I have practiced Pilates for many years now including pregnancy Pilates when I was pregnant with my first son. I have always been amazed at how such gentle movement can have such an amazing effect.
The founder of Pilates, Mr. Joseph Pilates had been a sickly child and because of this he spent his entire life striving to improve his physical strength. His father had been a prize winning gymnast and his mother a naturopath so he had grown up in a family where he obviously saw or heard about the benefits of stamina and physical strength.
I myself enjoyed great health and had been lucky enough to be able to swim and exercise as I pleased for many years. However a persistent back injury had been getting progressively worse and worse over the last few years and eventually I was diagnosed as having a disc bulge and protrusion late last year. Because of my fear of “my back going again” my life had become more sedentary and coupled with poor posture as I work more at a desk I haven’t exercised since last Summer.
I have been told that walking and swimming are not the best exercises for me anymore. I hadn’t considered doing something like Pilates or Yoga for fear of putting my disc under pressure.
But when I heard about Reformer Pilates I was intrigued. I did an introduction class with Andrew in French Vanoli a few weeks ago. I was fascinated by the use of machines in Pilates. At one stage I laughed out loud when he showed us one of the exercises he wanted us to do. I declared “well I won’t be able to do that with my back”. I had given details of my back issues to Andrew before the class and as he had similar symptoms himself, he could empathise and knew what I would be able to do and likely not be able to do. He assured me I would be fine! So I put my left foot up on the machine and allowed the machine to take my right foot back, back and back. A full stretch which I held for the required time.
I felt a foot taller leaving the introduction class!! I couldn’t stop talking about my wonderful experience at French Vanoli and how wonderful it was to have been able to stretch like I just had. When we are in pain it is common to curl up our body to protect ourselves from harm almost. This too can cause our breaths to be shorter not allowing enough oxygen into our lungs to carry out our daily chores with gusto.
After the introduction class I couldn’t wait until my next class!
The next class I went to at French Vanoli was with Anna and she introduced it as a jumping class. I have got to admit I sort of cringed at the thought of jumping and hurting my knee which happens sometimes when I walk a lot, it is referred pain from my back. But jump I did on these wonderful machines, jumping jacks, side kicks and much, much more. It felt exhilarating to be able to part take in jumping exercises again that had no adverse effect on my back. Never once during the classes did I feel back pain or a need to stop doing anything I was doing. There is the choice of making the exercises easier by adjusting the machine or harder too if that is what we need or want!
Pilates is a conditioning routine that helps build flexibility, inner strength and endurance through emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing, building a strong core and improving co-ordination and balance. Pilates demands intense focus so you are combining your mind with what you are doing. Breathing is also a huge part of Pilates and Joseph Pilates saw considerable value in increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood to every part of the body. He saw this as cleansing and invigorating. Unlike many exercises in Pilates we breath out with the effort and in with the return.
In the course of my next class Anna reiterated the need for controlled movements, always connecting ourselves back to our core, thus building up core strength. Doctor’s orders for me had been “rehabilitating my core”. It is almost like a mindfulness exercise where we put our mind only on the task in hand. We are not thinking of what we will do next, we concentrate on each movement as we are doing it. It is controlled and we just flow with our breath as we exercise.
As someone with a disc injury I am delighted to have found an exercise regime I can do which promises to elongate my spine and tighten my muscles.
For me personally I need to exercise in order to keep my mental health balanced!!! I love to exercise and found it extremely difficult when I had to give up gym membership having been part of a gym for over 15 years.
I have definitely found my exercising mojo again thanks to Reformer Pilates and would highly recommend the friendly, informative and extremely pleasant surroundings at French Vanoli. They have classes on in the morning and in the evening, during the week and at weekends. Mind you it is a popular place and booking a course of classes is a must!
And remember fitness is not a destination it is a way of life,
Until next time … wherever you need to look, keep looking till you find your mojo!