Posts Tagged ‘ starting out ’

Working on Your Shins–First Reader Question!

January 27, 2014
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A reader of mine posted this question to Facebook a few days ago. (He’s also my husband, y’all, and I did NOT put him up to this, surprisingly. What a cutie!)

Hello Mrs. Prime,

I have a question. I couldn’t think of anyone else better to ask, so it’s up to you to help me out here! I saw your post/picture on ‘optimal seated posture.’ Well, to be honest, I’m tired of sitting. I don’t have a fancy standing-optional desk. Is there any benefit to kneeling while working at my desk as a break from sitting? It feels pretty good to stretch out my hip flexors (…if that’s a thing). Thanks in advance!

-A fan

Here is the picture I posted about optimal computer posture for anyone who missed it:

Computer_Posture

Dear a fan,

Nice thinking! Theoretically, giving the muscles a break from the position they are in for an extended time is a great idea! Realistically, it may not be beneficial to stay and work in this position.

Kneeling can feel like a nice break from sitting, but most people’s bodies won’t allow them to stay in proper kneeling position for too long, especially when they are focused on something else.

1. For people with tight hip flexors, keeping no crease in the hips for a long time can require a lot of glute action and become very tiring if you haven’t built strength there.

2. If the hips do crease, chances are the front hip bones will fall forward and the tail will reach backwards and up (called an anterior tilt). If the pelvis stays this way, you can get tight in the lower back. (See picture below; the one on the right is anteriorly tilted).

ANTERIOR-PELVIC-TILT

3. Depending on the height of your desk, you will probably have to raise the arms very high in order to type while on your knees. This will likely cause stress in the upper traps and other neck muscles.

What to do?! MOVE. I suggest to my clients that they stretch for even just three minutes every hour they spend at their computer. Some simple options:

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Mermaid

Pec Stretch

Cat/Cow

Keep the questions coming!

Best,

Stephanie

Good Morning, Starshine!

March 1, 2013
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After teaching 7am classes twice a week for the last 6 months, I must weigh in on what it’s like to unite mind and body in a morning practice. The Yoga Room is offering a special 7am challenge, so now is the perfect time to start.

Before we get to the good stuff, you should know that science says you’ll have less of an appetite, more energy, more mental acuity, sleep better and be consistent in your practice by carving out exercise time in the morning*.

But, what I’ve noticed is that the morning is full of possibilities! You have a blank canvas to paint on. A nighttime yoga or Pilates practice carries the baggage of the day with it and much of the class will be spent undoing the tension from that day. In the a.m., you have a brand new, and hopefully rested, body to utilize which will take your practice even further.

In the end, when everyone else is gone, you are stuck with YOU (and your body). Spend time with YOU at the very start of your day. Why not give gratitude, challenge your body, and create space before you press on and work to please everyone else? To live your whole day in a body that’s connected to your mind, breath, and spirit is a wonderful thing. It brings about a mindfulness that changes the way you think, move, connect with others, and make decisions.

For tips on how to become an early riser, check out Leo Babauta’s article in one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits.

Details on the 7am challenge and TYR Rewards are here. See you bright and early!

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*http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/lose-weight-with-morning-exercise
*http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/new-study-suggests-morning-workouts-key-cutting-hunger-cravings-article-1.1158645

Commitment, Clarity, Excitement

June 8, 2012
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Teachers might learn a lot from the acting world. The one thing I’ve found to be imperative in both my acting projects and teaching Pilates: Commitment.

I’ve been working really hard (I’m a workaholic)–reading, practicing, teaching, watching others practice, observing and taking class at all kinds of studios. Guess what: I still don’t know everything that’s out there to know in terms of Pilates.

1. The body is complicated.

2. New research on the subject is infinite and always changing.

3. There are so many different opinions and styles of the method.

Still, I know a lot more than the average person does about Pilates. And yet, my classes still seem to be hit or miss.

I recently taught a class of 28 people and was forced to speak loudly, move quickly and take over the room. I said cues like they were FACT and not only  suggestion. Even adding drama on the last few reps seemed to engage people more fully. That same day I taught a class of 6 people that felt messy, clouded and, quite frankly, boring.

I’m learning that I don’t have to have ALL of the answers to be a good teacher. It’s my job firstly, to be safe, and secondly, to tell my students everything I do know so that they can get the best workout possible. Commit to what you do know and joyfully seek out answers for the rest. Speak like you have a class of 50–not 10, be present so you can be clear with your words, get excited and rock these people’s bodies. Commitment and excitement are key in creating solid classes. I can only go up from here!

 

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.

A Lifelong Study

January 28, 2012
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My test is in 3 days. I’ve been studying my glutes off!

My biggest lesson is that the learning NEVER stops. I have a study buddy who I meet with once a week to prepare for the test and discuss Pilates. We come up with tons of questions. When I ask the teachers of our course, they have great answers, but sometimes respond with, “You don’t need to know that for the test.” One said, “Most people don’t even come up with these kind of questions before the test.”

It’s appalling, but it’s true. There’s SO MUCH information, they couldn’t possibly cram it all into one little test. I’m learning selective material–stuff to get the ball rolling–but the learning will not stop when I pass a silly test. It’s like TAAS, TAKS, SATs, Regents…they can’t possibly measure and test students on everything.

Pilates will be a lifelong study, like almost everything in my life. The good news is that it so directly pertains to my life as an artist. I’m looking forward to being an eternal student of the human body as a means of creating and communicating stories.

Wish me luck!

 

The Soles of Your Hands

January 15, 2012
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It’s been a few years since I confused the soles of my feet with the palms of my hands. It’s been even longer since I got my right side and my left side confused. But, alas, in the past few months, there have been times I can’t get these simple things straight.

My greatest challenge when practice teaching Pilates is cueing coordination. There are SO many details. “Sit with your knees bent” seems like the simplest instruction, but there are at least five different ways you can do it. And after you figure out the outline of the position, it’s time to focus on the shape of the spine, the pelvis, the neck, the shoulders, the toes and hands.

One time I stuttered to someone to “put the soles of the feet on the mat” when they were on their stomach. Ouch!

My only remedy so far for this issue is a three step process: RECITE, ASSESS, CORRECT/CHALLENGE.

The first thing I had to do when I started teaching was memorize the coordination cues like a script and repeat them over and over. It’s great to think through the exercise and try to casually cue it as it happens in your head, but there’s likely to be a delay, folks. How often do you tell someone a descriptive, complicated story without pausing at some point to process the words you want to use?

So, first I RECITE the (memorized) basics of the exercise.

This gives me time to ASSESS the situation during the first 1-2 reps. Are the shoulders crawling up? Is he/she really rotating the whole upper body, not just the arms? By memorizing the first few lines of each exercise, hopefully you give your brain time to scan the body for any problems.

Lastly, you have (somewhat memorized) CORRECTION and CHALLENGE cues. Once you know how to make the exercise more correct or harder, it’s simple enough to pull from a vast list of imagery or muscular engagement cues. Of course it doesn’t end there. This “step” has to be repeated as the reps add up, hopefully continually changing the way the person does the exercise.

It’s similar to performing. There’s a prepared aspect and an improvised aspect. With 80+ exercises (not including all modifications) that I’ll be tested on for my certification, the preparation is hugely time-consuming, but the improvisation is the most rewarding part. There’s nothing like finding a cue that works well for someone and really making a change in their bodies. That’s why I do what I do!

Make A Joyful Noise (and breathe)!

November 30, 2011
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If the weather ever gets cooler (and stays that way), one of my favorite things is to step outside and inhale a breath of invigorating, sharp air. That breath of fresh air can’t happen without the exhalation before–which is a passive action in our daily lives.

In exercise and in Pilates, an active exhalation is vital to getting the most out of an exercise. Typically, the exhalation is on the most active part of the exercise, also known as the the “work.” This is meant to help you!

When you voluntarily force air out of your body, certain abdominal and thoracic muscles have to contract to bring the abdominal wall in and the ribs down. We tend to lose our rib cage and abdominal connection when we get tired, so exhaling is a simple way to keep those things engaged and get your mind off of whatever else might be burning! Also, exhaling expels all the bad stuff (tension, impurities, recycled and unusable air) and creates the room to inhale again and give your muscles the fresh oxygen they need.

So, my advice to you is to USE that exhale. Make it noisy! Try to blow out a candle in the middle of your exercise, sigh a Pilates sigh, practice your Pranayama, give a gentle or great giant grunt…Whatever breathing method you choose, don’t underestimate the power of exhalation.

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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