Monday, December 9, 2013

Finding Balance during the Holidays Part II

I find it fitting that my second installment of balance exercises happens to be written and posted on the day of the first ice storm of the season.  Today walking out of my house I had to do the familiar “ice on the steps” shuffle to make sure that I didn’t land on my rump.  Scraping off my car required using my ice scraper like a hammer while taking very careful steps to each window.  Luckily, I did not fall,  and I’ve made it to work just in time for the power to go out at The Pilates Studio, but never fear, my laptop battery is fully charged and I am excited to share this week’s balance challenge exercises with you. 

You remember last week’s exercises.

Have you been doing them?

This week we want to progress each of these to increase the wobbles.

For the standing exercise, instead of standing with your feet right next to each other, decrease your base of support by standing with your feet in line.  Stand with one foot in front of the other, with your front heel touching your back toe.  Once you have found this stance see if you can then close your eyes and maintain your balance.  Of course, the next step is to try the other side.

Next it is time to progress the foam roller exercise.  Last week we balanced with one foot on the floor and three limbs in the air.   Now that’s a pretty unstable base, but you better believe that we can destabilize the base even further.  Try putting a pillow or a ball under the foot that is on the ground.  And then let the arms float into the air one by one, and if you still aren’t wobbling, then simply start moving the arms around. 

Last week we balanced on our side with the longest possible spine.  This week we are going to add a 75cm exercise ball and a leg lift to this exercise.  To start make sure that you are barefoot so that you may find traction.  Lie sideways on the ball with your arms overhead.  If this is your first time with this exercise start with your feet lined up on the floor with your heel to your toe.  This may be enough to induce some very satisfying wobbles, but if you are as still as a very balanced statue, the next step is to stack your feet one on top of the other.  If that doesn’t bring on the wobbles then simply lift that top leg and let the wobbling begin.  Be sure to do this very fun exercise on both sides.

This week our final balance exercise is also standing, and will not only improve your balance; it will also strengthen your legs.  First, start standing with one foot in front and one foot behind you.  Allow both toes to point straight ahead.  Bend both knees to find a lunge position, and then shift your weight forward and finish standing just on the front leg.  Repeat by finding the lunge again, and then transfer the weight to the first leg.  If this exercise seems easy, simply try it with your eyes closed.

There you have it.  Our second installment of the balance month is done.  You should be ready for these exercises and if you practice them all week, I am sure that you will be ready for what I have in store for next week.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A PMA- CPT
Director of Instructor at The Pilates Stduio

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finding Balance During the Holidays at The Pilates Studio

It’s official the holidays are upon us.  We are all striving to find the balance between family and friends, work and parties, vegetables and cookies.  And for some reason the holiday season makes this age old grasp for equilibrium a little bit more challenging.  At the Pilates Studio, we want to stand up to the face of unsteadiness in the world with movement.  We wonder at the possibility of creating balance in our bodies, and allowing that balance to bleed into our lives outside of The Pilates Studio.  We wonder if a woman who has 25 gifts left to buy, might find it less stressful if she can also stand on one foot with her eyes closed for longer than two minutes.  Might she benefit from the awareness of breath and wobbles that is required to stand on one foot when she is in the check out line?  What about the person that has to figure out how to attend two holiday parties, while at the same time be present to see holiday pageants and band concerts, all of which happen to be scheduled with in the same two hours on a Thursday night?  Might this person reap the benefits of lying on the foam roller with three limbs in the air allowing one foot to root down to the earth?  Not to mention the fact that it is about to be winter in New England, and each and everyone one of us need the practical skills that are necessary to navigate the inevitable snow and ice that will soon be upon us…

Is it too far fetched to think that improving proprioception in our bodies will reduce stress in our very busy holiday lives…Maybe…It would be nearly impossible to design an evidence based study that definitively proves that improved balance makes the check out lines less annoying, but luckily proof is not necessary for the word TRY…At least not at The Pilates Studio.   Each week this month, I will write about a few exercises that might give you the wobbles.  Each week the exercises will become more challenging.  I always say to people if you are doing an exercise that is intended to improve your balance and you are not wobbling, then you are no longer improving your balance…So for this week try the following four exercises, every morning and night.  See what happens, and if you feel so inclined, report back!

First find a standing position.  Stand with your feet together, and by that I mean your big toes, big toe knuckles, and heels should be touching.  Once you find this position close your eyes.  Yes that’s right close your eyes and continue to breathe   Allow your body to negotiate the narrowed base of support and become aware of which muscles keep you from falling over…If you feel really unstable be sure to try this exercise next to a wall.

Next use a foam roller and lay on your back on the roller.  Allow one knee to float into the air…Are you wobbling?  If yes, then simply breathe here and allow your body to negotiate the wobbles…If not, then allow the opposite arm to float into the air so that it is above your shoulder with your fingertips pointing to the ceiling.   Wobbling yet?  If not then allow the other arm to float to the ceiling, and if there are still no wobbles then allow your arms to move back and forth between the ground behind you and the space towards the ceiling.  Continue to move, remember improving balance means finding the wobbles and then negotiating your balance!

Now for this week’s third balance exercise lay on your side.  Find the alignment between your hips, ribs and head, and then extend your hands and arms towards one wall and your legs and feet towards the opposite wall.  How long can you maintain this position without rocking back and forth?  

Finally, it’s time to stand on one leg with your eyes closed…This exercise is almost guaranteed to bring on the wobbles.  Start standing with your feet next to each other.  (Very similar to the first exercise) then simply shift your weight to one side and allow the opposite leg to float into the air.   And then (you guessed it) close your eyes. How long do you last before you have to put the foot down?  

There you have it…December is the month of finding balance at The Pilates Studio.  Be sure to practice these four exercises this week, because next week, the balance challenge will surely progress, and soon the entire community at The Pilates Studio will be ready for the holidays and the impending winter.  The ice and snow will be no match for our calm bodies.  We will be able to enjoy the festivities of the season with the fearlessness of a perfectly balanced body.

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