By Fay V. Porter, LMT
Classical Pilates developed out of Joseph Pilates’ original students, with classes following a set format from which there is ideally no deviation or modification. Classical Pilates also supports and develops a different structure of body mechanics than Contemporary Pilates, with Classical Pilates emphasizing a flat back during movement patterns, squeezing the glutes the entire time, pulling the shoulder blades down the back, external rotation of the legs (legs turned out) through almost all movements, and dance-like emphasis on movements. In Classical Pilates both Mat and Apparatus-based classes are also designed so that all students are performing the same movement pattern in the exact same way at the same time. This can give more of a “boot camp” feel to the studio environment.
Contemporary Pilates was developed as a result of the ongoing incorporation of Physical Therapy and exercise science into Joseph Pilates’ original platforms. This style of Pilates has more options available in terms of sequencing of movements, inclusion of props, modifications or variations of exercises, progression of exercises and movement patterns, and utilization of different movement patterns and apparatuses by clients at the same time. Contemporary Pilates will also tend to emphasize a neutral pelvis during movement patterns, working within individual ability levels, and maintaining healthy spinal alignment during exercises.
By Fay V. Porter, LMT
Pilates is a physical fitness system designed in the early 20th century by German-born Joseph Hubertus Pilates (December 9, 1883- October 9, 1967). His father was a famous prize-winning gymnast, and his mother was a naturopath. Joseph was sickly as a child and struggled with a variety of health issues as well as bullying from older neighborhood children. He believed that effective exercise was the best way to strengthen his immune system and to achieve full wellness by strengthening both the body and mind. Pilates believed that true health could only be achieved through being both mentally and physically fit. He studied both Eastern and Western exercise systems, including yoga, which he then incorporated and adapted into his personal exercise practices. He also studied anatomy and physiology extensively, and would move his body as he studied to assess which movements would activate which muscles. By the age of 14 he had overcome his initial health difficulties and had developed his body to the point that he was modeling for anatomy charts in Germany. As he aged, he became an accomplished boxer, diver, skier, and gymnast.
In 1912, Joseph went to Britain for further training in boxing and to join the boxing circuit there. As World War I broke out in 1914, Joseph along with many other Germans was sent to an internment camp in Lancaster. There he taught wrestling and self-defense, and developed what would later become the foundation of his Mat work, which he called “Contrology,” which was developed to learn how to combine both body strength with intentional control of the body through movement patterns. Pilates was later moved to an internment camp on the Isle of Man where he volunteered in the sick bay and became something of a nurse / Physical Therapist. He would work extensively with those in the camp who had been injured during the war and developed the foundation of many of his famous apparatuses during this time, including the Universal Reformer (now just referred to as the reformer), and the Cadillac Tower. These apparatuses were built out of the iron beds and the bed springs in the sick bay to develop movement patterns and exercises for those who were injured to be able to regain their posture, strength, and to correct muscular imbalances and improve coordination, balance, and flexibility, as well as to increase breathing capacity and organ function. He was so successful in helping to build the health of his “patients” that none of the people in the camp under his care grew sick with the Spanish Influenza when the epidemic hit in 1918.
After the war, Joseph returned to Germany and began teaching privately. In 1923 the Kaiser asked him to begin teaching the German Secret Police. Joseph disagreed with the political climate in Germany at that time and decided to immigrate to the United States. After visiting, Joseph moved to New York in 1926, and met his lifelong partner Clara on the boat ride across from Germany. Together they started the Contrology studio on 56th Street in Manhattan in the same building as a number of dance studios. The dancers in the local studios were prone to frequent injuries, and became the majority of his clientele. Many dance instructors in New York began requiring their dancers to attend Pilates fitness sessions, and started incorporating his exercises into their warm ups. Through this time period, Joseph and Clara continued to develop additional apparatuses and file patents for his inventions. These included the Magic Circle, the Barrel, the Cadillac Tower, the Universal Reformer, and the Wunda Chair, to name a few.
Joseph stayed active and healthy, and was passionately involved with teaching until his death in 1967 at the age of 83. Some of his early students went on to open their own studios after his passing, and partially as a result of their own interpretations two major schools of philosophy developed: Classical and Contemporary Pilates.
By Fay Porter, LMT
Self-Massage is a fantastic opportunity to give yourself the gift of daily self-care. With a little intention and creativity, you will find that you have many opportunities throughout the day to help decrease your stress, decrease your pain, and to help you feel more connected to your body.
You might be nervous or curious about how to start. We were all naturally gifted with a sense of touch, and you will know best what kind of touch feels best to you. Don’t be afraid to turn your five-second body washing routine in the shower or your nightly moisturizing into a luxurious, connective experience. A simple way to start becoming familiar with self- massage is to apply lotion or cream on your hands. Breathe deeply and focus on the texture of your skin, and notice which depth of pressure naturally feels best to you. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort, and spend extra time there. Try different types of touch and keep breathing deeply and you will start to notice that tension melt away under your fingers.
It’s a good idea to keep your touch pretty light at first, especially around any areas that are bruised or that might have cuts. As you become more familiar, you can give your entire body the gift of massage. You can also try focusing on light sweeping strokes from the ends of your fingers or tips of your toes up your limbs and towards your heart for a more detoxifying and circulatory effect. Notice how your body feels after you finish compared to when you started. As you become more familiar with your body and start incorporating self massage into your regular routine, you may find that it can help you develop much more self confidence and body awareness.
Self-Massage for Self Care—The Benefits
Fay Porter, LMT
Massage is an important aspect of any self care routine, but it doesn’t have to be isolated to the massage studio a couple of times a month. The benefits of Swedish massage are available to you in your own home every day, and are invaluable for stress relief, pain reduction, and increasing overall health. Using regular skin lotion and intentional touch, you can give yourself the gift of massage whenever and wherever to keep your body up and going until that next sports massage appointment.
This can be especially important for new and competitive athletes. When you begin new exercise programs or stretch to reach new levels of performance, you can experience lactic acid buildup in your muscles, which can lead to soreness, decreased performance, and a feeling of overall fatigue. A massage therapist specially trained in sports massage can work with you to achieve increased flexibility, range of motion, and increased performance, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a couple of extra minutes for yourself when you’re getting out of the shower or when you have a moment. Even sitting at your desk, you can take a minute to work on your forearms, hands, and neck to reduce the tension and stress that can build up from everyday work.
The Mayo Clinic has found massage to be helpful for:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Paresthesias and nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Check back in with us here at Big Toe in Part 2 of our Self-Massage series where we will discuss the mechanics of how to give yourself a helpful, health-promoting massage.
By Fay Porter, LMT
Almost anyone can run a marathon. Getting to the finish line all in one piece is an entirely separate matter. At Big Toe Studio we say: "It's easy to train, but self care is the difficult part." Any goal requires not just careful planning and execution, but support. Overtraining and injury are very real possibilities when you start a new exercise program. As you begin to learn your own limits and as your body learns the new movement patterns, strain, overuse, and poor body mechanics become a concern.
Sports massage provides not only relaxation, but utilizing specific techniques resets your muscle length and tone, prevents scar tissue from building up, and facilitates the removal of lactic acid from your muscles which reduces soreness post-exercise. A massage therapist specifically trained in sports massage techniques can assess your body mechanics, provide facilitated stretching, break down scar tissue, reduce inflammation, increase flexibility and range of motion, and encourage muscular balance.
Effective sports massage is an important element in not only reaching optimum performance levels, but in maintaining them. As your body reaches peak effectiveness in your activities, it becomes even more important to provide yourself with regular self care. The increased circulation and lymph drainage from sports massage decreases the inflammation levels that can build up in old injury sites and with the regular use of muscles as you train more often. This means you can go out, play harder, play more often, and hurt less. And life is really all about play anyway, right?
Let us get you on track to become and stay your best self.
By Fay Porter, LMT
It can be so difficult when we're going through a traumatic time. Whether it's a divorce or the loss of a loved one, stress, anxiety, and depression can all take their toll on our productivity and patience levels. This is hard because these are the times when we need our emotional and physical reserves the most. Add lack of sleep, a suffering diet, and schedule changes to the mix, and you have a recipe for a physical breakdown.
An emotionally supportive massage gives you the space you need to hit the "reset" button. 60 to 90 minutes of physical care for your body, mind, and spirit gives you a chance to relax, rejuvenate, and recollect yourself. A well-trained therapist has the ability to hold space and to meet you where you are in that moment. Angry, sad, happy, or introverted and quiet, your therapist can support you as she guides you to pay attention to your breath and focus on the feelings you experience in your body through the session.
With your massage therapist you can come in exactly as you are in that moment, and feel safe and supported in experiencing that, or in just fully immersing yourself in the relaxation and serenity of your massage. Give yourself the gift of letting yourself be supported-- if even for only 60 minutes. Difficulties, stress, and changes all require more self care from us as we transition ourselves into new stages. A big piece of this is giving yourself the time and space to feel safe and supported and to just let go.
Massage also has the benefit of supporting your body by encouraging your hormonal and nervous systems to relax, reset, and neutralize. When we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, our nervous system and hormones change dramatically in our bodies. The supported environment of massage combined with physical massage techniques supports your body in making healthy changes and bringing you back to more normal levels. The more often you receive massage, the greater the benefits to your body, and the longer you will feel the results. Many people find massage to be absolutely essential to them as they go through major life changes. Let us support you as you move forward in life.
By: Ginny Maillet RN, NP
Take a moment to reflect on your life right now… How are things going for you? Are you in a great place, job going smoothly, family life is great, love life couldn’t be better?
Or are you struggling to keep your head above water, feeling stressed and pressed upon every side? Finding it difficult to say NO to all those that make requests of you?
The key to self-care, knowing yourself and your physical and mental capabilities and limitations and LISTENING to what your body, mind, and spirit are saying to you!
Your body begins to speak to you, first in a whisper, and then finally in a shout which is usually an illness that finally gets your attention. And remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you are the sick one! (Like on an airplane: you're supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first!)
Life today is challenging and unavoidably stressful but good self-care will help you manage your life in a much healthier way. Remember, you may not be able to control the waves in your life but you sure can learn to surf!
Your # 1 Priority- Taking Care of Yourself
Here are some self-care tips:
Just Say NO: The most effective self-care practice involves repetition of one word – "No." For many of us, it takes nerves of steel to utter this simple one syllable word. It takes a while to learn to use "no" – so start small and see what happens. Experiment with: "I'm sorry, that won't be possible." "That really doesn't work for me." "I'm sorry, but I can't take on any new responsibilities right now."
Start Your Day with Inspiration and Intention: Set aside time 5-10 minutes (usually when you first wake up) for prayer, reflection, meditation and to set the intention for your day. Make this a habit; it takes 30 days to form a solid habit. This practice will set the tone for your day and help you move through the challenges of the day with greater ease, peace, and calm. An intention can be a very simple one-“I will maintain a sense of calm and joy throughout my day”
Engage in Daily Movement- Something FUN that You Enjoy: One of the best antidotes for stress is exercise, getting rid of stress hormones, pumping in those feel good endorphins, improving the functioning of mind, body, and spirit. Bring movement into your life that you enjoy and that nurtures YOU! 30-45 minutes daily is ideal but 20 minutes will be very beneficial. Biking, Zumba, Tai Chi, Pilates classes, or simply walking the dog, do anything that makes your heart and body sing!
Eat Whole and Nutritious Foods: Self-care equates to good nutritious food. But, this takes some planning so you don’t resort to processed or fast foods out of desperation and hunger pangs. Raw foods, plant based meals are a source of super nutrition just what a stressed, challenged body needs. And don’t forget the water, limit sugar laced sodas and high energy drinks…they aren’t nutritionally sound.
Adequate and Restful Sleep: Research studies have demonstrated over and over that we need an average of 6 ½-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep loss impairs not only our cognitive function (shorter attention span, impaired memory and longer reactions times) but our immune function as well. Develop good sleep habits, go to bed at a regularly scheduled time each night, and don’t watch TV. or news right before bed, this can overstimulate you and make your bedroom a restful sanctuary that invites a restful slumber.
Start small, maybe just with the NO word. Then add the other self-care strategies to your daily life. Before you know it, you will begin to feel better, stronger. You will feel a shift in mood, your body will feel less stressed, your soul replenished a sense of calm within your spirit. You are feelin the self-love!!!
Self-Love Exercise– Adapted from Energy Magazine – Sept/Oct 2012
- Think of something or someone whom you love unconditionally- a pet, a child or your special, magical place. If it is a person or pet, think about the great love you feel and how you adore this special person or pet.
- If it is a magical special place, think of how you feel when you are physically there, the sights, smells, what emotions this place brings to your heart and mind.
- Feel the warmth, love, and gratitude that you feel when you think of this person, pet, or place.
- Now let this feeling of love grow and expand as if you were holding this object of your love. Feel this sense of love in the heart area in your chest. Allow this feeling of love and gratitude to feel up you whole chest area. Breathe deeply as though breathing through your heart area.
- Now let this feeling of love and gratitude fill you entire body, expanding beyond your heart space and chest but throughout your body, down through your fingers and toes.
- Now allow yourself to feel these feelings of love and gratitude for yourself. You are just as wonderful and deserving of love as those to whom you direct your love.
- Allow yourself to feel these feeling of love and gratitude every day, at least once a day. This is a powerful tool that can make a positive impact not only on your mind, body, and spirit, but impacts your immune system as well.
By: Ginny Maillet, RN, MSN, WHNP-BC
If you're looking for a relaxation tool that really works, be sure to explore powerful heart-based techniques. Easily accessible (once you learn the simple one minute technique you have it at your immediate disposal), these approaches teach you to generate and focus on positive emotions (appreciation, love, abundance, joy, compassion), attain a sense of calm and relaxation – on purpose.
The heart based techniques just feel so good – and feeling good amplifies the power of your heart, sending signals of happiness and relaxation to your brain, and changing the biochemistry of your body. For most people this results in a deep level of calmness very quickly and easily.
The Institute of Heart Math has spent nearly twenty years of scientific research on the heart, the heart ‘brain’, the impact of stress on our heart, and how we can engage positive emotions and reduce our stress levels. These techniques, which are called "heart resonance" or "heart coherence," have been trademarked through (heartmath.com).
To learn how to do this technique, you can work with a certified Heartmath™ coach, listening to the wisdom of your heart as a path to inner peace and more joy. How cool is that?
Ginny Maillet RN, MSN, WHNP-BC – of Transitions-Integrative Therapies for Holistic Health is a fully trained as a HeartMathTM coach and can work with you to lower stress, build resilience, and achieve a sense of calm and well-being within your life. Please contact Ginny at Big Toe Studio for more information on this amazing tool.
During these cold winter days, it can be all too easy to stop working out. The temperatures are quickly dropping, the sun plays peek-a-boo as days grow shorter, and you may still be recovering from the leftover stresses and extra calories of the holiday season. Somehow a couch feels cozier and tv seems more interesting when it’s this frigid. Let’s not overlook that winter days are, for many, accompanied by winter blues.
Believe it or not, thirty percent of people don’t exercise at all during the winter!
Even though you may feel like hibernating, you are not a bear. Unlike bears, humans need to exercise during all four seasons.
While some of us love to engage in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, others find these activities too daunting.
There are many exercises that can be performed indoors year-round. You can spend time at a local gym, use exercise equipment and fitness videos at home, or head to an indoor swimming pool. With some creativity and planning, you can continue to stay fit whatever the weather forecaster says.
During our Pilates classes, we breathe deeply, stretch our muscles, and pay close attention to our bodies. We find and celebrate our physical strengths, and increase awareness of weaker areas to improve them. We use control and concentration to connect our minds and bodies.
This newfound awareness doesn't end when we exit the studio.
Most of us who do Pilates find our daily lives changed. We learn that injury and weakness result from many things: our desk-bound jobs, sedentary lifestyles, and lack of exercise. As Pilates makes us aware of these pitfalls, we go about our routine activities -- brushing our teeth, pulling on our socks, sitting in front of computers, cooking, cleaning, and driving -- with greater, newfound attentiveness. We are now conscious of our abs, shoulders, necks, and posture. We ask ourselves new questions: Are we comfortable? Do we feel tension? Can we stand a little straighter, bring our shoulder blades closer together, pull our stomachs in? We strive to be tall, strong, and symmetrical.
This mindfulness is not an accident -- the precise, flowing movements of Pilates were designed to make our minds more aware of our bodies. Joseph Pilates said that his exercise system is about "the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit."
So, as you practice Pilates, remember that it not only helpss tone and strenghten your body -- it also changes your brain.