Friday, December 28, 2012

Ten Ways to Recover After Shoveling Snow

Yesterday was The Pilates Studio’s first snow day of the year.  I really tried to get to the studio in the morning…I was even aided by a very helpful neighbor that was determined to push my car up the road until I hit pavement at the corner.  Well it didn’t happen, and once we got the car back into the parking spot, I went inside and then watched as the plow cleared the street effectively burying my car in clods and clods of snow.  Again I ventured into the world to start digging.  At first, I was saying I probably wouldn’t make it out of the parking spot, but its better to dig now than tomorrow morning.   Then something happened, as I continued to shovel, I became absolutely determined to get out of my parking spot.  Each time I bent my knees to propel a shovel full of very heavy snow, I knew I would succeed.  I knew that I would get to The Pilates Studio!

You might wonder why I was so determined.  You could say that it was because I wanted to be sure that my clients were able to have their sessions.  That I was that dedicated to being a pilates instructor.  I was determined to take care of every body that I could…You could say that, but then again…It wouldn’t exactly be true.

My determination came from a much more selfish place.  Each time I twisted my body through several planes of motion to hurl the world’s wettest most frozen snow, I began to think about the foam roller and how great it would be to lie on it.  Then with the next clod I started thinking about a psoas stretch…Then I even began to crave the magic circle (Really I was)…You see I became so determined to get to work, not to teach, but to recover from all of the crazy shoveling….Then  I thought about our little joke about the fact that there are only two seasons at The Pilates Studio:  Shoveling season and gardening season.   So I made it to the studio in time to do the workout I began designing while digging and digging and digging!

And here it is!

Each exercise title is a link to more information about that specific exercise on The Pilates Studio’s Exercise of the Day Blog.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Saturday, December 22, 2012

3 ways to Relieve Sciatic Pain

Once again someone told me I was a miracle worker, which while flattering is completely false.  No miracles come from me; I simply understand movement.  Before the “miraculous” session started this client was having sciatic pain, and after the session his sciatic pain was gone.  Hence the miracle worker moniker…Now as a way to dispel the miracle myth, I wanted to share my exact thought process during this session.  It involves listening and problem solving in collaboration with my client.  I am not fixing anything, I am simply listening.

When someone comes to me with an ache or pain, I simultaneously begin two separate thought processes.  First, how can I help provide some relief, and secondly what is causing the pain.  Both of these thought processes are important.  They must exist together to make change in the body.  If a practitioner only addresses pain relief without finding the cause, then he is simply putting a band-aid on the wound.  But, on the other hand, if he spends all of his time thinking about the cause of the injury without pain relief, then the pain will impede the body’s healing process. 

When my client came into The Pilates Studio with hip pain, I first started him with a "sciatic pain relief magic trick," which I developed after learning from Tom Myers.  In a class about the pelvis Tom Myers talked about sciatic pain often being caused by a Piriformis that is too long.  Pulled taught like a rubberband.  Hmmm I thought, “The clam shortens the Piriformis." 

The clam (an exercise) shortens the Piriformis by taking the femur in and out of external rotation.  So when somebody comes to me with hip pain, we do the clam on the side that hurts.
Thanks Ivy for demonstrating the clam for us

The next thing Tom talked about in this class is the relationship between the Piriformis on one side to the Piriformis on the other side.  They work together and adjust to keep balance in the spine.  As I was in this class, I thought, “maybe when someone is experiencing sciatic pain they should stretch the other hip.” So the next step in this “magic trick” is to do a Piriformis stretch with the leg that isn’t feeling pain.
Cross the ankle on the pain free side over the other thigh and hug your knees to your chest

Working asymmetrically is a tricky business.  So at the end of this magic trick series I work hard to turn on the “lateral brakes” of the hips.  This is the gluteus medius.  So after the first two exercises we do sidelying leg lifts on both sides.

After teaching this series to my client his pain had been relieved, but I was not convinced that it might not come back if he were to go on another seven mile walk (which is what brought it on in the first place.)

The entire time that we were working, we were reviewing his injury history.   We were speculating why the Piriformis was acting this way.  What support might it need?  I was sure that the pain was relieved for now, but we had simply provided support to the taxed part of the body.  We hadn’t changed the pattern.  It’s at this point in the process that I feel in collaboration with the client.  Yes I may know a heck of a lot about the myofascial system, but the story of the body comes from the client.  It was my job to listen to his insight, because I can never assume to understand someone else’s body as well as they do.

During these conversations together we both came to rest on a ruptured achilles tendon that happened years and years ago.  We speculated that limited range of motion in that ankle, may have caused some compensation patterns during the walk that after time caused pain in the hip.  We finished the session with this as our working theory…

He left the session with a strategy to relieve the pain in the moment.
I taught him two more series one for foot agility and one for Hamstring release, which you can follow the links above to read about each of these exercise sequences…

Are we done?  Did we fix the problem?  No because in my opinion the entire idea of “fixing” the body steers us away from listening to the story of the body.  The story that will tell us where to go; the story that highlights the way…

Next week we will continue to listen to the story, in my mind I am currently wondering about his spine, and the balance front to back, and side to side….These are the thoughts I will bring to the table, we’ll see what his insight is and move from there!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA, CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Will Power, New Year's Resolutions, and The Pilates Studio

The New Year is coming, bringing with it the infamous New Year’s resolutions. Every year we gear up to have the will power to make change and lots of it.  But if you are anything like me come February you will be sitting in judgment of yourself because maybe you didn’t quite stick to the resolution. You couldn’t summon the power over your will.  I wrote about this phenomenon last year, in what is going to be the first of my annual “Anti New Year’s Resolution Posts” and consider this the second annual, “We are going at it all wrong with New Year’s resolutions” post!

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the idea of new beginnings!  I love thinking about change, and finding ways to make healthy choices.  At the Pilates Studio, I am flummoxed by how many new friendships are created in the New Year.  We are even having a Winter Camp for those that want to jumpstart the New Year.  But it is my hope that our desires and our will can meld into a symbiotic relationship in which power is moot.  I would like to assert that new beginnings at The Pilates Studio will make will power unnecessary.

Let me tell you why:

You might find it odd, but exercise is not my favorite thing.  Yes this is The Pilates Studio’s blog, and I am a Pilates Instructor, but in all honestly exercise for exercise’s sake really bores me.  I am not one of those people that craves a 5 mile run (I actually don’t really like running).  The elliptical never happens unless there is a really great episode of Law and Order on the TV.  I am not the person that can’t sit still.  I am definitely not the person that would choose a hike over a really good movie.  Yet, I have been active all of my life.  Why is that? As a child I took Ballet classes, not because I loved exercise, but because they were fun.   Every dance class I took, I was having fun.  I was playing. I wasn’t exercising.  I trained for a triathlon once, but I didn’t really care about the event.  I was training with one of my dearest friends.  We were having fun, and wow do we have some good stories.  The minute we tried to “take it to the next level” I stopped; it wasn’t so much fun anymore. 

My point is this: Every time I have tried to start an exercise regime because of some insane feeling that I SHOULD exercise, I have failed.  I’ve fallen off the wagon. I’ve chosen to have a glass of wine instead of going to the gym. I’ve quit a swimming class because it was hard.   I’ve told my conscience, “You’re not the boss of me!!!!” Whenever I feel like I SHOULD exercise, I don’t!  I must totally lack will power!

Yet, I have led a very active life…Why is that? Because it is fun to be active, when you let go of the SHOULD. (You know that judging voice in your head that makes you feel bad about yourself if you are not absolutely perfect)  It is fun to be strong if you can let go of the “I SHOULD be stronger” It is fun to hike with friends, if you are hiking to be with friends, or see the stars.  If you are hiking because you SHOULD be hiking, then well, “blech” No fun at all. 

This soapbox has a point…For years in this world we have used the phrase will power as a way to force the human race into wellness submission.  You eat healthy because you have good will power.  You exercise everyday because you have good will power.  You sleep eight hours at night because you have good will power!  And I am here to say poo poo on that.  I have come to accept that if I don’t want to do something I won’t, and trying to make myself do something that I don’t want to do, is pointless! SO…What now???  If it’s not about will power and SHOULD what is it about?  Maybe it’s about finding community.  Maybe its about finding satisfaction…Maybe it’s about finding challenge.  I am not saying that we relinquish all structure and discipline from the world, but what if we let ourselves start looking at our choices without the idea of will power…Maybe we’ll start looking for fun things to do.  Maybe expression will be fun.  Maybe we will look for a movement class where the community of the class is as important as the movement.  Maybe we will look for a class that has as much laughter as exercise.  Maybe the way to be active in life is to stop doing what you SHOULD do, but what you want to do.

As I’m typing this I am listening to a mat class happening at The Pilates Studio.  I am reminded of how important community is at The Pilates Studio.  The focus and support among the participants is astounding.  I got to listen to friends greet each other with excitement.  A mother hugged her daughter.   As always around here the sense of humor of every person is on the surface.  People are getting stronger here, but there is so much more happening.  Getting to The Pilates Studio for class doesn’t require will power because people want to go!  The may not love the side lying hip series, but they get great benefit from the smile of connection they get from their neighbor.  Afterwards, a few people will linger.  They might have tea, and sit in the chat room.  They may ask questions or talk to a friend about weekend plans.  Someone may console another who’s hurting.  People don’t need will power to come to The Pilates Studio, because there is magic going on here!

Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Listening to the Body at The Pilates Studio in Hadley

“Hmm I’m hungry?”
 “I should have worn a warmer jacket!”
“I’m not sure that I like this person”
“I’m so tired”
“It’s Hot!”
“Woh too much coffee!”

All of these phrases might make up a part of our internal dialog.  They are our reactions as human beings to sensations we feel in the body.  Information comes into the body, and we listen to it and react.  Our tummy grumbles, to remind us we’re hungry.  We might have goose bumps in the face of danger.  We shiver when we’re cold.  Maybe we feel like there’s a pit in our stomach when nervous.  We sweat.  We shake.  And then subconsciously we analyze and respond.  It’s amazing how much our body can tell us about the world if we just listen.

This kind of listening can also be applied to pain.  Have you ever been in the presence of someone who just talks and talks and talks, but never listens?  The conversation that you can’t get a word into… You want to convey something yet there is so much talking.  Think about your feelings when this happens…If you absolutely have to communicate, is your voice louder?  Do you have to be more direct?  Is the other person often startled when you say, “Will you PLEASE let me speak????”  I like to think of pain as a similar kind of communication.  And I always tell my clients that if you don’t listen to the small messages from the nervous system then your body will make you listen! I mean your body will send you a message so strong that you have no choice but to listen. 

Now let’s talk about injury prevention.  What if we listen and respond to aches in our feet and tightness in our calves?  Would we ever experience plantar fasciitis?  What if we did something about the tightness in our hamstrings?  What if we tried to stop the nagging pull around our knees when we walk up stairs? What if we tried to make sure that we could put socks on while standing?  Would as many heels, backs, knees, and hips be injured?  I want to hypothesize, I think not!   

You might be thinking, “Now what?”  Listening to pain is not as innate or ingrained as understanding our body’s shivers.  “What do I do once I’ve heard the pain?”  Well it may seem too simple, but you move.  You move with care and awareness.  You stretch.  You strengthen. You find balance between stretch and strengthening. You learn how to do this!  You give your body experiences that allow for you to learn movement, and if the pain happens when you move, you seek help to find movement efficiency.  And hopefully after this article, you’ll seek help before the pain prevents you from doing the movement you have grown to love!  And if you’re in the Pioneer Valley, you seek help at The Pilates Studio.  We know how to move and we absolutely love teaching other people every thing we know! 

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A, PMA-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio