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Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Body & Mind, Pilates | 0 comments

Pilates and Mental Health – Week Three

Pilates and Mental Health – Week Three

And release…

It’s the third week in to my voluntary classes with a small group of men living with drug abuse additions. Personalities and group dynamics are starting to show, they keep coming back for more and they’re certainly keeping me on my toes! I’m astounded by the level of technique these beginners have: as soon as they’re on the mat, their eyes close and they completely zone into the movements.

Concerns of mine over the last few weeks have been that by encouraging deep inhalation through the nose, could this trigger a feeling or emotion linked to their drug abuse such as snorting cocaine. I figured the best way to find out was to ask them. It felt good to be able to actually acknowledge their addictions in a gentle way and know a little more about what/if they were struggling with something.

Luckily, the breathing techniques hadn’t been causing any negative reactions emotionally and I now know that I can continue to encourage breathing in the correct form. In time, this will help to reduces stress levelsby stimulating the Vagus nerve thus maintaining the correct balance in the parasympathetic nervous system.

A tip I’ve learnt from working with those living with mental health issues is not to ignore it. People can be open to talking about it and as a teacher this can really deepen your understanding of what they’re going through. A small class set up is also a highly beneficial environment as it allows people to belong to something- an element of human nature that we all have. We’re all on the same page when it comes to working with the quirks of our bodies.

Speaking of being open in class, it wasn’t just talking that was passed back and forth today. There were some rather gaseous exchanges in class today but, as they say better out than in…

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Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Pilates, Repertoire | 0 comments

Pilates Matwork Repertoire – The Hundred

Pilates Matwork Repertoire – The Hundred

The Hundred exercise in Pilates got its name because you hold the exercise for 100 counts.  In classical Pilates matwork repertoire you start your session with The Hundred to warm up, get your breathing strong and your blood oxygenated.  It strengthens your abdominals, develops trunk stabilisation and stimulates coordination.

Point of caution: Work at your own pace and if your neck feels strained do not continue.

Start Position: Supine with your knees bent, imprinted spine, inner thights connected.  Place your arms by the side of your body maintaining sense of space underneath the armpits, palms down.

Movement: Inhale to prepare – Exhale, lengthen through the back of the neck, contract abdominals and flex the thoracic spine as you reach and hover your arms over the floor; simultaneously extend your legs and pump your arms energetically up and down in small movement; Inhale for five pumps and Exhale for five pumps.

Checkpoints: Maintain stability throughout to avoid upper back tension, avoid overly tucking the pelvis, initiate movement of the arms at the shoulder joint, not elbows, emphasise downward motion of the arms, draw your abdominal in on contraction as opposed to appearance of ‘popping belly’.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: whiplash, cervical, shoulder and lumbar issues (i.e. disc herniation, bulging disc, prolapsed disc), groin strain, osteoporosis.

Initially, the Hundred started from supine position and legs extended and the movement would be to lift the legs from the centre, maintaining pelvic and shoulder stability.  As that proved to be too difficult the adaptations followed.


1) Head and feet on the mat, focus on breath and shoulder stability

2) Feet on the mat with upper body flexed, focus on breath, shoulder stability and abdominal engagement with imprinted spine

3) Adaptation 2) but with legs in tabletop position

To finish hug your knees to your chest, release the head down to rest or progress to the next exercise.

VIDEOThe Hundred

Special thank you to Anoushka Boone of Pilates in Motion Studio for providing supporting materials and feedback.

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Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Beginners, Pilates | 0 comments



Do you know how many types of pilates are out there…? No? To be entirely honest,  neither do I, but there are many.

For starters, searching through the internet and posting questions on Facebook I found several mutations of Pilates, either starting with pil- or ending with -lates, my favourite being ‘dogilates’ for dogs!  The most popular would be yogalates, which is a combination of … yoga and pilates; then the likes of zumbalates, boxilates, etc., all fun, I am sure but a mixes of pilates.

The second range of pilates I can think of is fitness and rehabilitation pilates.  On one hand the celebrity and fashion world has taken pilates and turned it into the ‘get your ultimate body’ exercise.  To meet market demand some teachers, or rather instructors, with varying standards of training, introduced high impact, high load pilates classes, quite frequently combined with high client numbers.

During training to become pilates teachers we are introduced to 6 principles, which although not developed by J Pilates himself, are very helpful: Concentration, Control, Centering, Breathing, Precision and Flow.  Those principles need to be taught to clients alongside the repertoire itself, before the client can move on to more advanced levels. Lack of this preparation may result in injury.  The initial period will be different from person to person, sooner for some, later for others, but led by a well-qualified teacher it will be filled with challenges, hard work and fun.

On the other hand we have the rehabilitation side of pilates.  For me, it is one of the most rewarding benefits of pilates; slotting comfortably between doctors, alternative therapies, physiotherapy and the rest of your life.  I will emphasize again the importance of working with a well-qualified pilates teacher. Someone who would have studied anatomy and physiology, during their course and be knowledgeable about basic contraindications to common issues that persistently plague our bodies today, i.e. lower back and disc issues, joint complaints, slumped posture, painful neck and shoulders, etc

Ultimately the purpose of pilates is to progress to full body movement and mind/body equilibrium.  Wouldn’t we all want to be there! Definitely something worth aiming for, I think!

Furthermore, pilates could be categorized by the repertoire and its applications.  Some training organizations opt for the classical approach and others are open to an evolving range of exercises.  The classical repertoire is based on the original set of exercises designed by J Pilates.  It would usually start with high impact ‘Hundred’ to warm up while other classes would follow routine of: warm up, build up, work hard, cool down.  As it stands today both types are practised and both have their devoted fans.  It’s all about finding what is right for you and your body.

If you have decided that you want to start pilates please consider the following, perhaps talk to a few pilates teachers before choosing your class:

1.) Your fitness level:

a.  Are you healthy and active     b.  Are you generally healthy, not very active   c.  Are you not active, unwell or rehabilitating

2.) Types of pilates classes available

a.  Matwork Classes

– Different levels (beginners to advance)  – Different styles (classical, evolved)  – Special populations (elderly, osteoporosis, pre/post natal, etc)

b.  Studio Classes (equipment)

– Different levels (beginners to advance)  – Different styles (classical, evolved)   – Special populations (elderly, osteoporosis, pre/post natal, etc)

3.) Environment

a.  Sport/Health Centres(usually large classes)  b.  Pilates Studios  c.  Private classes (one to one)  d.  Semi private classes (one to two)  e.  Small groups (approximately 4 for studio and 8-12 for matwork)

4.) Finance and Commitment

a.  Prices are varied

– Matwork classes are cheaper and address general needs of the group rather than an individual.

– Studio classes (1:4) are more focused on individual needs (unless it is a specific fitness class) but require some independent work under the  watchful eye of the teacher.  They are more expensive; I think the cheapest one I found was £25/h in London.

– Semi-private (1:2) and private classes are most expensive but they focus entirely on individual needs and therefore results can be achieved much sooner than in any other type of class.

b.  How often can you commit to practice and what are your goals?.

Taking all those points into consideration you should be able to pick a suitable class for your needs, always make sure you speak to your teacher before your first class and inform them about any issues or concerns you may have about starting and practicing pilates.

To help you find a teacher in your area please go to our and browse through our Teacher Directory to find a local pilates teacher.

If you have any questions relating to this article or our services please feel free to leave a comment below, post on Facebook or Twitter or email us on

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