How do you cue your shoulders?

Shoulders are an issue for so many of us, stress, desk working, carrying and feeding babies, walking with small children, sitting on sofas, having smartphones are just a few reasons why your shoulders may end up rounded.

When I trained in Pilates (quite a few years back!) the emphasis was all on bringing your shoulders round and down, thinking about sliding your shoulder blades into your back pockets. Which is nice cue, it makes sense and has a great visual with it. However as someone who works a lot with postnatal ladies I know that sliding your shoulder blades down can lead to the ribs being thrust forward.

Shoulders round and down works well as long as you don’t then thrust the ribs out. Think about staying in between 2 pains of glass as you roll the shoulds down and back, lengthen through the spine as you do so – this includes lengthening through the neck BTW.

The cue that helps me (a typical rib cage thruster) is shoulders down and wide. If you shrug your shoulders to your ears and then slide them down thinking about your shoulders connecting into your armpits it can help you find your lats – those large back muscles that help keep the shoulder blades in the right place. A nice visual I heard for this recently was to think about a coathanger being in your top. Bringing your shoulders down and keeping them wide.

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: priya@pilateswithpriya.co.uk

Pilates and Self-Care

Self care is the new buzz word. Personally I love it. It is something I know I need to do more of. I work my body hard in the week running from clients to classes to clinics. I don’t always build in enough time to relax, never mind time to look after my body in the way it needs, but I’m working on it. One of my new years aims was to have a spa day this year. My older girl actually laughed when I said that… as in “that won’t happen mummy”, but thanks to a lovely friend turning 30, I’m booked on a spa day with some girls – YES. Jokes aside, I am totally lucky that I teach Pilates and can incorporate some self-care into the sessions I teach. Pilates has been shown to help with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety – why? It centres and focuses the mind in a similar way to mindfulness. I swear Pilates keeps my body working and my mind sane. Here are some tips on how you can make self-care part of your Pilates lifestyle.

Massage:

Seen by some as a luxury (including myself for many years) I’m not meaning that spa aromatherapy style massage (though bring that on too). Instead it’s the the dig deep and release the tight areas kind of massage that helps fix your body. We all get certain, recurrent tight spots in the body. Often these are due to posture or over-using the body in certain ways. Either way a decent sport massage can make a big difference. When the tight muscles are released you can move your body in a new pattern. I know I have certain areas that would benefit from a course of massage treatments (hint hint) – you only get one body.

Breathing:

I’ve totally fallen in love with breathing this year. A lot of time devoted to studying this deeply has impacted my practice as a teacher and my own day to day practice. I find myself pausing at points in the day to breath and reconnect. Just 10 minutes of deep breathing can help calm your mind, work your core and ground you. My personal preference is to teach people to lie down in neutral posture and breath as it helps you relax into it with good posture, however this isn’t always possible in the middle of the day! So sitting on a chair with a high back, breathing into your back, sides and tummy with a relaxation on the inhale and engagement of the core on the exhale.

Move:

We all know too much sitting is not good for us. So building movement into your day is key. This doesn’t have to be a massive workout. Move your body in the way that feels good. I don’t think there need to be any rules, the rules confine people. Instead just know that moving is good for your body, your mind, your soul. Stretching after a busy day, changing postures at work, a 15 minute walk – it all helps.

 

Stretching:

There are times my body is just too darn tired to do a teaser and thats ok. On those occasions it is good to listen. It all depends on how in tune you are with your body. Is it your head telling you not to bother moving today and to sit on the sofa or is it your body letting yoou know it is tired, it needs a rest? We all need a rest day in our week, even God took time to rest in creating the world. I have weeks as a teacher when people turn up to class and they all look tired out. Those weeks we change the pace and although there will still be plenty of core work and a sneaky teaser, there will also be plenty of stretching and release work built in too.

Sleep:

Not something I’ve managed to do much of over the past few years, for which I blame my children 😉 There is so much research now showing us how important sleep is. To be fair it’s pretty obvious isn’t it. When we sleep it’s the time our bodies renew, replenish and restore themselves. So it’s a time of new growth but also a time part of us gets to unplug and switch off. If you are not asleep at night then your body can’t do all its jobs, you are just making it extra hard work! So commit to getting to bed and resting.

Nutrition:

I cannot emphasis enough how key getting good nutrition into your body and nourishing it is. I’m totally biased, confession I’m a dietitian too… which means I have seen first hand how nutrition plays a vital role in healing and in health. Simple things like ensuring you eat plenty of fruit and veggies, stay hydrated and have your cupboard/fridge stocked with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, yoghurt, oats, nut butter to keep you out of biscuit tin on some occasions. I live by the 80/20 rule which states you eat healthily 80% of the time and you relax your approach 20% of the time. There is always room for cake!

 

However self-care works for you, try to build it into your week, your day, your life.

Dr Anders Professional Foot Care

As a pilates teacher I’m well aware of how important it is to have flexible feet and to pay attention to the grounding and position of my feet… but the busyness of life meant I hadn’t been looking after the skin on my feet. Or to be honest my legs! My feet are always in use and they rarely get a pedicure, by rarely I mean like once a year. So I was pleased to try out Dr Anders range of professional foot care, perfect timing for summer.

Now one of my big foot issues is the skin on my heels. It was pretty rough and dry. I wasn’t expecting anything much from a cream but you know, it’s worked. After a couple of weeks using the intensive rescue balm my heels are smoother and look better. The whole of my foot is softer. The cream is lightly fragrance and nice to use. I’ve used it morning and night for 2 weeks with good results. I did find I then needed to keep using it regularly for this to be maintained but the nourishing daily spray also helps with this.

So if you are looking for a good foot range I’d recommend this one.

Disclaimer: I was sent this product range to review, all views are my own.