Blog

  8 March 2018 

 

Fabulous Feet – Ground yourself and find a Spring in your Step

 

A Sunday afternoon workshop to give your feet the attention they deserve:

Sunday 22nd April 2018
2–4pm
Horfield United Reformed Church
Muller Rd/Downend Rd
Bristol BS7 9RE 
Fee: £15

The foot connects us to and communicates with the ground, constantly responding to changes of terrain, shifting 26 bones subtly to balance our body weight. Instability and immobility of the foot can lead to problems in the knee, hip or spine, and may also affect our emotional balance. Understanding how the foot works, concentrating on good alignment and giving it some love and care can make a huge difference to our well-being – let's explore and step up!

"The foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art."  

Leonardo da Vinci

This workshop fuses my interests and studies in Pilates, experiential anatomy and creative movement; it comprises:
  • Introduction to the anatomy of the foot (with a life-size skeleton)
  • Hands-on investigation and massage of your own feet
  • Foot exercises
  • Pilates (whole body approach)
  • Guided creative movement explorations inspired by imagery and music
  • Opportunity to process movement experiences through mark making/mapping on paper (drawing materials and guidance into this approach provided).
This workshop is for my Pilates clients only, with the aim to further expand mind-body awareness gained in my classes in a supportive environment. No experience in other forms of movement or drawing is required – just curiosity and an open mind! Be prepared to work bare foot. The workshop will be nicely paced and include a tea break.

Please book in advance via email or face to face after class.



  19 Oct 2017 

Growing Wings – Finding Freedom and Support in the Shoulder Girdle


A workshop fusing my interests and studies in Pilates, experiential anatomy and creative movement; a Sunday afternoon comprising:
  • Introduction to the anatomy of the shoulder girdle (with a life-size skeleton)
  • Movement approaches aiding breath flow and releasing muscular tension
  • Pilates (whole body approach)
  • Hands-on investigations in pairs using gentle and safe touch
  • Guided creative movement explorations inspired by imagery and music
  • Opportunity to process movement experiences through mark making on paper (drawing materials and guidance into this approach provided).
This workshop is for my Pilates clients only, with the aim to further expand mind-body awareness gained in my classes in a supportive environment. No experience in other forms of movement or drawing is required – just curiosity and an open mind! The workshop will be nicely paced with time for tea and conversations.

Sunday 19th November, 2–5pm
Horfield United Reformed Church, Muller Rd/Downend Rd, BS7 9RE 
Fee: £20

Please book in advance via email or face to face after class.

Participants’ comments on the previous workshop in April:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Growing Wings workshop. Movement and art was something new to me but became the best part – combined with Pilates it all blended in exceptionally well. Itta’s explanation of the joints before the movements aided greater concentration on those parts of the body. I can't wait to attend another session, thank you for a wonderful afternoon.”

“I found the workshop fun, interesting and useful. The main benefit seems to be the impact it is having on my work in class, which I hadn’t anticipated. I feel much more aware of what is going on in my shoulders when I exercise and that is helping me a lot.”

“Mechanics, movement and emotion – I found the workshop to be extremely informative, enjoyable and occasionally challenging … a very special package of delights.”




 15 February 2017 

 

On Advancing and Progressing


Some of my clients asked me recently: when are we going to be at an advanced level? To shine a light on what Pilates at an advanced level might look like I share a video by Bluebird Pilates Munich demonstrating a section of Joseph Pilates’ classical mat repertoire*. Many of these exercises are categorized as advanced. But the sequence also includes intermediate material, which those of you who attend my general level classes will recognize (though we often practice alternative versions with less load).

I immensely enjoy seeing someone perform advanced Pilates to near perfection. I am inspired though I know that some of these exercises are not suitable for me. Watching the video below makes me eager to improve my technique. Whilst accepting my body as it is – with its deeply embedded tissue memories of 48 years of life – I thrive to progress: I aim to re-educate my muscles, to find a bit more movement here and a bit more control there, to balance things out and feel better.

No matter at what level we practice Pilates we can all learn from this video and thrive to progress. Think of it as a coaching tool and watch out for the points below. Enjoy!

  • A strong but responsive Centre; it’s not rigid. 
  • Sequential Spinal Movement articulating each vertebra from tail to crown of head. 
  • Focus is maintained in each exercise from initiation to finish. Though this is a dynamic performance there is no rush and each exercise is completed with great Focus and Control. 

* The classical mat repertoire is the original form of matwork devised by Joseph Pilates himself. Today’s teaching includes more physiotherapy-inspired exercises, aiming to alter the effect of modern lifestyles on our bodies. This form is called evolved Pilates. In my classes I teach a combination of both forms.





     27 May 2016 

    A brief Guide to Home Practice


    The all so familiar scenario
    You sit on the sofa with a nice mug of tea thinking ‘I should really do some Pilates before the next class’. You know it will do you good but you can easily find plenty of excuses to not do it: ‘I’m too tired right now’, ‘the cat needs feeding’ or ‘I can’t remember the exercises and might do it all wrong’, just to name a few…

    From thought into action
    Stop thinking, put the mug aside and make a positive change right now. I am pretty sure once you get onto the mat, your body will remember what to do. You just need to give it a chance. And the more often you do it, the easier it’ll get and the better you’ll feel!

    Step 1: Buy a comfortable Pilates mat. The supplier I use is Pilates Mad. Click on the following items for links to products I use in class: mat, soft ball, resistance band, head block and sitting block.

    Step 2: Set time aside for 30 min. mat work once or twice a week. I suggest a minimum of 30 min. because your mind and body need time to get into the ‘zone’ and leave work and worries behind. Find regular slots in your week for ‘Pilates me time’ undisturbed by family members and mobile phones.

    Step 3: Lie on the mat on your back with the arms by your side and your feet standing. This is how we usually start the mat work in class. Once in this position, I am sure you’ll remember at least one exercise we’ve done together. Allow your body to move, and your body will remember more exercises. When you turn onto your side, lie face down, sit on the mat or position yourself in 4 point, more ideas will surely come. There are some fundamental exercises I repeat in class every week, and they should benefit everyone (unless I advised you NOT to do a certain exercise).

    Step 4: Move with focus and breathe evenly if you forgot the suggested breath pattern. Aim to include spinal movement in all directions in your session: flexion, rotation, lateral flexion (side bending) and extension. As in class, if something hurts you stop. If something puzzles you, you are welcome to ask me in class the following week. I always learn from your questions and so do other clients.

    Give it a go and you’ll feel your strength, flexibility and energy levels improving very soon!


    “Not only is health a normal condition, but it is our duty not only to attain it but to maintain it.” Joseph Pilates



     5 May 2016 

    Bony Landmarks


    – – – – –  Front (anterior) view of pelvis and thigh bones (Femurs)  – – – – –
    In your mat class, I sometimes make reference to bony structures in your pelvic area. Awareness of these bony landmarks can help you with muscle recruitment and alignment:

    'Hip bones'
    When you are lying on your back and we practise Knee Openings, I may ask you to put your finger tips onto these bones (located at the front of your pelvis) to check pelvic alignment.

    Greater Trochanter
    When you are lying on your front, I may give the cue 'draw the lower gluteals together from this point'. This helps you to efficiently stabilise your pelvis for extension exercises. The Greater Trochanter is located on the outside of your thigh bone (Femur).

    'Sit bones'
    When you are sitting, I may ask you to feel even pressure through these bones as you rotate the torso. When we do a standing Hamstring Stretch I may say 'sit bones reach behind you' to help you achieve a deeper stretch.



     22 April 2015 

     

    Pilates Mat Class for Rowers – Part 2


    “In ten sessions you’ll feel the difference …” Pilates teachers like to quote Joseph Pilates. So what difference did ten sessions make to the women’s squad who started working with me in January? What impact does Pilates have on their rowing technique?

    “In the boat, the main difference has been more awareness of sitting up straight and maintaining good posture through the stroke.” Grace (intermediate rower)

    “I feel an increased self-confidence regarding my posture in the boat. I feel stronger for longer. Heightened core awareness acts as a constant reminder to reset myself when I start to tire.”
    Charlotte (novice rower)

    Link to Rowing Posture
    These and other comments express what I had hoped for: the ability to sense the neutral position of the pelvis, which is essential to keep a rower’s back happy and healthy. In class I favoured working around Neutral to develop this awareness and strengthen postural muscles. To simulate ‘being on water’ I added some fun stability challenges like placing a squishy ball under the pelvis or lying on foam rollers. I also incorporated a good amount of sequential spinal movement as I noticed rigidity in some lower backs (the idea of ‘straight back rowing’ sometimes triggers a ‘military posture’ rather than an upright relaxed spine). Sequentially flexing and re-stacking the spine in e.g. Spine Stretch or Half Roll Back not only mobilises the spine but also trains the awareness of finding Neutral in the sitting position.

    I am also pleased to learn that the Pilates principles BREATH and FOCUS can make a difference in the boat. Pilates breathing patterns translate into the rowing stroke by e.g. using exhalation to push off the footstretcher and “explode legs on the slide”. Charlotte reported, “they also help me to recover more quickly from increased rate pieces” – an experience I link to practising Pilates latero-costal breathing, a technique that helps to mobilise the ribcage and access more lung volume. Regarding FOCUS, the mindful concentration on movement detail in class seems to aid concentration in the boat, e.g. allowing Grace to “quietly focus on [her] progress” amongst the distraction of coxing calls.

    My class also includes shoulder blade setting and a variety of stretches. Hamstring and hip flexor stretches always cause a bit of moaning – which shows me just how much they are needed!


     9 December 2014 

    Pilates Mat Class for Rowers – Part 1


    Last Sunday I offered a Pilates Taster to a group of women from my rowing club, Bristol Ariel. I was intrigued by the challenge to structure a beginners’ class for athletes. I knew I could expect a good level of coordination, abdominal strength and stamina, but nevertheless needed to teach fundamentals to bring awareness to the recruitment of the deep muscles. The class I designed took the group from breath and centring exercises to variations of the Rowing Series on the mat, interspersed with hamstring and hip flexor stretches, chest openings as well as rotations and extensions of the thoracic spine. The stretches were chosen to counter the flexion-biased action of rowing, while the build up to the Rowing Series aimed to show how Pilates might relate to this particular sport.

    The class made some of the rowers realize, that their “core strength” wasn’t as good as they thought. The introduction to fundamental exercises that demand stabilization of the pelvis in Neutral – like Single Knee Floats and Knee Openings – added a new dimension to what it means to have a strong CENTRE. The group appreciated the detailed cueing of pelvic floor and adductor engagement, and found it useful to learn how to isolate muscle groups. They became aware of how some well-developed global muscles – e.g. the quads – habitually “kicked in though they were not really needed”.

    Regarding the regular Pilates sessions the group will start in January, I had expected a request for dynamic full body exercises. Instead, the rowers are most interested in fundamental centring to aid deeper and more efficient muscle recruitment. They also wish to work on their balance. I look forward to teaching this class, and am curious how Pilates will affect the women’s posture, alignment and balance in the boat.


     28 August 2014