Pilates for tight shoulders.

Tight shoulders, neck pain, one shoulder higher than the other, restricted movement in a shoulder or shoulder pain are all issues that we see in the studio daily. There can be many causes, but many arise from our day to day lifestyle. Computers, laptops, smart phones, we all use them but they can affect our posture. Whether you have a desk job or not, you likely suffer from tightness in your shoulders and probably have a forward jut in your neck from leaning to look at a screen. So here are some tips to help and some exercises too:

Correcting your posture is a huge part of dealing with this issue.

  1. Bring your screen to eye level so you do not have to bend you neck to look at it. This may be you need a laptop raiser.
  2. Have your arms in line with keyboard so your wrists are not bent as you type.
  3. If working with your laptop, try not to use it on your lap! Instead place it ontop of a higher surface or place a laptop on your lap first.
  4. Stay away from the slouch. Sitting in good posture is an absolute must, as is taking posture breaks. Your eyes and shoulders will thankyou for a little move around.

To help deal with those aches and pains from working, lifting, leaning towards a screen or carrying children, here are some simple but effective shoulder mobilisers and release moves.

If you need more support with your neck of shoulders then why not book an assessment and sports massage with James.

Pilates is more than just Exercise.

I feel so totally blessed in my job. Pilates is so much more than just exercise. Yes there are always times I don’t fancy going to teach a class and moments I get that “rather be on the sofa” feeling but on the main I love what I do. 

Here is why. 

Movement heals and keeps me working.  

I’ve taught my way through 3 pregnancies and put my body back together postnatally. The demands of young children and breastfeeding and not sleeping on my body are huge. I’ve been pregnant 3 times in 6 yrs and fed babies now for 4 out of the past 6 1/2 years. A woman’s health Physio told me that the functional movement I do in pilates is what has saved me. It has fixed me and because I move so much it keeps me strong. Without it I know I would have lower back pain, aching shoulders, neck and hips. In short I would be needing massage and Physio!

Pilates is mindful movement.

Mindfulness is so in at the moment.  A chance to switch off the thoughts of life outside the studio, of family, of my other quite stressful work and instead focus on breathing and concentrating on controlling body movements. Switching on certain muscles and relaxing others. I always leave with a calmer mind. A calmer mind leads to clearer thoughts. 

Community and friendships.

I meet such amazing people. Pilates has built up a fabulous community around us. Having small children can be lonely. Even though you can be out with them in a crowd you don’t always get the chance to talk to adults. Pilates gives me that adult company that I don’t always get in the rest of my day (husband excluded!). I pick up tips, local knowledge and find out what is going on in the world from the chatter in my classes! Friendships have been made in classes but also in 1-1 sessions and our postnatal cuppa sessions. I have made some wonderful connections through this and am super lucky to have added to my mummy friendship circle and also to my supportive friendships through what I do for enjoyment and work. 

 

Pilates practise overspills into my everyday life.

My posture is something I am constantly working on. I totally loved studying but wasn’t aware of my posture in University days and suffered with a very tight upper back, shoulders and neck away. I know now that how I sit, stand and move creates patterns in my body, creates muscle tensions and so working on my shoulder and neck position helps me trendously. It is all about making the subconscious become more conscious.

Having a job that you enjoy is important. Having a job that provides so much more just makes me very lucky. I hope you get more from your pilates practise than just going through the motions. 

Pilates fights pain

Sometimes we can feel as if the weight of the world is on our shoulders, but actually more accurately it is probably on our backs. Back pain can be a result of working environments, busy lifestyles, driving, lifting, poor posture, tiredness and medical conditions. Pilates is proven to be one method to prevent and ease the discomfort of back pain by improving your posture and strengthening your core.

Poor posture through slumping and collapsing in the spine or rounding the shoulders leads to the weight in the body being incorrectly distributed, too much force goes through some areas and not enough through others. Some of your muscles begin to overwork and are constantly fighting against gravity, the composition of these muscles begins to change and they develop more stringy fibres. This is done to save the energy that would otherwise be required to hold a muscle fibre in a constant state of contraction. This stringy feeling is a knot or a tense, tight spot. That’s the point lots of people go for a massage, which I definitely recommend. However, once you have had the massage you need to address why you needed it in the first place.

 

Pilates with Priya: Pilates fights pain

 

These tight muscles are often weakened, leading to changes in the natural movement patterns of the joints. A pull one way from a tight, overworked, weak muscle can cause a muscular spasm as the body attempts to quickly stabilise the movement. When one part of the body is not working properly, another part will try to compensate. It sounds like a great plan, but really we want to fix the broken section or we end up with a whole body that is out of balance. It is like tuning an instrument. If one note is out of tune, you can retune to that pitch and the instrument will sound fine, until you play with another instrument.

Pilates gives you the opportunity to work out which parts of your body need correction and attention. By working on your posture in classes, it should have a knock on affect in daily life. There are exercises to strengthen muscles, lengthen muscles, shorten muscles and relax muscles.

The changes that Pilates quickly makes in the way we live in our bodies is always so rewarding to see. Often after only a few sessions, clients will tell me how it is making a difference. I remember one lady telling me how she has to adjust her rear view mirror overtime she gets in the car after class as she has “grown”. Showing how slumped she had become in the day and the difference just one session can make. Another client found his sciatica had gone after 4 classes, meaning he could get down to the floor and play with his kids. Often we will adjust sessions to deal with people’s aches and pains that week. Pilates is a practice that once you feel it’s benefits you won’t understand how you managed without it.

So if you want to deal with those aches and pains, book a 1-2-1 session or a place on an introduction course today.

How to change your exercise habits for the better.

I often describe Pilates to people as a “back to front type of exercise”. Usually in exercise working as hard as you can means as fast and hard as you can, as many times as you can. The opposite is almost true in Pilates. This is one of the reasons I love it.

Coming from a fitness instructor background I was used to teaching aerobics, spin and step classes. If you weren’t creating a sweat pool, you weren’t getting the most benefits. You know those classes, and DVDs where they say things like “your legs should be crying right now” and “push, push, go faster” or “you should be feeling like you want to collapse right now”, well that wasn’t quite my teaching style but I loved all of that. In fact I still do.

Pilates has taught me so much about my body and how it functions, how I can get the best out of all forms of exercise, how to breath correctly, the mental clarity of exercise and how to slow things down to get maximal gains. All of this I carry over into any other exercise I do. In short, Pilates has completely changed my view on exercise and improved my technique all round.

FOR EXAMPLE….

Let’s take a crunch. Often you see people aiming to do 50 crunches in one go. Pilates has taught me that if you do a sit up/curl up/crunch correctly you only need to do 8-12 repetitions to get the benefits. It is the technique and speed that changes things.

Pilates curl up

With simple arm movements if you focus on your posture and using your body in a functional way then you will actually strengthen the right muscles AND work the core.

A side lying leg lift is someone often put into a LBT style class. Performed whilst keeping your core engaged and your waist lengthened it turns into a completely different exercise.

Side lying leg lift

How to change your exercise habits for the better:

1. Be mindful. Slow down and connect with what you are doing. What muscles are you meant to be working? Is your core switched on? You very much still need your brain in gear when you exercise.

2. Posture check. You can injure yourself or at best not get the most out of a movement by ignoring your posture. You can do a great squat but have your back arched, so pull your lower back. Think about your starting, ending, and your posture during the movement. Video yourself, watch in a mirror or get a PT/fitness instructor to check.

3. Slow it down. Now I don’t necessarily mean running here! However slowing down large compound movements can make you work harder. Try a fast and a slow press up for example.

4. Breath. The breathing really is key. By breathing out on the hardest part of the exercise you recruit those core muscles that little bit more.

5. Use your core in all your cardio and lifting movements too. Core work is not something you leave behind at the end of a Pilates class, but should be something that you take into other movements. Hopefully it will also become a natural reflex so that when you lift something you engage your core.

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.