What is Contrology?

By Paul Meripol

Joe Pilates didn’t call the system of health, fitness, and well-being that he invented “Pilates.” He called it “Contrology.”

It was the art of control of the body, the mind, and the spirit.

I like that name and kind of wish we still called it that, because it makes sense to me.

Pilates in its essence is simple, we control some parts of the body while we move other parts.

When we move our legs, often against resistance, we use our powerhouse to control our hips. When we move our arms, we use muscles of our shoulder girdle to control our shoulders. Sometimes we move our spine and hips while we control our legs. But it’s simple, we control some parts while we move other parts.

Try this:

  • Lay on your back with your legs in tabletop position.
  • Feel your shoulder blades resting on the mat.
  • Feel your tail bone heavy on the mat and your weight even on both sides of your bottom.
  • Now hold your left leg perfectly quiet while you move your right leg to the right.
  • That is, let your right knee and lower leg lower sideways toward the floor.
  • Pull the leg back up to tabletop.
  • Do it a few times.
  • Notice what happens to your bottom.

Do your feel your left side lifting up a bit?

And maybe your left knee is trying to fall to the left a bit your right leg drops to the right?

Now we are going to practice Contrology.

  • Lower your bent right leg to the floor again but this time focus on your left side tummy.
  • Keep it strong.
  • Work to keep weight on that left side of your bottom as you drop your right leg and pull it up.
  • Let the leg fall only as far as you can control keeping your weight even on both sides of your hips and your left knee just above your left hip.

Feel how that changes the movement?

Now you are practicing Contrology! 

Take a Deep Breath!

Relax, fight inflammation and stress hormones with Pilates!

by Kathryn Russell

In my last blog-post, I talked about the Mind-Body Connection that happens during a Pilates session.

As much as Pilates is about movement and awareness, it is also about breathing. The combination of movement, body awareness, and controlled breathing bring you into the here-and-now and ultimately lead to a sense of well-being and relaxation (in spite of Pilates sessions typically being challenging! I hear your occasional pleas for leniency!).

The feelings of well-being and relaxation are immediate, but there are lasting, healthy changes to your body that come with breath control and exercise.

Controlled breathing can lower the stress-related hormone Cortisol and reduce its negative effects on the body, immune system, and your ability to relax and sleep soundly. Studies have shown that regularly achieving a relaxation response, like what can happen in Pilates, can actually turn off genes that would otherwise trigger inflammation.

You probably have heard of the health benefits of eating foods that are high in anti-oxidants, which help neutralize damaging free radicals and reduce what is known as oxidative stress.

Did you know that one of the most powerful antioxidants, Glutathione, is made in your body? What can you do to naturally raise Glutathione levels? The conscious movement, body awareness, and controlled breathing make Pilates a type of moving meditation, like Tai Chi and yoga, that can raise your Glutathione levels.

Whether you are in a private or a group session, make sure to pay attention to your breath as your instructor guides you; you are sure to reap multiple benefits from peace of mind to a healthier you!

What Does "Mind-Body" Have to Do with Pilates?

By Kathryn Russell

There is a lot of talk about “mind-body” these days and generally that conjures up thoughts of meditation and yoga.

But Pilates should be added to that list as well.

Pilates is an exercise program that develops strength, flexibility, endurance and core strength, all of which is delivered through a mind-body connection.

When you take a Pilates class your instructor will guide you to move from a certain area in your body (foot work – use your hamstrings to move from your hips as you stabilize your pelvis) but often we (me included!!) are thinking of the email we need to write or the shopping list that is forming in our mind.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to leave the “outside” world at the door and dedicate an hour to yourself!

But when you are able to do just that, the results are profound and will inspire you to do it every time you enter the studio.

Concentrating on the movement of your own body while you work deepens the work, making it more intense and giving you a sense of power that comes from working from the “inside out”.

Try this exercise with and without mind – body awareness.

Leg Changes without mind-body connection

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat.
  • Lift your legs into table top.
  • Lower one leg and then lift it back to table top.
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • Leg Changes with mind body connection
  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat.
  • Feel your shoulder blades flatten on the mat beneath you and your shoulders relax away from your ears.
  • Inhale to fill up your back and your sides; exhale to press out all of the air as your ribcage softens and settles comfortably onto the mat. Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale, flatten your abdominal wall and lift one leg into table top.
  • Inhale.
  • Exhale, flatten your abdominal wall and lift the other leg into table top.
  • Inhale and, moving from the hip,
  • Lower one leg towards the floor.
  • Exhale, flatten your abdominal wall and lift back to table top making sure that your ribcage stays comfortably settled on the mat.
  • Repeat.

Different, no?

During your next Pilates session try to focus only on your movement and breath and see what a gift you have given yourself.

Will Pilates Help Me Lose Weight?

by Paul Meripol

Practicing Pilates, especially as a beginner, is not a particularly cardiovascular activity, and so, not a huge calorie burning activity.

Of course, any movement is good movement, and doing Pilates is certainly a lot better than just sitting on the couch watching television!

But time and time again, I see clients who have been doing Pilates for a while losing weight and losing sizes.

There is a magic moment that I have talked about with other teachers, and they all recognize it and have seen it too.

A client comes to me for the first time, and it’s clear she isn’t comfortable with her body. She comes to the studio in loose fitting tee shirts and sweat pants.

For some period of months or maybe even longer she continues to dress like that.

Then, the magic day comes...

She comes in the door wearing chic and snug workout gear.

She has been shopping!

Pilates for many serves as a gateway into a new way of perceiving themselves and their bodies, and passing through that gateway can be profound.

Little changes start accumulating, and taken together they are huge.

We make some changes in our diets or we start another exercise program, because Pilates has shown us just how good exercise can feel.

Because we feel stronger, fitter, happier; we respect our selves in new way, and the weight loss seems almost a byproduct of that.

Is it really that easy?

Well, maybe not.

But, I have seen it time and time again, and I know it happens.

Something else happens too.

The further you progress in your Pilates practice and the deeper your understanding of the practice is, the more cardiovascular and heart-pumping the workout becomes.

There is no workout any more difficult and sweat-inducing than a really excellent, advanced, mat workout that leaves you trembling at the end.

Then, Pilates really is a weigh-loss exercise routine.

So does Pilates help you lose weight?

I say yes!

Does Pilates Make You Taller?

by Paul Meripol

Our client Julie was commenting the other day that she feels she has grown taller when she compares herself to her Mother, and credits Pilates.

I have noticed the same thing with one of my sons.

When he graduated high school we were exactly the same height.

Now when I stand by him I am just a little bit taller.

It drives him crazy!

So the question is, has Pilates caused me to grow taller?

Well no, we stop growing in our adolescence.

But….Pilates has trained my body to make complete use of all my potential when I stand.

My posture is much improved over years ago.

So, when I stand next to my son now, or Julie stands next to her Mom, we notice that we seem taller.

I think also, that as we progress on our practice, we stand, sit, and move in such a way that those around us notice a certain grace, and power, and integration that may not have been there previously.

We inhabit our bodies, and our space, in a way that engenders a perception of length.

So does Pilates make you grow taller?

No.

Does it train you to find all the length you possess?

Most definitely.

Does it create a perception that you are taller?

I believe so.

Mind, Body, and Baby...Do Pilates and Pregnancy Go Together?

by Marilyn Koval

Pilates is ideal for pregnancy.

As part of a healthy 9 months, Pilates will prepare you for labor and delivery as well as help you to return to your pre-pregnant body after baby arrives.

Working with a qualified and well-trained instructor, you will learn how to feel your best while experiencing the many changes occurring in your body.

With a focus on connecting breath, body, and flowing movements, Pilates encourages relaxation and calm during this most memorable time in a woman’s life.

Before beginning any exercise program, always consult with your medical doctor.

Try the following as a little introduction to the many exercises a personalized pregnancy program can offer. This movement allows you to maintain good posture with upper back strength and shoulder stretch.

Chest Expansion

Perform this exercise standing, kneeling or sitting with good posture. A 2 lb. weight held in each hand is optional.

  • With arms lengthened and held by your side, inhale to reach arms behind your torso.
  • On the same inhale, look right as the arms remain back.
  • Exhale, return arms to sides and look forward.
  • Repeat movement and look in the opposite direction.
  • Repeat 4 to 6 times.

Is Pilates Good for Seniors?

By Kathryn Russell

Pilates is a great exercise choice for seniors because it addresses many of the issues associated with aging such as loss of balance, decreased flexibility and stooped posture.

Pilates exercises strengthen the core and increase stability in the joints, which improves balance.

There are many Pilates exercises that are designed to increase scapular mobilization which minimizes the rounding of the upper back.

Your Pilates instructor can guide you safely through spinal articulation exercises that not only feel wonderful but can help minimize compression in the spine and increase your flexibility.

Here is a warm up exercises to try at home:

Pelvic Mobility Warm Up

  • Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Have your heels in line with your sitting bones.
  • Flatten your shoulder blades onto the floor (you may need a pillow under your head) and notice how your ribcage feels heavy and comfortable on the floor.
  • Imagine that your pelvis is a soup bowl with the pubic bone being one edge of the bowl and your belly button the other.
  • Bring your “soup bowl” into a neutral position and breathe without tipping your bowl.
  • Now tilt your bowl toward your feet (your back with arch slightly) and now tilt it toward your chest (your low back will flatten onto the floor).
  • Do this several times with control.

Doesn’t that feel great?

Does Pilates Improve Your Posture?

by Paul Meripol

I have been thinking about something my client Joe told me a while back.

Joe said that when he squeegees his shower door in the mornings, he moves from his core now. He doesn’t just pull the squeegee down with his hand and arm, he pulls it from his center.

It’s the same thing when I reach up to close the windows in the studio - the effort originates from my center.

Pilates teaches us a new way to inhabit our bodies.

We stand taller, we sit straighter, and we bend and reach more efficiently and safely. And those postural changes have profound effects.

Here’s something I want you to try right now. I learned it from Dr. Brent Anderson of Polestar Pilates.

  • Sit back in your chair and slump down.
  • Round your shoulders and back, look down at your lap – sit like a teenage boy about to get called into the Principal’s office.
  • Now smile.

How does it feel?

  • Now lift up your chest and sit tall and balanced on your sit bones with your spine long, your shoulders balanced over your hips, and your head lifted over your shoulders.
  • Smile again.

Does it feel different?

Amazing!

Does Pilates Improve Your Golf Game?

by Kathryn Russell

In a word - Yes!  Every golfer will tell you that their game depends on concentration, centering, rotation, balance and stability. Which is exactly what Pilates delivers. Pilates teaches efficient and powerful movement through its focus on core strength (balance and stability), body awareness (concentration and centering) and body mechanics (rotation). Pilates exercises correct faulty movement patterns while increasing strength and flexibility.  

Here are two Pilates exercises that will help you improve your game!

Side Lying Leg Cirlces

This exercise will improve mobility of the hip joint, stability of the core and increase balance.  

Why is this important? 

If hip mobility is limited you will have too much lateral motion and not enough power in your swing.  In this exercise balance and core stability are working to support  hip mobility.

  • Lie on your side with the bottom arm straight in line with your body and your head resting on it. The top arm is resting on the floor in front of you.
  • Stack your hips and shoulders and lift your waist off of the floor by engaging your abdominal muscles. 
  • Inhale as you lift your top leg as high as you can without collapsing your waist into the floor.
  • Make the circles as large as you can with your waist lifted off the floor. 
  • Exhale as you begin to circle your leg keeping the rest of your body as still as possible. Inhale as you finish the circle.
  • Repeat 8 - 10 times and then repeat in the other direction. 

Spine Twist

This exercise prepares the spine for rotational movements and strengthens oblique abdominal muscles. 

Why is this important?

Rotation supported by pelvic-lumbar stability and trunk strength is necessary for a powerful golf swing.  

  • Lie on your back with your arms extended out to the side in a "T" position, palms facing the ceiling.
  • The legs are lifted off the floor with hips and knees at right angles. The knees are directly above the hips and the ankles are in line with the knees.
  • Draw the low back gently into the floor.  
  • Inhale and rotate the pelvis and legs as one unit to one side keeping both shoulders and shoulder blades on the floor. Keep knees and feet together and even.  
  • Exhale and draw the pelvis and legs as one unit back to center.

Does Pilates Help Low Back Pain?

by Paul Meripol

I originally came to Pilates hoping for a solution for chronic low back pain. And it has helped immensely.

Yet for a long time, despite good instruction, some exercises – especially certain back extension movements – made the pain worse and not better. The problem was not the exercises, it was how I was doing them.

The key to safe and successful back extension, especially for sufferers of lower back pain, is in the abdominals!

Proper abdominal engagement while performing back extension protects the low back, and helps put the work where we want it - in the mid back.

Once I learned this lesson, I was able to perform virtually any back extension exercise safely.

Here’s a simple back extension exercise example with principles that can be applied to any others you perform:

  • Lie on your stomach on a mat or carpet. Your nose is resting lightly on the mat, the back of your neck is long, and your arms are along your sides with your palms against your hips and your fingers reaching down towards your knees.
  • Stretch your legs away from you. I like to lightly engage my glutes and hamstrings as I do this.
  • Here’s the key to the exercise: along with that engagement of your glutes and hamstrings, lift your belly button up off the floor toward your spine. By doing this you engage your deep abdominals.
  • You should feel your pubic bone pressing into the floor.
  • Now keep that tummy pulled up tight as you lift your head and chest off the mat. Don’t overextend your neck.
  • Keep looking down at the floor. Think of a turtle reaching its head and neck out of its shell.
  • Your goal here is to strive for length from top of head to toes. Don’t worry about how high you lift. That is definitely secondary.
  • You want to feel your back is hinging in the middle, behind the ribs.
  • If you feel you are hinging in the low back, or you feel any discomfort in the low back then come back down and recommit to your abdominal engagement before you try it again.

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