~ Articles About Pilates, Yoga & Wellness ~

Could Your Posture Benefit from Pilates?

Posted by Pam Seelig on Sun, Sep 13, 2015 @ 10:12 PM

Blog by Susan

As we go through our lives, the majority of us are standing, sitting, walking and even sleeping somewhere other than in 100% “neutral spinal alignment.”  In other words, noBODY is perfect!  

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The fact is, most of us, to some degree, exhibit imbalances in our posture due to tight or weak muscles and ligaments, gravity, heredity and maybe even a few extra pounds we’re carrying around.  Imbalances can also be the result of “overcompensating” for a multitude of daily stressors including long commutes, desk jobs, injuries and even dominant-sided activities like golf, where movement is repeated over and over without a “counter” motion in the opposite direction. 

As a rule of thumb, physical imbalances often become more noticeable as we age. You probably know an elderly person who is kyphotic with an exaggerated “hunching” or rounding of the upper back and shoulders.  But many younger people are quite literally “heading” in that direction and already show signs of “head forward” positioning from hovering over computer keyboards and smartphones.  (How many times do we tell our kids to “sit up straight!”)  

Face it, vision plays a critical role in helping us navigate our world.  And with eyes positioned in the front of our heads, and our heads weighing on average 10 pounds (that’s a heavy bowling ball!), nature and gravity seem to be setting us up to have a more rounded posture (or in spinal terms - flexion).  Unfortunately, all of this rounding can lead to increased neck pain, rotator cuff issues and cervical disc herniations down the road.

Add to this the fact that our daily routines often require us to sit for extended periods of time.  [Studies are now showing that a sedentary lifestyle is at the root of many conditions ranging from chronic lower back pain to diabetes.  In fact, some researchers are saying that “your chair could actually be killing you.”  While this sounds alarming, the anecdote could be as simple as just standing up every 15 to 20 minutes!  It so happens that frequent acts of “anti-gravity” really make a profound difference at our cellular level.]  In terms of postural alignment, all this sitting is wreaking havoc with our spinal health, and throwing many of us into a prolonged and exaggerated posterior pelvic tilt (where the tailbone is tucked under and the lower back is rounded).  And it’s particularly harmful when in a seated or standing position because there’s added compression of the lumbar spine from your own body weight.

If we look at studies of the “sitting” positions found in cultures throughout the world, the healthiest is one where the “load” (weight of the body) is spread across the entire pelvic floor and not toward the tailbone.  It requires a slight anterior pelvic tilt - where the natural curve of the lower back remains visible (and possibly even more arched for some of us), and a supportive base is maintained between the pubic bone and ischial tuberosity (sitz bones).  This little “triangular platform” seems to distribute the weight optimally and relieves pressure on the lower back.   It seems the spine doesn’t like to be in the shape of the letter  “C” all the time.  A healthy spine wants to be more like an “S” - as in “S is for Spine!"

So why do some exercise fads like “barre work” encourage participants to hold a prolonged seated or standing pelvic tuck?  Mistakenly, many people believe a deep posterior pelvic tilt (“the tuck”) helps to engage the large, but sometimes underused glute muscles for a tighter bum.  But the experts say the ability to maintain a balanced, neutral pelvis is key to putting your glutes at a better leverage advantage.  And more than likely, a posterior tilt in the pelvis will result in the firing of the quadriceps before actually engaging the glutes.  Over time, this tucked position can exacerbate weak hip flexors and further flatten the spine, adding even more compression to an already stressed out lower back.  Ouch! It’s a recipe for “Disc-aster!”  

The key is to have strong abdominal muscles to stabilize the spine and maintain optimal position of the hips and pelvis while the glutes (and hip flexors) work.  Pilates, a functional exercise method that’s been around for nearly 100 years, helps with this by focusing on the deep stabilizing muscles of the “core.”  When performed correctly, the body is retrained to utilize muscles in a more balanced and productive fashion, and most importantly, to maintain the natural “S” shape of the spine.  By targeting those stabilizing muscles, Pilates can be an effective exercise option for those struggling with spinal alignment issues, and also an integral part of a rehabilitation program for some chronic back conditions.  These carefully performed exercises are designed to restore balance within the overall “biomechanics” of healthy movement.  In other words, when one muscle (or set of muscles) is working, what others must be engaged or released in order to create stability and more authentic movement?  Could it be that certain strong, tight muscles (which are often prone to injury from overuse, like the workhorse hamstrings) need to take a back seat?  What other muscles could be isolated and better utilized to keep us “standing tall?” These are just a few of the many issues addressed within the Pilates Method.

So before you sit down at your computer or are encouraged to hold a deep pelvic tuck in your next exercise class, think again about the natural alignment of the spine.  Remember, “S is for Spine!”  




Tags: Classical Pilates, Spinal Alignment, Anterior Pelvic Tilt, Back Pain, Posterior Pelvic Tilt

Taking Yoga and Pilates Off the Mat and onto the Power Plate!

Posted by Pam Seelig on Sat, Jan 18, 2014 @ 01:03 PM

At Lotus Mind & Body, located in Bernardsville, NJ, we're all about "fitness" as it relates to a balanced body and state of being.  In fact, we think the new healthy is really more about feeling happy (certainly more than it is about your dress size).  But when we discovered it was possible to combine yoga and Pilates with state-of-the art technology, to get amazing anti-aging and health benefits FAST, we were all in!  

The technology, sometimes referred to as Whole Body Vibration, is created using a machine called the Power Plate.  Positive neuromuscular responses are created in your body as you exercise on this "unstable" vibrating platform.  The vibration also increases gravitational force ("G-Forces") on the body, which is why just a 30-minute workout, 2-3X per week is super effective at building strength, increasing flexibility, improving balance and decreasing belly fat (primary indicators of longevity and health).

And based on independent, published research studies, the Power Plate also stimulates the body's own production of bone mineral (to combat osteroporosis), human growth hormone (the "fountain of youth" hormone which decreases after age 40), along with a myriad of other responses that help slow down the aging process.  

Here's Why Power Plate is Sweeping Europe (...and Why We Chose it for Lotus).

  • Reduces belly fat and cellulite
  • Increases collagen production
  • Tones muscles and increases flexibility
  • Reduces cortisol, balances hormones
  • Increases metabolism
  • Builds bone mineral density and reverses osteoporosis

Empowering Your Pilates and Yoga Practice.

Our approach to Power Plate training is based on the time-tested, mind/body disciplines of yoga and Pilates.  Taking traditional asanas and Pilates core exercises off the mat and onto an unstable surface is an ideal way to challenge your practice.  You'll quickly build strength, as well as increase flexibility, balance and breath control.  A 30-second plank on the Power Plate is equivalent to 2 minutes on your mat.  Imagine doing Warrior 3 on a moving surface, or the Pilates Ab Series with 4X the G-force on your torso!  (Mark Wahlberg reportedly used the Power Plate to get those abs for his movie, The Fighter.)

Good Vibes...A Truly Healthy Addiction!

Training on the Power Plate is easy on the joints and helps rehab muscles and connective tissue.  And because it decreases stress hormones (like cortisol, which is linked to weight gain), and actually increases "happy" hormones (like oxytocin), you'll begin to crave your 30-minute workout!

The Power Plate is the Real Deal.

Not all vibration is created equal (for instance, a violin can be pleasing or down right annoying!).  It's critical that the plate vibrates on all three planes (how the human body moves) and adjusts to the correct frequency and amplitude for all components of a complete workout: stretching, strengthening and massage.  That's why we selected the Power Plate for Lotus Mind & Body, and why you'll feel amazing after each workout.

Schedule a Test Drive and See for Yourself.

Try an introductory session at Lotus Mind & Body.  A private, 30-minute workout includes 5 minutes of stretching, 15 minutes strengthening and balance exercises, followed by 10 minutes relaxation and "massAHHHge"!  For more information, or to schedule your Test Drive, contact the studio at 908.766.YOGA (9642).

Tags: Bernardsville, Pilates Ab 5, yoga, Mind/Body Fitness, Core Stabilization, Pilates and Yoga in Bernardsville

Never Meditated?

Posted by Pam Seelig on Sun, Oct 06, 2013 @ 04:18 PM

If you're reading this sentence, there is something in you that's drawn to meditation.  Some part of you is naturally curious and, on a deeper level, knows that meditation would be a benefit.  So much of life is about rushing, seeking, and trying to get to the future, creating the feeling that life is flying by so fast that you're missing it.  Meditation is the antidote.  However, the idea of meditation can conjure up scary images or just seem way too boring.  The positive benefits, however, go way beyond the list of physical results in the body that medical science is now beginning to verify.  (Often more powerful than pharmaceuticals!)  Meditation is an access to that deep dimension beyond our thoughts where our true self resides.  

If you have tried to sit and "not think," you know how daunting that is.  To learn meditation, a few basic techniques can really help you along your path.  Techniques such as mantra repetition or breathwork have been practiced for thousands of years and have been passed along for your very benefit, for that moment when you decide to look deeply within.  It's an important moment.

The first step is something you probably have already done - putting the thought out in the universe that you are seeking more depth, or that you need some tools to be more grounded, happier, more peaceful, etc.  We do create our reality, so after that first step, usually a book, a blog, a signup sheet or something else is synchronistically placed in front of you.  We then need to be aware enough to perceive the response to our request.  It's important to know that your left brain, rational mind, does not understand.  The left brain is the chatter in your head.  The chatter is very helpful when it tells you to get out of the way of that oncoming truck, but not so helpful when it can't slow down, especially at 3am.  The left brain/rational mind will tell you that any work in this area is a waste of time, and that you can not possibly spend your time "doing nothing".  If you begin to notice the sabotage, that is a giant step toward being more aware and beginning to master the mind, rather than being the slave of the mind.  That is the beginning of mastery.

If this subject interests you, please join us at Lotus Mind & Body in Bernardsville on our 21-day meditation journey.  Together, (even if that means via the internet) we will learn basic tools to begin to quiet the mind and at least get a glimpse of the spaciousness, peace and creativity that reside just beyond our thoughts.  For 21 days, you will receive guidance and yoga meditation techniques to contemplate.  After 3 weeks, you will feel some definite benefits and experience for yourself how your life is enhanced and enriched motivating you toward a life-long exciting inner journey.

We'll meet once at the beginning of the 21 days to learn some basic meditation techniques and answer any questions.  (We'll summarize our meeting online for those that can't make it in person.)  We'll meet again after 3 weeks to share our experiences and also to create a strategy for moving forward with the practice.  We hope you're in! 

Tags: Bernardsville, meditation, yoga, mantra, learn meditation, breathwork

Pilates on the Go!

Posted by Pam Seelig on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 @ 09:53 PM

Blog by Susan

With the summer in full gear, the buzz in our Bernardsville, NJ Pilates and yoga studio is all about travel and "get aways."  But while it's great to reconnect with our families and have some much-needed R&R, our Pilates practice can sometimes suffer and fall by the way side during vacation time.  We all know that dreaded feeling when we come back to our mats and can barely make it through The Hundred ("...ugh, was that only 100...it felt like 1,000...)!

Don't despair.  You can have your vacation AND Pilates!  Here's a 10-minute workout with 5 core fitness exercises that can be done anywhere.  You don't need equipment or even much space, so the hotel room is fine.  Just 8-10 reps of each exercise will be very effective.  Remember, Pilates is all about quality of movement (proper form and precision), not quantity.  Your body will thank you, and most likely, your mind too.  Vacations are great, but they sometimes mess with our routines and healthy habits.  So we end up overindulging, missing exercise and feeling sluggish.  Practicing a few minutes of mind/body fitness like Pilates or yoga can do wonders to rebalance your state of being.  (Your travel companions will thank you too!)

 

The Hundred

The first exercise in most classical Pilates classes, The Hundred will get your heart rate going with intense breathwork to increase circulation throughout the body for a healthy glow to your skin.  It also fires up the deep stabilizing muscles of your torso for a strong and flatter tummy, while toning your upper arms.

Lying on your back, bend your knees and bring your legs to "tabletop." Lift your head, neck and shoulders (be sure to look at your navel) and lift your arms 6" off the floor, reaching past your hips.  If your back permits, deepen your abdominals and extend your legs out to a 45 degree angle, and then start to pump your arms up and down just above your abdominal wall.  Inhale through your nose for 5 counts, and then exhale through your mouth for 5 counts, while vigorously pumping your arms.  10 breathing reps (for a total of "100" pumps!)

Roll Up

Designed to increase flexibility in the spine as well as strengthen abdominal muscles, this essential core fitness exercise will help you stand up taller to give you a long, lean Pilates body!

Lying on your back with legs straight (or softly bent if your lower back is sensitive), inner thighs pressed together and feet flexed, raise your arms above your chest toward the ceiling.  To prepare, take a big inhale and lift your head while lowering your arms toward your waist.  As you exhale, peel your spine off the mat one vertebra at a time.  Reach for your toes while pulling your waistline back toward your spine.  Inhale again, and then exhale through your mouth as you roll back down onto the mat with control. 8-10 reps

Criss Cross

This exercise is part of the infamous "Pilates Ab 5" and is sure to whittle away your waist as it focuses on strengthening and toning the Oblique muscles.  Be sure to work slowly and with proper form, focusing on the rotation of the mid-spine.

Lying on your back, bring your legs to "tabletop."  Place your hands behind the nape of your neck and lift your head, neck and shoulders (look at your navel).  Deepening your abdominals, lift your chest higher toward your knees and then rotate to the right as you bend in your right leg in and extend your left leg on a high diagonal.  Hold to the right for 3 counts, trying to get your right elbow to the back of your mat.  Come back to center with both knees bent and try to curl higher toward your thighs.  Now twist to the left, bending your left knee in further and extending your right leg to a 45 degree angle and reaching your left elbow to the back of your mat.  Again, hold for 3 counts and then come back to center.  Repeat right/left sequence 8 times without lowering your head, neck and shoulders between reps.

Bridge

A familiar yoga posture, this exercise strengthens and tones the buttocks, hips and thighs making it an ideal bathing suit shape up!

Lying on your back with arms down at your sides, bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart on the floor.  Heels should be about 12" from your sitting bones.  Make sure your collarbone is "wide and open" with your shoulders away from your ears, and your gaze is at the ceiling.  On an inhale, press the small of your back into the mat.  Deepen your abdominal muscles as you curl your pubic bone up to the ceiling and start to articulate your spine off the mat one bone at a time.  Come into a long straight line from the tips of your shoulders to your knees.  Hold this position for 3 counts, and then on your exhale, roll back down your spine with control.  Engage your inner thighs and press into the arches of your feet to ensure your knees don't flop open.  5-8 reps

Plank

An ultimate full-body workout, this exercise combines core stabilization with upper body challenge to quickly tone biceps, triceps, shoulders and back muscles.

Kneeling on all fours, make sure your knees are hip-distance apart and wrists are directly under shoulders.  Deepen your abdominals and lengthen your right leg behind you, placing your toes onto the mat.  Stabilize your torso by drawing your navel into your spine, and then extend your left leg back so you are in a "push up" position.  Hold this position for 3-5 long, strong breaths, making sure your lower back doesn't "sag" and your gaze is just beyond your fingertips on the floor.  Carefully lower one knee and then the other to the mat, and press back into a rest pose (child's pose in yoga).  To further challenge this exercise, come back into plank position with your elbows close to your body.  Lower lift your chest toward your thumbs, completing 5-8 tricep push ups (also called Pilates Push Ups). 3 reps

Be sure to finish each session standing tall, with your shoulder blades on your back and crown of the head lifted.  Take a deep inhale as you reach your arms overhead, and then exhale as you lower them back to your sides.  Fill yourself with a sense of accomplishment, as well as gratitude for your health and wellbeing.  Then head out and enjoy your vacation!

Tags: Classical Pilates, The Hundred, Pilates Ab 5, Yoga Posture, Mind/Body Fitness, Core Fitness Exercises, Pilates Classes, Pilates Body, Core Stabilization, Pilates Roll Up, Pilates and Yoga in Bernardsville

Real Men Do Pilates in Bernardsville, NJ!

Posted by Pam Seelig on Fri, Jun 07, 2013 @ 02:21 PM

Blog by Susan

People often have the misconception that Pilates is just for women.  But tell that to our male clients at Lotus Mind & Body, as well as the thousands of men in the military, including the very macho Navy SEALs, who use its core strengthening exercises as part of their daily conditioning regimes.  Not to mention the many pro athletes like Tiger Woods and the NY Giants who've adopted Pilates for core fitness training and stretching.

Need more "hard core" facts?

FACT: The originator of the method, Joseph H. Pilates, was in fact, a man.  Moreover, he was a whisky-drinking, cigar-smoking guy's guy.  A boxer and gymnast, he trained hard and took pride in the fact that he was asked to model for anatomy charts as a young adult.

FACT: The Pilates method is a "functional exercise" form that focuses on how the body moves as a "whole," not just on the major muscle groups that are so often over-used in sports or over-developed in typical gym exercises.  And they're often the very muscles that are tight and stressed from long commutes and sitting at a desk or computer.  Men can benefit tremendously from the "re-balancing" effects of Pilates and tend to see marked improvements in strength, flexibility and overall wellbeing very quickly.

FACT: Pilates is often prescribed by doctors and physical therapists for both male and female paitents with lower back pain because it strengthens the deep stabilizing muscles of the torso, helping to take stress off the delicate and often over-worked lumbar spine.  It also increases range of motion and flexibility of the overall spine, making it a golfer's best tool (next to his 60 degree wedge, of course).

FACT: Because Pilates equipment is spring-loaded, each person experiences a unique amount of resistance based upon the force he or she exerts, so it's equally effective for people of all ages and fitness levels.  Pilates will challenge both the muscle-bound, weight-lifting gym rat, as well as my 76-year-old mother (yes, she does Pilates twice a week!).  And just when you master a specific spring setting, this unique equipment will provide even more of a challenge by using a lighter spring load.  A "less is more" kind of twist!

The next time you hear someone say Pilates is not for men, give them the facts.  Or better yet, invite them to one of our Pilates classes.  But only if you think they're man enough to keep up!

 

Tags: Bernardsville, core fitness, Joseph Pilates, Pilates equipment, Pilates

Group Pilates Classes

Posted by Pam Seelig on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 @ 03:26 PM

Blog by Susan

Joseph Pilates probably never intended his core strengthening exercises to be performed in large group settings, and would most likely wince at the idea of Pilates studios and gyms packed wall-to-wall with Towers and Reformers.  The “purist” in me tends to agree.  Especially given that most large group Pilates classes I’ve attended lacked the individualized instruction and supervision required of classical Pilates. 

 

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But in reality, most Pilates enthusiasts today desire the benefits of the Pilates equipment along with the pricing discounts of working out in a group setting.  At Lotus Mind & Body, we offer several types of Pilates equipment classes.  Each is limited to a maximum of 6 students and taught by an experienced, fully certified instructor for a safe and well-supervised environment.   

 

Tower classes utilize a “wall unit” comprised of bars and springs that mimic Joseph Pilates’ original “Cadillac” apparatus.  It’s said that Joe first used springs from hospital beds to rehab wounded soldiers from World War I.  The springs on the Tower unit provide support, while at the same time, significant resistance.   The genius of this equipment is that your extremities are stretched and toned at the same time your core is challenged, making the Tower class an ideal whole body workout.

 

In addition to the core strengthening benefits of the Towers, our Pilates Circuit classes also offer students a chance to utilize the Reformers and Wunda Chairs.  With a ratio of 3 students to 1 trainer, these Pilates equipment classes provide semi-private instruction and are ideal for most intermediate-level students seeking a vigorous Pilates workout.  Like the Tower equipment, Reformers and Wunda Chairs provide both support and resistance, but introduce the challenge of working on a surface that moves.  Imagine holding a push--up position (also called “front support” or “plank”) on your mat – on the stable floor.  Now imagine holding this position on the Reformer and being able to press your feet away from your hands against the resistance of heavy springs to create more core challenge!  Stability exercises like these are favorites of elite dancers and gymnasts, as they enhance strength and flexibility to create a balanced, lean Pilates body.

 

Once you’ve tried small group Pilates equipment classes, it’s often a life-changing experience.  Many of the dedicated Pilates students at Lotus Mind & Body attribute regular workouts on the Pilates apparatus with improved core strength, muscle tone, and posture, as well as overall mind/body connection.  Exactly what Joseph Pilates envisioned when he was developing his method nearly a century ago.

Tags: core fitness, Group Classes, Far Hills, Bernardsvillle, tower classes, Pilates, Mendham, Basking Ridge, Pilates reformer, equipment classes