Pacific NW Pilates blog

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.

Mel Les P4P

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 on 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 from PNWP colleague to full time Pilates instructor is bittersweet. I ran across this video of PNWP Owner Leslie Braverman directing Emily (our long, lean supermodel) in the execution of the Long Stretch on the Pilates Reformer. I hope you enjoy it. 

This short video demonstrates “Long Stretch” on the Reformer. It is a terrific exercise for abs and arms. You’ll feel it in your delts, abs, glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs. The first version is the ideal, using light weight (one spring) and perfect form. The second version demonstrates the modification that may precede a complete Long Stretch. As Leslie advises, ask your Pilates instructor to incorporate this intermediate Reformer exercise into your program.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 7.10.14 AM


Robin Wright Shoulders 101

by Trixie on 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 with envy and full of inspiration to high-tail it into my own Pilates studio! fbba556232ca9f167a96a6b77d6b9358

Striving for the Wright look makes me think of my dancing days. I get that same twinge of excitement, working to shape my body through movement. Envisioning longer, stronger, more sinewy muscles, I combine my STOTT PILATES Instructor Trainer skills and intuition to design a program.

I work full days, so I need a plan that’s simple. A workout must satisfy my will to work out and engage my mind-body focus quickly, because time is limited. I have to grab a few minutes at the beginning of the day or between client sessions.

STOTT PILATES Essential Back Rowing and Front Rowing series on the Reformer is the perfect start to my shoulders and arms workout. I check my posture in the mirror. I ask myself if my spine and shoulders are in neutral position. I find a resistance that allows me to feel the work, employ good technique and complete ten repetitions.


I struggle to quiet my mind on the first set. (There’s always something that needs my attention in the studio.) But by the third exercise, I’m fully present. The sweeping arcs and wave-like spinal motions combine strength and flexibility in a way that feels like dancing.


I focus on the integration of core, arm and back muscles. Quick mental notes remind me to stop gripping my neck — and sense the work along the line of muscle fibers. Slow down, I coach myself. I have to give value to the exercise in both directions.   If the last three of ten repetitions are challenging, I know I found my best springs.

It is simple. It is effective. 0b1ae33d743e92f208bbc9a129bf1b13

And I’m getting ready to give Claire Underwood a run for her money.

Yours faithfully,

Leslie Braverman


Pilates for Runners: Foot and Gait

by Trixie on 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, she shares a little insight into the marvelous foot. 


I am in awe of the foot. It fascinates me.

We take it for granted. Our feet sport hot heels and sleek pedicures. They run races. They carry us to our dreams.

But what stirs me is how the foot works and what it does. The foot is a rigid lever that propels forward movement, and, in a split second, unlocks to become a mobile adapter to provide our balance.


The foot dictates and responds to every action in the body. If it fails to adapt to the surface it treads below — or to the body’s motion above it — there’s a breakdown.

Understanding and improving foot mechanics is crucial for me as a Pilates Master Instructor with deep roots in physiotherapy, as it is to anyone working in rehabilitation, strength and conditioning. I am absolutely dismayed when clients arrive wearing inappropriate orthotics or shoes, following misguided advice or fads. i see issues that originate in the spine and create problematic adaption in the foot, or the reverse.

In 2009, I had a personal eye-opener. I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing tennis. What a phenomenal new set of insights that particular mishap provided! A long road to recovery illustrated my own motor strategies and compensations. At one time, I could not feel my foot when running or during quick motions.

i16_lThe Pilates Reformer was instrumental in my recovery. I found the “sleeper” exercise particularly useful, because it helped link all of the kinetic chain, reintegrating glute and calf muscles.  Though my recovery has been fantastic, I still work on balance and neuromotor integration.

“Only through truly understanding the biomechanics of the foot — and the interactions of all the joints and tissues of the body — can one truly unwind and restore healthy dynamic feet. This is what I love to teach and share.” 


In September, I will be teaching an intensive weekend of workshops to examine the foot, gait and running. At the very heart of the workshop will be observing the foot and the body in action, then linking those observations and applying practical Pilates solutions. The great beauty of the weekend will be an opportunity to learn by integrating information and practice.

I invite movement and therapeutic professionals who share my wonder and fascination to attend.


Melanie Byford-Young





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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

Happy Fourth of July

by Trixie July 4, 2014


Read the full article →

Leslie Renews Pilates Passion on PNWP’s 13th Anniversary

by Trixie June 24, 2014

On May 1, Leslie Braverman and PNWP co-owner Melanie Byford-Young celebrated 13 years in business as the Pacific Northwest’s premier center for Pilates education, certification, and client fitness. Leslie found the occasion a time to reflect on what PNWP means to her.  Anniversaries make this girl take stock. We just hit #13. At the very […]

Read the full article →

Melanie’s Pilates Adventure in Dubai – Part 2

by Trixie June 17, 2014

PNWP Owner Melanie Byford-Young was invited to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Real Pilates in Dubai to teach STOTT PILATES workshops. Before teaching in early June, she explored the desert from an oasis and toured Abu Dhabi—spectacular experiences that she shared on our blog. Here, she comments on what it was like to visit […]

Read the full article →

Every Wednesday is Father’s Day

by Trixie June 6, 2014

Pilates Strengthens Our Father and Daughter Bond    PNWP Owner Leslie Braverman has had the pleasure of introducing her father to Pilates over the past year. It has been life-altering and an education for both of them. She shares their happy story with you, and encourages all our friends and family to celebrate Father’s Day […]

Read the full article →