Friday, January 6, 2012

Pilates Frequently ASKED Questions.

On our website we have a Frequently asked Questions page.  I’ve written part of it and read the rest of it, and I feel like it covers the basics.  But for fun, I thought I might offer a challenge to some friends on facebook.  Actually it was more like begging!  My exact words were…”Ask me something about Pilates please pretty please!”  And the response to my shameless begging was fantastic!  I thank everyone who has responded for breaking the Pilates blog writer’s block.

Drum roll please!!!!
Question #1 comes from my wonderful Sister who loves to give a challenge!  She not only asks a question about pilates but puts forth a grammatical challenge as well!  I LOVE HER!  And not even sarcastically I really do like grammatical challenges.

What is the very most important thing to know about Pilates in 1 sentence?....and not a run-on sentence either.

Pilates is more than abdominal work, and a pilates class is a full body workout that balances the core with movement in the limbs.

I would explain further but my sister won’t let me! And to Renee that was a compound sentence not a run-on sentence.  In previous posts I have pontificated further about the benefits of pilates. In one post I speak about how Pilates balances the strength between muscles of core, and in another one I give some explanation of the muscles of the core.

Question #2  presents what could be an exciting adventure.  Pilates with a language barrier on a new piece of apparatus.

I'm going to my first Pilates class in German next week. I don't speak German by the way. So.... this should be either really good or really bad! I've never done a reformer class so I have no idea what I'm getting into. Any words of wisdom for the reformer?

The reformer is piece of apparatus designed by Joseph Pilates, and a reformer class creates a full body workout on this piece of equipment.  If your previous experience is with Mat Pilates and this is a reformer class then your abdominals and back muscles are well prepared.  However, your arms and legs may be a little surprised by the resistance of the springs on the reformer.  I would be sure to listen to your body.  Exercises on the reformer should not cause an ache in the low back.  If this is the feeling that occurs then check in with your breath and make sure that you are exhaling on the work and elongating your axis whenever possible.  Core strength implies simply strength, but I prefer to follow Polestar Pilates principle of axial elongation and core control.  Core strength is not as effective without axial elongation and vice versa.  When in doubt, when the instructor is speaking in german and you don’t know what he or she is saying, simply think how can I make my torso longer?  How can I lengthen the distance between the ribs and the hips?  How long is my neck?  These should make the adventure you’re about to take survivable and fun! 

Question #3 Is from my dear friend who saw right through my ploy!!!  He asked the perfect question!
Katrina, is Pilates a fun and healthy way to achieve my new year's resolution of improving my fitness?"

My answer is absolutely!  For the person who “hates to exercise” Pilates is exercise while laying down.  For the person who “wants to get in shape” after a period of less exercise, Pilates is a great way to introduce gentle movement to the body.  For the person that wants to “work really hard,” the pilates apparatus helps to increase strength in different relationships to gravity with spring resistance and proprioceptive challenges.  So how can Pilates be perfect for anyone who wants to improve his/her fitness?  Well Pilates is a system of exercise that is designed to be malleable to meet someone’s needs.  A person who has fitness goals will be able to address those goals specifically as opposed to generally.  Pilates is for everyone!  Really it is!        

Question #4 A great question.  About Pilates and parents
Is Pilates effective for a man the age of 70? (My dad has back issues)

The initial answer is Yes!!!! I want to answer this question specifically for back pain.  Pilates uses great progressions for rehabilitation of low back pain.  At first a Pilates student will work to stabilize the movement of the back while strengthening other parts of the body.  Often to take the pressure off of the back so that the inflammation can be relieved, a student will be laying supine (on the back) doing exercises that isolate the movement of the arms and legs to give the back a break.  After this step it might happen that some gentle movement is introduced to the back muscles so that these myofascial configurations can begin to learn healthy and efficient movement.  From here then a student begins to challenge himself with proprioceptive challenges that trick the new movement patterns and create neural pathways that make them happen, and finally integrating the new movement patterns into daily life.  This is a process that empowers the student to learn how to take care of the back!  YAY!  And I have to give credit where credit is due and say that I just very loosely summarized the four stages of rehabilitation by Porterfield and DeRosa, and I learned these in the Polestar Pilates Rehabilitation Program.

Beyond that, this is your dad and he may be under the impression that pilates is only for women…For the record lets remember that Joseph Pilates was a man, a boxer in fact, and then read this previous post where I talk about pilates and men.

Question #5 and Question #6 I have combined these questions because they both address the very frequently asked “What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga
What benefits does Pilates have over Yoga? And Is there an effective way to integrate Pilates and Yoga into one fitness practice?

It’s funny when I gave myself this little facebook challenge I knew I would get these questions and I always feel remiss in answering them.  To explain this I have to explain a pet peeve…Snap judgements.  These are the kind of judgements that are made when a person has a snippet of knowledge about a very broad subject and then that person postulates a comparative analysis as if an expert on both sides. This happens all of the time and it makes me CRAZY!!! Thus, when someone asks me to compare pilates to yoga, I know a little bit about yoga and a whole hell of a lot about pilates so my analysis is most certainly biased and incomplete.  So my answer/non-answer to this question is look for a practitioner that you connect with, find the kind of class that makes you feel comfortable, and personally I find that I connect with practitioners that are open to the power of modalities other than their own.  I guess it is openness rather than defensiveness.  Where the curiosity in the power of movement becomes the bigger picture rather than a schoolyard fight of whose modality is better than whose!  And really movement is movement and if it feels good great!

I also found the following link.

This link is a really great article written by someone who has practiced both pilates and yoga.  She speaks about Yoga having an eastern philosophical base and Pilates having a western philosophical base.  It seems to me that she has more of a yogic background than pilates, but she does come from the mindset that it doesn’t have to be just one.  There is no rule in this world that if you practice yoga you can’t practice pilates and if you practice pilates you can’t practice yoga, or for that matter that if you start a movement practice with a yoga asana that you can’t continue the practice with an exercise that has pilates heritage.  I only cringed at one sentence at the end of the article in which she says, “Generally speaking when it comes to Pilates and yoga, I think it's fair to say yoga is more about how it makes you feel while Pilates is about how you look.”   I take issue with this statement, and I suppose anybody that knows me can figure out why!

Question #7
How does Pilates compare with strength training?  According to this Wikipedia article, which is one definition of strength training, pilates is a kind of strength training.  Especially when you are working on the apparatus equipment.  Your body is moving against the force of spring resistance thus building strength.  However, when I am working with a person on the pilates equipment, strength training is one of many goals we might be working together to accomplish.  The new movement in strength training modalities (of which pilates is one of many) is to practice and then accomplish full body movements that involve multiple muscle groups across several moving joints.  Gone are the days of the simple bicep curl isolations.  Pilates is not alone in this movement.  There are many strength training modalities that are working on functional strength as opposed to isolated large muscle fiber contraction.   

Question #8 I love this question because it tells a story and that makes it very easy to answer!

Does it do any good to do a 15 min routine? Is it better than not doing anything? Should an out of shape, inexperienced beginner try to do something every day or less often? I usually play tennis 1-3 times a week, so am looking for something to help me with that. I am 43 and starting to feel my age with more and more aches and pains starting to creep up, as well as just feeling blah lately.

To answer the first question any movement is better than no movement.  A fifteen-minute routine is a great way to start. Furthermore if a person can only fit in one hamstring stretch a day.  That is one more hamstrings stretch than he or she was doing before.  Success comes in small manageable steps.  Secondly, a person who plays tennis 1-3 times a week is not out of shape.  Tennis is a full body sport that requires movement and lots of it.  To protect your body from the aches or pains that can be caused by a great and rigorous tennis match I would have your first baby step be a side lying series.  I have included a couple of videos below.  

Phew that was fun!!!  What if there are more questions out there?  Click here and send them in!  I'm happy to answer them.

Katrina Hawley
C.M.A. R.S.M.E
Co- owner of The Pilates Studio

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