This Is Why You Need Pilates

Whether you come to Pilates for general fitness, for help with certain ailments, to cross train your body for sports performance, or to exercise safely during pregnancy–whatever it is–you’ll begin to feel and see results after about ten sessions. Below are a few testimonials from clients who are in their first ten to fifteen sessions. See what they have to say, and think about how Pilates might be able to help you.

I already feel positive change, and my low back isn’t hurting like it used to! I even went for my first pain-free run in months and I’m so happy.
-Lorie B.

I’m a 6’4,” 225 pound man who has been bodybuilding for more than 25 years. I can bench press over 300 pounds, deadlift 500 pounds, etc. But Pilates kicked my butt! It works my muscles and my core like nothing else. Best of all, it makes my body feel great! I’ve had chronic shoulder and upper back pain, and after just a handful of sessions, I’m nearly pain free. As a 47-year-old, still very fit man, I now see Pilates as a sustainable way to work out for life. It can challenge you at any level, no matter how big and strong you are.
-Kelly W.

I have really enjoyed how Pilates works on every part of the body, giving a complete work out! It lengthens & strengthens the muscle groups giving the lean, strong result that I like! Andrea has been wonderful at teaching me the proper postures and working with any injuries I’ve had.
-Gina D.

I like how it’s low impact to suit my health conditions. It also seems to help relieve stress. Even though I’m pushing my body it feels good. It helps my breathing, too.
-Cheryl D.

Give me ten sessions to work with you twice a week, one-on-one. It will be my greatest pleasure to address your personal goals and help you truly feel and begin to see results in your body. “You’ll begin to feel a difference in ten sessions, see a difference in twenty, and in thirty sessions you’ll have a whole new body,” said Joseph Pilates. Try his method, let it improve your life.

This month I’m offering a New-to-Pilates special! Three private sessions for $90. Learn about the foundations of Pilates all while getting a custom workout designed with your needs and goals in mind. Simply go to the contact page and fill out the form to find out available session times. 

Pilates for Mommas | Part One

There’s kind of a tension surrounding the discussion of exercise and pregnancy, have you experienced it? While there is cause for concern with some women, most can continue their regular exercise routines until labor day with some  modification and care. Isn’t that fabulous news? Talk to your provider and bring in permission to begin a prenatal routine, and you’re well on your way to a healthy and energetic pregnancy (it can be done!).

If you’re planning to become pregnant, or already there, the benefits you will gain from a dedicated Pilates practice to prepare for and throughout pregnancy are many. Your body will be rocked by pregnancy; it is wonderful, delightful, and hard work! Even if mum’s the word for a while at the beginning, please always tell your Pilates instructor as soon as you find out the exciting news. We take great care to plan your sessions accordingly through each trimester, but also on each individual day.

Your first trimester won’t change much, unless you’re suffering serious morning sickness or fatigue. But by about week 16-19 we start to transition into true prenatal Pilates, staying off of the back and finding other creative ways to get the whole body working. The second trimester most women find exhilarating; bellies round and energy is back. We’ll focus on abdominal and back strength to support the growing baby, lateral breath work that targets breath into the ribs and the back, and we’ll work to alleviate aches and pains that begin to crop up (as well as find ways to keep them at bay). Safe range of motion and safe levels of resistance ares key as the hormones in the body relax the joints. By the third trimester, movement becomes slower, and aches and pains can become truly bothersome, breathing is much more difficult the last few weeks, and the body can tire very easily. Your sessions will focus on breath, finding room in the lungs, stretching, and giving movement to the body. The last few weeks are very dedicated to your self-care.

prenatal pilates tucson arizona

I practiced Pilates diligently throughout my third pregnancy, and it was one of my favorite seasons of life to date. I felt fabulous (minus that darn sciatic nerve at the end)! I practiced until the day baby girl showed up. I could even see abdominal definition on the sides of my belly until the day I gave birth. I used stretching and breath work from my Pilates sessions all through labor, and it made an enormous difference on my stamina and confidence in giving birth.

Stay tuned for Part Two in this series, Pilates and the Postnatal Body.

Breath | Principles of Pilates

We are working our way through the Ten Principles of Pilates, and today we zero in on breath. If you’ve missed the previous two principles, simply click here to catch up!

Life is very busy: We have our 9-5 jobs, our families, our social lives, and we all do our best to fit in personal time whether it is for fitness or reflection or decompression from stress. And no surprise, we breathe throughout our day without so much as a thought to keep it going. So why put energy or thought into something that is natural work of the body, something that is practically a reflex?

Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. – Joseph Pilates

That is rather profound, if you think on it. He lived to attest to proper breathing not just in his exercises, but in his daily life.

Above all, learn how to breathe properly. Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as is a vacuum. Stand erect again and observe how your lungs will automatically completely refill themselves with fresh air.

And he was right about it. Of many things, deep breathing has been shown to help decrease stress, one of the main antagonists of the modern world. So in your Pilates practice, we begin our session with a few very intentional deep breaths to calm our minds and prepare our body with a fresh intake of oxygen. We engage the abdominals and breathe laterally and deeply into the ribcage and into the back of the lungs, filling them with as much air as we can hold, and exhaling fully. This little practice automatically focuses your mind deep into your body to begin a good Pilates session.

Then, each Pilates exercise has a particular breath pattern, and it does differ a bit based on a particular discipline or a teacher’s personal preference. Generally speaking, though, your instructor will have you exhale as you exert force to complete a movement, and inhale as you return to the start. Your breath will aid in the execution of your movement. During each breath pattern you should inhale fully, and exhale as much air out of the lungs as possible. Breathing is important work in your Pilates practice!

Anxiety or stress will have us breathing shallow and in short breath cycles, but Pilates will work to correct this problem, leaving you feeling calm and more level-headed throughout your day. Inhale fully, exhale fully. Inhale deeply, creating energy in the body, and exhale your difficulties and stress. Be mindful of your breath and you will reap the rewards.

 

Balance | Principles of Pilates

When was the last time you stood on one foot for a while, just to see how long you could manage the task? Go ahead, see how long you can hold it. I started getting bored about twenty seconds in, so I bent my opposite leg and touched the ground, and repeated it ten times before I started getting bored of that, so I sat back down to keep writing to you. 😉

Balance is so very important to our lives. It helps with our posture, proper muscular development and function, it helps to prevent falls and injuries, and is simply necessary for healthy, daily movement. The older you get, the more balance decreases, and it is wise to practice balance in order to keep it. Many in the fitness industry will tell you, “Use it or lose it!” It is true.

When you attempted the balance exercise, was one side easier than the other? We all have one side of the body that is stronger than the other, or one side with a past injury that inhibits us. The body is not perfectly balanced, even down to our internal organs. None of us is perfectly balanced or symmetrical. I struggle with injuries from an accident on the right side of my body, so anything that requires symmetrical work from both sides of my body is a true challenge. I have to work very deep in mind and body to complete even the pelvic curl, let alone roll like a ball or jackknife or short spine. Ahhh balance, you are a tricky one.

I address balance in the general sense and in regards to muscular development/strength in both sides of your body in each class. Think of your side-lying hip work (whether on the mat, the reformer, or the arc!), it takes concentration and effort to stay balanced on one side while using the muscles on the other side of the body, doesn’t it? We also work on balancing your muscles to improve posture. Now every time you come to class you’ll notice how balance exercises are incorporated into your workouts!

We could also talk about the other meaning of balance, finding balance in all areas of life. Perhaps you have a rigorous work schedule, or you have little people at home that demand so much of you, or there is a huge challenge in life that’s stressful–doing the good work of Pilates helps to achieve a balance of mind, body, and spirit. And that is another beneficial type of balance. Don’t neglect your sessions this week, as you will leave feeling refreshed, proud of your body, and of course, balanced.

Awareness | Principles of Pilates

Awareness is important in all aspects of our life. When I’m out at night by myself, you are certain I’m aware of my every surrounding and know just in my purse where my taser is. Awareness is very important–from keeping yourself safe, to reading social situations, to how you operate your body.

Before you walked into a Pilates studio, had anyone ever asked you to find a neutral pelvis? You have probably never considered how the position of your pelvis relates to the position of your spine, or how it might affect the way you walk, or if you could properly engage your back or abdominal muscles by its position. This has everything to do with body awareness.

Take a moment to sit down on a chair. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Now contemplate your posture. Uncross your legs and sit up straight on your sit bones. Connect all ten toes to the floor and think about distributing the weight evenly on your feet. Are your knees in line with your hips and ankles? Are your abdominals engaged and ribs actively drawn in? Is your spine extended tall, and are your shoulders slid down your back for proper placement? Is your head sitting in the proper place atop your spine (not forward or tilted)?

Who knew so much work could go into simply sitting properly with good alignment?! If you practice Pilates consistently (and preferably frequently), these things will become second nature by way of working your body with intention. These principles will sink into your very cells and you will begin to improve from the inside out.

Would you like a private session and an analysis of your posture? Contact me to set up a session and begin the good work of Pilates!

Ten Principles of Pilates

This list is what makes Pilates so different from many other types of fitness, as we are not only addressing the body, but the mind in connection with the body, which leads to an overall sense of wellbeing. If you leave your mind out of the equation while conditioning, you are missing the potential for greater growth and achievement.

  1. Awareness
  2. Balance
  3. Breath
  4. Concentration
  5. Center
  6. Control
  7. Efficiency
  8. Flow
  9. Precision
  10. Harmony

Join me in future posts to learn more about each principle and how it relates to your classes and your daily life.

The Beauty of Private Sessions

Private sessions will give you the most effective start to Pilates workouts. When you walk into the studio for the first time, you’re seeing new equipment and people moving their bodies in ways you won’t see at the weight room in a gym. It might actually be a little frightening. 😉 “You want me to put my feet where and move my legs how??” I sure do!

And all the while I lead you through a workout on the reformer (we’ll start there, or on the Cadillac), I’m going to be watching your body move. I’ll note your levels of flexibility, your range of motion for each exercise, I’ll take careful note of your posture and alignment, and along the way I’ll give you a good workout. Coming to a private session is nice for you to enjoy personal attention of course, but it’s a world of help to me for your future workouts.

When you come in for a private session, I’m reading you and learning about you. From that point I can begin to create sessions with specific things in mind that will benefit your body–to help you grow in strength, balance, flexibility, body awareness, and confidence. Did you even know your body needed all of these things? Come in for a private session. Start to wire a new and wonderful connection between your mind and your body. You’ll learn to move with grace and purpose in all areas of your life, and not just in the studio.

Your Posture and Pilates

Our bodies are so fascinating; they are designed specifically for proper movement and posture, but we often neglect to give back to our bodies the strength and movement they need to serve us well. Particularly in this age with many of us working at a desk or sitting so much in our free time (hello, I binge-watched The Crown recently, too). Our bodies were made to move from a place of proper alignment.

ideal-posture-116x300We all have likely had or struggle with some posture issues in our lives. The problem with incorrect posture is that it removes efficiency and creates muscular imbalances. Think for a moment, if your head isn’t properly aligned on your spine and it sits forward, there will be more weight (approximately ten pounds of additional pressure per inch forward) and pressure on the spine, allowing for muscular imbalances and even the risk of nerve damage or arthritis if it goes on for too long. Think if you slouch forward with your ribs closing in on your hip bones, how much space your vital organs are losing in order to function efficiently. So, when your spine and pelvis are not in a neutral state, it can lead to a plethora of issues.

What I love so much about Pilates is that it strengthens the body while correcting posture and muscle imbalances. If you suffer from forward head syndrome, we will work to stretch your chest muscles and strengthen your upper back muscles, as well as gain proper shoulder placement. If you slouch over your computer at work or sit a lot, we will work to give you length in your spine, as well as the strength in your core and your spinal extensors required to hold yourself up. So much of why I wanted to become a Pilates instructor is because of how much it helped me change my body for the better. There came a point after practicing for a number of months that I realized it was no longer difficult to have good posture, and it was almost painful to sit or stand out of alignment–it was a wonderful revelation.

Come to class. Do it regularly. Twice a week, three times a week, whatever it takes. You will begin to feel better. Your health is not necessarily just your shape, but how healthy, strong, flexible and energetic you feel.

My Top 5 Benefits

Any Pilates instructor or addict will tell you at least a few reasons why they love it. I think an act of God brought me to the path of being an instructor, because I feel so…normal. But you know what? I really fell in love with giving my body strength, endurance, and flexibility (among other things), and I knew I wanted to pass that along just as that gift was given to me by my instructor.

Your list will look different from my list. You’ll come to class for ten different reasons than I do. And that’s fabulous. Here’s a little teaser of why I love this so much:

  1. I felt strong. After about 15 sessions I knew my strength had greatly improved. I could haul huge loads of laundry upstairs without a struggle (I had a one year old and a two year old, my body was so tired back then).
  2. My diastisis recti had gone from a 4 finger width down to about 2 in that same amount of time. What black magic was this? Honestly.
  3. My flexibility improved. The first time you do leg circles, and then the 30th time you do them, will show you just what I mean. Plus, I could put my palms on the floor when I bent over. That had never ever happened before.
  4. My posture improved. I sat so poorly, likely because my abdominals and my back extensors weren’t very strong. Plus I carried (yes, used to! Past tense!) stress in my neck and shoulders, so everything was just yikes. One day not too long ago I was sitting at Verizon being helped by one of their customer service reps and he paused right in the middle of what he was doing to say, “Wow. You have really nice posture.” It is actually painful for me to slump or to let my shoulders fall forward now.
  5. This is my favorite, I must say: I can properly recruit muscles to do work for me. Any physical task has gotten noticeably easier. Yes it’s because I’m stronger, but it’s also because through constant practice and the intentional connection of the mind to the body, I can now use my abs to shovel the ridiculous amount of snow from my driveway. My back and shoulders weren’t sore after shoveling, my abs were. Of course all of my muscles worked in tandem to get the job done, but I could use my abs to do much of the grunt work needed to lift and throw that heavy mess. I can properly engage my back muscles or my lats or whatever in order to more efficiently move my body. And that’s kinda nerdy neat.

Why do you practice?

What to expect.

Any time I went into the gym or to work out with a trainer, I never knew what to expect. What muscles would I work? If I went alone, would I give up on the weight room and simply resign myself to enough time on the treadmill to assuage my conscience? No, no. No more of that (if I don’t want to). If you decide to do Pilates, here’s what to expect.

Mat Class:

You’re gonna work your core, and hard. But your whole body will work with it, so you’ll feel good all over the next day. The  majority of this workout is on a cushioned mat (much thicker than a yoga mat), and most of it laying down and sitting. Sometimes we’ll have props like resistance bands, the ultra-fit circle, ankle weights, or the Pilates Arc. It depends on the day and the class. It’ll never be too terribly predictable, and we’ll always build on your strength and abilities so you do not get bored.

Reformer Class:

No, the Reformer is not some kind of torture device (well…). It is lovely. It is a cushioned carriage on a frame with a foot bar and straps for your hands or feet, and the resistance comes from a combination of springs. There are so many exercises to be done on it, and you truly will not get bored here. Again, much of your workout will be laying down or sitting until you reach more advanced levels. You’ll begin with a warm up and foot work each time. The footwork is foundational to helping you achieve strength, balance, and alignment in your lower limbs, and stability and proper alignment in your spine. It feels wonderful on your legs and feet, which take the brunt of our daily lives. We must give them love and attention, too!

Private Session:

In a private session we will work on varied equipment, and you will tell me what you want to work on (if you are that advanced), or how you’re feeling for the day will dictate your session. You’ll get one-on-one help building strength and flexibility, and addressing physical issues or injuries (though I am not a physical therapist, I’m more of a movement practitioner–I can move you safely). You can choose to work on the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Ladder Barrel, or the Mat, or a combination of these. It’s a real hoot!

Breathing:

Yes, breathing. I will quite literally be helping you learn how to breathe during each exercise. I’ll give you a basic guideline of how to breathe during exercises, but do not be put off if it’s messing you up, just breathe! Proper breathing during Pilates does come with practice, and a pretty intense amount of focus. You’ll learn that in Pilates you will breathe into your rib cage and back while maintaining core engagement (think pulling your belly button into your spine). Try it now, sit up straight in that chair you’re in (don’t lie to me, you’re totally sitting). Relax your shoulders, keep them down and back; pull your belly button in toward your spine to turn on your abs; now inhale deeply. See where it went? Straight to your ribs, didn’t it? The pattern of breath will help fuel energy into the proper part of the exercise and help you to complete it.

Alignment:

I will always be keeping an eye on your alignment and posture. I often cue with words first, but will probably offer you tactile guidance if you don’t respond to verbal cues. (But do tell me if it makes you feel uncomfortable, we’ll never accomplish anything if tactile cueing is so not your thing, we’ll work it out together). If you’re one of those people who carries stress in their necks, I’ll spend a lot of time in the first 10-20 sessions helping you learn to relax your jaw and your shoulders, and sending the energy into your core. If your ribs pop or you stand with a sway back, we’ll work on building strength in the proper muscles to help realign you into a neutral spine position, whether sitting or standing or laying down.

So there you have it! That’s a basic idea of what to expect all around, and some links to photos of the equipment we have at the studio.