Renata with Peter (STUDIO ORIGIN client and Doctor of Physical Therapy) after an intense peak conditioning Pilates workout at STUDIO ORIGIN customized Pilates in Newberg Oregon.


Here’s How to NOT Succeed:

Do it alone. 

(Mic drop.)


Research shows a common missing piece to meeting fitness and wellness goals is trying without support, and to that I’ll add ORGANIZED Support. Both men and women need mental & emotional support (yeah, I just said that) for lasting change. Now, if you’re reading this while fighting off a wave of nausea at the mere thought of touchy-feely emotional hug-a-thons, relax! What I am suggesting (read: begging you to consider) is that organized support is efficient and highly effective at supplementing your best efforts, and getting you where you want to go. (Hugging it out not required.)


Rule #1: Your People = Your Safety Net. 

Creating Organized Support:

Engage your “people” like a human resource director. Who would consistently exercise with you? Who would send you reminder texts to encourage good choices? Who has the right style to give you constructive feedback when you need it?  Your “people” can be strangers, friends, family... regardless, be clear what their roles are. Ask them to check-in if you’ve not reached out to them with those scheduled updates. (Updates need to be specific on what’s happening, not just “I’m doing good...”)

One clever client hit every goal by posting to his facebook private page his daily progress. His “people” all agreed to respond to those posts, and to give him a friendly-but-firm nudge if he didn’t post. He lost 100lbs, and 6 years later it’s still off.


Rule #2: What You Schedule = What Matters

Translation: Schedule your wellness activities, from cardio and Pilates (shameless plug intended) to grocery shopping/meal planning, time to update your support “people”... everything.

I know, it sounds so ridged and restrictive, and in the words of Cher (cue Moonstruck) “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

Literally create a schedule to check-in with people you trust. Update them on your follow-thru as well as your struggles in working toward your goals. When we tell others the truth, it reaches our own ears much more effectively too. 


Rule #3: The Goose/Gander Principle. 

If you are doing the cooking for the family, it will not help you if they expect you to keep making things for them that aren’t healthy for you (or likely them either) so agree to have communal foods that optimize everyone’s health. 


Rule # 4: Toddler = Yoda. Little people can be your “people” too... Re-learn what you once knew when you were very young. Movement is fun. Put on some music and get moving. Does a 2 year old care if he looks foolish dancing? Neither should you. Really. Do housework or cooking while busting out a few moves... be willing to be young again.


Rule #5: Every single day, Move... keep moving, and invite into your life people who will uplift your life.

A great thing about being an adult is getting to choose our “people” - whether we find them online, in a community support group, at the coffee shop, or sitting at the same kitchen table each morning. We get to choose who we trust with our deeply felt goals for wellness and joy... and we get to take responsibility for those choices. 




Choose Renewal

Aren't we all SO ready for it? Here's the thing about renewal:

Just saying you want it will get you Bupkis! Waiting for it to fall in your lap? Nope.

Moving past the inertia and fear we've all faced requires us to do something we hardly could imagine this past year+:

Create forward motion, with commitment and focus toward goals and dreams we didn't dare focus on because we were all just trying to survive. It's time...


After such a long period of holding still, it's natural to feel a little rusty, to doubt if you have the strength and energy to go big, and for sure, to feel out of balance in life. Flexibility, Strength, Balance: we can loose them all too easily in modern life. The good news is, we can also gain them back, or even find them for the first time. Pilates invites us to challenge old patterns (of moving and thinking) and to build strength, balance, and flexibility that is adaptive.


In this, the practice of Pilates is a great metaphor for life in general. I tell clients every week, we have to get out of our heads and feel our way. Yes, think things thru, but once you commit to move forward,

  • work with the reality of the moment (energy, power, stress, health conditions all can vary through the day)
  • get in touch with the Origin of your core
  • breathe deeply
  • and focus on the movement, being in the moment , your body and brain feel more alive

It takes a bit of courage, to learn to trust your innate ability for renewal. I've never seen this more clearly than in this past 1.5 years teaching exclusively virtual sessions and classes. A courageous client with an especially challenging knee surgery, who faced her pain with what it takes to get on the other side, another with chronic hip pain, still others facing boldly the emotional and physical rigidity that our COVID world fostered, and so many other examples... how grateful I am to have the privilege to be a small part of their renewals... and on a personal note, how grateful I am for so many who continued to support my studio thru this challenging time. 


STUDIO ORIGIN is in forward motion too, with new tools to uplift each of you with renewed strength, flexibility, and balance for a better now, and a better future.


There's still time to make 2021 amazing! Take a moment - how about right now?

You remember how... "Exhale to prepare your core... now Inhale to reach further..."



In movement there is joy 

Through effort there is grace

Laughter is healing

Return to Life  ~renew



Posture Basics for Women: B is for Bed!

Text in a box that reads: Author’s Note: why isn’t there a photo here? Every photo of crummy bedding/sleep positions were so horrible… (imagine the worst - or maybe your own?) I couldn’t bring myself to post them! Does your Sleep Posture need a tune-up?"

Posture Basics: B is for Bed

How much time do you spend in yours?

How many hours per day do you spend in your car? Your lounge chair? Your desk? Now, compare: how many hours do you spend in your bed? 


People spend a great deal of time with doctor Google finding just the right desk chair... and the lounge chair to watch a movie at home... and yet, setting up the bed for optimal comfort and body-care is often of less concern. Even if the mattress gets a little attention when buying one, is it maintained well? That said, there is a BIGGER problem lurking in the bedroom: the pillow. 


Over the years, I've heard it all. Side-sleeping pillows, body pillows, and the worst of the bunch: the stomach sleeper's pillow. There is nothing revolutionary about this blog post. You know this yourself, you've heard it before, haven't you? You should be supported when lying down in the VERY BEST healthy posture you would have if you were standing up. Somewhere along the line, you've met your enabler. That sales person who convinced you that your perfect dreamy pillow can and will allow you to sleep guilt-free in perfectly great posture on your stomach, or your side... I'm not even going there with the body pillow emotional support pillows.


Okay, I will go there. By all means, hug that body pillow. Whisper into its soft folds. Make yourself happy - no judgment here. But unless you're pregnant, I'm not buying that your most healthy sleep position is possible with that giant marshmallow of a pillow. 


If you doubt me (and of course you do, because you will try every argument in the world to avoid letting go of what is familiar - we are creatures of habit) so I recommend the following test:

  1. Get someone to snap a few picks of you sleeping with your old pillow in your typical position. Make sure the camera is level with your body in general. 
  2. Now tilt that picture to the 12 o'clock vertical upright position
  3. Is what you see the image of an excellent standing posture? 
    Are ears equally away from shoulders? Are the hips level?How are the shoulders?
  4. If you were photographed lying on your stomach, I'm good with that IF:
    you generally go thru your day looking to the far right (or L) all day long

I know what you're going to say next. (Yes, I'm psychic.) I know because I've heard it dozens of times: "I can't sleep on my back because I don't fall asleep." Or, maybe you tried it once, and without the proper neck (not head as much as neck) low back, and knee support. Maybe you have foot and ankle complications, or sciatic concerns. In truth, there isn't a one-size fits all to sleeping position, but I can tell you that in 20 or so years, I've seldom met anyone who can't improve their sleep posture. If you are that exception and the photos of your sleeping position are optimal, then you are a rock star! Post them!


If your photos were a real eye-opener for you about how bad your sleeping position is for you (and by eye-opener I mean to include the countless moments you aren't sleeping soundly as you flail about in an attempt to get comfortable) then I applaud you for getting out of denial. By all means, enjoy those old cuddly funky positions for a few moments when you wake up in the morning, or for a few before turning off the light... but don't make the choice to put your body to rest for the night that way! You can do this. Yes you can.


If you need help in learning how to make it all the way thru the night in fabulously restorative good posture, then you know where to find me. At first, you'll likely hate me. Maybe even more than for the bra fitting or even the Birkenstock posts. I get hate email - usually about 2AM when clients can't sleep because they "just can't sleep on their backs or other positions w/props we identify for them..." but then like magic, one morning they awake in the exact same position they went to sleep in! They stretch a bit... roll over to some crazy hitched hip stomach-sleep position for a moment of nostalgia, and then they get on with their day. Oddly, they find they can better turn their head when backing out of their driveway that morning. Huh.


Posture basics for women #2: Birkenstock is the new black!

Yes, Birkenstock. Lest you don't think I understand the deeply satisfying relationship between a woman and her shoe collection, take a look at this photo, taken by my husband the physical therapist, who planned on using this as a "don't do this" example for his patients - he's a funny man. 


Read More

The 3 B's of Posture for Women: #1: Wear the right bra

White bra on a black background.

08. February 2014

The 3 B's of Posture for Women: #1: Wear the right bra



Why don't the majority of women wear bras that fit? Why are they surprised when I point out to them it is a big part of their poor posture and causing them pain? Why?! Oprah did shows about it. Tim Gunn begged us to get out of denial and go get fitted. We laugh when we see these calls to action by style icons to clueless make-over examples, and yet, we think it doesn't apply to us. In fairness, there is also a very good reason some of us don't go:


(Cue the theme score from Jaws)

Encountering the faux fitter.

I'll confess I've been fresh road kill from just such an encounter myself. This young gal (impersonating a professional fitter) insisted when I inquired that she was a "professionally trained fitter" and what can I say? I was weak from hours of shopping and thus began my dreadful, cautionary tale. At the apex of my story arc was the moment I stood there in the dressing room with her, having just taken off the bra she thought was "awesome" but I didn't and as I handed it back to her, she threw her hand up in the air as she burst out with a loud and enthusiastic "GIVE ME FIVE GIRL"! You know, it's tough to look indignant while topless in a small dressing room with a cheerleading faux bra fitter, but I think I pulled it off.


Clients are often surprised when we first meet that I might suggest (read: beg) to them to go and get a proper bra fitting. It's a predictable story arc: first they deny the need, insisting that their breasts really are supported in that very sad, downward-pointing, ever mobile state. Note: I can usually get two fists between their back and the strap without even trying. 


Often, there's the "yeah but" excuse: Why does it matter so much if you aren't "busty" to begin with?

Sure, if you are petite in the bust, and only go braless now and then (or wear bras with such little support you might as well not wear one), maybe that's fine, but you do know that whatever tissue you do have is moving around as you move, and yanking on ligaments and muscles all the way up your neck, for starters. You might not love bras, but your aging ligaments do. Nuff said.

Go to anywhere that sells breast prosthesis for women who've had a mastectomy. Pick one up that is in your natural breast size and be prepared to have your jaw drop. Breast tissue is heavy! (Those prosthetic breast forms are weighted to replicate the weight of a natural breast - and that's a good thing because post-mastectomy, not wearing something that keeps the left and right sides of your chest evenly "weighted" means your spine will tend to shift in compensation over time.) Now picture that weight not being well supported. I know, again with the begging here.


As a Pilates instructor who is rehab certified, I can tell you that many women are unaware of how they unconsciously shift their posture to try and balance that breast tissue weight that isn't being well supported by a good bra. Trying to get them to stop doing that is pointless (pun not intended) unless they get some support to offset the weight. 


With sufficient education in how this is impacting their posture and general health (again with the begging), they usually agree to go see a professional fitter, if for no other reason than to prove me wrong. Then they return to me with that new bra and without one exception over the years, the new bra is SHOCKINGLY more comfortable and a very different size than the woman was used to wearing. Not a little different - oh no, more typically along the lines of "I've been wearing a 34B and thought it was perfect but I am actually a 30D" and that isn't even the most extreme example I could give. In general, women tend to assume their back/rib size is much larger than it really is, and their cup size smaller than it really is. I'm sure that says something about society and body image messages, but I digress.


Maybe you too have bad experiences with faux bra fitters. If I've learned anything since my close encounter with the cheerleader, it was to ask the following:

Where and when did you receive your training? Are you a bra manufacturer rep or an employee of the store? Lastly, to trust one's instincts for a different kind of fit - personality fit. Do they seem like someone with whom you might have good rapport? If not, don't get half naked in a tiny room with them. The right fitter will become your new best friend, wow you with how at ease they make you feel, listen to your needs, and be creative in solutions that make you like the way you look and feel.


You know what I most often hear after women go and get a new bra that fits right? "This has changed my life." I'm not kidding, women are just wowed by how much better they feel, on many levels, even if they didn't realize they didn't feel so good before going! Face it, this is an emotional subject for many women.


What are my top tips for bras that help posture and reduce shoulder, back, and neck pain? General guidelines:

  1. Avoid halter or racer-back styles that have straps cut up high on the top of the shoulder by the neck base - they promote muscle tension there.
  2. Getting a size that is too big in the back just to avoid the dreaded "back-fat look" is not necessary. Snug bras can be found that are not only comfortable, but contour in the back so as to smooth out tissue not give you a bumpy back. 
  3. Ask about gel or other types of shoulder strap pads if you are fuller-figured to reduce pressure at the shoulders - and do NOT take up much of the weight of your breast tissue by the shoulder straps. Ever see women with deep indents on top of the shoulders? It's good to avoid that.
  4. Insist on a style that is not only supportive but makes you feel beautiful too. Life is too short for lingerie that doesn't make us feel great, emotionally and physically! Great choices are out there in all price ranges, so get a top-quality fitting and shop around once you've learned what a proper fit really is for you.

Armed with knowledge, now go forth and bravely locate your fitter dream-date, and get on with it. Think of it like a shopping makeover for your posture, because it usually is. 

Now that this is out of the way, let's exercise.




Business card information footer that reads: Renata Marsal, Comprehensive Rehabilitative Pilates Certification. Bespoke Pilates, by appointment. Located in Newberg, Oregon. 503-550-0804