Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stomping Out Foot Pain with Pilates classes

Foot cramps, heel pain, ankle pain, toe cramps…Our poor feet, they are our connection to the earth, yet we immobilize them in shoes that often misalign our bodies.  There are so many joints in our feet that help our bodies find balance, strength, and of course relaxation.  No wonder they complain when we stuff them in shoes and run five miles, or when we sit at a desk all day in heels and then go to the gym for a half an hour of glute and abdominal work. The feet are the great neglected body part. Yet the minute they cause any pain we get angry with them…What if we thought about exercising our feet as much as we think about bicep curls? What if a person added foot pliability and strength exercises to his gym workout?  Would his movement become more efficient?  Would his knee, hip, and back pain decrease?   Well it wouldn’t hurt to try right?  In this blog post, I am going to talk about several ways to relieve foot pain, and if you want to experiment and add a foot pliability workout into your life we’ve even created a video to follow below.

The size of the body parts are related to the amount of nerve endings.  Check out the feet
First let’s find some imagery for the anatomy of the foot.  I have found when working with the foot a person can get lost in the anatomical language and never see the beauty of foot movement.  Thus when I am thinking about my own feet and when I work with a client’s foot movement, I find myself lost in a sea of metaphorical imagery.  I like to think that when in my mind’s eye I see my feet as jelly fish (or any other image that pops into my mind that day) moving through the sea that I might just be connecting my right and left brain to the earth!

Images for the foot and the ankle –
In his book Dynamic Alignment through Imagery, Eric Franklin outlines many ways to use imagery to improve posture, alignment, and movement efficiency.  He states, “Put simply, your mind is a large screen filled with the images you have absorbed throughout the day.  It is instructed by these images and the thoughts that accompany them.  The problem is that most of your 50,000 or so thoughts, flashing images, notions, and so on, are similar to those of the previous day.  As the images and thoughts repeat, they slowly but steadily effect a change in the direction the images suggest.”  Thus if we think of our foot as a block, or encased in wooden shoes, what kind of feet are we creating, and how might we feel about these feet at the end of the day?  In the paragraphs below I have outlined some of the images I like to think about when working the feet…I encourage you to do the same.  It’s a fun exercise that can bring our mind’s eye to this very important yet little thought of body part. 

Today when I thought of the feet, I thought of the following:
The bones of the foot remind me of a Goshen stone porch or wall that is created by fitting oddly shaped stones together.  When a skilled craftsman creates these walls there is stability in the way the stones fit together.  The bones of the feet fit together in much the same way.  When a person walks the heel strikes and then rolls through the foot and the bones of the foot can then give structure and strength to the gait.  

I see each of the three arches of the feet differently.  When I think of the lateral arch or the outside of the foot, I think of a stone bridge in which the shape of the bones create the arc in the bridge.  When I think of the medial arch, I think of many bones suspended by rubber bands, and when I think of the transverse arch, (underneath the knuckles of the toes) I think of a rippling stream running over many rocks. 

These arches work together to make the whole foot like a spring that gives the body buoyancy, and at the same time these arches make the foot pliable so that it can connect us to the ground and increase our awareness of the world around us.
When I think of the musculature around the bones of the foot and ankle I have two different images that work together in my mind.  Sometimes I think of the foot as a marionette.  A lot of the muscles and tendons that affect the foot are actually found in the lower leg and they move the foot from above.  These are the myofascial connections that give the foot its buoyancy.  However, there is also the pliable, movable quality of the foot that make it adaptable like silly putty yet alert like millions of tiny night vision goggles…(thinking of images for the body can get a little silly!)

So what are your favorite images for the foot?  Are they positive?
I wonder if everyone who reads this post could humor me and try the following:
First: Give yourself a foot massage and think of some images.  Ask yourself what your feet feel like.  Ask yourself what you want them to feel like.  What pictures come to mind?
Next:  Now try the exercises in the following video.  The video only shows one foot but of course watch it twice so that you can work both feet. 

Finally: walk around, how do the bottoms of your feet feel?  What’s different?  Now notice your neck and low back and hips.  How do they feel?  

Now let me know.  Did this feel useful?  What would think of a foot care class at the studio?  Feel free to leave a comment or email the studio by clicking here.

Katrina Hawley
Co-owner of The Pilates Studio

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More than just Pilates Classes: Mediterranean Cooking

On February 28, at 7pm, The Pilates Studio is excited to host Bill Bradley for our latest mat chat, where he will be conducting his workshop entitled, Eating Mediterranean in New England
On his website Bill Bradley says the following, “Most people wouldn't think to compare the sunny Mediterranean with the rugged extremes of New England, yet they share many similarities. In this workshop participants will discuss how to eat the "healthiest diet in the world" utilizing local New England resources. Bill will teach easy ways to dramatically improve our health both at home and while eating out. A cooking demonstration and taste test are included.
The Community of Food
Last Summer I had brought some cut vegetables and hummus for lunch, which I always eat during Laurie’s noon mat class.  At the end of the class I went to help Laurie move the equipment back to its place, and when I got back to the desk the participants in Laurie’s noon mat class were circled around my veggies eating them while chatting away…While this did mean that I was going to have to find something else to eat, there was something beautiful and very telling in this happening.  I stood back and watched as people were conversing and smiling, even laughing.  They each had the healthy glow from the movement they had just accomplished, but they also were practicing other parts of a healthy lifestyle.  They were creating community and care for one another while eating vegetables, my vegetables, but vegetables all the same. 

The Pilates Studio is committed to the idea that a healthy life is not just about exercise, and we want to support a multifaceted and diverse approach to wellness.  We are happy to be a host to Bill Bradley’s expertise and to provide a place for learning new ideas that will make the communities of the Pioneer Valley strong.  The communities in this valley are so rich with information and I hope you join us as we try to soak some of it in!

A little more about Bill Bradley:
Bill Bradley is a Registered Dietitian, Fitness Instructor, lecturer and writer. He has led over 1,200 workshops including many on the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine and lifestyle.
Recently, Bill went to the island of Crete to research the traditional cooking techniques of the healthiest people in the world. He currently completed his second cookbook: Foods of Crete: Traditional Recipes from the Healthiest People in the World. His first book: Things to do With Black Bean Stew is in its third printing.
Bill's most recent series of newspaper articles were entitled “In Search of the Cretan Diet” and were published in The Cretan Journal, Crete's largest English language newspaper.

Now here’s the fun part: If you have any specific questions about Mediterranean cooking please let us know!  You can email them to us on our website, and then we can have them on hand at the demonstration.  

AND See you Tuesday!
Katrina Hawley

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Instructors at The Pilates Studio Part V: Laurie Johnson

How could I have a profile of all of the wonderful instructors at The Pilates Studio without writing about my amazing business partner Laurie Johnson!  Laurie and I are entering into our first full year of owning The Pilates Studio, but we have worked at this studio on route nine in Hadley for the past 11 years.  Our friendship and working relationship has developed over time, and if I spent the rest of the day typing as fast as I could, I could not list all of the fabulous things that make Laurie Johnson the excellent business woman that she is, but I thought I would give a few highlights! 

First, Laurie’s daring wit!  Laurie can make anybody smile, and she can make anyone laugh.  When someone walks into the door at The Pilates Studio, Laurie is ready for them and the greeting always invokes a genuine smile.  Whether she makes a joke, asks how someone is doing, or sometimes even the way she says the client’s name, the person who comes in the door knows that he or she is special to us.  

Now this wit is not just restricted to greetings at the front desk.  If you have ever had the opportunity to take Laurie’s, Monday, Wednesday, or Friday mat class, then you have been part of a community event.  A community facilitated by an excellent teacher that makes every person feel welcome.  Laurie can get a shy person talking, and she can quiet a gregarious person down for the perfect balance between the social aspect of a pilates class along with the goal of improving strength and flexibility along with movement efficiency.

The strategies that Laurie has to create this magic every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are varied, often spontaneous and creative.  I have once walked up the stairs at the tail end of one of her classes and the entire class was doing beautifully well-executed planks while singing ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm.’  Laurie in all of her humor looked at me and shrugged as if thinking, “I thought we’d just go in this direction today.”  On another day when I’m listening to the banter of this class and all of a sudden, an entire Pilates Sitcom/reality show was conceived and practically pitched.  I remember feeling sad that there were no television executives in the class.  Laurie would have been famous!

Laurie’s business acuity is also something that makes The Pilates Studio what it is.  Have you enjoyed the Ask Allison column?  Has Laurie convinced you to try the wet socks trick?  Do you enjoy the monthly newsletters?  How about the Naturopathic Tea that is available?   Have you seen the fabulous layout of our ebooks? These are a mere sample of all of the ideas Laurie has implemented to make the environment at the studio more lively and welcoming.  She spends her days finding ways to make it better and better, and I couldn’t be happier to share this business with her.  Have you seen how gorgeous the bathroom is?  Laurie has an eye for design. Whether it is the layout of the studio, or the design of systems within the studio's bookkeeping Laurie creatively works to make everything better!  Over the holidays a Poinsettia was delivered to us.  It was a beautiful plant and some clients and I were discussing where to display it...Then I stopped the conversation with, "All of these ideas are great, but when Laurie gets here she is going to think of the perfect place and it will be a place that none of us have thought of."  

The Pilates Studio is strengthening the community one core at a time and a large part of a that community strength is due to Laurie meeting people where they are and making them feel welcome in the space.  How lucky I am to have a business partner that makes the studio such a wonderful place to work!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Instructors at The Pilates Studio: Part IV Jennifer Sussman

What fun it has been to spend that last week or two writing about what is so special about the teachers at The Pilates Studio.  It has given me the time to reflect on why I love to come to work, and the fabulous people that I am fortunate enough to see everyday.  I’ve been able to remember the stories that I get to hear and everything else that is wonderful about the people that work at The Pilates Studio.  Writing about Jenni Sussman has been no different!

I have known Jenni for just under a year and a half…and I have become amazed by her gentle nature, with an underlying killer sense of humor.  Jenni understands every joke and can see the humor in any situation.  Jenni is an Artist and as an artist she is an observer of the world.  She sees funny and she sees sad with an eye that is different than the rest of us.  This makes Jenni an amazing Pilates Instructor because she also sees the body with a different eye.  She can take any Pilates concept (no matter how dry) and create a visual image that communicates the idea to the client.  

I remember during one course that I was teaching.  Jenni described the hamstring in a way that left us all speechless.  She was able to capture the strength and beauty of the muscle without including all of the negative feelings that people can have about their hamstrings.  I can’t remember her words, and I don’t know if she will either.  It was a magical moment in which everyone in the class just paused and said, “Ya…that’s it” 

These magical moments are interspersed with Jenni’s gentle and subtly hilarious sense of humor.   I can’t tell you how many times I have been sitting at the desk listening to Jenni’s classes and had to leave the room to keep from laughing out loud.  She is funny and lighthearted and this nature makes people feel comfortable in her class. 

Jenni’s commitment to growth as an instructor makes her students lucky to learn from her.  Jenni takes every Mat class that she can.  She is always asking for suggestions on class plans, and she attends every Mat Chat ready to learn something outside of Pilates.  Jenni understands the way that growth happens and because of that over the last year and a half I have seen Jenni Grow exponentially as a Pilates Instructor.  Jenni is currently learning all that she can about scoliosis so that she can design a specialized class for participants that might have some curvature in the spine.  Stay tuned, it promises to be fabulous!

I admire Jenni’s artistry, and am happy to have her paintings on the wall of the studio.  I want to leave you all with some links to her blogs that showcase even more of her art, and I want to also quote her artist statement here…Because it says a lot about Jenni and her ability to explore the abstract in ways that make the world a better place.

To see more of Jenni's work please visit the following links

“My work focuses on the physical self as an integral part of the entire self, displayed through drawings and paintings of invented body systems. The ability to believe in the functioning and processing of the body’s systems, without actually understanding or witnessing the systems, is a uniquely human ability. This invented biological imagery is an expression of the blind trust and inherent skepticism that forms the disconnect between the self and the physical self.

If I could lift back the skin on the top of my hand and see my heart beat and my tongue move then I wouldn’t have to wonder. I wouldn’t have to constantly imagine what is going on in there. I would be a witness to my own systems. There would be physical evidence of the stories we hear. A way to connect identity with physicality, but that is not an option so I am forced to invent body systems. To create for myself the forms and spaces and processes that keep us alive.” – Jennifer Sussman

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pilates Instructors at The Pilates Studio Part III: Anneliese Mordhorst

Today I have the pleasure of writing about my friend and The Pilates Studio’s fabulous instructor Anneliese Mordhorst.  I met Anneliese in 2006.  She contacted me to ask if I was interested in teaching a Laban Movement Analysis course that was required as a pre-requisite for her application to the Somatic Movement Training.  I had no plans to teach this work, but within two weeks Anneliese had secured a space found another person to take the course, and we were able to enter into a Laban journey…First of all, anybody that has any interest in Laban Movement Analysis is a person worth knowing.  During the six to eight weeks this course progressed I got to see Anneliese’s brain working.  Every question she asked was based in thought, analysis and curiosity.  It was also really exciting to watch her move and to take the time to integrate new movements into her body without worry or judgement.

Later, Anneliese and I worked at The International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA).  It is in this work that I was able to witness and admire the organization of Anneliese’s thought.  I watched her almost single handedly take an organization to the next level of professionalism and administrative efficiency.  It is also her work with this organization that has exposed Anneliese to many different movement modalities.  When Anneliese is working with a client at The Pilates Studio, she draws from a diverse movement background.  Anneliese’s Pilates students benefit from this diversity and any pilates session that she teaches is rich with information of all kinds. 

As our friendship developed, I learned of Anneliese’s commitment to sustainable living and the local community.  I remember driving to New Haven to catch a train to New York for an ISMETA board meeting and learning about the recycled vegetable oil that was powering her Volkswagon.  I was fascinated by the story of how it was converted and I admired her commitment to the car.  On this same trip I learned of all of the winter farmer’s markets in the area, and it was from Anneliese that I learned of eating food within 100 miles of you.  (This was before Barbara Kingsolver’s book by the way) Anneliese was ahead of the curve and because of her commitment to sustainable living, the valley is a better place.  

With our friendship established, I can’t tell you how excited I was to have Anneliese at The Pilates Studio.  When she started studying at The Pilates Studio, she and two other instructors spent time learning new exercises and discussing how these exercises could benefit different clients.  It was the beginning of a great collaboration between all of our instructors.  Anneliese’s innate ability to listen and her compassion towards the feelings of every person in the room bring calm and peace to The Pilates Studio.  Whenever she enters the studio I find myself exhaling with a mellow smile.  Anneliese also has an inquisitive passion for learning and I have never see her walk away from a challenge.  Her peaceful energy passes from person to person, and we are all lucky to know her. 

Anneliese teaches a reformer class Mondays at six pm, and is also available by appointment for the introductory package.  To schedule an appointment or to contact Anneliese feel free to contact The Pilates Studio