Breathing

Pilates Potatoes


One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes - four 
Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes - more 
Eight potatoes, nine potatoes, ten potatoes - all

Sometimes we can get a little discouraged with the parts of our body that do not seem to improve in Pilates as fast as we would like. For me, it is my lower back.  It's difficult, but crucial, to constantly pull your belly button to your spine to activate your deep abdominal muscles throughout the exercise. Sometimes I forget to concentrate on this which causes some soreness after a class. 

The strain in my lumbar spine, or small of my back, could possibly be caused by tight hamstrings or I could be overextending my lower back by forcing my legs to straighten. Weak ab muscles and tight hip flexors could also be the culprit.  If I stay consistent in modifying the exercises below, my lower back actually feels strengthen and unstrained after a Pilates workout.  

1.      Keep the spine neutral- (using the natural curvature of the spine) is the only place where the muscles can work safely and effectively to support the spine in all movements.

In neutral spine, we work the transverse abdominis, this muscle spans from the front of your belly to the connective tissue on each side of your spine. This is quite often an overlooked muscle, and it’s generally weak. It’s also difficult to access properly unless you are working with an experienced instructor who will know how to cue for proper muscle activation. You can continually connect with those muscles as you focus on the exhale of breath through each movement.

 

2.      Be careful with Roll-up movements- motion that moves from laying flat to sitting up.

This Pilates motion can cause lower back pains and injuries when done repetitively and with tight hip flexors and weak core muscles.  By jerking yourself up repetitively to try to accomplish this exercise, you can really damage your back over time.

 

Use a mini ball at your lower back to help support the spine as you roll into it only half way down, or, use a stretch band looped around the feet to give yourself a little bit of tension to go up and down easily.  Make sure to keep your arms long and not pull yourself up with your arms, but use the rolling action of the spine and deep abdominals.

3.      Laying on Stomach movements- like swimmers, “Superman” pose, laying on long box on stomach

While doing these exercises, only lift gently and maybe even just one leg and arm at a time, making sure to draw the abdominals up off the mat.  These movements, lifting the arms and legs too high, can cause the back to hyperextend and cause excessive disc compression.  Also, keeping the neck alignment in neutral will keep strain off the lumbar spine.

 

4.      Teaser movements- advanced movement requiring you to come up into a V - sit movement.  

If you don't have strong and developed transverse abdominal muscles then you will not be able to properly execute this advanced movement. You will strain the lower back when rising up into the V-sit with your legs straight.

 

When the class does this move, instead, bend your legs grabbing under your thighs as you gently rock yourself forward and then up into a balanced position.

As your hamstrings and hips loosen up and your abs become stronger all these Pilates moves above will start to feel easier. Easier on your back that is; Pilates is always going to be a killer on your abs, which is why we love it so. Also be careful to work within your range of motion when doing the exercises and only straighten and/or lower the legs if the low back can remain glued to the mat or carriage.  

Don’t be discouraged if you have lower back pain or strain, but DO let your Pilates instructor be aware so they can help make adjustments and cue moves to help strengthen your core and loosen your hamstrings. 

Five Potato, Six Potato, Seven Potato More Pilates

Leads to

Eight Potato, Nine Potato, Ten Potato ALL Pilates moves!

One, Two, Buckle My shoe

One, Two, Buckle My shoe

Three, Four, Shut the door

Five, Six, Pick up sticks

Seven, Eight, Don’t be late

Nine, Ten, Do it over again!

There are two questions I tend to get asked by new Pilates clients…

1)  How many classes a week do I need to take to FEEL a difference?

2)  How long until I SEE a difference?

If you have looked up some basic information about Pilates you might have seen a quote by Joseph Pilates himself….

“In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference. In 20 sessions, you’ll see the difference. In 30 sessions, others will see the difference.”  

Joseph was emphatic about being consistent. Regular practice can do more than just tone and lean out one’s body. It begins in those initial Pilates workouts. 

First 10 sessions:You will develop a greater awareness of your body. Your posture begins to improve, which elongates your silhouette, your breath will become more focused and you might start to alleviate muscle soreness and back pain.  With continued practice, you will see increased muscle tone and definition, and will feel different in the way you move in everyday activities. 

Second 10 sessions:  You will definitely feel stronger and maybe even see some physical differences in your shape. However, if your goal is to lose weight, you need to take into consideration that diet is about 70-80% responsible for weight loss and physical physique. Meaning, no matter how much Pilates you do, if you aren’t mindful of your diet, weight loss might elude you.  That being said, if your diet is well-balanced, I would expect 3–4 sessions of dedicated practice weekly to follow Pilates’ rule of thumb about when you’ll see results. Give it a couple of weeks, and you’ll really start to feel consistently better (usually that “feel better” feeling occurs immediately after a session…after a few sessions, you’ll see those feel good moments will start to stick). If you do other activities, you might even start to see the effects of Pilates seep through there (better golf score, hitting the volleyball harder, running faster, deeper Yoga practice). And if you have special conditions or chronic aches and pains, you might reap the benefits of Pilates there first.

Third 10 sessions:How often you practice Pilates also contributes to how fast you see and feel a change in your body, as well as the intensity of your workouts. When you focus on form and breath, challenge yourself with each session, and integrate the six principles of Pilates each time you exercise, you’ll see changes faster than if you approach it with less intensity and take lots of breaks. What I hear most from Pilates clients is that if they take a break from Pilates classes, THAT is when they feel how much Pilates had been doing for them. The old pre-Pilates complaints of back pain, loss of balance, weakness all come back.  Whether or not someone sees physical differences in you, they will most certainly see a difference in your attitude and confidence in your body and the way it moves. 

Therefore, there is no need to “count” how many sessions you have done. The results are conclusive that no matter how many or how often, YOU will feel better, move better, and look better when you practice Pilates!

 

THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN

THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN….

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

 

WHILE IT SEEMS THAT WOMEN dominate in Pilates classes, reformer workouts hold plenty of benefits for men who rise to the challenge. So, let me reach out to you men out there.

Whether you're a powerlifter or prepping for your first marathon, a Pilates class can help fine-tune your performance. The truth is Pilates was created by a man, Joseph Pilates, -- for men! Pilates offers a great workout, regardless of your gender. Plenty of pro athletes, including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Tiger Woods, incorporate Pilates into their fitness regimen.

Why? Exercises are made up of subtle, concentrated movements that can help you do the following:

1. Develop often neglected muscle groups. Some of your muscles, like those that dominate your daily movements, are stronger than others, and a big part of Pilates is focusing on those muscles that don't typically get a lot of attention. In Pilates, you consciously move in certain ways to build muscles that you don't hit while lifting.

2. Improve flexibility. In general, the more muscle mass you have, the less flexible you are. But Pilates' focus on stretching helps prevent injuries and muscle strains, and increases range of motion.

3. Build core strength. Every Pilates exercise focuses on using your core to power movement in your limbs. Pilates also hits your transverse abdominals, the base ab muscle under your six-pack.

4. Live with more awareness. Pilates forces you to pay attention—you've got to focus on your breath while working through each movement and concentrating on proper form. After a Pilates session, you'll feel refreshed and relaxed, which can even carry over into the next day if you're lucky.

The first couple of times you try Pilates, you might feel stiff and a little out of place, but don’t give up!  Flexibility and coordination will improve with practice. And you will be focused so much on controlling your breathing, keeping your balance, and maintaining a straight spine, you won’t have time to worry about anything else. 

Pilates is multi-layered, which is what keeps it interesting for people, even after years of practice. You’ll learn the basics of each movement first, breaking them down as much as needed, then adding things in to deepen the experience or simply add more challenge.

So, don’t think of Pilates as “FOR GIRLS ONLY.” We would love to see you there!

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,

To see a fine lady upon a white horse;

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,

And she shall have music wherever she goes!

I imagine this lady on a horse sitting all proper and perfect…she must also do Pilates!

What if you went to a Pilates class and your instructor didn’t bat an eye or utter a word when your ribs popped off the carriage and your shoulders were up by your ears? Pilates is meant to correct our habits that pull our body out of alignment. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t go. Pilates offers us something that we can’t get anywhere else. Specificity and deep muscle engagement. 

When you begin taking Pilates, you are, most likely, given some individual instruction. Partly it is so that you are familiar with the equipment, but more importantly, it is so that you have the correct form, movement quality and muscle engagement. Pilates instructors will cue, adjust, describe, and take the time to really explain the movement. 

I can understand the feeling of impatience and wanting to get on with the session, but without corrections you could get away with disengaged muscles the whole class, AND with improper form you could be training faulty movement patterns that may injure you in the long run. 

For these reasons and many others, a teacher’s corrections are simply an indication that they have your best interest at heart. Corrections are about you becoming the best you can be, not about being nit-picky.

Why are the corrections to your form so important?

  • Corrections could mean the difference between engaged muscles and disengaged muscles. While I’m teaching a class, I will say, “You should be feeling this in your hamstrings,” or “thighs” or “abs” and there is someone in the class who will say, “I’m not feeling it there.” Sometimes that just means the tension isn’t correct for that client, but USUALLY it is because there needs to be an adjustment to their form.  In the beginning, it takes a lot of thinking and a lot of cueing to get those muscles to engage.
  • Corrections protect you from injury and train your body to protect itself. You are training your body how to work in the healthiest, most supportive alignment possible. By increasing strength in vulnerable areas, you’re protecting yourself against injuries that may result from unusual demands on your body. The stronger your body and the better your alignment the lower your risk of injury.
  • Corrections train the brain-body connection and improve body awareness.  Our culture and our activities often separate the brain from the body, under-emphasizing the importance of engaging both simultaneously. Pilates re-engages that brain-body connection.   Think of corrections you may receive as exercise in and of itself.  You’re exercising your brain and your body awareness to understand and implement them in a split second.

At BlisPilates there are instructors who truly care and are going to be your biggest supporters when things get tough. They will always challenge you to be better; to be a fine lady with great balance and form, and you will have music wherever you go.

 

ABCD's

A, B, C, D, E, F, G....

....Next time won't you sing with me?!

When I was in training to become a Stott Pilates instructor, I made friends with an amazing girl named Tina.  She had been taking Pilates on the Reformer for a few years as a client 

and had decided to take the instructor training, so that she could exercise more efficiently and with more understanding.  I was so suprised! She wasn't spending all this time and money so that she could teach....she just wanted to be able to understand what it was that she was actually doing in her Pilates class. She wanted to know WHY we focus on breathing and WHY we stabilize the spine, and she even wanted to know all the names of all the muscles we were contracting and enlongating.  So, we quickly became study buddies and learned the ABC's of Pilates together.  I found it very inspirational to study with her. I developed a love for knowledge with her. It WAS fascinating to learn how to engage certain muscles, how to create a class that balanced out the body, and especially, how to work with those that had injuries or concerns with their health.  

Knowing the theory of Pilates helped me to recognize details and patterns for my own workout, in my own body.  I approached the classes I took from other instructors with so much more

appreciation for the control and the challenge that Pilates brings.  Even in a non-Pilates workout, I found myself applying the knowledge of core strength, breathing, stability in the joints, etc. In Pilates, your muscles are working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs or bands, with the ultimate goal of strengthening and isolating the right muscles. Our goal should be to take our time with the exercises, focus on the task at hand, and connect to our breath. We don't want to speed past the details and try to execute the maneuvers too quickly. 

I knew what I was learning as an instructor was valuable. I know how special it is to me, and I simply want everyone else to learn it and see the value in it too. Growing from client to student to teacher, I realize, of course, that not everyone picks up on the same aspects of anything, but I try as an instructor now to pass this information on to my clients.  I hope they retain the connection they learn in Pilates and apply it to their non-Pilates activities. I am forever grateful to all the instructors I have had the opportunity to learn from. They are my inspiration for continual learning and singing the praises of Pilates!

2abcd.png

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick, Jack  jumped over the Candlestick.

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick

Jack  jumped over the Candlestick

 

Well, maybe in Pilates we don’t have to worry about being as quick as Captain Jack escaping authorities or about jumping over a fire, but we DO think a lot about how nimble we are.  When we are nimble, we are quick and light in action; we are quick-witted and alert. Pilates brings a mind/body connection that puts us in that frame of mind.

Joseph Pilates said “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.”

Pilates is where we learn to control each movement of our bodies. When we practice a short spine move on the reformer, we don’t let the tension of the springs fling us onto our shoulders. We focus on our exhale as we lengthen our imprint, squeeze our gluts, and inch our vertebrae open to lift up onto our scapula where we use our core to balance and lengthen down our spine. 

When I first came into Pilates, I was disappointed that I wasn’t sweating, that I wasn’t winded, and that possibly, I wasn’t even “really exercising”, but within the first few weeks, I began to understand the Pilates terminology, the idea of working from your center. I became more powerful and flexible than ever before.

The next time you are in a Pilates class follow the advice of Joseph Pilates. ConcentrateConcentrate on the breathing, concentrate on the contraction, concentrate on lengthening each muscle, concentrate on holding the joints in place, concentrate on each muscle individually. The more we are able to connect the mind to the body and do the exercise correctly, the less likely you are to feel as if you aren’t “exercising” like I did in the beginning. It is now impossible for me to make it through a Pilates class without sweating, without becoming winded, and, I definitely cannot say I didn’t “exercise”!