Pilates In Mayland

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.

 

Jack fell down and broke his crown

…Jack fell down and broke his crown….

 

So what about our “crown”? Do we actually work it out? Well, no, but in Pilates, we are very concerned with the placement of our head and the strength of the vertebrae that lead up to it. How many hours a day do YOU spend hunched over reading texts and emails? I know I can spend several hours some days.

 

We joke about having texting thumb problems or trigger finger issues from using a mouse, but an actual serious condition these days is text neck syndrome which is caused by looking down at a screen.  When the head is brought forward and the neck bends, the weight on the cervical spine increases. Just a 15 degree forward angle adds 27 pounds to the spine!  Over time, adopting this posture, we places stress on the back of the neck leading to premature wear and tear.  We can joke about how “text neck” sounds like a silly ailment, but the effects of having it are not silly. It causes headaches, spasms down the arms and back, and even spinal disc compression. Not to mention that it isn’t attractive!  In this society, we are going to use our phones, tablets, and computers, so we can’t eliminate the problem completely, but we CAN do all we can to keep our cervical spine healthy. 

 

It reminds me a little of being frozen in a “walk like an Egyptian” move. When we look at ourselves head-on, we might not notice how far forward our head sticks out in front of our shoulders.  Ask your Pilates instructor to look at your posture the next time you go in and come up with a plan to correct damage that is done by screen use. 

 

In the meantime, try holding a neutral spine by keeping your shoulders relaxed and your ears in line with your shoulders. I do this while I’m driving. It’s a great time to stay alert and hold my head in proper alignment.  Also, remember to take breaks when you participate in screen time. Slowly rotate your head back and forth, and up and down; Drop tension from your shoulders.  When you get to the Pilates studio, all the exercises that work your scapula, especially the long box arm series will help pull those shoulders back along with your cervical spine and your “crown” will be right where it belongs!

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”!

 

 

 

This Little Piggy Cried All the Way Home!

“Ah, don’t look at my feet!” 

“I’m getting a pedicure later today!”

“I’m not taking off my socks and subjecting you to looking at my feet!”

These are phrases heard all throughout a Pilates studio.  This is because Pilates is done with all those little piggies uncovered. They need to wrap around the footbar, hold firm during an up stretch, and grip the platform extender for side splits. We need to keep our feet strong and flexible as much as any part of our body.  The ankle and foot are made to move in a great variety of angles to provide stability and dexterity so we can get ourselves over all sorts of terrain from hard rocky ground to pliable soft sand. 

  • Wearing flip flops mess with your posture because your foot doesn’t bend the way it does when it is bare.
  • Wearing high heels can lead to painful muscle fatigue and strain already formed injuries in hips and knees.  They also alter our posture and gait.

If we don’t get out of our shoes, the small muscles that keep us balanced and steady in our feet will be at risk for atrophy from disuse.  If the smaller muscles are too weak to support your foot and ankle, your body reacts by increasing tension where it can, which is in your bigger muscles further up your leg in your ankle and calf.   

My favorite Pilates Reformer moves for the feet include Running, Stomach Massage, and Develope. The next time your do them in a class, focus on fully moving through the plantar flexion and dorsiflexion. 

If you MUST cover your feet, try some toe-less, heel-less options as shown in the photo, or at least have socks with some good grip on the bottom. But always be prepared to bare-all for certain moves so that you stay safe. 

So, let’s take off our shoes and socks with gusto! Let’s not apologize for the condition of our feet! We are making them strong to take us where we want to go so we DON’T cry all the way home!  

 

We Huff and Puff and Blow the House Down

Don’t be afraid to PUFF it out and make noise in a Pilates class

It all starts with Pilates breathing...

I used to take breathing for granted.  I mean, breathe in, and then let the air out. It’s not a big deal. I’ve been doing it since birth. I like to think I had it mastered.  Then I took a Pilates class where my instructor kept telling me, not only WHEN to breathe, but HOW to breathe. 

There are two main ways in which people breathe….into the top of the chest, which signifies being tense and prone to anxiety.  When one breathes into the intercostal muscles rather than through the rib cage, not enough oxygen is getting pulled throughout the body. 

The opposite is deep belly breathing which has been proven to cause relaxing of the body.  The only problem with that is that it isn’t super helpful when you are exercising and NOT trying to relax.  Also, some people find themselves getting light-headed if they belly breathe for too long.

When you take a Pilates class, breathing is the first concept that is taught. Breathe in through the nose and feel your lungs expand up and out to the sides of your ribcage.  Fill up your lungs so much that you even feel pressure in the upper back.  Then press your air out through pursed lips like you are blowing out a candle.  I bet you are doing that right now. Did you feel your abs contract as you pressed the air out? If you didn’t, push more air out this time. Like you are getting to the very last candle on a cake, but you can’t take another breath in or everyone will say you cheated. Here is a way to test your breathing.  Put your thumbs on the bottom of ribs and your pointer finger on the top of your hip bone.  When you are blowing all the air out, the space between your rib and hip bone should get about an inch or so smaller. You can also think about also sinking your belly button inward while doing a small Kegel squeeze.   

If you do this breathing long enough, you will actually get an ab workout.  I find myself practicing my Pilates breathing when I’m running.  I practice when I’m driving.  Then I find myself doing it when I revert back to my shallow breathing and need some help relaxing some of the tension out of my shoulders. 

This form of Pilates breathing is making you aware of your core, and that’s what we all want to work on, right?  We have a goal to plank for hours!  What I have found is that when I exhale at the right time during a Pilates move, my muscles work together in the right way.  Contracting my muscles while I execute a strong exhale through the abs helps me to control the movement. It keeps my form, my posture, and my spine in perfect alignment. I feel stronger when I use my breath to help my movement. It is a feeling of being complete within yourself.  

So, don’t discount that breathing in your next Pilates class. Think of forcing that air out and make some noise. I will be huffing and puffing alongside you.