Pilates in your everyday life (part four)

How do you spend your days? Do you tend to be in one position for prolonged periods of time? Have you noticed that this affects how your body feels?

When we stay in one position for some time it will have an impact on how our body feels but we might not always be aware of it. If we then repeat that same pattern every day, the impact is likely to become much more noticeable.

For example:

  • If you spend a few hours in the car driving to visit a friend, when you get out of the car you might notice some tightness in the hips, or stiffness in the low back, or maybe some tension in the neck and shoulders. As soon as you stand up and move about, most of those issues will ease-off and you will carry on as usual.
  • If you drive every day for work, you might start to experience more of the same issues more of the time, and you might find that they don’t ease-off quite so quickly/at all. Over time, some of the on-going tightness or tension might then begin to affect your posture, which in turn would cause more tightness or tension in the body.

By changing our posture throughout the day we can try to break the postural patterns we are creating and help to reduce repetitive strain, overuse injuries and fatigue. In part three I talked about ways to break up your day with some movement, and today we are looking specifically at changes you might need to consider for your working environment if you are largely desk-based.

Your working environment:

The goal is to set up your work space so that you can minimise any negative impact on your posture. Here are a few things you might like to consider:

  1. find a supportive chair to reduce muscle fatigue in your lower back – make sure that it is adjustable so that you can get the best fit for your body. Personally I don’t like traditional office chairs but I use a saddle stool on a wheeled base, which enables me to maintain a neutral alignment for my spine without any tension. Find what works for you.
  2. check that you have room under your desk to place your feet flat on the floor – use a footrest if necessary. Aim to have your knees slightly lower than your hips and your feet slightly forward of your knees.
  3. have your keyboard and screen directly in front of you rather than off to one side or at an angle. This allows your shoulders to be square and face the screen fully. Arms are best supported – forearms on the desk and upper arms comfortably by your sides.
  4. set yourself up so that everything you need to access most often is within easy reach to avoid repeated stretching and leaning to one side.
  5. look after your eyes by having your screen about arms length away from you with the top of your screen level with your eyes. Reduce glare from nearby windows by using blinds or curtains. Use appropriate lighting levels to further reduce eye strain.
  6. try to keep your wrists straight while typing, with hands and wrists hovering just above the keyboard. Choose a mouse that fits your hand and move it with your arm instead of bending your wrist into weird positions.
  7. this last one is still on my to-do list, and I know it would make a huge difference – learn to touch-type so that you can keep your head in a neutral position rather than always looking down at your keyboard (as I am doing right now!)

In your car:

Maybe you are not desk-based but spend considerable amounts of time driving each day?

You can apply the same approach to your car:

  1. check your seat position, tilt and height and adjust it again if someone else has been driving your car
  2. position your mirrors so that you are not straining to look at them
  3. consider what shoes you are wearing – heels will change the position of your foot and ankle in relation to the pedals
  4. keep your hands, wrists and arms relaxed

Alignment cues:

Making small changes to your posture will help to reduce neck & shoulder tension, ease back pain and support your body throughout the day. You might also like to think of the alignment cues we use in Pilates and apply these to your working day:

  • lengthen your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head
  • soften your shoulders
  • gently lengthen the back of your neck by dropping the chin slightly
  • maintain soft, relaxed breathing into your ribcage
  • plant your feet in the earth so that you are grounded (this applies whether you’re seated or standing)
  • find an even weight through your sit-bones when seated

I hope some of these suggestions help you to make some positive postural changes. Keep checking-in with your body as you go through your day until you naturally start adjusting your posture as required.

Let me know if you have any questions at all?

Pilates in your everyday life (part three)

For most of us, a large part of our day can be spent in a seated position. Think about all the time that you spend driving, at your desk, on the sofa, eating, having a coffee – it all adds up to a lot of hours on your bum!

If we lead this sedentary type of lifestyle, the chances are that we will experience some postural issues at some point. Over time you may start to notice an increase in neck or shoulder pain, tension headaches, low back pain or issues with your hips. Lots of these will occur because we tend to have a more relaxed (slouching?!) posture while sitting down but also because we are not using our core muscles to stabilise us, as we do when standing.

Stand up!

A simple way to change your posture and movement patterns, and introduce some elements of Pilates into your everyday life, is to stand more often. Over the next week why not try some of these ideas and see what differences you start to notice:

  • if you are at your desk for long periods during the day, get up and stretch (see below) or have a quick walk around your work-space every 15 minutes; if you’re really short on time, just stand up and sit down again every 15 minutes
  • look for more active ways to socialise with friends – eg.
    • grab a coffee-to-go and take it for a walk rather than sitting at a café
    • visit places which will involve some walking (eg. wander around a NT trust property rather than going to the cinema)
    • encourage friends to join a Pilates class/running club/dance class with you
  • if you’re travelling on public transport alternate between sitting and standing every 10 minutes – don’t try this while driving!
  • when you’re watching television, stand up / change position every 15 minutes (or when the adverts come on) – also try limiting TV time.
  • notice if you always sit on the same section of your sofa and/or in the same position (eg. legs crossed the same way every time) – if you do, making some changes to those habits will make a huge difference to how you feel in your body. It will feel weird to start with but only because your body has become accustomed to being in a certain position – mix it up a bit and your body will quickly adapt
  • finally, if there’s anything that you do which keeps you in one position for prolonged periods, try to change your posture at regular intervals – eg.
    • if you’re reading, keep changing your position and be aware of your head posture (as the head starts to move forward, the neck muscles will have a whole load of extra work to do, so think of stacking your head above your rib cage or using cushions behind your head for support)
    • craft activities often involve looking down at our hands; if you notice that this is an issue for you, take regular breaks to bring your head and neck back into a neutral position and add in some gentle stretches
    • gardening can often involve long periods spent in a bent-forward position – try kneeling down to avoid this and take regular breaks so that you can stand tall again

Standing rotations:

Click here for a short video with some ideas for rotational stretches for your upper back.

These are great to do when you have been sat down for any length of time. You don’t need to do them all – find one or two moves that feel useful and add those to your day whenever you can.

As you start to notice the amount of time you spend sitting down, you can also start to make some small changes which will have a positive impact on your body. Give it a try and let me know how you get on…

step away from your desk & go out to play!

If you missed the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here & here

re-entering

Just a quick post to let you know that everything is gradually changing as we emerge out of 2020 and into the longer light days ahead.

The past 14 months have been an adventure that probably none of us wanted to take, but I think it has also been a huge opportunity for growth on so many levels. As we head back into the wider world again, I am determined not to lose the lessons I have learned along the way, which means that I am taking gentle steps for myself and taylor-made fitness. You can find out more details below, and I will update regularly as things evolve:

Fitness classes:

Online classes have been a fantastic way to stay connected and stay/get fit and I am happy to say that they are here to stay!

There will be some in-person classes too but ‘fitness mornings’ will be staying online so that you can workout in your own home, either at 7am with me, or by catching-up with the recordings later in the day.

Pilates sessions will be available as in-person and online classes so you can choose the best option for you. There will also be some occasional in-person workshops throughout the year.

In-person classes will follow COVID-safe guidelines, with social distancing between clients, no shared equipment, and no hands-on contact from me

Personal training:

Over the next few weeks we will start to transition from online to in-person personal training, but the online option will still be available for those who prefer it, those who are not local, and those who like to train at times when I can’t get to them!

Online personal training has been really successful but it will be good to see clients face-to-face again. Training will need to be held in an open, spacious area, with good ventilation, preferably outdoors, and social distancing will apply.

Sports massage:

One of the casualties of the past year has been my massage space!!

In March last year, I turned my spare bedroom into my ‘zoom-room’, which meant that my massage room became my overflow space for all the things that used to be in my spare room! My office has recently been moved into the studio space, leaving that room free as a my new massage room…

I’m currently finishing off a complete redecoration so that when I start offering sports massage again, the new space will be a calming area for your treatment.

As soon as I am back to hands-on practice I will let you know!

Please get in touch if I can help:

If you are interested in returning to in-person Pilates classes, looking for online fitness classes, keen to know more about personal training, or want to be the first to know when I’m back at my massage table, please get in touch by email: jane@taylormadefitness.biz

In the meantime, there will be website updates in the coming weeks so check-back soon

Jane

New online class timetable

We have a shiny, new online class timetable which comes into effect from Monday 6th April!

pilates mat

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:

  • Mondays
    • Fitness Pilates 8pm
  • Tuesdays
    • Kettlebell Express 7am
  • Wednesdays
    • Metabolic Effect Bootcamp 7am
    • Fitness Pilates 7pm
  • Fridays
    • 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.

kettlebell upright row

Payment can be made as a one-off booking or via a monthly class pass subscription which gives unlimited access to all sessions.

  • subscription details can be found here
  • classes can be booked here

I look forward to seeing you in the taylor-made fitness virtual studio very soon.

Let me know if you have any questions at all Jx

If you need to set yourself up for home exercise, read my guide about what you might need here

COVID-19 updates

(updated 21st March 2020 – changes in purple text)

Please find details below regarding changes being made to taylor-made fitness in light of the current situation with coronavirus COVID-19. For the latest Government advice on coronavirus, please click here

I am currently in the process of updating my website to reflect the changes that have been made to taylor-made fitness with regards to coronavirus COVID-19. Please bear with me until everything is fully functional again!

Fitness Pilates and Hi-Li fitness circuit classes:

With effect from Monday 16th March, all in-person group classes have been temporarily suspended and will be delivered as live-streamed or pre-recorded sessions. I have set up a virtual studio in my home so everything is good to go. I will be adding a variety of class options in the coming weeks – please let me know if there is anything you would like me to include.

Please try to carry on with your regular movement practice at home – even if we can’t be in the same space, we can still be collectively exercising at the usual times – physically distant but socially cohesive!

I am going to make a change to the way class bookings are made during this period, so that you will have more flexibility while your finances may be less certain. With effect from April 6th, I will offer monthly subscriptions which will give you access to all my live-streamed and pre-recorded online classes. I hope that you will be in a position to continue supporting me during these changing times, so that taylor-made fitness can still be there to support you once everything is more settled.

I had planned to take a week off 6-13th April but this is currently under review as I’m not sure where I’d go!! I will keep you posted nearer the time and set-up the classes accordingly.

Wellness walks:

At present, I am planning to continue with the Wednesday morning walk as usual and will add an extra walk session on Fridays (details below). In these difficult times, assuming we are not symptomatic, we can all benefit from getting outside and breathing fresh air.

Managing our mental health will be even more vital over the coming weeks and walking is my favourite way to do that. I will be walking and you are welcome to join me if you’d like to.

  • Wednesdays 9-10.30am – meet outside The Old School Hall, Back Road, Sandhurst, Kent – wear wellies or suitable walking boots as all potential routes from here are muddy at present! Dogs welcome.
  • Fridays 9-10.30am – meet by Iden Green pavilion – this will be a circular loop along the quiet lanes; less muddy but also less off-lead options for dogs.

We are lucky to live in a rural setting where we can be outside and away from direct contact with others, even if we are walking in a small, spread-out, group. Here is an article about whether it is still safe to walk, in case you have any concerns: coronavirus and walking

Please note a change to the start time on Fridays (9am instead of 9.15am)

Please do not attend a walk session if you have any COVID-19 symptoms as outlined here or have been in contact with anyone who has these symptoms

There is no charge for these sessions but if you’re planning on joining us please email/text me on the day so that we know to wait for you before setting off. For your own peace of mind, please bring hand gel if you have any as there are no hand-washing facilities available (except puddles perhaps!)

Personal training:

Personal training sessions will continue to be delivered in-person although the following processes will be followed:

  • clients will use their own mats and equipment for their sessions – I will no longer be bringing any items with me and will build sessions around whatever equipment clients have access to
  • I will use hand gel before and after each session as well as using anti-bac wipes on the controls of my van
  • sessions will take place outside at safe distance; where this is not possible we will need to move to live-streamed sessions

PT clients must notify me if they have any COVID-19 symptoms as outlined here or have been in contact with anyone who has these symptoms.

I will be in email contact with individual clients to agree how to proceed and we will continue to review as the situation develops. In the event that clients think they have been potentially exposed to the virus, personal training sessions will need to move to live-streamed sessions. Obviously the same applies if I think have been exposed to the virus.

Sports & clinical massage:

We now have guidance from the Sports Therapy Association which is as follows:

“After spending most of the night reviewing the current Governmental guidance, I have arrived at the conclusion that now is the time to cancel all non urgent appointments and unnecessary social contact , as we are not classed as Allied Health Professionals – that means all clinic appointments, home visits, pitch side commitments and training nights. I’ve shared multiple sources of information over the past few days all of which classifies our role as high risk. I hope that we can look back in several months and say we were wrong and guilty only of overreacting.” Gary Benson Founder of STA

In line with this guidance I feel that my decision to stop offering hands-on treatments from Monday 16th was the best one to take.

Please rest assured that even though I cannot treat you in person at this time, I am still available to offer help as required via online and telephone contact. As well as creating some general self-care release videos that you can use at home, I am also able to offer individual guidance via Skype or Zoom so please reach out if you need my help.

If you have an existing massage voucher, the expiration date will be extended accordingly.

My commitment to you:

This business is my livelihood and my only source of household income, so for sure these are scary and worrying times, as they are for many of you I know. But, more than being my income, this business represents my heart & soul and I am feeling very sad and worried about what might happen to it right now. I know I’m not alone. I know we will get through this. But I’m taking a moment to acknowledge the sadness too.

Today I have been lifted up by the emails & texts of support from all of my lovely clients – thank you so much, it means the world to have that contact. Thank you for your on-going support in uncertain times.

Please keep in touch. Please keep walking. Please (if you can) keep to your usual class schedule at home. Please look after yourselves and your loved ones. Please take time to look up at the sky and plant your feet in the soil. Please take time to lie on the floor and breathe deeply.

I am going to try to keep myself busy creating class content for you and I’ll send regular emails so that you have plenty to keep you busy too. I also plan to complete my L4 Sports Massage course (which is all online) so that I’ll have new skills to share soon. If I get really stir-crazy, I might pack up my dog and a tent and go off-grid for a while…

Hopefully I will see some of you on walks but if not I am here if you need anything – fitness ideas, massage self-care advice, online support, virtual cake & coffee mornings, shopping errands…please shout if you need anything from me at all Jx

Principles of Pilates – breathing

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.

“To breathe 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:

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.

mat-work pilates

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.

For example:

  • 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 & Pilates

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.

mat-work pilates

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: 

I think this is a really useful starting point, but Jeannie has plenty more great content on her blog which you can find via her website and she also covers the topic in her latest book

Do your feet cramp when you point your toes?

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.

child's pose

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.

feet

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:

  1. resolve the issue using appropriate soft-tissue release and
  2. 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.

(release work for the toe extensors to prevent foot cramp)

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.

If I can help you directly with any soft tissue work, please drop me an email.

Jx

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?!

Pilates-flow sequence

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 that moment.

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:

  1. 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
  2. abdominal curls (starting in relaxation position) > option to add oblique twist
  3. 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
  4. alternate leg slide (starting in relaxation position) > option to add leg abduction (thigh moves out to side with no rotation)
  5. shoulder bridge (start with feet hip width or wider and close to your bottom) > option to change to single leg shoulder bridge
Pilates-flow sequence

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

Enjoy Jx

(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)

The principles of Pilates – centering

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.

mat-work pilates

Following the eight principles of Pilates helps us to get the most from our practice. Last time we looked at concentration.

This time we’re going to look at centering.

Centering:

In Pilates the ‘centre’ refers to the neutral position of the lumbar spine (lower back) & pelvis. Joseph Pilates describes ‘the centre’ as the area between the ribs & the hips, at the front & back of the body. Nowadays we have extended that definition to include the sides of the torso.

Your centre is the pivotal point of the body from which all movements start. Movement, balance, force & strength all come from the centre – a weakness in the core will affect the body’s ability to perform any of these functions.

Your core:

It is important to understand that core control is more important than core strength. Abdominal control provides fluidity of movement which is crucial; abdominal strength provides support which is beneficial but secondary.

Your centre is controlled by use of the abdominal muscles, the muscles in the lower back and the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles surround your abdominal cavity and form a central cylinder (see diagram below)

When you activate your core (ie. all the muscles surrounding your central cylinder) you are better able to manage the intra-abdominal pressure which gives stability to each movement.

Once the core/centre has been activated, we add arm & leg movements to challenge your stability and develop better muscle tone.

Finding your centre:

One of the keys to success is being aware of when you have ‘lost’ your centre, and making sure that you work within the capabilities of your core control – if you try to progress too soon, or push ahead without maintaining your centre, you will not develop a stronger core. Instead, you will risk overusing the muscles in your lower back or adding downward pressure into the pelvic floor or adding outward pressure into the abdominal wall (or perhaps all three!) potentially leading to less stability than you started with (& maybe some pain too).

There are many ways to find and activate your centre/core and we spend time doing this each time we move into a new position. We find a neutral pelvis, where the core muscles are in the optimum position to ‘fire’, and then we think of drawing gently upwards and inwards with the pelvic floor and deeper core muscles as we exhale (we’ll look at breathing as a separate principle).

Ideally you will keep an awareness of your centre during the class, but if you find you have forgotten about it, simply take a breath and come back to it on the next movement. Outside of your Pilates class, it is useful to keep an awareness of your centre to improve your posture in everyday life.

Finally, remember that we are looking to achieve a light connection with the core muscles – you don’t want to activate them to 100% otherwise movements will not flow and your posture will become unnatural – aim for 30% contraction so that you are just aware of a gentle feeling in the tummy wall.

Next time we’ll look at breathing as the third principle of Pilates – breathing.