Pilates through the eyes of a Yoga Therapist

By Heather Van Dalfsen, Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher & Pilates Teacher in Training

Movement.

Everyday you have the opportunity to move.

• From fingers, toes, limbs and spine
• To creating facial expressions
• To subtle internal movements through shallow breathing, deep breathing
• Through softly singing, humming or
• Even imagining these ‘movement’ practices

Pilates and Yoga work as team-mates, adding more tools within the movement toolbox, giving you a variety of options and fresh perspectives as you check in with your short term and long term goals of physical and mental health.

Many foundational layers of a Pilates practice are similar to the building blocks of an intentional Yoga practice. Each of the following ‘foundations’ could create ongoing discussions and learning curves within your lifetime of practice. Let’s review and keep the dialogue and practice going.

Foundational Intentions:

Breath as a Guide – Breathing can be the bridge between mind and body, supporting you in understanding how you are moving in the space you are in and how you can continue creating alignment and stability from feet to pelvis to shoulders; from spine through limbs. Breathing can support controlled movements while offering a rhythmic pace to your practice. When do you most notice you are breathing and how does it support you?

A Neutral Spine – There are many verbal cues within movements and pauses of movements that ask you to explore and create a neutral spine. What is this and why? A neutral spine equals the natural curves of the spine. This can support the spine’s bones, discs, ligaments, tendons and muscles to handle weight and impact, letting the body work with efficiency and minimal damage. What do you notice about your spinal curves?

Directions of Movement of the Spine – A lot of our daily activities is moving forward – leaning over things, sitting, walking. In our movement practice we can also explore backbends = spinal extension, side bending = lateral flexion/extension, twisting = rotation of the spine and axial extension = verticality of the spine. Practicing all of these builds our stability, mobility and overall balance. What are your daily movement habits?

Stability Supports Mobility – It is quite amazing to move in ways that sharpen awareness of the pelvis as part of the “360” core of the body. The core is more than the stomach! How the pelvis is in relationship and alignment with the knees down through the feet; how the pelvis is in relationship and alignment with the shoulders and neck are all examples of creating stability throughout the body. When there is stability and alignment of your structure, mobility can be explored, feel more natural and create less stress. What are the ways you would like to increase your mobility?

Everyday Snacks – Like Yoga, Pilates can be practiced everyday – even if short snacks of practices once a day or throughout the day. At some time each day we are either standing, seated or supine. Within these positions of the body, there are ways to check in with your neutral spine and how you can create stability within this foundation throughout the habitual movements each day. What short practices do you already integrate into your day? What else would you like to learn?

As a Yoga Therapist I continue to learn and practice Yoga and Pilates using these foundational intentions and many more. Yet for now, these are a kind reminder that these movement modalities should be and can be accessible and effective, sustainable and even joyful for everyone.

Whether you are new to movement practices or a consistent student of movement, what are you interested in learning and integrating into your daily routine? How would a practice support your short-term and long term health intentions?

5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness has many compassionate and educated teachers who continue to be students of movement. You are always welcome to join us in learning more through attending in-studio or online classes or participating in a private session individually or with a small group of friends and family.

Email: Office@5koshasyoga.com or Heather@5koshasyoga.com to continue dialogue.

Getting Ready for Golf with Pilates

By Faith Wilfley, MD, Stott Pilates Trained in Mat & Reformer

“The practice of Pilates is wonderful for all sorts of reasons: balanced musculature, improved mobility, decreasing injuries, spinal alignment (posture), lessening low back pain, and a strong core.”

Who’s ready for golf?! We all may be mentally, but after a good old Wisconsin winter, we probably aren’t physically up to the challenge. So what’s a body to do? My suggestion is Pilates.

If Josef Pilates were trying to create the perfect exercise for golfers when he invented his method of controlled movement, he would have succeeded beyond all measure.  It may not have been his intent, but I believe he achieved that goal all the same.

The practice of Pilates is wonderful for all sorts of reasons: balanced musculature, improved mobility, decreasing injuries, spinal alignment (posture), lessening low back pain, a super-strong core. The list could go on and on. The practices in themselves are amazingly similar in some ways. They are both complex full-body movements. Just as every swing of the club requires many moving parts to work together, so every move in Pilates requires control of the whole body. If two sports were ever “pat-your-head-rub-your-tummy” kind of movements, these are it.

Golf, however, is asymmetric. The cruel trick of the game is that you swing only one way; only work the muscles on ‘one side’ of the body. If your game isn’t going well, you practice. Only swinging one way. Only becoming more imbalanced. Haven’t you ever found that the more you are practicing, the worse your game is getting? This is why. It also leads to injury.

For right handed people, the left (leading) side of the body is injured more than the trailing (right) side. Vice versa for the Phil Mickelsons out there.  Fifteen (15) minutes a day of golf-specific Pilate’s exercises can ensure your body stays balanced and can break the cycle of imbalance and injury.

The best thing is, if you can golf, (or even if you can’t) you can do these exercises. All of the exercises are done standing, wearing sneakers and comfortable clothes. Some people hear ‘Pilates’ and think I’m going to have them prancing about in spandex. I swear that is not what it is. It was actually invented using only men’s bodies.

One of the first male clients I ever had accompanied his wife (I am sure, unwillingly). He was so nervous, he was visibly sweating. He was a golfer though, and so most of what we did that day was golf-specific. At the end he was laughing and relaxed. He looked at me and said, ‘well that was just moving’. Exactly. I still wonder what he thought I was going to make him do. By the way, he called me the next week and said he had had the best golf game of his life that day. Maybe a coincidence, but I like to think he learned something that helped.

What I think helped the most was that he became more aware of his body. Especially the core. And when you initiate every shot by moving from the core first, your movements become repeatable and consistent.

There’s a reason why professional golfers like Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods do Pilates after all. If you are interested in finding out more, please join me at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness for our “Getting Ready for Golf” sessions on Mondays at 5:30 pm or for individual training. Here’s to a great season!

Faith Wilfley is Stott Pilates Trained in Mat and Reformer.  Dr. Wilfley enjoys helping people with different bodies and ways of movement be able to optimize mobility and achieve their goals. She received her undergraduate degree from UW-Milwaukee, M.D. from Medical College of Wisconsin, and did her joint Pediatric residency at UNMC/Creighton in Omaha, NE, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  Dr. Wilfley is a Medical Doctor and was a practicing pediatrician for 12 years. She has good anatomical knowledge and is very safety conscious. Her philosophy in Pilates is the same as that for medicine: ‘First, do no harm’.