Saturday, 27 February 2010


A friend of mine didnt want to come to pilates as he has sciatica..just wants to sit there and wait for it to go..ooohhh...wanted to shout "havent you listened to anything Ive said ??!!" but shut my mouth again and held onto my just photocopied stretches from one of my very fave informative books on stretching and popped them in an envelope and put them into his letterbox..sent a text to let him know check them out..told him to read EVERY word and stretch...he hes skipping around..yes!!  so its not for everyone but a simple stretch like a calf stretch can help your sciatica, its all down to nerve tetherings apparantly, just check your form as you stretch, I know it sounds obvious but look at your foot as you stretch it behind the foot straight or is the heel slightly to the left or right, so many dont bother to check, or just check and dont double check & wonder why a stretch isnt being felt.

second stretch was the figure 4..easiest way is to do it seated..crossing one foot onto the other knee and very slowly and slightly lean forward or lie down and have one leg up the wall, bend the knee and place sole of foot flat on wall, your other foot rests on the knee of the leg up the wall..draw the foot on the wall down until you feel a stretch in the outside thigh of the crossed leg...
stretch 30 - 60 secs 2 - 3 times a day ..
its a start and will help enormously..

Friday, 19 February 2010

Combo Chair

Photo from Pilates on Fifth

Theres many clips on You Tube of moves on the wunda chair..Rael Isacowitz being the most passionate with his words..heres 2 clips to have a look at..but remember, you've got to start somewhere, and the majority of these moves are Intermediate to Advanced and take practice, not just to perform them but to use the correct muscles to make the move are not in a gym lifting a weight with a tight rounded back , rounded shoulders & tight pecs with turned in feet and knock knees and wanting just bigger biceps..pilates means working every muscles from top to toe not a minute is wasted...

Joe Pilates created a series of movements in the early 1900's..and they are still being discovered by new people every day..and have been practiced by many people for years...once you've discovered Pilates on the mat Pilats on equipment if you can..reformers are being used more & more in studio settings and sometimes in a gym environment..and now the Wunda Chair is becoming more popular too..a beautiful and inspirational piece of equipment created by Pilates for a friend who had no room for a Reformer...the chair has been re created by other companies..they are sturdy and use those fantastic strong springs as have a chair called the Combo sitting in my front room..and I love it..!!
Classes or private sessions are more expensive than a Mat class as the equipment isnt cheap!
A Reformer will set you back about £1 - £4k and a Chair £600 - £2k...classes and 1:1 sessions vary instructor to instructor and location to have to ask to find out..dont be shy..

 The Pilates Chair /Wunda Chair/Combo Chair/Stability Chair is one versatile exercise machine. Don't let the word "chair" fool you - it's not necessarily a sit-down workout!!
You will be seated, standing, on the floor using the pedals and springs as resistance, lunging, push ups...theres over 70 moves to take your whole body through a challenging workout..starting with footwork ..hmmmm...seems easy enough..then take the connecting bar away from the pedals & you have to use equal strength on each side to move the pedals..your weaknesses will be highlighted as you work! Its humbling and amazing...trial 30 mins and a cup of tea(with a drop of brandy??) coming this space..or the website

Have fun practicing!!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Now for those Lordotic types..

So if you are not Swayback but are Lordotic..means you have a lumbar curve in your spine but its deeper than it should be.... want to see if you are??
Place the heels of your hands on your hip bones, fingers facing down to pubic bone and thumbs towards each other.. if the hip bones are forward of the pubic bone this is classed as lordosis, and increased curvature of the spine.
Tucking your tail bone under is great for you, until the hip bones and pubic bone are all on the same level. (if its hard to feel this standing, do it lying down on the floor on your back)

Head – the head is usually in a neutral position.. not tilted forward or backwards.
Neck –  usually a normal curve in the neck
Upper Back –usually a normal curve in the upper back
Lower Back – the lower back has an increased curve
Pelvis – the top of pelvis is titled forward
Knee Joints – the knees are slightly hyperextended
Ankle Joints – the angle between the leg and the sole of foot is greater than 90 degrees

Weak Over Stretched Muscles
The forward tilt of the pelvis increases the distance between the top of the pelvis and the ribs. This lengthens the front ab muscles . They should counteract the forward tilt of the pelvis keeping it neutral
Your hamstrings( back of the thigh, 3 muscles)  insert into the base of the pelvis(sit bones), the forward tilt of the pelvis lengthens them . The hamstrings may or may not be weak.
Tight  Overly Strong Muscles
An increase curve of the lower back shortens the lower back muscle, these muscles can also be overly strong, pulling the back of the pelvis upwards(tailbone) causing a forward pelvic tilt. The hip flexors (Psoas being the primary one) can also be tight, overly strong, tilting the pelvis into that lordotic curve

Being aware of this increased curve as much as you can and doing exercises to help the awareness and address the muscular imbalance(Pilates! yay!!)helps prevent twinging in the back, as you move, as you function from day to day, bending down to pick up objects from the floor, hoovering, washing up, carrying shopping home or in and out of the car..sitting at the computer, watching TV..the list is as long as the daily tasks you perform!

Sitting on the floor in neutral with the sit bones placed equally and grounded is something you can do fairly easily without pain, its the shoulder placement you need to be aware of now, the settling of the rib cage, the circle of the rib cage floating above the circle of the pelvis..the lengthening of the spine and the crown of the head.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Swayback Posture? dont be scared...

Part of Pilates level 3 is learning posture types, I love it!  But now I tend to look at people and notice what posture type they are, so please dont be offended if I tell you, I have stopped telling people as they look at me as if Im a bit odd ..(well....)  I dont mean I told a complete stranger in the street..but people I know at the gym, in a class ...etc

Anyway, I think its fascinating as its all about knowing what imbalances you have and why this affects your posture which affects your back, shoulders, feet, legs, knees pelvis..

Me...Im a swayback posture..and when I try to correct it I turn into Flatback posture, though now with Pilates and a lot of hard work, its starting to look better, though Ive got a long way to go yet, and its accepting that you have a long way to go thats half the battle, you wont fix it in a few weeks!

So I noticed a guy in a class I go to at the gym who is swayback, Ive noticed it for a while, hard not to as he stands right in the front of the class and is sometimes the only guy, and if you are standing behind him, you cant help but notice the if you get a fit bloke in a class standing in front of you arent you going to occasionally look at his bum? thought so...anyway, I was looking at his posture..(honest!..Im so naieve..) Ive noticed other posture types in the class as well, theres quite a few Lordotic, the teachers swayback as well by the way..just incase you wanted to times I want to say..dont say tuck your tail as its there already!!! say neutral pelvis please!!  But its not my class there..I today, I told him..and do you know what..he was fine about it (I think) which was refreshing..he seemed interested and I learned heaps more about his back in under 5 minutes as he told me more..very interesting..(do I need a life?)

Swayback: The Pelvis is in a posterior tilt, it sways forward, in relation to the feet  causing the hip joint to extend.
The lumbar spine flattens with a posterior tilt.
Its not possible to be lordotic and swayback, you are one or the other..the trunk (Thoracic spine) must be noted here..see the photo, its like a lazy posture..usually with your arms crossed as you chat to someone, your bum tucked and you lean back..classic Swayback posture..
                Head: Forward
                Neck: Extended slightly
                Thoracic Spine: Long Kyphosis(so, increased flexion)
                Lumbar Spine: Flexion/flattening
                Pelvis: Posterior Tilt (tucked)
               Hip Joints: Hyperextended, anterior displacement of
               Knee Joints: Hyperextended
               Ankle Joints: Neutral.

Hip Flexors are long & weak
External Obliques Long & weak
Upper Back extensors & neck Flexors Long & weak

Hamstrings short and strong (tight!)
Strong but not short: Low back Mucles
Internal Oblique upper fibres are short & strong

working with swayback client, I need to watch they stay in Neutral..its easy to forget as you concentrate in the moves you are doing and the back just sinks back into the mat..

One of my fave moves is spine stretch forward( on a block you sway back peeps, so you dont tuck under!) ..makes you feel those sit bones as you sit forward of them..its hard work but looks sooooo easy..pelvis neutral, it doesnt move..the T.A draws in and up, ribs stay lifted away from the hips..draw those shoulder blades down your back..breathe into your sides and back, now you are ready to move..
your hip flexors will tell you about it the next day though...
this is just one of many I could tell you..but this one was taught to me..on my pilates course tutor..boy it taught me that I had a long way to go with my posterior tilt, and my legs......eeeek were they telling me the same..and the shoulders and torso has to be correct too!!  sigh...carry on working!!


Scoliosis & Pilates

I have a client with scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine...and its very common, even in kids..
Kids with rucksacks full of heavy school books tend to lean and hike up their shoulder on one side to cope with the load, leading to a wonky spine over a lengthened spine becomes a spine with a kink..a bit like a long straight road having a roundabout breaking it up along the line somewhere..the roundabout is a "bossy" muscle, its in charge and is pulling the vertebrae to the if the upper right side of the thoracic spine (your middle 12 vertebrae..thats your torso)has the bossy muscles, you can be pretty sure that the bottom left will also kink too..2 roundabouts for the price of one, making an S shape of the spine..

so think about it..this will make it hard to breath into the left lung as the left side has dipped, the hip bones arent going to be level, it affects your leg length, one will be longer than the other..and so on..
So..what causes it? theres quite a few things, apart from kids and their book bags, think about a mother carrying a child on her hip, day in day out..creating uneven hips, bossy muscles on one side, weak muscles on the other..but it can be avoided in most cases by just being more aware of the one and only precious body that you are ever going to have whilst on this looks nice? great make up? nice polished toenails? loosing weight on your new years resolution? nice new shoes? great new pair of jeans? look isn't going to cost a penny to be more posture aware from head to toe and everything in-between, and when you think you've got it sussed, look again as you may have missed something. Walking, sitting, shopping, carrying bags, how you stand, leaning in to one hip a lot?

In the picture above, her perception is that this is sitting normally as as upright as possible ..
Now, just pressing lightly into her hands..lengthening through the crown of the head , lifting the diaphragm..
Can you see the difference in her back..? 
This is hard work for her, yes we do heaps of other specific moves that help the alignment and release the bossy muscles first and go on to strengthen the weak muscles, the basis being the pelvic floor, and the feet, start in the basement and work your way up the floors to the penthouse!