A Healthy Spine

 

There are two popular quotes from Joseph Pilates that many are familiar with and if you have never seen them or heard anyone say them here they are:

” You are only as young as your spinal column.”

” If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.’

When you really think about it, it makes complete sense. Our bodies/spines are designed to move with freedom not with restrictions.  The exercises in Pilates works all the movements of  the spine to keep it healthy, flexible and strong.

The spine is worked in extension ( backward bending), flexion (forward bend), lateral flexion (side bending), rotation (twisting). By working the spine in all different directions we create a proper balance and maintain proper alignment and posture.

Before I show you some of the exercises that goes along with each spinal movement, I would like to explain axial extension or lengthening.  All the movements in Pilates focus on lengthening  the spine or creating space, we do not collapse or sink into the movements. We always want to think of lengthening.

Below are a few of the exercises that goes along with the above mentioned movements.

Flexion

Chest Lift, Hundred and The Roll Up.

Pilates Hundred

Pilates Hundred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotation

Side Bend Twist, Spine Twist, Criss Cross

Spine Twist

Spine Twist

 

 

 

 

*important to note the rotation comes from the spine not the shoulders or neck*

 

 

Lateral Flexion

Mermaid, Side Bend.

Side Bend

Side Bend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extension

Swan, Swimming, Leg Pull Up, Shoulder Bridge.

Leg Pull Up

Leg Pull Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this weeks post. Feel free to share.

 

A Little History

Happy September!!!

I hope you are all having a fantastic September so far.  I thought I would share an interesting interview/discussion on Memories of Mr Joe Pilates.  Enjoy!

A little extra Pilates history:

Origins of Pilates

Have a great week friends.

The Pilates Roll Up

 

IMG_3010    IMG_3011

The Pilates roll up works the abdominals but it also works on spinal articulation.  When performed correctly the rollup is more effective on strengthening the abdominals than countless crunches.

As a side note you may have noticed the count or rep range in Pilates is remarkably less than most fitness exercises, except for the Pilates hundred.  You may have wondered why, and I will let Mr Pilates answer this with one of his many quotes ” A few well designed movements properly performed in a balanced sequence are worth more hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”    The focus in Pilates quality over quantity.

 

joe-1440x900

 

Let’s get back to the Roll up. Personally, I have had a love hate relationship with this exercise when I just started  Pilates, because I was not able to perform the exercise correctly, but through practice and some helpful tips/modifications on my Pilates journey  the roll up has become one of my favorite exercises.  The purpose of this article is to  share some of the  modifications I not only used for myself but ones I use with my clients.

Common “roadblocks” while performing this exercise is 1. weak abdominals 2. a tight low back  3. not recruiting the bum and hamstrings.

The first tip is to keep your knees bent and as you roll up straighten your legs.

2. Place a rolled up towel under your low back and press into the towel as roll up and roll down.

3. Holding light weights 1-2lbs during the exercise will help.

4. Use your hands to help you, this is done by holding the back of your thighs

5. The half roll back is a great way practice.

Instructions for Half Roll Back:  Sit tall and roll back to about the top of your pants, maintaing the C curve, and roll back up, again you can hold the back of your thighs to assist.

6. Remember to press the back of your thighs into the mat and to squeeze your glutes.

7.Place a theraband around your feet and holding the ends in your hands. Use the band to assist the roll up.

Be patient with your self and keep practicing.

Pilates is grace, strength and stability through movement.

Desk Bound: Three Pilates Desk Exercises and Stretches.

 

There have been numerous articles written about the perils of too much sitting. Researchers say that prolonged sitting may lead to a slower than normal metabolism, diabetes and a larger waistline etc. Among these we can also add an inflexible spine due to lack of movement, poor posture, weak upper back muscles, short and tight chest muscles, forward head posture and rounded shoulders to name a few.

Sitting is not only inevitable and necessary at times but the problems arise when we do not make the time to add movement through out our day.

Here are a few ways to add movement to your day while at the office. 1. If possible. instead of sending an email to your co-worker, walk to their desk or office. 2.   Add some stretches/Pilates exercises to your day that can be performed at your desk. 3. Have a walking business meeting. 4. Have lunch at a park. 5. Walk the mall on your lunch break 6. Take the stairs 7. Take calls while on your feet or better yet pace and talk 8. Set a daily reminder to step away from your computer screen at regular intervals, this is for your mental and physical health and 9. Use the restroom on a different floor.

Below are a few Pilates exercises you can include in your day, these can be performed at your desk.

Note: Abdominals should be engaged at all times, keep length in the spine and breathe!

Spine Twist:  

Sit tall, with neutral spine and pelvis., abdominals pulled in and up, feet hip distance apart. Extend your arms long in front you, shoulder height, palms facing in and shoulders down.

On an inhale, lengthen your spine, exhale and rotate or twist your spine for a count of 3, bending your elbow as you twist in the same direction while keeping the opposite arm long in front.

Inhale and return to the center and switch sides.  Repeat 5 times on each side.

Spine Stretch Forward:

The same seated position as the above exercise. Inhale and lengthen your spine, exhale and nod your head forward ,abs engaged, slowly curve or round your spine forward, arms long and down by sides.

Inhale at the bottom of the movement, taking slow breaths and breathing into the sides of your ribcage.  Exhale and slowly roll back up to sitting position. Repeat 5 times.

Seated Mermaid:

The same seated position as above, hands are resting at your sides. Inhale, reaching one arm overhead, pressing the opposite hand into the side of the chair. Exhale, bending sideways while reaching the extended arm over head. Inhale and return to the start position.  Repeat 5 times on each side.

A few reminders while actively sitting through out the day: Maintain neutral spine, keep your abdominals engaged always, breathe well, meaning fill your lungs air and exhale completely, sit tall and lengthen your spine, relax your neck and shoulders.

The Pilates method/ principles, are not only for inside the studio but the principles should carry you through out your day whether you are sitting or driving or whatever activity you are doing.  Being mindful of your own body awareness will improve your alignment and comfort level.

 

Here are a few stretches that can be performed at the end of your workday.

 

Back and Hamstrings:

Lie on your back, feet on the floor, knees bent. Draw both knees into your chest and rock side to side. Then alternate extending one leg and hugging the other leg into your chest. Hold each stretch for 20 -30 seconds. Enjoy this you should be able to feel the entire body relaxing.

Cross Body Stretch:

Still on your back keep one leg extended and use the opposite hand to cross the bent leg across your body, and look in the opposite direction to the crossed leg.

Shoulders. Stand and reach your arms behind you, you can hold on to each wrist if this easier or interlace your fingers, while raising your arms behind you so you feel a wonderful stretch in the front of your shoulders.

Figure 4 Stretch:

Lie on floor or mat. Bend knees with feet on floor. Cross lower leg over thigh of other leg. Grasp back of thigh of lower leg with both hands.

Pull leg toward torso. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite leg.

How do you incorporate movement through out your day? What are your favorite stretches? 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Challenges

This weeks challenge will focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet.   The recommended amount is 5-9 servings a day.  Some of us have no problem eating fruits daily. but we may find it more difficult adding leafy greens to our daily diet and vice versa.

Here are a  few ways we can add more of  natures medicine into our daily diet:

 

Make a fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast.

This is my favorite breakfast smoothie recipe: 1 cup almond milk, 2 handfuls spinach, 1 handful kale, 1 frozen banana, 1 tbs nut butter,  1 frozen peach, 1/2c plain greek yogurt, blend and enjoy.

IMG_1971

Make vegetable omelette and serve with a side of fruit.

Have a huge salad for lunch and or for dinner, just make sure you add healthy fats and lean protein.

This is one of my favorite salads:  romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and slivered almonds.

IMG_0556

It helps to think  of  vegetables as the main part of your evening meal and lean protein as a side.

As always I will be doing this with you.

What are your favorite ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet?

Extras:

10 Pictures of your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Ok To Not Be Perfect!

Swan on Ladder Barrel

Swan on Ladder Barrel

“Remember, too, that ‘Rome was not built in a day,’ and that PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” -Joseph Pilates

 In our journey to self love and improving our health with both food and exercise please remember  it’s ok to not be perfect!!

In our journey of improving our health through diet and exercise and self love we unknowingly set ourselves up for failure by striving to be perfect in how we eat and or exercise. That is exhausting!! By that I mean do you feel guilty for eating a piece of chocolate? Do you beat yourself up for skipping a workout? How do you speak to yourself for a less than perfect day/meal?  Why should we put our mind and body through that stress or turmoil?

Remember your body hears everything your mind says. Think positive thoughts.

Believe me I understand all these feelings but as Mr Pilates has reminded us in  the above quote “Rome was not built in a day”. We need to be patient with ourselves and most of all not to give up!

Be happy with yourself for all the positive changes you make on daily basis, yes why not  congratulate yourself, give yourself a “pat on the back”. Changing/working on our health is a continuous process, we are all trying to do our best.

Keep making healthy choices, move your body daily, it can be running, dancing, Pilates, walking whatever you enjoy, whether it is 10 minutes, 30 minutes an hour.

Personally, the more I focus on nourishing my body with good clean food,  honoring  and listening to my body when it needs rest, being kind and gentle with myself the easier this journey becomes.

Let’s stay positive in our thoughts and thank our bodies for all it has accomplished.  And BE HAPPY!!

Feel free to leave a comment to keep this discussion going.

 

 

Link Love And An App

IMG_0273

Here are a few interesting articles I have been reading, hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Heard of Fascia? Learn more about it here to keep your body healthy.

If you are trying to green here are a few tips from Martha Stewart.

The Gut Brain Connection. This article states that the brain has a direct effect on the gut.  Read more about it here.

 

We have all heard of journaling you meals for the day/week. In the past we would have a notebook where we would write out what we we ate and drank or snacked on through out the day.  Then came the era of apps! First one that comes to mind is MyFitnessPal, which is a calorie counting app among many others. There is nothing wrong with either formats of food journaling.

But I would like to share with you another app that I use as well as my clients. It is called TwoGrand.   This app allows you to take photos of your meals, ( and really who does not like to pictures of their food), separating them by breakfast,lunch and dinner as well as by snack and drinks.  You can even post your exercise/workout for the day if you so desire.  There is no calorie counting involved but you are given a “play by play” of how you are eating/drinking for the day/week.  This is a great way to see where you may need to improve on. As the saying goes a “picture is worth a thousand words”.   You can also follow people and see how they eat and get some really good recipes in the process. The app has a section where you are asked a series of questions regarding your food choices etc and by answering these questions you are able to personalize the list of people to follow with similar goals or  food choices like you.

You can read more about the app here.  I really like there Nutrition Philosophy. This resonated with me because this is how I feel as well, there is no one size fits all “diet”. What may work for me food wise may not work for everyone else.

Have you read any interesting articles? Have you used a food tracking app before? 

Up on the blog tomorrow: Featuring a Pilates Principle.