We have a shiny, new online class timetable which comes into effect from Monday 6th April!
It may evolve over the coming weeks (I have a couple of extra sessions up my sleeve!) but your new online sessions are currently scheduled as follows:
Fitness Pilates 8pm
Kettlebell Express 7am
Metabolic Effect Bootcamp 7am
Fitness Pilates 7pm
Kettlebell Express 7am
Hi-LI Fitness Circuit 9am
Fitness Pilates 10am
All classes are booked online.
When you book a class, you will also receive a link to access the live recording afterwards so that you can ‘attend’ at a later time if your prefer. Live recordings will be available for 7 days after the class.
Payment can be made as a one-off booking or via a monthly class pass subscription which gives unlimited access to all sessions.
With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than forcing the body to create a larger movement. Pilates teaches us to bring subconscious control into habitual movement patterns so that we can move with more ease and efficiency.
Following the eight principles of Pilates helps us to get the most from our practice. Last time we looked at centering.
This time we’re going to look at breathing.
correctly you must completely exhale & inhale, always trying very hard to
‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that
you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth” J Pilates
Breathing has 3 key functions:
to carry nutrients around the body, bringing energy to
every part of the body
to carry waste products away from the body and back to
the lungs where they can be exhaled
to increase stamina
A restricted breathing pattern can create issues such as muscle tightness, restricted joint movements, tiredness and headaches. A more relaxed breathing pattern can help to reverse these issues whilst also reducing stress and creating a sense of well-being.
In Pilates, we use breathing as a way of connecting with the deeper core muscles (made up of the transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifidus). When the breath is aligned with our movements, we can experience greater control at our centre with reduced tension in peripheral areas of the body.
The goal in Pilates is to breathe fully into the lower rib-cage without unnecessarily using accessory muscles in the neck and shoulders. It is one of the key principles of Pilates but can also one of the hardest to grasp to start with.
What is the best breathing pattern for Pilates?
keep the neck and shoulders relaxed to reduce tension in these areas
breathe into the lower part of the rib cage, allowing it to widen in all directions
allow the belly to relax, soften and expand on each inhale
feel the belly gently contract and lift as you exhale
allow your breath to flow – don’t hold your breath at any point
Some people advise that it is best to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, but I think it is best to do what feels right for you. However, if you are more comfortable breathing out through your mouth, try to do so with soft lips (not pursed) and make a sound as if you are sighing – think of the sound that waves make as they break on the beach.
When do I inhale/exhale?
When practising Pilates we want to exhale with the movement which requires the most effort. The basic rule is that you exhale as you move away from your starting position, and inhale as you come back to it. There will be some variations to this rule, but it is a good guiding principle to start with.
with a leg slide, exhale as the leg extends; inhale as it comes back to relaxation position
with knee rolling, exhale as the legs rotate to the side; inhale as they return to an upright position
with a side-lying leg lift, exhale as the leg lifts; inhale as it lowers
Don’t get too hung up on your breathing!
Although there are very sound reasons behind the style of breathing used in Pilates, don’t get too hung up on it. If you’re struggling, simply focus on keeping a relaxed, rhythmic breathing pattern so that your breath is flowing as you move. Gradually as you get more confident with the exercises, you will find the breathing becomes a more natural part of your practice.
If you’d like to know more about breathing, you can find my ‘focus on optimal breathing’ guide here
Hypermobile elbows (& other joints of the body) are sometimes really visible in a Pilates class. I wanted to look into the topic in more depth than we can easily cover in a group setting, as information for those affected.
The human body is an incredible thing but sometimes we need to take back a little bit of control for ourselves. Just because we can ‘stretch’ (ie. over-extend) at a certain (or all) joints of the body, doesn’t mean it is helpful to do so.
The most common examples of hypermobility I see in class are:
locked-out knees in a standing position – where the back of the knee is pushed as far backwards as possible – and
locked-out elbows in a quadruped (all-fours) position – where the upper arm becomes rotated and the inside of the elbow joint turns forward
Of course, if you are hypermobile (or tend towards it) you will often be hyper-mobile at many joints in the body, but these are the two that are most visible in class.
What is joint hypermobility?
Joint hypermobility is often hereditary and cannot be prevented, but it can definitely be managed. It is caused by a weakness in the soft tissues that support the joint, and specifically a difference in the collagen. If you are hypermobile, it may not cause you any problems or it may cause pain in the joint itself or in surrounding areas of the body.
What happens when we hyper-extend?
When we go to the end-range of movement in a joint, it gives us a feeling of stability, which is great. However, when the joint hyper-extends, it means that the stability isn’t coming from the supporting muscles but from the joint itself. Over time that is likely to create wear & tear on that structure and other compensations in surrounding areas of the body – eg. if you lock out your elbows, you are very likely to experience associated neck and shoulder pain issues; if you lock out your knees, you are very likely to experience hip and back pain issues.
Just because you can hyper-extend, doesn’t mean you should!
What can we do about it?
The ideal is to learn to stop short of your end-range point (keeping the affected joint ‘soft’) so that the supporting muscles surrounding the joint can get stronger. To start with it will feel unstable, but your body will gradually adapt and build stability in the muscles, so keep giving it the opportunity to do so.
I will keep reminding you about this in class because even if you feel like I’m nagging, I believe that I would be negligent if I didn’t bring your attention to it. You might not be ready to hear the message yet, and that’s ok because it is your body, but I’m going to keep on mentioning it when I’m teaching, and hopefully that’s ok too.
In the case of hypermobility in your knees, ankles or hips you may also be better avoiding fast-paced or high-impact exercises where the joints will hyper-extend without you having the chance to control the range of movement, and where the added impact will place extra load through the (already compromised) joint structure.
Although you can’t change your physiology, you can work on creating a stronger support system to protect your joints if hypermobility affects you. It may seem frustrating & like a backward step to begin with, but further down the line you will be so glad you made some changes and created a stronger body, especially if it avoids/delays your need for invasive surgery.
If you’d like to know more on this topic, Jeannie di Bon is a Movement Therapist who works extensively in this area. She directed me towards a blog post she wrote a few years ago:
This is for you if you experience foot cramp when you lie in a prone position (face-down) or when you are in child’s pose. It can happen at any time, but will often be worse when you are doing any exercise that involves these positions.
Both of these positions involve lengthening the dorsal surface of the foot (the part where your shoe laces sit) and if there is tension within the tendons running from the front of the ankle to the toes, you may experience cramping when they are held in a lengthened position. Typically if you experience this type of foot cramp, your toes will tend not to lie flat on the floor when standing or they will start to lift as soon as you begin to flex at the ankle. You may also notice that you have ‘hammer toe’ where the toes are bent as if gripping the floor.
How to reduce foot cramp:
In the short term, ie. during your class, a bolster under your ankles can be a really useful preventative measure as it stops the toes making contact with the floor, thereby avoiding the lengthening which is causing the cramp. Your bolster doesn’t need to be fancy – a rolled up bath towel or jumper will do the job just as well.
In the longer term, of course, it is preferable to resolve the issue. Your foot function will improve greatly by reducing restrictions, and improved foot function positively impacts knee and hip function so it is worth investing a little bit of time on a regular basis.
Soft tissue release:
Here’s a short video (starring my right foot!) showing some release work that you can use at home but bear in mind that you will need to address your footwear too! I often find resistance to this one (I’m not sure why?) but clearly if our feet spend long periods of time squeezed into socks and shoes which do not allow sufficient space to move, no amount of release work is going to fully resolve the problem. We need to take a two-pronged approach with any body-work:
resolve the issue using appropriate soft-tissue release and
make changes to any external factors which are contributing to the issue
I’ll leave you to sort out your footwear (hint: you need a far wider toe-box than you might think) but in the meantime you can try this release work. I have tried to give you a few examples of makeshift massage tools that you might find at home but you could also invest in a gua sha tool if you want to get the best results.
The key thing with release work is to give it time. Five minutes will make a difference but it is not going to undo years of wearing potentially restrictive footwear! Be patient, commit to doing it every day for a week and see what you notice…and then carry on doing it every day because your feet will love you for it.
In the video I mention the option of using spacers between the toes and here are two options that I have found helpful, although since switching to barefoot shoes I haven’t used either:
correct-toes – this is the main website but you will also find UK suppliers
silicone toe separators – for me these are more comfortable because I have very little, little toes which don’t sit so well in the whole-foot type spacers
Please let me know how you get on with this & let me know if you have any questions at all about foot cramp.
PS even though I don’t have any specific toe extensor issues, I noticed an astonishing difference in the foot I had worked on while filming this…so perhaps you should do it even if you don’t think you have any problems either?!
This Pilates-flow sequence is a mat-based session focusing on
smooth, flowing movements using core control for stability, combined with a
relaxed breathing pattern. Slower is generally better so that you can concentrate
on each part of every move rather than rushing ahead without control.
When we did this in class we practiced each move on its own
before adding it into our flow sequence – you might like to break it down like
that at home or if you are familiar with the moves, you may prefer to go
straight into the sequence. All the moves are done in a supine (lying face-up)
position. You may like to have a folded towel or a cushion to support the back
of the head.
Begin by spending a few minutes grounding and settling into
your breath, letting go of your day and connecting with how your body feels in
I’ve added different sequence options below – sequence 1 has the more basic moves, sequence 2 has a mixture of basic with some options and sequence 3 has all the optional extras.
Here are your 5 basic moves:
alternate knee lifts (starting in relaxation position) > option to progress to alternate knee lifts coming into table top position by lifting and then lowering one foot at a time
abdominal curls (starting in relaxation position) > option to add oblique twist
knee rolling (starting in relaxation position with feet and knees close together) > option to bring top foot off the floor OR start in table top position with both feet off the floor
alternate leg slide (starting in relaxation position) > option to add leg abduction (thigh moves out to side with no rotation)
shoulder bridge (start with feet hip width or wider and close to your bottom) > option to change to single leg shoulder bridge
How to create your sequence:
sequence 1: knee lift (single leg) – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist towards the leg – uncurl – lower leg – repeat on other side – knee rolling with feet on the floor – alternate leg slide – shoulder bridge – start again
sequence 2: alternate knee lift into table top – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist x each way– uncurl – lower legs one at a time – knee rolling with feet on the floor – alternate leg slide with abduction – shoulder bridge – start again
sequence 3: alternate knee lift into table top – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist x each way– uncurl – knee rolling with legs in table top position – alternate leg extension with abduction – lower legs one at a time – single leg shoulder bridge x each side – start again
I haven’t specified number of repetitions so that you can add
as many or as few as you want. You can of course also do as many or as few of
the different moves as you want – if there’s one that you don’t like, miss it
out because life is short!!
You can see me doing each of the three sequences here:
You can print this Pilates-flow sequence as a pdf here
(PS let me know if you’re not sure what any of the moves are & as always, check with your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are suitable for your body right now)
I am passionate about teaching mat-work Pilates because I believe that it underpins and provides a foundation for all our movement patterns. Of course we can can move without understanding the key principles of that Pilates is based on, but we are able to move more freely once we incorporate them into our everyday lives.
For me, Pilates isn’t about doing the Pilates exercises for the sake of doing them; Pilates is the gateway to developing a better insight into how our body moves, how everything in our body is connected and how our body connects to our environment.
The principles of Pilates
Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time
these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:
Although each one may be simple to grasp, trying to combine all of them into each exercise can be tricky so I suggest that you focus on 1 or 2 to start with and gradually introduce aspects of the others as you progress. Over time, a simple movement can become more challenging simply by focusing on several of the key principles at once.
Why do we need to know the principles of Pilates?
When we understand & learn to apply the principles behind Pilates, we can get the best results from practising the exercises.
With Pilates, the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise with control is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!
I’m going to cover each of the key principles in separate posts, so that you can pick them up whenever you’re ready. I think the best way to develop your practice of using the principles, is to not to try to master them all at once. Start with what you can do, be patient and remember that with some exercises it may be harder to master a particular principle. Just keep coming back and revisiting these posts as you need to.
Our first Pilates principle is concentration:
on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly
and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value’ J Pilates
With some forms of exercise the mind can switch off but in Pilates it will ideally remain focused to ensure that the body stays in alignment and that the breathing is controlled. This ‘mind/body’ connection not only enhances the physical execution of the exercises but also distracts a busy mind, thereby promoting relaxation and a feeling of well-being.
The first part of concentration is becoming aware that the position of every part of the body is important and that all movements and positions are interconnected. In order to walk, many different interactions take place in the joints and muscles of the body so that for example, the position of your foot influences the position of your knee, hip, spine, shoulder & head. In order to achieve optimal alignment throughout the body (and thus an efficient movement pattern) we need to first become aware of these interactions through concentrating on how we are holding ourselves and how we are moving.
Obviously it is hard to stay aware of every part of the body at once, but the more you practice the more you will be able to ‘tune in’ to what is happening in different places at the same time. Over time you will also get better at tuning-in when a specific area of the body is not in alignment or is holding unnecessary tension.
Improved concentration not only leads to an improved physical performance but also offers wide-ranging mental benefits:
clarity of thought
increased mental energy
mental calmness in stressful situations
enhanced ability to tackle problems in a fresh way
Think of your Pilates practice as time for yourself, time to leave behind what you have come from and where you are going to. Focus on each exercise in turn and pay attention to how your body feels as you move.
In the next post I’ll be talking about ‘centering‘ but until then have fun bringing concentration to your posture and movement patterns.
(Here’s another article I wrote about a classic Pilates exercise – ‘The Hundred‘)
We have put together a beautiful afternoon event combining Pilates, Yoga and Sound Bath with tea & cake!
After the hibernation of winter, and with Christmas behind us, we can start to think about emerging into spring and that will be the focus of our afternoon. As nature begins the process of gently stirring and awakening, we are creating the perfect environment for you to do the same.
I like to think of it as ‘un-hibernating’ – gently opening and releasing the body with Pialtes; waking up and stretching towards the lighter months ahead with Yoga; and relaxing deeply to the sounds and vibrations of the sound bath.
We look forward to welcoming you on Saturday 8th February. We will provide mats and all the equipment you need for the three sessions, along with a choice of refreshments and cake, and a goody bag for you to take home at the end. You may like to bring a cushion (or two) and an extra blanket so that you can create your own cosy nest for the sound bath session.
If you have any questions at all, or to book your space, please email Sally at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hundred is probably one of the most classic Pilates mat work exercises and one that we often include in class.
Here is a short video to walk/talk you through the key stages in preparing for the exercise and how to make it best suited to your body by adding in various progressions or regressions.
As with any exercise (Pilates or otherwise) the key factor is your ability to manage intra-abdominal pressure. When this pressure is not well-managed, we place undue load onto the pelvic floor muscles, and/or excess load into the abdominal wall. The potential issues from repeatedly exercising without effectively managing intra-abdominal pressure include:
a weakened pelvic floor, which over time will contribute to continence issues
a weakened/lengthened/protruding abdominal wall
changes to posture which can contribute to low back pain, hip pain, neck & shoulder pain, etc.
When performing the Hundred, try to stay mindful of what is happening in your body so that you can make suitable adaptations to improve the effectiveness of the exercise for you. For example:
move your legs one at a time rather than both together (you’ll see this is what I do in the video)
leave your head and shoulders on the floor instead of adding the abdominal curl
support your head on a cushion or with one hand
only hold one leg off the floor, instead of both
work with bent legs rather than extending them to the ceiling
hold the position for fewer breaths instead of the full ten breaths
Remember that you are aiming to feel your abdominal muscles working more than any other muscles in the body – if your neck is hurting or your legs are holding on tight, take it as a sign that your abdominal muscles are not able to effectively cope with what is being asked of them. When this happens, rest and start again when you’re ready, using a regression to keep the work in your tummy muscles. Sometimes, less is more!
I hope the video helps you to get your head around the preparation stages and get more from the Hundred as an exercise. Please ask if you have any questions at all Jx
(PS if you are new to exercise, recently post-natal or have any doubts about whether this exercise is suitable for you at this time, please seek appropriate advice from your medical practitioner or a qualified fitness professional)
After weeks of planning and preparation it was great to launch Barre Pilates with a ‘barre & buck’s fizz’ class yesterday morning.
I was joined by ten gorgeous ladies who stepped up to the barre and embraced this beautiful, flowing class for the first time. They demi-pointed, and plied, and tendued as if they have been doing it all their life and then they sipped buck’s fizz before setting off out into the sunshine. It was a lovely way to start the weekend.
As I was teaching the class I was reminded just how much I love this work. Taking a group of clients through a class is a real privilege – being trusted with another person’s health & well-being is humbling, especially when they are trying out a new class format for the first time.
It is sometimes hard to take the first step into doing something new and I think as adults we can too often tend towards staying with familiar territory. But when we step outside our comfort zone, the rewards can be great.
For those who came to ‘barre & buck’s fizz’ yesterday there may be a little muscle soreness today, but that is a really positive sign of muscle fibres being tweaked and woken up. A relaxing bath using the salts in your goodie bag will definitely help. And the best news is that you will never ache as much as the first time you do a new class!
New Barre Pilates classes starting next week
For anyone just about to start Barre Pilates with me I have to apologise that we will not have buck’s fizz at the end of every class, but over the coming weeks you will notice that your:
legs and butt become more toned (without bulking up)
feet & ankles will become stronger and
increased awareness of your core muscles will enhance your posture
More than that I also hope you will have fun and enjoy the experience of each class as the term progresses.
I think there is something a bit playful about working-out at the barre – memories of childhood for some, a chance to relive ‘Fame’ for others, or just the chance to do something a little bit different perhaps. Whatever your reason for joining the class, I look forward to welcoming you when the fun starts next week
(classes are held on Tuesdays & Wednesdays – you can find details and booking information can be found here)
With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!
Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:
“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour” J Pilates
As with anything, repetition and practice lead to greater skill and greater benefits. Obviously the value of the repetition relies on it being of a good quality but that aside, it stands to reason that a regular routine of practice will be of more benefit than exercising sporadically.
An established routine of Pilates exercise will improve physical and mental well-being and the more you practice the more improvement you can expect to see. It is the same with learning to play a musical instrument or a sport – if you practice once a week it will take you far longer to master it and become proficient than if you practice for several hours a day.
The amount of time you have to practice will obviously depend on your personal circumstances but practising a pilates routine twice a week would be a good place to start. If you are short on time try shorter sessions whenever you can. However much time you have, try to develop a routine which works for you.
As you master the exercises and see improvements, your confidence in your abilities will grow and you may notice changes about your body, in terms of how it feels and looks, but try not to bring about these changes by putting too much forced effort into your movements. Don’t panic if visible results take time – you are working from the inside out, developing a stronger foundation on which to carry the more superficial muscles, and this will inevitably take time.
Remember to try to incorporate the different principles of Pilates so that your movements are controlled and flowing whilst coordinated with your breathing. Think of your Pilates exercises as being natural, like walking in the park.
Remember too that it has taken a great deal of time to bring your body to where it is now – if you have poor posture or dysfunctional movement patterns they cannot be unlearned in a hurry, so be kind and give your body the space to learn new habits.
Imagine your Pilates exercises as everyday movements rather than something you do in class! Try to incorporate an increased awareness into everyday life – feel your gluteal muscles engage as you walk up an incline; visualise your abdominal muscles supporting your back when lifting a load; feel yourself supported from the inside whilst sitting or standing.
Ultimately Pilates is about improved quality of movement which can lead to an improved quality of life. Grasp it with both hands and enjoy the process.
Please click here to find out more about of my current Pilates classes