Courtney Miller is one of our favorite pastimes. She's an international Pilates instructor and teacher trainer who has a passion for life, positivity and Pilates. In celebration of Pilates Day (May 2), we did a little Q&A with Courtney to learn more about Pilates. ToeSox (TS): You have certifications in Pilates, yoga, prenatal fitness, rehabilitation, ballet barre, suspension training, AntiGravity fitness, nutrition, and personal training. How did you discover Pilates and why did it stick? Courtney Miller (CM): I discovered Pilates because I was looking for something more than just a workout. I needed something to help me restore my body from muscle imbalances due to scoliosis and over use. I also wanted a workout that was challenging and fun. Pilates stuck because it's effective and also because the method evolves with you so you'll never get board or plateau. Your mind and body are always pushed to new limits in a good way during a Pilates session. TS: What sets Pilates aside from other fitness modalities? CM: Pilates is a whole body movement-based system. It's "smart" exercise that works sequential movement patterns to make you more efficient on a neuromuscular level in everyday life. Pilates is truly an exercise that can be adapted to any body, any age, any physical condition. It enhances everything in life you love to do. Whether you run, surf, ski, or garden - Pilates eliminates pain, restores balance and improves strength and endurance allowing to do what you love more frequently and with more zest! TS: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Pilates? CM: I've learned when to control and when to just move. The first decade of my Pilates practice was mainly focused on control, concentration and precision - essential Pilates principles that I absolutely needed to learn. The last five years I've become more comfortable with dynamic movement. This has allowed me to better understand flow, tempo, and whole body integration. TS: What’s your favorite Pilates exercise and why? CM: I love spinal extension and hip opening exercises! Semi-circle, High Bridge and Breaststroke on the Reformer are among the few my body is currently loving. I also adore a booty work, but who doesn't! :-) TS: What’s still the hardest exercise for you? CM: Teasers still make my muscles shake! (we feel the same way) TS: What do you tell new students? CS: Be compassionate with yourself! You are learning a whole new language when learning Pilates. Consistency is important especially in the beginning as you are learning the foundations. Don't give up. Pilates will change your life! If all else fails... just breath! TS: What’s in your Pilates bag right now? CM: My 'Pilates Bag' is actually my daily purse. It's a giant tote for keys, lip glass and debit cards to become forever lost. You'll find these 3 Pilates essentials in it at all times: ToeSox Bellas (I usually have two or more pairs floating around in there), GoMacro raw-vegan-non GMO protein bars for before or after class, and I'm obsessed with my peppermint rosemary essential oil spray to freshen up and energize post workout. TS: Sometimes in Pilates class we hear instructors using cryptic verbal alignment cues that make us scratch our heads, "huh?". Can you help decode a few of them for us? CM: Three come to mind: 1.) "Close your ribcage" - most people have no idea that the ribs actually move. They do, and they are an attachment point for many important abdominal muscles. Your ribs also connect to your spine and their position will have a huge effect on your posture. Abdominals and posture... Pretty important stuff! If you're having trouble feeling this, try putting your hands onto your ribcage and cough. Can you feel them moving? Good! Now try to recreate this movement during an exhale and you'll start to better understand ribcage connect. 2.) "Activate your shoulder girdle" - Huh? I have a girdle on my shoulders. No, not reaaalllly but it's the image we want you to have when stabilizing your shoulder blades onto your ribcage to help eliminate neck tension and promote stability of the torso. Your arms are an extension of your torso and need to move from a place of strength. 3.) "Breath East to West" - correct Pilates breathing is deep, lateral and posterior versus shallow and into the chest. Throughout your Pilates class, your breath should be traveling into the lower lobes of the lungs and your ribcage should expand horizontally. Place your hands around the wider part of your ribs and take a deep breath in. Feel how your ribs press out into your hands? Ta-da! East to West breathing! -- Thanks Courtney for the fun Q&A sesh! We learned a lot and are ready for our next class. If you have more questions for our girl Courtney, visit her on Instagram @pilatescourtney and get inspired!