Stable core muscles? First let’s breathe!


      Just like any movement method, in Pilates we work with a set of principles and the 8 principles of Pilates are all an important part of how we learn to move. Yes, for sure, they are part of developing  what physiotherapists call a stable core, but the so called core muscles are not really what Pilates is about. ‘The Core’ is an expression first used by physiotherapists back in the 1980’s but Pilates as a movement form had been around for decades before then. Before the word ‘core’ was invented Joe Pilates called the muscles of the trunk ‘the Powerhouse’, and in Pilates the focus into the powerhouse is the start of our movement. Most people have perfectly adequate core muscles, in Pilates we learn to sense what they are, what they feel like and how to notice and focus on them while we move. This is why Pilates is often recommended for rehabilitation, but this focus also is the basis of many other movement methods too.
Follow the Pilates priciples; Concentrate; Move with precise alignment; lightly activate the centre muscles; breath; mentally isolate your deep muscles; move with flow, use coordinated movement and rhythm; be controlled; relax, there’s no struggle in a Pilates move.
We tend to think of movement as being to do with our limbs, our muscles and our skeleton and overlook the most fundamental movements of all. Deep in our body our heart is beating a rhythm against our diaphragm, and the diaphragm responds by drawing breath into the body. The diaphragm is attached all around the inside of the ribcage and by ligament as far down as the middle of the lumbar spine, so our breath can influence the position and movement of the spine. There’s a significant amount of pushing and pulling going on as a result of the action of the diaphragm, bringing focus to our breathing action as we move helps to establish our core muscles. When you breath out your powerhouse naturally stabilises due to the change in intra abdominal pressure, this is why we suggest using an outward breath where a movement needs stability or strength. Often, people ask “where should I breathe?” during the exercise. I always say that it’s not written in stone and first take time to feel your breath coming in and out of the body, feel the ribcage and diaphragm moving. Use the Pilates principles of concentration, relaxation and flow to notice the breathing rhythm in your body. Once you are tuned in to the feel of your breath you are able to use breathing action to support your movement. It isn’t a magic trick! Lie down and try floating your arm away from the ground a split second after you begin to exhale. Keep repeating it. Give yourself some weeks to practice this, the effect of slow practice is like water dripping on a stone: with time the effects are profound and irrevocable.

Practicing Pilates: a whole body system.

I’m often asked for an exercise to ‘fix’ a problem. For example, someone recently came to Pilates class with a niggle in their upper back and asked if there was anything they could do to sort it out. I get it of course, I know if I ever have aches and pains I just want to find a rapid solution to get rid. But Pilates doesn’t work like that, it’s not a quick fix. My usual reply to the question is to lie down and relax on the floor with knees bent…and do your Pilates routine.

Pilates is a wonderful movement method so long as you take time to learn the basic repertoire and do some daily (we hope!) practice. It will keep you strong, supple and also give you time to relax and reflect. That’s not to say it’s a soft option. I often remind my classes that they aren’t here to do a relaxation class…although they will feel relaxed after their class because of the mental focus that needs to be applied coupled with the attention to their breath and their body as they perform each move.

With time and practice we expect to see progression: the exercises should become more challenging and be felt deeper into the body – that’s where a good teacher comes in to help you find the internal focus. The more I practice Pilates the more I understand that the method is not about a series of shapes and positions that we might be able to make with our body, Pilates, or any other movement method for that matter, is about the way we sense our position and our effort. I want to feel my whole body being involved in my movement, and how often to we have the time and awareness to do that? My hour or even 10 minutes of practice is all about feeling my breath, observing my muscles working, taking courage to move into places that are new and challenging to my body.

So, how does this ‘fix’ a problem? Pilates has a reputation as the ‘go to’ system for mending backs. Physiotherapists, doctors, surgeons have all sent their patients to Pilates to promote and sustain healing. Our body is completely interconnected via our fascia and our connective tissues: ligaments, blood, lymph, nerves etc. It is the ‘whole body’ nature of Pilates that supports self healing. It works!

Creativity and Structure: a discussion of the work of Rudolph Laban and Joseph Pilates in Relationship to Personal Practice

For twenty years I have been practising and teaching the Pilates method for health and wellbeing. In that time I have learned from many different practitioners, all with their own voices and interpretations. Some have led me into blind alleys, others have inspired me to take a sideways look at a different picture, but through all, my curiosity has been driven by the body, my body, the workings of it, its mystery, and my sense of self, my relationship to others and to my environment.

Exploring the somatic process has enriched my own personal movement practice and given me a deeper physical understanding of the work that I do. As a Bowen practitioner I am intrigued by the body’s connective tissue web of fascia, a tensegrity system that maintains the body in movement and function and the evolving of understanding that the body is not the machine-like entity it has been held to be. As an artist, my creative practice has been concerned with my relationship with internal geography: what I feel, what I am: my sense of presence; and with the process of creativity. Considering the tapestry of influences that is the fabric of the somatic education field, I set out to write this essay to discover how my own interests and practice are woven in, how my own threads of understanding contribute to the whole and to pursue the cross weaving of influences from some key somatic ancestors who may have played their part in my own interpretive practice of Pilates as a somatic practice.

Introduction: unravelling a web of influences.

My love for movement and dance reaches back to my happy infant days at school in the 1960s when we children took ‘Music and Movement’ lessons from the BBC Home Service, (BBC 1957) involving free movement, expression and use of imaginative visualisation, not knowing or caring that the lesson was based on Rudolf Laban’s theories of the phenomenology of dance. The art historian and philosopher of education, Herbert Read, (Read 1943) was profoundly influential in the area of British post war teacher training. Read’s philosophy embraced Jungian psychology and the Platonic ideal of giving the arts a central position in the education of the child. Read lay the ground for Laban influenced movement to be taught in the British state school system and until the 1970’s modern educational dance was taught in most state schools. (Preston-Dunlop 2008). As a child I was familiar with this type of movement class:

Run anywhere. Which part of you is touching the floor? Now move in different ways with your feet still touching the floor. (The children may skip, hop, gallop, slip, jump, -etc……) […..] curl up in little ball on the floor; roll along. You have been rolling in a little ball. Can you roll stretched out? can you find another way of travelling with your body on the floor? (Anon. London County Council 1964: 15)

This teachers handbook cites Laban’s Modern Educational Dance in its bibliography. ‘education was for him [Laban] an education of the whole person, including the spirit.’ (Preston-Dunlop 2008: 229) Fascinated by my connection to this lineage and by how one person may shape the life of another across decades, I will first revisit some of my own influencers along the route of my journey into teaching movement and into somatic education, noting their connections to somatic education pioneers.

‘aerobics may add years to your life but it doesn’t necessarily add life to your years’ (Knaster 1996: 247). I taught aerobics to earn my keep while I was at University studying for a Degree in Art, thirty years ago, it was through this work that I encountered The Pilates Method.
As a new Pilates teacher I was introduced to the work of the somatic educator, Liz Koch, (Koch 1999) In her workshops Koch had taken inspiration from Emilie Conrad the originator of Continuum, using relaxation, sounding and breath work to promote sensation and response in deep muscle tissue. Koch incorporated the ball work of Elaine Summers’ Kinetic Awareness method into her classes, utilising soft yielding balls to promote fluidity in the fascial structures of the body.

Working with Koch facilitated for me an experience of sensual embodiment and introduced me to the work of anatomist and Rolfer Dr Gil Hedley, whose research into fascia taught me the significance of interstitial fluidity in maintaining movement function and the importance of movement to maintain fascial function (Juhan 2003). Movement is the essence of our being in a body. Studying anatomy in the pathology laboratory with Hedley, our anatomical researches are supported by our acknowledgement of what it is to be alive as we students are reminded of our somatic presence through witnessing circles, meditation and sharing touch between students at the start of each day of study.

Koch and Hedley highlighted the limitations of Cartesian Dualism for me, the traditionally held assumption that mind and body are separate, (Soloman and Higgins 1996; Stumpf and Fieser 2003) instead offering me the understanding that the body and the mind, or psyche, is a completely integrated system. These two practitioners led me into an exploration embodiment and a pursuit of understanding of the nature of fascia and its role in wellbeing. I learned that the body has the ability to make decisions, to message information throughout the entirety of itself, to self regulate function.

[…] physical action cannot be seen as mechanical manipulation mysteriously governed from a distance by mental commands. The body is not a passive vehicle simply awaiting instructions from the mind. Nor is it a system of pulleys and levers ( as seventeenth century mechanistic philosophers thought) that only comes to light when infused with a soul. Rather it is inactive entity, capable of goal oriented action and intelligent response to the environment. (Carel 2014: 26)

Bowen patients remark that, besides the change in their aches and pains, they feel lighter, happier, the fog has lifted, they feel calmer. Havi Carel, discussing the philosophical view of phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty states: ‘the separation between mind and body does not make sense’ (Ibid)

My personal practice of Pilates has become informed by my experience of Somatic Movement, my experience of giving Bowen touch therapy has been deepened by my somatic exploration of touch and presence. These practices have all contributed to developing an ongoing sense of felt connection to my internal and external environments.

From my journal: Winter solstice at Sandgreen beach. I allow my feet to anchor to the sand and my standing body to become heavy in my joints. I hear the distant sea, the oyster catcher and my own breath. I stand still and experience weight through my bones and the unity of myself and my surroundings.
Historical Context

My research into the history of the earlier influencers of somatic education and the placing of my own practice based on the work of Joseph Pilates, in this timeline, drew me to the period during and after the Great War. After the war, in Germany, following the abdication of the Kaiser and ensuing economic upheaval, there was a zeitgeist of rebellion, a desire for freedom expressed in new art forms and cultural transformations. The Expressionist Movement, expounding the expression of subjective experience, arose out of of the Weimar Republic and extended into art, dance, theatre, film, architecture and music (Eddy 2017). In this time of change and upheaval, politically engaged artists such as Otto Dix who had fought in the trenches, Ernst Kirchner who founded Die Brucke art movement and the artists such as Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee of Der Blaue Reiter group expressed a desire for a new, more liberal and open society (Tate 2019). At the University of Munich, the Munich Group of Realist Phenomenologists were concerned with the study of consciousness from a first person point of view. The development of the psychotherapeutic paradigms of Freud and Jung meant that the traditional constraints against showing feeling were being challenged. This cultural climate was ready for inner exploration of the feeling body.

In Munich in the pre war years, the artist Wasily Kandinsky, ‘Concerning the Spiritual and Art’ (1911) theorised the significance of colour and form interdependence. Kandinsky’s approach counterpointed Laban’s movement theories of rhythm and space: exciting new theories of subjectivism in art and movement, concerning expression of the experiential rather than the performative. Along with new discoveries in medicine, neurophysiology and psychology, this was the cultural background for the development of new forms of therapeutic body approaches and movement therapies. My childhood Laban based music and movement lessons reach right back into this era.

Munich was a hotbed of cultural creativity at this time and here Laban absorbed the Eurythmics of Emile-Jacques Dalcroze and studied the Korperkultur of the American physician and sculptor Bess Mensendieck a teacher of Gymnastik. considered to be one of the grandparents of somatic work. (Speads interviewed by Hanna 1981) Mensendieck’s system of Gymnastik emphasised the therapeutic benefits of exercise: a whole body and mind approach. Mensendieck was pragmatic in her approach although as Valerie Preston-Dunlop points out; ‘The focus of philosophical interest amongst thinkers, critics and artists…was undeniably spiritual’ (Preston-Dunlop 2008:19).

During the war years Laban was in Zurich and became acquainted with Carl Gustav Jung. Jung’s theories of the Four Archetypes and the functions of intuition, sensing, thinking and feeling as a means to discover an inner world, exerted a profound influence on Laban, who found parallels between psychic function and the movement framework of time, weight, space and flow. Laban’s teaching was of movement and expression and the pursuit of physical and spiritual freedom. What places him in Eddy’s timeline of Somatic pioneers and influencers (Eddy 2017:102) is his concern with inner exploration of the self through dance and movement, dance as an expression and inner felt experience, rather than the purely performative aesthetic of dance. (Bolsanello 2015)

‘Rudolf Laban’s ideas were influenced by the social and cultural changes of the time and the contexts that he worked in. Rudolf Laban believed the best way to advocate this freedom was by mirroring it in dance and the movement arts.’ (Preston-Dunlop: 2017)

Laban’s wide ranging curiosity and eclecticism explain his pivotal role in the development of the movement practices which lead into our understanding of somatic movement education. Laban provided me with my earliest influence in movement at infant and junior school, my realisation since researching this essay. I am interested to discover that Laban and Pilates were contemporaries in inter-war Hamburg. (Rouhianien 2010) After internment in Great Britain as an alien during the First World War, Joseph Pilates had returned to Germany and settled in Hamburg in 1919. (Friedman and Eisen cited in Rouhianien 2010). Laban established a dance school there in 1923, it is said that Laban watched Pilates at work and incorporated some of the strengthening routines into his own classes. (Knaster Western Movement Arts p255) (Rouhanien 2010). At this time Mensendieck was also in Hamburg teaching Gymnastik, a movement method originally designed for women. Pilates however had been a ‘Turnvereine’ coached by his father in military style of apparatus based physical fitness.

Previously the only system of physical education in Germany was created for men. It emphasised muscle building and was almost a preparation for military training. It was Mensendieck and Kallmeyer who introduced gymnastik in Germany and Elsa Gindler studied with Kallmeyer in Berlin. (Speads interviewed by Hanna 1981)

Before the war Pilates had made a reputation as a physical trainer. We can speculate about the influences that the whole body movement practices of Mensendieck, the expressionism of Laban and the breath work of Elsa Gindler in Berlin, were to have on him during the seven years that he spent in Hamburg. At this time the psychoanalytical work of Freud and Jung were well known in cultural circles and their ideas were taken up by teachers involved with physical wellbeing. We can detect no direct acknowledgement of these thinkers in Pilates’ publication ‘Your Health’ (1938) and yet his method emphasises breath, concentration, flowing movement, and control of mind over body, harking back to the work of Gindler who incorporated Freudian psychotherapeutic elements into her breath and movement work (Loukes 2006).

‘Contrology begins with mind control over muscles’ (Pilates 1998: 10) which begs the question: was something lost in translation between the doing of the movements and the writing of them? An immigrant with English as his second language, he must have found himself needing to earn his living. An advertising pamphlet for Pilates’ studio from circa 1935 states that his method of exercise will improve the individual’s life opportunities by improving his physique:‘with drooping shoulders, hanging heads, weak heart and lungs in a flat underdeveloped chest, with flat feet, bow legs, knock knees – or with a body thin or too fat, you can never be as successful as you should be’
His emphasis on the importance of a healthy body and a healthy mind appears to be more to do with the individual’s function in society rather than individual personal growth and emotional wellbeing. (ibid) However he also states in Return to Life Through Contrology:

‘such a body freed from nervous tension and over fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living. Personal problems are clearly thought out and calmly met’ (ibid: p23)

It is impossible to execute Pilates Method fully without breath awareness and bodily concentration and in this respect the practice of the Pilates Method requires somatic awareness. I propose that Pilates himself must have experienced this understanding, but was unable to convey meaning to his students. Pilates was a undoubtedly a ‘kinetic genius’ ( Eddy 2017:56), was he a somatic educator in our contemporary understanding of the word? The principles outlined by ISMETA (2019), may question whether Pilates was a somatic educator due to the overtly directed nature of his Method but he must be placed in the role of influencer to the first generation of somatic pioneers. (Eddy 2017)

An aim of somatic movement practice is ‘to develop a person’s capacity to move with internal awareness and a sensitive engagement to their body’ (Collinson and Lamford 2018) and this is certainly my experience of Pilates Method practice. Many of the pioneers of somatic education learned and practiced his method, especially in the world of dance: Martha Graham and George Balanchine would recommend dancers to Pilates for rehabilitation and strengthening, Ted Shawn, Ruth St Dennis, Hanya Holm, ( Rouhianien pp 4; 9) and Elaine Summers (Eddy 2017:56) amongst many others, took tuition from Pilates, a crossover with the influence of Laban and the ongoing development of somatic movement research carried forward by dancers such as Elaine Summers and Hanya Holm.

The Pilates method directed me towards discovery of the somatic field but my engagement with this method follows a thread from my Laban inspired creative movement education. The practice of breath, movement, concentration and quietude required in Pilates fulfils the description of a somatic practice for an experienced practitioner although the specific spoken guidance needed to teach and learn the method can, for the novice, negate spontaneity and movement impulse. Knowledge of the Somatic field will deepen practice of the Pilates method, but the reverse cannot be true.

Movement inspired by Laban and Pilates have both contributed to my own felt experience of physicality and self. Laban expounded expressionism, creativity, naturism, sexual freedom, experimentation in the pursuit of understanding self and spirit. Pilates work was about discipline and creating physical agency in a modern industrial world. ‘It is this history of diversity across numerous bodily, creative and scientific professions that engenders the continuing interdisciplinary nature of somatic education’ (Eddy 2009:11).

Reflection on historical precedents to our current position as Somatic practitioners and scholars moves us forward into a commonality from which meaningful research and evolution may take place. Considering these two pioneering influencers to our field of somatic education practice has been foundational in establishing an understanding of how my interests and practice have been informed.

Reference list

Art Terms, 2019. Tate Art Galleries. [online] Available at https;// [Accessed 20th April 2019]

BBC (1957) Home Service schedule Web page available at accessed 23rd April 2019

Bolsanello, D. (2015) ‘Is Pilates a Somatic Education Method?’, Brazilian Journal on Presence Studies, Porto Alegre. 5:1, pp101-126.

Carel, H. (2014) Illness. Routledge, Abingdon Oxon. OX14 4RN. pp 26

Collinson, P. Lamford, T. (2018) Induction notes to the MA in Dance and Somatic Wellbeing 2018-2019 University of Central Lancashire.

Eddy, M. (2009) A brief history of somatic practices and dance: historical development of the field of somatic education and it’s relationship to dance. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices vol 1:1 p24

Eddy, M. (2017) Mindful Movement, The Evolution of the Somatic Arts and Conscious Action.
Bristol, Intellect. p65; p102;

German Expressionism, (2019). Museum of Modern Art, New York. [online] Available at < [Accessed 20th April 2019]

ISMETA (2019). Scope of Practice. Available at <https:/> Accessed 20th April 2019

Hedley, G. Inner Space Library, (2019). Available at <> accessed 24th April 2019

Hanna,T. (1981) Interview with Carola Spears, in D. Hanlon Johnson (ed) Bone, Breath and Gesture Practices of Embodiment, Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. p26

Juhan,D. (2003), Job’s Body. Barrytown, New York: Barrytown/Station Hill Press. pp59-90

Knaster, M. (1996) Discovering the Body’s Wisdom. New York, New York: Bantam Books. p247

Koch,L. (1999) The Psoas Book. Guinea Pig Publications

London County Council (1964), Movement for Infants. London County Council, County Hall, London. p.15; p63.

Loukes, R. (2006) ‘ ‘Concentration’ and Awareness in Psychophysical Training: the Practice of Elsa Gindler’ New Theatre Quarterly 22: 4, pp.395-396
<> Accessed 17th April 2019

Preston-Dunlop, V. (2008) Rudolph Laban An Extraordinary Life. Alton, Hampshire, UK. Dance Books LTD p229; p19;

Pilates, J. (1945) Return to Life Through Contrology. Address not available, Presentation Dynamics. Second edition 1998. p10; pp8-24;

Preston-Dunlop, V. 2017. Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Rudolph Laban. Available at <> Accessed 18th April 2019
Read, H. (1948) Education Through Art. London, Faber. Third edition 1958.

Rouhianien L. (2010) ‘The Evolution of the Pilates Method and its Relation to the
Somatic Field’ Nordic Journal of Dance 2. p65

Soloman, RC and Higgins, KM. (1996) A Short History of Philosophy. Oxford University Press Inc, New York, New York. pp181-186.
Stumpf, ES and Fieser, J. (2003) Socrates to Sartre and Beyond. McGraw Hill, New York, New York. pp232-234

Making small changes will have a big impact

When my personal training students ask me for a Pilates exercise to help strengthen a particular muscle area, or a stretch to help with a muscle restriction, they might be surprised when we begin our session with movements that seem to be for a completely different part of the body. The same when someone comes for Bowen treatment with chronic neck pain, they wonder why I start their treatment on the back of their legs. But here’s the thing: our body is interconnected by mean of the entire muscular and fascial system. The skin, and the layer of fat or adipose tissue beneath, are part of a whole bodily network. What goes on in one part of the body will have an impact throughout our system.

For instance, it could be that something to do with gait – the position of the feet when you walk or run – is causing a ‘head forward’ posture which is setting off that neck pain. In that case, an adjustment to the lower leg will help get rid of troublesome neck posture. Or perhaps the pelvis rotates more than it needs to when you walk and that makes your shoulders lift up in an attempt to stabilise your spine. Rather than fix the shoulders, the problem is to do with pelvic stability.

Making small changes in the body will have a big impact. Changes to the postural system take time, focussed concentration is needed to establish the re-programming of the nervous system and neural pathways which position and move our muscles and joints. To begin with you might not even be able to feel the small movements that I might ask you to make in class. For example, think about your feet: you know you have five toes on each foot but can you feel all five? Do you feel the space between the toes and underneath them? Move each toe individually without looking at them? In a similar way, being able to find the sensation of small postural muscles, like the ones close to the spine around the back of the neck and between the shoulders, feels like an impossible job and the harder you try, the less you seem to feel! But relax, try less, and don’t too many repetitions. Allow the brain to process the information. Once you can sense it, you can feel it. Once you can feel it, you can change it.

You can train to be a Pilates Matwork teacher at York Pilates Space.

If Pilates is your passion and you love to work with others, our MK Pilates Matwork Teacher Training Diploma will give you all you need to begin your career. Look in the ‘teacher training’ tab on the menu for all our upcoming dates and fees.

Patricia is a member of the MK Pilates International faculty and at York Pilates Space we work with Michael King Pilates Ltd to give you a complete and comprehensive grounding in teaching Pilates Matwork. After completing all three of our MK training stages and being assessed by MK International you will be awarded the MK Pilates Matwork Diploma, which is recognised in Pilates Studios aound the world.

A lifetime’s work isn’t learnt in a weekend…..our Diploma courses give you 96 hours of face to face tutor time. You will also take extra time to work at home on your assignments and to participate in practice classes, including classes arranged at our studio, with real clients.  Because we know that learning to teach Pilates well is a big commitment, this year we have arranged the modules to take just one day of your weekend, rather than a whole weekend away from home. This gives you time between course dates to complete your assignments and digest the work, and doesn’t take over all of your precious weekend.

From my years of experience as a tutor and assessor in this industry, I know that many students want to gain their qualification as quickly as possible and get out there to teach. I also know that they will never excel if they rush through a quick training programme without having time to learn, absorb and experience the work in their own bodies. Much better to slow burn and really get to know your subject, than to spark out through lack of confidence. Our MK Pilates Mat Teacher Diploma will give you support in your teaching practice and  confidence  to build your own business, whether that is teaching a few classes to friends, travelling the world with Pilates, or opening your own studio.

Barre Classes at York Pilates Space

We are proud to be the only studio in York to bring you the Michael King Barre class. On Saturday mornings Georgia Issitt ramps up the fun with her Barre class at 10.45. Our MK Barre class is a dance based exercise to music class (choreography you can follow!!) using the traditional ballet barre for assistance. You will have a steady paced workout out and a great  stretch too.

We reckon if you are going to do a dance based workout, you need a dance trained teacher.

Here at York Pilates Space our teachers are all intensively trained through MK Pilates International, and that’s a lot of specialist training. Georgia has 12 years of dance school training under her belt, besides being a MK Pilates Teacher and a YMCA level 3 personal trainer. She’ll make sure you are having a good time and improving your technique too.

If you haven’t tried Barre before , get in touch to save a place.It’s pay per class.

Core? What Core?


I often get calls from would be Pilates students who have been referred to my studio by their physiotherapist. When someone comes along for a private class I always ask why they would like to do Pilates, what has brought them here? Invariably the reply is “I need to strengthen my core”.

A common misconception is that the ‘core’ is the abdominal muscles. Well, ok, you could call that area the core area but it’s a little more complex than that. So lets get this straight: doing crunches, sit ups and planks will not necessarily improve your core. You will more likely be relying on the shoulders and the superficial belly muscles to achieve the exercise whilst the deeper muscles don’t even get a look in. We don’t need to ‘strengthen ‘ the core, rather we need stability in that area, and that’s a different thing, a lot more subtle.

The core muscles are team which support the structure of the skeleton, rather than the more superficial muscles which move us around. Your sit up muscles are not your core muscles, and in fact doing sit ups will most probably weaken your core by causing you to push out the or brace the abdominal area. (aarg! I hate bracing….stop it right now!! )

Sometimes we refer to these deeper muscles as postural muscles, they have the role of maintaining a stable posture in the spine and pelvis giving the arms and legs an anchor from which to move. The muscle fibre structure is different in postural muscles than in the global muscles which move our limbs. Global muscles consist of a mixture of types of muscle fibre that can fire up quickly to create movement but will tire in time. Through exercise global muscles can be trained to perform better, becoming explosively stronger for jumping, kicking, sprinting or weightlifting; or gain endurance so that an activity can be performed for a longer period of time such as training for a marathon, or increasing the length of your bike ride to work without feeling so tired.

Our postural muscles however, need to have a quality of endurance to continue providing support for the axial skeleton, the spine and rib cage, the pelvis, the skull. The shoulder blades also need to be stable. These areas of our body are what form a stable base for any movement to occur in our arms and legs. With a stable core, the limbs are much more effective and will become stronger and more efficient. Thats why Andy Murray and lots of sportsmen and women do Pilates.

The 8 principles of Pilates all serve to develop a stable core. First concentrate; First think of precise alignment; lightly activate the centre muscles; breath; isolate your deep core muscles;
challenge your position with flowing, coordinated movement and rhythm; be controlled but relax, theres no struggle in a Pilates move. Before the word ‘core was invented Joe Pilates called it ‘the Powerhouse’. Everything starts from there!

Body, Mind and Soul: Pregnancy and Pilates

Body, Mind & Soul: Pregnant mums rush for Pilates

Patricia Issitt

Patricia Issitt

First published Monday 19 January 2015 in Health, Beauty & Wellbeing by Patricia Issitt

Is there something in the water?

Since the beginning of this year, we’ve been inundated with pregnant mums at the Pilates Studio, all wanting to improve their fitness during pregnancy.

The answer to “should I exercise during pregnancy” is a most definite “yes!” so long as your midwife and GP don’t advise against it. There are some pregnancy conditions which require special care from a health professional.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state that there is no evidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes in women who exercise during their normal pregnancy

They also state the benefits of exercise; reduced fatigue; reduced swelling of hands and feet; less insomnia, stress and anxiety. Exercise helps you to avoid excessive weight gain and regulate blood sugar levels.

A pregnant body is special and very different to a non pregnant co- exerciser. If you choose to attend a class, your teacher should be knowledgeable about this.

Your body is creating more blood plasma. The volume of plasma starts to greatly increase before red blood cell production can catch up, leaving you feeling exhausted in the first few weeks.

Your hormone system releases Relaxin into the body creating laxity in the joints enabling the body to adapt to the growing foetus.

You will become more bendy but also more prone to joint injury. Your body is demanding more oxygen, and has more carbon dioxide and waste products to get rid of so you get out of breath and pee more! And as your baby grows, your posture changes, with a greater curve in the lower back.

The sacroiliac and pubic joints in the pelvis become softer, and more prone to aches and pains.

My main objective for my pregnant Pilates client is always to improve joint strength and stability which counteracts the over stretchy-ness that can cause ongoing problems.

The typical backache and carpal tunnel issues of pregnancy can be overcome by learning Pilates stability techniques. Of course we spend a lot of time exercising the pelvic floor muscles in preparation for labour and practising breathing techniques to help with relaxation.

During pregnancy, remember, stick to maintaining your fitness rather than pushing yourself to work harder. If you don’t normally exercise, start getting out for a brisk walk, 20 minutes a day. Because of changes in the body, some exercises are a no-no.

High impact jumping exercises, excessive weight bearing on the wrists such as full press-ups over stretching and holding stretch positions, excessive twisting of the torso will all contribute to joint damage. Lying on your back to exercise should be avoided after 16 weeks.

Fitness in pregnancy is all about preparing the body for the tough job of labour and, helping the body return to normality after the birth.

Don’t enter for a marathon, or even for that twisty-turny high impact dance class. Instead look for a specialist educator who adheres to RCOG guidelines and has a specific training in looking after pregnant mums. Your body will thank you for years to come.



Pilates Classes for men

New this term is our Pilates for Men class on Wednesdays at 1.30. It’s a small group class where you can learn the basic techniques of Pilates and find out how to progress effectively. We use small equipment and will also be working on the studio apparatus from time to time. If you would like to join the class, first book in for a private introductory class before joining the group. Email, phone or text the studio.

York Pilates Space: what they are saying!

Clients at York Pilates Space always say such good things about Pilates. here are a few of them…

Sue Bos  said: ” Pilates has made a huge difference to me – my back is stronger and more reliable. I am amazed at what I can now do after years of back problems”

Bernie Cullen said: ” Thank you for being so dedicated to your work, it has made such a difference to my life “

Trudi Bailey  said:” Following abdominal surgery and rehab on a long term knee condition, I joined a Pilates class to try to put my body, especially my core strength, back together. Three years later, the last 2 of which have been with Patricia at York Plates Space, I am far stronger and more flexible than I have ever been. My posture is much straighter and I am more conscious of how I sit – at the desk, in the car and when relaxing. You can apply the principles in everything you do – I employ the techniques when swimming, cycling, walking, even when standing in a queue. It’s surprising how a small adjustment in how you align your head, or hold your shoulders can impact on your height and posture. My whole body has toned up, but without creating bulging unsightly muscles. Pilates is great for your posture, your figure, your inner and outer strength. And it’s fun! “

Margot Beaumont said: ” the biggest THANK YOU for being the best teacher – so kind and patient….(pilates) has changed my life so much. “

What has learning Pilates done for your life? Let me know!