Contrology (aka Pilates) to me means, to individuate and isolate. Individuate joints and isolate movement, that is. Training for “real life” means we have to get weird and specific, go deep and play. Walking better will not start by walking, but by training our hips and legs. In my experience, most people have never felt their real hip flexors work. I mean Iliacus. Not rectus femoris, not psoas or even using abdominals to fake hip flexion. I mean fake in a very loving way. Pelvic tilts, or more so forward flexion of the body, be it sitting or standing is often performed by primarily spinal movement, contracting the abdominals or/ and a butt squeeze that results in a tucked pelvis. That creates and often deepens faulty patterns, for most people resulting in SI problems, lower back pain, tight hamstrings and quads. The body has to function as a whole. It works and feels better when it does. We as human machines have the wonderful ability to choose which muscle is doing the moving and stabilizing, the resisting and the lengthening.
Fix the pain in the neck
If your neck hurts while or after doing Pilates, let’s say in your 100’s, something’s up. First off: where does it hurt? 1. front or 2. back.
1. The front hurts:
Congratulations, you’re working your deep neck flexors and if you sit in front of a computer all day, they pretty much don’t exist. The computer posture or “turtle neck” is connected to many other imbalances (dysfunctions) in our body. Achy neck, tight and rounded forward shoulders, back pain… working your neck will tremendously improve all of the above. It’s important to know HOW to work your neck.
2. The back hurts
Check and see what muscles are actually contracted while lifting. Front or back. My bet: your muscles in the back of your neck are working (habitually holding your head up) and it’s not their job, at least in that position! Muscles pull bones. So get into the front of the neck to pull your head up, rather than pushing from the back. Start by just lifting the neck a tiny bit. Is the front activating? Then proceed to TILT your head on your neck, chin directionally moving towards the sternum to functionally stretch the back. Keep looking towards your toes or pubic bone to avoid the back muscles taking over. Keep the brain back to avoid more pushing from the back.
If you can’t sustain the position for your 100’s, lower down. Don’t practice the shitty position. All you get is …. yeah, right! Be humble. Don’t do it because the neighbor is doing it too. Do YOU! Your instructor should be watching you and correct you if your head position is wrong. If your neck is weak, it will be challenging and maybe “hurting” a bit, but know you’re also getting stronger.
Please keep in mind, it takes time and effort to change your patterns, but know, you can change them!!!
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Show here: me and my double chin doing the 100’s.
One thing that sticks out most when I find myself people watching, moving or standing are elevated front ribs. Posture. If I ask a client to side bend it mostly results into an extension in their ribcage first and a shift of their pelvis, possibly combined with rotation second, but let’s focus on one thing…
My own story – posture:
Many times in my life I was told that I am hyper-lordodic (too much lumbar curve). I own a fair share of booty. That increases the look of hyper lordosis. Some movement teachers asked me in the past to just tuck my pelvis under to make the curve flatten out. Problem fixed. Moving on. NOT!
That led me down a long and painful road of lower back issues. SI problems and non functioning glutes, tight hamstrings, tight hip-flexors and quads. Because what really happens is a dysfunctional engagement in the glute maximus, a stretch on the thoraco lumbar faschia, over shortening of the hamstrings. Resulting in tight calves and hip flexors and quads are holding on for dear life. Am I confusing you?
When I met Jonathan FitzGordon and he told me right away that I was I too was a sway back. I had a hard time believing him, a very hard time… Well, long story short, he was right. I had tried to correct a faulty pattern I didn’t even have.
Not just you, it’s everybody…
Most people aren’t aware of their posture, at all. It’s not something we get taught in school and unless you’re a ballerina, into gymnastics or performing arts you probably never think of how you stand, look or move through space. Please correct me, if I’m wrong.
To balance weak glutes, the desk pasture, being taller than average, mimicking your parents’ pasture etc. … a lot of people end up with a sway back.
I am still on the road to “recovery”. It takes conscious effort each and every day to make a change. It’s as Jonathan says “well worth it”. I really like the quote from McGraw “practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent” . What we practice every day, is what we get in the end.
Once the ribs relax down (or as I like to think of it lately, my kidneys go back) the erector spinae muscles can actually do their job. The abdominals will get much more tone and the “tight backs” will disappear. The glutes will co-contract to provide much needed help for your spine erectors. Standing upright is not just their responsibility, your glutes have a huge part in it. At least they should. Your back starts to hurt less and less.
Ready to be more aware?
One thing that I hear over and over again from my clients is that they are more AWARE of their posture and able to make the small corrections.
In your first session I will assess your posture and show you potential weaknesses and simple, easy to do exercises to make a huge impact in your everyday life. Let’s get started!
Read Jonathan’s article that inspired this post here:
In February (2013), I once again had the opportunity to study with Irene Dowd. She is such a legend in the world of anatomy and movement and I always jump on every opportunity to learn from her. This was a 3 hr. workshop on the neck, giving us simple, yet effective strategies for everyone (with and without equipment) to be done throughout the day, sitting at your desk to create ease in your neck and shoulders.
How we socially interact with our face, the way we listen (does one ear hear better than the other? If so you are more likely to present that ear and move your neck and head off-center) how we look, taste and chew is influenced by the way we move our necks.
Learning by doing:
First we located the cervical vertebrae, palpating them and looking at their movement possibilities. We teamed up and observed our partners range of motion in a “yes” and “no” motion. The atlanto-occipital joint = yes, has about 15-20 degrees of flexion and extension combined. The atlanto-axial joint =no has about 35-40 degrees of rotation on each side. Combining flexion/ extension and rotation is a whole different ballgame. We observed the lack of symmetry and imbalances in ourselves and were prompted to write down our scores to compare them, after we did the mini-movement sequences Irene has developed. What a surprise, all of us had either evened out imbalances or increased range of motion.
The muscles of the neck work synergistically with our eyes. You can test this by putting your hands at the back of your neck, right underneath the skull at either side of your cervical spine with slight pressure. Look straight ahead and then to the left, without moving your head and then to the right. It is very subtle, but you can feel the muscles activating and preparing to move your head. You might have to try this a couple of times before you first feel it. This means, where your eyes go during exercise, your neck wants to rotate your head to. So be aware where you look when you rotate your spine. If your eyes stay straight, your brain is not able to tell your body to move and the range of motion you experience in your rotation is much smaller or might feel constricted.The same goes for flexion (Ab-curl, “crunch”) look at the ceiling first and start the movement with your eyes, wandering across the ceiling to the wall in front of you, to your knees (they may be in the tabletop position or feet on the floor) and experience an easier, possibly increased flexion in your thoracic spine and more ease (or work in the front neck, which is desired in cervical flexion) in performing the 100’s.
Did you know
that we have more muscles in the back of the neck than in the front? The posterior (in the back) muscles support our head as we reach our faces forward (palpate by putting your hands on the neck and move your head forward). Too much reaching forward (by listening, looking, eating, talking) will fatigue those muscles and one might even feel pain. Also, our brain being in the back of our skull is much heavier than the front of our face, needs to be balanced out.
The muscles on the side and in the front are less numerous and are very important for balancing our head. They are usually underdeveloped, especially sitting at a desk all day doing computer work (I can feel my posterior muscles screaming at me already). Tilting your head backwards gives ease to the posterior muscles and allows them to relax for a while.
Another blog post with exercises will follow
Pushing the head forward resisting gently with your hand pressing against your forehead will activate the anterior neck muscles and put them to work.
Let’s leave it here for now, although there are many more interesting facts, if you have any questions about the micro-movement series, release techniques and strengthening exercises, contact me! Just remember less is more when it comes to awakening muscles that are not quite working as they should, listen to your body, if it feels wrong, don’t do it and be aware of your range of motion. The way you sit and carry your head throughout the day is so important, how you talk, chew and look at your iPad (reading with it sitting on your laps for a long period of time might possibly be less desirable after you read this post).
Irene’s workshop schedule can be found here:http://www.nohopilates.com/workshops.htm
I found this little video today, and I can’t say how happy I am about it.
It shows very simply what happens to your joints when you pop or crack your fingers, hip, neck, etc. I used to be a big “neck cracker”. Until I found out what happens and that the cracking actually increases the swelling that makes you want to crack the joint even more. A vicious cycle.
Not just the swelling and constant pulling and stretching on ligaments and tendons but just a plain old bad habit. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, even if this clip says that there is no evidence for causing Arthritis. Destabilizing your body in any which way is not good. The Central Nervous System gets the message of “danger, we are loosing something here” and tightens up muscles around that joint. These muscles might not shut off when the “danger” is over and we become chronically tight. Especially muscles of surrounding joints. shoulders, upper back, even the lower back suffers if the neck is out of whack. In the end we are a sum of our dysfunctions and pain is the norm. Not a life I’d like to live…
How do you kick the habit?
Just don’t do it. Become aware. Realize when you want to crack and catch yourself before you start cracking. Choose not to do it. End of story. After a while (it can take up to a couple of months) you won’t find the need to do it anymore. The body heals and self regulates pretty well.
Wanna kick your cracking habit?
Questions? Contact me at Chantall@risepilates.com
” The older we get the more we have to work.” Thats something one of my teachers said, and I’ll never forget it. She referred the the human body and the demand we put on it. Another saying that comes to my mind is “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. Aging is something that’s going to happen even if we fight it, there’s no way around. One of the key signs for a healthy and young body is it’s ability to move well. Doing whatever you want and being able to do so without aches and pains.
What do you still want to do?
Playing tennis, golf, soccer, biking, climbing… walking, playing with the grand children, getting out of the chair without help, getting out of bed…? The list of demands we have can vary from day to day or decade to decade.
Working here in Santa Fe with a clientele that is up to 30 years older than my Brooklyn clients definitely challenges me on many different levels. Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Hip- and Knee replacements (no biggie). Just walking can sometimes be a challenge and it’s not the previous mentioned conditions that make us immobile but should we fall and break a bone can definitely throw a curve ball. I remember my late grandmother being in excellent condition up to the day when she had an unfortunate fall and being bed ridden for many weeks deteriorated her body (and mind) tremendously.
Here is how it’s done:
1. do something every day (walking is a great start)
2. challenge your balance
3. Do Pilates!
4. Do Pilates regularly. If you’re over 60 twice a week for 60min is the minimum if you want to see some results.
5. Start working your body early, don’t wait until you feel the signs of aging limiting your way of life.
And here are some great results:
81 years young and doing the Longstretch like a 18 year old. Bravo!
What would you like to do, and is your body supporting that desire?
A great video of Joseph Pilates teaching Contrology.
A man is as young as his spinal column.