Pilates While Pregnant

Pilates and pregnancy are a great fit, as long as you are having a normal pregnancy and consult with your doctor first. One reason why pilates during pregnancy is a good idea is because the workout is designed to make your core stronger. Having good abdominal muscles, makes your back stronger and less likely to hurt. This form of exercise helps strengthen your abdominal, back and pelvic floor muscles. All of which are important during labor and delivery.

Pilates Classes and Privates

It is important to find a small class or work with a private instructor where possible. Certified instructors are trained in pre-natal. If you can find one in your area, that would be wonderful.

Prenatal Pilates Exercises Change Each Trimeste

Pilates exercises are easy to modify as your body changes. Your instructor will be able to help you with that, as your belly grows and your center of balance changes. After your first trimester you will need to talk to your doctor about performing exercises on your back. Every woman and every pregnancy are different. The great thing about Pilates is that there are plenty of moves that you will still be able to do.

The Benefits of Pregnancy Pilates

When you are exercising during your pregnancy, remember that you are helping your baby as well as yourself. Studies have shown that when a mother exercises, the baby benefits from increased blood flow, the babies also feel the vibrations, movements and sounds. This can make babies more advanced, developmentally, when they are compared to babies of Mother’s who are not active.

Post Natal Pilates Advice

Once your baby is born, Pilates can still be a help to you. Many women have stated that Pilates helped them quickly regain the figure that they had before pregnancy. It’s a great workout to help tighten everything back up again. Of course every Mom knows it doesn’t happen overnight, but keep at it, and it will happen. Don’t rush or be hard on yourself, you just brought a new person into the world, so give yourself a break. Keep working your Pilates routine and your abs, legs, and back, will get back into great shape.

Source: selfgrowth.com

Pilates Ball Exercises and Benefits

When you start your pilates ball exercises, you’ll wobble a bit, and that’s good, because you’re using all those deep wonderful stabilizing muscles. We have 2 categories of muscles, one mobilizing muscles such as the biceps and we have stabilizing muscles such as the transvers abdominals.

3 Great Reasons to Get Unstable!

1. Improved balance through improved stability

2. Increase awareness and strength in the hips. If you do sit-ups (or crunches) on the floor your hips remain in the same position and only allow you to flex your torso forward. However, if you do sit-ups on the ball, your torso will also extend backwards and so increase the full range of the movement. You’re not as stable on a moving object forcing deeper stabilizing muscles to work

3. Improve flexibility. On the ball you can stretch you pecs, quads, hamstrings, hips, psoas, and abdominal obliques.

Your STOTT Pilates instructor can teach you exercises for your abs, arms and legs on the ball. With your instructor you will see the benefits above in addition to knowing that you are in the safe hands of a qualified instructor guiding you through the exercises with proper form and precision.

Importance of Spinal Extension


Extension of the spine is the opposite of flexion. From a terminology standpoint, it’s helpful to be specific. If the cue is “bend the spine” it could move in one of three directions. Forward (spine flexion), Backward (spine extension), or Sideways (lateral flexion). The other direction our spine moves is to rotate or twist. Normally “bending” means flexion, or moving the body forward towards the legs. Extension would be taking the body backwards in the opposite direction, OR un-bending.

A Back Out of Balance

Without active thought during daily life activities, we can lose the three natural curves of the spine, and all of a sudden our posture is well, kind of poor. Our head may be sitting forward on the neck from too many hours straining to look at a computer screen. Our shoulders and upper back may be hunched forward from slumping in our chairs, or spending all day doing things bending forward. After all, we really don’t do anything in daily life with our arms behind us. If the upper body slump becomes extreme it’s called kyphosis.

When we’re standing, we may get lazy and forget to maintain some support through the mid-section. With the abdominals hanging farther out to the front, the lower back will get pulled forward too, creating a more noticeable lumbar curve. If we become sway becomes extreme in the low back it’s called lordosis.

The body will strive for balance. If there’s too much going on at one end, it’s going to make some changes at the other end to compensate. Over time it will tell the brain that these changes were done to be in a normal, balanced position. At some point, the brain will accept the changes as the way it’s supposed to be, and voila. You now have a body that won’t fight for a better position, because it thinks it’s placed where it should be.

The Importance of Practicing Spine Extension

Spine extension is very important for posture and health. Since there is very little in life that we do bending backwards, taking time with exercise to move this direction can help keep our backs in balance. Ideally, every segment of the spine should move freely and easily in all directions. The real goal with good spine extension is to get the entire spine actively participating, which means the middle back has to learn how to extend – movement away from its natural curve. Practicing extension exercises also provides an opportunity to stretch and lengthen through the front of the body. In the long run this will help improve movement of the spine in all directions. A great quote from Joseph Pilates is, “A man is as young as his spinal column.” Practicing sequential, segmental spine extension will help keep you feeling young. Swan Lift Tips to Improve Your Technique (lay on your stomach, tip of the nose to the mat.)

1.Lengthen your spine as you inhale, before beginning to lift into extension. As you do this, pull the shoulder blades down towards your hips and it will be easier to feel this lengthening action.

2.Be sure the head doesn’t crank backwards causing the neck over extend. Let the head ride on the neck, start your lift from the base of the neck and work from the top downwards to the lower spine.

3.Feel the breastbone slide upward as the spine lifts, and slide downward as the spine lowers.

4.Work to feel even engagement with all the muscle close to the backbone, throughout the entire spine to hold your extension. (If anything, work to feel more in the upper back. Because it’s not as strong when moving in this direction – it may need a little extra effort to lift & hold you in this position.)

When you begin to push with your arms to lift higher, use the muscles in the back of the arm & shoulder and be sure that the upper back muscles are still engaged. (if the arms start working and the upper back lets go you’ll lose your extension where you need it the most.)

Frequently Asked Questions About Finding A Creditable Pilates Teacher

Q. I use Pilates books and videos at home, why should I participate in lessons at a Pilates Studio or Health Club?

A. Books and videos can be good tools to help you remember what you’re doing. However, nothing can replace the eye of a qualified and experienced Pilates teacher to help you understand the exercises and find the right muscles to do each exercise correctly. Books and videos will show you the basics of the exercises, but won’t help you become aware of the ways you’re cheating, or help to identify your bad habits and assist you in correcting them. Also, not every exercise is for every person. Following exactly what’s on a video may be dangerous for your body. Besides, just doing Matwork is only half of the system, so you’re missing out on half the benefits Pilates has to offer. Use of both the Pilates equipment and mat exercises is the ideal and best way to utilize the Pilates system.

A Qualified Pilates Teacher Can Help You:

•Find the right muscles to get the most benefit from the exercises.
•Learn how to modify or tweak the exercises for your body to be in safest position.
•Identify which exercises are appropriate for your body and which exercises you should skip or wait awhile before adding to your workout.

Q. How do I know if my Pilates instructor is a qualified teacher?

A. Pilates instructors must attend a series of workshops with a qualified certification and a qualified instructor trainer.

STOTT Pilates is a highly creditable certification body that requires written, practical and practice teaching and personal practice. A STOTT Pilates trained instructors attends rigorous workshops with extreme attention to detail.

To the uneducated consumer, without asking questions, you may not know if your teacher has the background and experience necessary to really help you get the most from your Pilates training experience. Here are a few questions you can ask:

1. Are the instructors trained through a comprehensive training program?

2. Did that training program require a written and practical test, lecture, observation, practice and apprentice hours?

3. How many total hours were spent in the training program?

4. Does the instructor have any other movement related teaching experience?

5. How long have the instructors been teaching Pilates?

6. What is the instructor’s / studio’s philosophy and specialty? Are they able to handle special needs, injuries and rehabilitation?

7. Does the instructor or studio teach the full repertoire of Pilates on all pieces of apparatus?

If you have other questions about qualified STOTT Pilates instructors contact Balance pilates, your local STOTT Pilates sudio at 804.340.1203.

The Core- How STOTT Pilates Teaches You to Engage

“The core” is a pair of words that have dominated the fitness industry as well as sports as of late. Everyone is selling “the core” exercises. So what is the core and are you engaging it?

Many people confuse doing pilates exercises with engaging the core. It is very possible and common for people doing pilates to perform the exercises without engaging their core. How is that possible, isn’t pilates synonymous with core? It isn’t and you have to be taught how to engage your core properly. Some people do engage the core naturally but even they should be taught to recognize the feeling of the engagement.

Many pilates teachers give students cue such as, to turn on your powerhouse, the original word that Joseph Pilates used for core. But students may not have any idea what that really means. STOTT Pilates instructors are trained to teach students a systematic way to engage the core, so that they know what it feels like. STOTT ncludes this information in their instructor training, so you can be sure that if an instructor has been through the STOTT training, they’ve competent with this information.

When you ask someone what they think their core is they will inevitably say their abs. This is one-fourth right because of the four abdominal muscles; the pelvic floor and the lumbar multifidi make up the rest of the core. Core muscles only action is to stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine.

To make sure your core is engaged, you have to take the time before you even get into the position of the exercise, to engage it. All three groups must engage together. Core conditioning must be very light, slow and mindful work.

The core can only train at low loads and intensities until it gets stronger. That’s why your first pilates session while not a “tough” workout in the traditional sense of exercise, is the most important lesson of your core foundation.

Source: selfgrowth.com

Pilates to Strengthen Ankles

Winter sports such as skiing and snow boarding are tough on a part of the body we often forget about- the ankle. We forget until we injure them, that is. An ankle injury can really put a crimp in your winter fun.

Common foot and ankle injuries include:

•Strain- an injury to the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone
•Sprain- an injury to the ligament which holds two bones together
•Tendonitis- which is inflammation of the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone
•Stress fractures- which are tiny cracks in the bone due to repeated stress to the weight bearing bones

The soft tissue injuries like strain, sprain and tendonitis should all be treated with RICE: Rest Ice Compression Elevation.

Most of these injuries are due to over-use. There are things you can do to prevent them. First, make sure to warm up adequately, that doesn’t mean stretching but warming up your whole body with walking or full body movement.

And don’t forget about the ankles, some foot circles or pointing and flexing should do the trick. Second, begin the winter sports slowly. Likely, you haven’t been on skis or a board all year. Try to restrain yourself from jumping on the tough slopes first. Even if it feels good at the time, you are setting yourself up for potential injury. Start with an easy slope and build up gradually.

You can also use your pilates classes to train and strengthen the ankles. Sitting on the mat you can use a band around the ball of your foot to point and flex the foot. Then loop it around the top of your foot and anchor the two ends to something in front of you like a couch, then pull your toes towards you. The reformer has many leg and ankle exercises that specifically target the ankle and foot.

Balance exercises are important for the ankles too. Something simple you can do anywhere is just standing on one foot for a minute. This makes the ankles and lower legs work and is something most people don’t do enough. If you’ve had ankle injuries in the past, the time to make sure you don’t re-injure is before you start the activity. Have fun on the slopes!

Pilates Principle: Concentration

The Pilates principles are the foundation of the Pilates method and are what make the exercises so effective. Knowing and applying these principles to your workouts will help you to balance your body’s musculature, prevent injuries, and maximize the results of your workouts. The principle we’re going to focus on in this article is Concentration. Read on to find out why Joseph Pilates called his method the “thinking man’s workout.”

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. Do your best, you can always move on to another exercise, one that is easier or more familiar to your body, and return to the more challenging exercise later.

Isacowitz, Rael. (2006). Pilates:Your Complete Guide to Mat Work and Apparatus Exercises. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL

Source: selfgrowth.com

Where Are Your Shoulders?

Have You Ever Experienced A Painful Arm or Shoulder Injury? Do You Carry Tension or Stress in Your Neck and Upper Back?

It’s no surprise that a lot of people these days are dealing with this, or several of these shoulder problems. To hold our vertical human posture we have a couple of options – excellent core support and good posture, or the reliance on our deltoids, upper traps, and shoulders to support us.

Consider this … Your posture will either be similar to a coat on a hook (shoulders up), or a circus tent with a tall pole up the middle and the corners sloping down (abdominal support & relaxed shoulders.. Coat on a hook posture habits will create a great deal of neck and shoulder pressure. You might experience frequent headaches, or find yourself more susceptible to shoulder strains and rotator cuff issues.

On the bright side, things can change fairly quickly with the right body awareness, good shoulder mechanics, and improving core support & posture.

To start, the most essential tip for strong, healthy shoulders is to strengthen your core.

The more powerful your abs and back are, the more it will help keep you sitting and standing with tall posture. With a strong core your shoulders can loosen up. However simply relaxing the shoulders sometimes may not be enough. Active muscle work to pull the shoulders down away from your ears and is often necessary.

An easy cue to remember for strengthening the lower trapezius muscle (the part of the Trapezius muscle that assist in pulling the shoulders down) is “Diamond Down.”

The Trapezius muscle is the broad diamond shaped muscle which includes fibers functioning in three distinctive directions. The top fibers elevate the shoulders. Middle fibers aid in pulling the shoulder blades together, and the lower fibers pull the shoulder blades down.

In most cases, the most basic and most important action for shoulder foundation and balance would be the downward action of your Trapezius, thus my cue of “Diamond Down” in preparation to attempt any exercise that consists of using the shoulders and arms.

Advantages of Conditioning the Lower Trapezius Muscle with “Diamond Down”

• It offers counter-leverage essential to elongate and open joint space for your upper thoracic spine, head and neck, resulting in improved alignment and upper spine mobility.

• It puts the shoulder joint at a more optimal position for movement of your shoulder and arm during workout. Greater movement increases strength and flexibility and minimizes injury risks.

Tips for Practicing “Diamond Down”

1. Begin standing with good posture and core support. The upper back needs to be to curved for normal posture to ensure that the shoulder blades can lay level on the back. Just allow the your arms to hang by the sides.

2. Breathe in into the back to lift the ribcage and lengthen the spine, exhale and from the bottom tips of the shoulder blades and draw the “Diamond Down” gently pulling the shoulder blades down towards the back of your waist.

3. Perform your “Diamond Down” exercise 3-5 times as a warm-up exercise before your workouts.

4. Initiate every arm and shoulder exercise with the “Diamond Down” action first.
5. Or do this as a stand-alone shoulder strengthening exercise throughout the day to call remind yourself to keep your shoulders away from your ears!
What To Watch For:
• Make sure that when the shoulder blades pull down they stay flat against the ribcage. Be sure the shoulder blades don’t pinch together.

• Watch your posture, allow the blades to move, and keep the rest of the body still.
• Make sure the lower abdominals are engaged for core support and remain lifted while you draw your “Diamond” down.
Get More Out of Your Core:
Great Pilates workout techniques results in a healthy body. If one has a poor, weak core, odds are the shoulders are likely hiked up around your ears. With stronger core muscles it’s quicker and easier to improve shoulder mechanics, decrease joint pain, and get the maximum benefits from your Pilates workouts.
Focus on core strengthening exercises for your abdominals and back, in addition to practicing your “Diamond Down” shoulder blade cue and you’ll be well on your way to acquiring strong and healthy shoulders with every workout routine you do.
Source: www.selfgrowth.com

Interested in Learning More About Pilates?

Are you interested in taking your pilates regimen to the next level? Below are the top books on pilates.

One of the most popular books about Pilates is The Pilates Body: The Ultimate At-Home Guide to Strengthening, Lengthening and Toning Your Body–Without Machines, written by Brooke Siler and presented in a way that makes it easy to access. The author trained with the protégé Joseph Pilates himself. The book is wonderfully organized. It offers tips and ways to build the perfect Pilates regimen for each individual. First, Siler discusses how to align your body and the ways to properly move your knees, neck and lower back. After reviewing the basics, she offers an array of over sixty exercises to kick start your home workout.

Conveniently, the exercises are divided among beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, so no matter where you fall, you will have a section that is perfect for you and offers you different exercises that will be neither too hard nor too easy. In addition to offering you inspiring exercises, she also includes a side blurb called the Inside Scoop which gives you even more information, little hints and tips that she had picked up from trainers and fellow Pilates peers that will perfect your skill and give you an extra boost of motivation. This book is essential for anyone striving to have an excellent Pilates experience.

Another popular book about the subject is Pilates: Body in Motion by Alycea Ungaro. An author who owns Real Pilates and has written many other books on the topic, the author has experience with training celebrities such as Madonna, Uma Thurman, and Christy Turlington. She also presents her work at fitness seminars and is part of the board of advisors for Fitness Magazine. Knowing her business, she offers a book that gives you a very nice and clear step-by-step guidebook that is great for someone who wants to work out without heavy equipment or machines. She also emphasizes how Pilates not only positively affects your entire body, but your whole mind. The workouts in her book are divided between beginner and advanced.

Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology, written by Joseph H. Pilates himself is another very popular book that gives you the basic origins of the entire exercise. Joseph Pilates details all of the instructions and poses and exercises so you know exactly what you are doing and what the point of it is. All of the exercises that he and Clara developed are in the book and you will get an elaborate expression of the balanced Body and Mind that he emphasizes. You will learn about body mechanics and the correct posture so you can be sure that you are doing the exercises properly and without flaws or errors. You will be able to make sure that you are doing the right breathing exercises and procedures all in the name of balancing body and mind and bettering your overall fitness.

Source: selfgrowth.com

Have you considered Pilates this New Year?

Doctors and physical therapist have been recommending Pilates to those who suffer with back, knee and shoulder problems. It’s extremely popular in remedial treatments and patients who’ are rehabilitating from surgery.

In recent years Pilates has become much more mainstream. So, what is all of the fuss about? Why do Pilates and what can it do for you personally? Lets review a few good factors to get you fired up.

1. Low Impact
Pilates is really a low impact workout and places virtually no strain on your knees, ankles and wrist.

2. Weight Loss and Toning
Pilates is not really a cardiovascular workout it’ll will work up a sweat and increase your heart rate. It’s particularly good for toning and tightening your muscles.

3. Affordable
Pilates workouts can be performed in small group sessions or in classes so that you can go easy on your wallet and tough on your abs.

4. Core Strength
One of the main focuses is core strength. The core muscles are the heart of most people’s back problems and with Pilates you focus extensively on this important muscle group. When you enhance your core power you not only make your back more powerful you also enhance your posture and overall power. Best of all you tight abs look as good as they feel.

5. Improved Breathing
Pilates exercises focus on technique and form. To achieve the perform form you are taught specific breathing patterns. Many of the exercises will help to open up your breathing channels and it will leave you feeling invigorated right after every workout.

Source: selfgrowth.com