Tag Archives: Joseph Pilates

Our Pilates Training Recipe

The upcoming blog posts are going to describe and hopefully create intrigue around our Pilates Training Recipe. 

But first I’d like to open with a recap and a clarification for future consideration when reading upcoming blogs.

The purpose of our blogs is to share with our clients. It is to explore what goes on behind the scenes and how each person can get the most out of their time at the studio. As well, we hope to share with those who don’t know us by describing who we are, what we do and why we love teaching Pilates so much.

The greatest difficulty I’m running into while writing my blog articles is this:

The context that underpins every part of our studio is missing because we teach the person (or people) in front of us not the exercise, this is the context of our Pilates Training Recipe.

Practicing the Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle) with the person in front of us results in

outstanding moments

opens doors previously unknown to our clients (and us)

and gives meaning to each movement and exercise.

For example, we can have two different people with the “same” low back discomfort and pain. We help each person learn how to move in ways that feels energizing, efficient and pain free albeit differently. So different, in fact, that if the person (context) was removed and the two concepts were described back to back it would sound as though we are contradicting ourselves.

This leaves me with a wee bit of a conundrum given that the blogs speak about the exercise without the specific context of the person in front of us.

Over the next few months our blogs will be discussing how we put our Pilates Training Recipe together in order to give clients an opportunity to continue to get more out of every session or class they attend.

 

When reading the word recipe please picture a person in the kitchen embracing the process of creating a meal. The recipe is deeply ingrained, they don’t need to follow exactly, instead they begin, they taste, they adjust.

 

In other words our Pilates training recipe is abstract, offering us a platform to embrace the most important part of our training, you, the person (or people) in front of us.

 

Because here’s the thing.

You are a unicorn, unique, outstanding and full of surprises.

And Pilates is the “unicorn of fitness.”

The intention of our Pilates Training Recipe is to create an atmosphere that allows you to embrace where you are & how you are before trying to change, adapt or keep up.

#4U*AboutU

Pilates Principle: Flow

The word Flow has become a very hot topic in the fitness industry. These flow video’s often consist of a person or people moving through fancy exercises, often in perfect unison, relativity quickly and with what seems is perfect ease — I feel like they’re always of smiling people too — and there might even be a #fridayfriendflow that insta everything is chasing.

Don’t get caught in the chase or the keeping up!

Instead remind yourself: these video’s are short moments of time capturing the end result of lot’s of practice and development of skill. They can be beautiful to watch and inspiring for your own workout however it is imperative to realize in a world of instant everything with short snippets of exciting moments there are hours of behind the scene dedicated efforts going on.

flowTraditionally, the principle of flow is when routines are completed through a gentle motion with grace, ease and fluidity. Continuous, smooth, and elegant movement is achieved as you transition from one pose to another. According to the principle of flow this will bring strength and stamina.

How to practice this principle effectively:

  • spend time in practice, slow intentional practice of the transitions
    • let’s use a golf swing as an example (a client Steve Knipping made the connection for me)
    • it’s not just the back swing, the follow through or finishing position that must be practiced, explained, or understood
    • instead it is the practice of how you transition from a back swing INTO the follow through INTO the finish position
    • this practice takes a SLOW centering, precision, concentration and control — the brain needs slow so it has time to interpret, repeat and learn new motion
      • as a side note have you noticed how the principles are coming together to achieve a method?

Before starting the practice of the flow between exercises, spend time with in the flow of one exercise. In other words, how do you use the space between the start and the end of one repetition of one movement and how do you use the space between one repetition and the next which creates your set.

Pilates Principle: Breath

#trainfromyourbrain

A hashtag trend I am 100% on!

I first came across it on instagram while following Physiyolates – Brain-Body Fitness and have become addicted to their posts feeling greedy to gather snippets of their insights and wisdom. Full transparency, my “damn I wish I had said that” gets triggered A LOT!

Their words resonate so fully within our philosophy of movement at the Art of Fitness that I feel compelled to share their wisdom via re-posting and now in this blog. I’ll come back to Physiyolates’ greatness in a moment.

 

But first, breath as a Pilates Principle.

Breathing properly promotes effective oxygenation of the blood, focuses the mind on each task and helps avoid unnecessary tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders and mid-back. Exhaling deeply can also help activate the deep support muscles of the body. Breath is brilliant, everything from it’s automatic nature, it’s absolutely life giving purpose, it’s mind, body and soul healing abilities, to the mechanical anatomical function.

 

Direct quote from Physiyolates Instragram post:

“Breathing is literally the most underrated performance tool we have as human beings! You can harness and unlock the power of the brain, the body and the nervous system simply by learning specific breathing techniques to help you to keep a cool head, promote relaxation and control, regulate and reduce physiological and psychological stress.”

 

Instagram: brain_body_performance                    Website: physiyolates.uk.com

 

 

 

Pilates Principle: Precision

Precision is NOT about perfection. Instead, the Pilates Principle of Precision is better described as excellence.

Source: https://www.excelatlife.com

We all get tempted to strive for perfection, because perfection is good, it pleases others. However, perfection will come at a cost, in this case it could cost you access to your body, your learning and your ability to move forward in your movement goals, whether they be to heal, improve or perform.

Precision is energizing and efficient which will leave a positive impact on your body, mind and spirit. Through precision there is an ability to reproduce the movement consistently, with ease of motion.

Your body has it’s own unique language, learn to listen, interpret and respond with precision. The practice of precision brings you into yourself and offers a space to better understand how YOU move and feel in your body.

Precision is where excellence can be found.

Pilates Principle: Concentration

At our studio we apply the principle of concentration as an awareness around what is, what can be and how you plan to move towards it. We do our best when teaching movement through Pilates to speak to what you are doing well, when you’re doing something well and how to do more of that instead of drawing your attention on what NOT to do.

This allows the principle of concentration to orchestrate beautiful strong movement patterns in many planes of space, creating a natural ability to access these patterns in real life.

The full article the next portion of this blog quotes is found at www.selfgrowth.com written by M. Tamsin Thoren.

“Rael Isacowitz, founder of Body Arts and Sciences International (BASI) divides this principle into two parts, awareness and concentration. He regards “awareness as a state of mind — of being mindful and feeling the movement” and concentration as “a more cognitive process of understanding the movement.” (Isacowitz, 9)

Awareness is the initial realization of the body, where it lies in space, how it moves, and any tightness, misalignment, weakness, habitual movement patterns or other imbalances that we may have developed throughout our lives. That initial awareness is critical to achieve a baseline from which to progress. Our muscles and joints contain proprioceptors that tell our brain where we are in space and how far a joint can move before injury. Over time, we train our proprioceptors to feel that misalignments and limited range of motion are correct and representative of our body’s full potential. In order to change those patterns, we must first become aware.

Concentration is viewed as the “bridge between awareness and movement” (Isacowitz, 9) Once you have established your baseline, it is essential to bring that same awareness into every movement. Checking in with your body periodically can help to develop your concentration. If you find yourself thinking about something other than your workout, scan your body, especially those places you are working to retrain, and notice if they are engaged, relaxed, stabilized, or moving as they should be in the exercise. By bringing your awareness and concentration to a particular muscle you facilitate the firing of that muscle. Where patterns exist, it can be difficult to work the correct muscle(s) even with intense concentration, but nearly impossible without that attention. If you don’t know what you should be focusing on in a particular exercise, ask your instructor.

Remember to keep it light, you can over-think things. If you become tense or frustrated, let it go.”

Pilates Principle: Centering

There are a few layers within this concept.

Traditionally, this concept of centering relates to the core and the muscles of the core, in Pilates this is referred to as the powerhouse, physically bringing the exercise focus to the center of the body. Centering can also refer  a feeling of balance within or the eternal spring of energy from which all movement emanates.

Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from the center.

Centering as a kinesthetic concept takes into consideration the fact that each person is built differently and has an individual center of gravity.

Taking away all other variables (lifestyle, injuries, goals, etc.) your build alone will distinctly affect how the exercise feels and how difficult or easy it is to execute. Sometimes receiving the label ‘lacking strength’ when unable to execute a movement is incorrect. The lack of success may have more to do with your distribution of body weight and build not so much your ability.

So, when unable to execute a movement right away, hold your judgements off.

Instead, stay curious and source which part of and how you could apply the principle of centering it a progress or helpful way. And as always ask for guidance from your instructor, remember Pilates is a practice.

Isolation is a Myth Revisited

Why it’s important that our muscles can glide their fibres long and short, instead of “clenching”

Human movement is complex.

There are many working parts that come together to help us move – our joints, muscles, nerves and fascia just to name a few.

So, if someone tells you in a movement/Pilates class that you are trying to “isolate” a certain muscle or muscle group – you should be skeptical – or at least you should be, after reading this post.

As Stephanie said in her last blog post: “Generally speaking, if all your attention is on the “one” muscle you think is being isolated the tendency is to “clench and go”. This creates many future problems. “

It’s true, if we try to use one muscle to do a job that is meant for many muscles working in concert, problems can arise:

  • we can actually block the movement we are trying to achieve by holding the muscle tightly
  • we can develop increased tension in the muscle that is difficult to release again
  • tender trigger points or taut bands can develop in the muscle that lead to pain
  • and we can ultimately confuse the brain and nerve connections to that muscle so that it’s difficult to do anything other than clench it in the future

You mean I’m not supposed to clench my muscles to really feel them working?

In short – no. But, let’s take a deeper look into how muscles really work to understand this better…

First of all, muscles don’t act alone. It’s impossible to disregard our nervous system if we are talking about movement:

Our brain sends a message to our nerves, through our spinal cord and on to many more nerves that communicate in a sequence between our brain and each muscle in our body (see picture below). The final nerve in the chain then sends a chemical signal to the muscle itself to tell it to take action. The result, is that the many overlapping muscle fibres within the muscle either contract or relax, to stabilize or move our bones and joints.

Diagram

Zoom in even further to the muscles fibres themselves and there are millions of tiny protein fibres called sarcomeres that change length as our muscles contract and relax.

As a muscle contracts – these fibres overlap more, shortening the overall length of the muscle. When a muscle relaxes after a contraction, or stretches, these fibres overlap less, expanding and lengthening the larger muscle.

So, when the brain sends a “contract” signal to a muscle, many nerves are sending many messages to many muscle fibres to make the entire muscle contract. Our nervous system is in charge of the whole shebang.

One Sarcomere:

Sarcomere

Richfield, David (2014). “Medical gallery of David Richfield”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.009. ISSN 2002-4436. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2264027

If you would like to learn even more information about muscles and their fibres, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcomere

Quick review:

SYNERGIST: The synergist in a movement is the muscle(s) that stabilises a joint around which movement is occurring, which in turn helps the agonist function effectively. Synergist muscles also help to create the movement.

AGONIST and ANTAGONIST muscles often occur in pairs: as the agonst contracts (and shortens), the opposing muscle or antagonist, relaxes (and lengthens). Example: during a bicep curl, the bicep is the agonist and shortens, and the triceps is the antagonist and lengthens.

However, in our day to day lives, our brain rarely sends a “contract glutes” message, instead the brain sends a “walk” or “sit” or “stand” message. When we produce movement in our joints with our muscles, there is never only ONE muscle working alone to produce that movement. Even when we are using muscles to stabilize a joint and producing virtually no movement – ie. the deep synergist muscles around the hip joint when standing on one leg, there is still not only one muscle working to create that stability and stillness. Our joints are 3-dimensional – there will always be muscles working 360 degrees around them, some shortening while the opposing muscles lengthen, or multiple muscles surrounding the joint contracting simultaneously to create stability. AND sometimes – most of the time – all three of these things are happening all at once.

Isolation is indeed a myth.

Now, you may be saying, “but my (insert rehab or movement professional) has given me exercises to isolate my glutes, core, rotator cuff… before”. While this may be true, there is a very specific purpose for exercises like this. When you have an injury or pain, the brain-muscle connection can weaken or become confused, and so a Physiotherapist may give you exercises to try to “wake up” that brain muscle connection again. However, this type of “isolation” exercise should only be done for a short period of time until the brain-muscle connection strengthens enough to get that muscle working properly again during larger functional movements, like the ones we do in Pilates and in life. Keep in mind, if you are moving your leg while doing “glut isolation exercises”, or moving your arm while doing “rotator cuff exercises”, then you are still using many different muscles working together to move.

So, what happens when you try to isolate certain muscles while doing Pilates?

Well, when you focus your attention on contracting one particular muscle, or you try to use only one muscle to perform a complex movement, it is easy to end up clenching that muscle instead of contracting it effectively. Clenching sends too many “contract” signals to the muscle, so that all of the overlapping fibres are held too tightly, or for too long, and the muscle doesn’t have its usual opportunity to relax so that the muscle fibres can move apart again. Over time if you are continuously trying to isolate or clench one particular muscle or muscle group, this can interfere with a muscle’s ability to relax in general, and tender trigger points or taut bands of muscle can develop, which can eventually lead to muscle pain and tension at rest.

When we allow all of the muscles around a joint to work together to produce leg, arm or spine movement, then each muscle gets a more balanced amount of “contract” signals. They work together to share the load, contracting together, or some contracting while others relax as our bones change position. When we allow muscles to work together – synergists, agonist and antagonists – each one doing their part of the work, then each muscle is able to glide short on contraction, and glide long on relaxation, instead of getting stuck in the shortened position during a “clench”.

So, unless you are in the very early stages of working with a Physiotherapist to rehab after an injury, don’t worry about trying to “isolate” your glutes, core, or any other muscle you might want to work on. When you perform skillful Pilates movements and listen to your instructor’s cues, the work will happen, you will still get the burn, and that post-Pilates soreness will be the “hurts so good” type, and not a confused, painful muscle still trying to relax after being clenched.

Strategies to avoid clenching:

  • LISTEN carefully to your instructors’ cues – at Art of Fitness, the instructors use their words to skillfully guide your movements and shapes, rather than specific muscle contractions, to get your muscles working properly
  • Then, focus on the MOVEMENT you are meant to perform, not just the muscles that are working to get you there – if you do the movement successfully, the work will happen, you will feel the burn, and the load will be shared between all the interested parties/muscles
  • And remember to BREATHE – breath holding often goes hand in hand with bearing down or clenching muscles instead of gliding them long and short with your breath cycles

If you find that you are still clenching after this, then speak with your Pilates/movement instructor to help you change how you are doing a certain movement; and if you have excess tension or pain developing in any of your muscles, find a trusted Physiotherapist for further consultation and treatment which would include manual muscle release, focused muscle relaxation techniques and reprogramming of the brain-muscle connection.

Sarah EbyWritten by Sarah Eby
Physiotherapist and Owner of Root Physiotherapy in Uptown Waterloo
www.rootphysio.com
Facebook: @rootphysio
Instagram: @rootphysiosarah

Who Would You Be If…A Koan

When working with clients, it is disturbing but a delicious moment when repeatedly coming up against fixed notions of who the client believes they are – as if they are an object like a table or something. This is especially so when the belief is not even serving the individual well in their everyday experience of themselves – their experience of life with this set of beliefs.

The good news is that we are NOT objects; we are verbs. So…this is why I ask a client the question: ‘if you didn’t know who you were (as in a fixed set of beliefs; a fixed storyline)/a single narrative), who would you be?’

The difficulty in this koan (above) is that we are attached to our fixed notions when indeed we have a freedom – and the responsibility that goes with that – to CHOOSE. So…why are we so resistant to choosing? I don’t really have the answers though I do have some ideas about the resistance. But if we choose to approach this conundrum as a koan, could we be off the hook for an answer? 

Koan, Japanese Kōan, in Zen Buddhism of Japan, a succinct paradoxical statement or question used as a meditation discipline. “Among other things, Zen is the task of re-learning how to live your daily life with a quirky, sometimes poetic spontaneity. “ (a quote is from Zachary Turpin, doctoral candidate in literature, 2016).

unsplash

So the real task might be the need or the opportunity, given the right support, to relearn who or what we believe to be true i.e. ‘carved in stone’ right…We even do this with our notions about fitness, relationships, roles as partners, parents, pastors (???) even. Lol. Why would we resist the freedom to simply choose a new definition of our self?

Minimalism is beginning to gain some popularity as a lifestyle. What if we were to marry these two ideas: Minimalism and the fact of being verbs?

Could it be as simple as what Mary Oliver shares in a stanza of her poem:

When Death Comes

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Couldn’t we assert that if we are not willing to live LIVE, like a child ‘verbs’ through his/her moments, thriving… that we are simply getting by, settling for and lamenting, or possibly even lauding, comparing, judging, fearing, or gloating based on someone else’s thinking (a fixed set of beliefs).

Mary Oliver closes out her poem saying:

“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” What about you? Verb and vitality or ‘same old, same old’ and lacking zest that celebrates the gift of the life you have been given?

Choose!

What would you have to relearn in order to freely choose?

Teach Don’t Tell

For the Pilates participants who may be reading this, the perspective below offers a glimpse into part of what goes on behind the scenes;

the mind of the instructor;

the person who can NOT count to 10 — forwards or backwards 😀

The aim is to clear up just why we, Pilates Movement Instructors, are so darn persnickety, and why we take our storytelling skill so seriously!

Patience

Teach, Don’t Tell

Movement Instructors connect words with actions, simultaneously offering relevant reasons to motivate the participants intention and attention to said action. We are fostering intelligent communication for connection between teacher and client; the cues we use are meant to describe and inspire the idea of a movement that has energetic expression. This is our art.

Our underlying quest as instructors in our storytelling skill is for clients to experience success. To feel like the time spent pursuing quality movement was a worthwhile endeavour.  Sometimes, this pressure surrounding the self created quest takes our storytelling skills down a notch. We find ourselves relying to heavily on anatomical details or ‘feeling’ the exercise/movements, in a specific area or repeating go-to phrases the industry has latched on to.

There is a danger in being too anatomical or too focused on what or where someone “should be feeling” an exercise. Let’s face it; some of us don’t care what moves who where, some of us feel to much and even more of us don’t have any feelings at all …. AND we’re all snowflakes, each one of us different, with different needs and goals.

When the Movement Instructor and the client can get out of our own way and step cleanly into the moment in front of us, the body systems and the brain know how to move, the story is being told, teaching action is happening, the magic takes place …

Motivation and the Pleasure Seeking Brain

The pleasure seeking brain is continually searching out and repeating action that makes life easier. When action results in making life easier the brain categorizes the action as pleasure. The pleasure causes the brain to look for ways to groom and groove excellent movement patterns, this becomes motivation.

Storytelling skill (cueing) aims to borrow that instinctive desire and drive the individual to continually ‘tidy up’ movements, until there is the awesome moment of “effortless effort”.

“Effortless Effort”

What?! (Insert eye roll here…)

Pilates is designed to give you the opportunity to work better, THEN harder, while encouraging participants to always avoid working harder then is necessary.

Clean (i.e effortless effort) movement demands efficiency, Pilates teaches that, grooms that, and ultimately what was once your workout becomes your warm up.

As Movement Instructors we endeavor to:

Step up, be prepared to explain an action in several different ways. Explore cueing until you see the action being understood or you see the light bulb going off behind the eyes of the client.

Work towards understanding how the client learns. What brought the client through the door in the first place? Why do they keep coming back? We need to learn to adapt our cues and expressions to match the person in front of us.

Be clear. We all have our ‘go to’ expressions. For example: belly button to spine. Let’s make sure we first express what we actually are asking for. Avoid relying on and assuming a phrase will always inspire the correct action.

Address complex action simply. Sometimes the list of cues are LONG, be sure to highlight a priority. In other words, emphasis what shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to accomplish another action further down the list of cues.

One of my favorite teaching moments is between breathing and action. If the effort to create an action causes you to hold your breath, the sacrifice is too great. In other words, if you catch yourself holding your breath, reign it in, work only as hard as you can breath consistently.

Teach, Don’t Tell

Simply means exploring with clients to learn what to say in order to help someone organize and co-ordinate a movement. Look at what happens when the client does what you asked them to do.  Then identify and address perhaps TWO of the most important corrections according to their demonstration.

Both the Movement Instructor and the client need to allow for room to grow into the actions. It takes time for the brain to instinctively and confidently adapt movement patterns. Every energetic expression of the teachers cue has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.

Your brain and body systems know this and will learn to re-organize itself according to the brain’s pleasure response.

Client

As Clients, You Can Help Us Be Better:

We need you to speak up when what we’re asking for sounds like a foreign language.

Do you keep hearing a phrase that you feel or think is wrong for your body? Ask the instructor to explain themselves or to paraphrase what they are saying.

If you’re given a bony landmark or a muscle or a feeling/sensation as a reference point, speak up if that reference point is even a little bit foggy. There are hundreds of ways to describe an action.

Be patient with yourself, it’s just Pilates. #gregpember

Brilliance Lives Here: Leonard Cornelisse

We would like to introduce one of our clients, Leonard, who participates in weekly group classes, including Spin, Matwork and Reformer. 
 
Leonard comes into the Studio with a ready to work attitude. He has the ability to challenge his Instructors to get him to work deeper in his movements. We, as Instructors, love to come up with new ways to push him; and feel a sense of a job well done once an email pops through after classes telling us just how much he feels his muscles. Leonard is warm and witty, making an entire class laugh with his out of no where one liners. 
 
Leonard
 
A few words from Leonard… 

 

I came to KW in 1997 after having studied Audiology and working at the University of Western Ontario. I work as a hearing scientist for a Canadian hearing aid company called Unitron, in Kitchener.

Somewhere around middle age, I had the realization that I was no longer young and rather more out of shape than I cared to admit. I started swimming, and then added cycling as exercise. When the following winter came, I decided to try running and as summer approached I realized that I should put those three activities together and at least attempt a beginner triathlon. Somewhere in that time period I also started to practice yoga in an effort to improve my flexibility. I enjoyed training for and participating in various running, cycling and triathlon races for several years, racing mostly for fun. However, I started to have various injuries and issues. Fortunately through a running club I learned about the benefits of Pilates. I started at KW Art of Fitness about four years ago. I chose KW Art of Fitness, because of the variety of classes that it offers, in addition to Pilates, and because it is a smaller more intimate studio, with very friendly and personalized service.

In my free time, I enjoy walking my dog or playing with my grandchildren, when I am not exercising.