Tag: Reformer

Top 10 Pilates Questions

I’m new to Pilates. How do I start?
The best way to start if you have never tried Pilates is to begin with an orientation. In an orientation, a certified Pilates instructor will teach you a beginner lesson on the Pilates equipment, and then direct you to the class you would like to take.

How do I make an appointment for my orientation?
Contact Danielle Zack, Pilates Director at dzack@sacdt.com or (206) 443.1111 x246.

What is the difference between mat classes and private instruction sessions?
Pilates is intended to be done one-on-one under an instructor’s supervision and guidance, and mat classes are meant to supplement the work you do with your instructor. Both are valuable, though, and will strengthen your body. Private sessions are tailored to your individual needs so if you have injuries or specific physical concerns this is your best choice. Mat classes are designed for the general population and there is less individual attention.

What are the prices?
The average cost for a single Pilates session in the city of Seattle is $71.70 per hour. The SAC offers the highest quality instruction for nearly 40% less!

  • Private Session – $50
  • Duet Session – $31/client
  • Group Session – $25/client

How long are the lessons?
All sessions are 55-minutes in length.

What should I wear?
Please wear comfortable, fitted workout clothes and clean socks (no shoes needed).

Where do I go for my first Pilates session?
Come downstairs to the Pilates Studio, which is located across the Café next to the cycling room. Please feel free to enter and sit down next to the desk. If this is your first appointment, some paperwork will be on a clipboard with your name on it for you to start filling out. The instructor will be finishing up teaching a client, so feel free to watch. You’ll be next!

What if I make an appointment and I have to cancel?
All cancellations require 24 hours notice. All cancellations must be directly given to your instructor via email or phone messages. All appointments cancelled with less than 24 hours notice will be charged the full session amount.

Where do I go for mat class?
All Pilates mat classes are located in the Mind/Body Studio, which is across the basketball court.

Which Pilates mat class is right for me?
If you are a brand-new beginner, please come to the Introduction to Pilates Mat class on Saturday at 8 a.m. If you have very little experience with Pilates, please come to any Fundamentals Pilates Mat class. If you have some/moderate experience with Pilates, please come to any Fundamentals or Intermediate Pilates Mat class. If you have extensive experience, please feel free to come to any class, including the classes marked Cardio-based mat, magic circle mat, and Saturday’s advanced mat class.

If you have severe injuries or just concerns, please feel free to contact Danielle Zack for a recommendation.

What’s the Difference? Mat vs. Equipment

Pilates, a system of exercise created by Joseph Pilates, was originally designed to be a one-on-one personalized workout with an instructor. Nowadays, thanks to late night infomercials and books galore, Pilates seems to be thought of as just a generic “mat class”, but the true intention is to use any and all of the spring-loaded equipment created by Joe, including mat, to find and strengthen weakness in the body. Not every body needs every exercise. The work is most effective when tailored to you.

It may help to understand where Joseph Pilates came from. Joseph Pilates was a sick child, suffering from asthma and rickets, and was determined to create a healthy body for himself. So, he studied yoga, wrestling, gymnastics and acrobatics, and throughout his life put together a series of exercises using a mat. He started teaching mat conditioning, and quickly noticed how nearly impossible it was for most people, so he knew they needed something else to support their mat work.

At the same time, he was German national in an internment camp and many of the people around him were injured soldiers. For the injured soldiers he attached heavy springs to their hospital beds, so they could strengthen their bodies from bed. This design evolved into the “Cadillac” or “Trapeze Table” that current Pilates instructors use to strengthen legs, arms, chest, back and of course abdomen.

The Universal Reformer, or another “bed on springs,” offers additional resistance in order to provide more stability or to provide an added challenge to those who need it. When Pilates is taught one-on-one (the ideal way), the instructor typically incorporates work on the reformer and mat, as well as other Pilates apparatus, based on your needs. The individual session caters to the specific needs of the client, where each exercise is systematically performed and specifically chosen for you.

The focal points of his work are to increase lung capacity, to improve core strength and to use one’s mind to control body movements.

Hence, the six Pilates principles evolved:

  1. control
  2. Centering
  3. Concentration
  4. Precision
  5. Breath
  6. Flow

The work on the mat, where your muscles create the resistance, and the apparatus, where springs create the resistance, complement each other. As you become stronger by working on the apparatus, consequently, the mat work often becomes more challenging and fulfilling. Including private Pilates sessions in your fitness regime will better allow an instructor to focus on your individual needs, and will help you to develop the strength and flexibility necessary to correctly perform and benefit fully from the mat work.

Your workout should never feel easy, but should always present new and different challenges as you work your powerhouse deeper. So, enjoy the “journey” that is Pilates. It’s well worth the hard work!

To introduce Pilates in to your workout regime, or inquire about private Pilates instruction, please contact Pilates Director Danielle Zack.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Double Straight Leg Stretch

Purpose: The fourth exercise in the Stomach Series targets the powerhouse to the extreme.

  1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; one on top of the other, (not interlaced). Elbows wide.
  2. Extend your legs straight to the ceiling, heels together and toes turned out slightly, squeeze inner thighs, sink navel toward spine.
  3. Inhale and lower your straight legs down toward the mat for 3 counts. Stop if you feel your lower back begin to arch.
  4. Exhale as you raise your straight legs toward the ceiling. Don’t allow the legs to pass 90 degrees; the tailbone does not leave the mat.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

Checklist:

  • Remain perfectly still in your torso.
  • Engage the glutes and inner thighs to support and protect your back.
  • If your back arches off the mat as you lower your legs, you are taking them too low. Bring shoulders away from ears.

Note: If you have a delicate back, place your hands in a V position just below your tailbone (palms down) and leave your head down.

Visualization: Imagine your legs are attached to springs above your head. You must stretch the springs on the way down and resist their pull on the way up.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Leg Stretch

Purpose: Single Leg Stretch strengthens the abdominals and the buttocks as well as improves coordination.

  1. This is the first of five exercises termed as the Stomach Series.
    Sit in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Hug your right leg and pull it in to your chest with your inside hand on the knee and your outside hand on the ankle.
  2. Roll your back down to the mat, bringing the bent leg (right leg) with you; head and upper shoulders are off the mat. Then, extend your left leg out in front of you; let it hover above the mat at about a 45 degree angle or at an angle so your back stays flat on the mat.
  3. With elbows lifted; chin to chest; inhale. Then, exhale and switch legs, bringing the outside hand to the ankle and the inside hand to the knee (left leg). Stretch your right leg long; hovering above the mat at about a 45 degree angle; making sure your leg is in line with the center of your body.
  4. Repeat 8-10 sets. To finish, hug both knees in toward chest, put head and shoulders on mat.

Check List:

  1. Scoop your belly at all times. Stay lifted (eyes on belly) and slide shoulders down away from ears.
  2. Remain still in your torso- not rocking your body from side to side when switching legs.
  3. Squeeze your buttocks each time the leg stretches out.
  4. Pay attention to the hand placement as it keeps your leg in proper alignment with your hip.

Visualization: Imagine you are anchored to the floor below.

Modification: Rest your head on the mat when necessary. If you have a bad knee; hold the underside of the thigh. For a bad back; extend the straight leg to the ceiling. As your lower abdominal strength improves, you can begin to lower the leg.

Can Pilates Make You Taller?

Can Pilates really make you taller? According to SAC member Lenell Nussbaum the answer to this question is yes!

Lenell began Pilates a couple of years ago. She experienced regular back pain due to scoliosis and decided to give Pilates a try.

“The biggest change is that my back is no longer a pain issue. The by-product is that I am taller!” said Lenell.

Pilates works in several magnitudes – twisting, bending and extending – to strengthen the “powerhouse”, the muscles that support your spine. More space between the vertebrae is created by working and articulating the space in these magnitudes, thus lengthening your spine, improving your posture and in essence making you taller.

“I have ‘powerhouse’ muscles that didn’t know they were supposed to be the powerhouse. Really now: muscles on the front side of my spine? I was confident my gene pool had omitted them. Although I have always preferred doing things that I do well, it was clear I needed to do something that was difficult for me: find these muscles and engage them.”

Pilates exercises are specifically designed to reach and engage the “core” or “powerhouse” muscles. Exercises such as spine stretch forward on the mat, short spine on the reformer and push the pedal down on the wunda chair strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, therefore creating support for the spine allowing you to stand more erect. The extra space created by stretching the spine will actually lengthen the spine and reduce pain caused by poor posture or weak muscles.

“My favorite aspect of Pilates is hanging upside down by my ankles! It offers my crooked back great relief. It feels like gravity is finally on my side. I also like short spine, where is get to turn upside down on the reformer. If gravity helps me stretch the spine, apparently the exercises help me strengthen the muscles in between to retain some of the space. I’ve located several of those muscles I didn’t know I had. We’re getting to know each other.”

Lenell has grown 1.5 inches since starting Pilates and is now living pain free!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Swan Dive

Purpose:
The Swan Dive strengthens the muscles of the back and stretches the hip flexors. This is an intermediate/advanced exercise performed on the Pilates Ladder Barrel. A SAC Certified Pilates Instructor should assist with this exercise.

Starting Position:
Lie prone (on stomach) with upper body draped over the barrel. Arms are long. Knees are bent. The balls of the feet are on 1 rung and the heels on the rung above; heels together toes apart. (V position)

  1. Inhale, keep heels together; lift upper body off barrel, forming 1 long line from feet to head (dart position); reach arms long, palms down. Legs will straighten.
  2. Exhale, lift upper body even more– reaching chest and arms up toward the ceiling forming an arc. Bend knees, keep thighs pressing against barrel. Arms open slightly; turning palms to face each other.
  3. Inhale, straighten legs, lowering and lengthening the upper body to the dart position, reaching arms long— continuing the long line, palms turn down.
  4. Exhale, bend knees, and lower body to starting position.
  5. Complete 3 sets.

Focus:
Come to the longest line possible in dart position before lifting upper body into extension.
Engaging abs is critical in order to protect the back and achieve the arc shape.
Bending knees is important to avoid overextension of the lower back.

Modification:
Lengthen out to the dart position only, return to the starting position.

Debunking Pilates Myths

It’s expensive
A one-on-one session is a great way to start your Pilates training, but when you learn your routine, you can work out with a partner or small group to cut costs.

It’s only for women
Joseph Pilates was a man, and he created a system of exercise meant for every body, male or female. Pilates requires concentration, focus, coordination and agility.

It’s repetitive
Pilates builds a foundation of core strength, and that requires some deep, precise, consistent work. Only after your core is established and muscles correctly firing can you move on to the more complicated, advanced Pilates exercises. So yes, Pilates can seem repetitive in the beginning. But be patient! Your repertoire will expand as you become stronger and are able to demonstrate control in your body.

It’s only for dancers
Joseph Pilates was not a dancer; he was a boxer and wrestler, studied yoga and gymnastics. When Joseph and his wife Clara set up shop in New York City, George Balanchine sent many dancers to Pilates to rehabilitate their ballet injuries. The news of a workout that promoted strength with stretch spread quickly through the dance community, and has been popular ever since. However, Pilates is beneficial for all populations.

It’s easy
Pilates can be modified to accommodate nearly any injury, but true Pilates, once the basic concepts are understood, is challenging to the most fit person.

Pilates and Pregnancy

Most women wonder if Pilates is recommended during a pregnancy, and fortunately the answer in most situations is yes! Pilates is a great way to tone abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which can support an ever-changing pregnant body. Also, Pilates is very adaptable. Most Pilates exercises can be modified as your body and abilities change. The modifications keep the original goal of the exercise, while altering the form to work for your body. Exercise during pregnancy may support an easier labor, a speedy recovery postpartum, a quicker return to your pre-pregnancy weight, not to mention a comfortable pregnancy.

Sounds great, right? Well, there are a few basic guidelines to follow before you jump right in.

First, and most importantly, if you have never done Pilates before and just found out you are pregnant; this is not the time to start. Wait until the birth, and then find a qualified Pilates instructor to lead you through the exercises. Generally this will be about four to six weeks postpartum for a vaginal birth and six to eight weeks for a surgical birth.

Second, as with any exercise routine, check with your doctor. Inquire about your limitations during pregnancy, especially during unique circumstances.

Third, exercise moderately. Most experts recommend not letting your heart rate get above 140 beats per minute. If you do not own a heart rate monitor, use the “talk test”. If you are too winded to talk in a normal fashion, it is time to slow down. Other signs that you need to take a break are dizziness, feeling faint, and nausea. Headache, shortness of breath, a racing heart, uterine contractions, and bleeding or leaking fluid are also signs to stop and see your physician.

Fourth, do not over stretch. Hormones, like relaxin, soften the ligaments in your body to allow your joints to spread for the birth of your baby. Consequently, women do experience more strains in their bodies during this time. You will want to be sure not to overstretch. Working in a smaller range of motion, avoiding bouncing exercises, and strengthening the muscles around your hips and spine will help you avoid the pain of strains.

Fifth, stay off your back. In the second trimester it is time to stop doing exercises while lying flat on your back. Your uterus has grown out of your pelvis and can press down on the major vein in your torso. This reduces the amount of oxygenated blood flow to your baby, and causes most women to be dizzy or light-headed.

All in all, pregnancy could be a very rewarding time to tune inward and connect with the principles of Pilates: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. Consistently working with these philosophies may enhance your workout experience and offer skills to bring to the birth and care of your baby.

If you are an expecting mother and would like to begin a Pilates program during your pregnancy, please contact Danielle.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Roll-Over

Purpose: To stretch the lower back and hamstrings; develop spinal articulation and improve control of the abdominal muscles.

Note: if you have a bad neck or lower back, leave this exercise out.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle. Initiate from the abdominals; bring your legs over your head peeling your spine off the mat. Keep reaching the arms long, shoulders pinned down. Don’t press onto your neck.
  3. Exhale and open your legs just past shoulder width and flex your feet. Keep the back of your neck long, avoid any tensing or crunching in the front of the neck. The arms continue to press into the mat. Your body weight should rest squarely in between your shoulder blades.
  4. Begin rolling back toward the mat, feel your spine stretching longer and longer as you articulate down until the tailbone touches the mat.
  5. When the tailbone reaches the mat, take the legs to just below 90 degrees and squeeze your legs together again. Repeat the sequence.
  6. Complete 3 repetitions with legs together when lifting and 3 times with legs apart.

Head to Toe Checklist:

Pilates for Back Pain

Why is Pilates good for back pain? For anyone suffering from general backache to acute pain, Pilates can carry an important role in relieving pain in your back.

I think of Pilates as intelligent, corrective exercise. Pilates exercises your body as well as your mind. It can change the shape of your body. You may not even realize some of the ways you may be moving that are causing stress on your spine. Pilates specifically focuses on and addresses the intrinsic issues that can lead to back pain including poor posture resulting in asymmetry of the muscles, lack of core strength and inflexibility. Pilates teaches you to become more aware of your body and helps to break the bad habits that are contributing to back pain.

Proper alignment of the spine is crucial to back health; when alignment is off, uneven pressure on the spine results. Strengthening weak areas in the body is a major component to good posture. If you sit with your shoulders rounding forward, or tend to stand leaning into one hip, your posture is suffering and you are causing unnecessary strain to your spine and hips. A good Pilates instructor alerts you to these imbalances and then creates a program focused on creating symmetry in your body, allowing you to move more efficiently.

Another primary cause of low back pain is lack of strength in the inner abdominal muscles. This weakness causes the lower back to sway forward and tightens the muscles that cause pain. A good Pilates program focuses on strengthening the “core” muscles that support the spine. Strengthening the “core” goes beyond the outer abdominal muscles. The “core” consists of the inner abdominal muscles that create a flat stomach and hug and protect the spine. Creating this “inner” strength is crucial to back health.

Flexibility also contributes greatly to how your back feels. Your spine carries the ability to twist, move from side to side, and bend forward and backward. When you develop core strength you have the support to build flexibility in your torso, your hip flexors, and your hamstrings (back of legs) safely without putting strain on the spine.

One great aspect about Pilates is that you can work at your own pace with your instructor to increase strength, flexibility and alignment. Working towards these goals of symmetrical alignment, strengthening your core, and creating flexibility in your body can help you live a pain free life.