Pain, Pilates, and a Tool to Help

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One of the things I love about Pilates is how it gives us permission - permission to listen to our bodies.  I feel like when I was younger I was all about pushing myself and pushing my body to perform.  In order to do that, I had to ignore signs of fatigue and pain.  

Then I found Pilates, and my teacher would ask me questions like "Where do you feel that?"  Nobody had ever asked me that before.  As long as I was performing well, nobody cared.  Now that I've found Pilates, I use my workout time to not only improve the performance of my body, but to also check in.  It's one of the things I love about traditional Pilates that follows Joe's order.  If you repeat the order of the exercises each day, they become a barometer to check in and see how your body is doing.  The consistency acts as a guide to see how my body is feeling each day.  If the 100 is always first, then if it feels different, better, or worse, I know I need to adjust.  I need to listen.  So if I feel a twinge or a pain, it matters.  

The other thing that Pilates taught me is the difference between good pain and bad pain.  Discomfort that lasts during an exercise but goes away when I'm done?  Good.  Discomfort that lasts hours later?  Bad.  Muscle pain?  Good.  Joint pain?  Bad.

And that joint pain leads me to that little bottle above (housed in front of my manuals and research and general to-dos).

I was sent a sample of the Banja Balm by Khroma Herbal Products, so if I was working out and felt a twinge or pain, I would apply the balm to the area after I worked out.  I would massage it in and I always felt better.  So better, in fact, that applying the balm is now part of my ritual after my Pilates practice.  Usually, I workout at 8 or 9pm after the kids are in bed, so I use Pilates as a way to unwind and check in after a long day.  After my workout, I'll apply the balm, and really massage it in.  I've found it also helps relieve the over-stimulation that nighttime workouts can give me as well.  It smells super good, and is full of vegan and organic yummy ingredients.  I've been recommending it to my clients who want a sore muscle rub without camphor because some of them are adverse to the smell.  It is a little grainy, which concerned me the first time I used it, but the balm melts on contact and absorbs well.

So how about a little self-massage after your Pilates session?  Don't mind if I do.

Disclaimer:  I was given a free bottle of the Banja Balm, but all opinions expressed above are my own.

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Foam Roller Workshop

Did you miss our Foam Roller Workshop last year?  Only $100 if you BYOR.  Check out the details in our latest newsletter.

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Stretches for Back Pain Relief

Here are a few of my favorite stretches to help alleviate back pain. 

These are not Pilates exercises, but stretches that can be performed 2-3 times a day to help stretch and strengthen your lower back.  If you have back pain that is acute or has not been diagnosed, please check with your doctor before adding in this stretch series.

 

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I love it, Sir!

So my son recently started taking Taekwondo, and one day as I was observing class, my son and the instructor had this conversation while he was trying to do the splits.

Master:  How are you doing, Ty?

Student:  Not so good, Sir.  It hurts, Sir.

Master:  Oh no, Taekwondo Kids do not say, "It hurts."  Taekwondo kids do not say, "Ow."  They say, "I love it, Sir."  Say "I love it, Sir."

Student:  I love it, Sir.

So what to make of this?  Well, initially I was a little worried.  Is my son being taught to ignore pain or his feelings?  I wouldn't want that. 

But on second thought, it seems the lesson is that you can frame thoughts in your head so that you don't defeat yourself.  This reminds me of my mantra, "I love the burn." or why I need to do the exercises that I "hate."  But maybe I don't "hate" them anymore.  Maybe I "love" them.  Because they're making me stronger. 

How we talk to ourselves is very important.  How you talk to your clients is important.  Honor that something is challenging.  Much of Pilates is.  But find the joy in the struggle, the love in the work.  Pilates is difficult enough.  Adding negative energy won't help you find depth in a stretch or connection in a movement.  But maybe "loving" it will.  And it will make the journey that much more pleasant, so go ahead - love the burn, love the stretch, love your body and the effort you're putting into it each time you approach the work.  And who knows?  Eventually, your self talk may turn into actual self love.

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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."  

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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

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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!


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This will Seriously Change Your Life

Do you remember life before kids? Before college? Before full time work when you could lie around in an epsom salt bath?  It helps to release toxins from your sore muscles so after a tough workout you could just soak, add an essential oil or two, and sip some coconut water so you don't get dehydrated?  Oh, and while we're at it, your maid cleaned your house and your chef prepared your meals for the next day?  Wait, you never did that?  Well, why not, epsom salts are so good for you!

The benefits of epsom salts are well documented.  They are full of magnesium and sulfate, minerals that help to detoxify the body and ease muscle cramps.  And while a bath every so often isn't practical for most of us, did you know that you can just rub them into your skin in a shower?  I got this advice from a client of mine who is a nurse, and I've been doing it for years, and it definitely works.  I just keep my epsom salts near the shower, then rub them into any sore or tight muscles.  Then I can get the benefits without having to take the time to run a bath.

Someday, I'll return to baths.  But until then, at least my body doesn't have to miss out on all the benefits.  And now you don't have to, too.

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