How a sports massage can compliment your Pilates practice

Sports massage is one of those things that I often know I need, but I put it to the bottom of my list. Which is silly as it can make such a difference to my body.
Why do I procrastinate? It takes an hour for a massage, that’s an hour I could be doing a whole lot of other things, I have to find childcare, book it in, be organised and it will be a bit painful.

As someone who teacher Pilates pretty much daily and practises my own Pilates several times a week, then lifts, twists, bends, chases and rocks children… I use my body in a whole lot of ways, all the time. It is very rare to find me sitting still. This partly means that the constant movement I do keeps my body working. However, it also means that some of the moves I do cause my body problems. Teaching can overuse some muscles, as I demonstrate the same moves day after day. I’m often left with aching gluts!

So for me, sports massage helps:
1. Release tight muscles and finds the areas where you are tight. I went for a massage on my shoulders recently and it turned out my bum needed work instead!
2. Helps to realign you. Those tight muscles can be holding you in a bad posture.
3. Reduces stress and tension. I always feel more relaxed afterwards.
4. Leaves my body stretched working in a more functional way.

All of this means that the next time I am back to Pilates my technique improves. There are times when stretching works, there are times when massage works. If you are plagued by tight muscles in a certain area and you just can’t fully stretch that area out often enough, then get yourself to a sports massage.

James is offering massages at a very good price right now, see the facebook page for “Southampton Massage Studios” and contact him for details.

Posture, Breathing and Pelvic Floor Problems

Your posture plays a huge role in helping your body work effectively and functionally. Many of those aches and pains can all be related to poor posture, which can seem obvious. What can seem less obvious is the relationship between your posture and a weak pelvic floor. Posture can affect your bladder control, prolapse issues and weak pelvic floor problems. So it’s vital to work on getting it right.

Try this out…Sit in a slumped position, with your shoulders rounded and your chest compressed. A fairly typical posture for those who sit alot, and often how we relax on the sofa! Now try to breathe deeply, you should find it is difficult to fill your lungs. In this slumped posture your abdominal contents become compressed and your diaphragm can’t move downwards, so instead of using your diaphragm effectively you use your upper chest muscles to help you breathe.

Slumped forward position and breathing with the upper chest muscles increase pressure on the pelvic floor. Not good.  In this position your core muscles (including deep abdominal and pelvic floor) can’t effectively counter the increased pressure.

Guess what, sort out your posture and breathing and suddenly the core muscles start to work in the right way. Our bodies are built in an amazing way.

So start focusing on your posture, with a tall spine, shoulders down in the back, ribcage soft and not pushed out, tall neck and allow there to be space for your abdominals to work.

the-core2

Next focus on the breath. You want to breath using the diaphragm. That may sound obvious as it is how our bodies are built to work, but so many of us do not breath correctly. It is called Diaphragmatic breathing or thoracic breathing.  Some people breath with just their tummies, some people breath with just their ribcage. You want to use BOTH.

breathe_titled

Try out this exercise:

Place 1 hand on the bottom of your ribcage and 1 hand on the side of your ribcage. Breathe in slowly and deeply so that you feel your tummy rise and your ribcage expand out to the side. You want to focus on breathing into the tummy and ribcage whilst keeping the upper chest muscles relaxed. Think of your lungs like balloons expanding out to the side of the body.

Breathe out by letting the rib cage fall back to resting and the tummy fall back down.

It takes practise and you may find it quite forced at first. Try practicing when you are relaxing or use it as a way to relax throughout the day and it will become habit.

Exercise 2: breath with a band:

Tie a band or a scarf round your body just below the ribcage. Sit with good posture, your ribcage over your pelvis. As you breath in feel your ribcage expanding into the band. As you breath out the ribcage decreases in size. The band can be a nice way to practice your breathing.

The why and why knot of slings.

We first discovered slings when Kezia was about 3 months old. I had one given to me whilst I was pregnant but it was a ring sling, which I just couldn’t work out. Then I ended up with a high maintenance baby who needed holding a lot, feeding a lot and needed to be upright. Suddenly slings became a necessity. Since then slings have become items that I love, they mean I can hold my baby close enough to kiss and yet have both of my arms free. I’ve always found that slings soothe my babies, they love being in the sling as they can see more, be held close and can poke me 😉 My personal favourite sling for front carries is a woven wrap as it is supportive and versatile.  I love the Mei Tai for back carries and for keeping tied on when out and about so I can slip the toddler in and out as needed.  I found out recently that baby wearing can burn an extra 16% of calories too, so an added bonus if you are looking at losing the post-baby weight.

Pilates with Priya: Baby in sling 1

Pilates with Priya: Baby in sling 1

Here are my top tips on slings:

Check to see if you have a sling library and advisor in your area. In Southampton we have a fabulous Sling Sling Meet. This meets twice a month, you can go along to get advice, try out a sling, make sure you are wearing it properly and borrow a sling for a month. A truly fabulous resource.

 

Newborn babies’ have a C-shaped spine, a good sling should allow them to remain in this rounded position and not slouch down when asleep. The fabric shold come up high enough to provide head support.

As with most things in life there are good and bad slings. Meaning there are slings that hold your baby in a good position and some that are not good for baby’s posture and specifically hip development. Forcing the hips into a stretched out position too early can lead to hip dysplasia. You want your baby to have their legs in a “froggy” position or M shape when in a sling, much like the fetal position. Their bottom should sit lower than their knees to allow for the balls o f the hips to sit in the sockets. This takes the pressure off the hip joint. Check that your sling allows this and doesn’t cause the baby’s legs to dangle down, unsupported.

Look out for second hand slings on preloved sites and ebay, you can save a fortune. Also check out you tube for great videos on how to wear your sling, I’ve learnt so many different carries this way.

Be very mindful of your posture when using your sling. It is very easy to let your shoulders round forward and and your neck jut down. This will lead to neck and shoulder ache and will not help with healing a diastasis. You need to focus on your core when using a sling, as when you think about it you are lifting something! So you need to think about  your posture and core. Focus on standing tall, lengthening through the crown of your head, bring your shoulder blades down in your back and lifting through your mid back without pushing your ribcage out. Draw in your lower abdominal and lift your pelvic floor, holding a medium contraction in these muscles. If you get tired then rest. I found a few positions where I could prop myself up on the sofa or bed and have a nap with baby sleeping in the sling!

 

Pelvic Floor: It’s not all about the lift.

I’m slowly turning into a pelvic floor geek. Someone save me! Seriously I have learnt so much more about the pelvic floor in the past year and know I have more to learn.  It’s pretty sad that so much of the information that is given out is so out of date.

Gone are the days when strengthening your pelvic floor was just about trying to mimic the actio of stopping the flow of urine. This is such a simplistic view on a working a complex muscle.

In this brief video below I talk about the pelvic floor being like a trampoline, how we need to strengthen it all the way round thinking about all the attachments and the danger of over tightening. No-one wants an over-tight muscle. Think about having a tight calf muscle. No fun. It can lead to that muscle actually being weak, which is the whole issue you were trying to avoid. Whoops. So focusing on all the muscle attachments and strengthening PLUS relaxing it is the way to go.

(This video was recorded live on Periscope some I respond to the live viewers in parts).

Top 5 Pilates Books.

I’ll be honest. If someone tesll me that they have been learning Pilates from a book I inwardly cringe. Personally I feel that you can only get a proper understanding of Pilates from attending a class with a good teacher. One who will correct your technique, be hands on with you if needed and who takes the time to understand you and your body. Where books can be useful if for home practice or for learning more about how and why exercises work. It’s still not as a good as a class where a teacher can eyeball you… but it’s definitely a good idea to try and do some Pilates practice between classes if you can. Pilates with Priya: Top 5 Pilates books So here are my top 5 Pilates books: 1. A Pilates Primer: Return to life through Contrology and your health by Joseph Pilates – this has the original exercises in that Joseph Pilates designed as a home workout. However please do not use this as your home workout, we modify these exercises now! It is a good read to learn how Pilates started, for those interested in Mr Pilates himself. For home workouts, I find The Body Control Books are all pretty good options, with clear instructions and good tips on technique. 2. The Complete Classic Pilates Method by Lynne Robinson. A good starter book to have. 3. The Pilates Bible: The Most Comprehensive and Accessible Guide to Pilates Ever by Lynne Robinson. This has so many exercises in it that you are bound to find ones you recognise. Pick the ones you know help your body and that you need to work on. 4. Pilates: Simple Routines for Home, Work and Travel by Alan Herdman This has some nice stretches you can use in the morning and a good section with exercises you can do at work which I like. 5. Pilates for Life by Darcey Bussell. Split into sections making it easy to follow. You probably won’t end up looking like Darcey but you can imagine 😉