Getting Your Head on Straight – Pilates Exercises for Forward-Head Posture

By: Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

 

How many text messages have you sent today?  When is the last time you pulled your head back to use your headrest in the car?  How often during the day do you spend on a smartphone, tablet, or at computer?  How many hours a day do you sit?

All of these things share something in common: They put stress on our head, neck, and shoulders.  All this, creates a lifestyle that leads to poor posture, muscular imbalances, and chronic pain.

 

The Physical Effects of Media Culture

In July of 2016, Nielsen Company released a report that the average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes daily consuming media.  This “included how much time we spend daily using our tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, radios, DVDs, DVRs and TVs.”  All this usage doesn’t come without a toll on our bodies.

Two physical effects come of excessive media use: forward posture of our head and a sedentary lifestyle. The sustained forward and downward movement of our head pulls our body out of alignment. Sitting for hours a day or maintaining a mostly sedentary lifestyle weakens the core muscles. Together, misalignment and decreased core strength drags us down a road of pain.

 

Pressure From the Head

The average head weighs 10-12 pounds.  For every one-inch forward our head extends beyond alignment, an additional 10 pounds of pressure is put on the spine.  Our spinal extensors begin to engage in a losing battle with gravity. They pull our whole spinal structure forward with our head.  This (now common) misalignment is known as Forward Head Posture (FHP).

FHP is an excessive anterior (forward) positioning of the head in relation to a vertical reference line.  Our spine is curved, so we are not trying to flatten our neck, but rather bring it back to rest on top of the spine.  When viewed in profile, the head is designed to sit stacked over the spine with the tip of the earlobe aligned with the center of the shoulder.

Proper Posture

We also receive a lot of pressure from the downward tilt of the neck.  Added gravitation pull of 15 degrees of tilt increases of the weight of pressure to 27 pounds. 30 degrees adds 40 pounds of pressure, and once you tilt to 60 degrees (like many of us do while texting), the increase is 60 pounds of pressure on the spinal cord.

This version of FHP is ironically called “Text Neck” by many doctors, and more formally called Tilting Head Posture (THP).

Pair Forward Head Posture, with Tilting Head Posture, and that’s a whole lot of pressure for the body to bear.

 

Physical Effects of Forward Head Posture

With the head forward, our deep cervical flexors (the muscles that pull our head back) become very weak from inactivity, and our cervical extensors become shortened (from being held so long in the forward position).  Because our bodies do their best to compensate for inefficiencies, other superficial muscles take on the job that the neck flexors and extensors were designed to do.  Our sternocleidomastoid, anterior scalenes, and other superficial neck muscles try and take on the job.  This causes overactivity for the muscles and less efficiency in the body.

The overactivity of the cervical extensors can cause neck pain, the most noted symptom of FHP. With the extra pressure on the spine, you could experience nerve pain leading to headaches.

forward-head-posture-5Not only do muscles try and do their part, but the spine also will begin to compensate.  Our body loves to counterbalance; as the head goes forward, the chest begins to go back, the hips respond by rounding forward, and the body perceives balance.  Now, we end up with a tight chest and upper back, and a pinched low back.  This common counterbalance act associated with FHP is called Upper Crossed Syndrome.

 

What’s the Big Deal?     

Just like Newton explained in his Laws of Physics, with every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  We cannot perpetually hold our body in a compromised posture and expect to not experience side effects.  There is a ripple effect throughout the whole body that becomes habit forming, for the better, or for the worse.  This becomes tight, that becomes weak.  This becomes long, that becomes short.

While the effects of our body are easy to visualize, other impacts aren’t obvious. Just as serious, poor posture threats our source of life: our breath.

FHP can result in up to 30% decrease in the lungs capacity. Rene Cailliet M.D., former director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Southern California explains,  “These breath-related effects are primarily due to the loss of the cervical lordosis which blocks the action of the hyoid muscles, especially the inferior hyoid responsible for helping lift the first rib during inhalation.  Proper rib lifting action by the hyoids and anterior scalenes is essential for complete aeration of the lungs.”  Having a forward head limits the range of motion for the ribcage, causing a decrease in lung capacity.

 

Fixing Your Poor Posture to Prevent FHP

First we want to feel the effects of poor posture on our breathing. This will help us understand how damaging it can be for our well-being. Erik Dalton, PhD a pioneer of Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy, gives these simple instructions.

  1. Place your hand on your chest and breath normally.  Take a few inhales and exhales.  Sense your ability to make the chest rise and fall with each breath.
  2. Gently and carefully reach your head forward in space and take a few more breaths.  Sense the difference in the ability to move the chest.
  3. Pull the chin in and back, as if to make a “double-chin”, repeat a few inhales and exhales.

You should find that the movement of the chest decreases the further forward the head moves in relation to the spine.

 

Why Focus on the Head?

When the spine, muscles, and lungs are all affected, why focus primarily on the head?

I like how Rene Cailliett, M.D. put it:

“Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the spine, shoulders and pelvis. All are important, but, head position takes precedence over all others. The body follows the head. Therefore, the entire body is best aligned by first restoring proper functional alignment to the head.”

We can begin to combat this by strengthening our deep neck flexors through lengthening and releasing our neck extensors.  A great rule of thumb for any imbalance in the body.  We want to strengthen what is weak and stretch what is tight.

 

How to Strengthen the Deep Neck Flexors

If our neck is already flexed forward, why are we working our neck flexor muscles?

The neck flexor muscles are what bring our head back to our spine.  Our deep neck flexors help pull the head back into alignment.  Here are three exercises I use in Pilates class that work these muscles.  Each exercise has increasing difficulty, so I advise working from top to bottom.

Also, start slowly.  The neck is a sensitive area, so begin with a few repetitions and work up to more.

 

1. Craniocervical Flexor Activation

Sit or stand and hold a loose fist underneath your chin.  Push upwards on your chin, but resist the head from tipping back.

Hold this connection for 5-10 seconds.

Repeat this 10x.

You should feel the muscles on the back of your neck engaged. Be careful not to push too hard, or to clench your first too hard.

 

2. Prone Neck Lift

Lay down on your stomach with your legs resting comfortably behind you.  Place your hands on top of one another and rest your forehead onto your hands.  Press the arms into the ground and lift the head and upper back off of your hands.  Make sure to keep the neck long and the chin tucked, as if you were holding a clementine between your chin and your chest.

Feel the neck flexors pull your head up towards the ceiling, and avoid the tendency to reach your chin forward to lift up.  Hold this for 10 seconds.

Reach energy out of the crown of the head (not leading with the chin) to lengthen and lower down.  You may find that you have to move your hands further away from lengthening and strengthening the neck.  Adjust as needed.

Repeat 5-10 times.

 

 

3.Head Hover

Lay on your back with your feet in the hook- line position (feet planted on the ground hip width apart, and knees at a 90-degree angle).

Rest your head and shoulders on the mat. Before you begin, imagine lengthening the back side of the neck to pull the chin slightly downward into a “double chin-like” position.  Take a breath in, and press the head lightly into the ground as if to push an imprint in memory foam, exhale and pick the head up off of the ground, while keeping the head parallel to the ground.

Sustain the hold for another breath or two, then lower back down.  Repeat 5-10 times.

You will feel the neck really work in this position!  You’ll also notice how heavy the head is with gravity working against you.

 

Stretching and Lengthening the Neck and Neck Extensors

After performing neck flexor exercises, it’s great to stretch the neck to help bring the head back into balance.  When stretching the neck, use caution and move slowly.  Use full breaths to support the stretch. I recommend the following stretches, these are also great after extensive time sitting at a desk, at a computer, or using your phone.

 

1. Neck Massage

Using a 4” or 6” diameter foam roller, place it lengthwise behind your neck.  Let the head rest back onto the foam roller.  Keeping the head heavy in gravity, Slowly turn the head from right to left. Nod the head up and down.

Trace small circles with the nose in each direction.  Do each step a few times before moving on to the next stretch.

 

2. Standing Neck Stretches

Stand up with the feet hip-width apart. Take your hands and interlace them at the nape of the neck.  Let the elbows be heavy and nod the chin towards the chest.  Do not pull on the neck, but let the elbows and head be heavy in gravity.

Return the head to upright and press the palms firmly together.  Place your middle fingers underneath the chin and gently press the chin up towards the ceiling.  Repeat each action a few times.

 

Correcting our Head Posture and Simple Habit Changes

As a culture, we have come to a place where many suffer from the effects of FHP and THP.  We need to get our heads on straight, or the pain and poor posture will only increase.

Though these are exercises to help us reverse the effects that have come from these conditions, there are other habits that can help us prevent or lessen it all together.  It all comes down to daily awareness of how we carry our bodies.  Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Bring your phone to your eye level when using it.  Instead of flexing the neck down, lift your phone up.
  • Use your head rest while driving.
  • Request a standing desk at work, to bring your computer up to your eye level.
  • Take breaks from long periods of sitting down, and stretch out in between.
  • Actively practice the exercises for strengthening the deep neck flexors.
  • Be conscious of the amount of time you spend consuming media and your posture while doing so.
  • Strengthen your core muscles to help support your posture throughout the day.
  • Take Pilates classes to gain body awareness.

Finding the True “Core” of Fitness: Making Fitness Goals that Matter

By: Estin Holcomb, 2 months into Pilates training

Many of us think of training in terms of sweat equity. In order for a session to be thought of as a “success,” we should be tired, sweaty, hot, and sore. These symptoms equate to a good workout. I believed this for years, until I stepped into a Pilates mat class at Waveforms Pilates.

My transition from typical free weight resistance training and cardio (mainly running) to Pilates was not an easy one at first. I came in thinking the work I saw being done didn’t appear to be work at all. People who were training weren’t panting and out of breath; they weren’t beat red, dripping with sweat.

These physical signs had become my definition of a normal work out.

 

Stepping Into a Pilates Mat Class

 

My first few mat sessions I felt restless and a bit discouraged by the repeated corrections of my poor form and body posture. My trainer would tell me I was done because my technique was being compromised and she didn’t want me to get hurt, even though I felt I could do a lot more.

Estin Pilates Forward Flexion

The truth was my form was bad, my posture was poor, and my supportive muscle groups were weak. I had decent abdominal definition but my internal core muscles were weak and my low back was suffering as result. When we continue because we think we can do more, it can result in overuse injury, joint problems, cramping, or worse. This was a stark difference from the kind of exercise I was used to.

 

Setting Realistic Goals for Holistic Health

 

As my trainer worked with me my mindset started to change to focus on fitness goals that would increase the overall functionality of my body and improve my sense of well being. I noticed I feel taller and my limbs longer. I’m more flexible; I can bend over and touch my toes, twist and rotate my upper body from side to side, and tension I used to carry in my neck and shoulders has subsided. Most notable, I no longer experience muscle cramps through my shoulder and chest when I run.

img_4124Continuing Body Weight Pilates Training

 

Pilates resistance training focuses on form first, then builds strength and flexibility. Techniques are done slow and controlled. Through this transition, I feel like I’ve worked out without being beaten down and in pain the next day. This is making me more efficient when I train and leaving me with energy for my next session.

 

I am very excited to see what the future holds with my continued training. The beginning stages of a Pilates journey are full of exploration and discovery. For me thus far, redefining my idea of a work out has been beneficial for my overall health and training plan. It’s clear this redefinition has and will continue to be beneficial for my physical accomplishments going forward.


Waveforms Spotlight: Carolyn K. – “Pilates makes you more fit, stronger, and increases your stability.”

Contributing Author: Courtney Cerniglia

When Carolyn moved to the Fox Cities, she wanted to continue her Pilates routine. “I felt blessed to have found Courtney in this area. She’s right up there with some of the top trainers I’ve worked with.” Knowledgeable, kind, and thoughtful, Carolyn enjoyed these qualities of Courtney’s that made their private sessions fun and effective. Working in the new Waveforms Pilates studio this summer, she felt more relaxed and comfortable in the “studio spa space,” as she described it.

 

fullsizeoutput_bWhile Carolyn has done both Pilates mat and private sessions, she will never give up her private sessions. The one-on-one training she receives from Courtney is helping her continue to progress towards her goals. Her goals shift over time, but she continues to see benefits in keeping her body mobile and capable for any phase of life.

 

Once an athlete, Carolyn mentions how powerful it is to pair Pilates work into your training regimen. We asked her what benefits of her practice she’s noticed, she exclaimed, “Strength! Pilates makes you more fit, stronger, and increases your stability. I’ve also lost some weight as well, as it tightens everything up. For an athlete, it’s a discipline that works on the things other methods don’t.”

 

“Pilates is results driven,” Carolyn explained. “You stand taller and gain results from the work you put into it. Courtney challenges me to work harder, do more, and take my practice to the next level.”

 

 

Carolyn’s favorite Pilates exercises tend to include almost anything on the reformer. Different than with a mat class, using the reformer can create space in places hard to access without the added resistance. It also adds an extra element of gravitational pull and spring resistance to add intensity to easier movements. But when Carolyn’s on the mat, she likes plank postures. “They’re difficult, yet rewarding. I feel a sense of accomplishment in the end.”

 

It’s easy to see Carolyn has a goal driven practice that’s pushing her to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She uses Pilates to enhance her natural strength and continue to improve in areas that need more love.
“I encourage anyone who isn’t sure about Pilates to look into adding it to your routine. Runners, cyclists, triathletes, can all see improvements to their performance by incorporating it into a training program,” she encourages. “I can’t say enough great things about working with Courtney at Waveforms Pilates. She has a vast breadth of knowledge, acute attention to detail and a kind approach, she is everything I am looking for in a trainer.”

 

Pilates Trainer Courtney & Carolyn K.

 


Pilates, More Than Just Mat (Beyond the Mat: How We Use Equipment for Resistance Training)

Resistance Training with Pilates Equipment

By: Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Trainer, Waveforms Pilates

denise-austin-pilates-photo

Pilates, in the early Millennium, was often depicted in the media as housewives doing high-kicks while lying on their side.  Thank you Denise Austin!

While there is Pilates mat work like her style, it is a small piece of the school of Pilates.  When I explain Pilates, people often tell me they had no idea there is equipment available.

Many people are familiar with the small pieces of equipment used to complement a mat class – such as rings, balls, foam rollers, and hand weights. They’re less familiar, however, with the large pieces of equipment used in Pilates.

Don’t Worry…Looks Can Be Deceiving

Pilates equipment can appear to be quite intimidating and almost appear torturous.  It is the exact opposite!  People love the way it feels to move with the equipment and to experience the smooth and relaxed range of motion. Here’s a bit more insight to break down that barrier.

What Is Pilates Equipment?

Joseph Pilates, father of the Pilates Method, invented and patented over two-dozen pieces of exercise equipment.  Not meant to replace mat work, equipment training serves as a great complement to mat classes.  Some of the most common pieces of larger Pilates equipment include: the Universal Reformer, Wunda Chair, and the Trapeze Table/Cadillac.

In some cases, the equipment provides some precursory exercises to help you build strength for advanced mat work.  In other cases, the equipment exercises make similar mat exercises more challenging by adding resistance.

“I invented all these machines… it resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.” – Joseph Pilates

 

How Does the Equipment Work?

 

Increased Resistance Training with Springs

Pilates is resistance training, just like weight lifting.  The main difference is that Pilates equipment primarily uses springs as the source of resistance instead of dumbbells or cable weights.  Springs need the user to maintain fluid range of motimg_3767ion from the beginning to end of an exercise.  If you try to “jerk” the range, or use momentum for exertion, the machine won’t function properly – so there’s no cheating! The springs also help you control both the flexion and the extension range, allowing you to use the fullest range of your muscles.

This fluid control causes the muscle to also be stretched during the exercise, which improves flexibility and overall strength.  Resistance can also be increased or decreased based on how many springs you attach and where you attach them.  Not to mention, springs help trigger your deep core muscles as you negotiate finding balance and stability.

Closed-Chain Exercises & Pulleys

Working with the springs and pulleys associated with some Pilates equipment, you are able to perform more closed-chain kinetic exercises.  Closed-chain exercises increase the force on the joint to increase stability.  Closing off the kinetic chain by having a grounding point, helps protect connective cartilage and the joint itself.  These types of exercises also work multiple muscles and joints at a time, making them very efficient.

Anyone who has experienced an injury, in conjunction with, and post physical therapy, working in a closed-chain manner is safer. Other populations that benefit from this type of execise include: those with osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, hypermobility of joints, muscle weakness, and middle-aged to older adults.img_3766

The equipment helps to train and reinforce symmetry in body, by working with even force on both sides.  For example, placing both hands in separate equal-length straps, you must press with even force with both arms in order to move the machine.

Using Gravity and Body weight for Resistance

The higher off the ground you are, the greater the effect gravity has on your body.  With the Pilates equipment raising you off the floor, you experience more natural resistance from gravity.  Just like with mat work, most exercises incorporate body weight resistance and gravitational forces.

Versatility of Pilates Equipment

 

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The Universal Pilates Reformer

Working the Body in All Positions

Exercises on the Pilates equipment mimic movement actions that you use in daily life.  This makes the exercises applicable and practical outside of the gym.  The equipment can be used seated, lying down, kneeling, standing, side-lying, flexing forward, curving backwards, and rotating.  Any possible position you could find yourself throughout the day, there is an exercise for it!  This creates a full-body workout every time and provides functional fitness.

Incorporating Pilates Equipment Training with Physical Therapy

Joseph Pilates made his first piece of equipment working with wounded soldiers by taking two springs from under their cots and attaching them to the bed frame with a pole.  If someone had a leg injury, there is no reason they couldn’t work their upper body!

Many people use time on Pilates equipment for post-physical therapy work, or in conjunction with their physical therapy.  Many special populations such as people with osteoporosis, hip replacements, MS, pregnant women, and people with scoliosis, to name a few, are able to utilize Pilates equipment to perform safe exercises and stay in shape.

Exercises for All Populations

Don’t be fooled though, the equipment can give a vigorous workout!  It’s not just for rehabilitation.  Professional athletes all over the world use Pilates equipment to help with injury prevention, alignment, flexibility, core, and overall strength.  The possibilities truly are endless.  There are modifications to make each exercise more or less challenging based on the client’s abilities and goals.

 

Feel The Pilates Resistance Difference!

 

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The Pilates Chair

The best way to understand the difference between traditional resistance training and Pilates resistance training is to feel the difference!

Pilates equipment trains the whole body instead of individual parts, making for a complete full-body workout every time.  The resistance is smooth and demands control from start to finish to create a fullest range for the muscle.  The fluid sensation created from the springs provides stretch and strength to the body and gives support for the joints.

Sign-up for a session to feel the difference today!

waveforms@yandex.com

(920)740-3085


Back To School For Adults: Re-establishing Routine In Your Life

By: Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

waveforms@yandex.com

 

Summer, especially for those of us who live in Wisconsin, is a time that we look forward to all year.  It always seems to storm in and out, and before you know it, it’s fall again.  Along with the quick storm of summer, comes a quick surge of activity, events, and irregularity in our schedules.  A combination of late nights at events, sitting in the car during a long road trip, running school-aged kids around, and trying to fit in workouts, our body is one of the first things to take a toll.

 

Finding Consistency

Our body, like a machine, loves to run on consistency: a consistent sleep schedule, regular workouts, and rituals for honoring self.  Though summer is exciting, we often are robbed of our routine.  Every year, when “school-time” comes around again, I like to re-assess my daily rituals.  I consider this my back-to-school practice.  How can I create time and space for myself throughout the week?  How can I create a routine that is energizing and uplifting?  How can I honor what makes me feel good and happy?  How can I restore order to the inconsistency that came with my summer schedule?

 

Make a Happy List

make a list of things that make you happyI came across this picture over the summer.  This is the quote I wanted to use to create my routine and rituals for the Fall.

 

Rituals are Rich

Developing rituals that are enjoyable, easy, and repeatable gives you a sense of centering for your day.  Sometimes in summer, our rituals are fleeting.  My favorite morning ritual is enjoying a hot cup of coffee with my husband.  Sometimes, it’s 3 PM and I will say outloud to my husband “is it weird that I can’t wait for a hot cup of coffee tomorrow morning?”  The answer is no, it’s a ritual that I enjoy!  It starts out my day.  It helps me jump-start my morning, and puts me in a happy-mood. This ritual makes the top of my list, as simple as it may seem.  Rituals that make me happy form the framework of my routine for the day.

 

Balancing Necessary Tasks with Life-Giving Tasks

Intersperse rituals throughout your day that are not just task-oriented (dishes, post office, folding laundry, gardening), but also life-giving (time with a pet, coffee with a friend, journaling, exercise, volunteering).  Make your list of the things that make you happy, and make time for them in your schedule.  Falling into a routine and structure, just like you had during your school-aged years, can bring a satisfying framework to your day-to-day.  Routines give us a sense of purpose for the days that feel lackluster.  Rituals give us grounding points throughout the days that feel chaotic.

 

What Jobs Bring you Joy?

I dislike doing laundry, my husband loves it.  This became one of his household task.  I love grocery shopping, my husband dislikes it.  This is one of my household tasks.  The reality is, we cannot do it all, so we should try and do the things we enjoy.  Have something your whole family dislikes doing?  Hire out!  Changing the oil in the car, both my husband and I can do it, but neither of us enjoy.  Our joy is well-worth the $20-30 it costs to outsource.

 

Making & Taking the Time

What things would bring you joy to do everyday?  Make these part of your daily rituals.  Intersperse them throughout the day.  What is something that makes you happy, but you can’t seem to fit in your day?  Make time for this.  You need to not just make the time, but take the time.  Schedule it in, and don’t negotiate!  It’s a life-giving, energy-lifting ritual that you need in your life.  This is non-negotiable.  Maybe it’s reading, from 2-3pm, before you pick the kids up from school.  Put it in your calendar, and don’t let an appointment rob you from your time.  If anyone asks, you’re unavailable then.  

 

Routines for Success

Though summer may be nearing an end, with Fall comes an new opportunity to begin the last quarter of the year with a fresh perspective.  Create a routine that works for your life. Find what makes you happy and what you love and create time for it!  Then, stick with it!  Make new rituals that bring you new found energy!  Your body will thank you for the consistency, and your mind will thank you for the familiarity.

 

http://waveformspilates.com


Rediscovering Curiosity Through Pilates

Category : business , movement , Pilates

By: Courtney Holcomb

Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

 

Pilates attunes you to yourself and asks you to be curious again.  

 

You see, children are encouraged to move in curious and creative ways.  I love to challenge adults to think the same.  I’ve seen many adults really discover their bodies for the first time through Pilates and that is incredibly inspiring to me.

 

Pilates – Keeping you youthful throughout your life.  

 

It’s rare to have our bodies observed for movement as adults.  Maybe as a kid, taking a dance class, doing karate, or playing sports, you received feedback on your form, or told “how-to” perform a certain movement.  For the most part, our bodies turn to auto-pilot after the childhood years.  And with auto-pilot, we begin to form movement patterns that become habits. If our bodies were perfect, this would be great.  But more often than not, habits without awareness lead to imbalances in the body.

 

Pilates teaches us to reclaim curiosity and helps us question the what, how, and why of our movement patterns.  The discovery and exploration of movement is the task, the sensation is the reward.

The freedom from chronic pain is the reward.

The improved posture is the reward.

The inner strength is the reward.

Why Does Body Awareness Matter?

To not operate on autopilot, we have to bring the mind into it.  Pilates is a mind-body practice that brings us into actively thinking about the body.  I had an instructor who often said at the beginning of class, “this is your hour to make your body primary.”  Not your list of errands, not your weekend plans, your body.

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The Pilates session is your hour to put yourself first.

Considering we can never escape our body throughout the day, it has always surprised me how little time we spend listening to it.  The more we listen to our body, the more consciously we can change our movement patterns for the better.  If we are listening to our body, we are able to tell if a movement we are doing is creating pain.  We are able to sense our body to find balance if we stumble to avoid a fall.  We are able to navigate the busy hallway without bumping into others.

 

When is the last time you truly took time to make your body primary?

 

How Does Pilates Teach Curiosity & Body Awareness?

 

Group Class Introspection

Pilates work is personal and introspective.  Even taking class in a group setting, you are taking class for yourself.  I love this about the work.  It takes the competitive aspect out of group fitness.  The whole class feeds off the energy of one another without comparison.  Each individual is on their own adventure of curiosity, trying to discover the connections within their body.  With much of the work performed lying on your back, stomach, side, and kneeling on all fours, it is difficult to even observe others in class with you.

 

Guided Discovery through Individual Sessions

I love seeing adults engage in a one-on-one Pilates sessions for the first time.  Without guidance, or “eyes in the sky” observing your individual body, it can be difficult to have awareness of our own imbalances.

 

General cues from a group class can be helpful, but aren’t always beneficial.  Though they may not harm you, they also might not be what your body needs.  Guiding people through a thoughtful movement practice is something I find extremely rewarding about teaching Pilates. No fitness is one-size-fits-all, and everyone’s goals are different. Working in an individualized session provides what your body needs, every time.

 

Self-Correction for Improved Movement Patterns

Pilates is not just fitness, but also movement re-education.  The ultimate goal of a Pilates instructor is for their students to be able to sense and correct their own form.  The more body awareness you develop, the easier this becomes.  It’s great to have verbal and physical cues from a class setting, but you won’t always be in class.

 

In a group class or one-on-one session, you first may receive a manual cue.  The instructor using their hands to place your body in the proper position.  The next step of awareness is receiving a verbal cue to remind you how to find the correct position on your own.  In the final step of repatterning the body, you are able to sense the adjustments that need to be made on your own.  This is the ultimate goal of the mind-body experience that translates into your daily life: developing the ability to self-sense.


Awareness Outside the Studio Walls

Staying curious about our movement discoveries outside of the studio helps the Pilates work translate into our daily lives.  With increased body awareness, we are able to sense inefficient movement patterns throughout the day.  We becomes attuned to our bodies wants and needs.  Hearing a client tell me things like “I was driving and noticed how tense I was in my shoulders, so I softened them down my back,” is one of the biggest compliments I can receive as a teacher.  It’s working, I think to myself.

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If we want our body to serve us well for years to come, we need to listen to its needs.  We need to take more time to make our bodies primary.

 

Where Can I Learn More?

 

Changing habits in our body won’t happen overnight, but it will happen with intentional movement practice.  Pilates serves as a perfect mind-body complement to create changes in your body for the better.  Waveforms Pilates exists to provide movement education for fostering body awareness, strength, and self-confidence.

 

We believe that Pilates helps us build body awareness and internal strength to keep you healthy and moving throughout all the stages of life.  We provide not just instructors, but Pilates educators, to support you in your personal goals and help you develop a connected body and mind.  We take a contemporary approach to the Pilates Method layering in anatomy and exercise science.

 

Rediscovery your curiosity by investing in a fitness plan that works your mind and body.  The exercises don’t end at the door, they carry you through your day-to-day and help to serve you a life of movement longevity.  Begin with a group class, or dive in with a one-on-one session.  Your mind with thank you, and your body will too.

Contact Courtney Holcomb at waveforms@yandex.com or by calling (920)740-3085 to schedule your first session today!

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Two-Feet Forward – A look at the body from Sole to Spine

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Category : exercises , Pilates

We stand on them every day, they propel us forward through space, and they support our whole body weight.  We smash them, stomp them, twist them, and lift them.

That’s right, our feet!

When is the last time you treated your feet to a sweet treat? Let it be a massage, pedicure, or a nice rub?  The reality is, for how much our feet work for us all day, we don’t often take the time to treat them well.

Think about it for a minute.  Have you ever walked into the gym and thought, “Okay, today is going to be a foot day”  If so, I am impressed.  We often go to our standard “biceps, triceps, throw in some legs, cardio, and call it a day”, type workout.

Feet are often overlooked when it comes to our regular fitness regimen.  When our feet are weak the rest of our body has to compensate to find strength, balance, and control from somewhere else. Because our feet are the source of contact with the ground, the more stability we can find the less we have to work to stay stable.

 

Studying Foot Anatomy for Movement

Did you know our whole body is comprised of 206 bones? Of those bones, over 25% are found in our feet. Each foot has 26 bones and 33 joints. Though we may not think of the foot as a very mobile part of our body, it is constructed for movement potential.

Having healthy mobility is a crucial part of foot health. The more we learn to mobilize a part of our body, the more we need find stability from somewhere else to support the movement.  Every joint needs a healthy balance of mobility and stability.

 

Working Out Our Feet

Children are often playing barefoot, running around, participating in sports and athletic activities, jumping on the trampoline, biking, playing tag – giving their feet a run for their money.  In a mindless way, children are working out their feet all the time.  Muscles will naturally weaken over time; it goes back to the age old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.  Though as adult we may still play around in some of these ways, our feet are likely out of practice.  3-arches-of-foot

The main way we can work to strengthen our feet begins in our arches.  Though we often think of one arch, the foot itself is actually comprised of three arches. The transverse arch spans horizontally across the ball of the foot. Our medial arch forms a line from the ball of the big toe, down to the center of the heel.  Our lateral arch begins at the ball of the pinkie toe and travels down to the heel.  These three points form a triangle from the big toe, to the little toe, and to the center of the heel.  This triangle is often referred to as the “keystone” of the foot.  Together, the three arches form a lift for shock-absorption and work in conjunction with one another for propulsion through space.

Feet Exercises for Foot Health

Doming for Foot Strength

A great way to build strength in the arches is an exercise called doming.  In doming, we work to lift the keystone of the foot up and off of the ground (big toe, little toe, center of the heel).  Imagine this area is puffing up like parachute.

dome foot and relaxedTry working one foot at a time, and while standing, keep the heel and the toes connect to the ground.  Begin to draw the toes towards the heel and sustain a hold for around ten seconds, then release the toes back away from the heels.  Try to not scrunch the toes as you do this, keeping the toes as long as possible.  Reverse the direction.  Keep the toes connected to the ground, and lift the arch by drawing the heel towards the toes, sustain and release back down.  The sensation through the arches should feel like a small “muscle cramp”.

 

Sensing Your Weight Distribution

Because the foot has so many joints and bones, it’s easy to create imbalances in how we carry our weight.  Having proper weight distribution helps us align the leg properly from the ground up: foot, ankle, knee, and hip.  Good alignment leads to less pain throughout the joint and efficiency in the body.

Stand up tall barefoot and sense where you feel the most weight on your foot.  Is it on the ball of the foot? The heel? The inside edge? The outside edge?  Depending on the strength of your arches you may feel more, or less, in different locations of the foot.  Take notice of these sensations.

Now, shift and adjust your weight to feel the most weight on the center of your heel, second most weight on the ball of your big toe, and third most on the ball of the fifth toe.  This is the weight distribution that gives us optimum support. Heel center, big toe, little toe, still all three remaining contact with the ground.  Can you sense weight in all three locations?  Can you feel the adjustments of weight distribution in the legs, pelvis, and all the way up the spine?   Play around with shifting your weight through the foot and see if you can soften the rest of the body enough to feel how each small movement resonates all the way from sole to spine.

 

Move That Foot!: Articulation

With the foot often confined in a shoe during the day, it craves movement.  Gaining mobility in the feet helps us with balance and injury prevention.

Standing up tall, spread out the toes as much as you can.  Make sure all your weight distribution points of the “triangle” are connected to the ground.  Press down your big toe and try and lift the other four toes off of the ground.  Reverse the action and press the four toes down and try and lift up just the big toe.  Make sure your weight it still distributed evenly.

Repeat this a few times, and for a challenge, try both feet at the same time.  For even more challenge, can you lift the big toe up on one foot, and the four toes up on the other?  Try playing the toes like a piano, lifting all toes and then rolling from fifth toe in to big toe, and reverse the action from big toe out to fifth toe.

Overtime, your ability to isolate the movements of the foot will increase.  Do not be frustrated if you cannot perform all of these exercises today.  These articulations are great exercises for connecting mind and body.  Our brain has to tell our foot what to do.  Try looking at the foot while you ask it to move, the visual may assist you.

Let’s get the ankle involved now too.  Standing up tall, press one foot forward as if you were wearing a high-heel. Keep the ball of the foot connected to the ground, and trace a circle with your heel in one direction.  Move the ankle around five to ten times and then change directions, stirring a circle with the heel.  Repeat this on the other foot.  You may hear or feel “pops” throughout the ankle and foot as you move it.  This is perfectly normal.

 

Release for the Feet

Though a daily massage would be an enjoyable solution for sore feet, it may not be practical for all of us.  One of the best ways to treat your feet is to roll them out for release.  Afterall, they work hard for us all day!  Muscle release for the feet increases circulation and creates relaxation after a long day.

IMG_2511Balanced Body makes a “Pinky ball”, a hard rubber 2.5” ball for foot release work.  If you don’t have access to this at home, a tennis ball, racquetball, or even a spiky dryer ball can do the trick.

Place pressure and roll through the arches of the foot on the ball.  Control the amount of pressure that is not just tolerable, but also pleasant, and let the surface area of the bottom of your foot open up and release on the ball.  Move the ball in all directions and enjoy for 3 – 5 minutes.  Remove the ball from under the foot and feel the benefit, then change to the other foot.  The foot will feel softened closer down to earth as the tension of the fascia in the foot become released.

 

Moving with Two-Feet Forward

Though gone may be the days that you play outside barefoot, we must challenge ourselves to engage our feet more. Give them the workout the deserve and treat them well for carrying your body all day.  Beyond the suggested exercises, other great ways to create more strength in the feet is to be barefoot more often, feel the grass and sand between your toes, and challenge your feet in various terrains.

Jump, skip, and frolic without shoes.  Be liberated from confines of the leather prison!  We challenge you to move with two-feet forward, having consciousness about your feet, and trusting yourself from the ground-up.  Take the time to treat you feet well, and feel the benefit from sole-to-spine.

Pilates offers many additional exercises for foot and ankle strengthening.  Sign-up for our e-mail list to get updates on additional articles and exercises for a healthier life.

Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

waveforms@yandex.com

http://waveformspilates.com


The Road to Waveforms Pilates


We all have different ways of discovering new things that change the course of our lives. Simple or complicated, they arise and change our homeostasis. They drive us to become better, more diverse individuals. For me, I found passion in Pilates. Although my journey wasn’t direct, it’s led me to starting Waveforms Pilates. I hope this inspires you to follow your passions and those feelings that pull you towards change.


Discovering Pilates

My first exposure to Pilates was back when I was twelve.  As a dancer, I decided to take Pilates classes to help build my strength for the stage.  After my first class, I knew this was something I wanted to pursue long-term.  I loved movement from an early age and something about Pilates was not only satisfying for my body, but also my mind.  In my high school entrepreneurship class I outlined a formal business plan for a Pilates studio.  I tucked away my plan in a binder, and went on to college.

 

Movement Education

I pursued dance at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and grew even more fascinated by the body in motion.  While in college, I continued my Pilates education and began the certification process through Balanced Body Education.

Performing Concert Dance at the UniversityClass, rehearsals, Pilates student teaching, observation hours,  performing, apprenticing at the Pilates studio, and then graduating.  I was back and forth from the dance studio to Pilates studio.  While still maintaining a passion for dance, I realized that it wasn’t dance that I was drawn to, but more so movement.  I left the university passionate about movement and ready to use it to change lives.

 

Defining Ourselves

Before leaving college, the head of the department helped us define the road ahead of us. She told us:

“As artists, dancers, movers, it will be easy to define yourself by the jobs that you work. Many of us will wait tables, bartend, and work odd jobs, but that does not mean that’s who we are.  When someone asks you what you do, you have the choice in how you answer.  You can say anything.  You need not say that you are a waitress, but rather let them know you are a performing artist, you are a dancer, you are a choreographer, you are a Pilates instructor, you are a mover.  We are not defined by our work, but by our being.  Tell them who you are.”

And I did exactly that, I waited tables. I waited tables, but did not identify myself with waitressing.  When asked, I told people I was passionate about changing lives through movement.  That I was a performing artist, choreographer, and Pilates instructor.  These jobs weren’t my primary source of income, but they were my being.

 

Trusting to Leap

Over the next two years, I slowly shifted from waiting less tables, to working more with movement.  All along I was teaching Pilates and dance, but now the scale was shifting to this being a greater part of my workday.  After landing a new job as a Pilates instructor, I turned in my apron and decided to take the leap.  Establishing trust with myself, I decided I would only do work relevant to my passion—work with movement.

 

Waveforms Pilates is Born

Fast forward two more years, supportive husband alongside me, moving from an apartment to our new home…I find my high school entrepreneurship binder.  I sensed a beauty of being on track.  Though I forgot about this specific dream of mine from ten years prior, I subconsciously set myself on the path to achieving it.  I completed the education, I gained the teaching experience, I strengthened my body, and I established a following.  I was ready to expand my reach and open a Pilates studio.  My loving husband Estin on board and excited, we started an LLC, and Waveforms Pilates was born.

 

Being a Modern-Day Entrepreneur

With the new fast-pace to society, change is our only constant, and being open to change is essential.  When we trust in our purest passions and desires for our lives, we move towards change for the better.  I challenge you to take a leap and trust the path towards change.  Change that aligns you toward your passions.

I am grateful for the team of people around me who supported my passions, helped on my educational journey, and rallied behind me.  Though being an entrepreneur may not be easy, there is ease in me.  I am excited for the adventures on the road ahead for Waveforms Pilates.


Courtney Holcomb

Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

http://waveformspilates.com


What Brought Me to Pilates – Finding Mobility, my Manifesto

I always knew the I was designed for movement.  Having been a dancer since age three, I loved the feeling of my body traveling through space.   It wasn’t until I was a preteen that I realized that my body was so much tighter that I wanted it to be.  Though I moved, I felt stiff, and when I tried to move more, it felt rigid. Being someone who has always dealt with chronic low back pain as well as stiffness/rigidness throughout my whole spine, I operated in the world for years thinking that this was “simply how I was created” and I would have to learn to endure through the pain my whole life, and then, I found Pilates, at age 15.

Through the consistent practice of Pilates I have been able to create more mobility in my spine than I ever though possible. With all of the movement principles of Pilates working together–breathing, core activation, neutral pelvis, abdominal strengthening, lumbopelvic stability, spinal strength and mobility, scapular strength and mobility, alignment and posture analysis, release work, and stretching–I have felt more length, mobility, and strength in my body and spine than ever before and I have been able release years of chronic tension from my muscles and skeleton. I now feel I have access to more space in my joints and spine and I continue to work towards opening and accessing more of my body each time I practice Pilates and dance.

Re-patterning the body does not happen overnight, but there is a great reward associated with creating new muscle memory that facilitates optimal anatomical efficiency throughout the body, producing a pathway to operate with a sense of ease and availability to movement. Whether it be in a dance class, performance, or just walking around, or standing for a long period of time, Pilates grants me the ability to move properly from the body’s natural design. Joseph Pilates, who created the system in the early 1920’s stated, “It’s not about what you do, but how you do it.” Or as my dad always says, “Train smarter, not harder.” Yes, we have to work with what we have, but this should not be limiting. We DO have the capacity to change and transform our bodies, with time, patience, and proper practice.

Now for myself personally, now have been practicing Pilates for over 11 years and remain as engaged in the practice as when I began. I continue to see and feel changes within my body and make new discoveries with every class I take. Now, as a fully Certified Pilates Instructor, I get to share my passion for movement with the world.  It’s so exciting to share Pilates with others through teaching and sharing in the joy that others experience when they make new discoveries in their own bodies. Transformation is something wonderful to celebrate.

For more information on Pilates practice, or to schedule a free consulation:

e-mail waveforms@yandex.com

I would love to share my work with you!