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Posted by on Sep 18, 2013 in Anatomy & Physiology, Featured, Pilates | 0 comments

Pilates – Method For a Healthy Spine, a Healthy Nervous System and a Fulfilled Life

Pilates – Method For a Healthy Spine, a Healthy Nervous System and a Fulfilled Life

Pilates and developmental movement – the curvatures of the spine from birth to walking by Katharina Hesse ©

This piece is really just another look at Pilates and the spine. And yet it is also a piece about much more than that.

You might wonder whether there is really anything else that can be shared on this topic. Well, there is Joseph’s rather controversial sentence about bringing us back to “the straight spine” found in a baby.

Now this is controversial. These days we know that the curves of the spine are vital for standing and for locomotion. Those curves support us perfectly when sitting, standing, walking or running. And I am not arguing with that.

But here are my thoughts: Joseph had a point when he suggested we should look at the spine of a baby. Of course he wasn’t quite spot on with his comment that a baby’s spine is straight. Far from it: a baby’s spine is actually flexed. We are reminded of that fact in anatomy books as those parts of the spine that remain in flexion throughout our lives – the thoracic, sacral and coccyx – are generally referred to as primary curves, whilst those parts of the spine that are extended – the lumbar and cervical spines – are referred to as secondary curves. They are the curves that develop after birth.

Babies are curled up in the womb and are born with a flexed spine. So this is our primary curvature: flexion! Babies cuddle their heads and tailbones and bodies into their mothers, the floor, blankets… Flexion is cosy. Flexion is really our first experience of being in the world and it’s a good one. It gives a sense of comfort, of being at one with ourselves. It allows us to sink into the floor, into gravity and be completely relaxed and at ease. Babies that don’t experience this state tend not to be healthy babies. A lot of Pilates is about flexion. And the majority of our clients (I am excluding those with a herniated disc that bulges out at the back and a few other conditions) really enjoy flexion.

Flexion allows us to withdraw into our selves. It is relaxing. Flexion seems to activate the parasympathetic nervous – so we feel calm. Have you ever noticed how people can arrive all stressed out to a Pilates session and then find themselves feel calm and relaxed in no time at all?

So flexion – the spinal curvature of the baby – is nice. However, in flexion, we don’t interact with our environment very much. Think again of a baby, lying on its stomach in flexion. It can’t see anything. When it hears something and it wants to find out what it is, it will need to react by lifting its head. So this is the beginning of the first secondary curve, that of the cervical spine, our necks.

Interest in the outside world inspires this first extension.

There are many more steps before we fully develop the lumbar curve: we start to play with gravity: we push our arms into the floor which builds up the muscles of the thorax – that is the upper spine that supports the ribcage – and arms. Then we push our legs into the floor which helps us build the muscles of the lower spine, the pelvis and the legs. Then we become more interested in things further away from us and, if we have enough intention to get to them, we start to creep and then to crawl – important steps in developing the spinal curves and to develop the muscles that support movement. We come to sitting – our range of interaction is now much bigger. We can now see well beyond what we could see when we lay on the floor! And then, finally we rise up and walk. At first we still fall a lot on our bums (they are big and padded, no problem for us at that stage!) but then our spine becomes more stable and its curves and the muscles of the whole body support our explorations of the world!

So those curves of the spine that are extended – the cervical and the lumbar spine, the secondary curves – result from outside stimulation, from interest in what is happening and a wish to interact with the outside environment and from our deep urge and intention to move. Movement not for its own sake, to be fit or slim – but a real urge to see, hear or smell and to get somewhere, to reach out for something we want or need.

Many of the Pilates exercises work through these developmental stages. Pilates is a great way of experiencing flexion and extension, of reconnecting with the development of the spine and of reconnecting with a healthy spine and a healthy nervous system (our central nervous system is located in the spine). Most of all, however, Pilates suggested that his method was just a way to ensure we could engage with life. To live! Hence the title of his book “Return to Life through Contrology”. To me that really fits well with the development of the curves of our spine. So Pilates, combined with developmental movement patterns, really seems like a great way to reconnect with life.

There is obviously a lot more to be said about Pilates, the spine and about developmental movement patterns but this is just a little taster into how our spine develops from birth. Next time you see a baby have a look. It’s worth it. And it might be your next generation of clients – or your next Pilates teacher!

This piece was strongly informed by my studies of Body Mind Centering ®, especially the trainings on infant development. I am running regular workshops for qualified movement teachers (Pilates, Yoga, gym instructors etc). You can also book me for workshops directly. Contact me onkat@rhythmoflife.org.uk to find out more.

If you are interested in finding out more about Body Mind Centering, including their trainings which happen all over the world, look athttp://www.bodymindcentering.com. For the UK, look at www.embody-move.co.uk

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Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Beginners, Featured, Owning a Studio | 0 comments

Fifty Shades of Grey – Introduction to Pilates Equipment

Fifty Shades of Grey – Introduction to Pilates Equipment

In my previous years of teaching when a new client walked in to the studio, they would look around and say – ‘oh dear, this looks like a torture chamber ‘- I am sure all teachers have heard that a few times.  However, these days when the client walks in they mostly say – ‘oh this looks like the Red Room of Pain from Fifty Shades of Grey’ (:o).  I have to say, it’s a great ice breaker though.. ‘you read Fifty Shades of Grey, did you, hmm.. all of the books… oh have you, all in one day! lol’ – common ground established.  Of course, I had to read it myself to make sure I knew what the clients were referring too ;).

We can safely say that walking in to a Pilates studio, for the first time, can be overwhelming so here is a guide to most commonly used Pilates equipment.  Below, you will find a gallery of pictures including the Cadillac, Reformer, Ladder Barrel, Small Barrel and Wundachair.

Further, I will dedicate a separate blog to each of the apparatus including brief description, variations, makes, pictures and so on .  To keep it simple just for now, I have used images from the BalancedBody Pilates site only, but when introducing pieces individually I will add other manufacturers.  Most commonly purchased at the moment are: Stott, Balanced Body, Peak Pilates, I have found something called Align-Pilates, Gratz Pilates (considered closest to the original designs of J Pilates).  Since the equipment is mostly produced in the US, here in the UK this means a bit of a hassle getting it into our studios but things are getting easier.

History tells us (Origins of Pilates) that J Pilates designed most of his pieces based on a hospital bed, while he was in the prison camps during WWI.  He built the frame, added the springs and bars to effectively aid the recovery of those injured through exercise, even if they were bed bound.

The equipment manufacturers are getting more and more innovative with the machines: developing, modifying, evolving to make it safe for us to use, more practical, better looking; safer and more efficient for the clients to use and enjoy.  In fact, you can pretty much coordinate your studio equipment in style, colour and space i.e. the leather upholstery comes in many colours, the equipment can be purchased in the most simple form for new, small studios (at home) and developed over time, like the Reformers with detachable tower.

Do you think you have the best looking Pilates studio or do you think the one you take your classes in, is? – send us pictures for our gallery, we love beautiful studios! (office@pilatestreemagazine.com)
 

Next time … The Pilates Cadillac.

Reformer Tower

Reformer Tower, Allegro 2

 

Cadillac

Cadillac (Trapeze Table)

 

Reformer

Basic Reformer

Ron Fletcher

Ron Fletcher Reformer by BB

 

Baby Arc

Baby Arc

 

Wall Tower

Wall Tower


Toe Gizmo

Joe’s Toe Gizmo

ped-a-pul-teaser-101005

Ped-O-Pull

 

Foam Arc

Balanced Body Foam Arc

Ladder Barrel

Ladder Barrel

Pilates Barrel

Pilates Barrel

Ladder Barrel

Ladder Barrel

Wundachair

Wundachair

 

Reformer and Cadillac Combination

Reformer/Cadillac Combination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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