Pilates and the Pelvic Floor

 

Gym CadillacKierstin Elliott, Pilates Instructor at BBPT

Breath. Breath is the common denominator for understanding how pilates can enhance the pelvic floor’s function. Reciprocally, using your pelvic floor correctly can deepen your connection to your pilates practice.

Let’s take a look at how to optimize your breath in the first place. A deep, three dimensional breath utilizes your diaphragm to its fullest extent. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts forming a dome shape under the rib cage while simultaneously lengthening the pelvic floor creating a cylindrical shape within your torso.

There are two options for the rib cage while you take this inhale. Option one involves flaring the ribs outward during the breath. Option two involves narrowing the ribs slightly down towards your ASIS (hip bones). When we breathe with a more neutral, tapered rib cage, we utilize the second option for rib placement, thus finding our Zone of Apposition (ZOA). Breathing within the ZOA provides us with the most efficient breath we can take. Once the ribs are placed properly over the pelvis, we’re able to create the cylindrical shape within the torso and the relationship between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor is optimized!

Pilates is rooted in core strengthening principles that directly correlate to breath and the ZOA. In order to keep your ribs from flaring, ultimately keeping you from finding the ZOA, you need to have a sense of abdominal control. There are a handful of ways to find the ZOA, but one of my favorite cues to use with clients is to “narrow your ribs toward your naval.” Try this on your own either lying down, sitting, or standing, and notice what happens to your abs as soon as you taper, or narrow, your ribs toward your naval. You should feel some muscle tone over your stomach. AKA your abs kicking in!

Once you’ve achieved proper rib placement, ab engagement, and optimal breath, layering various exercises into your program will be much more attainable. It requires a good amount of body awareness to be able to coordinate these three major concepts before advancing through your pilates practice. It’s also important to concentrate on how your pelvic floor is reacting to your breath and movement. In footwork, for example, you start in neutral spine and exhale as you press the carriage out feeling a slight contraction in the pelvic floor. On the inhale, knees bend pulling the carriage back to it’s starting position while the tailbone drops slightly and the sits bones widen allowing you to lengthen the pelvic floor. (Prime example of moving within your ZOA).

As you can see, the pelvic floor plays a huge role in breath and core activation which is the root foundation of all your pilates and basic core exercises! If this interests you, or utterly confuses you, schedule a pilates session with me at Beyond Basics!

Call us today at 212-354-2622

Pilates Tip: Supine Toe Taps

Kierstin Elliot, Pilates Instructor, BBPT

STT5toe tap

Exercise: Supine Toe Taps

Set up: Lying on back, imprint spine, legs in table top, arms resting by sides.

Execution: Inhale to start, exhale to hinge right leg down towards floor (about 45 degrees from hip) and then return back to table top. Repeat on left side, alternating for 8-10 reps. Start with minimal range of motion and then increase once you feel more confident with the exercise.

Focus: Lower abs. It’s imperative to go slowly with this exercise to ensure isolation of the abdomen. Focus on turning off the quads and hip flexors ( the muscles in the front of the legs) as they will want to take over. In addition, be careful that your pelvis doesn’t tip sideways or your back doesn’t arch. Initiate from the lowers abs.

Importance: One of the best exercises for lower abdominal strengthening. This exercise also enhances your ability to stabilize the pelvis and lower back, isolate lower abs, and hone in on the mind/body connection.

Modifications: For a challenge, try keeping legs together. Allow yourself to hinge downward for 4 seconds and then back up to table top for 4 seconds. To make it more accessible, try placing an inflatable cushion or disk under your sacrum. This prop will add increased awareness to lower back/pelvis region as well as adding support.

Pilates Versus Yoga

Pilates vs. Yoga Kierstin Elliott, Certified in Stott Pilates

kierstin-and-amy-e1519325647124.jpg

As a pilates instructor, I am often asked the question, “How is pilates different from yoga?” Although there are many similarities between the two practices, such as developing strength and flexibility, the differences are quite substantial.

Yoga is an ancient practice that has long been established throughout Indian culture. One major factor that sets yoga apart from pilates is the spiritual element. For many, yoga promotes an environment of self awareness in mind, body, and spirit. Although there are various styles of yoga, ranging from the lively flow of Vinyasa to the meditative holds of Yin, you have the freedom to explore and evolve the limitations of your body and mind within the practice.

Pilates is a more recent method of movement created by Joseph Pilates as a form of rehabilitation and was introduced to the States in 1920. Pilates wanted to create a practice in which injured soldiers could quickly rehab with bio-mechanics. Therefore, the apparatus’ used in the practice such as the Cadillac and Reformer, closely resemble hospital beds with springs, pulleys, and slings. Pilates is focused primarily on restoring the natural curves of the spine using these 8 founding principles: breath, concentration, control, centering, flow, alignment, precision and relaxation.

Both pilates and yoga offer numerous health benefits for the mind and body in addition to complimenting each other quite well. If you are looking for a more spiritual or meditative connection through movement, yoga is the choice for you. If you are looking to strengthen your core and improve posture, pilates will be right up your alley. Give them both a try and see what makes the most sense for your body. Finding a practice that not only feels good, but one that you also enjoy, is important for maintaining consistency and progress. Only with commitment and dedication to your practice will you discover the stronger, healthier, and happier version of you!

 

kierstinbbpt_smKierstin Elliot currently teaches Pilates at Beyond Basics Physical, Flex, Kinespirit, and offers in home training. Call the office at Beyond Basics at 212-354-2622 for more information on Kierstin!

Pilates Blog: Balanced Muscle Development

Denise Small  PT, DPT

In today’s Pilates’s blog, we will discuss another of the eight movement principles, Balanced Muscle Development. Using the example of the Pilates swan, we can see how both the front and back of the body are benefitting from the movement.  As we inhale and move our spines into extension, the back of the body, including the spinal muscles, glutes, and hamstrings are lengthening down toward the feet, while the abdominal muscles are lifting in and up towards the breast bone.  Both the back and the front of the body work in opposition to create balance in the body.  We give this exercise often in our practice at Beyond Basics to counter the shortening of the abdominal muscles that occurs with prolonged sitting. When the abdominal muscles shorten, they pull on the fascia of the external genitalia and pelvic floor muscles, contributing to their tightness. Have your PT take you through this exercise on your next visit to feel the full effects of the exercise. Or make an appointment with me for a one-on-one Pilates session.  Your body will thank you!

 

Swan
Jessica Babich PT, DPT demonstrating the swan

Pilates Blog – Concentration

DeniseDenise Small, DPT

Every Wednesday the PTs at Beyond Basics are fortunate enough to listen to lectures from medical professionals who specialize in pelvic pain.  One of my favorite lectures was given by Melissa Farmer, PhD,  a clinical psychologist who specializes in how the brain changes overtime in response to chronic pain.  Melissa spoke about a lot of wonderful things that are being found through research; however the thing that was most interesting to me, was not only that the brain can change in response to persistent pain, but, that the brain can change back to its pre-pain functional self! One of the ways that this can be done is through focused movement.  That is, thoughtful, pain- free movement focused around the area that normally causes pain.  This revelation was very meaningful to me, as one of the basic Pilates movement principles is Concentration.  Pilates believed that if your mind was fully focused on performing the given exercise, you would only need to perform a few repetitions to feel the benefit.  This is very important for patients suffering from chronic pain, as they do not need to exercise to the point of pain to see the benefits. One of the exercises that exemplifies this belief is the Pelvic Clock. The pelvic clock both mobilizes and lengthens the pelvic floor muscles while simultaneously bringing tone to the abdomen. In addition, the movement is very small and specific and requires one’s full concentration. So, it is a great way to directly address the potential causes of pelvic pain, without causing pain in the process!

To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent. See, in your mind’s eye, the pelvis as the face of a clock with the top of your sacrum being 12 o’clock and your tailbone being 6 o’clock. Slowly move from each number as smoothly as possible, while seeing your sitz bones widen as your tailbone drops to 6 o’clock and your sitz bones narrow as you move to 12 o’clock. You can also combine the movement and breath as we have in our other Pilates blogs by inhaling as you move to 6 o’clock and exhaling as you move to 12 o’clock.  If you have any questions, have your PT take you through this exercise on your next visit, or come see me for a private Pilates session. Your Body and Brain will thank you.

Pilates Blog: Centering

Denise Small, PT, DPT

In today’s Pilates blog, we are going to discuss the basic principle of Centering.  Pilates used the word centering to refer to the “core” musculature.  He believed that all movements should radiate out of the core for maximum stability.  There is a lot of use of the word “core” in exercise literature. However, no one ever discusses what that actual means. In the Pilates method, the “core” refers to the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the deep spinal muscles, and the transverse abdominus.  The transverse abdominus is a deep abdominal muscle that is attached to our pelvic bones in a horizontal fashion, from one hip bone to the other. One way to find these muscles is by breathing, as all the core muscles are attached to the diaphragm and ribs via fascial connections.

Try this exercise to find your “core.”  Lie on your back with your knees bent. If you need, you can have a small pillow under your head for support.  Now, imagine that you have a small, helium filled balloon in your abdomen behind your navel.  As you inhale see the balloon expand. As you exhale, imagine the balloon being hugged by your navel and your spine, simultaneously.  On your next exhale keep that image of hugging the balloon as it floats up into your ribcage.   This image incorporates the three dimensions of our torso, aka the “core” of our body.

ballon

There is no need to think of contracting individual muscles. Just keep this vision in mind and you will have a wonderfully functional core.  Go over this exercise with your PT in your next session, or come see me for a private session at Beyond Basics. Your body, and your core, will thank you!

Join Denise Small PT, DPT on July 6th for a Free Pilates Class

denise

Fiona McMahon, PT, DPT

Denise has not 1 but 2 hats here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. Not only is she a Doctor of Physical Therapy, specializing in functional manual therapy, orthopedics and pelvic floor conditions, she is also a certified Pilates instructor. Through the years she has worked to combine her passions to produce an outstanding Pilates program tailor made for individuals suffering from any pain condition and to help them become more functional and back to their exercise routine.

On July 6th at 7pm, Denise will be sharing her expertise with the public by offering a FREE gentle pilates class here at Beyond Basics. In this class participants will “ examine the interconnectedness of [their] own functional anatomy to move through and around [their] current fitness barriers”

To get a flavor of what Denise has to offer check out her blog posts bellow. If you are interested in attending the class, please RSVP here. Learn more about the Pilates program and the physical therapy program by clicking here.

Check Out Denise’s Blogs Here:

Pilates Blog- Rhythm- Coordination of Breath and Movement

The use of Breath in the Pilates Method 

Benefits of Pilates with Pain Conditions

Summer Movement Class