By Elaina Morin, Resident Holistic Nutritionist • Posted on May 06 2013 • Tags • Permalink
• 3 Comments •
With Spring in full swing everyone is looking for the perfect salad to bring the next BBQ or picnic. This salad is vegan and gluten free, is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, full of healthy fats, and loaded with fiber!
Kale and Apple Salad (serves 4 to 6)
• 1 bunch of curly kale (rinsed well), finley chopped, spines removed
• 1⁄2 large red onion, finely chopped
• 1⁄2 cup radish, or purple cabbage, finely chopped
• 2 large green apples, finely chopped
• 1⁄4 cup Goji berries, or unsweetened dried cranberries
• pumpkin seeds, or pine nuts (optional)
• hemp seeds
• 1 cup raw cashews
• 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 1 large medjool date (pit removed)
• 3 tbs olive oil, or flax oil
• pinch of sea salt
1. Add all chopped ingredients to a bowl.
2. Place all dressing ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth.
3. Toss salad with dressing, and add berries, seeds and/or nuts.
To get your diet back on track, and to look and feel great this Spring, book a consult today with Elaina, our resident Holistic Nutritionist! Contact email@example.com or call our front desk for more details 416 537 0714.
Springboard 101-Mat Work + Reformer + Cadillac with a Kick!
When you walk into a studio for the first time, you see the usual suspects:mats, foam rollers, weighted balls and stability balls.But then, along the walls, you might see something you didn’t expect:a wooden board with springs attached to it.What could you possibly do with that, you wonder?Well, it’s called a Springboard, and it can add a great boost to your current Pilates practice.
What is a Springboard?
The Springboard is similar to the traditional Pilates Cadillac without the table.Originally developed by instructor Ellie Herman, it is a 20-by-72 inch sheet of plywood fitted with a set of springs with handles, a set of springs with foot/leg loops, a set of springs attached to a roll-down bar, a gripping dowel at the bottom, and 20 eyebolts to move the springs around the board. (eHow.com)
Think you might want to try a class?See who has already added that “spring “ to their workout:
Who loves the Springboard?
After Pilates, our second favourite word is “core”.Clients who are well versed in the art of engaging their core get a chance to deepen that connection with the Springboard.Experienced Pilates students see it as a way to take their workout to the next level.Post-rehab clients, when working privately with an instructor, see the benefits of using the spring resistance when strengthening their muscles as they come back from injury.
And the little secret we’ve all uncovered-the Springboard is great for toning every inch of your body-especially the inches you didn’t know about!
"I cannot believe how hard I worked and how deep. The Springboard looks so unassuming but WOW!" Crystal S.
What happens in a Springboard class?
In a Springboard class, you are the boss!Of your springboard, that is.You will be able to change the position of your springs, sometimes adjusting them to make an exercise more challenging and accessible to you.Your instructor will tell you how to set up your springboard at the beginning of class-where to place your springs and loops, and how to adjust your position on the mat.Then it’s go time!We start off with a warm-up, usually standing, and then make our way to the board for a total body makeover that really gives you the sense of power, length and flexibility.
If you’re a lover of mat or reformer classes, here’s why you might want to try the springboard.Don’t worry-you won’t be cheating on your favourite class!
If you love the Reformer:
• Spring resistance system works the same but in a totally new way.
• You get that suspended feeling...with a kick!
• You feel tall, lean and strong x 10
If you love the Mat:
• Many mat exercises translate directly to the Springboard so you get Mat + Spring Resistance!
• You feel your whole body working in every exercise.
• You challenge your sense of balance and stability in every plane!
Spring is around the corner, especially now that we’ve turned the clocks ahead. With spring comes anticipation of more outdoor activity—golf, soccer, running, biking, cycling and more—as well as the potential for injury as we gear up. The most common injury sites are the ankle, knee, and shoulder. Necks, elbows and backs also get their fair share of insults too. Here are some recommendations that might help reduce the incidence or severity of those injuries.
General guidelines to avoid injury
First and foremost, build up slowly! Going from zero to 100 off the bat is a prescription for trouble. If you’ve been relatively inactive all
winter, consider getting into shape with some conditioning exercises before you head outdoors. A strong foundation offers support for any type of activity.
Specific exercises recommendations
At Body Harmonics, we promote good conditioning and biomechanics by focusing on key parts of the body and what they need. Check out the list that follows.
Mobilize and strengthen ankles
Ankles often get restricted. So ungluing and strengthening feet, ankles and calves provides a great foundation for everything else up the chain. Try the following exercises:
Pointing and flexing the ankle/foot: Add a band for a bit of resistance to strengthen the muscles as you mobilize the joints. You can do this exercise lying on your back, seated or standing.
Ankle circles: Try these in both directions. Good with or without a band, and in a variety of positions, as in the first exercise.
Heel lifts/calf raises: Stand on the balls of your feet and lift your heels up the back of your legs. Do this on the floor or off the edge of a stair or yoga block. Stand next to a wall if you need help with balance. For a real challenge, try lifting your heel on one foot only.
Knees need stability. One of the best ways to stabilize the knees is to strengthen ankles and calves. So heel lifts strengthen the feet, ankles, and calves and stabilize the knees at the same time!
Mobilize and strengthen hips
Tight hips can be restrictive, but they affect more than just the hip joint. They often impact movement elsewhere in the body too. So we need to mobilize our hips. Think of it as oiling the joint so other parts of the body work better. The next exercises helps move the hips joints.
Pelvic glides and more: Stand with your feet about hip distance apart. Move your pelvis around your thigh bone by shifting your pelvis from side to side. Drawing figure 8s or making circles with your hips gets all the muscles around the hips. Because you are standing and bearing weight, these exercises are also strengthening.
Strengthening hip muscles at the sides and back is another exercise strategy for hips. It can also free tight hips at the front. So in addition to the pelvic glides, figure 8s and hip circles, try the following to strengthen your side bum and buttock muscles:
Shoulder bridge: This exercise mobilizes the hips, knees and ankles and strengthens the bum muscles at the same time. A standing squat moves the same joints but adds more work because you’re standing and bearing weight.
Standing tic toc: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and tip from side to side. Feel for the weight shift and the work in your torso and side bum muscle
Single leg lift to the side: You can do this standing or lying on one side. Lie down on your side and lift the bottom leg to work your inner thigh muscles.
Side bridge: One of the best all round exercises, side bridge strengthens all your side muscles: torso and side bum. A great way to stabilize the pelvis is by strengthening the top of your hamstrings at the base of the buttocks (the bum crease). Try this exercise to activate those muscles:
Lunge and lean: Start in a lunge with all toes pointing forward and back heel lifted. Hinge forward at the hips with a flat back. Then press strongly into your front foot, especially the heel, to stand tall.
Strengthen core muscles
A strong core adds support
to any movement. Strengthen your deep core muscles to stabilize your pelvis and support your lower back. Here are some strong contenders for this task:
Side bridge: Assume your side bridge position. Knees are bent, hips and shoulders are stacked. Make sure your support elbow is right under your shoulder. Press into your forearm and knees to lift your waist and bottom hip up off the ground.
All 4s knee hover:In your all 4s position, curl your toes under. Then press into your hands and feet to hover your knees about two inches off the floor.
All 4s opposite arm and leg reach: From your all 4s position, press your weight into your left hand and right knee. Glide your right hand and left leg away from centre. Then lift the free limbs to body height and lower them back down. Repeat the same thing on the opposite side.
Mobilize and strengthen your shoulder girdle
For the shoulder girdle,we focus on two main areas: the shoulder blade and the arm bone in the socket. The shoulder blade has to move freely for the shoulder to work properly. Start by mobilizing your shoulder blade with these exercises:
Arm arcs: You can arc your arms vertically to the ceiling and back down or out to the side like a snow angel and then back down to your hips. See if you can feel your blades moving on your back as you move your arms.
All 4s shoulder blade glides: In your all 4s position, let your breast bone drop toward the floor so your shoulder blades come together. Then press into your hands to widen them to the side. This moves and strengthens the shoulder blade muscles. Repeat several times.
To strengthen the shoulder itself, we work the muscles around the arm bone, called the rotator cuff muscles. Any exercise that turns the arm bone in the socket strengthens these muscles.
Rotator cuff exercise: In a vertical or sidelying position, bend your arm at the elbow. Keeping your elbow tucked directly under your shoulder so your upper arm is vertical, and with your forearm parallel to the floor, open the lower arm out to the side and then close it toward your navel. Feel for your arm bone turning in the socket. Add a light weight (two to three pounds maximum) for a bit of resistance.
*Note: All exercises are provided on the assumption that you have no major injuries or medical conditions. Please consult your health practitioner if you have any issues or concerns.
They say that stress can
kill. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it certainly wreaks havoc on our health and wellbeing. The result? Tense, sore muscles, upset tummies, headaches and more.
What is stress and why is it so bad?
According to Richard S Lazarus, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus. UC Berkeley. 1922 – 2002, an authority on stress and other emotional responses, “stress is a condition
or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
Defined, this way, stress triggers a
physiological response known as “fight or flight.” To our ancestors, this typically meant fighting or fleeing from predators. Today we are less likely to have to battle or flee a huge animal, but there are myriads of other daily events that cause the same reaction in our bodies.
The stress response produces hormones that
help us survive the impending threat. Among other things, our heart rate increases, breathing quickens and we sweat more. We can run faster, are better able to focus and may feel anxious.
When the ongoing stresses of our lives keep
our bodies in a constant state of fight or flight, our health can suffer. We
may feel it in our muscles (typically shoulders, neck, low back) or deeper inside (headaches, digestive issues, and so on).
Research shows that touch
helps reduce stress. Human touch provides comfort and the manipulation itself
can also physically release tension in the tissues. Touch stimulates blood flow and increases the supply of oxygen to muscles and organs. These effects are beneficial in their own right, but any or all of them can also help reduce pain.
The Body Harmonics Integrated Health Clinic
offers several options to soothe and release tension from your body. So in
addition to attending studio classes and one on one sessions for your wellbeing, try one of the following to offset the negative effects of stress.
Most people love a good massage, but
massage therapy can be way more than just a feel-good experience. It acts on
the muscular, nervous and circulatory systems to relieve pain, stress, insomnia, headaches and more. There are many styles of massage: Swedish, deep tissue, trigger point, just to name a few. We offer a combination based on your needs.
Contact Frances James, our Registered
Massage Therapist (RMT), by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through the clinic at 416-482-4884 ext 100.
Craniosacral therapy is a hands-on approach
that involves “listening with the fingers” for the body’s subtle rhythms and
any patterns of inertia and congestion. The treatment is gentle and aims to encourage and enhance the body’s self-healing and self-regulating capabilities. Consider craniosacral therapy to relieve muscle and joint pain, injury, headaches, digestive issues, stress disorders, insomnia and more.
Contact Sheila Cameron, our Craniosacral
Therapist, by email (email@example.com) or through the clinic at 416-482-4884 ext 100.
Similar to acupuncture, shiatsu therapy
addresses acupressure points and meridians to treat musculoskeletal and internal conditions—but without the needles! In all instances a deep sense of relaxation prevails. We also offer cupping to relieve local pain and congestion and Tui-Na, a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which applies more dynamic, moving pressure to release tension that has built up in the body.
Contact Bahareh Hosseini, our Shiatsu Therapist, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through the clinic at 416-482-4884 ext 100.
Fascial stretch therapy
Fascial stretch therapy focuses on the
fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds all structures of the body. It can
become stuck. Fascial stretch therapy opens the joints and surrounding muscles so you move with greater ease and less tension. By making the layers of fascia more pliable and hydrated, pain diminishes, joints move better and flexibility, strength and performance improve. Tension dissipates.
Contact Roselby Rodriguz, our Fascial
Stretch Therapist, by email (email@example.com) or through the clinic at 416-482-4884 ext 100.
Also at the clinic
The following therapies help realign and
rebalance the body. While they may not release tension as directly as the other
modalities, there is often a great sense of relief when body parts work better.
Muscular Activation Technique (MAT)
MAT increases range of
motion and strength by determining which muscles have lost their ability to contract and restoring their ability to contract. The technique is gentle and non-invasive and often shows benefits quite quickly.
Watkins, our MAT specialist, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through the clinic at 416-482-4884 ext 100.
Physiotherapy can help
musculoskeletal injuries, neurological conditions, balance disorders and other conditions that affect your movement and mobility. Body Harmonics has two physiotherapists on staff who are also Pilates instructors. This makes them particularly well suited to helping people heal and move better.
Osteopathy is a
gentle, hands-on approach that emphasizes the body’s ability to heal and regulate itself. The basic idea is that when bones are misaligned, the functions of the muscles attached to those bones is affected. Osteopathy works
to restore balance.
Kozlowska, our Musculoskeletal Specialist and Osteopathic student, by email (email@example.com) or through the clinic
at 416-482-4884 ext 100.
Many of us start the new year resolving to lose weight—at least those pounds we added over the holidays. Some people turn to diets. Others up the exercise quotient. Still otherscombine the two approaches.
If you’re thinking diets, the choice is overwhelming! Calories in vs. calories out, Weight Watchers and similar programs, Atkins, The Zone, eating for your blood type, low carb, low fat, and on and on! Which to pick? All seem to have their proponents and opponents!
One thing is clear. Most diets don’t work. When we stop dieting, the pounds pile back on with a vengeance!
Why? According to Dr. Natasha Turner, naturopath and author, the reason for rebound weight gain is that we’ve done nothing to change our underlying metabolism in the process.
A different approach to weight loss
What we’re really talking about here is correcting hormonal imbalances. Rebalancing your hormones is like resetting your metabolism so it works better. Like Dr. Turner, many health professionals recognize the significant role hormones play in weight management. Dr. Turner has written three books on the subject: The Hormone Diet, The Super-Charged Hormone Diet, and The Carb Sensitivity Program. In an article on the Dr. Oz website she states: “If you have struggled to lose weight or keep it off, I guarantee that your hormones are at play.”
Hormones are chemical messengers that control various body .functions like our stress reaction (cortisol), sleep rhythms (melatonin), blood sugar levels (insulin), mood (serotonin) and sex drive (testosterone and estrogen). According to Turner,“Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite and even your cravings!. This means any form of hormonal imbalance will sabotage your [weight loss] efforts—regardless of your diet and exercise habits.”
How do we know if our hormones are in balance or not?
According to Dr. Adrienne Shulman, naturopath at Body Harmonics’ health clinic, some of the typical signs suggesting hormonal imbalance are salt or sugar cravings,sleep issues, digestive problems like bloating and gas, mid-afternoon fatigue, depression and weight gain especially around the mid section.
Dr. Shulman specializes in family health, hormonal balance, and digestion. In addition to working at Body Harmonics, she practices with Dr. Turner at her Clear Medicine clinic. When people complain that they can’t lose weight, even though they exercise and watch what they eat, or that they have gained weight with no change to their diet or exercise regimes, Dr. Shulman looks for hormonal imbalances, often using blood, saliva or urine tests.
If weight management is a constant struggle, or if you have cravings, sleep or digestive issues, orunexplained weight gain, you may want to see if your hormones need some tweaking. Consult Dr Shulman at the Body Harmonics Eglinton studio, speak to your health professional, or pick up a copy of Dr Turner’s book, The Hormone Diet.
How do we get our hormones back in balance?
The Hormone Diet, is a great resource for understanding the major hormones and how they work. It
also includesshort quizzes to help you determine where you sit on the hormonal balance scale.
You’ll learn which
hormones “pack on pounds” and which hormones help you lose weight but Turner
cautions that no hormone works in isolation: “Too much or too little of any one hormone can interfere with your metabolism, accelerate aging and compromise your overall wellness.”
To restore balance
Turner recommends starting with an anti-inflammatory detox program, much like
Dr. Shulman’s Detox Cleanse offered at Body Harmonics (watch for the next one in the spring or summer). The detox removes inflammatory foods—like sugar, caffeine,gluten,
cow dairy, alcohol—from the diet for a period of time so the system can rest.
After the cleanse comes a healthy eating plan (including recipes) as well as
supplements that promote hormonal health. The specific supplements depend on your hormonal profile.
Turner then turns her attention to the role
of stress in weight gain and the importance of sleep in restoring hormonal balance and helping with weight loss. Cortisol and melatonin are the focus
here. She also recommends an active and healthy sex life because “less sex alters our hormones” and that can affect weight too! Finally Turner prescribes exercise.Believe it or not, “a lack of physical activity can bring about a hormonal imbalance.” And with that comes weight gain.
Where to go from here
Balancing your hormones is like an intricate dance. It’s best to use a guide or get help. Here are some steps to consider:
Consult Dr. Shulman or your health practitioner. Consider having your hormone levels tested through blood, saliva or urine tests. Attend the next Detox Cleanse at Body Harmonics. Check the web site for a date in the spring or summer.
Check out Dr Turner’s booksThe Hormone Diet, The Super-Charged Hormone Diet, and The Carb Sensitivity Program.All are available online.
Eat healthy. Focus on proteins and healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil. Minimize carbohydrate intake. Avoid refined sources and high glycemic carbohydrates like bread, pasta, potatoes, white rice.
Exercise! Any exercise is good, and Pilates definitely qualifies. Attend classes or one on one sessions as part of your weight loss plan.
Osteoporosis means porous bones. It is a disease that causes bone tissue to deteriorate so that the density is compromised and it looks like there are holes in the bone tissue. Such deterioration increases the risk of fracture. Osteopenia, which means thin bones, is the precursor to osteoporosis.
The Osteoporosis Canada website warns that“fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.” Even more alarming is the statement that “at least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.”
Sobering statistics. And serious business for those affected. In extreme cases, a simple sneeze can cause a fracture. Unfortunately osteoporosis is a silent disease: often there are no symptoms until fracture occurs.
What causes osteoporosis?
Some factors are uncontrollable, like age and gender. As we age our bones naturally lose vitality. Women are at greater risk of bone loss than men, particularly because of hormonal changes after menopause; however, men can develop osteoporosis too.
Race/ethnicity also makes a difference; for example, Asians and fair-skinned Causasians tend to develop osteoporosis more than other groups. Thin and small-boned people have a higher incidence of osteoporosis because their peak bone mass is lower to start with and there is less stress on their bones due to their lower body weight. A family history of osteoporosis and previous fracture because of osteoporosis are additional risk factors.
There are several controllable factors too—nutrition and lifestyle in particular. What we eat (or don’t), stress, and habits—like smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeinated and/or carbonated drinks and spending a lot of time sitting—all affect bone integrity. Poor posture, balance and muscle strength can also compromise bone health.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
The best way to determine if you have osteoporosis is through a bone scan, which tests bone mineral density (BMD). Testing is a good idea after age 50. Results are given as a T-score. The T-score compares your BMD to that of an average young adult at peak bone mass of the same gender and race/ethnicity (typically in the mid-twenties). A Z-score compares BMD to others of similar age, gender and race/ethnicity.
T-scores are more common. A T-score of -1 is normal and indicates a low risk of fracture. A score between -1 and -2.5 suggests Osteopenia and a BMD loss of approximately 10-15%. Above that level the diagnosis is Osteoporosis. BMD loss is 25% or greater and the risk of fracture is high.
The most common sites for osteoporosis are the thoracic and lumbar spines, hip joint and wrist.
What can we do?
We are indeed what we eat! For specific diet recommendations consult a professional nutritionist. But at the very least eat lots of good quality protein, fruits and veggies and make sure you’re getting enough calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. All are important for bone health.
When it comes to physical activity, research shows that exercise is beneficial for osteoporosis and can slow bone loss or even reverse it to some extent. Indeed, one of our clients recently told us she regained some lost height—all because of the Pilates classes she attends at Body Harmonics!
How does exercise help?*
The best exercise programs are those that reduce the risk of falls and prevent further bone loss. Weight bearing and strength training exercises are good candidates. Exercises that increase balance and flexibility also help.
Weight-bearing means that the entire weight of the body is supported by the legs. Try walking, jogging, climbing, line dancing, low-impact aerobics or racquet sports. Weight bearing exercise helps because bones respond to mechanical stress, such as gravity and the pull of muscles on the bones. This stress helps build more bone.
Avoid high impact activities, forward bending (flexion), excessive side bending and rotation. These activities put undue stress on bones and can lead to fractures.
Another way to increase bone density is through the use of whole body vibrational training (WBVT). In one six-month study, WBVT produced a significant increase in hip bone density in postmenopausal women, while conventional training only slowed the rate of deterioration.
*If you have osteoporosis you may be at risk for fracture. So consult your doctor first and exercise with caution.
What about Pilates?
In Pilates, positions like all-fours, plank or downward dog offer weight bearing for the upper body and may help with bone density in the wrist and arm. The reformer and springboard offer weight bearing and resistance training for the whole body. Standing work is also very beneficial. At Body Harmonics we offer classes that are specifically geared to people with Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. They are called Osteomat (a mat class) and Osteoblast (a reformer class). *If you have osteoporosis you may be at risk for fracture. So consult your doctor first and exercise with caution.
Find out more…
There are lots of resources with information about Osteoporosis. The Osteoporisis Canada site (www.osteoporosis.ca) is a good place to start. At Body Harmonics we also offer Osteoporosis and Balance workshops for teachers and the general public. Look under the Public Workshops and Teacher Training tabs online. The next Osteoporosis workshop for teachers is scheduled for January 12, 2013. The next Balance workshop for the public is scheduled for Sunday February 3, 2013.
‘Tis the season for sweet treats and holiday cocktails, but the month of December can suddenly get very busy, and stress levels can run high.As we play with finding balance in our lives, it is essential that we make time to take care of ourselves.The good news is that it is still possible to indulge while you’re finding that balance!Here are some tips to stay on track over the holiday season and into the New Year:
Whether it's your favourite Pilates class, or a quick walk, make some time in your busy day to get your body moving.Studies show that as little as 10 minutes of exercise, 3 times a day can relieve stress, improve circulation, help to eliminate toxins from your body, and add a great kick to your metabolism.
Second only to oxygen,water is our most valued substance for attaining optimum health. The adult body is over 70% water, and water plays a role in almost every bodily function. Staying hydrated is crucial for optimal brain function, digestion, circulation, our immune system, skin, and all other organs. Drinking water is also critical for digestion and flushing toxins from the body!
Make sure to sip water throughout your day, and especially between those cocktails or glasses of wine. It is the small, consistent intake throughout your day that keeps you hydrated.
Practice saying “no”
During the holidays, it can be difficult to resist all of those tempting treats and tables full of food.But saying “no” to those temptations can lead to a big “yes” for your health.
Whether you are having dinner with the family or mingling at a party this season, the trick is to keep portions in check and make healthy choices:
Eat a light snack beforehand to avoid filling up on hors d’oeuvres
and fingerfoods…especially at the cocktail hour when you are likely to feel hungry and the tendency is to grab what looks good.
Try to fill at least half of your plate with veggies or salads. They are full of nutrients and fiber that will help keep your digestion running smoothly.
Choose whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and millet over mashed potatoes and breads.
And if you are preparing the holiday feast, try adding flavour to your food with fresh spices, herbs, and lemon juice.The flavour boost may lead you to say “no” to the gravy this year!
Sleep and Relaxation
Sleep usually takes a backseat during the holiday season. There is so much to do that it seems like a waste of time. Sleep and relaxation are needed however, to rejuvenate every cell in the body and for the optimal function of the immune system.
Relaxation is one of the best methods to calm the mind and bring your body back into a state of equilibrium. With a focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It’s easy, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check.
Try this belly breathing exercise
Take a deep breath, filling the belly with air as though you were inflating a balloon.You will feel your belly expand.Then slowly exhale, as though you were deflating that same balloon.Take another deep belly breath, and see if you can hold it for a few seconds before exhaling it.Repeat, up to six times.
Alleviating those stressful feelings during the holidays will allow you to take advantage of this final tip:
Indulge and Enjoy
When you eat sensibly on a daily basis, your body can support small indulgences. And when you treat your body with care and respect, you will find yourself letting go, and living guilt-free.
Happy Holidays, and all the best in the New Year.2013, here we come!
Many of us can only get so far and then we have to use our hands to help pull us up. Or we try and use momentum (that little lurch) to get us up. Or maybe we manage to get up a fair bit but our legs come off the floor with us!
As Sandra, a client at the studio says, “It doesn’t seem to matter how strong my abs are, I just can’t seem to get up all the way!”
Like Sandra, many people think the problem is in their abs. But actually there’s a lot more than abs involved in doing a rollup. So maybe strengthening one of the other areas will improve your rollup.
Three key muscle groups
There’s definitely more than meets the eye when we try to roll up. Certainly, we needour abs But they’re only part of the story.There are at least two other groups of muscles that come into play: hip flexors and back of thigh and bum muscles.
Starting with an ab curl
Typically, we start a roll up with an ab curl. Lying on the mat, we take a breath and as we exhale we arc our arms up over our chest. Then we take another breath and as we exhale we nod our chin and start to curl up over our front ribs into an ab curl, resting on the lower half of our back ribs.
To curl up like this we need our abs to pull our upper torso away from the mat (against gravity). Which abs, you may ask? Rectus abdominis, the 6 pack muscles in the front of our torso. We also use the obliques, our side torso muscles, especially our external obliques.
So for the first part of the rollup we use our abs, specifically, the rectus abdominis and obliques.
Getting the ribs off the floor...
Now we’re at the stage where we have to get our ribs and torso up off the floor. That’s where the challenge starts! And that’s also where we need some extra help for those ab muscles.
Not only are we flexing our spine to come into an ab curl, and continuing to flex it to come up further, but our legs areout in front of us. To come up further, we also have to flex, or bend, at the hips! Enter the hip flexors.
Adding the hip flexors
We have superficial hip flexors and we have deep hip flexors. Both help us in a rollup.The deep hip flexor is called the psoas. It looks like a big flank steak that runs from the mid back across the pelvis to the top inside bump of our thigh bone. Because of the way it attaches it helps us pull the spine toward the legs when we roll up.
The other more superficial hip flexors help us do the same thing. Those are the muscles you can feel at the front crease where your pelvis attaches to your thigh.
So far we have the rectus abdominis and obliques from the ab group helping us get to an ab curl (up to the base of the ribs). Then we add the hip flexors to help get the torso off the ground.
What about those of us who can get up about two thirds of the way but can’t keep our legs down on the ground? After the abs and hip flexors, we have to add the muscles at the back of our legs, primarily our hamstrings, to help us get up the rest of the way in our rollup.
Our hamstrings help us glue the back of the thighs to the floor so we can get the rest of the way up to sit tall. They help us lever our bodies up.
So the abs help with the initial curl off the floor. The hip flexors help lift the torso. And the hamstrings help us keep our legs down as we come up the rest of the way to sit tall.
Finding the right rhythm
They say timing is everything. The same goes for a rollup. All the bones and muscles have to work in a coordinated rhythm to make it all the way up. We know the rhythm is working well when we can articulate the spine—roll up or down bone by bone, with no gaps.
Our deep core muscles help us articulate the spine so working the core helps us articulate the spine better. When we articulate the spine better we improve the timing or bone rhythms in our body. That is the last ingredient in our rollup. When we add bone rhythms to the abs, the hip flexors and the hamstrings, we significantly increase our chances of doing a full rollup successfully.
3-2-1 LAUNCH! We are very excited to present our fresh new look and want to thank everyone involved in making it happen! With the opening of our health clinic three parts made us complete and now we are Pilates Studios, Integrated Health Clinic and Teacher Training Program. Each program compliments and enhances the other with education as the cornerstone for all. Our new logo is three colours - yellow/orange for our Studios, green for our Clinic and blue for Teacher Training. The silhouette in the middle symbolizes what we hope for everyone who comes to Body Harmonics - a sense of openness and a full expression of you! Watch in the coming weeks for all the updates around our studios!
Please click through this website and get to know our new online presence. As always, we'd love to hear your feedback on how it works and what you like. Also let us know how we can improve things so your online experience of Body Harmonics is streamlined and user-friendly.
Neck and shoulder tension are high on the list of reasons people visit chiropractors, massage therapists and physiotherapists.* And while such practitioners offer relief, it is often temporary.According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s hard to pinpoint the source of neck and shoulder tension. Common triggers include poor posture, stress, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle perched in front of computers and TVs.
If those are the causes, it stands to reason that the solution might be to improve posture, reduce stress and make some lifestyle changes.
The Mayo Clinic web site states:
"Maintaining proper posture reduces the strain on muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones; protects and stabilized the body's joints; and helps a person move efficiently.
When it comes to improving posture, Pilates is definitely the way to go! But is it enough? Should we do something more specific to relieve our necks and shoulders?
Support is the key
Pilates core conditioning exercises are always beneficial. While they are not a direct route to relieving neck tension, they can certainly help. For one thing, neck and shoulder tension may imply a weak core. If the core support’s not there, the neck and shoulders can take over.
Another strategy would be to create support elsewhere in the body so the neck and shoulders can let go. This would involve strengthening the right muscles so the neck and shoulders are no longer burdened with work they’re not designed for—like holding us upright or carrying heavy loads, jobs that are more appropriate for our torso and arms.
The question is: which muscles are the right muscles?
Targeting the obliques and more
The obliques, or side torso muscles, are a great place to start. One of their main functions it to support the shoulder girdle.
Another target is the serratus anterior, a muscle under the armpit. The serratus anterior moves our shoulder blade toward the armpit so it hugs the ribs. This hugging action creates stability in the upper body. It also helps the arm bone sit better in the shoulder socket.
The serratus anterior attaches to the obliques on the front and side of the body, and to the big superficial back muscles, called the latissimus dorsi, or lats. The result? A broad band of support that wraps around the torso, ribs and upper back.
Putting theory into practice
The goal, then, is to strengthen the muscles that lie below the shoulder girdle. This allows the neck and shoulder muscles to let go because they have support from underneath.
That’s the theory. How do we put the theory into practice?
At Body Harmonics we often use Side Bridge to build support in the shoulder girdle. It’s one of the best exercises for the obliques. It also strengthens several other muscles, including serratus anterior (the armpit muscle), as well as the deep low belly muscles, the gluteus medius or side bum muscles, and the inner thighs, and an important lower back muscle, quadratus lumborum.
Side bridge to the rescue...
Because it targets so many muscles, Side Bridge is a great all-round exercise, whether or not there are neck and shoulder issues present. However, many people complain that it bothers their neck and shoulders to do Side Bridge!
If that’s the case, how can doing Side Bridge help people who have those very problems to start with? The answer lies in the degree of discomfort and the benefits of the exercise. Our experience suggests that if there is slight discomfort, the results are often worth it because of all the torso and shoulder girdle muscles the exercise targets. If there is more than a little discomfort an alternative exercise might be more appropriate, like side bending or working on unstable equipment such as a balance cushion or foam roller.
The bottom line? If you suffer from neck and shoulder tension, consider doing Side Bridge on a regular basis to help build support for your shoulder girdle and take the strain off your neck and shoulders.
*This article addresses neck and shoulder tension. Those with diagnosed neck and shoulder injuries should consult their doctor or other health care practitioner before undertaking any exercise program.
**Those with diagnosed shoulder and neck conditions, like a herniated cervical disk or a rotator cuff injury, should consult their doctor or other health care practitioner before attempting Side Bridge or other exercises.