Should I Eat Salt?
Are you confused about salt? You are not alone! It appears to be another one of those food subjects that has created a great deal of confusion.
There is nothing fundamentally bad about salt per se. If you look at the way ancient civilizations went about the business of nourishing themselves, they always included salt in their diets. This is because good quality salt can contain up to 92 minerals and trace elements and can be considered an effective dietary supplement.
Salt contains sodium and chloride. Sodium behaves as an electrolyte and assists in the healthy working of the body’s cell function and chloride helps the absorption of potassium and assists in the regulation of the body’s fluids.
There is consensus among the medical profession, however, that too much sodium leads to high blood pressure and pre-hypertension, both of which increase the risk of heart attack or stroke considerably. The typical American diet consists of nearly 4,000 mg of salt per day while the amount recommended by the W.H.O. is 2,400mg and 1,500mg for those at risk. To put these figures into context, one teaspoon of salt contains 2,300mg of sodium.
Fast food, restaurant food and highly processed food all tend to contain large quantities of salt. One of the biggest problems here is that most salt used in such food and in the majority of salt sold, is of the highly refined and processed variety. Your average white, easy pouring salt has been stripped of all its goodness. All of this madness is to make salt cheaper and prettier to look at than its more natural relation!
What can we do?
1. Reduce your intake of fast food, restaurant food and highly processed food.
2. Throw away your bright white/easy to pour salt.
3. Use a high quality sea salt and check the label for nutritional content.
4. Make sure it is free of artificial color, additives, bleaching or chemicals.
5. Check out the color – pink, gray, red, brown. Anything but white!
6. Use in moderation. It will better satisfy your craving for salt and provide you with nutrients you need to be happy and healthy. What could be better than that?
Please contact me for more information on how to moderate your salt intake.
Why not join me for your free Health Counseling Appointment and learn more about my 12 Session Program. Getting healthier and happier has never been so much fun! You can visit my website www.carolinephipps.com, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-677-4624. Read more!
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Should I Eat Salt?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
As a pilates instructor, I see a lot of feet. Feet come in all shapes, sizes, toe nail polish colors, tattoos, toe rings, low arches, high arches.... the list goes on. Feet also come in different levels of cleanliness, but that's topic for a future post!
Another thing that separates one foot from another is toe length. Most people have five toes on each foot, gradually decreasing in size from the big toe all the way down to the littlest toe. However there are some people, and its not very unusual, who's second toe is longer than their big toe.
Interestingly, longer second toe length is known as a foot disorder called Morton's Toe, or Morton's Foot. While its not uncommon to see this disorder, it can actually be painful and lead to other problems all the way up the leg.
Fortunately, there are many pilates exercises that can help correct the effects of Morton's Foot.
Even if you look down at your foot and don't see the second toe longer than the big toe, you still may have Morton's Foot. What defines Morton's Foot is not truly toe length, but actually second metatarsal length, or the length of one of the small toe bones inside the foot.
There are ways to tell if you have Morton's foot other than toe length. You may develop calluses on the bottom of the feet. You may also develop flat feet or your feet may frequently pronate, (when the ankle rolls toward the inside of the foot).
You may also develop knee, hip, and low back problems as pronating the foot creates an imbalance all the way up the leg.
Doing pilates on the equipment with a certified pilates instructor can help retrain the ankles and feet to move properly, and realign the joints of the legs. Footwork on the reformer, Leg Springs on the Tower, and Leg Pumps on the Wunda Chair are all great ways to learn how to distribute weight properly and realign your body.
You're teacher will most likely not only focus on proper alignment of your feet. Because pilates is all about working from your core, you'll learn how to use your core to direct your legs and feet into proper alignment.
In addition to pilates, pain from Morton's Foot can also be treated with orthotics. If you're in pain and suspect Morton's Foot, I suggest trying a combination of pilates to correct your alignment and orthotics to alleviate the pain. Read more!
I got an email recently from a woman who's been diagosed with spinal stenosis. Here is the email I received:
"Elaine, I just found your website, WOW.
I have recently been diagnosed with lumbar stenosis. Never had an issue with this or anything else physically. Just had an epidural, did get some relief, but it is still there. I ordered a pilates machine on QVC. I have done pilates once, about 5 years ago. I want very much to be on a preventive strengthening program, and not have surgery. Can you advise me in any way, or point me in a direction. It comes with two DVD’s."
A few of my clients in the past have had spinal stenosis, and I've seen how pilates has benefitted them by strengthening their backs and core muscles. In case you're wondering what spinal stenosis is, here is the definition according to http://www.spinalstenosis.org/:
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition due to narrowing of the spinal cord causing nerve pinching which leads to persistent pain in the buttocks, limping, lack of feeling in the lower extremities, and decreased physical activity.
If you have spinal stenosis, working privately with an experienced, certified instructor can be very beneficial for you. In my experiences, working with clients who have spinal stenosis, there are many movements and exercises that are contraindicated for the condition. Of course, there are also other movements that are great- so I'll go over both the Do's and the Don'ts!
Before listing some good exercises to do, here is a list of positions to avoid with spinal stenosis, as these positions worsen back pain and compress the already weaken spine and nerves:
-Avoid almost all matwork/floor work (with the exception of exercises listed below)
-When on the pilates equipment, use light springs
-Never reach the legs out to 45 degrees, bring the legs into a right angle (Table Top) or 90 degrees only
-Avoid very much twisting or side-bending
-Avoid arching the spine
-Avoid rounding or trying to articulate the spine, instead, keep a neutral pelvis at all times possible.
That seems like you'll have to eliminate almost every pilates exercise! But don't worry, there are still many exercises you can do:
Using the reformer is great for anyone with stenosis because of the assistance that the springs and pads give the body during each movement.
Good Exercises/Things to do:
-Footwork and variations of
-Arms in many positions
-Short box: variations of moves with flat back. Possibly add small twisting
-Longstretch series: try to do whole series without rounding or arching much
-Knee Stretches: with a flat back
-Stomach Massage: Eliminate round back version, or possibly eliminate Stomach Massage entirely if you're a beginner
-Remember, keep springs light
When working out on the Tower:
You can use the Push Through Bar on the tower to do many exercises for your abdominals, to stretch your legs, and to work your arms. Here are some good exercises:
-Push Through Extra stretches may be added (see bottom of this post for link).
-Abs: Laying face up, under the push through bar with spring from above, pulse up 10 times. Then, one arm holds the bar, cross the other arm over the body and pulse to work the obliques. Repeat on other side.
-Legs: With the bottom spring on push through bar, lay underneath with both feet on, as in preparation for the Tower exercise. Take variations of pointing and flexing the feet, bending and extending the knees. Repeat with one leg at a time.
This may not be suitable for every person with spinal stenosis.
-Arms: With both hands on the push through bar and a spring from below, lay underneath and push up on the bar. Also try one arm at a time.
Using the Chair:
-Leg Pumps are great
On the mat:
The only exercises my clients and I have found to not irritate the back are:
-Side Leg Kicks (incorporate the magic circle or one leg spring for variety)
-Inner thighs squeeze the magic circle
Remember, these are just some suggestions and everything here might not be great for every single person. If anyone has any thoughts or exercises that help them, please feel free to comment so other people can benefit from your experiences!
Here are links to spinal stenosis websites:
Here is another post I wrote about a variation on Push Through that is nice for some people with spinal stenosis:
http://headsuponyourbody.blogspot.com/2008/03/great-variation-of-push-through.html Read more!
I was inspired to write this post after a conversation with a few people on a Bookie Boo forum called, "I don't get pilates". Stephanie posted that she tried a video and wasn't really getting a good work out or feeling much after using it.
The conversation was a good reminder for me that not everyone does pilates in pilates studios or even in group classes at the gym. So here is a post on the different ways we are all doing pilates out there, and what's what with each type!
Pilates Equipment Classes
As a certified pilates instructor, this is one of my favorite ways of doing and teaching pilates. The equipment is ingenius, effective, and fun, which makes for the perfect workout! The equipment uses springs, straps, and bars for a resistance workout for your abs, arms, legs, back... your entire body.
If you've ever had trouble "feeling" pilates, I strongly suggest you try a class or private session on equipment at a pilates studio. Working out with a certified pilates instructor on the equipment is a great experience.
You may have looked into classes at pilates studios and noticed that they're more expensive than classes at the gym. There are a few reasons for this, the main ones being the individualized attention you get at a pilates studio and the expert eye of a certified instructor. However, Joseph Pilates was a brilliant inventor who came up with many small pieces of equipment that you can buy for use at home- specifically, the Magic Circle. The Magic Circle is the best piece of home pilates equipment you can buy, in my opinion, because its small, very effective, can be used in many ways for each body part, and you can also buy videos to go along with it.
The equipment is great if you want to strengthen an injury, if you have back problems, or if you want to work out on an elevated surface. The equipment provides assistance, as well as resistance, to each exercise.
Pilates Mat Classes
I teach a large mat class at my local community college, and I know there are also mat classes at gyms and and community centers as well. Many people find that taking a mat class is actually harder than using the equipment because you have no help from the equipment at all- its just you and good ol' gravity. Nice.
Mat classes aren't for everyone though, especially if you have trouble getting up and down from the floor, or if you specific injuries or issues that really need focused, one-on-one attention from an instructor.
In some ways, when you first start out with pilates, mat classes are harder to "feel" than working out on the equipment. If you have trouble feeling how the mat exercises should feel, I suggest starting over with the basics of the method. Make sure you understand how to really "connect into your center", "find neutral pelvis" and "lengthen the mid-line". When you get the hang of each of these elements of pilates, you'll have no trouble feeling the workout!
Videos are great if you're stuck in the house (especially with a new baby or kids). Videos are also good if you want to be alone or if you feel embarrassed to work out around other people.
When Joseph Pilates was creating his method, he intended for it to be done not only at studios, but also in each person's home. He came up with his mat routine and home exercise equipment for this purpose. So doing pilates at home is a very good way to introduce yourself to the method.
At the same time, I don't recommend that pilates at home should be the only way you ever do pilates. Occassionally, sign up for a class at your local studio or community center. Being around other people can energize your workout, and your mind. Listening to a live person explain the exercises can also change your perception of how the movements should be done, and it can advance you.
Joseph Pilates wrote books on his method, so pilates books have been around for a long time.
Pilates books are probably the hardest way to learn pilates, though there are some great books out there. Books are hard because... how are you going to hold open a book and read it while trying to connect into your center and find your core?! I actually heard that there is a pilates book that stands up, but you still have to try to read it while working out.
Some people learn well from books and reading, so they can be helpful if you need some extra details on how to do an exercise. They're also great when you're practiced at pilates and just want to pull a book out to get some ideas for a quick floor routine when you're crunched for time.
If you're into pilates, I suggest trying a little of each of these ways of doing the method, to round out your view of pilates!
To check out the Bookie Boo forum, check out the site, http://www.bookieboo.com/, and sign up, then your can read the forum, and others like it.
This post is also published on Bookieboo.com, along with other blogs by fit-minded women and moms. Check out http://www.bookieboo.com/ for many cool articles, give-aways, and forums! Read more!
Monday, April 28, 2008
When you're in a pilates class, do you ever look over at the person next to you and think...
"She is so much more flexible than I am!"
"I'm so fat compared to her!"
"I'll never be as good as him!"
In a group setting, it's tempting to fall into this way of thinking, but don't let your head go there. Instead, chant this mantra to yourself every time you gaze over to the side to see how much better your neighbor is compared to you:
As soon as you compare yourself to someone else, you are no longer living in the moment.
Its really true. Comparing your body or form to the person next to you is not going to advance you in pilates. In fact, its sure to keep you right in the exact same place for as long as you continue to compare.
How will comparitive thinking keep you from advancing in pilates? The minute you start comparing yourself to someone else, you lose your center. You stop focusing on how you feel, your form, your core, and your breath. Without the coordination of all these elements, your pilates will lack strength and energy, and you will surely not advance.
I'm not saying that you can never look over at your friends and laugh, enjoying the moment. There's a difference between having fun in class and enjoying yourself with your friends, and self-sabotaging your efforts by telling yourself you'll never do the exercise right or you're a complete failure compared to the person next to you.
This holds true for every area of life, not just pilates. As soon as you start comparing your self, progress, or lifestyle to someone else, you immediately take away from your moment. A moment that is all your own, and that you can never get back again.
Chant your new mantra, and take a few deep breaths every time your about to "go there". Remember, you came to class for YOU. Don't lose focus on yourself. Your time and efforts are worth more than that! Read more!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Have you ever thought of becoming a pilates instructor? There are many different certification programs out there to choose from. Each has its similarities and differences. The most important thing is for you to find the right program for you- one that you feel comfortable with, proud to be part of, and that teachs the style of pilates that speaks to you.
Like most professionals in the field, I have my own opinions as to which programs are better than others. However, I believe there is room for all types of pilates styles out there in the world.
Most importantly, do your research on each training program and find out which one suits you best. Keep in mind that the best program is not necessarily the one that gives you a certification the fastest.
Here is a list of links to various programs I know of out there and that I would recommend. The reason why I recommend these programs is because I know great teachers who have been certified through these programs. I also know teachers who were certified through programs that are not on this list. There are 100's of programs available, so if none of these seem to work for you, ask your instructor to recommend a good place near where you live.
There are Power Pilates training centers all over the United States, so chances are, there is one near where you live.
Located in NYC
Located in NYC
Located in Boulder, CO
I wasn't aware of this program until it was suggested to me through a comment posted below, though over the years I have heard of the instructor who runs the program, Michele Larsson. It seems really great, in-depth, well rounded, and thoughtful as well as thought-provoking. An added bonus to this program is that its based on some of Eve Gentry's work- I always love everything Eve Gentry has contributed to the method.
If you run a certification program, or if you've been certified by a great program that isn't listed, please feel free to email me and tell me about it!
Stay tuned for more posts on how to get certified to teach pilates, what to ask and look for when choosing your programs, the process of getting certified, and what happens during and after certification! Read more!
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I've been listening to Oprah and Eckhart Tolle's XM Radio class on his book, The New Earth. They also talk about another book of his, The Power of Now, and how it is to "live in the now" and "live in the moment".
How often do you make a point live in the moment, and being present in the task at hand? Autopilot is a strong habit to break, but it can be done for even just one hour a day with pilates.
Pilates really is being in the moment. You must first commit to a class or private session, set aside just one hour of your day to living in the moment and being present in your mind and body.
Later in class, its important that you stay focused. It might be hard at first, but you realize that if you're not fully present throughout every moment of pilates, your form will slip (perhaps you're neck will tire quickly) or you'll have to ask your teacher to repeat what was just said.
The breathing in pilates is a big part of what helps to keep you in the moment. The technique of breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is very grounding and centering. Throughout a whole hour, your breath can carry you through flowing movements with energy and grace. Your breath will quiet your mind and center your thoughts on the moment.
The mantra of pilates, "Connect into your center" is literally, "Be in your body, feel this moment, now". Each and every exercise originates by a connection into your center, and in some exercises, you should look right into your center. After you hear your instructor tell you to connect into your center enough times, you'll start to notice that the phrase is about more than just pulling your belly button into your spine.
In pilates, its the combination of deep breathing, focusing the mind's eye on each movement of the class, and connecting into your center all bring you right into the state of being in the moment.
Not to mention that pilates is highly enjoyable! Camaraderie with fellow class mates and your teacher, noticing a vase of flowers on the desk, smelling the great hand soap in the bathroom- these all contribute to living in the moment.
If you're like me and you find it hard to truly live in each moment of your day, try pilates and see if you can start with just this one hour. With the help of your instructor to keep you focused and cue your breathing properly, you might just find this first step of being in the moment fun and fulfilling!
You can check out Oprah and Eckhart Tolle's discussions on his books and living in the moment on Oprah's website:
http://www2.oprah.com/xm/ane/ane_main.jhtml Read more!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
This low plank is not really technically a pilates exercise, but its often taught in mat classes and I teach it all the time. Its a great way to strengthen the abs, lengthen the midline, and work on using the breath to help yourself get through the exercise!
This is a very challenging exercise, especially if low back issues are already present. Sometimes, if you have a shoulder issue, this position might also bother you.
First, let's make sure we're on the same page as to how to do this exercise. You can use a magic circle if you have one, but if you don't, just pressing your palms on the floor in alignment with your shoulders is fine. Come down to your elbows and knees on the mat. Step one foot back on the mat, then the other. Hover your body over the floor, in a low plank.
Here are some tricks to use while you try to master this low plank.
If you have low back pain
There are a few things you can try. First and foremost, of course, connect your abdominals in and up! Not just to work your abs, but more importantly, to support your low back. Imagine your abdominals lifting your back UP away from the floor.
You could also try slightly curling your tail between your legs, to promote the lift of the low back.
A modification for this exercise is to just step one foot back and keep the other knee bent and down on the mat. Hold this position, then switch legs.
If you have shoulder pain
When your elbows are down on the mat, try rotating the inner elbows forward. Use this movement to help bring your shoulders into the correct position: away from your ears and into your back.
Your upper back should feel wide and flat, so the shoulder blades aren't collapsing into each other. Your pilates instructor can help you with this, since you can't see it with your own eyes. After some practice, you will get a feel for the proper position.
Next, imagine lengthening your ribs and top of the head forward, through your arms. Once you've done each of these steps, you've set up your "foundation" for the exercise.
Once you have set up the front of your body, you can step one leg back at a time, and your shoulders should feel more supportive for your body.
In both cases of shoulder pain and low back pain during the plank, a common cause is a sagging in the mid-line. Envision the complete mid-line - stretching out through the top of the head, through the neck and spine, the tail bone, the inner thighs, and out through the heels - as being stretched out and lifted.
A good way to lift the whole mid-line up is to lift your inner thighs, don't let them hang.
Think of the difference between a sagging clothes line, and a taut line. Be the taut clothes line!
For a bit more core work...
What are your ankles doing? Don't let the ankles resist flexing. Try softening the crease of the ankles so the heels stretch back a little further. Once you let go of the ankle tension... you will feel the abs kick in like they should be!
I also wrote about this exercise in my article, "Using the Magic Circle", the Heads Up on Your Body main site: http://www.headsuponyourbody.com/articles/magic-circle.htm Read more!
Friday, April 18, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
When you decide to sign up for your first private pilates session, you might be wondering what to expect. What's going to happen during the hour? How will you feel? What should you bring or wear?
Here is an overview of what to expect during a typical, classical pilates session for the first time.
What should you wear?
Wear what you feel comfortable in: a comfortable top (t-shirt or tank) with leggings or sweatpants. Most women choose to wear sports bras for the flexibility and breathability of the material.
Its not a fashion show, but you should wear clothing that makes you feel great, too. There are usually mirrors in pilates studios, and you do a lot of "looking into your center"- so if you catch a glimpse of your bod, you want to like what you see so you don't feel discouraged.
Shoes are not necessary during a pilates session, but check with the studio about their policy on socks- some require socks, while others don't.
How will you feel during and after the session?
Most people say they already feel different even after just one pilates session. You might feel taller, leaner, and stretched out. You will feel like you just worked out, but at the same time you had more energy than you did before. You might feel like you just used muscles you didn't even know you had! These are good things.
The next day, you may feel slightly sore in your "core". You might even feel some neck or back tension. If you do feel sore in your neck or back, talk to you instructor next time. You shouldn't feel back or neck pain during or after pilates, and if you do, your teacher and can help you figure out why. Typically, as you gain core strength, these tensions go away.
Don't be too hard on yourself during your first pilates session. There are lots of things to do and remember, and your coordination and breathing might feel off. This is normal! I promise, your next session, and the sessions after, will start to make more and more sense.
What should you expect during the session?
The first session will most likely teach you the basics of pilates: neutral pelvis, some breathing techniques, how to engage your core, and beginner pilates exercises.
Your first session will most likely include working out on the mat, tower, and reformer, with some stretching on the barrel. Your teacher will decide what pieces of equipment to work on and what exercises you do based on your physical fitness, injuries you may have, and your current flexibility.
Before your first session, your teacher will most likely take a few minutes to discuss your physical history, any injuries you have/have had, and anything else you wrote down on the form you filled out when you came into the studio. This is a great time to tell your teacher about your body. Be sure to talk about any pains you have, injuries you have, and your habits throughout the day. All of these things will help your teacher develop the right program for you.
If you have any other questions about your first session, be sure to talk with your instructor on the phone before you go into the studio, so you can go over any details and to ensure that you feel confident going in and you have an idea of what to expect! Read more!
It can be intimidating to try anything new, especially pilates in a one-on-one type of situation. The equipment is strange, the attention is all on you, and working out is not easy!
If you're nervous to try a private pilates session, don't worry its normal to feel nervous. There are many normal emotions that might try to hold you back from trying it out:
-you feel like you won't know what to do
-you feel like you'll look ridiculous
-you feel fat
-you don't think you have the money right now
-you don't think you have the time
These are all common thoughts, but don't let them hold you back from taking a private session. If find yourself thinking any of these self-sabotaging thoughts, contemplate these answers... then call your local studio and book your first pilates session- it could change how you feel about exercise, your body, and your life!
You feel like you won't know what to doWell, that's true, actually. You won't know exactly what to do. If you've tried a pilates video at home, or if you've taken mat classes, you'll have an idea of what pilates is like. Working out on the equipment is similar, but not exactly the same. Your instructor would never expect you to know what to do in the first session, so don't be so hard on yourself!
Remind yourself of this- no one has ever known what to do the first time they've ever done something.
You feel like you'll look ridiculous
You most likely will not look silly or stupid doing pilates. All the pilates instructors I know are very compassionate, fun people, and none of us think our clients look ridiculous. We are used to seeing people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and styles coming in and out of the studio- we've seen it all. Chances are, you are not the most ridiculous!
One thing that's fun about pilates is that we can have a good time working out. We laugh, joke, and talk during the sessions, so the focus is not on how you look.
You feel fat
There is no weight requirement for starting pilates. I've worked with people who range in weight from 85-250lbs. If you really are "fat", then you should be doing pilates! If you're not obese, but just feel fat, then pilates is perfect for you. It will help tone your body and adjust your posture, so the "fat feeling" will quickly go away.
Remember, your instructor will never judge you based on your real, or perceived, weight.
You don't think you have the money right now
Hey, I know how it is. There is only so much money to go around and right now your body is not the top priority. However, it should be one of your top priorities. How healthy you feel, and are, will effect the rest of your busy life in innumerable, positive ways.
There are affordable ways of doing pilates at a studio that you may not have thought of.
Many studios, like my studio, Rhinebeck Pilates, offer discounted sessions with apprentice teachers. Most studios offer a range of class rates, depending on the type of class, or sometimes depending on the time of day of the class. You can pair up with a partner and take duet pilates sessions, which are about half the cost of privates. Many studios also offer discounted private sessions if bought in bulk.
The best thing to do is call your local studio, and ask what your options are. You might even be able to work out a bartering situation- you may do web design, silk screening on t-shirts, cleaning, or office work in exchange for pilates.
You don't think you have the time
Trust me, there is time for exercise in everybody's life. I know how it feels to THINK you don't have time, believe me. Between my puppy, my studio, my husband, my house, my garden.... I sometimes feel like I don't have time. But it is there, you just have to get creative.
Most studios offer classes at all hours of the day. A studio I used to work at even had a class at 7:30am. You could fit a quick class in during your lunch break, on the weekends, in the early morning, or just after work.
Pilates studios are flexible, just like you will be after you start taking classes! Read more!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
This is a topic that has come up between pilates teachers, and even at my studio, Rhinebeck Pilates. Is pilates the same as physical therapy? Do changes need to be made to the pilates method to make the exercises more theraputic?
This is a hotly debated topic amongst pilates teachers. Some feel that modifications and additions need to be made to the method, while others feel that teaching good ol', classical pilates is the way to go. It is my opinion that no major changes need to be made to the method and it works as is!
I was inspired to finally blog about it when Alycea Ungaro recently blogged about it herself, on her blog, Pilates Speak. This week, she started a spirited discussion on what pilates really is, based on a recent interview she had with a perspective teacher.
Here is an excerpt from her blog:
"Pilates is fitness.
It can be slow, or meticulous or both.
It can be corrective in nature.
It can be incredibly healing (as exercise often is).
But it’s fitness plain and simple.
I am seeing more and more often our field a push among instructors to self-aggrandise. A desire to elevate their craft to something more than just exercise. As though teaching exercise isn’t important enough. Well pardon me for saying so…..but basic fitness training is likely the MOST beneficial thing you can do for just about anyone. AND I’m offended by teachers who feel that the Pilates method with all it’s variety, complexity and nuance doesn’t offer enough to their clients to achieve critical benefit in a typical 60 minute session?"
In my blog post here, I want to discuss the following questions: What is Pilates? What is Physical Therapy? Can Pilates be like, or can pilates replace, physical therapy?
According to the Pilates Method Alliance, pilates is:
"Pilates is a method of exercise developed by German-born Joseph Pilates. In 1926, Joseph and Clara Pilates brought their exercise system, originally called “Contrology”, to New York City. The Pilates method is a physical movement program designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body.
Pilates exercise focuses on postural symmetry, breath control, abdominal strength, spine, pelvis and shoulder stabilization, muscular flexibility, joint mobility and strengthening through the complete range of motion of all joints. Instead of isolating muscle groups, the whole body is trained, integrating the upper and lower extremities with the trunk."
Here is the definition of physical therapy, according to the American Physical Therapy Association:
"Physical therapists help people with orthopedic conditions such as low back pain or osteoporosis; joint and soft tissue injuries such as fractures and dislocations; neurologic conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or Parkinson's disease; connective tissue injuries such as burns or wounds; cardiopulmonary and circulatory conditions such as congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and workplace injuries including repetitive stress disorders and sports injuries.
Therapeutic exercise and functional training are the cornerstones of physical therapist treatment. Depending on the particular needs of a patient, physical therapists may 'manipulate' a joint (that is, perform certain types of passive movements at the end of the patient's range of motion) or massage a muscle to promote proper movement and function. Physical therapists may use other techniques such as electrotherapy, ultrasound (high-frequency waves that produce heat), hot packs, and ice in addition to other treatments when appropriate.
It is important to know that physical therapy can be provided only by qualified physical therapists or by physical therapist assistants working under the supervision of a physical therapist."
By reading the definitions of pilates and phsyical therapy, there's obviously many similarities, and also some glaring differences. Even in the photos here, there are obvious differences in the setting alone.
The first sentence in the definition of pilates says, "Pilates is a method of exercise". For me, and many fully certified pilates instructors, and Alycea and the Pilates Method Alliance, that sentence says it all. Can exercise be healing? Yes, definitely, and in many ways. It can clear your mind, deepen your breathing, and strengthen you physically and mentally. But that is where we have to leave it. Exercise is not the same thing as physical therapy, even mindful exercise like pilates.
So if we're so clear on what pilates is, then why is there an argument going on in the pilates world?! There are a few reasons, actually, and I mentioned them in a comment on Alycea's blog. Another reason for the confusion is that pilates is often recommended to people by their doctors, chiropractors, and also physical therapists as a way of continuing to heal the body after an injury or as a way to strengthen the body before surgery.
I have seen pilates make so many beneficial changes in people who come in based on a doctor's recommendation. The interesting thing is, the exercises of pilates is what helps people.
No changes need to be made to the method for there to be benefits. An instructor may slow down, leave out, or modify some exercises based on the physical needs of the client, but no new exercises need to be added for pilates to be beneficial towards healing or strengthening.
So, to sum up this long and winding post, I think that pilates can be used to as a type of therapy, the way any exercise is therapy. Due to the mindful nature of pilates, it is especially theraputic, mentally and physically. However, if you are really looking for physical therapy for specific reason or injury, keep in mind the two definitions I posted above. Decide which one, pilates or physical therapy (or both) sounds best for you!
For the Pilates Method Alliance web site:
For the American Physical Therapy Association:
For Alycea Ungaro's pilates blog and this topic:
http://pilatesblog.realpilatesnyc.com/2008/04/13/functional-pilates.aspx Read more!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Before you roll up and your legs are straight forward, keep your legs parallel by pressing the bunions, or the "big toe knuckle" together. The feet should not be angled in, they should be parallel. Keep this position exactly as you roll up, and when you roll down again, think of scooping away from the bunions.
Pinky Toes Back, Big Toes Forward
Use a Magic Circle
There are two really good ways of using the Magic Circle to help you roll up. One way is to hold it between the inner arches of your feet. It shouldn't touch the floor, its just held between the feet. As you roll up, think of squeezing the circle with your inner thighs. As you scoop back, scoop away from the circle.
Monday, April 7, 2008
If you've ever wondered why we call the exercise, "Elephant", here are a few reasons that I've been taught over the years.
One simple answer is because, during the exercise, the position of your body is like the shape of an elephant's body. Hmmm.... kind of. I've heard that answer, but I've also learned other reasons why its called Elephant that sound much more interesting!
One of my teachers once told me to imagine that my body was an elephant's body, with the head facing the other way around. My legs were the trunk. The idea was to swing my legs freely, the same way an elephant swings its trunk.
I love that image of an elephant swinging its trunk! That was taught to me at least eight years ago and I still think of it all the time and use it in my teaching.
I was once in a workshop with Bob Liekens and he told a story of how Joseph Pilates actually came up with the name, Elephant. He said that one day, a client came in to see Joe and asked, "Can you give me an exercise to get rid of this elephant butt?". He came up with the exercise, and said, "This is for the 'elephant'"!
How cool is that story!
If anyone reading this has learned other reasons why its called Elephant, or how other exercises got their names, totally feel free to comment and enlighten us.
For photos of the actual exercise and more information about Elephant, check out my other post, "Elephant":
http://headsuponyourbody.blogspot.com/2008/04/elephant.html Read more!
Elephant is an exercise on the reformer for beginners, but I actually think its a challenge to understand. There are a few things to think about during elephant that can help you understand the exercise.
The idea of moving the legs, free from the torso, doesn't come naturally to most people.
First, there are a few slight variations on the upper body placement for Elephant. Your teacher can show you exactly where the best placement is for your body. Generally, the idea is to keep ease across the upper back, neck and shoulders, as if you don't even need your arms there to hold you up. What is really holding you up, is your scooped in abdominals.
Think of the upper back position like this- if you were to take your hands off the bar, you would still be able to stay in the same position, using your "scoop" to hold you up.
Pressing the heels down and lifting the toes up accentuates the stretch in the backs of the legs. However, the focus of Elephant is not to stretch the backs of the legs. Make the focus to scoop the abs up, lifting your weight up out of the back legs. Of course, be sure to also lift all 10 toes up. Especially the pinky toes!
Once you're in the position, the next part, when you press the legs (and the carriage) back, then pull it in again, is the challenge. You should feel like your legs are swinging to and fro underneath you, like a pendulum.
A few things might happen here. Here are couple common issues and ways to correct them:
Problem: The whole body swings back and forth with the carriage, including the shoulders.
Fix: Keep the shoulders forward, almost over the footbar. Leave them there. Remember, you "should" be able to do this without holding the bar at all.
Problem: The carriage crashes in each time.
Fix: Don't even think about moving the carriage in and out. Think instead of the heels, and just the heels.
"Press the heels back, and pull the heels back in", should be your mantra.
There is a "heel - abdominal" connection in many pilates exercises. This is the perfect example of how to use it.
Another way to keep the carriage from crashing is to use your abdominals as the breaks. But not as the breaks to the carriage, the breaks to your heels.
Problem: You don't feel your abdominals working at all.
Fix: Use your breath. Exhale each time you pull the heels in.
The visual of dragging your heels into the center each time, instead of "pulling the carriage in", can also help.
You might also be too far back, away from the foot bar, if you don't feel your abs.
Problem: Your toes won't stay up.
Fix: Make the motion of pressing out and pulling in a lot smaller.
If it feels incredibly small, that's good! It is supposed to be a small movement.
One thing can be done to correct all of these problems (besides practice, of course!). Try doing Elephant on one spring. Its very different, and forces your body to really control the action.
For some reasons why we call this exercise, Elephant, check out my other post, "Why is it Called... Elephant":
http://headsuponyourbody.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-is-it-called-elephant.html Read more!
This video is not for the faint of heart. Not because the exercises are super challenging (they are) or because the music is loud and bad (it is), but because you are about to witness this man doing Swan Dive on the cold, hard floor without any padding or mat! Craziness.
Besides being a little weird, this video is actually great. Its a really good example of what advanced pilates looks like, and how the exercises can flow together to make one, seemless and flowing workout.
I'm especially excited because he throws a little Helicopter in there! Love Helicopter.
Thanks, Theodora!! Read more!
Friday, April 4, 2008
In a recent issue of Health Magazine (Dec 2007), three of the newest books on fitness were rated as books that gave out the best fitness advice for this year. Here is a summary of what each book suggests you do to get the most out of your fitness routines, increase your calorie burn, and build more muscle.
You might recognize that each of these suggestions are exactly what one pilates session will give you!
It is suggested that you start doing exercises that work out multiple muscle groups all at once, rather than exercises that isolate specific muscles. The article makes a great point that your body will look more balanced when you work out multiple muscles groups together, because you won't be working out one group more than the other.
Of course, pilates IS working out the whole body all at once, not just over the period of an hour, but also in each and every exercise. So if you do pilates, you are already on the road to balance and full-body strengthening.
Use Your Head
If you do pilates, you know that if you really focus your mind on what muscles are initiating each action, you can feel the exercises much more powerfully.
The article makes an interesting suggestion about another way to use your mind while working out. It suggests that just before you begin an exercise, imagine the targeted muscle as a dull shade of red. As you do the movement and feel the muscle working, imagine the red getting brighter and brighter. As you finish the exercise, think of that red as fading again.
I haven't tried this but it sounds kind of interesting! Might be a cool way to try using your mind in the mind-body connection.
The book reviewed in this section of the article is called, "Mind Over Muscle: The Effortless Way to a Perfect Body", by James Villepique. I'm not sure if a perfect body is realistic to hope for, but this could be an interesting book to read through. I haven't read it , but if anyone does read this book, please feel free to comment on what you think!
Switch It Up
The article also suggests that if you vary the amount of weight you use from work out to work out, you'll see results faster and avoid plateaus. This is definitely true, and we do this in every pilates session. In just one session, you work your arms (for example) in many different ways and positions, using different weights of bars, springs, and your own resistance as well.
If you come to pilates more than once a week, you'll notice that we sometimes do the same exercises as the last time, but with different spring tension. Using different tension settings on the springs occasionally will definitely take you out of your comfort zone and make you work harder!
So, if you do pilates- congratulations! You already do all the things that the article says will enhance your work out and bring you results. If you don't do pilates, it might be time to give it a try, and experience the many and various benefits it will bring. Read more!
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Its been a couple months since you've had your baby and you are tired, busy, and just a little stressed out! Perfect reasons for starting back into your exercise routine. If you used to do pilates and want to get back to your workouts, now is a great time. And, if you've never done pilates before, now is a great time to find out how pilates can help with your breathing, stretching, and refinding your core muscles.
So you know you want to do pilates, the question is- how on earth are you going to find time for pilates sessions? You might also be wondering how you're going to be able to afford pilates sessions. In this post, I've come up with a few ideas on ways to fit pilates into your life again, and how to make it affordable.
Start Your Own Mat Class with Other New Moms
Pilates is so awesome because it can be done anywhere- as long as you have some space and a mat, you don't need to go to a pilates studio to join a class. Gather a couple of your friends who are also new moms and start a pilates class on your living room floor. Once you have your friends on board, start making phone calls. Try calling around to local pilates studios, and ask if any instructors would be willing to come to your house once a week for a house call.
I have done this myself, and so has most every instructor I know. Most teachers will charge about $10-$20/person for each class, which is a bargan if you consider how much it would cost in time and money to drive somewhere and arrange child care.
Another great thing about creating your own class in your home is that you can all bring your new babies to class with you! You might decide to keep the babies off to the side. Or, if your instructor is especially creative and has experience, there are actually ways to incorporate the babies into some of the exercises! So, you can use the time to work out, and to bond with your new baby, and bond with other fit-minded moms.
Request a Special Class at a Studio
If you've gathered a group of friends, but none of you have enough free space, give your local studio a call. You just might be able to have your special class at the studio, and bring your babies along. Most studios have certain times of the day when their empty- usually in the middle of the day between 1-4pm- and some studio owners might be happy to have you and the new babies come in for a weekly session.
In order to make this work, you should have at least three other friends committed to joining the class with you. Again, this solves your problem as far as trying to find child care while you work out.
Private Session in Your Home or Studio
If you have the extra money, you could either book sessions during the downtimes at a studio or have an instructor come to your home and teach you. Either way, you can have your baby with you and work out. Its good to book these sessions when you'll be alone with the teacher at the studio, so you can have privacy if necessary and you don't have to worry about feeling guilty for bothering other people if you're little adorable one starts crying.
Split Sessions with Your Partner/Husband
Like the other ideas, these sessions can be done at a studio or in your home. Pilates session last one hour, so you could split the hour into two halves, one for you and one for your husband. One of you can watch the baby while the other works out, and then switch.
It could also work the same way if you want to split sessions with your mom, your sister, or even a friend! This is a great way to make pilates more affordable and to spend time with other people.
You can also view this post, and other posts like it on www.bookieboo.com- the "Fitness Hang Out for Moms"!
Chick graphic by BabyCrayons.com Read more!
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
If you have trouble rolling all the way up during Roll Ups, and you are fortunate enough to be up on a tower mat, you might be tempted to hook your little feet under the black strap down at the end of your mat. This will pin your legs down, and give you the leverage you need to roll up. However...
Using a strap to anchor your feet down causes your body to skip some of the steps in this sequence of actions. Holding the feet down "fixes" the hip flexors, and causes them to kick in before the trunk is able to curl up and over. The body basically hauls itself up and over the legs by using the hip flexors. In fact, the trunk isn't even able to fully curl, it actually arches off the mat slightly with flexion at the hip joints.
Many exercises can be done with the magic circle placed between the ankles or inner thighs. The magic circle is great because it can be used in a mat class or at home. There are many, many possible exercises with the magic circle!
A strong core is necessary to support your body through its daily movements and to help you excel at the other sports and activities you participate in. Of course, you also need strong legs to actually execute those activities! Thankfully, pilates works out your whole body, including your legs. In fact, there is a pilates exercise to work out each major muscle group in your legs.
Of course, every pilates exercise works out your whole body, there are no "spot specific" exercises. Every exercise requires all the muscles in your legs and body to work in unison. You can, however, get more out of certain movements if you focus your mind on using on specific muscles.
In this post, I'll focus on the back of the legs, and some interesting ways of using them to get more out of some exercises!
Some exercises use the hamstrings to stabilize the body, as in Shoulder Bridge on the mat and Bridge on the Chair.
There are much more interesting ways to focus on using the back of the legs in other exercises. There is a cool "heel to abdominal connection" that I love, that recruits the back of the legs to move the carriage on the reformer, and in turn brings the feeling of working the center. If you find yourself pulling the carriage in with your thighs during Elephant, think of this instead:
"Pull the heels into your center".
Focus on pushing the heels out, and pulling the heels back in, and the carriage will move freely.
Use the same visual for Knee Stretches. Instead of thrusting the thighs in and out, push and pull the heels to move the mat. Think of pulling the heels into your center, or into your sitz bones.
The hamstrings can be used in opposition to the in and up scoop of the abdominals, as in pressing the pedal down during Leg Pumps on the Chair. As you lift in and up with your mid line and abs, press the hamstrings away, into the chair, to move the pedal.
This same visual can be used during Leg Springs on the tower. Think of leg springs as a flipped over version of Leg Pumps on the Chair. The hamstrings and inner thighs work together to stretch the legs out away from the center.
If you have trouble "feeling" the back of your legs doing any work during leg springs, try this exercise:
-Lay on your back with arches of the feet on the push through bar. The bar should just hang, without a spring. Your knees are bent, because you're about to do a bridge.
-Lift your body into a bridge, using the stability and strength of your hamstrings to keep the bar perfectly still. Do this about 4 times.
-Finally, lift to a bridge again, and keep the torso lifted. While lifted, push the bar in and out, bending and extending the legs. You can get through the agony by focusing on pulling the heels into the sitz bones, again and again. At this point, you should have no trouble feeling your hamstrings, and recruiting them again later for Leg Springs :)
Happy, and strong, hammies! Read more!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Respect Yourself: Be The Best You Can Be with Caroline Phipps
Now What About Coffee?
“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons” – T.S. Eliot – “The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock”.
In my practice as a Health Counselor, I am constantly asked about coffee. The subject touches a nerve. When I am asked what I do for a living, my reply is often met with a crinkle of the nose and accompanied by something like,
In the interests of brevity, I will give you a short version of what proved to be a rather longer story than I would’ve liked. In my endless and fruitless search for perfection in my life, I decided to give up coffee drinking last summer. After all it is a drug – you do experience withdrawal when you come of it – particularly if you do it quickly. Now being a “headache person” as I am, can be tricky in a situation like this because one of the major symptoms of withdrawal is – yes you guessed it – a headache. What for a non-headache person would be a “bit of a headache for a day or two” for me could mean 3 days in a darkened room begging for relief.
So I concocted a plan, which involved oh so slowly adding more and more decaffeinated coffee to my espresso pot over a period of 5 weeks. During this time my feelings of self-righteousness were closely paralled by lack of focus, fatigue and an increasing desire to stay under the blankets when the alarm rang. When the day finally dawned on a totally decaffeinated morning, suffice to say, the next three days were spent in a darkened room begging for relief. I held onto the idea that I had conquered this demon though. But once the headache subsided, I felt exhausted, uninspired, unfocused and longing to stay in my bed. All my fantasies about post-coffee living - great energy and a feeling of wellbeing - were shattered. It didn’t deter me though – I soldiered on.
Finally, one of the wisest women I know, my acupuncturist asked me what I was doing in my life that was different. She said my body was all out of balance and my energy levels depleted. When I told her about my triumphant victory over my addiction, she said there are people who do well on coffee – the key (as with most things) was moderation. I flew home and ground up some real beans and immediately felt ready for Mt Everest.
After this experiment, I now give my clients the pros and cons of coffee, so that they can work out for themselves what best suits them. We are all different and there is no “One Size Fits All” way of coffee drinking.
On the down side:
-Coffee increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and can contribute to heart trouble.
-It stimulates the production of stress hormones, which can eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion.
-It can create emotional disturbances and blood sugar swings.
-Its acidity can cause gastrointestinal problems.
-It can inhibit the absorption of some nutrients.
-It may make it difficult for you to find neutral. It is not a good idea to keep going when the body needs a rest.
On the up side:
-Coffee is a great antioxidant.
-It can help you focus and be sharper and clearer in your thinking.
-It can give you a much-needed boost of energy to move yourself forward.
-Some studies show that it can be beneficial for people with certain types of cancer, MS patients and amazingly, in the treatment of certain types of headaches.
-It can have a strong emotional component and can make you feel nurtured and connected.
TIPS OF THE MONTH:
-If you drink coffee, do so in moderation.
-Always drink espresso – it uses the whole bean (and just like whole grains) it absorbs more slowly and releases less caffeine than filter coffee.
-Be conscious of your body when you drink it – it will assuredly let you know how it feels and whether it is happy.
Please contact me for more information on the ups and downs of coffee drinking.
Why not join me for your free Health Counseling Appointment and learn more about my 12 Session Program. Getting healthier and happier has never been so much fun! You can visit my website http://www.carolinephipps.com/, email me at email@example.com or call 845-677-4624.