Monday, November 8, 2010

pilates for a great posture

acquiring strong abs is one good reason to practice pilates. practicing it with a deeper understanding of "the method" and how it encourages proper posture and better holistic wellness, might just be the best.

joseph pilates says famously in his 'return to life through contrology' book, "a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of meeting all the complex problems of modern living."

it's now well-known that the benefits of proper posture are many - read more about it here. with over hundreds and hundreds of exercises, the pilates method aims to create the most ideal posture for the human body.

practicing pilates will certainly yield a beautiful body; however, the ultimate benefit to a steady practice is that you will live a life with less stress, more energy and better rest. you will exceed plateaus in physical activities. you will face the world with more confidence. you will experience less daily back aches. whether you sit, stand or move around in your job, you'll be able to execute your work with more ease. what better way is there to live?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the yoga/pilates connection

here's a nicely written article about those curious about the connection. you don't have to chose one or the other - you can practice both!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

cyclical thoughts

we recently entered into the autumnal equinox which symbolizes many things, the bounty of nature in the year that had passed; the harvest of fruits or even a melancholy association signifying the impending cold weather, depending on the culture.

i know that autumn for me has always been a good time to evaluate the "fruits" and contributions of my existence. during this time, i myself just got a new tattoo with symbols extracted from a philippine mandala that (to oversimplify) signified my commitment to teaching as part of this community. i did it to reinforce a fulfilled - and happy - sense of union with the world around me. as a yogi who practices transcendental meditation, it was just a logical symbol to chose.

as we go through this life, it's really important to check in with oneself on occasion, perform a "gut check" if you will. we should be happy with our present existence, celebrating our our lives thusfar. sometimes it's what we imagined for ourselves, sometimes it's a total surprise!

whatever you have in your present, always make sure to find the happiness in it. celebrate who you are and what you've done. the best way to be prepared for an uncertain future is to relish in today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

update on pilates today

this is a great in depth article from a fitness trade point of view. it's pretty cool that pilates is reported to be the nation's fastest growing activity, up 450% since 2000! read here to get a big picture on where this method is today and where it's headed

Saturday, July 31, 2010

how a strong core helps your play

one of my newer students shared a great story with me the other day. after a couple months of pilates, apparently he was able to use his newly found core muscles to prevent a small basketball injury!

prone to turning his ankles, during one game, he caught and re-centered himself just before he was about to land improperly. he said that before, he would have just landed and then hurt himself (and in turn, putting himself out of commission, unable to enjoy more play time with his friends). since he felt more centered and stronger with his core, he quickly recognized the danger and avoided landing wrong all together. after several lessons, he had quickly developed more control over his overall movement.

pilates is amazing for applications in cross diagonal, multi-directional movement, as in playing basketball. this is why pro-basketball players like kobe bryant, lebron james and jason kidd practice pilates. the more stable your core muscles are that support the movement of your limbs around your spine and torso, the more control you will have over your body. it all makes perfect sense, the better functioning your axis, or midline is, the more control you will have over movement around this axis.

it's pure physics. think about a spinning top. a top that is spinning upright on its tip will spin much longer than one that is spinning on an angle. as a matter of fact, the one spun on an angle will quickly topple over. a strong core is analogous to the straight axis upon which the top spins by centrifugal force. the stronger the core is, the faster and more effective the spinning movement is and can be.

whether you're a recreational athlete or one that makes a living off of your sport, pilates will not only help your execution, more importantly, it will help you with injury prevention so you can keep playing for a long time!

Friday, July 16, 2010

continuing education

one day i was talking about handstands with a friend of mine after taking a yoga class. i revealed to him that my tense shoulders were what made them challenging for me and that coming to classes really helped me find methods to relax them. he responded by asking, "a pilates teacher has tense shoulders?" i said, "why yes i do!"

teachers all around are human beings too, with strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. we are all results of heredity and conditioning. my students come to me for my expertise and i do my best to provide thoughtful and customized coaching. conversely, i seek the same in my teachers. specific to the above-mentioned case, i do attend yoga and pilates classes partly to remove tension from my shoulders.

when looking for a teacher or a coach, i find it best to find those who continue to challenge themselves and stay open to learning. the human body is a magnificent wonder, with the potential to reach some incredible states - both in health and disease. if you really think about it, our bodies are perpetually in motion, with cells dying and regenerating everyday. we must continue to evolve as our bodies do every day; therefore, there is no finish line when it comes to learning or teaching. there are endless corrections and progressions we can make with our wellness and daily existence.

so to my friend who questioned my tight shoulders, please remember, teachers need to be taken care of too. john wooden, one who inspired so very many beyond basketball, really said it so well - "it's what you learn after you know it all that counts." better believe that those teachers and coaches who stay open to learning are the ones that will take care of you the best.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

matters of my heart

i am sharing my humble experiences and reflections today. between the excitement of entertainment through basketball playoffs and the tragedy of the most massive oil leak in united states history, i don't know whether to be extremely sad or girlishly giddy. i find myself wanting to cry but unable to.

in times of joy, we come together as a people, in times of loss, we come together just the same. when our loved ones are ill, we love simply.

we continue to through some startling changes in nature and are forced to face our responsibilities to one another and to this earth that we are blessed to be a part of.

i find myself appreciating my fellow human more, aiming for a sincere connection and opening my heart as much as i can. these times are calling me to service, way beyond my duties a pilates teacher, way beyond my passion as a yogi and way beyond my motivation to help those who experience extreme hardship. i find myself thinking so grand that i have to go back inside and within, because that's where the true answers and true peace lie.

if we can all just today appreciate each other as we do during these extreme times, then we will be able to honor our life on this earth dutifully and diligently. i guess my point is pretty simple. we shouldn't need these extremes to motivate our actions. if we can just keep a steady stream of thoughtfulness, selflessness and presence as a community every day, then we'd be in a better place all together.

namaste, love and light

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

a quickie for the quick

omg! the new busy person's favorite offerings from trader joe's must be their 'gourmet chicken meatballs'! there are two kinds, a spicy buffalo style with blue cheese, and a milder flavored option with romano. all i can say is "thank goodness" for another protein option! making veggies are fun, but sometimes proteins can be challenging if you're on the go in the city. hard-boiled eggs, chicken breasts or string cheese packs for lunch can get really monotonous sometimes.

these little savory balls are made with chicken that's humanely raised without any added hormones or antibiotics and fed 100% veg. and guess what? there are no fillers, gluten or nitrates!!! the sodium level is a wee bit on the higher side, but seriously, all you need is a few of them thrown in with a bowlful of roasted spaghetti squash and peas in tomato sauce garnished with parsley, and you've got yourself a filling, colorful and healthy dish! serve it with a little couscous and you're good to go.

making food for one can be really boring sometimes, and making food for many can be time consuming sometimes. i think i can speak for those of us who like to stay busy, that i honestly do love it if there is prepared product out there that we could really use and appreciate. semi-homemade can be okay sometimes!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

using pilates to open your chakras

wow it's been a busy month. and because of it, i confess, i've been holding alot of tension in my shoulders and neck. i've been doing my best to strengthen my lat muscles to ease the strain from my upper trapezius muscles (which make up a good portion of the shoulder area). i've also been doing alot of upper back extensions, working on keeping the shoulder blades down.

pilates is incredibly helpful in working the yogic chakra systems of the body which run along the mid line of our bodies from our head to our pelvis. in this photo, a client is in full spinal extension. of the many things she is accomplishing, she is opening up that front hip area by pushing that pelvis forward. although she is in this extension, her powerhouse is still well-engaged, protecting her spine and working her inner organs. as you can see, her head is tilted back all the way as well, opening up that throat area, which is considered the 5th chakra, associated with how one communicates. i guess i had been communicating quite a bit (or not well enough!) because my neck was killing me ;-)

according to the principles of yoga, issues that are dominated by certain body parts are tied to our lifestyle, i.e. the way we live, how we grew up, how we handle stress, you get deeper into your pilates practice, i guarantee that you will find ways to unlock certain tensions in your body that you had never imagined before. you will find a way to control your body and free yourself from being controlled by your body; how's that for process?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

a great example of how it all comes together

russell simmons recently blogged about how meditation helps him. he, too, is a yogi. as part of his "seva" (service), he supports organizations that teach displaced members of society the method of transcendental meditation.

i love these examples of really high profile people who make the effort to stay connected. enjoy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

conscious choices

today i will chose to share a passage from one of the teachers i follow, dr. deepak chopra. i have been heavy with others' pain lately, but my heart has been filled with happiness because i am able to provide a little relief to them through my service. it is times like these that i feel so blessed to be able to do what i do and that i've made the choice to do it. for those of you who need a little assurance with your choices, please read and enjoy these nice words about listening to your body.

"your body sends a message of comfort, that’s the right choice. if your body sends a message of discomfort, then it’s the wrong choice.

ask your heart what to do. it may be the faintest level of feeling, but it’s there in your body. only the heart knows the correct answer. most people think the heart is mushy and sentimental, but it’s not. the heart is intuitive, it is holistic, contextual, relational; it doesn’t have a win-lose orientation, it taps into the cosmic computer and takes everything into account. at times, it may not even seem rational, but the heart has a computing ability that is far more accurate and far more precise than anything within the limits of rational thought…whether we know it or not, life is a continuum of choices, some are made consciously and some are made unconsciously…your future is generated by the choices you are making in every moment of your life.

the more you bring your choices into the level of your conscious awareness, the more you will make those choices which are spontaneously correct for both for you and those around you. and then it will become easier for you to write the script of your life."

- the seven spiritual laws of success

Friday, February 19, 2010

becoming your own masseuse

my yoga teacher says that through our (physical) yoga practice, we become our own masseurs - this certainly applies to a personal pilates practice as well. what do masseurs do after all? more often, they work to release tension and even out imbalances of muscle and energy.

a main principle in pilates is the idea of control - when you are in control of your body, you recognize blockages in energy and muscles, and actively work to find ways to unblock these areas. one of the more effective ways in doing so is by strengthening other surrounding areas around the same body area.

here's an example, if you are the type of person who experiences tension in your neck or shoulders, then we work on developing the latissmus dorsi muscles which are at the bottom of and below the shoulder girdle. when these muscles work like they’re supposed to, they actually complement the muscles above the shoulder girdle and alleviate the extra load that those muscles have been carrying by themselves.

with a regular pilates practice, you can learn to redistribute your physical (and mental) energy and through your own movement, actively unblock certain areas that are overworked, overloaded and overstressed. in turn, you will awaken and fortify those underutilized and neglected areas. this neck and shoulder tension we spoke of that was once there can be minimized, if not obliterated. all you have to do is dedicate yourself to finding a way to release that area’s tension, redirect that energy and lighten its load.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

boosting your brain power

gotta love it - yes, dancing is listed as #1! read the link people, it talks about exercise, flossing and learning another language :-) allons-nous a danser!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

reposting a good story on mind body connections

here's a great story from a student: she was carrying her groceries down a flight of stairs and suddenly she lost her balance. in years past, she tells me, she would have dropped the bag, spilling the contents and fallen immediately, surrendering to gravity and most likely obtaining a few bruises, scrapes, maybe pulling a muscle and such. in essence, she gave up immediately to the situation.

this time around, things were different for her. she lost her balance, but she fought to regain it. she focused to stay on her feet. she not only managed to do that, she reported, but she also kept the contents of the grocery bag from spilling out! she proudly told me of this accomplishment, saying that it was because she used her powerhouse to control her balance and prevent her fall. she also was pleased with the fact that she could focus on her ability to coordinate these things WHILE still holding onto the bag, keeping it upright. she had changed not only her physicality, she changed her whole attitude as well.

she fought and she focused instead of surrendering and giving up. of course this is my personal interpretation of this story, but i think it's a pretty good one, do you?

this is how pilates can help us all. as we strengthen our physical powerhouse, that strength will automatically fortify our mental state. a strong powerhouse means having great posture, and having great posture communicates confidence to the world. think about it - what connotations do you think about when you read the word "spineless"? we aim to support our spine with pilates exercises so that we can live our lives fully and healthily.

if you have a good story on how pilates has helped you, please share them with me. i've love to hear from you.

what we mean by "core"

i often sense that the word "core" is misinterpreted and sometimes misused. when pilates teachers refer to one's "core", i remind you that we are referring to the innermost muscles that support the trunk of the body. some people think that the word "core" means just your abdominals. we mean way more than that. imagine what an apple core is like when the rest of the apple has been eaten. the shape that it makes is actually a little similar to how we want our clients and students to envision their own core. when we speak of the "core" in pilates (and yoga) we mean those muscles that support the spine, the muscles that connect the ribs to the hips and other muscles that connect the spine to the hips.

we speak of creating a girdle for oneself, pulling all of the surrounding muscles in to establish a strong foundation. abdominal muscle groups like the rectus (along the front), the obliques and transverse (along the side of the body) are included in this definition, but so are the other muscles along the back of the body like the inner spinal erectors and quadratus lumborum as well as the latissmus dorsi which run close to the surface along the lower back. all of these muscle groups with many more, support the torso.

imagine how many muscles work together and how strong the many layers could be as they work together. with this strong core, your posture is at its best and you stand upright. when you stand upright, the benefits are endless to your body and overall well being. your lungs are able to fill with ease, your diaphragm is positioned to contract and relax maximally and your spine is stacked to serve most efficiently. with this posture, you have the capacity to take in the most oxygen as you breathe, therefore, increasing the circulation of blood throughout your system. with more blood and fresh oxygen through the system, the heart and brain work well. and yes, you guessed it, when your heart and your brain work well, you make the best decisions for yourself and you are confident with what you do.

a strong core in pilates will yield so much more than a 4- or 6-pack (so much of that is diet, anyway!), it will yield a strong spirit and strong foundation for living. and that's mind body connection at its best.

Monday, January 4, 2010

the method

new year greetings! here's to a 2010 filled with the fulfillment of all of your desires!
at the end of last year, i was carrying quite a bit of tension and grief in my lower back. every day for over two months, this area would tighten up and i found myself in a lot of pain with very little mobility. the only relief i found was through my pilates practice, specifically with mat work and leg springs. as i worked my powerhouse, my lower abdominals engaged to pull the burden and brunt of the stress away from my lower back. i was able to stand up straighter and go about my busy days without grimacing.
pilates is so much more than a workout. it is a method through which one can achieve better living - a better quality of life. the stronger our powerhouses are, the better we are able to deal with life's challenges and stress-triggers. 90% of illnesses are triggered by stress - thankfully by now, this is no longer a secret! a regular pilates practice will help you stay healthy and get stronger to better handle a dynamic and exciting life. hope to see you in session soon!