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 .

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!

Go big go long or go home?

I'm often asked by clients how far or long to reach a leg or arm during an exercise, and that's where my often spoken, "Range is determined by form" comes from.

It's most important to keep your critical connections in Pilates - so if by reaching your arm you cannot keep your ribs to your scapula and your scapula to your ribs, you've gone too far.  If you don't feel your three anchors, your legs have dipped too low.

But how do you determine where this end range is?  It can be different from day to day, and hopefully with improve with time as you commit to your Pilates practice.  In general, stay where you are working in your Powerhouse, and let that connection build in a smaller range of motion before taking it bigger.  Start at the center, at the Powerhouse, not in your arms or legs.  You should feel your arms and legs lengthening out from your Powerhouse connection.  Stop when you loose that connection.

My first Pilates teacher made me make the tiniest One Leg Circles I had ever performed, but when I did my hip stopped clicking.  I kept working on my Powerhouse connection and one day she said, "I think you can make them bigger now."  But it was important for me to keep them small so that the larger motion didn't distract me from my Powerhouse.  Momentum is not a muscle group, and it certainly isn't one of the Pilates Principles.

So stay inside the exercise and your body.  Really listen to see if you are finding your connection.  And don't be afraid to make the movement small and controlled (that one is a Pilates principle)!

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New CEC in July!

Peak Pilates® Props Shop (4 Hours)

 

Set up shop and gain new skills to increase support, resistance and proprioceptive feedback and help your mat students understand and get more out of their workout. Don’t just grab any old prop—develop a thought process that will help you to decide why to choose which prop, how to use them to full advantage, and how to work with flow. Balls, bands, circles, rings and more!

Sunday, July 27th 9am-1pm

Register Here

 

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What If?

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What if what scares you becomes the best thing ever?

So my son came home the other day and told me that the monkey bars are "dumb."  In five-year-old kid speak, that translates as "hard."  So I've been encouraging him, when we're at the park, to try them different ways -- with me spotting him, supporting his body, pointing out the finder details of other kids' technique...

Ah, the joys of having a parent that studies movement...

And here's what I've learned - the monkey bars are hard.  Really hard.  And a total core workout.  And kinda, um, scary.

I could see fear thoughts when they would drift into my son's brain because it changed how he moved -- more cautious, less sure. So finally, I asked him, "What are you scared of"

"Falling."

"Ok, so do it."

"What?"

"Let go."

So my son let go after he hung for awhile, and he landed on two feet, looked up at me, smiled, and said, "That was fun!  I'm going to do that again!  I'm going to be an expert faller!"

So what is the scariest thing for you right now?  Snake on Reformer?  Candlestick on Cadillac?  Signing up for an Introductory Series?  Registering for a Pilates training? 

It may be just the thing that you are best at, the most fun you'll ever have.

Just. Let. Go.

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