Why Do Pilates and Why Choose Body Perfect Pilates?
I have been teaching Pilates for 17 years and although it has grown in popularity enormously, I still meet people who are still unfamiliar with the technique. So what is it?
Pilates is a technique created by the late, great Joseph Pilates. A man considered ahead of his time because of his creation of exercises and apparatus.
In Pilates you are working from your core (the centre of your body) for every exercise. Think of your pelvis as the centre of your body. Your feet are your foundations and your legs are your pillars. Your centre is where all the action happens. If your centre, for whatever reason, is not working as well as it could it will affect the remainder of your body. This can lead to compensatory patterns, your body can become misaligned and you can experience pain and/or stiffness. The cause of this can be a range of things for example, being too sedentary so parts of your body don’t get enough use, suffering a trauma from an accident/operation/injury or overuse or poor technique from a particular activity.
Pilates can be categorised as fitness, you are ‘working out’ but also as post rehabilitation. Very importantly Pilates Instructors do not treat or diagnose. Your GP, physio, osteopath, chiropractor, sports therapist do this and once you have had your treatment and have been advised to do so, you can start Pilates. Pilates can act as a preventative from injuries reappearing again.
So what do we do? We closely observe your movements, prescribe you exercises to improve your strength and flexibility and teach you to move efficiently. Through this you will gain greater body awareness, greater body length and control and an improved posture and body confidence. You will work hard but in a safe and controlled manner.
You can come to sessions on your own or in a small group and every time you visit you will perform exercises catered to you and your needs.
Start this year thinking about yourself and your body….for more details on sessions please get in touch.
A New Year Ahead….
I love the start of a new year, it makes me stop and think about achievements, goals or aspirations I’d like to strive for, for the year ahead. These don’t have to be within the realms of fitness, although for me they mostly are simply because I like to move. They can also be things I want to do or places I want to visit or even jobs I need complete! I like to look forward and get excited about events in the calendar as well as needing a reminder to fit things in so by having my list or lists as they often are, I feel that I start the year full – not jam-packed but just enough so there is hope that the next 12 months are going to be simply great!
Channelling My Inner Calm
People that know me are aware of my life outside of Pilates…the mountains. What started during an ultra marathon as a mere passing phrase that for my next challenge I would like to walk the 3 Peaks, has turned the past five years into munro and fell bagging, kit building, wild camping, motor home buying and regular reading, planning and ticking off the next walk. It’s not an obsession but a pure joy of absorbing myself in nature and spending hour after hour drinking in views which only those that take the time and effort can enjoy. I don’t have what I consider to be a stressful occupation however I relish the peace and quiet of spending hours hardly speaking to a soul.
The part of mother nature which has tested me on many an occasion is the weather. I am a fair weathered soul so wind, rain, hail and snow can be quite testing, although become the norm when over 800m high! However a summers day, up high on a mountain with a picnic lunch and a pair of binoculars to gaze down on the world below is pure heaven.
October half term’s ritual is now spent in Scotland doing just this. I apologise to my clients in advance if this week I have more of a spring to my step and I may seem to be challenging you more. But I am full of energy having channelled my inner calm!
Why You Need Better Ankle Mobility
Unless you’ve ever suffered an ankle injury, you probably haven’t given much thought to how your ankles move. What you might not realize is that nearly all lower body movements — including walking, squatting and deadlifting — require ankle mobility.
Furthermore, stiff ankles can contribute to pain and injury in the knees, hips and lower back, because limited ankle mobility often results in compensation and compression in the joints above it.
I’m going to discuss how to identify and address ankle mobility issues, but before we go there, it helps to know a little more about the anatomy of this area.
Anatomy of the Lower Leg and Primary Movements of the Ankle
In its simplest definition, the ankle is a hinge joint where the foot and lower leg meet. It is comprised of the lower part of the tibia and fibula, which are the two bones in the lower leg, and a bone in the foot called the talus.
The muscles of the lower leg travel across the ankle and connect into the foot, allowing for the ankle to move when they contract.
The primary actions of the ankle are plantar flexion and dorsiflexion. Plantar flexion occurs when pointing the foot down like a ballerina. Dorsiflexion occurs when flexing the foot up, as if you were pulling your toes towards your nose. Range of motion is up to 50 degrees for plantar flexion, and up to 20 degrees for dorsiflexion.
The muscles located primarily on the back of the lower leg, which are sometimes collectively referred to as the calf, are responsible for plantar flexion. They include the gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris, flexor hallucis longus, flexor digitorum longus, tibialis posterior, peroneus longus and peroneus brevis.
The muscles located towards the front of the lower leg are the ones responsible for dorsiflexion and consist of the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, and peroneus tertius.
It is also worth noting that the muscles of the lower leg also play a role in inversion and eversion, although these movements don’t occur in the ankle joint itself. Inversion is more commonly explained as the foot and ankle rolling out, whereas eversion is the opposite, with the foot and ankle rolling in. When ankle mobility is an issue, the ability to control or move through inversion or eversion also needs to be considered.
Causes of Limited Ankle Mobility
I described plantar and dorsiflexion as pointing and flexing the foot, but when we talk about functional ankle mobility, we are usually referring to how the ankle moves when the foot is connected to or pushing off the ground.
For example, plantar flexion occurs when you roll onto your toes during a calf raise. Conversely, dorsiflexion happens when you lower your heels during the downward motion (the eccentric portion) of a calf raise or when you lower into a squat. Additionally, your ankle goes through plantar and dorsiflexion every time you take a step.
Ankle mobility can be limited in one or both directions. While you want to have good movement in both directions, limitations in dorsiflexion are usually the initial concern, because of its correlation with ankle and knee injuries.
In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, researchers tested passive range of motion in dorsiflexion on 35 healthy individuals and then analyzed their knee displacement and forces through the joints after jumping off a box. They found that those who had greater dorsiflexion experienced less impact through their joints upon landing, suggesting a correlation between ankle mobility and the risk of injury .
Limited ankle mobility can be caused by a number of factors including genetics and restriction in the soft tissues or bones, which should only be assessed by a medical professional.
However, for many of us, ankle mobility issues stem mainly from how we use our bodies day to day. Wearing heeled shoes and primarily walking on flat, level surfaces can reduce ankle mobility particularly in dorsiflexion, because we aren’t moving our ankles through their full range of motion, which in turn creates shortness in the calf muscles.
Additionally, weakness in the muscles of the lower leg can limit ankle mobility, because it is believed that the nervous systems creates, as a form of protection, a feeling of tightness around joints that it perceives unstable .
How to Assess Ankle Mobility
To get a clinical assessment of your ankle — which is out of the scope of a fitness professional — you’ll need to consult a medical professional. However, the weight bearing lunge has been found to be a reliable way to measure dorsiflexion and in turn give you some information about the differences between your two sides as well as potential limitations that can require further investigation .
To perform the weight bearing lunge, come to a kneeling position facing a wall, with your shoes off. Bring the leg that you’re testing forward with the foot parallel, keeping your big toe 3 to 5 inches away from the wall, depending on your height.
From there, shift your weight forward as you try to touch your knee cap to the wall, while keeping your heel connected to the ground. You also want to be mindful that your foot doesn’t roll excessively in or turn out, both of which are ways that the body might use to compensate for limited dorsiflexion. If you can’t get your knee to the wall without compensation, then your dorsiflexion is probably restricted on that side.
It is also worth noting that tight hip flexors can create the illusion of limited dorsiflexion in this test, because the back leg can stop you from leaning forward. If you feel the limitation coming primarily from the back leg, perform the same test in a standing position with the tested foot propped on a chair in front of you.
Other Signs of Limited Ankle Mobility
There are additional signs, during movement, which suggest limited ankle mobility:
Feet that simultaneously turn out and roll in (“duck feet”) when walking or squatting are often a sign of limited dorsiflexion, as they allow ankle movement while circumventing dorsiflexion, which would happen in a more neutral foot position.
Heels that lift off the ground somewhat early during a squat can also indicate limited dorsiflexion.
Heels that splay apart while the weight shifts to the outside of the feet (towards the baby toes) at the top of a calf raise can signal limited mobility in plantar flexion.
While none of these indicators are a reason to panic, they are worth addressing. Good ankle mobility promotes better strength training technique, more power when lifting and running, and a decreased risk of pain and injury, especially as you get older.
How to Improve Ankle Mobility
There are several ways to address ankle mobility, depending on the underlying cause of the restriction.
Structural limitations including bony or more severe soft tissue restrictions may require hands-on treatment from a physical therapist or massage therapist. It is recommended that you consult a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment if you suspect an injury or are experiencing pain or swelling.
If your limitations are minor and you don’t feel pain, then gentle stretching, foam rolling, mobility and strength exercises targeting the lower leg can be used to help yourself or your clients improve ankle mobility and control.
If you are performing these exercises as part of a warm-up, you may want to favor foam rolling over static stretching, as the latter has been correlated with a decrease in force and power if performed prior to the activity.
Researchers from Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada compared the effects of static calf stretching and self-massaging the calf muscles with a roller on ankle mobility. They found that while both methods improved range of motion in the ankle up to 10 minutes after the intervention was performed, self-massage with a roller led to significantly greater force production relative to static stretching .
From an application perspective, this suggests that you could use foam rolling as a way to temporarily increase ankle range of motion and then use ankle mobility and strength exercises to train the body to use that new range of motion during movement.
AUG, 30 NIKKI NAAB-LEVY INJURY PREVENTION
Chun-Man Fong, J. Troy Blackburn, Marc F. Norcross, Melanie McGrath, and Darin A. Padua (2011) Ankle-Dorsiflexion Range of Motion and Landing Biomechanics. Journal of Athletic Training: Jan/Feb 2011, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp. 5-10.
Janice M. Moreside and Stuart McGill (2012) Hip Joint Range of Motion Improvements Using Three Different Interventions, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Vol. Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 1265-1273
Kim Bennell, Richard Talbot, Henry Wajswelner, Wassana Techovanich, David Kelly, and AJ Hall (1998) Intra-rater and inter-rater reliability of a weight-bearing lunge measure of ankle dorsiflexion, Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, Vol. 44, No 3, pp. 175-180
Israel Halperin, Saied Jalal Aboodarda, Duane C. Button, Lars L. Andersen, and David G. Behm (2014) Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: 2014 Feb; 9(1): 92–102.
College Student Paralyzed During MIT Freshman Orientation Defies Odds Through Pilates: I Was ‘Blown Away’
College Student Paralyzed During MIT Freshman Orientation Defies Odds Through Pilates: I Was ‘Blown Away’
BY KRISTEN KELLY
POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 AT 3:22PM EDT
In August 2013, all-star swimmer Theo St. Francis was preparing to study mechanical engineering at MIT. One late summer afternoon, the 18-year-old was testing submersible robots in the Boston Harbor with his freshman pre-orientation group when his life took a tragic turn.
“After lunch we were swimming in a designated swimming area and as I was entering the water from the beach — in about thigh-deep water — I dove forward and I hit something,” St. Francis tells PEOPLE. “I don’t know exactly what — could have been the bottom — but I immediately lost consciousness. When I came to, I realized I was floating face down in the water, unable to move or feel anything below my shoulders.”
The nationally-ranked swimmer credits his skills in the water for saving his life. “I immediately knew that I had to get air and I think if it weren’t for the fact that I could breathe out of the side of my mouth from my swimming technique, I don’t know if I would have been able to.”
Theo was able to take sips of air out of the side of his mouth until waves washed him ashore where a lifeguard spotted him. He received emergency spinal fusion surgery in Boston with his family by his side.
“I still remember when [my family] entered the room and I saw the look on their faces — I knew something was really wrong,” he says.
Theo had broken his C6 vertebrae and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He spent the next three months in the hospital before being transferred to inpatient rehab, where the doctor’s gave him a bleak prognosis.
“They warned me that I had an incomplete injury, meaning I could probably get some function back — but it certainly wouldn’t be enough to walk again — and I would probably need help for the rest of my life.”
As his peers began their freshman year of college, Theo began a rehab program to regain mobility at Spaulding Rehab Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“I was blessed to be at one of the most amazing spinal cord injury rehab hospitals in the country, if not the world, but in terms of the encouragement for continued recovery, there just isn’t an understanding of just how much farther someone can take their own healing,” he explains. “So, the process for me has been a lot of being able to recognize and discover those new ways that I was not shown in the beginning.”
One of the treatment methods Theo has found dramatically improved his condition is Pilates.
Theo says he was “blown away” when a trainer (who was once paralyzed herself) showed him a method of reconnecting the body through Pilates that worked for her.
“The medical system only really knows about [regaining mobility through] the preserved neural pathways,” he says. “They say, ‘Yeah, you’ll get some function back because you didn’t completely severe your spinal cord.’ But there isn’t an understanding in the medical system of just how complex the communication within the body is — and it’s that communication that the Pilates based approach has been able to help me with — to find new ways of connecting that I wouldn’t have ever gotten in a traditional medical treatment context.”
It has been just over two years since he was introduced to Pilates, and Theo has regained enough function to live independently, travel independently and stand and support himself on his own. He has even improved enough to ski, bike and return to his favorite place — the water. The now 22-year-old has already swam across Lake Tahoe on a relay team and is planning to swim the length of the Golden Gate Bridge in the future.
However, despite his advances, Theo says the traditional medical system doesn’t account for his progress.
“I was recently at a center where I was trying the exoskeleton and the physical therapist there did an exam on me,” he shares. “I was like, ‘This is kind of interesting, I haven’t had one of these since I was in the hospital, and that was a few years ago, we’ll just see what it’s like,’ and I kid you not, on that physical therapy exam, I hadn’t changed at all.
“The way that test measures function and strength and connection completely misses all of the progress I’ve made, which has been the progress that has enabled me to do all of these things I was told I would never do.”
The gap Theo sees in traditional spinal cord injury rehab has inspired him, along with his longtime trainer and now partner, Stephanie Behrendt, to launch Zebrafish Neuro, a redesigned approach to spinal cord injury rehab aimed at helping others recover from similar injuries. The two have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help in developing the second edition of their movement manual and hope to soon be able to share their work not only with Pilates teachers, but neuro-exercise therapists in specialty gyms around the world.
“With spinal cord injury rehab, there just is no protocol, there’s no guide book,”” he says. “The project that we’ve been working on is to make that guidebook, not because we have all the answers, but because there are things we know do work.”
Theo plans to continue spreading awareness about Pilates treatment in spinal cord injury when he returns to MIT this fall. Despite his setbacks, he holds an unwavering positive outlook on life and is more determined than ever.
“One of the things I’ve learned from this process is how to recognize that a process is unfolding and that what I know now is not an indicator of the way things will always be,” he says. “In the beginning, there was no way for me to know that I would get to the places I have – to find Pilates, to become independent in the way that I have.
“If I just let that lack of awareness exist and prevent me from pursuing things that I really wanted to, then I wouldn’t have ended up here. Being open to letting the process unfold and discovering what each step has to hold is, I think, one of the most critical things as we go about life.”
Three Surprising Ways Pilates Can Improve Your Life
Founder of Bare Pilates, wellness blogger and lover of sandy beaches, coffee and green smoothies. Bare strength is beautiful!
Unless you’ve been asleep for the past 10 years, you’ve likely heard that Pilates has become the go-to exercise for athletes, dancers and celebrities looking to strengthen and tone their bodies.
What you may not know is that this trendy fitness regime was originally developed by Joseph Pilates as a rehabilitation programme for wounded, bedridden army troops during World War I. You may also not be aware that Pilates, although fantastic at toning those troublesome spots, also offers many not so obvious life-enhancing benefits.
Here are some of my favourite (not so conventional) benefits of Pilates:
1. Pilates can stop desk slouching
It’s a well-known fact that Pilates helps strengthen your core, which is very important to note as we gear up for beach season. But the added bonus here is that a strong centre doesn’t just mean killer abs, it also leads to improved posture. This is especially important after research revealed that British office workers spend the equivalent of five years of their lives sitting at their desks.
Pilates works its magic by focusing our attention on the deep core muscles in charge of supporting our spine and pelvis whilst they are in correct anatomical alignment. Anatomical what? Let me explain. When your spine and pelvis are correctly aligned, your muscles will be held at their ideal length, without tension. In other words, your shoulders will relax, your neck and head will move freely and you’ll feel less stress in your hips, legs and feet. Unfortunately, most of us slouch at our desk, carry a purse or briefcase and wear cute (but highly unsupportive) shoes, making it next to impossible for our spine and pelvis to be in perfect alignment 24/7.
This is where Pilates can help. Through targeted Pilates exercises, you will develop a better understanding of where the muscles that support your spine and pelvis are located and how to strengthen them. Over time, your core will be better supported and held in better alignment. Tada! No more slouching at your desk!
2. Pilates can make you taller
Ok – I can’t promise that you’ll grow three inches, but I can tell you that you will begin to look and feel taller. Pilates combines resistance training with flexibility, which helps you build leaner, less bulky muscles. Combine long muscles with better posture and you’ll naturally start to feel lengthened. The end result: when you feel taller, you look taller!
3. Pilates can shrink your muffin top
When we feel stressed, our body releases the hormone cortisol, which in high doses can increase your appetite, weaken your immune system, make you tired and cause your body to store excess fat (particularly around the belly).
Pilates has an incredible mood-boosting and stress-relieving super power. The deep conscious breathing combined with slow and steady exercises help to focus the mind whilst relaxing the body, thereby reducing stress. This means cortisol is ultimately lowered in the body, as is the excess fat around your stomach. Win, win!
Who would have guessed that a programme developed for injured soldiers would become one of the most effective modern day fitness regimes for the body and mind? So what’s stopping you? Grab a mat and give it a go!
Has Pilates improved your life? Share with us in the comments below.
Follow Camilla Hollweck on Twitter: www.twitter.com/barepilates
A Tribute to Joseph Pilates
What is mindfulness?
PILATES HELPS LOW BACK PAIN MORE THAN OTHER EXERCISE
Those of us who teach and practice Pilates know for a fact what research is just starting to uncover. Pilates exercises help to ease both acute and chronic lower back pain. Since according to the NIH, back pain is the most common cause of work-related disability in the US, this finding is huge.
Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario decided to look at a small group of 39 participants, all active adults (age 20-55) with chronic lower back pain. Each person was assigned to either a Pilates exercise group, or a control group that went through the standard intake and treatment protocols for lower back pain. The Pilates group exercised using Pilates apparatus, which uses springs for resistance. They did not just do the mat exercises. In post-study testing, the Pilates participants reported significantly less pain and dysfunction than the control group. In fact, they were able to maintain their results one year later. That’s right, less low back pain and better physical function with Pilates exercise.
Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) developed exercises to work on the stability and flexibility of the spine and every joint in the body. He saw early on the importance of the “Powerhouse” — the abdominal, back, shoulder, buttocks, and upper thigh muscles that help both stabilize and move us. This is more expansive than the “Core” we hear about today.
Functional Pilates exercise
Pilates exercises are also very functional, which means the movements you learn in the Pilates studio translate to daily life. For example, the Pilates footwork on the Universal Reformer is basically a series of squats done supine against spring resistance. This movement is then done seated against spring resistance on a High Chair or Wunda Chair, which makes it harder to stabilize the back and pelvis. And then the move is done standing, first against a wall for support, and later using weights or springs to challenge balance.
Squatting is a major life skill, and is a place where many people hurt their backs. We squat to sit down and stand up, as well as to pick things up, sometime heavy things. Pilates teaches how to do this properly against resistance so we don’t hurt our backs. Pilates is not just for models and celebrities who want to look great. Pilates is the perfect exercise method to help ease low back pain.
Reformer Pilates results and benefits
Miranda Kerr, Rosie Hungtington Whiteley and Alessandra Ambrosio are just some of the lean and toned celebrities who love Reformer Pilates, and with results like theirs, here’s why you should consider the exercise too.
To some, reformer equipment might resemble a torture apparatus, looking like a single bed frame but with a sliding carriage and adjustable springs to regulate tension and resistance. Cables, bars, straps and pulleys allow exercises to be done from a variety of positions, even standing.
Working against resistance is essential to the 500 classical Pilates exercises, which are designed to train the body’s “powerhouse” — the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks.
With its promise of core strength, flexibility and lean muscle tone, it’s no wonder pilates is favoured by many.
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The resistance created by the pulley and spring system can provide a more challenging strength and endurance workout than mat classes. Springs, leverage and body weight are used as resistance while performing movements targeting specific muscle groups. Workouts consist of controlled, flowing movements working your muscles through a full range of motion. The reformer adds increased resistance to the movement. By working to overcome this resistance, training results in increased fitness levels.
The reformer’s many attachments increase the range of modifications that can be made to the exercises, and allow additional exercises beyond what can be done on a mat. This capability, combined with the support afforded by the resistance the machine provides, allows people with limited range of movement or injuries to safely do modified exercises.
A reformer pilates routine is effective at providing a full-body workout because the constant resistance of spring tension keeps the whole body awake and working through full ranges of movement.
Pilates is synonymous with a long and lean physique, the design of the pilates reformer helps you to achieve long, lean and strong muscles because you’re in control of every movement.
Joseph Pilates himself apparently once said, “You will feel better in 10 sessions, look better in 20 sessions and have a completely new body in 30 sessions.”
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Regular Pilates practice will improve your overall strength and flexibility, it also helps to improve your posture and strengthen the muscles that help stabilize the spine and pelvis, helping to minimise back pain.
As you advance in your Pilates practice, the benefits just keep building and the results are lasting.
INCREASE MUSCULAR ENDURANCE
Muscles exert force to overcome resistance. Training results include increased muscle fibre endurance, size and strength along with increased connective tissue strength. Increased endurance enables you to perform everyday tasks without fatigue.
INCREASED CORE STRENGTH
Exercising on the Pilates Reformer requires proper form and technique. The focus of proper positioning is within the core, your abdomen and lower back muscles. A strong core will increase the effectiveness of all exercises due to your ability to maintain proper alignment.
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Workouts on a Pilates Reformer will improve your spinal alignment. With improved alignment, your muscles will strengthen to improve spinal support and stability. Awareness of proper posture during exercise will carry over to awareness of proper posture when performing everyday movements.
Workouts on a Pilates Reformer require your muscle groups to move through a full range of motion. Improved flexibility decreases strain and stress on your joints and muscles. Improved flexibility reduces stiffness, soreness and the chance of injury.
REDUCED BODY FAT
Exercise increases your metabolism, your body’s ability to burn calories. Increased muscle mass increases the number of calories burned. When the amount of calories burned is more than the amount of calories eaten, excess body fat is burned and used for energy to meet the increased demand.