Lori Coleman-Brown catches up with Shawna Butterworth, a 2018 graduate of the Atlas Pilates Teacher Training Program to learn more about her experiences and hear about what she’s up to now.
What brought you to Pilates?
I was in my fifth year as a mechanical drafter/machine designer. My body was feeling neglected from long hours spent on computers and worn down due to extreme stress. While looking for a book on how to add strengthening activity to my life, I found one on Pilates. I haven’t looked back. I collected books and DVDs. I started taking mat classes and eventually private lessons with Katie Kahumoku (formerly Rucker). I was hooked.
What made you want to become a Pilates teacher?
In 2016 I was ready for a new challenge. I chose to leave my mechanical design career of 15 years. I’ve always been interested in how things work and how to most efficiently get there. I also wanted my new direction to help people. I had grown to love Pilates. It allowed me to apply my mechanical knowledge to the human body. Becoming a Pilates instructor seemed like the logical next step. With a little nudge from Katie, I took the leap and I am glad I did.
Why did you choose Atlas Pilates Teacher Training program?
One life lesson I’ve learned is that when you want to be good at something, you need to seek out people who are great at it. Life led me to Katie. Katie pointed me to Atlas Pilates.
What is one of your takeaways from training?
We all have strengths and weaknesses but we may not be able to see them in our own bodies. It’s necessary to seek out people who can not only see them but help us function better by finding a balance. The systems of exercises designed by Joseph Pilates have many tools available to identify issues and mend them.
Teaching Pilates keeps me active, engaged, and problem solving. I can put everything I’ve got into the hour-long session.
Why do you like teaching Pilates now?
Teaching Pilates keeps me active, engaged, and problem solving. I can put everything I’ve got into the hour-long session. The client and I know why we’re there and we singularly focus on the task. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s dramatic, but the benefits are real and they extend past the studio doors. I find that fulfilling.
What Pilates exercise, concept or principle currently holds your attention and why?
The principle of precision in relation to the alignment of a moving body. I focus on fine tuning this in a way that enables more connections to occur through the body while in motion. I especially like to apply this in exercises where the energy rolls through the whole body. Examples of this would be the roll up on the mat, roll back (or push through) on the Cadillac, or the push down (or pull up) on the Wunda Chair.
Why do you think people should do Pilates?
Simply put, to feel the best they can in their bodies and get more enjoyment out of their lives. Pilates can help them to deepen the understanding of their body’s capability and condition it to maintain maximum function. By properly moving they can achieve not only an optimal range of movement but also a more sustainable set of movements. This can enable them to fight back against the aging process and maintain a fuller life with more independence than they would have had without the Pilates method.
Is there a particular exercise that has profoundly changed your body?
Strengthening my upper legs including the glutes, abductors and adductors has had a transformative effect on my ability to stabilize my center. Like most people who have sat in front of a computer for long hours for years on end, this area had kind of gone to sleep and my body had created inefficient workaround patterns that caused issues in my hips.
The heavy springs on the Electric Chair and leg springs on the Cadillac have been the most useful tools. While all of the exercises associated with these tools have helped mold my body, pumping on the Electric Chair and single leg circles (with one leg spring) on the Cadillac have been most beneficial. Performing both, with a watchful eye on the pelvis and low back, allows me to correct for any instability. These exercises gave me the ability to stabilize my pelvis and engage through the back of my legs/seat.
What is your weekly workout routine?
I typically practice Pilates about four times a week. Three of these are usually self-workouts at home or at The Workshop. I also like to slip exercises in throughout the day between housework. I have been taking weekly lessons from Brooke Oberg at Le Bureau when she’s available. I have experimented with taking a couple of web-based lessons, but I definitely prefer in-studio time.
In addition, I walk a couple of miles daily. Our house is about a mile from the ferry, up a very steep hill, so it’s a bit of a hike and a good workout.
What are you doing now?
I work at The Workshop in Edmonds WA. I’ve been teaching there for over two years and get to work with clients five days a week. I am deeply satisfied by the stories they tell me about how the Pilates work has benefitted their lives. During the down time created by the COVID pandemic, I designed and made some Pilates related seed bead jewelry.
How can people contact you?
Call us at The Workshop. If we’re busy with clients, we may not answer. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you.
Now some fun questions!
What’s your favorite food?
Anything with hatch green chilies
What do you do to unwind?
Create and design beaded jewelry, do Pilates, and spend time on the beach.
What are 3 words that describe you?
Creative, detail oriented, determined
If you were an animal, what would you be?
Sea otter. You can often find them at the ocean shore. They’re quiet but perform a vital role in the world. Though most people think of them lounging on the surface of a kelp bed, they are surprisingly active when out of sight.