In Defense of Pilates as Movement System

So I read this on a blog the other day, and, well, it kinda made me sad:

"One casualty was Lisa Brinkworth. Lisa is a resident of Buckinghamshire, England and the mother of three small sons. Last year, she started taking Pilates at a local studio and was inspired by a fellow student to sign up for a twice weekly “planking” competition. Initially she was excited by the planking event and did her best to hold the pose longer and longer. Around Christmas, Lisa began suffering what she describes as an “excruciating pain in the left side of my chest.” The pain was so bad that she feared she was having a heart attack or had developed breast cancer. Doctors finally diagnosed her condition as “costochondritis,” an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. “How many of us,” she wondered, “are putting ourselves at risk of such a painful unnecessary injury?”

Now, I want to be very clear.  I do not want to start to compare Pilates with barre classes.  I take barre workouts and enjoy them.  The first class I was ever certified to teach was the New York City Ballet Workout, which could easily be described as a barre workout (without the barre, it's all done standing in center).  So let's not go there.  This is not about what is better or worse.

For me, this is about Pilates and how we teach it.  Did you see the pictures of the planking on the blog?  It's bodies piled on top of each other.  How is this Pilates?  What part of Pilates should involve a competition? 

I believe that Pilates should be taught as a movement system.  I believe Joe taught it that way.  It's one of the things that makes Pilates, well, Pilates.  So what is a movement system?  It's process-oriented, non-competitive, and non-intimidating.  A movement system should stimulate the senses, the mind, and motor skill development.  It should focus on breathing and regeneration of energy.  I think you could ask any of my clients and they would say this is how we teach Pilates at JSP.  But I teach it that way because I think it honors the way Joe taught it.  Contrast Joseph Pilates' quotes below with the experience that poor woman had:

"Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.  Through Contrology (Pilates), you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then, through proper repetition of its exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."

"Beginning with the introductory series, each succeeding exercise should be mastered before proceeding progressively with the following exercises."

or my favorite:

"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."

If we honor Joseph's work, we must teach Pilates as a movement system.  Even if we cannot agree on imprinting or order or neutral pelvis, can we at least agree on this?  I don't want to ever see Pilates mentioned in an article entitled "The Good and Bad of Extreme Workouts."  Really.  If you're teaching something that extreme that you are putting bodies on top of one another, working people past the point of exhaustion, and competing one person against another, can you please just not call it Pilates?  Because it really isn't.

The saddest thing about the blog post?  I agree with the author's point.  She writes, "The best way to transform your body remains training under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and committing yourself to regular, focused practice."  I couldn't agree more, I just would call that "Pilates."  

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Powerhouse Cues!

Here are the latest Powerhouse cues from the clever ladies that met this weekend:

100 - draw in and down like an anchor on your pelvis; like being strapped to the floor

Roll Up - like going down the stairs, step by step,b one by bone; bone by bone like a strand of lights; like rolling up and over a beach ball

OLC - hold your pelvis still like you're wearing a girdle; anchor your spine like it's a tree trunk; move your leg like folding in egg whites

RLAB - pull in and up like a zipper; round out from your center like spokes on a wheel; make a shape like a bug protecting itself

SLS - press down to the floor like flattening a pancake; extend your legs like reaching the pedals for a bike that's too big

DLS - like a clam opening and closing

Scissors - keep your pelvis still like you have a tray of drinks on it

Lower & Lift - Hold you Powerhouse strong and rooted to the floor like an old tree; like tightening a corset

Criss Cross - Still your pelvis like you're stuck in mud; rotate like the roots of a swaying tree

SSF - stacking bone by bone like building a house brick by brick; round up like a flower coming back to life

Saw - sit tall like a tree trunk; lift up like you're wearing a corset

Side Kicks: Front & Back - move front and back like you're ringing a bell

Side Kicks:  Up & Down - press down through honey

Side Kicks:  Inner Thigh - Press leg up like you're offering a drink with your foot, hold your foot like the base of an electric mixer (circles)

Seal - roll down like a wheel pushing from each tread

Standing Roll Down - up and over a mountain

Check out other cues here!

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Training Center Reduced Rates

Did you know JSP is also a Peak Pilates Education Center?  That means a nice savings for you if you are a generally healthy person and new to Pilates.  Apprentice teachers are working towards their certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $20.  Level I certified instructors have completed the first level of three toward full certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $40.  ** These sessions are for beginners with healthy bodies only

Did you know JSP is also a Peak Pilates Education Center?  That means a nice savings for you if you are a generally healthy person and new to Pilates.  Apprentice teachers are working towards their certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $20.  Level I certified instructors have completed the first level of three toward full certification, and teach private Pilates sessions for $40. 

** These sessions are for beginners with healthy bodies only

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Heal Inflammation from the Inside Out

Do you often treat muscle soreness with pain medicine or creams?  Why not try to make your own tea with healing properties?  It's made with food, so it will nourish your body without any side effects, and it only takes about 5 minutes to make.

I love to make a healing tea with lemon, ginger, and tumeric. 

Lemon is a alkalinzing fruit.  Most Americans have a high acid content to their diets (from eating dairy, meat, sweets, and caffeine).  Lemon can help balance pH levels in the body which has been linked to better digestion, mood, and less pain.  More information on alkaline diets can be found here.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and can also help to aid digestion.  It's also an antioxidant.  It's ability to help with nausea is well documented as well.

Finally, the active ingredient in tumeric** (what gives curry it's yellow color) is curcumin.  It has strong anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties. 

So, to make the tea:

1.  Heat some water (I usually just make a single cup for myself)

2.  Squeeze half the juice of one lemon into the water (don't worry about the seeds, you'll strain it later)

3.  Grate about 2 teaspoons fresh ginger into the water

4.  Grate about 2 teaspoons fresh tumeric into the water (peel and grate the tumeric as you would the ginger)

5. Wait about 5-7 minutes, then strain out the ginger, tumeric, and lemon seeds

6.  Enjoy a glass!  If you want to add some sweetness, I recommend honey.

** Tumeric can be found in most health food stores in the produce section, usually by the ginger

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Inspiration

Thank you Ton Voogt for sharing this quote when I took the Super Advanced Reformer Workout at the Pilates Empowerment Summit!  I'm still thinking about this!

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

More! Powerhouse Cues

100 - Bowling Ball on Pelvis

Roll Up - Roll Pelvis like a Wheel

OLC - Imprint Spine like a Brick Pressing Down, Lie in Wet Cement

RLAB - Tilt pelvis like a bowl back and forth

Single Leg Stretch - Maintain Rectangle Box

Double Leg Stretch - Melt back in like chocolate

Scissors - Drop weight into lower back like a ship dropping an anchor

Lower Lift - Drop spine into mat like a heavy bike chain

Criss Cross - Wring out a wet towel

Spine Stretch Forward - Roll forward like a slinky down a stair

Open Leg Rocker Prep - Balance on your tailbone like a diamond in a ring setting

Corkscrew - Press hips down to the mat with super glue, Stir a pot

Saw - Turn and lift like a top

Swan - Snake coming out of a snake charmer basket/move head like the sun coming up and over the mountain

Rest - Turtle your tailbone under

Bridge - Curl lower back up like a scorpion's tail, Lift up like a wedge is sliding under your spine

Side Kicks - Front - Swing your leg like a saloon door

SK - Up and Down - Draw leg down through mud, Stretch leg like a rubber band on way down/Spring it on the way up, Lift a mile/Push away a ton of weight

SK - Circles - Stir a pot, Light a match

SK - Inner Thighs - Keep abs up and in like two panes of glass on the front and back of your body, Keep your body in a toaster

Beats - Wrap your thighs like bacon over a date, Beat feet like you're fanning a fire - Put the coals out

Teaser One Leg - Hold flower between knees, curl up to smell it

Teaser - Lift your chest like you just won an Olympic medal

Swimming - Swim through sand

Leg Pull Front Support - Head to heel like a piece of steel

Mermaid - Press hips down and separate ribs like a shutter on a window/Two opposing magnets/Block of ice on hips

Seal - Hold a bowl in your empty space - Don't loose your bowl

Push Ups - Open your scapula broad like a book

Find more cues here

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Is this Going to be Your Excuse or Your Story?

I recently finished reading Misty Copeland's memoir, and it made me think:

Of all the girls who study ballet, how many actually become professional ballerinas?

Of those ballerinas, how many dance with American Ballet Theatre?

Of those that dance with ABT, how many become soloists?

That accomplishment, in itself, is remarkable.  But Misty also had to overcome an instable home life, a very late start for a dancer, and prejudice.  Oh, and toss in a highly publicized custody battle with her ballet teacher.

All her life, Misty had a million great reasons to quit, to give up on herself, but she didn't.  Instead, she kept going, so now those roadblocks to her dreams are just a part of the narrative of her success.

So, what is it gonna be - your excuse or your story?  How many things are holding you back from becoming your best self?  Are they the excuses you make that will prevent you from realizing your potential or will they become a part of your story?  The things you'll recount when you talk about your amazing accomplishments?

What is it going to be?

 

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Spring Training Dates Finalized

Find them all here.

In addition, PPC-2 Continues!  Register here for our March/May modules.

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Mama Morning Shake Recipe

Many of my clients ask me what I put in my morning shake, what my kids call "Mama Morning Shake," so I thought I'd share it with you below.  It's not a recipe exactly, and that's what I like about it.  It's very flexible so you can use what's on hand in your kitchen or keep it vegan, add more greens....it's really up to you!

One banana (you can freeze it the night before to make the shake more like a milkshake in consistency)

Frozen berries (about a cup) But sometimes I use whatever is on sale that week - frozen pineapple and mango work nicely

About a cup of some kind of liquid (ha - how's that for specific?  I like coconut water, but you can do almond milk, cow's milk...even a juice if you prefer)

Handful of greens (Kale, spinach, stay away from mustard greens - I found that out the hard way and my son almost never trusted a green smoothie for awhile after that)

A scoop or two of a good protein power (I've been liking the SunWarrior Protein Classic Vanilla - it's vegan and not too chalky or sweet)

Blend that baby up and enjoy!  My kids like to drink theirs with matching straws.  I feel like this keeps my energy up more than anything else I have for breakfast, and I love knowing I started the day with some fruit and veggies - you can never eat enough of them!

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required
In Tags

The Top Three Things to Remember when Working with the Power Circle

1.  It's a Three-Dimensional Picture of Your Powerhouse.  However how hard you press the circle, that's how hard you're scooping.  The Power Circle isn't isolated work for your arms or your thighs, it's work for your entire body.  So don't forget to connect to your center.  It's not a workout for your peripherals, it's a workout for your Powerhouse.

2.  Press the Circle, Don't Squeeze.  You wouldn't choke your dance partner, would you?  So don't squeeze the circle.  Press it (with long fingers and not a death grip).  Just like we don't sit on the Pilates Chair, we sit in it, we press the circle toward our center to bring our awareness there as well.  There's no prize if you break it.  Work into your body by bringing your upper thighs in toward your pelvis or your scapula onto your ribs.  Don't squeeze with your knees (This is not Suzanne Somer's Thigh Master)!

3.  Work Without It.  After you've used the Power Circle to deepen the work in an exercise, take it away and try to find the connection without it.  The circle is a tool to help access your critical connections, but ultimately you should be able to work without it and find the same connections. 

 

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

More Powerhouse Cues

100 - Balance a teacup between your pelvis and hip bones

Roll Up - peel up like a wet spaghetti noodle off the mat, round over a beach ball

One Leg Circle - Pin hips down

RLAB - Be like a ball, eyes on the prize

Single Leg Stretch - Draw a line with your legs in and out

Double Leg Stretch - Glue the lower back to the mat, wrap the legs, funnel the ribs, knit the ribs

Scissors - Lengthen your heel to your seat

Double Leg Lower/Lift - Draw it in

Criss Cross - Wring out ribs like a towel

Spine Stretch Forward - Lift over a beach ball, Lift up and and over your three anchors

Saw - Saw open your back, spread the scapula like wings, wring out your ribs

Swan - Don't smash the mouse in your house

Rest - Round in the spine

Shoulder Bridge Prep - Feel lifted to the ceiling, Lay buttons down on the mat

Side Kicks: Front - Glue hip to mat

SK: Up and Down - Move through Peanut Butter for resistance

SK:  Circles - Abs Lift/No Shift

SK:  Inner Thighs - Lengthen out leg like a laser

Beats on Belly - Mouse in the House

Teaser One Leg - Roll Bone by Bone

Swimming Prep:  Mouse House, Lead Core

LPFS: Abs up and into Core

Seal:  Roll the abs up and in

Push Ups:  Roll down bone by bone

More cues here, and here

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Power Circle Workout

Here's a short workout guaranteed to tone your low belly and inner and outer thighs.  Enjoy!  Want more?  I'm teaching a Power Circle CEC class February 1st.  I'd love to see you there!  It's an open class for Pilates enthusiasts, not just certified teachers.  Why not learn new ways to challenge yourself at home?



Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Sock Wardrobe Winner and Island Getaway!

Laura is our big winner of the Toe Talk Sock Giveaway!  But wait, you can still win a tropical getaway! 

Check out what Laura said about breathing here in the comments section.  It's a really great reminder we all need from time to time - inhale, exhale, repeat.

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

Roller Workout

In Pilates, we don't really have shavasana.  But you can still relax and stretch your body.  Here's a video with a short roller workout to stretch and open your chest and hips.  I promise you'll feel like you just took a nap...well, you'll definitely feel more relaxed then you did when you started!  Enjoy!


Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

You Are More than Your Body

I was reading this blog today and this line really struck a chord with me:

"Stress trumps all.   Even when the diet and movement are right, you can be undermined by a mind that's bearing a heavy load." 

Isn't that true?  Every time I've had a major injury, it's been during a very stressful period in my life.  I've taken to preemptively doing energy work before a stressful event because my body manifests stress so strongly physically.  When I last sprained my ankle, I was a Graduate Teaching Assitant, was completing my Masters, was teaching full time, and completing the highest level of Pilates certification.  So was it the movement in the ballet class that injured me?  No, it was the heavy load I was carrying in my brain and in my heart.

So, how are you planning on taking care of your mind this year?  How can we lessen the load for each other? 

This may be my New Years Non Resolution .

A Warrior's Strength

Lies Within.  If you cannot find your center, you cannot stand tall.  Check out my latest video in honor of Toe Talk's Warrior Chick Sock $2 discount this Monday 12.29.  Enjoy a wonderful sock discount and learn to work your Powerhouse in celebration.


Sock Wardrobe Giveaway in Honor of the Solstice!

Don't you wish you had some new socks?  With inspiring messages to help you make all those awesome changes for the new year?  Well, toe talk socks is giving away 7 pairs of socks - that's a complete wardrobe for you, a new sock everyday.  All you have to do is visit their website and leave a comment below telling me what your favorite sock is.  If you share this post or retweet it, it's an extra entry.  Where will your socks take you?  To the Pilates studio?  To yoga class?  Or to just a more mindful moment amid the chaos?  Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat.

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

What are you Giving Yourself this year?

list.jpg

Before we even get into New Years Resolutions, can we talk about what gifts we're giving this year?  Not to each other, but to ourselves?  No matter what Winter Festival of Your Choice you are celebrating, why not give yourself a gift this year instead of giving something up for New Years?  Why not add instead of subtract? 

Just. Add. Pilates.

Or yoga.  Or breakfast smoothies.  Or an earlier bedtime.  And see what else changes. 

Make your life one of plenty and abundance.

See also What If?

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required

The Top 3 Reasons Why Men Should Do Pilates

I know Pilates has gotten a girly reputation, but Joseph Pilates was not a dancer - he was a boxer!  How more manly can you get?  But I can't tell you how many times people have asked me if I have any male clients.  Yes, and do, and here's why.

You get to stretch without taking a yoga class with a bunch of hyper-flexible women.  Many of my guy clients know they need to stretch (and did you know that a tight psoas can lead to erectile dysfunction?) but they don't want to be surrounded by super flexible women (women tend to be more flexible than men) with their feet touching their heads while they struggle with straps and blocks to approximate the same position.  In every exercise in Pilates, there is a stretch and a strength.  So in Spine Stretch Forward, you're working your abs but at the same time you're stretching your hamstrings, but you get to move and flow in the position.  You don't have to sit and hold something that may feel intense for 3 minutes.

It helps to open your chest.  Many men focus on developing the muscles of their chest, but that can lead to overly tight chest muscles, even kyphosis (and hey, staring at that smart phone all day isn't helping!).  Without stretching the chest, over developed chest muscles can cause lower back pain, and tight hips (see reason #1 above for a sneaky way to stretch without forcing yourself into Cobra).  Pilates extension for the upper back focuses on opening the thoracic spine without loading the low back - it's more of a sternum lift than an arch of the mid-back.  If you're really tight in your chest, deep back bends will only cause more pain.  The smaller, more strategic extension in Pilates will help deeper postural changes take effect.

You'll perform better at your favorite sport.  Many of my clients (male or female, for that matter) remark on how much more lung capacity they experience after starting a regular Pilates practice.  The lateral opening of the side body coupled with the lift of the rib cage in forward flexion is unlike any other exercise system.  This means that in your Pilates lesson, you are lengthening your ribs off your pelvis in two directions - to the side (which is easier and will give your body more stretch) and when you round forward (which is much more challenging).  But if you can master that, you are training your internal, deepest abdominal muscles to support the carriage of your rib cage.  If you can do that, you'll make more space to breathe, helping you increase your endurance for whatever sport you do. 

By now, we all know that King James does Pilates.

Are you ready to join him?  Or are you already a male student of Pilates?  Share your story in the comments!

Breathing Video and Discount

Often, my clients ask me how they can breathe in Pilates.  "If I'm pulling my belly in, how do I inhale?"  Watch this short video to learn how to breathe in honor of my toe talk inhale/exhale socks which are $2 off this coming Monday 12.15!

 

Subscribe to the Blog via Email Updates

* indicates required