Famous People talk Pilates

Sometimes we need some fluff reading… so here are some celebrity quotes on Pilates.

“Now I have muscles of steel and could easily deal with giving birth.”
Hugh Grant

“I’m a Pilates person. It’s great. I had a hip problem. I had a chronic back, a pinched nerve and a hip problem and it’s completely solved all of it. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m taller.”
Jennifer Aniston

“I’ve been using Pilates for many years – it’s the best system I’ve found for isolating and strengthening individual muscles without stress to the joints.”
Patrick Swayze

“What do I like most about Pilates? The fact that I can really feel my body working. I might do 250 crunches but my body is so used to them that I don’t really feel them. With Pilates, I can really feel [my abds] even if I only do six or 12 repetitions.”
Joan Collins

Medical conditions and research

Ok, this one isn’t strictly Pilates, but I feel it’s important.

I have a thyroid condition, and I wasn’t happy with the medication my doctor put me on, so I did some research. Hours later, and several books and studies later, I came up with a huge list of questions that I felt my doctor should have answered in the first appointment. I felt that my condition was not treated appropriately. I also have a knee problem, and it took six years and over twelve doctors before it was finally diagnosed properly as bilateral external tibial tortion instead of patella femoral syndrome.

If your clients come to you with a condition and lists of contraindicated movements, if anything seems strange to you, or even if it doesn’t, encourage them to research their condition and fully understand it. Don’t tell them their doctor may be wrong or not giving them the full story, but do suggest that it may be in their best interests to take responsibility for their own body and healthcare.

That being said, it wouldn’t hurt you to do some research, too. ;)

Client homework

You know how it goes… clients ask for things to work on at home, and then never follow through. If you’re lucky enough to get someone who will, try to keep the programme to 10 minutes or less to increase their chances of actually doing it. You also want to keep it short so that they remember what exercises to do and how to do them. Five exercises at a time seems reasonable to me.

Here’s some great exercises to assign them. Assuming you’re working with a healthy body who’s got some experience, they’re likely going to be able to perform these exercises without too much supervision.

  • Rollup
  • Obliques Rollback
  • Swimming
  • Push-ups

Neutral spine vs. Flat back

No, this isn’t a debate between contemporary and classical Pilates – I actually teach both spinal positions in my classes! I had a colleague ask me about pressing their back into the floor during Single Leg Stretch and Obliques, and another colleague ask me why she could only feel the Ab Series in her upper rectus rather than in her lower abs, and I think this may explain why you should choose one over the other.

It is much easier to perform a crunch with the lower back pressed into the floor rather than with the tailbone anchored and abs supported in a neutral spine, leaving space under the low back even in the top end of the crunch. Try it – but if your lower back grips up, it means you’re doing it wrong ;)

Our bodies are designed to go in neutral spine. Our spines are curved to help us absorb shock, and learning to support your abdominals and spine without changing those curves is extremely beneficial. However, it’s also very difficult – the low back wants to grip up and arch further if you don’t keep your abs firmly pulled in!

I like to tell my clients that the initial ab engagement feels somewhat like the way you pull in your tummy when you’re trying to put on your “skinny” jeans that are a size or two too small for you to really fit into. It’s not extreme; in fact, it’s a fairly gentle contraction. This pulling in, or corset, feeling, comes from engaging your transversus abdominus, the second-deepest layer of your abdominals (after the pubococcygeus and levator ani in your pelvic floor). Once they’re engaged, they provide stabilization while your obliques and rectus work to counter your head, shoulders, and legs as they work against gravity.

If you’re new to exercise, start with a flat back. BUT, do that by pulling in and up on your abs, creating a scoop so deep that it causes your pelvis to tilt. Don’t get your glutes involved by squeezing them into a pelvic tilt. Then do your ab exercises. But when you’re ready to take it up a step, try working in a neutral spine. If your back starts to grip, start all over again – and really think hard about those skinny jeans!

Feet strengtheners

Alright, alright, I know these aren’t Pilates exercises, but sometimes you need to throw a pre-Pilates exercise or two into a workout to get everything aligned properly. I have to give credit where it’s due – I learned these from Stella Giannetas at the STOTT PILATES Toronto Studio, one of the best instructors I’ve been privileged enough to work with.

Here are some great exercises you can do before hopping on the Reformer to get your feet strong and ready to go.

To begin, lie on your back with your legs in tabletop and your feet against the wall. Make sure your hips and knees are at 90 degrees. Place a ball between your knees so you can make sure that the work is coming from the foot and lower leg rather than the inner thighs.

  1. Taps.Leave your heels on the wall and dorsiflex your feet rapidly, tapping your upper foot against the wall. Make sure the movement is coming from the ankle joint and not the mid-foot or the toes.
  2. Windshield wipers. Anchor your heels against the wall and sweep your upper foot through adduction and abduction. Make sure the whole foot is pressed against the wall (the arch and big toe will want to lift off when you adduct; don’t let them).
  3. Rotations. Rotate your foot so you are pressing the outside of the foot, and then rotate it so that you are on the inside of the foot. Don’t let the pressure on the ball change.

Give it a try – try maybe 20 reps of each exercise to start, and feel your legs buuuuurn!

Pilates Method Alliance

Ahhhh, controversy. What would a blog be without it?

In the Pilates world, one of the biggest controversies going on right now is the PMA. They’re trying to regulate the industry by providing standardized testing. The biggest problem with this is, of course, that it’s a theoretical exam only – no practical component. How can you properly assess the skills of a teacher if you don’t watch them teach?

The other criticism, as stated so beautifully by Siri Galliano, is: “Don’t you love it? The organization formed by those who originally formed to fight the idea that Pilates should be regulated and fought that it was generic and anyone could call it anything, now declares themselves the control freaks that set the standards.”

It strikes me as odd, too. Why fight so hard to make something generic just to take it back just a scant decade later? What makes a standardized test more “legally defensible” than one that’s accredited through well-respected organizations… AND includes a practical component to make sure a teacher is instructing properly?

The claim is that the PMA standardization will eliminate teachers who have not completed a proper comprehensive certification program. But their qualifications do not exempt such an instructor – provided they have been teaching full-time for at least 12 months, they are qualified to sit the exam.

I think it’s wrong. Either Pilates is generic, or it isn’t. And if you want to say that it isn’t generic, well, let’s give the word back to Romana and the classicists, hmm?

PhysicalMind Institute Restructures

It’s a piece of Pilates history: it was the first teacher-training organization created, formed in 1991 with many of the Pilates Elders, including Eve Gentry, Romana Kryzanowska, Kathy Grant, Carola Tier and Ron Fletcher. And now it’s changing – to a focus on functional fitness, because, as founder Joan Breibert says, the “Teaser is not functional fitness.”

Well sure – but is a bench press functional? A lat pull? Overhead tricep press? Most exercises aren’t functional movements, but build the strength and range of motion necessary to perform every day tasks with increased ease. A Teaser increases balance and stability – which is key for the aging population that Joan is trying to accommodate – as well as spinal mobility, and hip and ab strength. What’s not to love?

Well, we’ll miss the PMI, but I wish them all the best in their non-Pilates future! I will keep my eyes peeled for more news.

FYI: The Canadian PMI does not seem to be following suit, at least not yet.