A good pilates instructor should know how to work with a wide range of bodies, big and small, short and tall, injured and pain-free.

When I first tried pilates, I didn’t expect to feel like I was going to suffocate.

I was lying on my back on an athletic mat, surrounded by other students on their own mats, listening to the teacher’s cues.

“Put your legs in tabletop,” she said. I made a “tabletop” with my legs, imagining that I was balancing a banquet on my shins.

“Interlace your hands behind your head, and use your abdominal muscles to lift yourself into a curl.”

I have a big belly. I was, by far, the fattest person in the class. And, in this crunched-up position…


Cloyne Court co-op. Photo: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.

Long walks and Counting Crows songs opened a door to a secret Berkeley not many people knew.

When I arrived at U.C. Berkeley as a sociology student in 1994, my heart was newly broken.

I’d just been dumped after eight intense, magical months of a friendship so passionate it had turned sexual. I was leaving home for the first time, leaving my terminally ill mother and the sanctuary of my teenage bedroom in rural Northern California. I felt like a raw nerve.

My new home was the Cloyne Court Hotel, one of the biggest houses in Cal’s student-run co-op housing system. It’s a wood-shingled, three-story building that takes up most of a city block in the hills…


Castle Snider, 8, looks on as flames engulf the hillsides behind his backyard in Monrovia, CA, as the Bobcat Fire burns on September 15, 2020. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Stop saying the world is ending. It’s not over yet, and we can still fight climate change.

Around 4 a.m. on October 9, 2017, my family was awoken by someone frantically ringing our doorbell. I begged my partner not to answer the door. In my sleepy and panicked state, I imagined it would be the prelude to a home-invasion robbery.

He did answer the door. I heard muffled voices, smelled smoke, heard the wind whipping outside. It was his mom and stepdad and their two dogs, who’d evacuated from the swift-moving Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa in the middle of the night.

As they settled in with us in San Francisco, I turned to Twitter and the…


A veil of resinous incense enveloped me as I walked through the narrow, wooden doors of the St. Pancras Old Church in London. The small, stone-walled church stands atop a small hill not far from the St. Pancras hospital and railway station, and climbing up the slope and through its doors that cold January night felt like a kind of pilgrimage. But I wasn’t here for a religious service, at least not the traditional Christian sort. I was here to see one of my favorite musicians, Patrick Wolf.

Slowly the church filled with fans, a mixture of women and gay…


Teachers, social workers stretched too thin to support complex students — or stop bullying

(Content warning: discussions of OCD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and self-harm)

For many years, I worked as a full-time reporter covering cities and towns across the Bay Area. During those years, public schools were a regular part of my reporting. Between 1998 and 2009, I wrote often about Bay Area K-12 schools: funding, performance, pioneering programs and campuses, teacher pay and unions, and the struggle between public schools, charter schools and private schools. I saw how the long-term effects of California’s Prop. …


Listeners can make up their own minds about whether they’d like to support Rope Sect going forward. After everything I’ve learned, I won’t be.

(Content warning: references to neo-Nazis and white supremacy, and images of nooses.)

I fell hard for Rope Sect’s hooky, gloom-soaked melodies the first time I heard them, at the end of 2017. At the time, the Berlin band had released just a handful of songs, barely enough to make up a half hours’ worth of music, but I listened to it daily for months.

So I was incredibly excited to learn that Rope Sect is releasing its first full-length record, The Great Flood, in August. …


Nobody asked for your advice.

Photo by Rawan Wasser. Creative commons.

There’s a joke in the chronic-illness world: You mention a problem you’re having, whether it’s back pain, a clogged sink, or fake calls from the IRS. Someone responds, “But have you tried yoga?”

It comes from our experiences on social media in particular. When we talk about what it’s like to be in our tired, achy, unpredictable bodies, or just how we’re doing on a given day, we’re barraged with unsolicited advice. The most popular recommendation always seems to be yoga, though turmeric, homeopathy, restrictive diets and other notions come up a lot, too.

Don’t…


Sheila Chandra.

A look at how recording artists make room for altered states, even rituals, in their compositions

Author’s note: I originally wrote this article in the early 2000s for a pagan magazine called Crescent. At the time, I used the term “shaman” throughout the piece, a term which is appropriative. I know better know, and apologize for my ignorance. In this version, I have changed the language to refer to “mystics” instead.

This piece (along with its companion, which I published last week) also appears in my essay collection, Read the Music: Essays on Sound. You can buy a copy here or ebook here.

There’s a line in [your song ‘The Real’] that says, ‘I have opened…


Photo courtesy the Museum of Pop Culture.

Author’s note: I originally wrote this article in the early 2000s for a pagan magazine called Crescent. At the time, I used the term “shaman” throughout the piece, a term which is appropriative. I know better know, and apologize for my ignorance. In this version, I have changed the language to refer to “mystics” instead, with one exception.

This piece also appears in my essay collection, Read the Music: Essays on Sound. You can buy a copy here or ebook here.

Seattle’s Experience Music Project* opened in the year 2000, a majestic building that is part music museum and part…


How my mom’s family passed trauma down, generation to generation

I was about eight when the kids at school figured out I was an easy target. During recess, a cluster of classmates would corner me under the maple trees on the edge of the blacktop and tease me about my red hair. They could have teased me about anything; I would have cried, regardless. But once I began to cry, they would tease me for that. “Your eyes are leaking!” one would cackle, pointing as the others laughed. …

Beth Winegarner

Journalist, editor, author, opinionator. Bylines: Guardian, New Yorker, Vice, Mother Jones, Wired. Much more at www.bethwinegarner.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store