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. 

Southsea Fitness Festival

How my life has changed!  Once upon a time I avoided PE lessons like the plague, hated getting sweaty and would never have gone to a fitness festival for fun! I did enjoy certain types of exercise but they were not the standard ones included at school. They were not accessible and I couldn’t just pop in somewhere to try things out.

This is part of what Luke from Sweat Southsea made accessible at the Southsea Fitness Festival. Different forms of exercise were made accessible. From high impact to upside yoga, from power plates to a dualathon. It was truly fabulous and the best part, free and family friendly. Having this festival outside also meant that people could just walk by and take part, or just watch! I saw mums with newborns, pregnant ladies, gym bunnies in Lycra and older adults all soaking up the vibe.

Quote from Luke:

“We created the Festival to inspire and celebrate active and healthy lifestyles. It was apparent from the outset that it needed to be a free and fully accessible event. There are many barriers to exercise which as fitness professionals we try to break down – so why create a barrier by charging an entry fee? Our goal is to make a major difference first and foremost in our hometown which has some pretty shocking childhood obesity health related statistics. We hope to show that there is a sport or activity for everyone. The event is also an opportunity to support other local businesses and to create a network of like-minded businesses which can work together in a positive way.”

Highlights for me included taking part in the dualathon with my kids. Again, not something I would normally enter (though I am tempted) but so much fun to do this without the pressure being on.

We need to be on a mission to get children active. It’s a huge part of how we will help with their health. In my opinion (with my dietitian hat in) its no good putting everyone on strict diets. Instead it’s about making long term changes to eating patterns AND long term changes to the whole lifestyle. So finding ways for children to be active EVERYDAY is part of this. My kids loved it all. They went on gym equipment, they tried wobble boards, they loved the TRX, my girl did a body balance class, dance and some yoga. My boy spent a long time just running and playing in the fountains getting wet 😂


Thankyou Southsea for having us. We will be back. More of this please.

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Pre-Postnatal Specialists

 

Priya is the one to come to if you want to stay strong in pregnancy or need fixing after baby. She has worked with over 1000 pre/postnatal ladies and with a very high level of training you can be sure you are in safe hands.  If Priya doesn’t know the answer she will know someone who can help.

Our classes are small and focus on a mixture of using your core correctly, building strength in those areas you really need it for mummyhood, releasing tight muscles and Pilates movements that will really make a difference.

If you are suffering with back ache, sciatica, pelvic pain, hip pains, shoulder issues or muscular imbalances then our pregnancy classes are focused on helping, so let us know what to focus on.

Postnatally our classes are aimed to help rebuild you, using breathing, functional work, core strength, posture and pilates. All classes are safe if you suffer from diastasis recti or pelvic floor issues.

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Small classes with highly trained teachers

 

At Pilates with Priya we pride ourselves on keeping our numbers low. We have a maximum of 8 people in our main Pilates classes, this means you get more support and input from the teacher.

All our teachers are experts in their field, with a minimum of a level 3 Pilates qualification, we only like to take on the best we can. Any medical issues you have can be catered for. Priya personally works with any new teachers to help mentor them and as a team we like to keep up our own personal practice and learning.

You will find our studio is welcoming, non judgemental, calm and “bijoux”. We use a variety of equipment including rings, bands, balls and rollers.

Before starting classes with us we ask that you go on our introductory course or have a 1-1 induction session so that you have a good grasp of the basic principles before going into a class.

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The most convenient chicken.

We all know how amazing Pilates is, but also the huge, huge importance of a good diet. Life over here is hectic: 3 children, seeing my nutrition clients (in my role as a dietitian), running workshops, doing my business development, teaching classes and working with 1-2-1 clients…. phew. So I need meals that pretty much cook themselves but are nutritious and delicious.

I must admit to being totally dubious when GSN offered to send me their chicken to try out. It arrived frozen, well packaged with 24 chicken breasts in the one bag. Each breast is easy to get out, they aren’t all in a large lump so you can literally get out as many as you need at a time. The bag does take a large amount of freezer space but my tip on that would be to decant the chicken into serving sizes bags and then pop in the freezer. This way you can stack the bags up and just get out one at a time.

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The chicken is steam cooked and can be cooked from frozen or defrosted and eaten hot or cold. I love the “no need to cook” aspect. I have grabbed this chicken out of the freezer, frosted in my mircrowave and added it to a stir fry to make a meal in 15 minutes. BAM.

The important bit is the taste. Literally I was expecting a watery chicken, but it is juicy and meaty. The whole family were pleased. The only negative point I have is that the chicken is not free range but comes from a British Retail Consortium factory.

Disclaimer – this post is a review, I was sent the chicken to try out. All views are my own. 

The research into Pilates and Mental Health.

There seems to be an obvious link between Pilates helping people wind down, relax, sleep better and reduce their stress levels. Just the act of slowing down your breathing, movements and bringing more awareness into your body is such a helpful principle. I love checking out the actual science on these things, so I’ve had a little search around and found a few articles. Here is a summary.

Pilates helps your brain function:

30 volunteers had their cognitive function tested after a yoga class, a treadmill workout and a baseline assessment. After the yoga session their cognitive function was significantly improved. This sounds like it would also translate over to Pilates. So Pilates could help keep your brain working, it definitely makes you think hard about what you are doing and teaches you a new skill.

Pilates with Priya: Pilates and mental health 2

Pilates and Mood:

There is a specific Pilates study on just over 300 subjects comparing Pilates and a “special recreation” exercise class which was a class suited to the subjects exercise ability and needs. This showed that Pilates led to a better ability to regulate mood, a more relaxed state and a better sense of wellbeing.

Taking this to look specifically depression a group of 146 women followed a 16 week Pilates programme. Depression scores were measured before and after, showing that Pilates lowered depression.

So Pilates is not just great for core strength, for all over body conditioning and for helping rehabilitate after injury. It is also helpful for keeping you mentally alert and is a great way to help regulate your mood.

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Can pilates help with mental health?

 

People normally start doing pilates with us because they have a bad back, want to gain more core strength or are pregnant. However Pilates has more benefits than just the physical ones. Joseph Pilates believed mental and physical health were closely connected and I think this is one area we need to explore further in this busy world where levels of depression are high.

I know for myself, teaching Pilates is the best job. After a stressful time in my other work as a dietitian or as a mummy, I get to chill out in a relaxed, beautiful space and teach a calm, mindful class. Focusing on your breathing, your body movements and your muscles is part of mindfulness so you can instantly see why Pilates has more benefits than just the physical ones. One statement I heard this week was “I always sleep best on a Thursday after Pilates”. I can see why that is. Pilates helps you slow down your pace of life, move your thoughts from work, home and stress to your body and draw plenty of oxygen into your muscles, using deep, thoracic breathing.

Breathing Quote

 

Mindfulness is a therapy that is being used for all kinds of mental health conditions now. A definition of it is: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” It uses compassion and breathing to help you to let go of negative thoughts, stress and even pain. The similarities to Pilates are easy to spot. Even if you went to a Pilates class and did nothing except lie on the mat and breath you would feel some benefits for your mood and stress relief.

So there seems to be an obvious link between Pilates and mental health. One thing I always want to know is what is the evidence? Has there been any actual research done? There is actually quite a lot that shows a link between Pilates improving your mood, lowering stress and helping with cognitive function.

Look out for my next blog post that looks at the research.