Pilates Students' Manual

Frequently Asked Questions About Pilates

September 10, 2020 Olivia Bioni Season 2 Episode 1
Pilates Students' Manual
Frequently Asked Questions About Pilates
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What are your burning Pilates questions? In this FAQ episode, learn more about what people on the internet are curious about! If these bite-sized answers don't quite satisfy your curiosity, you'll love Season 2 of the podcast, where I'll dive into these topics in even greater detail!   

I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and follow the podcast on Instagram and Facebook @pilatesstudentsmanual. Full show notes, episode transcription, and chapter markers can be found on the podcast website here: https://bit.ly/PilatesStudentsManual. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast for updates, and rate and review wherever you listen!  Episodes now available on YouTube: *https://bit.ly/YouTubePSM

Email [email protected] with your feedback. 

Show Notes: 

There's a lot of questions about Pilates for different health conditions, for back pain, about the benefits of Pilates and the history of Pilates. I can't wait to dive in and explore these questions in the upcoming season! 

Support the podcast:    

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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on Instagram @pilatesstudentsmanual. You can support the podcast by visiting buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. Let's learn something new.

Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to season two of Pilates Students' Manual. Yay! So excited to be back. So excited to be starting season two. Today is going to [00:01:00] be a frequently asked question episode. You can actually look up what are the most searched for terms or most searched for phrases around a word. And I will be answering some of those frequently asked questions about Pilates. 

And also set you up for what to expect for the season, because all of the questions that I'm answering in shorthand here, I'll be diving into a little bit deeper in episodes later in the season. Let's dive in. 

How can a podcast help me get the most out of my Pilates classes? That may not be a frequently asked question, but it might be something you're thinking about. We just started a new tagline for Pilates Students' Manual, that it's a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes, but how exactly can a Pilates podcast help you get better at Pilates in class?

The way I think about it is that Pilates is a mental game as much as a physical game. It's really about building those connections between your brain and your [00:02:00] muscles, your brain and your bones, your brain and your fascia. And really executing those precise movements takes some brain power as well as some just strength and flexibility, right? 

And as much as I'm mover and I consider myself a mover, I'm also a thinker and I really do like to contemplate and be in my head about things as well. So hopefully what I'm sharing with you in these podcasts is providing some context, some background, some additional places that you can make connections when you hear cues and try exercises in a class. 

It's all about helping those things click and finding that right button and finding that right muscle engagement. It's not a replacement for the movement. This podcast is not going to help you become a master of Pilates in your own right alone. But it does complement the work that you do in class.

So if you hear your Pilates teacher talking about the deep core or [00:03:00] stabilizing through the core, activating your core, and you think back to the episode that I did in season one about the core, you might have a little bit more of a mental connection that you can make to those muscles. And then that cue might make sense in your body in a new way. So that's the goal of the podcast is to really help you get the most out, and I do think that it's something that can happen, especially for Pilates. 

How do you know that you're progressing? A listener in Australia reached out to me on Instagram with this question. And it's an excellent question.

The way you grow in Pilates or the way you measure growth as someone doing Pilates, it's not like measuring your blood pressure where you put a cuff on and it gives you a reading and that reading is a quantifiable number and then you can track that number over time. It's not really like that. 

For me, it's more about how you feel when you're doing it and how you feel after you're doing it. If you're someone who has pain or things that don't feel good in your body, you may notice [00:04:00] that as you do Pilates, you begin to get stronger, not in a quantifiable way where you're measuring it and graphing it, but it might be that the tasks that you do in daily life become a little bit easier. 

You may notice it in ways- like posture is one that people notice a lot. They notice that even when they're not in class, maybe when they're just at work, that they're standing up a little bit taller or that they're sitting a little bit taller, that their shoulders are a little bit better behaved. And these are all qualitative assessments. These aren't things that you can track necessarily, but definitely if you're continuing to do Pilates changes are happening, even if you don't necessarily even see those changes in the mirror. 

Just committing to do Pilates, like change is occurring, on a mental level, as well as a physical level. If you are someone who's really interested in tracking progress, you can- I mean, this might be because I'm a Pilates teacher and also a gigantic nerd, but you might have a Pilates journal where [00:05:00] you write down the exercises you did, like, did they feel hard? Were you not able to execute an exercise? And then you can, in some ways kind of track your progress.

But I don't want you to get too hung up on tracking progress and just know that you'll keep growing and you'll keep getting stronger and you'll keep getting more flexible. And some milestones will be really big. Like you weren't able to do a plank or hold a plank, and now you can, but those little milestones as well, that your neck didn't hurt when you did a chest lift. Incredible, fantastic. You know, that's progress too. 

Can Pilates help with back pain? Short answer. Yes, but with an asterisk. It depends on what the cause of your back pain is. Is it acute back pain? Is it chronic back pain? Is it a structural thing where something like possibly scoliosis where that's the shape of your spine and the way the muscles work there's back pain associated with it? Is it muscular? Which could be scoliosis, but also could [00:06:00] be postural. If you are slumping at your desk for eight hours a day, your back might start to hurt. Also what else is going on in your body and in your life? 

Back pain is kind of a nebulous thing because it can have lots of causes. The good news is a huge part of Pilates is building body awareness. And especially when you're working one on one with a teacher where you're getting that personalized feedback, you can start to notice for yourself what helps with the back pain, what alleviates some back pain, and then things that might exacerbate it or make it worse. When you work with a teacher, whether it's in a group class or in a one on one session, and you share the diagnoses that you've had from your doctor, it could be, you know, I have a herniated disc in my lumbar spine, or you share the exercises, or the work, or the diagnoses you've received from your physical therapist.

All of those things can inform the work that you do in Pilates and help move you out of pain patterns if it is a chronic thing, if it [00:07:00] is a postural thing, or a movement habit that is causing that pain. So it's really excellent, Pilates, and I'll say it over and over again. The Pilates studio is very much a movement laboratory where you're able to move in lots of different ways and really explore what works and what doesn't. But short answer, yes, Pilates can help with back pain. 

Can Pilates help if you're a runner? Pilates is excellent cross training for any type of exercise, but especially repetitive exercises like running, like biking, like rowing where your muscles are being asked to perform the same action over and over and over again.

If you're running, your legs are always going to move the way that they would when you run. Right. You're not going to do a bunch of side bends when you're running all of a sudden, you know. You're not going to start doing backbends. When you're running, you're going to perform the same action over and over again.

So Pilates again, so much about building that body awareness. So you [00:08:00] can notice the imbalances that you have, if you're carrying weight unevenly, if posturally, you're not quite in alignment. And alignment is not the end all, be all of things. But when we work in Pilates, especially when we do unilateral work in Pilates, where we're working just one side at a time helps you really notice where the sides aren't quite even. And if there is some pain or some discomfort or anything going on, you can do Pilates to kind of bring yourself back to balance, bring yourself back to neutral. 

It also helps you move more efficiently. As you do Pilates and you begin to balance the work that you're doing in your limbs with the stability work that's coming from those deep core stabilizers, you can move a lot more efficiently. You will get stronger. You will get more flexible, and especially for exercises like running, where you're chronically shortening your hip flexors. And that's just what happens when we run, what happens when we walk .Pilates will give you the other side of that, the flip side of that, and really work on [00:09:00] strengthening your posterior chain, really work on stretching out muscles that may get tight when you're performing those repetitive exercises. 

Coming up after the break, I've got more questions and more bite-sized answers.

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[00:10:00] The question that you may not even know was a question depending on your level of experience with Pilates beyond just the movement bit, but who was Joseph Pilates? Joseph Pilates was a person. He's the founder of the system Pilates. He originally called it contrology. And he was a German immigrant who immigrated to the United States in just after World War One.

He had a gymnasium in New York City where he taught his method, both the mat exercises and the reformer exercises. He's the person who created the reformer, the ladder barrel, the spine corrector, the chair, [00:11:00] the Cadillac, all of those pieces of equipment, and some accessory-like props as well. Like the toe corrector, the foot corrector, the ped-o-pull, things like that. 

And he was a guy and he developed this thing. It's kind of difficult to know about him because he died in 1967. And so a lot of people who took classes from him have also passed on. The good news is one of his students who took classes with him in the sixties named John Howard Steel just wrote a book called Caged Lion about the legacy of Joe Pilates and I'm reading it right now. So I'll have even more stories to share with you about Joe, the man beyond Joe the teacher, Joe the enigma. There's so much myth associated with him, which is kind of fun. And he has a it's kind of legendary feel to him. I'll be able to share with you later in the season my takeaways from that book, Caged Lion. 

Can Pilates help with aging? A [00:12:00] hundred percent yes, it can. Our bodies change constantly, but as we age especially, our bodies begin to change. Reformer Pilates in particular can really help with maintaining bone density, which can be a really big risk for people as they age. In the United States, and I did look at other countries, other continents as well, it seems to be about the same. For osteoporosis, which is where you're having a very low bone density are very prone to fractures or breaking bones, the stats on that are that one in four women will have osteoporosis and about one in 20 men. And beyond osteoporosis, there's like a less severe measure of low bone density called osteopenia. Regardless of whether you have osteoporosis or osteopenia the protocol for exercises about the same in terms of avoiding loaded spinal flexion, avoiding end range movement, things like that.

[00:13:00] But Pilates can really, as you're working with spring resistance, because you're asking your body to do more than what usually does, it can really help build bone density and protect you from those bone fractures or breaks as you age. Pilates is also all about balance, building strength, building flexibility, which in their own right are important to have. But as you're aging, those are things that will help you stay independent and, you know, allow you to live at home. 

Things like that I can get up and down off of the toilet, that you can take a shower safely by yourself. Those things when you're younger may not seem like a big deal, but as you get older, those are a huge deal. Those are the difference between you being able to live in your house or having to move in to assisted living. So Pilates is really incredible for that in particular. It's important at all ages, but it's really important as you get older. 

Can Pilates help with hypermobility? [00:14:00] So hypermobility has a really big spectrum of symptoms, right? It could be as minor as when you straighten your arm, your elbow can go beyond straight. So instead of having 180 degree angle, it's actually a wider angle than that. Your elbow kind of juts out. But it could also be as severe as dislocating your fingers when you're putting on pants. So there can be like really extreme hypermobility and then less severe hypermobility as well. 

Regardless of where you fall on that hypermobility spectrum, Pilates, again, has that focus on body awareness. So you really begin to notice how your body moves in space because we move slowly, we move precisely. There's this emphasis on stability. It can really help support the joints in your body that are hypermobile. 

I don't have extreme hypermobility. I have a couple parts of my body that are hypermobile, [00:15:00] and I know that certain types of exercise can kind of exacerbate that hypermobility. Things like if you're doing yoga with just a flexibility focus and the goal is just to stretch more and more. If you're already hyper mobile, that's not really a goal of yours, right, is to be more flexible. You actually want to be more stable. Pilates has that emphasis on stability.

So I do think it's a good fit for people who have hypermobile bodies. If you do have severe hypermobility, a one on one session with a teacher might fit you a little bit better than a group class cause you can really focus on the joints that are hypermobile Pilates in all forms can really help. 

Can Pilates help with chronic pain? It really can. I'm going to qualify it, of course, but Pilates can help with chronic pain, especially when you work one-on-one with a teacher. And for some of these things, you might be able to take group classes. You might prefer to take group classes. They're at a lower [00:16:00] price point. But for chronic pain, I would recommend, especially if it's severe chronic pain working one on one. Because in addition to getting that personalized feedback, you begin to identify with your teacher the patterns of movement that you have, postural patterns. You begin to change those movement habits and grow in self confidence. It will move you towards less pain. 

Chronic pain is really tricky and I don't suffer from chronic pain, but I do know that if pain becomes chronic, it's no longer about tissue damage, right? When you have an acute pain, so say you were to break a bone and you get it set and everything, and the pain is acute, right? Your arm hurts. Well, of course it hurts, like you had a very specific trauma to that site and the pain is tissue damage, right? You're registering that the tissue is damaged. 

Same thing in a less severe case. If you were to get a bruise on your shin bone, right? The pain you're feeling is the fact that blood vessels have [00:17:00] ruptured and the bruise is the pooling of blood in that area. Right? Acute means that there's a specific cause. Acute pain goes away as it heals because there's no longer tissue damage. 

When a pain shifts from acute to chronic, there's no longer any tissue damage that's causing pain, but the pain is still there. The pain is very real, but there's not a physical trauma that's causing that pain. It can be neurological where the nerves are hypersensitive, or you're anticipating pain, or there's this fear that there will be pain and that creates a feedback of pain. 

By doing Pilates, by working slowly, by working with a teacher, you begin to kind of explore what your body feels like, how your body is moving, how it could move down differently and you can get out of those pain patterns. You can change movement patterns if the movement patterns are [00:18:00] contributing to that chronic pain, and you begin to trust your body a little bit more and anticipate pain less.

So Pilates is particularly excellent for working with those in chronic pain. It's slow work. It may not look the same as the Pilates you see on a DVD or the Pilates you see on Instagram, but it is Pilates. There's a Pilates for everything, you'll see, and it can really help. 

So those are some very fast answers to some very complicated questions that we'll definitely be diving into throughout the season. If you have other burning questions about Pilates that you want to make sure that I discuss, feel free to reach out on Instagram. I hope you have a great week and I'll talk to you again soon.

Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of Pilates Students' Manual, a [00:19:00] podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. Be sure to check out the podcast Instagram @pilatesstudentsmanual and subscribe wherever you're listening. Interested in teaching Pilates too? Check out Pilates Teachers Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. I hope to see you next episode. Until next time.

How can a podcast help me get the most out of my Pilates classes?
How do you know that you're progressing?
Can Pilates help with back pain?
Can Pilates help if you're a runner?
Who is Joseph Pilates?
Can Pilates help with aging?
Can Pilates help with hypermobility?
Can Pilates help with chronic pain?