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Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 in Becoming a Teacher, Body & Mind, Business & Education, Freelance, Owning a Studio, Stress | 0 comments

State of Mind – Still Busy

State of Mind – Still Busy

Since the last blog State of mind 2 fast I have taken the time to find solutions to slow down my life, be more efficient, less tired and have more time.  Impossible – right? well apparently not,  actually there are people out there who live like that ;).

I spoke to folks around me, reached out to a few professionals to seek advise and two words have repeated over and over: mindfulness and goal setting.

Mindfulness is (source Wikipedia)

bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, it involves paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, and/or involves a kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is.

..but more on that in the next blog, today is all about goal setting.  The most important thing to remember is, that a bit like with practicing Pilates or any other regular activity, unless you are very motivated and goal orientated you you are unlikely to succeed by yourself, at least initially.   You will need outside help and possibly the support of your friends.   Join local classes (best doing it with a group of people with similar circumstances) or find a programme on the internet.  My sources are The Personal Success Academy and Be mindful online.


Armed with a handy tool like the goal wheel you set up your main goals and rate them from 1-10, where 1 is not good and 10 you are exactly were you want to be in that aspect.  Next, based on the result of the goal wheel you set up goals to improve on the low scoring aspects of your life.  The goal wheel can be used for many different sets of goals, it can be your life goals, work goals or project goals.  The best practice is to start global and then break them down.  Here are some helpful tips from the Personal Success Academy:

  1. Goals must be written down – A goal that is not written down can easily become a vague notion a fantasy or a dream. If you think it, ink it (or type is in this day and age!) and this will engrave them in your subconscious.
  2. Talk about your goals – make yourself accountable to not just yourself but your friends and family or anyone else who may be able to help keep you on track and keep you in a positive frame of mind.
  3. Goals must be measurable – how will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? To set a goal without at least one measure of its achievement is like planning a journey without a destination. Establish a way to measure the outcome.
  4. Assess and review your goals regularly – re-visit your goals regularly to make sure that you still have them in your sights and that you are indeed on track to achieving them. Make this a habit.
  5. Goals must be specific – break down your goal until they became actionable and achievable within the next 24 hours. You should be able to describe your goal in a sentence that is clear and specific. For example a goal of wanting to see the world is too vague.
  6. Goals should be positive – although the subconscious is amazingly powerful, it is unable to distinguish between positive and negative. Concentrate on positive thoughts to help you make the difference when setting out to achieve your goals. For example, focus on what you stand to gain so – “I want to give up smoking” becomes “I want to enjoy the health, freedom and wealth of being a non-smoker”. Avoid the negative use words like “I do not want to fail my French language test” as that keeps the notion of failure in your thoughts, positive language will help keep you on track. “I will pass my French language test with 70% or above”.
  7. Celebrate achieving your goals – when a goal is achieved remember to congratulate yourself and celebrate your achievement!

“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” – who said that??

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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Beginners, Body & Mind, Featured, Pilates | 0 comments

Pilates – Mindfulness in Movement?

Pilates – Mindfulness in Movement?

“The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit”. Joseph Pilates


What is Mindfulness?

Have you ever turned on the television to watch a program and then become distracted by thoughts about your day, problems, life, etc and realised you haven’t seen or heard anything of the program you sat down to watch?

Or had a conversation with a friend but halfway through realise that you haven’t been listening and can’t remember what they said?

Or driven somewhere on ‘autopilot’?

Or ‘switching-off’ to a person, noise, etc?

Most of us have done this at one time or another and they are great examples of being ‘mindless’.  When we are mindless, we are not concentrating on the task in hand, our mind is elsewhere.

So what is mindfulness?  Mindfulness can be described as being in the present, being in the moment or just ‘being’.  It is focusing your mind on the here and now, not thinking about what to have for dinner later, or that piece of work you need to get finished.

Being mindful allows us to tune in to what it is we are doing.  It allows us to experience every moment fully.  It allows us to experience every moment using all of our senses; seeing, hearing and feeling every moment.

Pilates and Mindfulness

Pilates is a series of slow, defined exercises carried out on both the mat and resistance equipment.  The exercises should be performed correctly, taking the time to establish the technique rather than rushing through them.

Everyone who participates in a Pilates class knows just how much there is to think about; breathing, alignment, using the right muscles and relaxing the others, listening to the instructor and so on.  This can feel a little overwhelming at first but it is normal and will get easier as the body learns the new ways of doing things.  When you are thinking of all those things, you are in the moment, living it and doing it – there is no time to think of anything else!  However, by the end of your class, you will feel energised and calm.

The breathing method used in Pilates exercise encourages relaxation and has been shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety.  Using the breath will activate and energise the muscles and as you bring your attention to your body, you will be able to execute the movements precisely, with control and mindfulness.

A Mindful Pilates Exercise

  1. Sit tall, lengthening the spine.  Have the feeling of your weight dropping down your seat bones and the crown of your head lengthening upward.  Place your hands around the lower part of your ribcage towards the back.
  2. Inhale through your nose, focusing your breath to your back and the sides of your ribcage.  You will feel your hands being gently pushed out as the sides and back of your ribs expand.
  3. Exhale through your mouth ensuring there is no tightness through the jaw.  As you exhale, you will feel your back retreat away from your hands as the ribs compress.  When you exhale, ensure that you expel every drop of air from the lungs and try to keep the abdominal muscles contracted.
  4. This time, as you inhale imagine that you are taking the breath to the left side of your lower back and ribcage.  What did you feel?  You will find that the left side expands more as your focus and awareness has been taken to that area.  Repeat this on your right side.

This simple exercise shows just how much control we have over our body when we are mindful.  What else can we achieve by incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives?

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Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Beginners, Featured, Pilates | 0 comments

The Benefits of Pilates

The Benefits of Pilates

The Benefits of Pilates.   If you haven’t heard of Pilates, where have you been?!  Pilates is having its moment in the spotlight right now, with celebrities such as Madonna and Lady Gaga extolling its virtues and who can forget Pippa Middleton’s Pilates bottom?

So what makes Pilates so great and why should you do it?  

The thing that makes Pilates different from most other forms of exercise is that it is suitable for everyone.  Because all Pilates exercises can be modified, everyone is able to do them.  It is ideally suited to those who are recovering from injury or have specific health issues as it is a low impact form of exercise.  Pilates exercise will strengthen and tone the muscles, help develop core strength and improve posture.

Ten of the many benefits of Pilates include:

1.  Strengthens and tones muscles, helping to develop a strong core

Pilates uses your own body weight as resistance when working on the mat and the Pilates equipment adds resistance using springs.  The core muscles are the ones which keep us in good posture and support the back and the spine.  By developing strong core muscles, the muscles in the shoulders, neck and legs can relax more and all the muscles share the workload allowing for freer movement.

2.  Improves posture and corrects imbalances

Good posture is the result of a strong core and having good posture puts less strain on the body, joints and muscles.  Correcting any crookedness or imbalances by working the body evenly, Pilates exercise will straighten and strengthen the whole body.

3.  Often relieves or improves back pain and other aches and pains

By engaging the core muscles and teaching you breathing techniques, Pilates often relieves many aches and pains.

4.  Stabilises shoulders 

In today’s world many of us are sat for several hours at a desk.  This can lead to rounded shoulders and forward head position.  This will be addressed in Pilates and exercises will improve the position and mobility of the shoulders.

5.  Improves joint mobility

The range of joint motion will increase as the supporting muscles are gradually lengthened and strengthened.

6.  Improves balance and co-ordination

Balance and co-ordination will improve as the body gets stronger and any unevenness within the body is slowly corrected.

7.  Increases flexibility

By stretching the muscles in a controlled way, they will be strengthened and lengthened enabling you to increase the range of motion for each joint.

8.  Promotes mindfulness

Joseph Pilates said his unique exercise method is “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” In Pilates each and every movement is carried out with full focus on the movement.  Exercising in this way means you get the maximum benefit from each exercise and the Pilates principles of centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow are the key concepts used to integrate body and mind.

9.  Increases energy levels

Using the breath and exercises together, Pilates stimulates the muscles and releases endorphins, making you feel great and energised.

10.  Improves circulation 

Joseph Pilates believed that “every last atom of old air should be squeezed from the lungs” so that fresh, invigorating oxygen could flood the body by way of the circulatory system.  The breathing and exercises combine to help pump the oxygenated blood through the body and expelling the toxins.

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Posted by on Apr 13, 2013 in Pilates | 0 comments

Pilates for Horse Riders – Part 1: The Importance of Breath

Pilates for Horse Riders – Part 1: The Importance of Breath

Numerous horse riders are beginning to use Pilates as part of their goal to improve their horse riding.   Pilates and horse riding have many similar aspects and compliment each other very well.  Horse riding, and particularly the ‘classical seat’, promotes good posture, a strong core andflexibility of the spine as well as balance and mindfulness.  All of these are improved with the Pilates method.  Horse riders have the added complication of working with a living, breathing, moving animal and therefore have to ensure that they can stay in balance at all times regardless of what is going on beneath them.

Our horses feel and react to every movement we make in the saddle.  Often they will seemingly react to just our thoughts too.  Pilates trains us to recognise what our body is doing and allows us to correct any imbalances or crookedness.  It encourages us to be more mindful – concentrating on the ‘now’.  This is so important for horse riders as our horses instinctively sense when our mind has wandered!

Breathing is a fundamental part of the Pilates method.  It teaches us how to inhale fully and then rid ourselves of the stale air; using each breath cycle to fully oxygenate our blood and get our circulation moving.  In Pilates, we synchronise the breath with the exercise, inhaling as we lengthen the body – which is often the effort of the exercise – and exhaling on the release.  This matches what we do with our horses.  For example, horse riders are often taught to say ‘whoa’ to slow a horse.  Whoa is a very difficult word to say whilst inhaling, it is far more natural to say the word on an out breath.  And how many of us will make a short, sharp, ‘hup-hup’ noise to encourage a horse forward?  It is said in a more upbeat, urgent manner, one which would be difficult to say whilst exhaling.

Pilates teaches us how to make each breath more effective by breathing laterally.  In lateral breathing we breathe deeply, with the emphasis on expanding the breath into the lower back and sides of the ribcage without allowing the shoulders to lift.  This allows us to keep our abdominal muscles engaged which in turn, protects our spine and organs; acting like a corset to support our whole trunk.  This strengthens our core

When we concentrate on something, we can often be found holding our breath.  Usually this isn’t a problem in itself as our reflexes take over and we inhale.  However as horse riders we need to become more aware of our breathing as our body becomes tense and rigid when we are holding our breath.  The horse will feel this immediately and will mirror us by also tensing.  It must be very disconcerting for a horse when his rider stops breathing, as a flight animal they will instinctively prepare to flee from danger.  Little does the horse realise we are simply concentrating on that elusive perfect half pass!

“Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.” Joseph Pilates

How to Breathe Laterally

If you have a sensible horse or someone to hold your horse, you can do this exercise in the saddle:

  1. Sit tall, lengthening the spine.  Have the feeling of your weight dropping down your seat bones and the crown of your head lengthening upward.  Let your weight sink down your heels but do not force them down.  Place your hands around the lower part of your ribcage towards the back.
  2. Inhale through your nose, focusing your breath to your back and the sides of your ribcage.  You will feel your hands being gently pushed out as the sides and back of your ribs expand.
  3. Exhale through your mouth ensuring there is no tightness through the jaw.  As you exhale, you will feel your back retreat away from your hands as the ribs compress.  When you exhale, ensure that you expel every drop of air from the lungs and try to keep the abdominal muscles contracted.
  4. Continue to breathe laterally.  Think about taking your breath toward the lower back and sides of the ribs.  Your breath will move to wherever you focus it. 
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