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The Danger Of Pilates

images-16Beware! There is something dangerous about Pilates. Could it be one of the moves that should never be taught? Is it a spinal position that should be avoided at all costs? Is it a certain condition which is contraindicated for all exercises? No, it is a  thankfully rare species of Pilates instructor known as the Underminer. The Underminer can be easily identified by several traits. They openly criticise of other instructors and constantly question other instructors' training history. They can be seen aggressively policing other instructors' posts on social media, seeking to belittle them. They badger you to join their groups and Associations and try to create elite gangs where entry requirements are years and years of training under their approval. Yet the most revealing aspect is their complete lack of professional respect and courtesy which is frankly jaw-dropping!

The Underminer can sometimes appear when you begin to teach a new class in what they perceive as their territory. This is where they may feel threatened and concerned that the competition may affect their business and so begin to question your reputation. Admittedly we all can feel this way when new classes open, but how we react is what identifies us. If you find yourself in this position, I would suggest meeting for a coffee and discuss how you can mutually help each other by referrals and cover classes.

Social media forums seem to be the breeding ground of the Underminers  where they feel it is their right to bully, badger and criticise other instructors.

In an attempt to better understand this species of instructor, I try to look at their motivation in behaving in this way. One reason is the feeling of being threatened by other instructors. Another reason is simply egotistical. They have embarked on a global dominance of the Pilates world and seek to turn all instructors to their elite beliefs and style of teaching. Or is it simply financial? They want to gain as much financial benefit from training instructors as possible by shrouding the study of Pilates in mystery.  Benjamin Degenhardt recently posted,

"I often struggle being part of an industry that is trying its very hardest to make more of this thing called "Pilates" than it was designed to be: an approach to physical fitness and health that is inherently and utterly... simple."

and I couldn't agree more. This is not to say we never stop learning and our understanding of this amazing Method is a constant journey with revelations unfolding with each client we teach and every workshop we attend. But rather that no instructor should be judged unworthy or not capable simply on the stage of the journey they are at.

So how should we  deal with the Underminer on social media forumsPersonally I strenuously avoid any contact with them wherever possible. I refuse to engage with them and I believe that clients and other Pilates instructors can clearly see their true nature. If it does become unavoidable, I ask them to have a direct, personal  chat with me to discuss their comments and questions and I generally find with a quietly muttered "There's no need, thank you" they tend to scurry away.

If you are not already a member of the Underminer-free JPilates Forum on Facebook we would love to welcome you. It is incredibly supportive and friendly and is open to Pilates instructors from all training backgrounds. To join please click here

Posted on November 26, 2015 and filed under Joseph Pilates Pilates..., Uncategorized.

Pilates and Stroke Survivors-An Inspiration

831f5e8ed5ac74cbf8fe5dee48d9fb5dThe ability of Pilates to completely change and improve someone's quality of life never ceases to amaze me. It is a true testament to the life-long dedication that Joe Pilates gave to his method that it can improve and enhance the ability to move and function regardless of limitations. In my job as a Pilates instructor, I have met some truly inspirational and courageous people. One of them is my client, Sam. I first met Sam, a 40-year-old stroke survivor at Akasha Wellness last November about 8 months following her stroke. I had received a short email from her neurological physiotherapist explaining that she had weakness in her right hip and trunk and Pilates would help improve her static and dynamic posture. As with all conditions and injuries, it is only when we actually meet and see the client that we can fully understand and consider their exercise programme as no written referral notes can fully detail the extent and effect on the individual.

Sam was driven to the studio by a friend as she was unable to drive herself. She walked with a stick as she suffered from a lack of strength and mobility in her right leg with paralysis in her right arm. Both her right foot and hand were tightly curled with a complete lack of sensation. Sam could not move either limb unaided. Due to the stroke, Sam found it difficult to speak and express herself. As Sam had led an incredibly active life, swimming, horse-riding, tennis and running, the limitations she now faced made her  feel extremely frustrated, angry and helpless.

Pilates was obviously going to be highly beneficial for Sam. Nobel prize recipient Dr Roger Sperry said that the spine is the motor that drives the brain. According to his research,

"90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine"

Not only would the moves stimulate the brain's function and improve her strength and mobility but just as importantly, Pilates would encourage her to trust and appreciate again her body and mind.

Using the Reformer and closed kinetic chain exercises has been excellent for Sam as it allows her to push and pull against the apparatus, giving her enhanced feedback and deeper connection with her body. Constant reassurance is needed as Sam has lost confidence in her body and its movement.

After just a few sessions, Sam's foot and toes began to uncurl. By the end of each session the foot would be glowing with warmth and blood flow whereas at the start it was white and cold. Over the months Sam  stopped using the stick and began to drive herself again, which was a huge step in her independence. She was able to now move the leg unaided into positions.

With increased confidence Sam's progress has been fantastic. Her speech is much more fluid and spontaneous and her gait more balanced. She is incredibly strong in her abdominals and back and each session I am continually inspired by her dedication and determination. I hope one day soon Sam will join in the group sessions.

Working with Sam has been a truly incredible experience for me as an instructor, further proving how Pilates can and does help everyone regardless of injury, age or medical conditions.

Posted on October 12, 2015 and filed under Uncategorized.

Be a little more serious and a lot less solemn!

This week I found myself flicking through a gardening images-15magazine in a waiting room, (not my usual reading material but there was not much else on offer!) and I came across an article which really struck a chord with me and my thoughts on some aspects of the Pilates industry. The writer, Monty Don, was proposing that gardeners should be more serious and much less solemn  and I could see how his thoughts could definitely be also applied to some Pilates instructors, especially those who are incredibly vocal on various social media sites and forums.

"Seriousness underpins any endeavour worth doing and every life worth living. But whereas seriousness can be worn lightly, with grace and wit, solemnity carries with it the dead hand of the pedant and killjoy"

This is no more true when reading some of the comments and criticisms of those instructors who see themselves as being superior either in their training or knowledge to other fellow instructors. Sometimes Pilates just takes itself far to solemnly!

As Monty says,

"There is a time and place for solemnity. It is appropriate for births, funerals and grand occasions of state."

whereas being serious in our work shows a mark of respect for the Method, our clients and each other. It  still encourages discussion, healthy debate and (fingers crossed) a little  humour without producing the fear of reprisal and ostracism from the very community which should inspire and encourage us.

It is important to remember that as human beings we live in pursuit of happiness, of enjoyment. For us as Pilates instructors, this means encouraging the joy in mindful movement, the sense of well-being and health in a vibrant yet serious environment not only in our classes but in the Pilates world we live in.

So the only question now is do I subscribe to Gardeners World!

The Pilates Bean Bag Roll-up Device

IMG_0053Joseph Pilates was undoubtedly an inventor and a genius! He was definitely at least 50 years ahead of his time as so many people say. How did he know to create a piece of equipment to alleviate stressed out wrists, fingers, elbows and the upper body from hand-held devices and everyday living? This simple piece of equipment is fantastic for targeting those issues from carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritic fingers, tennis elbow to frozen shoulder. Instructions on how to use the Bean Bag Roll-up Device

1. Stand in Pilates stance, heels pressed together, toes pointing slightly outward or parallel with big toe knuckles together, depending on the needs of your client.

2. Stand tall, lengthening through the spine, focusing on each body segment being lifted and correctly placed over the one below.

3. Roll up the bag so it hangs just below the dowel. Hold the dowel in both hands straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Do not lock your elbows. Relax through the shoulders having a sense of the arms originating from the mid back.

4. Open the fingers of one hand, and point them toward the ceiling, wrist flexed backward as far as you can. The opposite hand grasps the dowel, fingers wrapped around it, wrist fully extended with knuckles facing the floor.

5. Slowly unwind the bag toward the floor, alternating the hand grasp between (a) open fingers pointing upward with flexed wrist and (b) grasped hand reaching downward in full wrist extension. Maximize the full flexion and extension of each wrist, and maintain good whole-body form from head to toe. Don’t forget to breathe fully in and out.

6. Once your bag reaches the floor, reverse the process and rewind back to the start position. Maintain full wrist flexion and extension on each move, and also maintain the correct body stance.

Note: If the exercise is too difficult, reduce the starting weight, and/or limit the length of the cord, so you unwind and rewind over a smaller distance. Concentrate on perfect whole-body form.

To increase the challenge, stand on a stair or a stool so you have to unwind and rewind over a greater distance. Begin with one full repetition, and then gradually add more weight. Work up to three full repetitions over time.

Here is also a short video demonstrating its use.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S444tTQSzxo]

The JPilates Bean Bag Roll-up Devices are available to buy for £20 each (+postage). Please contact info@jpilates.co.uk for more details

How to encourage clients to practise Pilates at home.

"PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour"  So states Joe Pilates in Return to Life, yet how do we encourage this diligence in our clients? Joe Pilates insists on us never taking "the night off" and not succumbing to momentary weakness and Mary Bowen recalls how he required his clients to commit to a minimum of three sessions a week. We all know how such commitment to the system would produce incredible results but realistically many of our clients attend only one or two sessions due to financial, time or other restraints. So how can we encourage our clients to practise more in order to progress and address any issues? An easily accessible and effective way is to give them short videos to do at home and here is an example of the Swan Dive taught at a low level as a 3 minute fix.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HRkBdHLV9g]

It is simple to record, upload and edit on YouTube and even though I hate to see and hear myself on camera, clients love it-so lights, camera, ACTION!!

I would love to hear how you encourage your clients to practise more!

Never Stop Learning!

At the beginning of any of our courses or workshops I tell instructors that we never stop learning, to question everything and to ask anything! This is the most crucial founding principal of JPilates training- to constantly learn and enhance our teaching skills and knowledge and to realise that we can not know everything. When a client asks a question or has an injury or condition that you are unfamiliar with or unsure of, it is much more professional to admit that you need to further research the subject and to promise to get back to them once you have sought further advice or knowledge. (You would then email or phone us if you wish!!) Guidelines and research constantly develop, evolve and sometimes contradict and so it is imperative that we keep up to date with changes and have a reliable source to refer to.

Each year I allocate time and finances to attend courses and workshops to further my own knowledge. This year I am looking forward to a workshop from the fabulous Amy Taylor Alpers and the Pilates On Tour Convention. I'll definitely share with you my thoughts on both events after.

Continual professional development needn't be expensive. It could be attending our monthly Instructor Only Classes or another instructor's class in your area and evaluate (to yourself of course!) aspects you enjoyed and areas which could be improved. Webinars are a great way of developing your knowledge of specific areas such as Scoliosis and we are always open to new topics for us to present.

For more information on all our qualificationscourses and workshops please visit www.jpilates.co.uk or contact info@jpilates.co.uk.

Why Dynamic Stretching is Perfect for Pilates

All Pilates movements require a good balance between strength, mobility and flexibility for correct execution, but due to postural issues some additional flexibility work is required to establish good functional length and movement. Every stretch is either static or dynamic and passive or active. Static-passive stretching is the most commonly used and most recognisable, where the muscle is gradually taken to a point of mild tension and maintained for a period of time, relaxing while outside assistance is used to aid the stretch, such as a strap, body resistance or another person.

Dynamic-active stretching is performed by moving through a comfortable yet challenging range of motion repeatedly whilst actively contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you are stretching. The movement should be smooth and controlled and requires more co-ordination but improves functional mobility in sport and daily activities.

Research has shown, Herda TJ et al (2008), that although static-passive stretches are beneficial, dynamic-active stretches are more functionally effective. Strength is being built while performing the stretches as muscular force is required to generate the stretch but they can be lower risk as no external force is being applied.  The stretches are movement orientated which can help generate heat making the muscles more pliable and as there is muscle activation and contraction present, muscles are triggered to relax more. As one of the original principles is Flow, dynamic-active stretching really compliments Pilates classes bringing fluidity to the stretches and releases.

Please click here for a short video of a dynamic-active hamstring stretch.

"To Keep In Shape: Act Like An Animal" so says Joe Pilates

elephant_256x2561[1]This is an amazing article written in 1962 by a student of Joseph Pilates. He has really captured how I believe Joseph spoke and taught. In reading it I completely feel like I am in the studio myself, trying to look graceful on a Cadillac but failing miserably! The profound influence that animals and their movement had on Joseph's work is clearly shown. I am living in hope of one day being good enough to be called an elephant! Please click the link below to read this fantastic piece of history. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1073531/1/index.htm

Posted on October 20, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

Joseph Pilates- A Man of Mystery

pilates-joe-teaser[1]In spite of the worldwide popularity of Pilates, there is still an aura of mystery and discrepancy surrounding its inventor, Joseph Pilates and the history of his life. Here are a few truths I have unearthed and some insights into his  work from his students. It is commonly stated and written in many Pilates books that Joseph was born in Monchengladbach in 1880 but his naturalisation papers filed in New York state he was born on 10th December 1883 and this is supported by his birth certificate.

It is often claimed that he suffered as a child from various diseases and conditions such as rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. Yet he himself stated in apparent contradiction to this,

"I must be right. Never an aspirin never injured a day in my life."

It could be this rumour began in the 1920s when the mind-body movement became extremely popular and magazines such as "Vim" were full of stories of disease-ridden childhoods inspiring exercise regimes which changed lives.

Little known is the fact that he was married at least twice but there is no record of a legal marriage between himself and Clara, in fact on a passenger manifest in 1938 his marital status is declared as single. From his first marriage he had a daughter affectionately known as Leni who visited him in New York.

A fantastic article by Sharry Underwood in Dance magazine, fondly recalls her memories of Joe Pilates at Jacobs Pillow, a famous dance camp where he and Clara spent every summer from 1939-1951. She describes early morning classes where,

"Under Pilates' care I gave birth to three vertebrae I had never felt before, correcting my alignment (lordotic). Joe was famous for correcting back problems saying " You are as strong as your weakest vertebrae, like a ladder with a broken rung"

She ends the article by stating,

"Once you have learned Pilates it becomes a conscience for your body the rest of your life....At 88 I still have my own knees and can bend to place my hands on the floor"

Joseph's legacy continues to grow and evolve. The secret behind its popularity and appeal lies in its versatility and adaptability. As Mary Bowen said,

" Joe was not rigid. In the six years that I was at his studio, I often created exercises and variations in his presence which he allowed.  He affirmed a creative approach to his principles. Some Pilates participants seem to have forgotten this. Joe's reminder to me was "Just be sure that you are always aware of the whole body at all times no matter what you do" The Pilates Method is all about wholeness."

Photograph by I.C. "Chuck" Rapoport 1961

Posted with many thanks to the amazing Tacye Lynette!

Posted on October 20, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

5 Steps to Choosing the Right Pilates Teacher Training Course

Deciding which is the right Pilates Teacher Training Course can be bewildering. There are an overwhelming number to choose from making it extremely difficult to decide which is best for you. Here are a few tips to help find the right certification programme to suit your needs. 1. Go to as many different Pilates classes as possible: Being instructed by a variety of teachers will allow you to experience different teaching styles. If you particularly like a certain way or type of teaching ask the instructor who they trained with and if they recommend the training programme.

2. First Impressions...Try to meet the director or principal tutor of the company and if possible observe them teaching a session. This will give you an excellent idea of whether their method of delivery is going to suit your learning needs and keep you motivated.

3. Time restraints and course content: Decide how much time you have available for your training-a course can be like a part-time job! Do weekends or weekday training suit you best? Find out how much additional home learning is required as well as the course length. Some companies offer on-line training, assess carefully if this is how you wish to learn. Some material such as Anatomy and Physiology can be learnt independently but I believe it should be strongly supported by face to face tuition. Pilates especially is best learnt and understood in person.

4. Financial options: The cost of certification can hugely vary. Look for payment plans to help spread the cost of the training.

5. This is just the beginning! Certification is only the beginning! The real learning starts once you are instructing your own clients. Look at the continuing education programme offered-are there any workshops or short courses to enhance and further develop your knowledge? Do they offer continual support or an instructor community where you can raise questions or share experiences?

If you would like any advice or help please feel free to contact us at info@jpilates.co.uk and visit our website www.jpilates.co.uk for full details of our courses and workshops.

Posted on October 20, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

Pilates Instructor Dilemmas-What Would You Do?

dilemma 2Over the past few weeks I have had some very interesting conversations with Pilates teachers and other exercise professionals. There appears to be a common theme of reflection and introspection of teaching styles and beliefs, of evaluating businesses and class structures. One conversation was with an instructor who had been working freelance for a Pilates studio for quite some time and who had been told to change their teaching style. The owner has asked for a more "Go for the Burn" style class whereas the instructor strongly believes in balancing attention to technique with fluidity of movement and allowing adaptation dependent on client needs.  I can understand both sides as the studio owner clearly knows the type of client they wish to attract and the style of classes they wish to deliver whereas the instructor's beliefs are an integral part of their teaching style and identity. So what would you advise? I believe there needs to be a balance of respect between the two parties but ultimately as an instructor you need to be fully committed and passionate about your method of teaching otherwise it shows!

Several other conversations evolved around how a very popular, established class can suddenly drop to very low numbers. For the instructor this can be really demoralising and can lead to self-doubt. But so often clients do not attend for some many reasons outside of our control especially at this busy time of year. So what would you advise? On further analysing the reasons why we realised that the term itself was 8 weeks long and for these clients it was too much commitment at this time of year. One solution was in offering a 4 week block which has now filled the class and another was to offer a "pay-as-you-go" term which has been also very successful. This demonstrates that even though we prefer a certain payment structure we may need to be flexible. Again balance is the answer.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these dilemmas and remember JPilates has a fantastic closed Facebook forum where you can discuss, share experiences and ask questions in a supportive and friendly group. Please just click here and request to join. Also always feel free to contact me with any questions at info@jpilates.co.uk

Posted on November 19, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

The JPilates Convention

We are so excited as our first JPilates convention is now less than a month away! Teaser pose

With small class sizes to ensure you have the opportunity to ask questions, new exercises to develop your teaching repertoire and the latest research in movement to keep you updated, you will be inspired and refreshed.

We will begin with an energising "34 moves" class with Joanne Cobbe, where you will have the chance to perform the full repertoire and transitions as outlined in "Return to Life." This will be followed by a day of ideas, sharing and movement as we explore 3D Movement with Chelsea FC's Physiotherapist Mark Leyland, delve into the psyche of the Sports Person with Specialist Personal Trainer Adrian Bell and explore the wonders of the weighted ball with JPilates founder Joanne Cobbe. Other sessions include the popular Corrections Clinics and Injury Prevention.  For full programme details click here.

Each attendee will receive a great goodie bag and will be entered into the raffle where our amazing prizes include a spine corrector donated by Balanced Body, gift vouchers for courses and many more.

The JPilates convention is not just a chance to develop your knowledge and teaching skills but also a chance to meet other instructors, exchange ideas and experiences. So with this in mind, we have also arranged a little post convention social gathering where we can relax and catch up after an inspiring day.

There are only a few spaces left so book soon! For more information please contact info@jpilates.co.uk or visit our website www.jpilates.co.uk

Posted on June 26, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

5 Steps to Choosing the Right Pilates Teaching Training Course

Deciding which is the right Pilates Teacher Training Course can be bewildering. There are an overwhelming number to choose from making it extremely difficult to decide which is best for you. Here are a few tips to help find the right certification programme to suit your needs. 1. Go to as many different Pilates classes as possible: Being instructed by a variety of teachers will allow you to experience different teaching styles. If you particularly like a certain way or type of teaching ask the instructor who they trained with and if they recommend the training programme.

2. First Impressions...Try to meet the director or principal tutor of the company and if possible observe them teaching a session. This will give you an excellent idea of whether their method of delivery is going to suit your learning needs and keep you motivated.

3. Time restraints and course content: Decide how much time you have available for your training-a course can be like a part-time job! Do weekends or weekday training suit you best? Find out how much additional home learning is required as well as the course length. Some companies offer on-line training, assess carefully if this is how you wish to learn. Some material such as Anatomy and Physiology can be learnt independently but I believe it should be strongly supported by face to face tuition. Pilates especially is best learnt and understood in person.

4. Financial options: The cost of certification can hugely vary. Look for payment plans to help spread the cost of the training.

5. This is just the beginning! Certification is only the beginning! The real learning starts once you are instructing your own clients. Look at the continuing education programme offered-are there any workshops or short courses to enhance and further develop your knowledge? Do they offer continual support or an instructor community where you can raise questions or share experiences?

If you would like any advice or help please feel free to contact us at info@jpilates.co.uk and visit our website www.jpilates.co.uk for full details of our courses and workshops.