife and muse, was stricken with polio at the height of her powers. She was only […]

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Happy Fourth of July

by Trixie July 4, 2014


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