Corrections of Pilates

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!

A Wise Old Owl

A Wise Old Owl

A wise old owl lived in an oak

The more he saw the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

 

If you think of Pilates as exercise for your physical core, you are correct, but there are reasons to think these popular workouts might do some good for your mental core, as well.

For those who are new, Pilates is a fitness program intended to build strength and flexibility, using carefully controlled, precise movements first developed by Joseph Pilates nearly a century ago. The exercises can be performed on mats or specialized equipment, including the Reformer, a contraption that looks like a narrow bed equipped with springs, pulleys and a sliding base. Pilates first caught on with professional dancers but now is taught in gyms and studios for the masses.

 

Joseph Pilates aspired to the idea of attaining complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.  While just a few studies have looked at the mental benefits of Pilates, researchers say there are several ways it might be good for your brain and your state of mind.

1. It promotes focus and mindfulness-

It is difficult to practice Pilates with a wandering mind. In Pilates, your instructor will ask you to move one vertebra at a time, for example, and that requires attention and focus. Students are taught to notice sensations produced by each movement and to coordinate their movements and breathing. When movement, breath and attention all are in sync, that can create a meditative state

2. Pilates could strengthen your brain-

Pilates is a form of strength training, and that kind of exercise, though less studied than aerobic exercise, has been associated with positive brain changes in some research.

For example, a study of 155 women, published in 2015 in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, found that those who engaged in strength training twice a week for a year saw improvements in executive functioning and memory that lasted for at least one additional year. They also saw less brain atrophy, as measured on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, than women who engaged in balance and toning exercises. Brain shrinkage has been linked to problems with memory and thinking skills.
 

3. It could improve your posture, but also your attitude.

One goal of Pilates is to improve posture by strengthening core muscles, including those in the abdomen and back, and by making students more aware of body alignment as they move through their exercises and their daily routines.

Better posture can produce physical benefits, such as less back and shoulder pain, but it also can provide a powerful mental boost, some studies suggest. 

4. It is a chance to learn new things-

If you are new to Pilates, your brain will reap the benefits of learning new patterns of movement.  Any time you are learning something new that requires sustained effort, you are changing your brain.  

With the help of a good instructor, you should be able to keep building and modifying and changing your routine over time, benefiting body and brain. You may think you’ve mastered a move, and then your instructor will say, ‘Now let’s do it upside down and backward.’ ”
 

5. You may find you sleep better-

It has generally been proven that any kind of physical activity helps with regular sleep, but Pilates may be especially good for slumber. Those who practice Pilates report better sleep than those who do not.  Pilates may engage the body and brain in ways that help clear our head noise to let us lie down and sleep.

The modern world is full of distractions, stresses and chaos. Each one of us is looking for a personal state of peace and tranquility that would help us make sense of everything that is going on in our lives. When searching for that inner balance we usually consider popular self-improvement techniques like meditation, simplifying, affirmations etc. but we rarely consider any form of exercise as a viable tool to help us balance our lives.  

Joseph Pilates was one Wise Old Owl when he said

“A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.”

 

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!

 

Shoulders

 

Shoulders

You shoulder the burden
And shoulder the storm
Provide me your shoulder to
Protect me from harm

 

My life has been in overdrive lately and all that tension and stress has ended up in my shoulders.  I try to think about it and relax my shoulders, but I still find them creeping up to my ears and causing a pinching between my shoulder blades. 

 

  • Have you ever injured your arms and shoulders?
  • Do you carry stress and tension in your neck, upper back?
  • Do you ever notice your shoulders hiked up around your ears?

     

    It’s not surprising that so many people, including myself, experience one, or all of these shoulder issues.  To maintain our erect human posture we have two options – good core support, or overuse of our arms and shoulders to try and hold us up.  You might experience more headaches, or be prone to shoulder injuries and rotator cuff problems.  The good news, things can change quickly with the right body awareness, exercises, and improving our posture.

    First of all, we need to strengthen our core and back. It seems a little odd to focus on our muscles SOUTH of our shoulders, but the stronger our abs and back are, the more our shoulders can relax. It’s like the abs and back are a tent pole holding the shoulders up.

    We can also do some active work to pull the shoulders away from the ears. While standing with your spine in neutral, let your arms hang down by your sides. Inhale into the back ribcage and lengthen your spine. Then exhale and draw the shoulder blades gently downward towards the back of your waist. Repeat that 3-5 times.

    Good Pilates exercise techniques makes a healthy body.  If you have a weak core, chances are your shoulders like to be hiked up around your ears.  With a strong center it’s much easier to improve shoulder mechanics, reduce joint pain, and maximize your Pilates workouts.  Doing the right exercises to strengthen your abdominals and back, along with practicing your active relaxing of the shoulder blades, and you’ll be off to a great start for developing strong and healthy arms and shoulders with any and all of the exercises you do. Then we can keep that tension out of our shoulders and put them to better use for those we care about.

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.