A brilliant quote by Dr. Mark Hyman. Love it!
A brilliant quote by Dr. Mark Hyman. Love it!
I’m usually a woman on a mission. Years ago I decided that I wanted to be a yogi. We were living in Australia at the time. My husband was busy working and I had a glorious year off from my job to do whatever I wanted. After a couple of days of relaxing I began to get downright fidgety. What to do? And who to hang out with? I was aimless, bored, intimidated by sight-seeing solo in the gorgeous city of Sydney, and lonely. I turned to yoga. I craved belonging to a group, working out, and (to be truthful) I wanted flexible hamstrings. It sounds strange but I was hell bent on getting flexible hamstrings. And if you know me, you know that tenacity is my middle name.
So I went to yoga pretty much every single day for months and even did my intensive yoga teacher training. I had such an amazing experience. I felt inspired, included, and met the most fabulous people. Guess what? My hamstrings did NOT budge. I kept pushing and pushing and my hamstrings said something like, “I told you Jody– the answer is NO, we are absolutely not getting any longer and we don’t care that tenacity is your middle name”. It was irritating and I clearly was not following the true yogic path of release, acceptance, and patience.
Yoga led me to Pilates, my true passion, and something clicked. I heard a term “stretch reflex’…bells rang and the doors of knowledge opened (just a tiny amount but nonetheless). There was more to this hamstring mystery, and when I made sense of all the Latin that came my way through the study of anatomy I found a spark of clarity.
At the heart of every movement is the brain. The brain connects to the spine. Out of the spine comes a vast network of nerves that make it possible for us to sense our bodies and move them. It’s a feedback system. Your brain has determined what a muscle’s length and tension should be. Trauma, movement patterns, emotions, and many other factors influence this setting. So during the yoga class I was stretching the OM out of my hamstrings and then they were diligently returning to their previously contracted length according to my brain. These contractions were definitely not conscious or I would have read them the riot act. “Stretch and stop contracting – and I mean it”. BUT things just don’t work that way.
In our muscles we have muscle spindles. They monitor length and the speed at which a muscle lengthens. If we stretch a muscle too quickly or overdo it (hmmm- guilty as charged), the stretch reflex kicks in to protect us.
When I jumped whole-heartily into the world of Pilates (there’s really no other way for me) I learned that releasing a muscle is different from stretching a muscle. AHA! When you release a muscle you contract that muscle and slooooowwwwly lengthen it while adding a bit of resistance. This can help remove the unconscious contraction of the muscles and reset the muscle spindles thereby restoring the muscle to a new resting length and tension. Do you know what is PERFECT for releasing muscles? Springs. I could do feet in straps until the cows come home. I’m not going to call myself Gumby quite yet – that’s taking it one step too far – but I will say my hamstrings have come a LONG way. The beauty and effectiveness of the Pilates’ spring amazes me and the genius of Joseph Pilates never fails to impress every step of the way.
I saw this quote of facebook and it really resonated with me. Thank you to Marc David and Emily Rosen of the Psychology of Eating for these words of wisdom.
I love trail running and occasionally racing so I really understand the pleasure that can arise from pushing – pushing really hard to explore your limits and then try to break through them. I also like to explore my limits in the Pilates studio. I’ve also noticed over the years that the friends and clients that are the real ‘pushers’ seem to be the ones that are always struggling with injuries. I think it’s because when you’re in the mindset of pushing, you’re not always receptive to the messages that your body is sending.
It has surprised me while teaching how many people work out from a place of self-rejection and self-hate. In this highly negative space of judgement I feel like it’s almost impossible to tune in to your body. Also exercise should be pure joy, not a punishment. We are meant to MOVE. It feels fantastic if you’re moving in the right way. I had one client who insisted on looking down at the floor instead of in the mirror because she couldn’t stand to look at herself because she was so repulsed. ? The position of her neck was one thing, but what the heck? Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break and celebrate our good points. We all have them – sometimes we really need to redirect our focus. When you’re so busy hating yourself you really can’t pick up on the messages your body is sending your way.
“No pain no gain”? That’s probably a path down to a place called chronic injuries (not fun). Consistency, dedication, awareness, appreciation, joy of movement, work ethic, motivation, education…those are all words that are going to get you results.
There’s a secret ingredient to Pilates. Ready? It’s called OPPOSITIONAL ENERGY. I’ve also heard it called THE TWO WAY STRETCH. It’s transformed my practice and I hope it will bring something wonderful to yours.
It’s really simple. Imagine an elastic band. You have to pull in two directions to get length. Imagine pulling on only one side of an elastic band. That would be weird. Now imagine pulling it in two directions. Wow. The length is astounding. Imagine pulling a mound of dough in two directions. Wow again. A caramel. Wow. Gum? Are you seeing a trend here? The two way stretch or pull yields a lot of length.
Now apply that same idea to your own body. We’ll use the core as an example. When you hunker down and contract your core 10/10, it’s easy to look shorter, thicker, and paunchier. Try elongating your core with the engagement. Lengthen your center in two directions. Lengthen your spine – up through the crown of your head and down through your sacrum and toes. How much space can you get between your hips and your ribs? Hey you look amazing! Long and lean with beautiful posture. Lengthening not only looks good – it’s feels amazing.
The concept of oppositional energy applies to every move you make in Pilates in a number of ways. Experiment with it! 🙂
All the best!
What is Pilates? I think most people would see it as a system of exercises on the mat and on some crazy looking machines that make the body stronger, longer, and more flexible. I think this answer is true but it’s sitting on the surface of something far deeper.
Joseph Pilates was a visionary and an extremely deep thinker. He created a profound repertoire of intelligent exercises that create a beautiful and highly functioning body. That was a feat in itself, because the exercises are so incredibly effective. Yet the beauty of his work lies in how he taught these exercises, and the thought process behind it.
Pilates emphasized the importance of a balanced trilogy of body, mind, and spirit. When performing ‘the work’ there is an ever present focus on the breath and precision of each and every movement. This attention or presence brings us into the present moment and to a place where we can listen to our bodies and tap into self-healing. We can begin to receive feedback and use that feedback to heal and/or stay healthy and injury free. Our bodies don’t talk to us with words, but rather with sensations – a twinge, sharp pain, inflammation, dull pain, tightness, sigh, sense of invigoration, flood of warmth, etc. When we constantly look outside of ourselves, we lose our connection to our inner selves and self-healing. Regardless of how perfectly you appear to be performing the Pilates repetoire, start thinking about what’s for dinner, gossip or Netflix and you are moving away from the true essence of Pilates. It’s all about connecting mind, body, and spirit. That takes a lot of awareness.
Movement as a metaphor for life was also a big topic of conversation for Joseph Pilates. I agree with this and think about it a lot when I teach. Pay attention to how you act during your session. Behavior in the studio can definitely be a microcosm of how you act throughout life. Some examples that surely permeate through….. 1) “I can’t do it” – giving up when things get challenging 2) “I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror” – never feeling good enough/overly critical 3) “I want to push myself to the limits” – overachiever 4) Giggling when falling or failing – not taking things too seriously/ability to laugh at yourself 5) Sloppy etc. The reason why I think this topic is so interesting is because when you start focusing on shaping your attitude during your workouts (for example staying in the present moment or being kind/non-judgmental), it permeates into the rest of your life. That’s when some really amazing positive transformations take place.
Breath equals life. It’s the first thing we do when we’re born and the last thing we do before we die. Breathing is a fundamental component of Pilates and it is essential to learn to breathe correctly. Joseph Pilates’ great focus on the breath was to cleanse the bloodstream through oxygenation. Full breaths allow you to expel stale air and waste from the depths of your lungs and replenish your body with fresh air. Correct breathing is extremely revitalizing.
Breathing correctly helps:
1) Oxygenates the blood
2) Reduce unnecessary tension
3) Enhance focus and concentration
4) Activate muscles
Shallow breathing into the upper region of the rib cage creates tension in the shoulders and neck. Breathing too low down into the abdominal cavity relaxes the abdominal muscles and leaves the back unprotected during the workout. It’s important to breathe into the back of the lower ribcage three dimensionally. This will allow you to breathe into the lower lobes of the lungs where the most efficient gas exchange takes place. Inhale fully through your nose and exhale fully through pursed lips.
Here’s a visualization for you. Imagine that your ribcage is an accordion. As you inhale your ribs open to the sides (laterally) and your ‘accordion’ expands outwards. As you exhale, squeeze your waist inwards from all sides like you are trying to squeeze yourself a tiny waist. Breathing correctly and coordinating breath with movement will take your Pilates practice to a whole new level!
I went on a family hike the other day and it was a blast. The boys left their complaints at home and they were set on being wild rugged adventurous explorers. Watching Brendan move really inspired me and made me giggle a little. He wasn’t just walking or trail running. Oh no, he was jumping off high boulders, swinging on branches and hanging upside down from them, doing random hand stands, and running REALLY fast. He must have used every muscle in his entire body! It made me stop and think, “When do we stop doing that? At what point do we decide that a hike is just a hike”? I jumped off an enormous boulder just for the heck of it in my moment of inspiration and just about gave my husband a heart attack. Ha. It was pretty funny.
I think when you stop working all of your muscles and exploring the range of motion in your joints, they start deteriorating. That’s why Pilates is so ingenious. You are trying to do just that. Move your body in every way – move every muscle, explore every joint, and experience movement in every plane of motion. Bodies love intelligent movement because it is so healing. Good movement brings health, vitality, youthfulness, and resilience.
I hope you move well (and a lot) today and enjoy every second of it!
I don’t know about you, but when I wake up early (and 5:30am comes painfully early) I’m on autopilot. It goes something like this…alarm goes off, jump out of bed, put on coffee maker, eat banana and walnuts, drink coffee, brush teeth, apply makeup, get dressed, etc, etc. I might as well be a robot! Do you ever feel like you’re rushing around on autopilot? You’re probably carrying out habits . Habits don’t require decision making skills because they are well developed neural pathways in the brain. We can do them on autopilot! The good news is, for those with bad habits, is that the neural pathways deteriorate when they are not used. According to a study done by Duke University, 45% of our behaviors are habitual. 45%!!!!! Habits shape our lives in a big way so we need to pay attention to them.
Did you know that there is actually an area of our brains that programs our repetitive behaviour so that we barely have to think about them at all? Imagine making new decisions about every item in the grocery store? That would be exhausting! The area of our brain that programs repetitive thoughts is called the basal ganglia. The more repetitive a habit, the stronger its presence in the basal ganglia.
The cool thing? You can create any habit you want. Get ready for the first few weeks to be super painful as your neural pathways get stronger. Before you know it, your habits will be doing the work for you!!!! But it’s going to take one very important ingredient. Willpower! When it comes to creating new and better habits, the more willpower you can muster up, the more successful at it you will be.
Willpower is like a muscle. If you haven’t used it in a while, it might be really weak. If you decide to do 90 minutes of Pilates at 5am everyday, your willpower is going to run for the hills. On the other hand if you decide to roll out of bed and do a set of hundreds before you start your day, that’s sustainable you just might be doing it for years to come. Starting small is key. Creating small sustainable habits will not only be lasting, but you will get great pleasure from all of your ‘small’ successes. Small successes also add up to big success.
Reading, writing, and thinking about good habits will get you nowhere. It’s time for an action plan! Here are some simple ideas for your new health and wellness habits.
Now create your own! Think about what you really want to achieve. If it’s weight loss, really focus in on the water, fruit, veggies, and movement. If stress reduction is your goal, veer towards meditation, walks in nature, healthy eating, and soothing teas. If you’re into apps, there are some wonderful ‘habit apps’. Try HabitBull, Habit Streaks, or Productive Habit Tracker. Remember we’re starting small here so go for 100% completion! Use that willpower muscle!
Want to learn more about the power of habits? Pick up Mini Habits: Smaller Habits Bigger Results by Stephen Guise.
Have a wonderful day!!!!!!
Hi! How are you? I hope you’re having a nice day.
Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t want a long, lean, strong core? I know I haven’t. People are drawn to Pilates to attain that elusive beautiful midsection. Usually esthetics is behind the desire. I used to focus a lot more on what I look like. Slowly over the years as I continue to teach Pilates (one of my greatest passions), study functional anatomy, and tackle various fitness endeavors, the desire to look perfect has slipped away. Having a beautiful midsection is nice, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
I think that when we have a strong core, we walk through life differently. We gain confidence and ease of movement. We develop resilience against common chronic injuries that develop from poor movement patterns. We also tune into our gut. I feel that our ‘gut instinct’ is full of truth and a heck of a lot of wisdom. So I think training your core is vital to living your best life. But guess what? It doesn’t train itself, and that’s why a 10 minute daily ab routine is a must.
There’s no doubt about it. If you do the work, you’ll get the results. Here are some of the results that you’ll likely enjoy if you do the Pilates daily ab routine (more on that to follow). It takes only 5-10 minutes a day and it will CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE. Strong abs are where it’s at!
Ciao for now. Exercises coming right up.
Have a wonderful day!