Category Archives: Release Your Pilates Body

THE ULTIMATE HANG

A number of years ago I was on a bike adventure riding between Bryce and Zion National Parks.  In the distance way up high on some sheer cliffs I saw a couple of hammocks hanging as if floating onto the rock.  Climbers, I later learned, carry light weight hammocks, attach them to the rock and actually sleep perched onto the cliff.  Not something I’ll do in this lifetime, but hang I will and do.

Pilates fuzzy boots and aerial yoga inspired me to hang a pink parachute hammock

Hanging Fuzzy Boots Pilates

Woman hanging from fuzzy boots on Pilates trap table. Image courtesy of Balanced Body.

from the ceiling in my living room. Huge hooks mounted right into the studs easily support my body allowing me to swing, stretch, and hang upside down.  In Pilates, one of the most blissful acts is to hang in the fuzzy boots.  It helps the spine stretch, provides the benefit of reverse blood flow, and allows your hip sockets to release.

INVERSION THERAPY
Turning the body upside to promote a healing effect is nothing new. It’s why yogis do shoulder stands, handstands and other upside down postures. From the standpoint of pure physics, inversions counteract the effects of gravity.  All day long gravity is pressing down on your body, including the spine and intervertebral discs. When we turn upside, the spine is decompressed and surrounding muscles are lengthened.

You don’t have to be completely upside to experience the benefits of hanging. Simply having your torso below your waist you can feel the effects, even at -5 or -10 degrees. For those with back problems, fully hanging upside can overly stress discs and facet joints, and create too much slack within joints. An inversion table allows you to control how far over you will go. You lay down, securely fasten your legs, and tilt the machine backwards. You can move upside down in small increments from as little as a few degrees to fully upside down.

The intervertebral disc is the largest organ in the body without blood supply. Most lumbar discs are the size of a watch face and have no arteries going to them. Discs rely on the surrounding bone for nutrients. These nutrients percolate into the disc much like coffee going through a filter. Some studies suggest that pulling the bones apart through inversion therapy may help this process by drawing more fluid into the disc. This allows greater nutrient flow and improves disc hydration and height. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Back Pain

Inversion tables are primarily devices that you purchase for home use. Some physical therapists or exercise professionals may also have them. Try before your buy.  And talk to your doctor before doing inversion therapy. You shouldn’t invert your body if you have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, detached retina, or glaucoma. Inversion therapy can also exacerbate laxity of the joints or spondylolisthesis.

But if you’re back is fine, hang away wherever you can: with your kids at the monkey bars, off the limb of tree, or from your very own living room hammock. Your back will feel better and you’ll gain a whole new perspective on life too.

Love,
JoAnn

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GOT HEEL PAIN?

From blisters to bunions, most of us will suffer from foot problems more than once during our lives. Some issues can be resolved with over-the-counter remedies, targeted Pilates exercises, reflexology and gently rolling your feet on a tennis ball.

But if the pain you feel is in your heel and it doesn’t go away within a week or so, Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Heel Painsee your doctor.

The pain is usually caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, also known as plantar fasciitis, a chronic irritation due to abnormal biomechanics. Wait too long and you could be headed to surgery.  The pain often feels like you bruised your heel on a stone.  It can also radiate through your arch.

MADE FOR WALKING
The triangular structure of the feet allows the weight of our bodies to efficiently spread out over a broad base. The plantar fascia is a tight band underneath your foot.  Its job is to prevent the foot collapsing out when you walk. When this band is overly stressed, it can tear, causing pain.

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is faulty biomechanics (walking  abnormalities) that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. It can also be caused by walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces; wearing poorly constructed shoes; or being overweight.

To learn more about heel pain and taking care of your feet, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association.

PILATES LATERAL-BREATHING INCREASES LUNG CAPACITY

Joseph Pilates was known to say that breathing is the first and last act of life. Can’t argue with that.  But breathing is not something we think about ordinarily;  it is mostly an unconscious biological function.  When we do pay attention, breathing can transform your Pilates workout and your life.

PILATES LATERAL BREATHING
In Pilates, the breath is used to assist motion and to better activate the deep core muscle.  By following the natural exhale you find that your belly muscles compress.  Sneezing and couching are an extreme example of how much abdominals contract when breath is strongly pushed out of the body.  Go ahead, try it.

We want to keep the belly actively pulled in. So how the heck can you breathe deeply while holding in your belly?  Lateral breathing.  It means using the full capacity of our lungs.  Try this simple exercise using a flexible flat band.  You can do this standing, sitting, or lying down.  It’s a great way to start your workout and relax at the end of your day.

  1. wrap the band around your body just underneath or breastbone, at the highest point of your six pack
  2. cross the band so that when you pull it tightens like belt
  3. inhale to prepare
  4. exhale our of your mouth and slowly pull the band tighter as you complete your exhale (notice how it deepens your belly)
  5. inhale to release the band tension

Do this several times.  Repeat with the band around your waist and a third position, around your hips covering the hip bones.

For more on how to do this, check out this excerpt from Pilates Master Rael Isacowitz

Take care to breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth like you’re fogging up a mirror.  Do that consistently throughout your practice. You will notice a difference. As a Pilates instructor I know people can feel self-conscious about breathing audibly. At very least, you should hear your own breath.

Joe Pilates was asthmatic at time when there was no medication – he breathed his way back to life.   Someday we will all take our last breath – so breathe deeply and completely to get the most out of your life now.

Love,
JoAnn

PILATES IMPROVES SEX

Pilates does a body good in many ways. Improves balance, strength, flexibility, confidence and strengthens the pelvic floor. All that helps improve that most intimate of act, sex.  Most people have heard of the Kegel method to improve a woman’s pelvic floor, but Pilates can be better.  So says this blogger/ Pilates instructor in the Huffington Post.  As a longtime Pilates devotee and instructor myself, I totally agree with her post.

THE CORE AND MORE
If you’re talking about the “core” of the body you can’t get anymore centrally located then the pelvic floor. It’s what helps you activate your “corset” muscle known as the transversus abdominis, the muscles that hug around your waist and help support your spine.  Of course, all that flexibility can add much fun in the bedroom too.

When it comes to attractiveness, confidence goes along a way.  There’s nothing like the rush of mastering a new move like plank on the reformer, or teasers performed smoothly and slowly with control.  It’s elegance and power in motion.  It’s a turn on for you.  Nothing like post Pilates glow.

JUST SO YOU KNOW
Many people, especially men, come to Pilates later in life and because they have injured themselves. But why wait?  You can prevent injuries, get stronger and more flexible as you age instead of the reverse.  And guess what guys,  improving pelvic floor is not just for women. There’s a lot reasons it can benefit you too.  For details, read here.

And for more mojo, reformer planks will keep you going strong . . .

Enjoy the Journey
JoAnn

NATIONAL DONUT DAY

Well in case you missed it, yesterday June 7 was National Donut Day.  But don’t worry there’s still time to do something sweet for a good cause and you could win free donuts for a year. In its continued support of The Salvation Army, from May 1st to June 15th Entenmann’s Bakery will donate $1 to the organization for every person who “likes” the Entemann’s Facebook page up to $30,000.

Entenmann’s will also be rewarding lucky winners with ‘Free Donuts for a Year’ and additional prizes through a sweepstakes link on their Facebook page. All entries must be received by 11:59: p.m. ET on June 30, 2013. Winners will be randomly selected from all submissions. Official Rules can be found at http://www.entenmanns.com 

A SWEET TRADITION
The first National Donut Day was celebrated by The Salvation Army in Chicago in 1938 to help raise needed funds during the Great Depression and commemorate the work of the “donut lassies” who helped make the donut what it is today by feeding the tasty confection to American soldiers during World War I. The donuts became synonymous with The Salvation Army, as well as the American soldiers who were returning home with the nickname, “doughboys.”

This significant occasion established the donut as a long-standing symbol of the services The Salvation Army continues to provide. The partnership between Entenmann’s and The Salvation Army reinforces Entenmann’s as a brand synonymous with National Donut Day.

JUST SO YOU KNOW
While it’s fine to indulge that sweet tooth every once in a while, there are some down sides.  Sugar and fat in combination can create powerful cravings. Some experts even say that that combination is down right addictive.  Regardless, the scant nutrition means you’ll be hungry soon after chowing down on donuts.  That’s why you can eat a few of them in short amount of time but I double dog dare you to try to eat five bananas. Your body absorbs the nutrients from bananas but there isn’t much nutrition in a donut so nothing to really satisfy you biologically speaking. One Starbucks Old Fashioned glazed donut  has nearly 500 calories and so does five bananas.

How long does it take to burn off 500 calories? About an hour’s worth of moderate to high aerobics to burn off.  Just so you know.

Bon Appetit
JoAnn

FINDING A GOOD PILATES INSTRUCTOR

Pilates certifications can be snagged in weekend or take several years and hundreds of hours to earn. Good instructors gain the equivalent of a Master’s degree. When you want high quality instruction, look for:

  • Minimum of 300 training hours
  • Comprehensive and mat certifications
  • Several years of teaching
  • Ask about specialties. Some instructors focus on populations such as seniors, pre/post natal, rehab or high performance athletes.

Like yoga, Pilates has evolved through time. Today, there are a variety of styles but core development is fundamental to them all. Among the most well-known trademarked brands are: Stott, Power Pilates, Core Dynamics, the Physical Mind Institute, and Romana’s Pilates. But a trademark doesn’t necessarily ensure quality instruction.

“Anyone can take a list of exercises and teach them,” says Chicago-based Vered Arbel of Elements in Motion, “how you analyze and fit the exercises to the needs of the person requires anatomical and biomechanical knowledge. Really look for that.”

HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT STUDIO FOR YOU
A web search will result in lots of choices and can reveal a lot about a place.  What’s the vibe?  Warm and welcoming?  Super intense high energy?  Look at the pictures and the language.  Do they communicate well?  What do the instructors say about themselves? Look for client testimonials and consult Yelp.

Ask them questions that relate to what you are looking for and they should ask you questions too.  That will reveal their level of experience and care about new clients.  Questions instructors  should ask you include:

  • What do you do for exercise now?
  • What attracts you to Pilates?
  • What are your fitness goals?
  • Any injuries?

Taking a mat class is an inexpensive way to check out a studio and discover if the place simply feels right to you. Also, many studios offer discounted rates for first time students.

Counteracting the stresses of everyday life is among the main benefits of any exercise discipline.  Ultimately, Pilates can balance the body helping you feel at ease and comfort in your skin, increase energy, rid you of body aches and possibly back pain too. Well worth the price of admission.

Love,
JoAnn

RELIEVE YOUR BACK PAIN NOW

The bad news is that back pain will likely plague you at some point in your life, and probably more than once. The good news is there is a lot you can do to prevent, manage and relieve that pain. Heat and ice treatments work wonders and both bring easy, convenient, and fast relief.

WHEN TO HEAT AND ICE
You can treat any sprain/strain injuries with hot and cold packs because both help reduce muscle spasm and pain. There are differences in these temperature treatments though. Ice reduces blood flow thereby quieting swollen tissues. Heat, on the other hand, stimulates blood flow. The increased circulation brings more nutrients to the injured site and helps relax sore muscles.

At the first sign of an injury it’s recommended that you start with ice to calm the swelling. Ice the area for about 15 minutes then repeat the icing in about an hour. After 24-48 hours, move to heat treatments.

Note that alternating ice / heat is a general recommendation. Because both ice and heat are pain-relieving, do which ever makes you feel better. There’s no magic rule. Some people like to alternate hot/cold packs, while others prefer to stick one temperature.

PACKAGED AND DIY PRODUCTS
There are a lot of products on the market today that make hot/cold back therapy easy. They can be conveniently heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer. Look for those which are large and can be draped around an area. Some are specially made for the lower back and attach with Velcro much like weight belt.

No cold pack? A bag of frozen peas can do wonders in a pinch. Whatever your do, avoid putting ice directly on your skin, it’s irritating. Place ice cubes in a bag, wrap a towel around it and apply. Be patient. It takes a few minutes for the cold to come through. Likewise, you can heat up a moistened towel in the microwave for a comforting moist heat wrap. Again, take care when applying to skin. You may need a second towel wrapped around the first.

PREVENTING BACK PAIN
A strong healthy body with good core strength helps prevent back pain in the first place.  Pilates is all about the spine and among the best ways to keep your back healthy for life. There are some simple exercises to bring quick relief such as this easy to do anywhere anytime upper back release.