Benefits of Pilates

It goes without saying I am a HUGE fan of Pilates, but I didn’t use to be! I was a fan of high intensity workouts, thinking that unless I left a pile of sweat on the floor the workout wasn’t being effective. Now whilst I still do like a bit of high intensity now and again, what I have learnt is Pilates really can work you hard and lead to a strong body.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • All over strength for the whole body. Pilates can help build bone strength, muscle mass as well as that core too.
  • Improved posture and body awareness, which can go hand in hand. By knowing your posture issues you can start to correct and work on them throughout daily life.
  • The deep breathing used in Pilates can help with stress/anxiety management and with releasing tight areas in the ribcage, back and pelvic floor.
  • Improve your balance and co-ordination. Pilates teaches you to weight transfer effectively and work on your standing balance too.
  • Prevention of injuries. Once you are more connected to your body, balanced and co-ordinated it goes without saying that it helps prevent injuries in other sports too.
  • Sets the foundation for other movement. If you do other fitness related activities too then Pilates can help you be strong from the inside out.

The best way to start Pilates is to find a beginners class or do a 1-1 session to connect with the all essential basics. The breath, the set up position of the body and the activation of the core are those building blocks that you very much need to get under your belt before moving to the actual movement.

If you want to join a class then we have spaces in the studio or email [email protected] to book a 1-1 session with one of our experienced teachers!

Top tips for your nervous system.

With 2020 having been the most stressful year for most of us, it feels like the start of 2021 is a good time to think about how to stay in a calmer place. It isn’t always possible to lower your stress levels (especially when that stress is a global pandemic) but there are ways we can help our bodies and brains deal with it.

The sympathetic nervous system is our “fight or flight” side, fuelling by adrenaline, it helps us be on alert and run away or to stand and fight. We totally need this system but we don’t want it switched on overdrive all the time. If you have been living life on the edge for some time then your body will be functioning on high alert which will be exhausting and after a while it takes its toll. You may notice digestive issues, constant fatigue, headaches, anxiety and mood disorders. If that is where you are right now then read on.

The parasympathetic nervous system is our rest and digest side, its the side that kicks in when we sit down and kick back on the sofa. It also keeps our basic body functions working as they should, including digestion, heart rate, the bladder and sexual function.

So how do we stimulate the rest and digest side more?

  • If there are any stressors you can reduce look at doing this. Our body is designed to cope with stress but not all the time.
  • Use mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing or- you guessed it- pilates to help bring down your reactions to stress. Ever noticed how you leave your pilates class feeling calmer, clearer in your head and better in your body? It is a great coping tool.
  • Massage can help you move from that place of stress to relaxation too. Regular massage could help you with the stress response. If you can’t get a regular massage in person then try seem self massage using a massage ball, or a partner.
  • Moderate exercise of any sort can help you stress bust. Can you build activity into your everyday. Gardening, walking, cycling, running whatever works for you.
  • Take 10 minutes to sit and reflect. A gratitude journal can be a great way to do this. Focusing on the positives helps you to see life is not all bad.
  • Make sure you have enough relaxation and chill out time in your day/week.

How does Pilates help?

Well it helps you slow down, breath deeply, concentrate on your body movements and move mindfully. Plus it is exercise and time for you.

If you want to take up Pilates to help with this then our online classes run 6 days a week, plus pregnancy and postnatal classes too. Sign up by emailing [email protected]

The New Normal?

Whilst lockdown has been a tough, it has also been a time of innovation and learning to work in new ways.

Online classes have been popping up everywhere with versions where you can see all the particpants and versions where you cannot. It’s been a time to try new things or go old-school back to things you used to enjoy. A time to slow down the pace and a time to reflect on what is important.

I’ve felt so very lucky to be able to run classes online, it has brought me a lot of joy to be able to see my class members online each week and to chat to them. It has also been pretty exhausting to adapt to new ways of doing things, so I’m super proud and thankful to everyone in our studio for doing this and for sticking with us whilst we worked it out.

To be honest I wasn’t convinced online classes would work, how can you correct people over the internet? It turns out that if you are creative it can work well and for some of our classes such as the postnatal ones I think it works better for some people. Whilst I will always be a lover of being hands on with people and seeing people face to face I can see that online classes have their benefits too.

Benefits of online classes:
– Able to join from wherever you are, you don’t have to be local, it is lovely to welcome back people who had moved away and welcome new people.
– Safety in terms of physical health.
– You can do it in your PJs!
– No travel.
– You don’t have to be in a certain room, you could be in the garden, the park or anywhere as long as you have your phone with you!
– No need for childcare.

 

Problems with online classes:
– Lack of space and equipment. It has lead to some creative solutions with baked bean cans, pairs of tights and using childrens bedrooms. Where there is a will, there’s a way!
– Not wanting people to see you in your homes. I totally understand this, but also I promise once you have done it you will realise people really are only watching the teacher.
– Internet access and technology glitches!
– Having “helpers” so you don’t get the peaceful class you would like.
– Harder to follow over a screen.

Whilst group classes online are not for everyone, I totally understand that being able to see each other in your own homes is not always ideal, it has opened the doors for those with children or those who have moved way who want to join in. For me, it has been lovely to see all the pets and children joining in! I like to be able to see people whilst they do pilates so I can offer correction and teaching tips.

The future for us right now will continue to involve some online classes, I imagine these are there to stay. This time is a time for you to decide what works best for you. So if you are enjoying the online classes and do not feel the need to come back to the studio as soon as it is possible, we will be supporting that. If you know you need to be in the studio to get away from the house, then we hope to support that with limited numbers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you have found online classes and what that sweet spot is with online and in person?

Online pilates classes

We have moved ONLINE

It’s been a whirlwind turnaround but I’m super proud and pleased to say that although sadly the studio is physically closed we are not actually closed! Our classes are running online in a variety of ways. Pilates is a fabulous way to destress, clear your mind and keep moving during this tricky time. I know from the kind messages I get that it is keeping a lot of people going right now.

After a week of testing the technology from the studio and almost getting on top of it, lockdown hit and now all teachers are teaching from their homes. Which means you still get to see your favourite teacher but it may look and feel a little different. What we are finding is teaching online is quite intimate. We get to see you in your home, you get to see us in ours and its kinda nice. You can come to class in your PJs, with your children, pets or your favourite drink.

Plus, if you miss your actual class, not to worry as right now to help us all through this time, you get full access to all the classes that are taught in the studio, on a catch up basis. So you can log into our studio facebook group and view them there, or most classes are also being added to the membership portal. All for the usual monthly price of one class.

If you have any friends who have wanted to try Pilates then this is a great time to do so and they can be based anywhere! We will have some induction sessions running online and then they can join the normal classes for £35 a month or have access to just the membership portal for £10 a month.

Pilates: you’re worth it.

I’m noticing more people are now being told to do Pilates by health professionals. Which is fantastic as quite frankly I think everyone should be practising Pilates. In an age where self care is all the rage, Pilates is the epitome of this. It is a way to look after your body in a loving way. Yes you will work and maybe even “glow” but the emphasis is on quality of movement and connecting with how your body works.

Now you don’t need an anatomy degree to come to a class but having an awareness about your movement will be beneficial. If you don’t have one yet then after a few classes you certainly will be starting to.

Taking time out of your week to lie down, breath, focus on your muscles and then move is the perfect antidote to a hectic lifestyle. It can calm your nervous system whilst working the whole body. People come into a class stressed out and leave in the opposite mood.

We only have one body and it’s key to keep it functioning as well as possible. Pilates can help lubricate stiff joints, stretch the body out after a days work or a bad nights sleep and works muscle groups to keep them healthy. With parts of our body it is certainly “use it or lose it”. Some of the best Pilates moments I have with people is when they can do movements they had not been able to do for some time, such as touch their toes or get down to the mat and up again unaided.

Then as you delve deeper Pilates just keeps giving. 10 years on and I still feel like I’m learning and re-learning the exercises and technique. Now that either means I was awful to start with (quite possibly) or my body has changed over the years (3 babies and 10 years of ageing) so I have to keep adapting and learning. I’ll let you decide which!

So I see Pilates as part of the way I keep taking care of my body. What are you doing for your body this week?

The silent epidemic.

I don’t normally watch terestial TV, but whilst away I flicked it on to be greeted by an advert about incontinence pants. There wasn’t much of this advert I agreed with, it was normalising incontinence, specifically after having a baby.

Incontinence affects 1 in 3 women at some time. Childbirth, menopause, impact sports and getting older all affect our pelvic floor but that doesn’t mean we have to put up with it or pretend incontinence pads are glamorous. Let’s face it, it should not be normal to wee in your pants unless you are unwell or in a nursing home! Yet so often on social media it is made to seem normal.

At points in life your pelvic floor will be weaker. Hormones play a large role as does the affect of carrying a baby and pushing it out. If you had an assisted delivery using forceps that will also cause further damage. As you get older muscle mass can decline so it becomes even more important to keep those muscles working properly. We can of course adapt by drinking less, going for a wee before you leave a safe environment (the “just in case” wee), avoiding certain moves like star jumps and wearing pants/a pad. However that is pretty restrictive and isn’t living as full a life as you could.

Urinary Stress Incontinence = poor function of the pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that need to relax for us to toilet, so they also need to contract to stop leaks. They can be too weak, too tight, poorly co-ordinated and working more one side than the other. So it isn’t as simple as a squeeze and release.

Now think about it, if other muscles are not doing their job what do we do? You may see a physiotherapist, take time to work on working the muscles correctly, resting them when needed, having some sports massage and work with the muscles around the injured area. It is no different with the pelvic floor! We need to focus on a whole pile of muscles around that area, plus the contraction and relaxation. You may need to downtrain the pelvic floor and you may need to change some of your day to day habits to help.

Ladies, let’s not think incontinence is normal. If you need help then seen a womans health physiotherapist and find your local Holistic Core Restore ® Coach (I’m the one for Southampton) for 1-1 work or the EVERYWOMAN course.

Pilates and the nervous system.

You know those days you are buzzing with adrenaline, you are whizzing around like a busy bee, getting physical stuff done but your mind is in an anxious state? When you constantly feel tense, you can’t fully breathe and your heart rate feels pumping?

These are examples of your nervous system being on overdrive and I know is a place I tend to live my life in. However Pilates brings me an answer to this. Read on for more. We have 2 nervous systems:

Sympathetic – this is the fight or flight nervous system. When your body is faced with a sudden threat it tenses up, certain functions slow down (digestion) and others speed up:

  • pupil dilation
  • sweating
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure

Parasympathetic – the “regist and digest” nervous system. This system we need to be working to enable the body to recover, relax and heal itself. When this nervous system is fired up we get more:

  • constriction of pupils
  • decreased heart rate
  • increased digestion
  • more saliva and mucus
  • more urine production

Pilates for me brings me out of the craziness of daily life, away from the “to-do” list, the work deadlines, the family dynamics, the household jobs and into a place where I have to slow down, I have to think about my body and I have to concentrate on me. That is why it is more than exercise. It is a way to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system and calm your whole system so that your body can restore itself.

Personally I think most of us need time daily to destress, to calm our bodies and mind, to breath deeply and to let the body slow down. Mindfulness and meditation have been recommended for years for many mental health conditions and now this is coming into physical health too. Why? When our bodies are under stress one way this can be shown is through sickness. Our gut and brain are linked closely by the gut-brain axis via the nervous system. So if our brain is on overdrive and highly stressed it can definitely affect gut conditions.

If you are struggling with your physical or mental health then why not try Pilates as a way to help. Here is a beginners video that may be helpful:

Exhale on Exertion

One of the most complicated things in Pilates can be the breathing. It is not uncommon for people to say that it feels back to front. They want to inhale when the teacher is cueing them to exhale. I remember being the same, the breathing just takes time to grasp.

So why do we exhale at a certain part of the movement and why is important?

Pilates is all about working with the body in a functional way, to strengthen it and keep it moving in the way it was designed to work. In the same way we work with the body in terms of the breath.

When you inhale your lungs full with air, your diaphragm descends, your tummy goes soft and your pelvic floor relaxes. This is the point where you have less strength and less of your core functioning. So it makes sense at this point that you aren’t placing lots of load and pressure on. The exhale part of the breath is when you empty the lungs of air, your diaphragm rises, your tummy comes in and the pelvic floor rises. It’s when your core fires. So therefore at this stage it’s when you load the body.

Think about lifting. You exhale as you lift a heavy weight. You exhale when it’s hard work. Yes?

Therefore we EXHALE on EXERTION in pilates. Thats when you stretch a leg away, when you curl up, when you press up from the mat, when you come into a teaser. Now of course there are aways exceptions to the rule and in some exercises the whole thing feels like hard work (for example the hundred) so you hold some core tension throughout.

Many of your know my obsession with the pelvic floor . By exhaling on exertion you are also helping to protect your pelvic floor, rather than sending pressure down on it. So next time you lift something or even get out of a chair – breath out and think of me!

How to combat p

It’s what you do daily that counts. This is true in so much of life.
Posture is important.  There are things that you have to do on a day-to-day basis that will affect your posture. For example carrying a child, carrying a bag, how you sit, driving a car, the shoes you wear and the chair you sit in. Studies show that sitting at a desk for long periods can lead to a forward head/neck posture which then can result in back pain.
The key is it’s what you do on a daily basis even hourly basis that makes a difference. So if you can make small adjustments to your day over a long term period this will add up. You cannot think about your posture all the time but you can adjust how you move, lift and sit to make small improvements.
It’s the same with eating. As a dietician and I know that deep changing small things in your diet will add up over the long term. So adding in one extra portion of fruit a day will make a long-term difference to your health.
So the challenge is to find those things that are causing you to have pain or tension in your body. A good way to do this is to go and see someone who specialises in looking at bodies. For example a Pilates teacher or a sports massage therapist such as myself. A postural assessment and a chat about your daily life can highlight some of the things that are going on that are causing the problems. It isn’t always obvious, so the position of your foot can impact your hip for example and what is happening at your hip can affect your shoulders.
Whilst you may not be able to change all of your daily activities that are leading to push your balances. But you can do is be aware of this and use some daily exercises to help release the tension and reverse the impact on your body.
For me carrying a heavy toddler is not great for my body. I know that I have tightness in my hips and my glutes and in my thoracic  spine pain in my thoracica spine from this. I can’t not carry my child but I can use regular exercises to help mobilise, stretch and release those areas as well as keeping strong.
So the challenge is to realise which areas of your body need strengthening, which need mobilising and to have a daily self care programme to help. It may only need 15 minutes of your day to keep your body in tip top form. If you don’t have a plan like this then find someone to work with you and to help you create one. Then regular massage, and exercise sessions will help you stay motivated and moving pain free!
Get in touch to book a session: [email protected]

How your core keeps you strong in pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a time of real excitement but also anxiety and change in your body. Things that aren’t usually a problem can suddenly become one. One way to ensure you keep your body strong and functional is to include regular exercise with a specially trained teacher advising you. Why? As the body changes your normal exercise routine will almost definitely need to be adapted. It is also a good idea to add in movements that will build movement patterns for motherhood. The ideal time to prepare for postural changes, lifting, feeding and moving about with a baby is in pregnancy. It may not feel like it, but you have more time and head space when pregnant than after baby comes!

Top areas to focus on:

  1. Your core. This includes your pelvic floor, lower back, lower abdominals, waist muscles. Now you don’t need to be doing hard-core ab workouts (stay away from those) but you do want to strengthen these muscles in a kinder way. They need to be strong enough to support the growing bump, your posture changes and to support your pelvis. They also need to be able to relax for labour.
  2. Shoulders are the number 1 complaint I see in classes. Whether it is from desk working or carrying another child, now is the time to tackle it. Get some release work or massage in to complement the strengthening work. Start to work out where normal should be for your shoulders so you can listen to your body. Move within it’s range to prevent further issues. The moves we use in pilates are all about working within your normal range but also strengthening and improving it.
  3. Supporting your pelvis. Yes working on your core will help with this, but there is more to it. Your gluts and inner thighs are also key. So make sure you have some exercises to target these areas.
  4. Getting up and down to the floor. This is something you will need to do a lot with a baby so it is time to get practicing. Bending over is going to hurt your back. So instead lunging, hinging and squatting are your friends.
  5. Breathing. It destresses you, it helps your pelvic floor heal, it strengthens you. There are so many benefits, getting someone to watch you breath and correct you, could be the best thing you do!

Here are some simple core strengthening and shoulder focused moves you can do on a stability ball, chair or stood.