It’s not all about strength. Tightness can be a Weakness.

 Pilates for me is constantly a challenge. I teach it, but I am also still learning it and I think I always will be. That is one of the reasons I love it so much. If something is too easy, it loses it appeal to me. I’m certainly not uber flexible, ultra strong or a Pilates Pro. I am however consistent, always looking to learn, able to listen more and more to my body and Pilates is an exercise I enjoy. Finding exercise you enjoy is always important, if you don’t like it you will not stick to it.

One thing highlighted to me this week is how Pilates is not all about how strong you are. Yes you need core strength to do a teaser and upper body strength to complete a good front leg pull back… but you also need hamstrings that are released so you can straighten your legs for a teaser and if your pecs are tight you will struggle to get the full range for the front leg pull back. So I’m introducing new release stretches into our classes. A tight muscle can be a weakness.

Carpel Tunnel Stretch

Think about it, what is different those weeks when you suddenly cannot do certain exercises. The roll up is one of those that often gets affected. Tiredness, tight muscles, overworked muscles, the breathing and lack of concentration all play a role – not just core strength.

So this week when going around your daily activities work out where you feel restricted movement, what areas feel tight. If you sit alot at work this may be your hamstrings, if you are on the floor playing with small children it may be tight pectorals from having a rounded upper body posture. Lifting, leaning, driving, looking at a screen, wearing shoes – unless we do these everyday activities with proper alignment we will get tight muscles somewhere.

touch toes

My challenge to you – go and release them. Find a roller, a spiky ball, a tennis ball and get into those tight places. Stretch out with a band, a rolled towel or just on the floor. Think about what you are feeling and then see if you notice the difference. If you can, release some of these areas before your Pilates class. Then see what happens.

Pilates with Priya: Release, Stretch and Strengthen

 

Align your weaknesses for better posture.

Ever noticed what happens to your posture when you are tired? I definitely slump through my thoracic spine (upper back) and have  tendency to round my shoulders. I have a large mirror on the wall in my room and sometimes at night I will catch a glimpse of my posture. If I’m tired out it’s not a pretty sight. Knowing what your bad habits are is key to improving your overall alignment. Bad posture will lead to pain, tightness and weakness. That niggling back pain, shoulder tension and neck ache…could well be due to your posture.

DiagramPosture-01-209x300

A couple of definitions:

Posture: the way in which your body is positioned when you are sitting or standing. Good posture require the least amount of muscle activity to keep an upright position.

Good Posture reduces stress and fatigue on the body so helps it work more effectively.

Alignment: the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts (as of a mechanical or electronic device) in relation to each other i.e. the body constantly works to try and maintain neutral.

Alignment takes into account the forces on the body and looks at how the body should be.

I know from my bad habits that I need to remind myself throughout the day and when I am doing Pilates to check my shoulder alignment and pull up through my thoracic spine.

Top Tip: Work out your weaknesses so you can become stronger.  Give yourself time to stretch and iron out thoses niggles. 2 examples that I often see:

1. Rounded shoulders:  Work on lifting through the ribcage (but not sticking it out too far) and sliding the shoulder blades down in your spine.  Use exercises like chicken wings and try lying on a roller to release.

2. Slumped and rounded lower back? Think about coming into neutral pelvis at certain points throughout the day. Try some pelvic tilts to find neutral and to strengthen the core.

Perfect your Posture

Think about it, however often in your day do you pay attention to your posture? If you don’t do Pilates then I am guessing the answer is not often if at all. Yet our posture plays a large role in how we look, walk, sit and feel on a day to day basis. Bad posture can result in back, neck and shoulder pain along with too tight muscles in some areas and overstretched, weakened muscles elsewhere. Over time poor posture can result in disc issues and degneration of joints.

So in the next few posts I am going to talk through different types of posture, hopefully this will help you identify your own postural imbalances, make you more aware, so that you can focus on correcting the problems.

posture picture

In this post we are going to recap on Neutral Spine in a lying position.

Neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) — are present and in good alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when we are standing or sitting, and the one that we are made to move from. Knowing how to find the neutral spine position is crucial for doing many Pilates exercises correctly.

Neutral spine lying down:

1. Feet hip socket distance apart, flat on the floor, straight and facing forward.

2. Knees bent, a small gap between them.

3. Pelvis rocked into neutral so it is neither tilted up (lower back pressed into the floor) or tilted under (large curve through the lower back). The hip bones should be lined up and you should feel you are flat from hip bone to hip bone and through to the pubic bone.

4. Slight natural curve through the lower back, think about being able to pass an envelope underneath.

5. Shoulder blades slid down in the back.

6. Neck long with the chin slightly tilted towards the chest as if you were clasping an orange between your chin and your chest.

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Just lying in this neutral position can help with back ache, try lying there for 5 minutes, release the tension in your neck and shoulder, drawing your core and relax yout bum, thighs and feet. Take a few deep breaths. Feels good doesn’t it!

 

Top Tips on Maintaining Neutral Spine and Pelvis

Neutral pelvis is a funny concept where we aim to keep the pelvis neither tilted up or under but in “neutral alignment”. The idea is to have a straight line from hip bone to hip bone and to be flat from that hip bone area all the way through to the pubic bone. With Neutral spine it can be simpler to think of the spine being straight, however this isn’t actually true! When lying down there will be a slight natural curve in the lower back, for some this will be bigger than others. Think about being able to pass an envelope underneath your lower back and get your instructor to check if you are not sure.
Most people find getting into neutral is relatively easy to achieve at the start of an exercise but maintaining it is the tricky bit. My top tips are to:

1. Think about the lower back being heavy and almost sinking into the back (we don’t actually want it to do this but the imagery can help)
2. Think about there being a heavy weight on the ribcage holding you down to the mat.
3. Keep the sides of the body long and strong to hold you still.
4. Think about the core being weighty as this is what is keeping you in neutral.

If you feel yourself coming out of neutral, stop the exercise, check your core is drawn in and then try again. You may need to make the movement smaller until your body is a bit stronger.

 

Pilates for Posture

It’s amazing. The more I do Pilates, the more I learn and the more I learn, the more I fall in love with it all over again.

This week I’ve been tired. Toddler is teething and waking in the night. My health isn’t in the best of places. Teaching 10 Pilates classes plus 2 Step and some one to one sessions has felt like it should be too much. You know what – it has actually refreshed me and held me together.

My aches, pains, clicks and gripes usually get soothed and sorted by Pilates. Some of that is down to working hard, but a lot of that is down to the posture and poise I automatically adopt in class and when thinking about Pilates.

How many of you hunch over a desk, walk around with your pelvis/bum stuck out or cross your legs a lot? It all leads to tightness in some areas and lengthened, weak muscles in other areas. As an instructor I’m quite in tune with my body….most of the time. But at the end of a busy day when I’m tired my weaknesses slip through – I know I stick my pelvis out, am slightly lordotic and tense my shoulders. It’s a continual work in progress to counteract it all, but when I do, the results are noticeable. I feel more relaxed, less stressed and habe no back pain!

Think about your poise…..how do you sit…..how do you walk…..how do you stand…..? Is your body aligned (a plumb line from ear, through shoulder, through knee to ankle), is your pelvis in neutral, are your hips level, your shoulders relaxed? Release that tension.