This past week, I was watching some "TED Talks" and decided to browse their subjects. I stumbled upon a recent video talking about evidence that exercise in sufficient quantity can actually grow cells in the Hippocampus, which could help eventually stave off certain incurable neurodegenerative diseases.
As I have always said to my clients, going out and walking is one of the best things you can do. So this morning with this in mind, I set off for the hillside with my dog alongside. We ended up walking up this small mountainside. I used the time to contemplate life, imagine things I'd like to see in my future, enjoy the scenery and wildlife and work on certain Pilates concepts that I need to do to get myself in better alignment (yes, you read correctly.)
I am so glad that I went, and I need to make this a priority because I have been so dismayed and almost immobilized in my home due to the construction on the Place du Terreau, the lack of trees, the horrible smell of fresh asphalt and the barren feeling that has temporarily replaced the once lively square. This walk revived my senses and built my brain!
You may have noticed something in the last post. I freely interchange the words ribcage and breathing. I realize that we are talking about two separate things. One is a bony and cartilaginous framework, the other is an involuntary bodily function whereby the diaphragm muscle contracts and causes inhalation into the lungs and then the muscle releases and air is expelled. Now that this has been cleared up...
Over the years, through direct observation and communication with my clients, I have come to recognize traits associated with breathing and restricted movement between the ribs. Given that our ribcage framework protects and houses the lungs, the physiological response to the act of breathing is reverberated throughout it.
When one is chronically sick, stressed, or has a habitual posture, it shows itself in the movements (or lack thereof) in the ribcage. Why does this matter? Well, as we age, our lung capacity slowly diminishes, our bodies lose elasticity and gravity starts pulling us downward. Those things just happen. Then there are the aforementioned elements, which if added to what can happen with time, well, it can have an impact on overall wellbeing.
Through purposeful breathing we can: increase lung capacity, therefore oxygenate our blood better, increase elasticity in muscle tissue in and around the ribs and eventually reshape boney structures (muscles act on bones and there is a lovely relationship between bone and muscle)
The results of conscious breathing have a ripple effect. I have helped direct clients to breathe into certain parts of the body, but it is certainly possible to do so unassisted. Start paying attention to your breathing and notice the movements that accompany it. Concentrate on relaxing the abdomen, ribcage and throat. After a few breaths, start to change your focus. Once you're in tune with what you feel, start to try to breathe in all 3 dimensions. Just try that and do it daily. Let me know what you start to notice.
When I was in university, during a well deserved break in dance class, a group of my fellow dancers and I sat down in front of the giant fan in a boiling hot studio (Anna Hiss Gym http://multimedianewsroom.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/DSCN1013.jpg
Obviously we were in leotards and tights, normal dance apparel that permits the dance teacher to see the dancers' positions, alignment, and help to make corrections. So it was in this setting that my very dear friend Marika looked at me, put her hands around my ribcage and said, "How do you fit all of your organs in there?" I had never really thought about that. To this day I think about her words, 25 years later.
Breathing is CENTRAL to the Pilates technique. I've had my hands wrapped around so many ribcages in my career, I couldn't count the number of times. One thing I can say is that most people have some sort of restriction in one part or another. What I love about the ribcage is that it is so plastic, so beautiful and the muscle patterns are so incredibly laid out and intricate, and it is responsive. This is an area of the body where we can effect change relatively quickly and vast improvements can be felt in the short term.
I always remind my clients that Pilates breathing is not normal breathing. But for the hour that they are in the studio, they should practice our type of breathing, then plan it into their day --> intermittently as an exercise. Regular breathing will then be facilitated and an autonomic function is thus enhanced. I'll go into more detail in the part II.
Her words are so true. What a lovely woman. It is amazing to consider that not only was Joseph Pilates a creative genius but he managed to draw gifted people to him who carried on his work and bolstered it. It is important to bear this in mind when confronted with the "contemporary Pilates" versus "classical Pilates" polemic.
How is this technique delivered to you? Is it finely tuned to meet your specific needs? Are you making profound changes in your body? In the connections between your mind and body. Are you noticing that aches or pains that you used to have regularly have abated? When you decide to undertake a program in Pilates, you should get results in various domains and at levels and time frames that depend upon you and your instructor. Feel good in your body, get the most out of this life!
To continue on yesterday's theme about the back...The above exercise (if you do not have an active disc problem) is another beneficial movement to work on spinal mobility, developing hamstring flexibility and strengthening abdominals, all of which benefit the back. Again, this can be performed without the machine, but to get the maximum benefits, one must work in proper form.
A heathy spine and moving body not plagued by limitations is essential to maximum health. Do not wait until you have aches and pains or a debilitating back injury to take care of your body. Move and appreciate all that the amazing human body can do!
We all know that having children means that we do a lot of driving. Tennis lessons, music class, dance rehearsals, you name it, I have been shuttling my kids around for years. Well, just what happens when we sit? Well, our buttocks are in a stretched position, our knees are bent (flexed) as are the hips. Our low backs often are taken out of the normal concave curve and flattened, and typically we will have a head forward position. When this is occasional, it is no big deal. But if you spend a fair amount of time sitting, and being a chauffeur, you will weaken your back's strength and all its supporting structures.
The above exercise is a very effective toning exercise that counteracts the ill effects of sitting. This is a version of the mat exercise called "Swimming" As with all Pilates exercises, form is critical. Please make sure you get your regular amount of physical activity in, and start looking at your daily routines, what is helping you and what could be harming you. If you are not already doing it, make sure that you have a mindful movement practice in place and get outside and walk, at least a half hour.