Pilates Northwest’s Top 5

TOP 5 Reasons We Love Pilates

  1. It Helps Increase Flexibility: By using a unique system of lengthening muscles while also strengthening, Pilates helps create long, lean, more flexible muscles and fascia with increased range of motion potential. This helps reduce injury from shortened, overly tight, poorly aligned muscles.
  2. It Focuses on Strengthening while Toning: Pilates improves muscular strength and tone without increasing bulk. Strong, functional muscles help the body avoid injury, perform everyday tasks, and helps keep posture upright.
  3. Its Movements Enhance Joint Function: By improving strength and flexibility while moving in a more optimal alignment during your sessions, joint alignment can dramatically improve thereby improving the overall function of the body. This added joint balance and fluidity helps you move with more ease.
  4. It focuses on Improving PostureBy learning optimal postural alignment and building more strength in your core, Pilates helps improve your posture, adds to your sense of where you are in space and educates you about your natural postural inclinations.   Aligned posture reduces aches and pains.
  5. It Teaches Body Awareness: It helps you relax, be present and be mindful. Being aware of your movement patterns, breathing and posture can improve coordination, balance and add to your quality of life.

If you would like to learn more about Pilates Northwest, schedule a tour of our studio and chat with us.

 

Pilates and Reversing “Computer Posture”

Practicing Pilates helps many things from core strength, to long lean muscles and a streamlined midsection with lifted, tall posture.  But as an increasingly large portion of our population spends hours and hours each day on computers and devices from phones to tablets, there’s a specific postural problem emerging.  I’ve heard it called “text neck”, “slumpy computer spine” and “question mark posture”.  I’m sure there are many words for this collapsed, flexed, downward gazing, rounded, hunched over position people get into and stay in for hours on end.

The Beginning of an Antidote

Put simply, the antidote to this postural problem involves performing a combination of movements in other planes (extension, rotation, lateral bending or flexion, side to side shifting/translation).  This sounds easy, to simply move in the opposite way.  However, the longer our postural positions get familiarized in our bodies, the more likely our connective tissue / fascial system will start to fixate into that familiar shape.  Fascia will hold us where we spend the most time, hence the importance to alter positions, get moving and release some of the more stubborn connective tissue patterns using Pilates and myofascial manipulation methods.

Here’s a game plan that occurs in Pilates lessons.  The intention is to restore posture while gaining strength, length and alignment:

Access and Develop the Postural Supporting Structures

Pilates fundamentals focus on spine position.  We educate and teach our clients where our natural, neutral postural alignment is.  Development of the deep core supporting structures like the transversus abdominus, deep spinal stabilizers and other supporting structures is our starting place.  Without this fundamental base support, some of these movements in other planes are quite difficult to perform.  We use the breath and teach movement patterns that access and develop the body’s natural postural support system.

Awareness

An awareness of where the body is in space and what is happening via a feeling state is especially beneficial.  As the client gains awareness in their Pilates sessions, overall awareness will occur away from the sessions as well.  Part of body awareness and positional awareness for computer and device users is to troubleshoot postural positions while using computers.  We can discuss and practice how to sit, where the keyboard could be optimally, head position, arm reach, chairs and lumbar spine support, the position of the legs and feet with connection to the floor, and alike.  With this new knowledge and the beginning of deep core support, new methods and strategies can be created to provide spinal balance when sitting at the computer, texting or reading.

Finally, when combining this base support with awareness under the guidance of a certified Pilates instructor we can come up with movement patterns to “undo” the havoc of sustained forward flexion, likely from looking downward and slumping in a chair for hours on end.

Try Pilates with us here at Pilates Northwest.  Your back and neck will thank you and it will even be fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilates and Posture: Get Tall, Long and Upright!

Most of you have seen or heard terms like “text neck”, “sway back”, “forward head posture” and alike.  We could go on and on.  There are so many terms out there for misaligned posture, but what is proper alignment and how do we get it by doing Pilates?

First, let’s define upright optimal posture.  Counter to intuition, it’s not just “chest up, shoulders back, suck in the belly” while standing.  While these cues have been heard by most of us, they don’t provide good posture nor do they help improve postural alignment.

Postural alignment starts when there is structural balance and integrity through the pelvic girdle.  You may call the pelvic girdle the “hips” or “back” but the entire complex of all of the pelvic bones is what we, at Pilates Northwest, are calling the “girdle”.  The relationship of the pelvic girdle to the areas below (legs to feet) and above (spine through head) is what we look at when assessing posture and alignment during your sessions.  Not only are we looking at the tilt of the pelvis (forward tilt or anterior tilt, backward tilt or posterior tilt), but we are also looking at the pelvic girdle’s relationship to itself.  Since the pelvis has joints (sacroiliac joint, lumbosacral joint, pubic symphysis), it is possible and quite common for one side of the pelvis to do something different from the other side, a kind of imbalance that can improve with regular Pilates sessions.

Without getting into complex anatomy, the principle here is interesting:  Thorough movement, cues, education, stretching, releasing and strengthening, we can better pelvic girdle alignment.  Thus starts the postural improvement.

As Pilates sessions continue over time, we are working toward helping you have a more aligned, optimal relationship with gravity; an uprightness that is effortless; a lift; a feeling of lightness and ease.  We are working toward aligning several bony landmarks that are evidenced in the standing posture:

Postural Alignment from Top to Bottom, Facing Sideways, Bony Landmarks:

1.  Mid Ear

2.  Mid Shoulder

3.  Mid Hip (Greater Trochanter)

4.  Mid Outer Knee

3.  Mid Ankle Bone (Lateral Malleolus)

If we dropped a plumb line through those points, we would have aligned posture if that plumb line bisected each segment somewhat equally.  Ideally we would also like a lack of compression forces through the spine and other joints for ease of movement.

We’re not looking for perfect posture here at Pilates Northwest, we’re trying for improvement.  We’re not looking for a held, stiffened uprightness from contracting muscles, we’re looking for increased freedom and aliveness.    We talk and educate about the posture related to real life activities, from sitting at a computer to sitting in a kayak to driving positions.

Posture is just one part of the Pilates process.  Please send this article to a friend who could benefit from this unique form of exercise.  We work with all ages and all fitness and experience levels.  The staff here at Pilates Northwest is fully certified, experienced and friendly.

Let the postural progress begin!

Can Pilates help back pain?

At Pilates Northwest, we see a lot of clients with back pain – from low back pain, pain around the shoulder blades, pain in the upper trapezius muscles, to pain in the rib areas and mid back – we’ve seen it all. In today’s computer-based, high stress society, we get a lot of people who come in with the goal of lessening their back pain. Practicing Pilates is a great way to do this. For those with severe back pain, consulting with your physician if often the first step. We want to be sure there are no contraindications to exercise before working with you. Once you have the green light, we are ready!

Pilates principles are consistent with exercise programs that promote back health. In particular, most hospital-based back health programs look like Pilates programs. Learning neutral alignment of the spine (where the curves of the spine are healthy and optimal) and strengthening the deep core postural muscles that support this alignment are vital skills for the back pain patient.

Patients with pain stemming from lack of strength and poor spinal alignment are particularly likely to benefit from a Pilates exercise program.  Postural alignment and body asymmetry can be altered. This improvement can drastically improve the wear and tear resulting from uneven stresses on the intervertebral joints and discs.

Pilates improves overall deep strength, flexibility, and function of the muscles of the hip and shoulder girdle. Fluidity and supported movement through these joints helps prevent unnecessary torque on the vertebral column.

At Pilates Northwest, we like to ask questions. We have worked in conjunction with other health professionals. We like teamwork and often times improving back pain takes communication between different parties. We strive to help our clients increase their strength, fluidity, suppleness and alignment. We see that a strong, more aligned and functional back is a happier back. We listen to our clients and take session notes. We treat each person differently and provide highly personalized sessions.