Friday, 8 December 2017

Top 5 Pilates Survival Tips for Christmas and the New Year

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, all that yummy food and drink, and if we're lucky the company of people we love.

But as we close the Pilates studios for our Christmas break, it is worth thinking about how to keep your body happy through the festive season.

Just think ... all those long meals sitting at the dining table, wearing your high heels at parties, and bending over the kitchen sink. It all adds up to potential back aches, joint pain, and losing the progress you have worked so hard for all year.

So we have come up with 5 easy-peasy tips to incorporate your Pilates into your Christmas festivities to keep your body happy and ready to start 2018 raring to go!

And don't worry, we're not talking about teaching Gran how to do a shoulder bridge or leading an impromptu Pilates class in the living room!

Top 5 Survival Tips for Christmas & New Year, by Director of Pilates Place Peta Davies

1. Sitting Pretty: Pelvic tilts
Use a lumbar support to ease backache.
Image courtesy of Women's Voices for Change
So, you've been sitting at the table or on the sofa for too many hours and your back is beginning to ache. What should you do?

Start by making sure you are sitting upright and use a firm cushion to add some lumbar support. Gently press your lower back into that support, then release. Repeat 5 times.

Top Tip: when pressing your lower back into the cushion try not to lose any height, try to keep your spine lengthening upwards

2. In the kitchen: "Active abs"
Be mindful of your posture in the kitchen
When you're standing at the sink or work surface preparing festive food, think about how you are standing.

Start by checking that your knees are slightly bent. Then pull in your stomach muscles slightly to support your lower back. Try it - it really does reduce low back pain!

Top Tip: When engaging your stomach muscles try to keep your lumbar spine in its natural curve

3. Getting stressed out? Deep breaths
Image courtesy of Pick the Brain

There is so much to do and so little time and the stress is building. STOP and breathe.

Pause and focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts and out through your mouth for 4 counts. Repeat 5 times.

Top Tip: When you breathe in try not to lift your shoulders. Feel the breath pushing your ribs outwards, not upwards

4. Posture check: Standing against a wall
Stand against the wall to correct your posture.
Image courtesy of Dr Michael Lell DC
If your neck and shoulders are beginning to ache, stand against a wall and place your shoulders and the back of your head against the wall. This will help to re-align your upper back, neck, and shoulders.

Then stretch one arm straight up above your head, keeping the elbow straight. Try to touch the wall above your head - can you reach it? Repeat with the other arm.

Top Tip: Check you have your heels 2 inches away from the wall

5. Pick-me-up: The best Pilates stretch ever!
Roll down and roll back up again.
Image courtesy of Feel Good Yoga & Pilates
This stretch will leave you feeling great. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms above your head and clasp your hands together. Reach gently over to one side, then return to the centre and repeat to the other side.

Next, let your arms hang down from your shoulders, and roll gently forwards towards your feet. Pull your stomach muscles in as you roll down, and then use them to roll back up again. Do this 3 times.

Top Tip: When rolling forwards imagine you have a small peach under your chin all the way down, this will keep you neck in perfect alignment as you roll up and down

Enjoy your Pilates over the festive period and don’t forget to take time out for yourself!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Pilates Tips for... Gardeners

In the first of a new series, we offer all the keen gardeners out there some Pilates-inspired tips to avoid injury and back pain.

Working in a garden can be physically demanding, but what can you do to make it less of a strain? Here are our top tips for protecting your back while gardening, and some exercises especially for gardeners.

(1) Warm up before you start.
Obvious but essential! Just a few gentle stretches could make all the difference.

(2) Use a kneeling pad to protect your knees.
Hard surfaces can be uncomfortable, but you don't have to put up with it. Kneeling pads can be purchased from garden centres, or make your own out of some old textiles.

(3) Switch between different tasks frequently.
Often gardening requires us to stay in the same position for long periods of time, or do the same thing over and over again. Swapping between different jobs helps you avoid stiffening up or straining yourself through repetitive movements.

(4) Bend at the knees at least as much as you bend at the waist.
When you bend over from your waist, you put a strain on your lower back - this is a real danger for gardeners. Ideally, we should bend at the knees most of the time. However, if your knees are stiff, try alternating between a knee-bend and a waist-bend... But, when lifting anything, always bend at the knees!

(5) Use a smaller trug or bucket when you're weeding.
Using a smaller container means you'll fill it up more quickly, so you'll have to get up and empty it out more often. This may seem counter-intuitive but it means that you will never be tempted (or forced) to carry a really heavy container to your wheelbarrow or compost bin. This tip combines tips 3 and 4: you will protect your back from heavy lifting injuries, and change position more often.

The 3 Best At-Home Pilates Exercises for Gardeners!

Here are our top three stretches for gardeners to help prevent and relieve back pain. If you have any doubts about whether you're able to do these exercises... don't take any risks! Please consult your doctor, or come and talk to us in the studio. We offer a Free Trial for all new customers - click here to book yours now.

A. The Back Stretch: "Cat up the Wall"!
First, find a wall! Stand about 1-2 feet away from the wall, and place your hands on it a little bit higher than your head, so that your arms are straight. Look down towards your feet, so that your back curves outwards away from the wall, in a rounded shape. Now, slowly, look up and move your hips forwards, so your spine curves in the opposite direction. (Think of how a cat stretches.) Repeat 8 times.


B. Spine Mobilization (with a hoe or cane)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold on to your stick, cane, or hoe with both hands, with your arms open wider than your shoulders. Now rotate your upper-body to the right, while keeping your hips, legs, and feet completely still. Return to the centre and repeat to the left hand side. Keep your hoe, cane or stick nice and level as you move! Repeat x 8 on each side.

C. Side Stretch

Find a weighty object, like a brick or a stone that you can easily lift and hold in one hand. (You could use a dumbbell, if you have one!)
Stand with your back against a wall, and with the weight in one hand, gently let the weight of the stone pull you down and bend sideways. Make sure the back of your head is touching the wall all the time so you stay properly aligned. Return to the upright position, place the stone in the other hand and repeat on the other side. Complete 4 bends on each side, swapping the stone from one hand to the other each time.

Top tip: Check that the back of your head is touching the wall, but your heels are about 2-3 inches away from the wall.

Follow these tips to stay pain-free while you work in your garden this autumn. Keep your eyes on the blog for more Pilates-inspired tips for cyclists, swimmers, and more in the coming months!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Peta's A-Z of Pilates: K is for...

K is for...


Kinaesthetic awareness refers to our ability to navigate space and our awareness of how we move. Different people have different levels of kinaesthetic awareness, but it is an ability that can be lost if it is not used.

When we perform a new exercise for the first time, it may feel that we don't have complete control of the movement. However, with practice our body learns the movement more efficiently, and we train our muscles gradually - reducing extraneous movements to perfect the movement.

Standing posture is a good example of how use our kinaesthetic awareness. If your head is too far forwards, realigning it so it's in line with your spine will improve your head position and realign your posture over time.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Peta's A-Z of Pilates: J is for...

J is for...

Joint Mobility

Joint mobility is at the heart of Pilates. Painful joints are a common problem in today’s world; sedentary lifestyles mean that our joints are not moving the way they should be.

When we are not using our joints they stiffen up and can cause referred pain to other parts of the body. When we exercise our joints are flooded with synovial fluid which lubricates the joint, making movement easier and more efficient.

When we concentrate on mobilising a joint we improve its range of movement, releasing tight muscles and helping to realign it to its optimum position.

Creating mobility in joints improves our ability to do every day activities and preserves the health and longevity of the joint.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Peta's A-Z of Pilates: I is for...

I is for...


Isolating a movement helps us to truly focus on the action and control the movement more efficiently.

Learning new movement patterns which correct poor postural alignments is done by isolating the movement from others, so that you concentrate on the muscle that needs to fire up.

This is seen when we try to realign the upper spine from a curved slouched position to a lengthened and supported position. When we focus on lifting the breast-bone upwards in isolation, it has the desired effect: shifting the shoulders backwards, and lengthening and lifting the upper back to immediately improve posture when standing or sitting.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Peta's A-Z of Pilates: H is for ...

H is for ...


Holding a movement in space allows us to intensify the muscle action.

This should not be confused with holding your breath, which is not helpful because it restricts the amount of oxygen reaching the muscles. And we don't want you to pass out!

Holding a movement for a few counts concentrates the contraction or the lengthening of a muscle and is very beneficial. It works the muscles at a deeper level and stimulates them to fire-up and strengthen.

This also applies to stretching movements, if they are performed slowly and with care we can benefit from holding the end range movement for a few counts before returning to the starting position.

Would you like to try Pilates in our studio? Book your free no-obligation trial session by clicking here.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Peta's A-Z of Pilates: G is for ...

In Peta's A-Z of Pilates, G is for ...


Setting yourself achievable goals will help focus your mind on what you want to get from your Pilates. Make your goals "SMART": Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

Specific: We all want to 'get fitter', but it's more useful to know what particular aspects of fitness you are you going to work on. This also helps to keep your goals measurable...

Measurable: Giving yourself a goal that can be quantified with time, reps, or distance is ideal. This could be as simple as being able to touch your toes in a forward bend! When you can measure your progress towards your goal, you will be motivated to keep working at it.

Achievable: Get help from your Pilates teacher to identify goals that are important for you, and how to reach them within your range of abilities and within your budget.

Realistic: If your goal is measurable and achievable it is also likely to be realistic - you need to be able to get there as the person you are today, not as an imaginary perfect version of yourself.

Timed: Without a deadline you are less likely to succeed. Thinking about when you want to achieve your goal will also help you plan how you will fit your Pilates practice into your life.