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Pilates, Integrated Movement Therapies & Yoga

What is Pilates?

The Pilates Method is a full-body conditioning program that develops deep abdominal and back strength ( core strength), together with increased flexibility and ease of movement. Each exercise is carefully structured to strengthen and stretch complementary muscle groups encouraging the development of long and lean muscles and increasing our awareness of our breath during movement.

What is Integrated Movement Therapies ( IMT)

Integrated Movement Therapies (IMT) is a unique form of exercise that combines aspects of many different types of activities, such as yoga, dance and tai chi. Its focus on function is one of the aspects of IMT that makes it a unique form of exercise. Whereas traditional stretching exercises may focus on isolating one particular muscle, IMT movements involve the whole body and the breath. The exercises encourage us to release and let go of muscular tension and stress.

What is Yoga?

The classical techniques of yoga date back more than 5000 years. The word yoga means, “to join or yoke together” as it helps to join the mind and body. The whole system of yoga is built on three main structures: asanas ( yoga postures), the breath ( Pranayama) and meditation. The physical postures and breathing exercises prepare the body for meditation. There are more than a hundred different schools of Yoga, all with a different focus. The most popular practised in the west is Hatha Yoga.

What are the benefits of these exercises?

The benefit of all of these exercises is stronger and longer muscles, improved balance and posture and awareness of the breath. At the end of a class you may feel like your shoulders have dropped (relaxed away) from your ears and you may feel a sense of length in your spine.

My hope is that the time that you spend in class benefits you in your every day life. Whether your are lifting your children or grandchildren, doing housework or gardening, golfing or throwing a ball, you will be able to do these movements more efficiently. You will be using your core muscles therefore reducing the chance of injury and ultimately enjoying the activity to a greater degree.

Why is the breath so important?

Like all of our muscles, if we do not use our breathing muscles they will weaken and not be able to perform to their full potential. Unfortunately, as we age we tend to use only portions of our breathing muscles ( for many of us this means breathing primarily in the chest). Utilizing the full capacity of our breath allows us to bring more oxygen to our working muscles thus resulting in more efficient movement with increased energy being one benefit of this process. Although the breath is very important, when your are in doubt whether to inhale or exhale, just remember to Breathe. It may take many sessions before you are comfortable with the breath but the journey is worth it!

When will I feel or see changes in my body?

You may feel a difference in your very first class. You may feel the length in your spine as soon as you stand up. You may feel more relaxed at the end of class. Over time, you may notice changes in your posture. Your shoulders will draw down away from your ears, you may feel less tension between your shoulder blades and less pain in your low back. In order to feel or see changes in your body it is helpful to have an idea of your starting point. We spend time at the beginning of each class to do a body scan to notice where tension is and to notice what our breath is doing so that you can notice changes by the end of class. Soon you will feel comfortable doing some of the exercises as home that seem to benefit you the most.

Will I lose weight doing these exercises?

You will burn calories during class (all movement burns calories) but fat burning is not the focus of the classes. However, the classes will contribute to your overall wellness plan in that they will make your aerobic conditioning ( walking, swimming, biking, etc.) more comfortable and your strength training more effective. If your muscles are long and relaxed you will be able to enjoy longer walks at a more vigorous pace. During your strength training you will be able to go through a fuller range of motion on each exercise and incorporate the drawing in of your navel on the exhalation to prevent injury and to tone and strengthen your abdominals during each and every exercise.

In general you should strive for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week (a brisk walk) and incorporate strength training 2-4 days per week. Although many of the yoga postures do involve a fair bit of strength you need to do these postures 2-4 times per week or add in strength training with machines or free weights to help prevent osteoporosis and to build lean muscle tissue.

How often should I do these exercises?

You can practice these exercises every day. The best time to practice is when it is convenient for you. In terms of consistency, I encourage people to try for the same time every day. My experience has been that the morning seems to work best. However, if your joints are stiff in the morning you may want to wait a while to allow your muscles time to warm up. Before bed is a good time for relaxation exercises although you do want to avoid some exercises such as backbends (cobra) and sun salutation as they are quite stimulating. A 15-30 minute daily session incorporating pilates, IMT and yoga would be very beneficial. Your time in class will also be enhanced by what you do at home.

All of that being said, you will absolutely benefit from one class a week and doing as little as a few minutes of simple breathing each day. You may want to choose a posture or two a week to work on at home as well.

What if I have a joint or muscle injury or pain?

You should seek advice from your physician and\or physiotherapist, chiropractor before starting any exercise program should you have an injury. Although many of the postures will benefit certain conditions, some exercises can aggravate joint or muscle pain. Exercises can be adapted based on the recommendations of your physician, physiotherapist or chiropractor.

What if I have high blood pressure?

If you have high blood pressure, low blood pressure or any other health condition that can affect your exercise program, please let me know. I do collect a health questionnaire when you join the classes but should your health condition change ( i.e., you become pregnant, become hypertensive, etc.) please let me know. Exercises can be adapted ( if necessary) for your health condition. There are certain exercises ( i.e., inversions) that should not be done by people with certain conditions ( such as uncontrolled high blood pressure).

Should I be doing these exercises when I am not feeling well (menstruation, PMS, joint flare-ups, etc.)?

This is when being aware of your body is very important. Sometimes rest is better than exercising. Sometimes, however, doing a little bit of light stretching and breathing is just what your body needs. For example, there are certain postures that will make your feel better during the heavy time of your period and some that should not be done during this time ( i.e., postures where your feet are above your head and postures where you are compressing your abdomen). Usually your body will let you know what feels good and what doesn’t. Feel free to discuss with me any concerns or questions that you may have.

Should I eat before the classes?

Because we focus so much on the drawing in of the navel on exhalation during most of the exercises, it is advisable to do yoga and pilates on an empty stomach. That being said, you need some energy. So a light snack approximately an hour or two before you come to class should provide enough energy but should not make you feel uncomfortable.

What should I wear and what do I bring?

Dress in loose, comfortable clothing and dress in layers as you may be cooler at the beginning of class and during the relaxation portion of the class. We usually do the exercises in bare feet but if this is not comfortable for you then socks ( as long as you are not slipping) are also appropriate.

We provide a yoga mat and body pillow for each participant. However, you are more than welcome to bring your own mat and pillow if you prefer. Some participants do bring blankets for the relaxation.

What are some good books, videos, websites?

There are many excellent resources for yoga and pilates. These are just a couple of my favorites.

Books: Esther Myers, “Yoga and You”, 1997

Websites: www.YogaJournal.com, and www.StottPilates.com

On both websites you will find information, exercises, postures, recommended books and videos.

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