- Lay on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor.
- Reach your arms up to the ceiling and then overhead trying to bring your arms in line with your ears.
- Your low back should not arch and ribs should not pop toward the ceiling.
Strong Booty, Strong Back
With back issues at an all time high, people are looking more often to alternative solutions rather than the traditional route of
surgeries and drugs. Finding and engaging the muscles of the core to help stabilize the spine is becoming common practice the world over. This awareness is a vital piece of the overall wellness and care of the spine, but it is only one part of the puzzle. The often overlooked piece or that many people don’t relate to both stabilizing and mobilizing the torso are the glutes or your “booty”. People were on the right track with the old saying “Lift with your legs, not your back”, however, the glutes are often disassociated from the leg. As Pilates instructors, our job is all about teaching movement, we’re often referred to as movement specialists. This means that it’s our responsibility to teach proper awareness, engagement and movement patterns. Many people have a disconnect relating to this area, it is an important area to focus on and understand.
Once a mind-muscle connection to the glutes has been
established, we then begin to work on getting them to work properly and consistently. With some clients this is not an easy task as many people are now working in jobs that don’t require them to stand or move very much. This more sedentary lifestyle tends to lead to under use of the glutes and more quad dominance. To correct this we first educate the client on the proper firing pattern, then ingrain it into their mind and body with repetitions of various exercises.
A proper firing pattern is the sequence in which the muscles fire
in order to achieve a specific motion. Having this correct order of
operations in the glutes leads to more efficient recruitment when
using them to either mobilize or stabilize, or both, in turn taking the strain off of the much smaller spinal extensors that are in many cases overused. This will dramatically reduce the risk of lumbar strains and injuries. Pilates teaches the body to do this along with returning or bringing the body to a more neutral state.
A large part of poor biomechanics and improper recruitment of
the hip extensors can be directly attributed to improper posture and poor alignment of the pelvis. A common issue is excessive posterior tilt of the pelvis, or a “tucked under” stance. Correcting this allows more freedom of movement through the lumbo-sacral junction which in turn helps to facilitate better use of the glutes. It will also help to open up the sacro-illiac joint, which is very often a major trouble spot because of the nerve bundle running from the brain, all the way down the spine, through the S.I. joint and down to the legs. This one spot can be responsible for a variety of nerve related pain directly above and/or below it.
What This Means For The Client
As I’ve tried to explain here, it is critical to any client to have the
ability to correctly use the glutes in their
workouts, and in their day-to-day life. Although this can be a daunting task, it is also a very rewarding
undertaking. This results in not only giving them
ability to perform more difficult and complex exercises, but in all around better quality of life outside the studio, which is what we
should all strive to do and the reason Pilates was conceived in the
What is COPD?
COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a group of progressive diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing related diseases. Emphysema, chronic bronchitis and sometimes asthma are included in this group. 64 million people worldwide and 15.7 million people in the United States have COPD. There are 3 million new cases diagnosed each year with women being diagnosed with chronic bronchitis twice as often as men. The incidence of COPD in women is on the rise, but on the decline in men. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Tobacco smoke is the #1 cause of COPD but is also caused by air pollutants, especially chemical pollutants in the home and workplace. Genetics and respiratory infections can also contributing factors. Medical treatment can help manage symptoms, but there is no cure. Exercise can help improve physical strength and endurance but cannot reverse damage. Inactivity can actually exacerbate shortness of breath.
COPD leads to activity limitations such as difficulty walking and climbing stairs. Of those affected by COPD 51% report limited ability to perform work related tasks as well as increased confusion and memory loss. Many report fair or poor health status and often have other chronic conditions such as arthritis, congestive heart failure or diabetes. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, wheezing and coughing producing mucus, phlegm and sometimes blood. Tightness in the chest is also a common complaint.
A careful and thorough evaluation by physician for accurate diagnosis is needed. Effective treatment can alleviate severity, decrease frequency of symptoms and slow the progression of this disease. Pulmonary rehabilitation can be very beneficial. Learning breathing exercises and strategies for dealing with your symptoms can help you better control your symptoms. An exercise program focusing on strength and muscular endurance is beneficial as well.
Pilates is a low impact exercise program that focuses on core strengthening, breathing and quality movement. The transverse abdominis is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is a local stabilizer for the lumbar spine but it is also a muscle of respiration. When we exhale through pursed lips it activates transverse abdominis which strengthens the core but it also forces us to exhale more completely. When we exhale more efficiently we can inhale more completely providing more oxygen to our heart, other muscles and organs. It also helps to strengthen our diaphragm and improve lung capacity. By focusing on the quality of each inhale and exhale, we learn to control our breath and can use this when we find our symptoms exacerbating enabling us to better control our breathing. There are multiple pieces of equipment in the Pilates studio that can be used to strengthen periphery muscles as well. For this reason Pilates can be an integral part of rehabilitation for someone suffering with COPD. Exercise will improve overall strength and endurance as well as strengthen the muscles you use to breath. Exercise improves circulation and helps the body better use oxygen. It builds energy levels so you can do more without becoming tired or short of breath. It strengthens your heart and cardio vascular system. It lowers blood pressure and increases your stamina. Talk to your health care provider about including Pilates in your rehabilitation program and start seeing the benefits of Pilates for yourself.
90 Days To Your Best Stride Ever
By Jerod Craig
As running continues to grow in popularity as a sport, it’s important to keep in mind that effective cross-training will improve overall enjoyment of your experience, as well as allow you to continue running longer, faster, better and more fluidly. Pilates is one of the best forms of cross training available. Here are a few quick reasons why.
Pilates starts with breathing more fully and three dimensionally into the whole of the lungs. This leads to increased oxygenation of the blood, which in turn helps to prolong muscular endurance during activity, especially when this better breath is utilized during a run or other strenuous form of training.
Increased Core Strength
Pilates enables you to not only better produce force during activities such as running, it also helps you to maintain better posture and control to maximize the forces you produce while you are active. Improved overall stability is another added benefit of having more core strength. This can mean less overall soreness after training; especially in the hips and back as well as helping to minimize your risk of injury to these areas.
Corrects postural imbalances, which helps reduce the risk of injury
Along with better breath patterns and core control/stability you will also notice that as you progress your body starts to bring itself to a more neutral and natural alignment. This leads to increased fluidity of movement through the all of the joints involved in your running, which in turn will help with stride length, improved gait and cadence, while decreasing wear and tear. The decrease in wear and tear minimizes the risk of over-use type injuries (sprains, strains, pulls, tears etc.) while prolonging your ability to train at a higher level and also lengthening your overall athletic career. Better posture will also lead to a more open sensation through the spine and shoulders, meaning better bio mechanics through the upper body and thus more efficient utilization of energy.
Enhanced Mind Body Connection
Another thing that you will notice is a far better ability to recognize what is going on with your body, correct things that could be fixed or improved on, and activate your muscles more efficiently. Once this ability is realized, you can begin to apply this to your running practice and figure out those “sticky” aspects of your stride. Obviously this is not an instant transformation, however given time and dedication, you WILL notice a dramatic difference.
As you can see Pilates doesn’t effect any single aspect of your running career, but instead helps with every individual facet, helping to achieve an all around more efficient, stronger, faster more well balanced stride. For those of you looking to take your running game to the next level, this could very well be that missing puzzle piece.
Most exercisers fall into two groups. Hit it hard with power exercises or chill laid back stretches. Your body is a very versatile machine that needs to be challenged with multiple modalities to reach peak performance.
We need the muscular strength and benefits that can be achieved in the weight room. Muscle mass boosts our metabolism, which increases energy and helps us burn more calories and control our weight. It helps build strong bones, which can prevent osteoporosis. It stabilizes blood sugar levels, preventing diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity. Weight training can also reduce the risk of cancer in your body.
We also need mobility throughout our body so we can move without pain or muscular tightness. Muscular tightness can restrict movement, leading to compensatory movement patterns and injury. A well balanced Pilates program will work towards muscular balance at any given joint. Are your hamstrings tight? You may need to look at strengthening your glutes, abdominals and hip flexors to bring better alignment to the lumbar spine and to protect it. Are your head and shoulders rounded forward? You need to strengthen your upper back muscles, rotator cuff muscles and the deep flexors of the neck. Do you struggle with overuse or repetitive injuries to your shoulders, hips or knees? A well trained Pilates instructor can help you address muscular imbalances at these joints so alignment is improved and strains and injuries are reduced.
We ask a lot of our bodies on a daily basis. With a little self care each and everyday, we can stave off a slew of sickness and disease. By working on strength, stability and mobility we will be able to enjoy an active lifestyle that is pain free, while reducing the risk of injury.
At the age of 36 I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. I was living a healthy lifestyle, exercising and teaching daily aerobics classes. It didn’t make sense to me that I would be afflicted with this condition. I referred myself to an asthma and allergy specialist who was able to control my condition with medication. I was very grateful because I was worried that I would have to stop teaching and exercising altogether. My mom also had asthma which wasn’t well controlled. She was prednisone dependent and I did not want to end up like that. Winters were miserable because cold air was a trigger for my asthma. If exposed to people with upper respiratory infections or viruses and I got it, my asthma intensified the illness and my recovery took weeks.
Asthma is chronic disease of the lungs. The airways of people with asthma are always inflamed. It has two different classifications- allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma. Allergic asthma is considered an autoimmune disease while non-allergic asthma is not an autoimmune disease. I had allergic asthma. I am allergic to dogs, which I love, and cats, which I don’t. Strong perfumes or cigarette smoke would always set my asthma off. I am allergic to grasses of all kinds. For the most part I gave up running outdoors because of the allergens I would encounter. It just wasn’t worth it even though I love being outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
A couple of years after my diagnosis I started Pilates. Its emphasis on breath was difficult for me in the beginning. I could not do Hundreds without coughing through the exercise. I felt constricted and breathless when flexed up into the starting position, so an already challenging exercise was more so for me. Breathing into the posterior and lateral aspects of my lungs well was extremely difficult so my shoulders were elevated which is a compensatory pattern in respiration. I also had to shorten the number of inhalations and exhalations, 5 breaths in and 5 breaths out were not possible for me at first. It took time, but eventually I started to learn the mechanics of a proper breath cycle. It is possible to direct the breath into different parts of the body. With asthma it is not a matter of getting oxygen in, but of exhaling adequately so you can inhale. So, learning to exhale completely was a skill I had to learn as well as connecting my body to my breath and making it a conscious action instead of an automatic reflex. Improved breathing has benefited every aspect of my life.
Today I am healthier and stronger because I am able to better oxygenate my muscles and oxygen is the primary fuel for many of our muscles. I can exercise longer and harder because my breath patterns are so improved and I don’t fatigue as quickly. Struggling for air is a thing of the past and dependence on inhalers is negligible. I contribute all of this to Pilates and a dedication to making movement a part of my daily routine.