Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pilates...It's better than ibuprofen

 Imagine waking up, you feel stiff, a body part might even ache, but you have to get to work so you pop a couple ibuprofen just to get on with your day.  Why must we rush to mask pain without trying to figure out what message the pain is intending to give us?  Maybe its part of the productivity driven culture that doesn’t allow people to take a moment and notice, or maybe its because well pain sucks, so lets MAKE IT STOP!!!

 First of all, I am not anti-pain medication.  I feel that there is a definite space and time where medication is necessary and the best course of action.  Sometimes a break from pain is a great way to jumpstart the healing process.  I only wish that it wasn’t always the first strategy that comes to mind.  Pain is our nervous system’s way of alerting us to many of the goings on in the body.   It is a method of communication from body to brain and back again.  Pain should be listened to before it’s stamped out!  Then once it's heard the best course of action can be determined from a mindful and aware place.

Imagine if rolling your feet out on a ball could relieve pain from plantar fasciitis as well as anything else, or if stretching your Psoas could relieve back pain, or if breathing with an awareness of the expansion of your ribs could help release shoulder tension and even make a headache go away.  Oh wait… these are all strategies for pain relief, and even better they require no tax on the liver.  What if movement was our first line of defense?  What if we noticed a new ache, crick, strain, stress, and we turned to movement first and foremost?  You can tell from this article that I don’t work for a pharmaceutical company…Maybe Advil wants me to stop typing right now, but I can’t I am officially on my soap box.  Movement is better than ibuprofen.  And I teach Pilates, so let’s just say it.  Pilates…It’s better than ibuprofen.    

The other day I watched my client who, for a multitude of reasons, has spent much of her life in pain.  This client has the ability to listen to her pain in ways that are quite admirable.  In fact she does more than listen to her pain.  She asks it questions; she asks her body what it needs, and then listens for an answer.  I am not speaking rhetorically, in one session I witnessed her actually cradle her ankle in her hands and say, “oh you poor thing, what do you need from me.”  Then as if nurturing a kitten she looked up at me and said, “Well I think we need to rollout our feet, and then maybe a calf stretch.”  So then I got out the ball and as we were proceeding she looked at me and said, “It’s that *&#^$ing hip flexor reeking havoc again, I just know it.”

I could quote so many conversations that I have had with this client, and the most amazing thing is that as far as I can tell she has had no anatomy training at all.  Yet, most of her insights, as steeped as they are in imagery, personification, and metaphor, are right on the mark.  The myriad of reasons for her highly accurate and refined intuition could fill a dissertation, but for today I want to focus on her refusal of pain medication as a possible reason for her body’s brilliance.   She is a problem solver, she loves to figure things out, to find solutions…She uses movement, she tries to find balance, she will not take pain medication because it takes away her power.  She becomes a victim of her pain, as opposed to a leader of her body.   It is this strength that combats her frailty and gives her the pistol of a personality that she has.  We could all learn from her movement.  Exploring movement with our body’s intellect keeps us strong and agile.  Pain is a message, and sometimes its message is so strong that our bodies need a break, but sometimes it's merely a signal that we need to go inside and say, “You poor thing, what do you need from me?”     

Katrina Hawley C.M.A.  R.S.M.E

Articles from more people that are with me on this soap box

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Take a Breath and Step Back.

Sometimes we see the world clearer from farther away.  Assessing any situation is easier when the entire picture is in view.  We spend so much time in our lives looking forward, moving forward, dealing with things in front of us.   It’s almost as if our bodies are in tunnels moving forward.  We forget to check the periphery of our space and lives.  And heaven forbid that someone should move backwards…Literally and especially figuratively.   Yet all of this forward motion leaves us without awareness of so many parts of our lives in movement.  Our breath gets stuck in our sternum, our oxygen levels decline, our necks tilt forward.  Our spines compress as a gradual shrinking fits our bodies into the tunnel of forward movement. 

This morning I came into the studio to move…But it was early, the coffee hadn’t kicked in, and my motivations for coming to the studio were related to the fact that I thought I “should” get a workout in, as opposed to any inner desire.  This means that I came to the studio and lazily moved through a couple things exploring movement with a lackadaisical, yet obstinate approach.  On the Pulley tower, I moved through some of the Arch and Curl Series but I didn’t do the whole series because I didn’t want to (That’s the obstinate side) Then I did a little leg work thinking about my bones, instead of muscles (lackadaisical)…Then I stood up and started walking around the studio…Then out of my obstinate lazy mindset came a new thought.  I started walking backwards.  It was weird, and I had read something about it way back when…and well something shifted…

I became fascinated with the air that I felt on the back of my arms.  My eyeballs started shifting all over the place trying to see behind me. (I had made a mess of the studio and there was a little tripping trepidation.)  Then I felt a connection happen…I was taller, I felt my shoulders drop, my neck lengthen and I grew…The greatest thing about it is that I didn’t have to tell myself to drop my shoulders and lengthen my neck…My body did it.  The ironic part of this exploration is that nothing new happened.  All of the information my body was giving me was already there, but the situation just allowed for an aware body memory to resurface.  My lackadaisical obstinate distracted workout led to a lengthened spine with freedom for breath in the back of the ribcage.

Now why do I think this was worth writing about?  I had a dance teacher once say, “If you feel like you are having a bad class, then you are really learning.  On the days you are having a good class you are only showing off.”  I, of course, think this is a bit harsh, but it has stuck with me.  My grumpiness this morning led to movement that I don’t do very often.  I moved backwards.  And maybe next time I’ll move sideways or up or down or forward sideways and up all at the same time!  Exploration is exactly that and progress is not necessarily manifested in forward movement, forward thinking, or forward anything at all.  So let us all take a deep breath and step back.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E

As always anything new learned or realized has a history.  I knew I had read about walking backwards before...Here are some interesting websites that I found of people that are studying the art of walking backwards.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Psoas and World Domination

 My dear friend and client often comes into the studio and says, “It’s been a tough week so my Psoas is yet again vying for world domination.”  We laugh and then she heads to the Cadillac to stretch her Psoas.  What is the Psoas? And how might it vie for world domination…Let’s think about the metaphor.  Is the Psoas a dictatorial tyrant?  Controlling?  Powerful?  Can it be manipulative?  Is it stubborn? Can it change?  Well the answer to all of these questions depends on as many factors as there are people in the world.  There are so many opinions, and so many disagreements that sometimes when I think of the Psoas I think of it laughing maniacally in the background as our bodies try to organize themselves around it.  So yes, it is possible for the Psoas to vie for world domination, but there are also ways to empower the tyrannical Psoas into benevolence and diplomacy so that it gives up on such a quest. 

Ok…The first question to answer is what the &^$& is the Psoas?  I have found some pictures to illustrate the location.

So you can see from the pictures that the Psoas originates at the Twelfth Thoracic Vertebra and has a slip that attaches to each Lumbar Vertebra and then inserts at the lesser trochanter of the inner thigh.  There is no need to know all of the fancy words to understand the Psoas, so if you want to disregard the anatomical description picture this:  Close your eyes and picture your belly now imagine your way through the layers of abdominals to the visceral cavity (organ bag) behind this is the spine and running along the sides of the spine is the Psoas.  It is a large meaty muscle that swings the leg when walking.  Also remember two dimensional anatomical pictures often make us think that the Psoas is flat or linear.  Rather try thinking of the Psoas as a column of support for the spine; it has depth and thickness.  I also sometimes think of it as a triangular sail that is blowing in the wind. The Psoas gives the image of long beautiful legs an entirely different meaning.   Picture a graceful gait where the legs are swinging easily and the ribcage is floating in an easy rotation with the spine, and then pay homage to the power of the Psoas.

Now what strategies are there to create a benevolent philanthropic yet powerful and strong Psoas? Like I’ve said before the strategies vary from person to person, modality to modality, and personality to personality.   In my experience, the Psoas craves aware breath.  It needs the kind of breath that fills the body cavity with air three-dimensionally.  It needs the kind of breath that might make someone dizzy because there is so much more air.  The Psoas also craves a complete exhale and softening. It wants the kind of exhale that triggers a sudden inhale.  The Psoas also craves strength in length.  It wants to move through its full range of motion, and it wants to perform all of its functions in a balanced way.  The Psoas wants to be nurtured…cared for…released.  The Psoas wants to be benevolent.  Really I promise it does! 

There are many teachers out there who have written about the Psoas.  Tom Myers, Irmgard Bartenieff, Nancy Topf, Liz Koch are a few of my favorites. Check out their websites, and start your Psoas journey today!   

Monday, July 4, 2011

That's so "Typical"

I find the question “Who is the typical client at your studio?” rather impossible to answer.  Sure I have written a business plan and talked about our “Target Market” but all of this talk about demographics and how to reach which demographic best belittles the fact that there is no “typical” at The Pilates Studio, and trying to create a typical client really puts all of the amazing and creative personalities that we encounter in these tiny little boxes.  This to me seems antithetical to our mission, which is to personalize a Pilates practice for every individual.    SO I will say this.  The “typical” client at the Pilates Studio has a body…that’s the truth, no floating heads at our studio…At least not yet.   

Where did this crazy demographic hungry typical idea come from?  Well, let’s consider where we hear about Pilates most…Oh yeah the celebrity media.    For instance, we always hear about the “celebrity mom of the month” that lost all of her baby weight in two weeks because she did Pilates, or the professional athlete that is having the season of his career due to his off-season Pilates practice.  Let’s not forget Pippa Middleton does Pilates and clearly it’s the only reason that she looked so stunning at the Royal Wedding.  Well don’t you worry at all because none of these clients are typical at The Pilates Studio.

Don’t get me wrong, we do have moms at the studio that are getting back into shape after childbirth, but these moms have their babies with them at the BYOBaby class or in small group sessions.  These moms aren’t really talking to us about their figure, they are talking about how heavy their beautiful child is getting, or how hard it is to lug the bucket seat into the grocery store.  We laugh at the body multitasking predicaments that a mom might find herself in.  For instance, have you ever tried to shut and lock the car door with your foot, making sure that your toddler is holding onto your leg, while carrying an infant and a bag of groceries, which contains a gallon of milk?  Usually the mom tells us a story like this and follows it with, “I am so glad that you made me do the step ups on the chair.  Otherwise I would have fallen on my…” This may not be the glamorous “celebrity mom of the month” vision of pilates, but what can I say this is our “typical” mom client.

We also have athletic clients.  We improve games and prevent over use injuries.  I’ve often talked to people about the golf swing, and I have improved the rotation and flexibility in person’s body so that the power with which he could launch the ball is so much greater, but all of that seems so serious.  I remember in this particular session we ended up throwing around the soft balls to implement the increased rotation and then after that of course we had to start aiming the balls (you know to test the accuracy of the increased rotation) and well the rest is history.  Don’t worry nothing was broken and everyone left the session intact.  But let’s be clear, we don’t just improve games outside of the studio we make games of our own within the studio.   Have you ever tried to play catch while sitting on a stability ball without letting your feet touch?  It’s a proprioceptive challenge that I would love to extend to anyone who’s interested.  Really if you’re interested this is one of my favorite games and I will be happy to play it with you.  I don’t keep score though. 

Well here it is my essay about the “typical” client.  Ok so there isn’t any such thing as a typical client at The Pilates Studio and the fact that I come in contact with such varied and creative souls everyday is something I relish and enjoy. SO there!  Take that marketing professionals!  

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A. R.S.M.E.

If you are interested in Pippa, celebrity moms, or athletes check out the links below