Create Your Life by Design Workshop with Katie Vason


Photo by Anthony Collins

Ontological coaching is the study of being- the idea that who you are being can change everything. It is a methodology for creating effective change for individuals, teams and organizations. Rooted in the idea that clarity around purpose, intention and awareness of one’s being is the catalyst for lasting change, that who you are being is more important then the all the doing we often find ourselves in. 

When I decided to take on Accomplishment coaching’s year long training program, I knew I wanted to access more tools in order to support people in creating effective change in their lives but I was also knew I craved a personal kind of transformation that would enable me to tap in to my full potential, both personally and professionally. Deep down, I knew I wanted a change, one that would support me in accessing all that I have to give.  I was a little hesitant, uncertain and skeptical but the idea of possibility far outweighed any skepticism or fear.  I needed to take a chance. 

And boy I am glad I did! Through working with my own coach over the past year while going through the program, I have experienced tremendous growth in moving forward- not only was I able to graduate from a rigorous training program, but I also found my voice, created a coaching business, rekindled my passion for environmental issues and through my own coach’s support, was able to successfully enroll an entire organization in changing their water bottle policy by switching to more sustainable options. This change all started from looking at who I was being, who I wanted to be and my bottom line commitments. 

Much like working one on one sessions with a Pilates instructor or personal trainer where the instructor has an outsiders perspective, working with a coach is about working towards goals, creating breakthroughs that lead to more possibility and incite that might not be as accessible on one’s own. A coach serves as an accountability partner in supporting the client’s bigger vision. 

I love working with clients one on one in this way- it is an honor to support them in creating a life that reflects what they truly want. Sound like something you might be interested in? Come check out the workshop on November 7th! Here is a testimonial from an amazing client:

“Katie Vason has served as an inspiration to me since the moment we met. Her enthusiasm for life, her welcoming and warm heart, and her passionate drive towards her ambitions become contagious in her presence. 

While I've known Katie for a number of years now, I have worked with her specifically as a life coach for three months. In that time, she has filled my life with gentle but fervent encouragement, questions that continually provoke further thought and investigation, and support in the face of challenge and much change. I so look forward to our weekly sessions, as I know that I will walk away feeling more centered, grounded, and energized and prepared to work towards the change I seek in my life. She meets my requests with thoughtfulness and always ensures that I leave our session feeling empowered.

I am so grateful for her diligence in our work together, her kindness and accessibility as she listens and offers her support, and to have someone I can confide my dreams in and gain help from in the makings of those dreams. Katie is an incredible coach, and I'm sure she will only continue in her growth in this field, benefitting herself and others along the way.” - LB

Surfs Up!

Why take a surfing workshop?

  • Because at Pilates Garage we do a lot of balance work in our classes and it is a fun new way to explore balance and how it relates to your core strength.
  • Because our backs are tight and rolled forward in our work and/orhobbies and surfing really works to open up the chest, strengthen the shoulders and the back so you can paddle your board out and catch a wave.
  • Because core stability in relation to your limbs is needed to paddle out and then stand up on the board and we all need to work on that.
  • Because endurance is neededto paddle out and catch waves and we could all use some more endurance.

Surfing entered my life when a friend took me down to the jersey shore for my 40th birthday. I did not stand higher then my knees but I did catch some waves and the awesomeness of being in sync with the power of the ocean was pretty incredible.

We went to Costa Rica for surf camp. The highlight was that I caught and rode a 6 foot wave and I came home with a surf board. 

A couple years later, a regular client who knew I had been surfing asked me to train her for surf camp. We had about 4 months. It was a lot of Pilates work in surf type positions. She went to camp and was the only one still standing after the first lesson. The only one without aches and pains the whole week. Yes she worked hard and we had a blast. I did a Surfs Up workshop after that and we had tons of fun. Only one person was actually a surfer in that group.

Think of this workshop as a fun way to explore and play with balance and discover how your core can aid in stability.

Even if you don't plan to catch a real ocean wave, come catch a roller wave in Surf's Up.

Surfers of all ages... 60, 70 and 80.... Not everyone has to do crazy huge waves... Gentle waves are awesome!

Read the story on the health benefits of surfing in the Surfing Handbook blog.

What's Up?

So much depends on who you are asking! But in the Pilates Garage lately there has been a lot of refinement of what the direction Up means to the body. In our combined knowledge of Pilates, Alexander and from Caroline Feig, our PT and Feldenkreis practitioner, Up means awareness of the body in multiple dimensions and movements.
One thing is clear:  Up doesn't pull you down.

Here are three experiments you can play with at home or in the studio:

1. Standing on the floor. Notice if your pelvis is dropped or weighted down on your legs. Ask your legs not to pull down on your pelvis. You could also ask your pelvis to float on your legs.

2. From standing, lift up your heels or releve up onto your toes or the balls of your feet.
(You can place one hand on a wall for balance) How did you come up? Did your pelvis push forward first? What is it to come straight up rather than hanging forward in your lower back or hips? What needs to shift for you to go straight up?

3. Lie prone on the floor. Tuck one set of toes under. Begin to straighten that knee using your low quad muscles just above the knee. Notice if you stay balanced in the pelvis as you straighten or if your pelvis drops and presses down as you extend the knee. What would it be like if the knee extension gave a support up into the hip and all the way up through the top of the spine?

We look forward to exploring all about "Up" in the upcoming workshop.

Workshop: WHAT'S UP? Monday June 6 at 7.30PM

Owner of studio Margi Douglas and senior teacher Theresa Squire will co-teach a 1.5 hour workshop using mats and equipment to help clients explore finding more buoyancy, ease and support from the ground up. Participants will be learning through movement so come prepared to work out and get lighter.

Read this story on "Two exercises to improve health of our feet - most overlooked part of human body" in South China Morning Post which has inspired a part of our What's Up workshop.


“Core and Cardio” Workshop with Gabe

Gabriel, is not only a personal trainer but he is also an actor with an MFA from Columbia University and a founding member of Magis Theatre Company. Gabriel incorporates his physical theatrical training into his fitness training. And that combination makes his approach completely creative and unique. His approach is not a quick fix or a fad but scientifically based for long-term sustainability.

Gabriel believes in an inclusive, unpretentious, straight-forward approach that addresses topics thoroughly in detail yet is easy to understand and employ. 

Fitness & Fun are not mutually exclusive and with discipline, dedication and unrelenting determination your goals are limitless. Feeling Fit and Fabulous go together hence Gabriel's creation - PHOENIX FAB FITNESS - Be re-born and join the Fun so you can be Fab for Life.  To learn more about Gabe visit his Facebook page.

Come Join us on May 2nd at 7.30pm at the Pilates Garage for a 90-minute “Core and Cardio” Workshop with Gabe. 

The cost is $35. You can sign up through your Mindbody account. Hit the Enrollment tab to pay and reserve your spot.

Core and Cardio (C&C) will focus on building a firm foundation of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip-Complex (your core) that compliments cardiovascular activity.  C&C utilizes the "Kinetic Chain Check Points" in proper alignment and technique, resulting in optimal functional movement for all fitness levels.  The Kinetic Chain is the integration of the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems for bodily movement. 

C&C will go through a series of exercises from the rudimentary to the complex that will create a strong core for high levels of endurance. C&C will conclude with a "circuit" (a series of exercises in rapid succession) illustrating how to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine.

Be ready to move and have tons of fun as all of Gabriel's workshops conclude with a fitness-cardio dance party!

Fitness and fun are one :-)

Gabriel Portuondo 

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) - Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist , NASM Certified Integrated Flexibility Training, Fitness Instructor CKO Kickboxing

Follow his Facebook page, Phoenix Fab Fitness

How Pilates and Alexander Support Performers

Margi in the “The Millay Sisters”

Margi in the “The Millay Sisters”

Six years ago I met an incredible Alexander teacher who asked me what I thought an extremely personal question: "Do you consider yourself a sensual person?" It took a while to unpack that question, to realize that she was getting at "thinking vs sensing" moment to moment both in life and on stage. And that conversation opened up a whole new way of being in my body that changed me as a performer, and as a teacher of Pilates forever.

Some people in the world of acting and voice training have a very negative view of strength training and core training specifically. That is because so often fitness instructors encourage a kind of “brace here, hold here, now move” technique that makes their client very strong but also a little bound down and unable to breathe or speak freely. There is what we call in the Alexander world a lot of “end-gaining” in the name of fitness that lacks an element of awareness and taking care of the whole self. 

The idea that one could be grounded, strong and available without holding tension is one that is not so understood by many people and not so easy to teach either.

After three years of graduate school as an actor and my early experience with teaching Pilates, I began to realize that actors needed a core, but they needed a free one and for that matter so did just about everyone I know. That quest for a mobile core, along with an injury to my ribs in a rehearsal room, led me to the brilliant Chloe Wing where I studied the Alexander technique, and also to the Kane School where I worked with a number of very smart movers and Pilates teachers.

As I write this, I am getting ready for a performance of a two person show that is a cabaret, theatrical event, and play all rolled into one. It's a show I started writing and working on while I was training with Chloe and I feel she is still with me, still guiding me as we remount it years later at the Gowanus Loft: "The Millay Sisters." Chloe passed away two years ago but I know she is still listening. 

In this show, I play the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, an extremely intelligent but also sensual writer, a Pulitzer Prize winner in the 1920’s.  To have a sensual intelligence, to sense what the body is doing and to allow sound and expression to flow out through very precise poetic language and musical numbers is a challenge. It’s not so different though from the challenge of doing a knee fold without clenching the jaw or stiffening in the neck. It is about awareness: awareness of a habit, inhibiting that habit, and then directing into something that frees you. Make a choice to do something different, something that opens and radiates, rather than something that closes and drops away.

I would not be able to do the work in this show or to connect to the wholeness of teaching and training without this connection I found to the body via Alexander, and not only Alexander but the intersection of Alexander with the activity of Pilates. These two methods in some ways seem to be odds, but when given a chance to dialogue can bear fruit.

I spent this weekend teaching and taking sessions at a conference for actors and Alexander teachers from all over the country. The conference called “Freedom to Act” happens annually. I was given the opportunity to teach along with one of my colleagues from Magis Theatre Company, a training and actor-based company in New York City. We taught a class at the conference called “Awakening Your Text.” Its theme was balance: balance in movement, balance in the room, balance and core on a squishy ball, and balancing on your bones.” Oddly enough, finding balance is a very global way of freeing the body, voice and imagination. Here is what one of the young actors had to say at the end of the class: “I did this monologue from Walt Whitman in my Voice and Speech class and even then I got stuck doing the same thing but here it was just like there were words that popped up that I hadn't thought were as important as they were now, and then there were images that popped up in places and it freed me up in a completely different way than I had when I was at school. Even the squishy ball. I just loved the squishy ball! We talk a lot about freeing the body and opening ourselves up...and just rolling the pelvis around on the ball and doing the clock...that alone just freed me up. I have a lot of tension in my chest and even that is open and available."

I think that sums it up.

We all want to feel free, open and strong both as performers and people. Getting there is a creative process and different for all. For me, this combination of Alexander, Pilates and performance has helped me get a closer connection to the golden thread of radiant energy.

An Interview with Jonathan Janis, dancer and somatic coach, and Margi Douglas

MARGI: What have been your strongest influences as a mover and a teacher and what excites you about them?


  1. partner dance with a teacher who opened the doors to the psychosomatic connection
  2. ideokinesis/ biomechanics - the ability to change the body with imagery
  3. qi gong - I’ll tell a brief story of my qi gong teacher.  He has combined Jungian archetypal imagery with traditional qi gong movements, in order to form new movements that were expressions of his inner psyche.  In this way, I saw the possibility of everything my earlier study had pointed towards -- the ability to work in the inner worlds using movement, and the ability to allow movement to be infused with the processes of the inner self (which I consider to be the fount of all true art).

These things still excite and drive me today, because they represent the utter dissolution of the mind/ body distinction.  They point to the fact that movement is emotional/ psychological, and psychology is physical/ developmental, and spirituality -- who knows?.  It leaves us with immense freedom to create ourselves in areas that previous generations have considered entirely static.  It points towards the existence of a self that could become anything we dream of.  It is radical in the most fundamental conceptions of ourselves and communities, and I find it to be in alignment with teachings of spirituality and the dissolution of Newtonian physics in the past century.  To possess our physical bodies in this way seems to represent the next great leap forward in human thinking.

MARGI: So combining all three it is really an inside to outside approach, would you agree? What do you find helps your students most to open up to movement on this level?

JONATHAN: No I wouldn’t agree... although I sometimes use that paradigm to explain.  To call something inner and outer is to remain in a body/mind paradigm, and is to say that I start with the mind, whereas others start with the body.  Everyone is always working with all the levels -- that is precisely what Pilates and Alexander technique do as well.  I am just calling more attention to the theory behind it all.  

It so happens that the class I’ve prepared for Pilates Garage is for Pilates-based movements, so I will be offering outer movements, and inner imagery.  However, I also have a private practice called Embody the Question, as well as a corporate consulting business helping management communicate more effectively.  I can assure you that not all my clients want to start on a mat!  With some people, you might say that I have an outside --> in approach, with others all outside, with others all inside.  Once again, it ultimately doesn’t matter what we do.  It’s about about how you engender change in a vastly mysterious human system.  What I strive to be is a “people whisperer,” always asking the questions that are relevant to elicit deeper experience.

I find the key to helping people open up lies in cultivating curiosity, ease, and always referring to actual experience.  If experience isn’t improving, I’m not satisfied.  I refer to children and their pre-socialized learning process all the time. Children are the most open, moldable, and curious people on the planet.  They are also largely the most rational: everything they do is based on what works, without theoretical or social pre-conception.  Until just recently, neurology claimed this was because the brain was somehow more plastic at that age, however the past decade of research has shown that we retain the ability to change at all times.  I don’t think the neurological studies have gone far enough yet, because I see that children have plastic minds, precisely BECAUSE they do things easily, effortlessly, and with joy and exploration.  This is why I’m currently collaborating on an embodiment workshop for children AND their parents in a Montessori school.  We will offer the children tools they can use to grow, but we will learn from the children HOW to best apply those tools.  A child isn’t scared to try something different, but they also won’t go along with something that doesn’t work.  That’s what I encourage in my clients - to take responsibility for their own experience!

I always start with what a client wants to change.  For some it is lack of harmony in a marriage, for others low back pain, and for others higher levels of embodiment in pelvic function.  Whatever the case, by de-emphasizing the “problem,” as a stuck entity and regaining curiosity, we can transform the “problem” into a guide, pointing us to a better future experience.