“One who uses intelligence with respect to their diet, sleeping habits, and who exercises properly, is beyond any question of doubt taking the very best preventative Medicines provided so freely & abundantly by Nature.”~Joseph Hubertus Pilates.
Hello my fellow Wellness Warriors!
On your holistic wellness journey you may have heard reports about Pilates. There are so many types of exercise available, so why so much Hype about pilates? Is it really all that good? And, it’s exercise, I mean ugh!!! Put me in rehearsals, ask me to dance and ill dance my socks off for you….put me in a gym and i will recoil in shock and horror! Tell me run down the road, I shall amble along slowly and awkwardly. Sports? Nah. They involve running also, and spectators, no thank you. (But you dance…on stage…that has Spectators?) Yeah well, that’s different, there’s the fourth wall & all that, I’m protected from the spectators,ok?!?
I digress! Back to point. Pilates. What is soooo great about pilates? Isn’t it just another name for yoga? Yoga is all bendy and contorty, I am not made of elastic, Boo to pilates! Have any of you had these thoughts? Well I did, Until I tried it. Let me tell you about my experience of pilates and then you decide.
When I was 17yrs old I threw my back out while dancing. I immediately felt a horrendous pulling, stabbing, tight pain where my bottom rib joined the spine. I intuitively did what is known as a crab in Gymnastics, where you lie on your back, and lift your body up like a crab with your hands behind your head. This alleviated the immediate pain somewhat, although not completely. As the evening went on, my left side ribs began to hurt intensely. I thought it was the worst pulled muscle in the world, put a hot water bottle on and some anti inflammatory gel, and went to sleep. Morning came, and I was in much more pain, so it was time to visit a professional! My gp, who is a darling of a man and still my gp now (although I only see him once every couple of yrs now), checked me over, feeling my spine and rib where the pain was radiating out from. He said he could feel that the area of the spine that hurt had a disc that was not completely stationary. Apparently I had knocked this disc out of line, then knocked it back into place with the crab position. He explained that the rib was sore because all these bones are connected,and the spine was pulling on the rib while “settling back into place”. He said to take it easy for a few days while the injury settled so as not to knock it out of line again, and to take strong painkillers for the interim. Being 17 I did exactly what I was told. I was also told that now the back had been injured it would be much easier for the same injury to occur again. There was no mention of any form of exercise or physiotherapy to maintain the injury, so I assumed that was the norm, there was nothing you could really do about Backs!
I continued on with my Life, in college studying preforming arts. We had warm ups for every class and had energetic dance classes a few times a week, so my body and muscular structures were well maintained. I was able to live with the occasional pain, but I was not at all mindful, and did not notice that times of back pain came from undertaking tasks or moves without Proper warm up,or from inactivity.
After college, I worked in retail. Many hours spent sitting or standing in one position wrecked havoc on my spine. I had dislocated my kneecap at 14yr old also, for which I DID have physio for a period of time, but this did not help my back injury, as there was already damage creating pull on my muscles, and this upper spine injury just made it unbearable to endure the standing and sitting in awful check out chairs! Although I had to, it was work after all.
This is where the pilates comes in, my saving grace! At 21yrs old I fell pregnant with my first child, my daughter. This pregnancy was agonizing. I suffered with hyperemisis (Uber morning sickness, constant nausea,wretching & vomiting) from start to finish, which was exhausting & torturous. At 5″ 1′ and 8stone, my growing baby bump put serious pressure on my spine, as it does for a lot of mothers, but with the underlying injury this was all the more painful. My spine, my hips, my pelvis, my ribs, my everything felt less than secure, under pressure, Painful. Not fun. So when I fell pregnant at age 22 with my second child, my son, when my daughter was 4mths old (I Know, I Know!!!) I just could not fathom how I was going to cope. I had the hyperemisis , which was much more manageable this time, but was dreading the impeding back pain as I would inevitably grow with child. Cue my friend Johnny!!!
My friend Johnny had also suffered terribly from back Issues. He had trained as a pilates teacher and showed me a few stretches I could do that would help. Finding these did actually help me somewhat, I decided to take one of Johnny’s classes. He teaches in my town, check him & the Other trainers out here http://www.pilatesforlifestudio.com/
I could not believe the immediate difference. I took a class, walked home looking in the shop windows as I walked. “Hey, its not hurting to turn your neck ” I thought to myself. “My neck used to hurt!? No…although now you say it yes, there is an absence of discomfort, who knew!” Basically, my spine, with the added old Knee injury and the first pregnancy, had started to misalign my cervical spine (neck) and I was in so much discomfort already that I didn’t even realise until it wasn’t there anymore! How we manage to live with these issues so blindly is amazing. It was with my first pregnancy that I became mindful about food, and now my second pregnancy was teaching me even more about my body!
I continued classes with Johnny throughout my second pregnancy, and afterwards, much to my benefit. With the performance background I pick up and retain movement easily, so I moved through the exercises well and confidently, eventually being able to perform the exercises at home. That is one of the winning points of pilates for me, the main aim is the get the student to a level of ” unconscious competence”, like learning to drive your car, once you know how all the movements are second Nature, you know what to do, but still requires concentration to make sure you are moving the correct pedal at the correct time! This means you can do your pilates at home by yourself.
Having found such wondrous benefits in pilates in the following years, I decided to take a course and qualify as a trainer myself this year at 29yrs old. It was daunting to enter the realm of study again, but I loved this form of exercise and yearned to know more. I am so glad I did. Doing so has given me an insight into the creator of pilates, and my god was he my Kind of man!! Joseph Pilates was a holistic advocate, stating ~~”With body, mind & spirit functioning perfectly as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected ovher than an active, alert, disciplined person.”~~ That’s a holistic sentiment right there. He also said ~~”First you purposefully acquire complete control of your body and then, through proper repetition of contrology exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities”, I mean come on, super holistic!!! This guy was born in the late 1800s, what amazingly enlightened, forward thinking in that era.
I have gone down the garden path again, I am hugely enamoured with Mr Pilates, my apologies! You notice in this quote he says “Contrology”, this was his name for pilates.
So why pilates instead of yoga, or cardio, or other types of exercise? Quite simply, pilates is an exercise that is accessible to everyone, men & women, young or old, fit or unfit, pregnant, or infirm. It is a full body system, conditioning both body and mind to maximise the precision of muscle control, strength & flexibility in a balanced sequence. It strives for quality of movement rather than quantity, creating body awareness, stamina and coordination. Some of the contrology exercises can be performed with the use of mechanisms, which Joseph Pilates devised originally while in an internment camp, to assure that everyone in his cell block could exercise daily, even the bed ridden. what a guy! He believed that nature has simple laws of life, in terms of coordinated mental & physical health, and by respecting these laws we can possibly prevent things such as early death through heart disease, cancer, and other ailments caused from unhealthy living. His certainty of this was so strong and this was why he compiled this exercise regime that works on strengthening and supporting every single muscle & joint in the body, while also being able to be performed by all! So that is why I choose Pilates above all over exercise, it is non strenuous, made specifically not to cause more damage, easy to execute, promoting spinal health which encourages top quality blood flow, proper positioning of the internal organs, therefore promoting proper function, what more could you want?
Pilates himself also believed it is vital to nurture balance from birth, which many of us did not have, and need to rebalance. But for those of us with children can break that cycle! We can nurture balance in our children. Joseph Pilates believed that these factors create imbalance in infants and children:
1. Being fed artificial milk instead of nursing.
2. Being fed Processed foods instead of whole foods.
3. Being overdressed when not cold.
4. Being forced to eat when not hungry.
5. Being sent to bed when not tired.
6. Being made to sit still when wanting to be active.
7. Being made to be active when wanting to be still.
8. Encouraged to stand & walk too early, unable to sufficiently support their own weight.
9. Made to study when disinterested.
10. Being misinformed deliberately to avoid the truth(parents tend to do this with “uncomfortable” subjects.)
11. Led to believe success is measured by acquisition of wealth.
12. Vaccinated with ‘poison’ to maintain health.
Now, you may or may not agree with all of these sentiments, but honestly everything this man says rings true with me. Children have a natural sense of balance. We adults also have this natural sense of balance, but unfortunately our societal way of life does not always allow for this, or so we believe.
We as adults can try to follow our own natural balance by bringing healthy food with us when we leave home so we can snack when hunger arrives, rather than waiting til meal time. You will find your eating habits are not disrupted, And your weight and mood will balance out! And by allocating several moments throughout the day that you take literally 2-5mins to stop, breath, stand strong, and observe the moment. This alleviates stress unbelievably!
As parents, we can try to be child led as much as possible, rather than trying to fit the child into our busy schedule. If you are a stay at home parent, try not to worry about chores or mess. Enjoy your child while they are young, these moments are fleeting. Nurse on demand, comfort the upset, celebrate joy, play, create art and create a mess! Working parents should try to do the same in the evening. The chores can wait! If you follow your child, you will yes have moments of Head Melt, because children are full of energy, but honestly if your full attention is with the child your day becomes much easier. They are satisfied and fulfilled. You would think this leaves no time for you, but a content child is a confident child and a confident child is an independent child, so by the time they can walk they will happily entertain themselves for periods of time with their own imaginative play with siblings/toys/art supplies etc, thus leaving you a few moments to wash the dishes , or shower, or study your course, or read your book, or cook the meal, or search the web!
Pilates has taught me to do what is comfortable in the moment. If my Back/Neck/hips hurt I stretch it out. If the chores seem like a mountainous task I do something that seems easier until a moment arrives that the original task seems manageable! It works. By going with the flow you become less stressed and everything feels easier to approach.
Within the parameters of holistic, emotion must be tended to. If stress/sadness/anger/worry occurs,this is natural. When an emotion arises for you or your child, question it, look at it, where is it originating,how can it be Changed, instead of being overcome by the emotion. And if you or your child do become overwhelmed with it, allow yourselves to have these observations afterwards. All these things are inspired by my knowledge of Pilates regime, and I am eternally grateful to the man himself for creating it. I will not share any exercises in this article as I feel it is vital to learn with a trainer present, to assure correct posturing and prevent damage due to getting it wrong on your own in your sitting room in front of the laptop!!
In short, in my opinion YES, PILATES WORKS! Pilates’ “contrology” has been a huge addition to my entire life, and I really would encourage you to find a Pilates trainer in your area, and try it out. ❤
TIl next Time,