Friday, March 29, 2013

The Development of Baby's Movement at The Pilates Studio

The importance of tummy time for infants has become mainstream.  Every parent leaves the hospital with the idea that his or her baby must have enough tummy time to develop properly!!!  I can't count how many mothers I've heard fretting about whether or not her baby is spending enough time lying on his or her belly...The funny thing about it is while most new parents know that tummy time is important, they don't always know why.     They don't have a thorough understanding of development movement and why it might be important.  This makes this next announcement so exciting.  The Pilates Studio is bringing Lenore Grubinger to The Pilates Studio on Thursday afternoons at 1pm.  Her class will be for moms or dads and babies, and it will give any parent a few tools to aid her infant through the exciting movement milestones.

My first encounter with developmental movement was at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies.  The developmental movement theories of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who developed Body-Mind Centering were covered with some of the Bartenieff Fundamentals.  I remember pretending to be a baby moving through the movement stages.  We crawled, but before we crawled, we creeped and we scooted.  Basically, if you had walked in on our class, you would have seen 8 grown women rolling around on the floor. I remember at the time I didn’t see the wisdom of learning these patterns, and my teacher said just wait until you see someone working with a baby. 
Learning to use the big toe to push off, and I still got it!

The next time I was able to revisit these patterns I was studying embryology with Tom Myers.  He moved us through the patterns, and I remember feeling like I was returning home.  The patterns didn’t seem foreign; they seemed comfortable, necessary, and releasing.  I was beginning to see the wisdom in maintaining these patterns.  But I had still not seen someone working with a baby.

And finally yesterday, after fifteen years, I got to see Lenore Grubinger working with a baby.  I knew Lenore's name from the first time I learned these patterns.  Instantly, I knew I was in the presence of a master.  She helps moms help their babies.  During the class Lenore included us (The grownups) in the movement activities.  I loved every minute of it.  I want every baby in the world to be able to be in this class. 

Let the new moms in your life know that Thursdays are baby days at The Pilates Studio.  Enjoy these pictures, and see the magic for yourself.  Any mom or dad can bring his or her baby that is 0-12 months old.  They might as well take the BYOBaby class that happens the hour before.  All the babies of the valley are welcome from 12-2 on Thursdays at The Pilates Studio.

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

Facilitating lateral flexion

Using a Toy to create reach

Look at how happy this baby is

Monday, March 18, 2013

12 Ways to use Pilates to Prepare for Spring

Spring is coming, in fact it is ALMOST here, (I am choosing to ignore tomorrow’s forecast, because denial is the best medicine) and our lives are about to change for the season.  Instead of tea next to the fire, we’ll be drinking iced coffee.  Instead of cozy conversations with family, we’ll be playing Frisbee in the park across the street.  Instead of layers and layers of clothing we’ll be pulling out the shorts and tank tops!  Yes the change of seasons is coming, and Pilates is a great way to make the transition as smooth and injury free as possible.

Injury Free????  Do injuries usually happen in the spring?  I have never seen a statistic that proves it, but imagine how your activities might change over the next few weeks.  Are you going to be pulling out the running shoes?  Will you begin cycling again?  What about softball?  Soccer? Tennis?  Hiking?  Swimming? Races? Golf? Yes, it is lighter in the day and there is more warmth on the earth, and our bodies are going to become more active.  Why might we need to think about injury prevention?  Imagine four months of cozy talks by the fireplace, and four months of sleeping curled up to maintain body warmth.  Imagine your shoulders at your ears to keep your neck warm, and the shortened stride in your gait as you’ve avoided falling on the ice.  Now, what could possibly happen if you take this body that has been curled up with shrugging shoulders for four months onto the golf course without any preparation?  SO while I have no statistic that I can point to, I always consider it important to prepare for the spring. The following twelve ways will be a great start! Have fun exploring these ideas, and if you have any questions contact us at The Pilates Studio!

Feet – Our feet have been in snow boots and covered shoes with lots of support for the past four months, as we prepare for the sandals of the season it’s important to maintain the suppleness of your feet.  Try this video to prepare for the hikes that are coming.

Bridge – Spine articulation.  Sitting with the body in one position for a long time, may mean that we haven’t used the articulation of our spine for a while.  Try these bridging exercises to reintroduce movement to the spine.  

Bent Knee Fallout-Time to start preparing our body for some leg movement and lateral shift.  This exercise was great way to start.

Knee drops – And then we need to introduce some rotation to the spine, and begin the process of preparing the low back for the rotational forces of the golf and softball swings.

Chest Lift – And of course finding the length of the spine in flexion!  Be sure to get all of the air out!

Psoas Stretch on Foam Roller – And now its time to lengthen that stride!!!!  Stretching the front of the hips will help lengthen the stride and get you ready for that marathon

Foam Roller – Now that we don’t have to lift our shoulders to keep our ears warm (I don’t know why our bodies do that) We can begin the process of lengthening them away from our ears with the Foam Roller

Prone Extension – Getting ready to stretch in the sun, continue opening your chest with this gem

Swan -  And take the prone extension to the next level lengthening the front of the body to uncurl the winter spine!

Quadruped Turtle – Another great way to find the longest spine and settle the shoulders away from the ears

Plank – Build weight-bearing strength with THE PLANK

Hips – Strengthening hips for balance and support of a stabile pelvis - of course we haven't gotten to side lying exercises in the exercise of the day blog, but we do have a video about hip power for you!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Two Worlds Collide

Last night, after working all day I came home to seven fabulous young people that were collectively cooking a meal for us all to share.   These young people happen to be dance majors at The University of Hartford and they are staying with me while they attend The American College Dance Festival at the University of Massachusetts.  Which makes this the week in which my worlds collide!

Two days a week I am at The University of Hartford’s Hartt School working in the dance department, teaching Movement Fundamentals, Issues in Pedagogy, and Pilates.  I have an office, and I see students there and then move to the studios when its time to teach class.   My office is on the musical theater side of the building and the background to my work is every musical theater major singing an amalgam of musical theater repertoire (sometimes at the top of their lungs) as they walk down the hallway.  I even stood outside my office and watched a student running down the hall as fast as he could in tap shoes.  Not a site that everyone sees on the job.  I’ve been there long enough that I have become friends with colleagues and seen kids grow from doe eyed freshman to near professional seniors that I can’t wait to call colleagues.  I’ve comforted and scolded, collaborated and lectured, been amazed and dumbfounded…That is one world.

The rest of the week I am at The Pilates Studio. I am teaching people how to move, hearing about new feats accomplished, making life long friends in clients that tell me their stories.  At The Pilates Studio I am learning more and more about this thing we call life through the eyes of bright and amazing people that share their world with me.  I am hearing of a grandchild’s birth and then 12 years later, I get to hear about his bar mitzvah.  I get to watch friendships develop because people see each other at the same time every week.  Where else in the world would a Vegan Chef, an Art professor, a retired ESL educator, and a therapist realize that they were all turning 60 within a month of each other and decide to have a birthday party to which they invite their pilates instructor? And who knew it would become a yearly tradition 7 years strong? I’m going to have to say nowhere! At The Pilates Studio, I am also constantly bantering and collaborating with my dearest friend and business partner, watching her brilliance shine in everything she does…That is my other world.

So what happens when they collide, when The Hartt students come to see my other world, when they meet Jim whose 82 years old and one of the strongest people I know.  We had fun, my students got to put a face to the name of Laurie Johnson, I got to eat a fabulous meal and discuss dance as an artform while eating cheese of course!  So not too much unless you consider the most profound thing that I’ve realized, when two worlds collide, tribes are expanded, connections are made, minds are opened, and the entire world becomes a much better place!  What are your worlds?  And how might you be able to get them to collide?

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pilates is the BEST Physical Therapy

Okay I may be slightly biased, but movement is magic, and Pilates is a method of movement that balances the systems of the body to prevent pain and rehabilitate injury.  This makes Pilates the BEST physical therapy. Is that too bold?  Well bold is the way I’m rolling today. 

Last week I talked about my recent discovery of Gray Cook’s “joint by joint” model.  And you better believe that I felt pretty lucky to have a “movement laboratory” at The Pilates Studio to try his ideas within the context of Pilates program design. That’s the thing, Pilates is the best Physical Therapy because I can learn about a new model and take a look at the Pilates equipment and the near infinite number of ways that it can be used.  Then I can meld said model with movement, and I can “try” things and see what works.

 So this past week I have been thinking about thoracic mobility and its role in shoulder stability, which in turn affects the range of motion of the shoulder girdle.  If that’s too wordy think of a golf swing, throwing a softball, or serving a tennis ball.  All of these actions require a mobile thoracic spine for the most efficient movement. 

There might be a question out there that I have skipped.  What is the thoracic spine?

The thoracic spine is the twelve vertebra of the spine that are attached to your ribs.  The cage that is made by the thoracic spine and your ribs holds and protects the heart and the lungs.  Each rib attaches to the bottom of one and the top of another vertebra, so every inhale can bring mobility to the intervertebral discs.  This part of the spine rotates, bends forward, back, and sideways.  The thoracic spine loses mobility by getting fascially stuck in certain positions.  Imagine a person sitting at a computer all day.  This person’s thoracic spine may get stuck in a flexed position and thus lose mobility in other directions.   

After reading Gray Cook’s ideas, I changed program designs.  If one of my goals was shoulder stability, I worked on the thoracic mobility in all planes of motion before ever doing a “shoulder” exercise.

Here are some exercises that I tried with people this past week.  Of course there are so many possibilities, but give these a try. They all can be found at our Pilates Exercise of the Day blog.

First we start with the breath, I've found that the chest breath is a wonderful way to begin to invite movement into the thoracic spine.

You might find it funny that I find The Hundred as a way to increase thoracic mobility, but to me this exercise is all about the breath, and the five short breaths in and the five short breaths out can really begin to loosen tissues around the ribcage for more mobility.

We've done our breath practice, now it's time to move the spine into flexion and extension

And then rotation:  Keep the ball between your shoulder blades, keep your shoulder girdle still as you use your spine to drop one elbow to the floor and then drop the other elbow to the floor.  The goal is to find this movement without moving the shoulder blades.

And finally lateral flexion:  Keep the ball between the very still shoulder blades and bend the spine from side to side.


Try them and tell us what you think.  Is your spine more connected?  Do you feel like the upper and lower parts of your body are communicating? Is it easier to back out of your driveway?  Do you move in some directions more than others?  How does your low back feel? What about your shoulders? 

Every one of these questions allows for more discoveries as we explore the magic of movement.  Every movement helps us find the next way to relieve pain and illustrates the final way that Pilates is the best physical therapy.  My clients and I are a team, I learn from them as much as they learn from me.  They are the people that are doing the movement, nothing is being done to them.  It is empowering and it will make the change!

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

Gray Cook, Tom Myers and Pilates Oh My!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Polestar Pilates Educator/Mentor meeting.  In this meeting, we review the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive Curriculum.  If you know me, you know that I get giddily excited about movement and discussing movement and postulating about movement and so on.  If you’ve ever witnessed a moment when I have excitedly tried to explain an anatomical concept, maybe I pulled out an anatomy book to show a picture, you might have even tentatively smiled with wide eyes as you realized just how excited I was.  Well imagine at this meeting an entire room of people just like me.  A room full of people who get that movement is magical…People that agree that we could save the world if we would just take care of our feet.   I was surrounded by people who get just as excited about movement theory as I do.  So as you can imagine, I thought it was a fabulous weekend!

During one of the discussions, my new friend and colleague Ada Wells brought up the theories of Gray Cook who is one of the developers of Functional Movement Systems.  Ada referenced Gray cook’s “joint by joint” idea.  In a nutshell, if we think of the joints as stacked from bottom to top then the mobility and stability of the joints alternates.  It goes like this:

·      The ankles should be mobile joints
·      The knees should be stabile joints
·      The hips should be mobile joints
·      The lumbar vertebra should have stabile joints
·      The thoracic vertebra should have mobile joints
·      The scapula should have stability
·      And the gleno-humeral joint (where the arm bone connects to the shoulder blade) should have mobility.

As an example according to Gray Cook, if a person has knee pain, the best course of action would be to mobilize the ankle and the hip. I wrote about this exact phenomenon in the Blogpost entitled, "The Foot and Knee Pain"  The only difference is I didn’t know what phenomenon I was writing about, in fact when my client asked me what happened, I had to shrug my shoulders and say, “I dunno, but that was cool.”  Then a few months later Ada Wells gave me an answer.

But did this movement geek stop there?  Of course not, once I read the webpage that I was referred to, I began to wonder, “How might this apply to the primary and secondary curves of the spine, and further more how does it apply to Tom Myers idea that extends the primary and secondary curves all the way down the back of the leg to the bottom of the foot.”  (This is absolutely the way my brain works I swear)

As I continued this exploration, I reread, "The Foot: Understanding the Arches" In which, Tom Myers talks about these curves.  The primary curves are what remain of our original fetal position.  Basically, though not beautifully stated, when we are born the back of our body is one big primary curve.  Then as we develop the secondary curves begin to take shape.  For instance the secondary curve at the neck develops as a baby learns to lift its head, and as a baby crawls he begins to develop the secondary curve of the lumber spine, and then as we work our way to standing the curves of our feet begin to develop. 

SO you must be thinking by now (if you’re actually still reading this)  How is she going to connect these two ideas.? Well when I was thinking about this I drew a line to represent the primary and secondary curves of the body and then I labeled the mobile and stabile joints.

I found that Gray Cook’s mobile joints correlate to the primary curves of the body, and his stabile joints correlate to the secondary curves of the body.  This might seem obvious and there might even be a model out there that already intersects these two tidbits but for me this was a new connection.

“So now what?” you may ask. 

Well to be honest, connecting these two models, one of which is very new to me has only brought more questions to mind.  Some of which have answers that I already intuitively know, but are worth exploring with this connection in mind.

For instance, If a person has lost the primary curve in the thoracic spine, have they also lost the mobility? And the reverse: Will working to find mobility in the thoracic spine create a healthier primary curve? (basically this question can be applied to any joint and curve)

Will all knee pain be improved with ankle and hip mobility?  Is the whole “strengthen the quads” idea moot? (That would certainly explain why a lot of people with really strong quads have knee pain)

And of course, how can I make these ideas useful at The Pilates Studio  Well, right now I’m going to start with thoracic mobility.  How can we get it?  What does it do? (That’s right be prepared clients of The Pilates Studio, next week is thoracic mobility week!)

If you have read this far, you have a glimpse into the way my brain works.  Constant wonderings that make magic happen in The Pilates Studio, and when the magic happens, my only answer to “Why did that work?” can be “I dunno, but that was cool!”

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

And if you made it this far you get to see Ada in a fabulous video.  Once you watch you should definitely subscribe to her channel, She is a wealth of information, and a funny and witty presenter.