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6:22 pm

Why should a Yogi learn Pilates?


by Lisa Wells

Short Answer: Pilates is all about the core and building strength from the center out.  Pilates builds strength in places that are often neglected in a traditional yoga practice. Core strength and awareness can help heal and prevent back pain.  Core strength that will help prevent you from injuring yourself as you push toward more complicated yoga postures.

Long Answer: Some 17 years ago, a few years after a spinal fusion, still dealing with neuropathy, pain and instability, I asked myself: What was my yoga practice missing?  What needed to be trained and developed in my physical body for better overall health? There were a few answers: 1) I needed more direct core strength; 2) I needed more rotational movement; 3) I needed more freedom of movement, outside of the strict protocols and alignment principles of Iyengar Yoga.

I addressed the first issue by adding Pilates training to my personal fitness regime.  The answer to the second two questions will come in a later blogpost on dancing.  We’ll stick to building core strength in this one.

In the ‘90s, when I started practicing yoga, a common Iyengar cue was ‘soft belly.’ No matter the pose, we were taught not to restrict the breath from moving into our abdomens.  Basically, we were un-training our core muscles. And for someone with my spinal condition (spondylolithesis), this was a cue that may have set up the ultimate failure of my spine in 1997. A few years after surgery, postoperative PT, and continued Iyengar Yoga, I realized I needed a different approach to training my body. My core wasn’t strong enough. And Pilates was the ‘new’ (not really, but new to me) way to strengthen core muscles.

I added Pilates to my weekly movement experiences. The Pilates principles and exercises taught me how to engage and stabilize core muscles as I moved my limbs. I became stronger and more able in everything I did.  A variety of yoga poses became accessible that I could never do before. I had less pain, my sciatica disappeared, and my neuropathy lessened.  Pilates is fairly simply in theory, build strength close to center of the body, in the center of the torso and particularly in the region without bony support between the pelvis and rib cage. When the core is strong, then the limbs can move freely. The core is challenged to hold stability while movement of the limbs provides the challenge to that stability.  Effectively, the limbs become the free weight to train the core. To use a construction analogy, far from perfect but a decent visual, to stabilize a cantilever you need a strong and stable support, like the foundation to which a diving board is attached.  If you build strength in the limbs without building the stable core, failure is inevitable, the diving board will fail if its foundation isn’t true. Pilates exercises and cues give you access to that strong stable support from which to move your limbs safely. 

Done well, Pilates exercises eccentrically train the muscles of the torso. While the cues often sound like classic situps or crunches, the contraction phase of the movement is not the hard part. For example, a Pilates double leg lift starts out looking like a crunch: lie on your back, extend your legs toward the ceiling, place your hands behind your head and curl your head and shoulders off the floor.  The first challenge of this exercise is to hold the abdominal and pelvic floors muscles strongly and force the breath into the lateral rib cage.  The engagement of the deep torso muscles then allows you to hold your spine stable as you begin to lower the legs toward the floor.  The lowering of the legs necessarily lengthens the abdominal muscles, thus requiring a strong eccentric contraction to prevent the spine from extending and the breath from moving into the belly. Often, particularly with newcomers, the motion of the legs will be quite small if the attention to the core stability is honored.  One thing about Pilates, it’s easy to cheat and to do the exercises wrong.  To build eccentric core strength requires the attention to detail that Pilates was famous for.

While Pilates honed some brilliant exercises and principles, clearly drawing from yoga, gymnastics and calisthenics, he was also a bit of a brute and disciplinarian. I do not teach or practice the way Joseph did anymore than I teach the way BKS Iyengar did. I adapt Pilates with the mindset of modern yoga best practices: use somatic cues to develop inner awareness, include anatomical education, both western and eastern, offer balanced spinal flexion and spinal extension, add rotational and range of motion movements, and best of all, never skip on savasana.

Overtime, my classes have become a mash-up of yoga, Pilates, resistance stretching, trauma releasing exercises and somatic awareness. I still call the classes I teach yoga, because I bring what I believe to be a yoga world view of integration and wholeness to the approach. I doubt my students know where one modality begins and another ends. But as Yogis and Yoga teachers, I think it is incredibly important for us to look at what is missing from our yoga practices and to supplement and fill in the physical gaps for ourselves and for our students. 

Register HERE for Pilates of Yogi's



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3:31 pm

Why Yogis (You!) Should Try a Pilates or Core Class


by Lisa Wells

Yoga saved my back and my life. I'm not kidding. I was a mess when I started practicing nearly 30 years ago. My back was literally failing and my life was not so pretty either. I came to yoga to heal my back pain. I was recently diagnosed with spondylolithesis (a broken spinal at L4/L5). Yoga reduced the pain and began to rebuild the failing structure. And to be honest, it didn't 'cure' my spondy and about 10 years later after birthing 2 large babies my spine failed sufficiently to require surgical intervention and stabilization.

Enough of that. Yoga helped a lot, but it didn't take care of all the strength building that I needed, either before or after the surgery. I found that I needed to supplement my yoga with movement specifically focused on building strength in my torso or core musculature. And this is where Pilates comes in. oseph Pilates created a series of exercises that are incredibly efficient at building core strength. Joseph was a creative character and loved working with toys; he adapted hospital beds, household chairs, and wine barrel rings, among other things, to help his clients isolate, strengthen and lengthen their core muscle architecture. With strength in your core, you can return to yoga, or running, or mountain climbing, or simply carrying a baby around with more confidence that you will not injure yourself.

Fast-forward another decade or so and I've accumulated some overuse injuries in my body from my nearly 30 years of yoga practice. So I started looking around again for other complementary movement forms that will help keep my practice sustainable for the next 30 years. And what I found was resistance stretching and functional fitness. The movements from these modalities are helping me rebuild and sustain strength in muscles and connective tissue that I had overstretched in my yoga practice. Overstretched connective tissue (aka becoming too flexible, which for some of us might not look like we are very flexible at all) creates unstable joints. And unstable joints get easily injured and are painful. Resistance stretching brings strength and stability back to overstretched joints. It also safely takes us toward greater range of motion without risking over stretched connective tissues.

All of that is a mouthful to say, come try a Pilates or Core class. Here's the schedule:
Mondays 12-1p Core with Lisa
Mondays 5:45-6:45p Pilates with Theresa (in the small room, please pre-register)
Wednesdays 12-1p Core with Lisa
Wednesdays 5:45-6:45p Pilates with Theresa (in the small room, please pre-register)
Fridays 12-1p Pilates with Mara

And starting in June
Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:30-6:45p Core Yoga with Mara!

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4:51 pm

Featured product: Manduka mats

Live Well Studio carries mats as unique as you are within the Manduka product line. The Manduka Black Mat PRO and PROlite mats come with a Lifetime Guarantee, making them a great investment. In a variety of beautiful colors and extra long for those with long limbs, you’re sure to find a mat that fits your needs. Purchase your Manduka mat at Live Well Studio and you skip the costs and time associated with shipping.Have a membership? You'll save 20% on the purchase of a mat (and any other retail).

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3:57 pm

Pilates chair class testimonials

From a recent Pilates Chair Student, "It was extremely challenging. I have a regular yoga and weight lifting practice, yet the chair woke up muscles I had forgotten. I'm very excited to use the chair to help work on deep, subtle muscles that we can easily overlook. The chair put a laser beam on my deep hip muscles; I could really feel effective strengthening. I loved the exercise called elephant, I know the deep core work it required will help me with my handstand practice.   I'm already scheming on how to make this part of my regular routine! Alignment help from Cristy was dramatic. Who would have thought just a little adjustment could change the whole exercise?" Come check out a class for only $10 thru the end of April! New schedule: Monday, 5:30-6:30p with Mishele Mennett Wednesday, 9:30-10:30a with Cristy O'Connor Wednesday, 5:30-6:30p with Miranda Knox Thursday, 5:30-6:3p with Mishele Mennett Chair Class Passes, mix and match the dates you want to attend! 20 class pass $300 (just $15/class!) 10 class pass $190 ($19/class) 5 class pass $120 ($24/class) Try it today for just $10!!  Click here, enter promotion code, 'PilatesChair' and sign up!

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9:50 pm

Pilates for Equestrians

Corvallis is lucky to have an incredible mind/body pilates and fitness teacher like Antigone Cook!  She loves her students, and she loves horses.  So it's no surprise that she's put together an incredible core and upper body workout designed to be used as strengthening for horse riding. But you don't have to ride horses to appreciate this incredible workout! Specially designed to give you a full body power workout - challenging your balance, core and legs. Props will be provided and include use of fitness ball, dyna-band and Pilates Magic Circle. The course will include a take-home sheet of all the exercises so you can continue your conditioning at home. You will also have the opportunity to order props for home use. The 5 classes meet over a 6 week period:  3/6, 3/13, 3/20, 4/3, 4/10. The cost is $85. Here are some sneak peak videos! If you click the links they will take you to our You Tube site.
  1. http://youtu.be/eyilW2bt6y8
  2. http://youtu.be/4yrdntpb6pk
  3. http://youtu.be/T_brlTVaKfw
 

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3:34 pm

Yoga Teacher Falls for Pilates

Guest post by Miranda Knox Yoga and Pilates form an ideal union. I've always heard that Pilates could strengthen my core muscles (i.e. abdomen), and that sounded like a compliment to my yoga practice. Yet, I wasn't quite sure I wanted to devote my precious 60 minutes of blissful yoga practice to an unfamiliar practice. The new experiences I've had with the Pilates reformer machines and the incredible teachers at Live Well have been nothing short of life enhancing. To my surprise, the class includes a mind body connection, stress reducing breathing, laughter, and what seemed like a lesson in anatomy. I am learning about muscles, joints, and bones that are part of integrated body movements. Pilates is allowing me to teach my yoga classes with more precise directions and effective imagery. I've learned so much after taking only 5 classes, and they are so fun! My posture is better, and my body is different. I feel stronger, happier, and more complete. It's been super rewarding to try something new, and then incorporate it to my routine yoga practice. Now, I can hardly wait for the next Pilates class. Miranda has created a class Centering Flow melding her passion for Yoga with her new found appreciation of Pilates. Join her Wednesdays at 5:30pm.

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10:45 am

Why Pilates for Teens? by Sussanne Maleki

 Pilates is a great way for teens to kick-start a lifetime of fitness and well-being. The changes and transitions of the teen years can be difficult. Uncomfortable or negative feelings about the body can lead people to disconnect from their bodies at a young age. In Pilates movement, teens begin to understand the vital connection between the body and the mind. Pilates provides a fun and positive movement experience for teens, building inner confidence and self-esteem, and helping them feel comfortable in their bodies. Pilates is a system of movements designed to recruit your deepest postural muscles to stabilize and protect your spine and pelvis, allowing you to move with greater ease, strength, and control. Pilates promises to help create a longer, leaner body and a sculpted core. But just as importantly, Pilates promotes a sense of well-being in everyday life. Whether sitting, standing, walking, doing sports, or other physical activities, Pilates teaches people how to move more mindfully, more efficiently, and more confidentially. Pilates also develops balanced strength and flexibility to protect against pain and injury. By training the mind-body connection as well as whole-body strength and fitness, Pilates improves concentration skills, posture, and endurance, which can give teens a boost in academic performance as well as sports. The inner focus on movement and breath required during a Pilates class can provide a physical and mental retreat from the everyday stresses of school, social interactions, and other challenges of the teen years. Pilates is also a fun and challenging way to workout appropriate for all fitness levels. LiveWell Studio’s next group pilates class for teens starts September 27th, 4:15-5pm. Register here.

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11:55 am

Five Minute Pilates Warm Up with Antigone!

"I love Antigone's warm-ups. Where can I find a video with such a good warm up?" Right here!  Here she is, the lovely Antigone with a 5 minute warm up sequence just for you.   Antigone's warm ups make a point of stretching every joint in your body.  Enjoy!

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11:49 pm

Beyond Kegels: the pelvic elevator

If you’ve been practicing your beginning pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegels), then you’ve discovered that you have voluntary control of the sphincter muscles.  You’ve also begun to have sensory awareness of the hidden foundational structure of your torso.   Simply bringing awareness to this area is a fabulous beginning.  If you haven’t done a week or more of preliminary exercises, read the earlier blog post (Which floor am I on?) and practice for a week or two before proceeding to this exercise. Let’s begin by finding the territory again.  Take a tall and comfortable seat.  Don’t lean back into your chair back, rather rise tall from your pelvis through the crown of your head.  Note the oval-shaped expanse between your tailbone, pubic bone and your two sitting bones. This is the pelvic floor, a surface of muscle and connective tissue on which the bladder and reproductive organs rest. It is one of the few horizontal structures in the body.  Because the pelvic floor continually bears weight, and is put under great stress during childbirth, it will fail if it is not exercised adequately.  These exercises will keep your pelvic floor healthy and your whole body stronger and better able to withstand the stresses of life.  Having a strong pelvic floor is akin to building your home on a strong foundation. Now, close your eyes and focus your attention on your pelvic floor.  Spend a few minutes in meditation, observing the sensations of the pelvic floor. How does the surface respond to your breathing?  Shift your weight side-to-side and watch how the surface responds. Rock your pelvis forward back, in circles and figure eights.   Observe the movements and responses of the pelvic floor. Our exercise for this week is called the ‘pelvic elevator. ’ We will be referring to the pelvic floor as your ‘pelvic elevator.’  Begin by relaxing completely.  Your pelvic elevator drops into the basement of your torso.  With your next exhalation lift the elevator from the basement to first floor and pause, to the second floor and pause, and to the third floor and pause.  Inhale and slowly release the elevator all the way back to the basement.  Exhale and lift, lift, lift. Inhale release smoothly and slowly.  Repeat 10 times in a set, and do up to 4 to 10 sets/day. As you continue with the ‘pelvic elevator’ exercises, you will be able to subdivide the engagements more minutely (stop on more floors) and engage, hold at the top floor longer and relax completely.  As this area becomes stronger and you are able to consciously control the musculature, you will have more stamina in all of your Yoga poses, your Pilates exercises, and you will have greater fitness for all of your physical activities.  You will be less likely to injure yourself.  There are a host of other benefits as well from preventing bladder incontinence to enhancing sexual pleasure and stamina.  The payoffs to this work are well worth the effort. We’ll continue with more pelvic floor exercises in June and explore the meaning of Mula Bandha, the yogic Root Lock.

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10:36 am

Which floor am I on? Chapter 1 Basic Kegels

“What does my pelvic floor have to do with my shoulder pain?” Mary asked me this morning. She came to me for a frozen shoulder. Each session we start with a centering exercise then move into pelvic floor and deep abdominal/back exercises before proceeding to the exercises and stretches that work toward freeing up her shoulder. When I introduced the pelvic floor work, she didn’t know if she was feeling anything, wasn’t sure if she was doing it ‘right.’ This can be frustrating. We haven’t been taught there is muscular ‘down there’ let alone how to exercise it. If we have been taught, it is likely that an MD described kegels. There is a lot more work to do ‘down there.’ “Your pelvic floor is to your shoulder, what your foundation is to your house.” I replied. You need a strong supportive base beneath you so that your shoulders can do their work. Without a strong foundation, the wrong reach, stretch lift or pull will throw out your shoulder. Without a strong foundation you are more likely to injure yourself in day-to-day activities or the small mishaps of life. Without a strong foundation you may end up in surgery some day for conditions we don’t want to talk about in polite company. Therefore, I begin most of my classes with basic pelvic floor work. Here’s a place to begin working on your own: Using your mind, locate your two sitting bones, your pubic bone and your tailbone. This area roughly defines a diamond shape. While the musculature is actually more oval in shape, the boney landmarks and diamond image help us locate the territory. This pelvic floor is a horizontal surface of muscle and connective tissue. These tissues provide the support, flooring if you will, for the abdominal organs. The muscles contract and release, as well as lift and lower to support your abdominal organs. If the muscles become overstretched and weak, the bottom literally falls out from underneath you and your bladder and reproductive organs sag and fall out of place. To build strength in your pelvic floor you need to learn to voluntarily engage and release these muscles. If you have no idea where to begin, think of starting and stopping the flow or urine. There is a sphincter muscle in the front of the pelvic floor that controls the release of the bladder. There is a similar anal sphincter in the back of the pelvic floor. Explore engaging and releasing these two areas of the pelvic floor. 10 sets of 10 engage/release cycles each day are a good beginning. You will begin to build your foundation by increasing your strength and your kinesthetic awareness of this region. This beginning contraction is what many of us have been taught as a ‘kegel exercise’ named for Dr. Arnold Kegel who pioneered the work. We’ll continue next week with more advanced exercises from the Yogic and Taoist traditions that build deeper awareness and strength while generating energy in your body.

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