Posts Tagged ‘ Anatomy ’

Mr. Bones wants you to do Pilates!

October 12, 2013
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I love this time of year! Cooler weather, boots, football, Halloween, Mr. Bones!

Happy Halloween! Mr. Bones is my #2 man, second only to my husband.

HumanSkeletonFront-819x1024

So, its a good time to remind you of how Pilates can keep your bones healthy and why Pilates is recommended for those with bone loss (osteoporosis or osteopenia).

Every cell in your body is living and changing–even your bones! So it’s easy to forget that working out affects not only our muscle/fat makeup, but also our bone development. Those who exercise early in life reach a higher peak bone mass before they begin to lose it. (1)

For those already losing bone density, Pilates can be a huge help, when practiced correctly. Doctors suggest weight-bearing exercise for people with osteopenia and osteoporosis. This includes any exercise that works against gravity like weight training or walking (not swimming, for example).

Pilates can help in the following ways:

  • increasing muscle strength, which supports your bones
  • improving balance to prevent you from falling
  • improving alignment/posture to keep joints working smoothly and prevent injury
  • improving all around flexibility and well-being

Pilates students with bone loss should work less with flexion and rotation exercises as this can causes compression and increase the chance of fractures. (2)

Be sure to consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program. For more in-depth information on Pilates and bone health, click the links below.

(1)http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Exercise/

(2)http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/modifying-pilates-for-clients-with-osteoporosis

Skinny Bitch, Tall Trunk

April 28, 2012
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It’s almost swimsuit season. It’s about now when we scramble to flatten our tummies and shrink our thighs before floating off to Fire Island or jumping on a cruise.

Let’s talk briefly about these crazy abs! While there are several ab muscles meant for moving your bones and changing your spinal shape (obliques and rectus abdominis), there is a whole muscle solely for the purpose of holding it all up and in. The Transverse Abdominis, plainly said, wraps from the back portion of our sides to the middle lower attachment of the ribs. It is often described as a corset.

We use this muscle subliminally in exhalation and prior to moving the rest of our body (stabilizing). But, given conscious effort, the transverse can help with more than just stabilizing the spine and pelvis.

Imagine squeezing a freshly-opened tube of toothpaste. The toothpaste has nowhere to go except out the top. The amount of contents in our abdomen does not change and therefore, when engaging our transverse and narrowing our waist, we MUST change shape, and grow taller. “Sucking in” is actually an opportunity to find space in your spine and grow an inch or two.

I challenge you to start with this deep, interesting muscle the next time your Pilates or any fitness instructor tells you to “grow taller”. I challenge you to grow taller the next time someone tells you to “engage your abs”. The two go hand in hand for most exercises with a neutral spine. Create the extra space with stability. The benefits of strengthening your Transverse Abdominus will extend beyond being a skinny Miami bitch; you will be preventing injury and creating stability and flexibility for all kinds of movement.

Pilates Basics, Part 3: Upper Body

April 20, 2012
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In observing classes during my training and teaching classes these past few months, I’ve come to realize that a Pilates class can be totally useless if your teacher does not explain basic Pilates terminology. As with any sport, hobby, or skill, there is a universal vocabulary that makes it easier for Pilates instructors and other folk to communicate.

Don’t worry, no need to take notes. A great instructor will be able to guide a beginner with excellent cueing and will continue to refine the advanced student, but I thought I would outline a few of these basics in layman’s terms for those looking to get the most out of class. See Part 1: The Spine and Part 2: The Pelvis.

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I want to take a short amount of time to discuss what happens to the head, neck and shoulders in Pilates. We are aiming for efficiency, stability and safety in all Pilates exercises, so the alignment of the upper body is often different than in other practices, such as yoga.

SCAPULA: Also known as the shoulder blades, these are the flat bones that sit like wings on either side of the upper spine.

  • It is important to slide the scapula down the back and keep the shoulders away from the ears during nearly every exercise.
  • When in plank or on all fours, the scapula should lie fairly flat on the back, without “winging” or poking out.

CERVICAL SPINE: This section of the spine (top 7 vertebrae) can be very delicate in certain positions, so it’s important to think of the cervical spine as a continuation of the thoracic (mid-spine) motion. It’s also helpful

  • In neutral, the ears should fall above the shoulders and you should imagine space between each cervical vertebra.
  • In extension, the cervical spine should extend inline with the amount of thoracic extension. Try not to throw your head way back!
  • When flexing the spine, gently nod your chin but do not crunch it to your chest to ensure that no strain is put on the cervical spine.
  • In inversion (roll over, etc) be careful not to put weight on the cervical spine alone; balance your weight between the scapula instead. Be sure to remove any pillows that were under the head to elevate it during other exercises.

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These are some VERY basic terms and alignment ideas. Pilates is about detailed, efficient movement and knowing these basics will help you better communicate with your teacher to get the best workout possible. I will try to come “back to the basics” as I find out what my students struggle with most.

Pilates Basics, Part 2: The Pelvis

March 24, 2012
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In observing classes during my training and teaching classes these past few months, I’ve come to realize that a Pilates class can be totally useless if your teacher does not explain basic Pilates terminology. As with any sport, hobby, or skill, there is a universal vocabulary that makes it easier for Pilates instructors and other folk to communicate.

Don’t worry, no need to take notes. A great instructor will be able to guide a beginner with excellent cueing and will continue to refine the advanced student, but I thought I would outline a few of these basics in layman’s terms for those looking to get the most out of class. See Part 1: The Spine.

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It’s time to discuss the pelvis. Meant for more than birthing babies and rock and roll gyrations, this structure is a complex, important aspect of Pilates and any kind of movement.

I will be honest when I say, I am not an expert on the pelvis or pelvic floor (yet). But, training the pelvic floor has the power to hugely affect function in our breathing, balance, back, legs, posture and organs. I hope to write more about this later, but let’s stick to basics!

For the beginning Pilates student (and teacher), the position of the pelvis is important because it affects the shape of the spine. Here are some basic terms that may clear up your Pilates practice.

PARTS OF THE PELVIS (in a nutshell):

  • Sits Bones- Exactly what they sound like; the two bones you feel coming into contact with the floor when you sit up tall
  • Pubic Bone- Frontal, lower bone of the pelvis that makes up one of three frontal points with the ASIS (see below).
  • ASIS- Two front hip bones.
  • Sacrum- 5 fused vertebrae at the bottom of the lumbar spine, connected to the back of the pelvis.
  • Coccyx/Tailbone- 4 fused vertebrae below the sacrum.

NEUTRAL: Your front hip bones are on the same plane as the pubic bone. Lying on your back, this plane is parallel to the floor. Sitting or standing up, this plane is parallel to the wall. Your lumbar spine is in a neutral position, which is curved.

SUPPORTED: You may have also heard this called “tucked” and definitions vary among instructors. In short, you will use your abs to slightly lengthen the lower back and tilt the pubic bone more forward than it was. Your lumbar spine is slightly flexed. (Get dirty. Think of a pelvic thrust.)

 

Pilates Basics, Part 1: The Spine

March 13, 2012
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In observing classes during my training and teaching classes these past few months, I’ve come to realize that a Pilates class can be totally useless if your teacher does not explain basic Pilates terminology. As with any sport, hobby, or skill, there is a universal vocabulary that makes it easier for Pilates instructors and other folk to communicate.

Don’t worry, no need to take notes. A great instructor will be able to guide a beginner with excellent cueing and will continue to refine the advanced student, but I thought I would outline a few of these basics in layman’s terms for those looking to get the most out of class.

Let’s start with the spine, which is a central point of focus in Pilates. Joe Pilates said:

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

PARTS OF THE SPINE:

  • Cervical-Neck area, upper seven vertebrae
  • Thoracic-Middle, next twelve vertebrae
  • Lumbar- Lower, bottom five vertebrae

SPINAL FLEXION: Similar to a cat stretch; the head and tail are curling to the front of the body, engaging the abs (in any position).

SPINAL EXTENSION: Similar to a cow stretch; head and tail are reaching up and back from the body, engaging the back muscles (in any position).

SPINAL ROTATION: Wringing out the waist and rotating the torso to one side while maintaining a stable, still pelvis.

Next Up, Part 2: The Pelvis.

 

Don’t forget: We will have a Pre-Patty’s Pilates for Performers on March 17th at 11am at Ripley Grier. E-mail stephaniedjoiner@gmail.com to RSVP, or like heels together, toes apart Pilates on Facebook.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

December 29, 2011
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In my last blog, I outlined the two main tasks I have before being able to pass my test and get my Pilates certification. The most difficult task is learning anatomy. We are complicated! Having never studied (detailed) anatomy (unlike the physical therapists in my class), it’s been a huge challenge to navigate muscles, bones, joints and actions. While I am still solidifying how I will memorize this material, here are some tips I have found helpful for committing human anatomy to your memory.
  1. Learn the actions. If you will be teaching Pilates, or movement of any kind, focus on joint actions first. Rather than trying to memorize origin, insertion and action for each individual muscle, group the muscles by joint action. For example, shoulder abduction (raising your arm out to the side) involves the supraspinatus and deltoid; hip flexion involves (mainly) iliopsoas, and rec fem. This gives you a great start and you will learn how muscles move the body, which is our most fundamental need as teachers.
  2. Make it a part of your life. When I first started studying Pilates, I did a few hours of work-study each week in studio maintenance to help pay for the classes. It was…boring, mindless. While mopping, I would think “I’m using my anterior deltoid and pec major  mopping forward and my lats then anterior deltoid bringing the arm down and back.” It ‘s nerdy, but it’s helpful. Think about what’s going on as you climb up five flights of stairs to your apartment. If you have a hard workout and are sore, figure out exactly what muscle is sore and what movement made it that way. Living and breathing this stuff is the only way to make it second nature.
  3. Touch yourself. What kind of a learner are you? If you are  a doer, find these muscles on yourself (or a touchy-feely friend). Visual learners can gather pictures and watch Youtube videos. Some people find that drawing pictures helps them (mine came out looking like wild hair and/or grass, but I tried).
  4. Use your resources. Don’t rely on one book to teach you everything that happens in the body. Go to the library, get online, watch videos. There are a ton of resources (even free ones) that may connect the dots for you.

How did you learn anatomy? I’m still open for suggestions…My grasp on the shoulder is still questionable at best, despite all these efforts. But slowly, I’m learning how the body moves and it gives me power!

The First Day of Pilates School

November 1, 2011
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I spent 30 minutes picking out my outfit for the first day of Pilates teacher training. I had an idea about what kind of teacher I was going to be and how “she” looked. The varying assembly of distinctive characters gathered that day humbled and surprised me. Everyone came from different backgrounds and had incredible reasons for wanting to study Pilates.

I was most affected by the fact that there were so many physical therapists there. Why? Those are basically doctors, right?

It was immediately overwhelming to realize the kind of learning we’d be doing. This is not your grandmama’s aerobics program. This is your body and how it should be moving. Weekly, daily, hourly. Walking, sitting, standing, sleeping. This is bones, muscles, biomechanics, joints, organs and every other fiber that makes us living. This is science.

Ready or not, here I go!

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