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Ask the Pilates expert

All your questions about Pilates - answered by our team of experts

  • I have cervical spine problems and my physio told me I can do Pilates only as long as I don’t raise my head and shoulders off the floor. Can you suggest a few effective core strengthening exercises that I could practice please?

    It is a bit difficult to answer this question as with Cervical Spine problems there is also a “bigger picture” that needs to be taken into account… and this will be different from one person to the next.

    Based on you saying that the physio gave the ok to start Pilates classes and that the only thing you should NOT do is lift your head and shoulders off the floor from a supine position (lying on her back) I can suggest the following core strengthening exercises (in this order):

     

    http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/excercises-and-variations/pelvic-curl-pilates-exercise/

     

    http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/excercises-and-variations/single-leg-lift/  

    This one can be progressed into doing the Single leg Stretch with the head on the floor. I would recommend a pillow or two under the pelvis to raise it from the floor http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/excercises-and-variations/single-leg-stretch/

     

    http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/excercises-and-variations/sphinx-abdominal-lift/

     

    http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/excercises-and-variations/mermaid-drinking/

     

    http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/excercises-and-variations/front-support/

     

    If any of the above is not appropriate in terms of level then you should of course skip it.

     

  • Should I exercise when I have aches and pains?

    Muscle soreness that occurs 24 to 48 hours after exercise is normal, especially if you are not used to exercising or have "pushed yourself harder"... It would be a good idea not to strain the sore muscles further with strenuous exercise but you can definitely continue with moderate exercise (and it would probably make you feel better).
    There are, however, occasions when the pain or discomfort is different and can be indicative of a problem. The following "warning signals" might indicate you should stop exercising and seek some advice:

    • Joint pain is different to muscle soreness and should not be dismissed or ignored. Exercise should not result in pain in joints.
    • Shooting pains might indicate a neural problem and if they persist you would probably benefit from seeing an Osteopath or a Physiotherapist.
    • Persistent pain or discomfort - If the pain persists for longer than two weeks or gets worse, see a healthcare professional-especially if the pain doesn't respond to standard treatment methods (e.g., rest, ice, over-the-counter pain medications).
    • Persistent swelling in or around the area of pain

    Pain (in most cases) is the body's way of communicating to us that a problem exists and a potential injury may be on the horizon.

  • Are there any substantial benefits to extra practice at home on top of my studio work?

    Doing Pilates at home is always a good idea. Apart from the fact that it will help make you stronger and more flexible, it also gives you the opportunity to “own it”- be the one “in charge” of your practice. In the studio there is always a teacher checking your alignment and the precision of your work; at home you are the one in charge of your own body and this level of awareness and focus will definitely take your Pilates to new heights. Even 20 minutes of self practice a couple of times a week will make a big difference and will give you a great sense of satisfaction.

  • I find Intermediate classes challenging and Basic classes too easy. What should I do?

    We can suggest two solutions. First is to look at the different styles offered on the site; you might find Holly's basic level classes more challenging than others and you might also find challenge in some of Amit's classes, for example class 061. The other suggestion would be to mix Basic and Intermediate classes- try doing one Basic level class a week, where you feel very comfortable and familiar, and one Intermediate class a week, where you challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone.

  • Is the Pelvic Floor supposed to be engaged in ALL exercises?

    The question of Pelvic Floor (PF) engagement is the subject of many debates and workshops in the Pilates world… and the answer to it can be quite different from one school of thought to another. From my understanding, Pilates teachers did not really talk about the PF until about 15-20 years ago when Physiotherapy protocols started mixing with the traditional Pilates methodology, but nowadays some Pilates teachers can get quite hooked on the issue and “won’t let you move” until you know how to activate your PF.

    I believe it is important to understand that whether we talk about it or not and whether we know exactly how the PF works or not, the exercises themselves- the movements you perform and the instructions you follow will all encourage the activation and the stretching of your PF muscles in the same way that they will for all other muscle groups in the body. The PF muscles will naturally engage with all movements in Pilates and so there is no need to worry about it too much. I personally prefer to think about the bones of the pelvis drawing together- the sits bones (the bones you feel when you sit straight on a hard chair) drawing towards each other and the hip bones drawing towards each other. These actions combined with “pulling your abdominals in and up” will get your Pelvic Floor working in harmony with everything else in a very organic way.

    Clearly, if anyone suffers from a dysfunction of the PF, they should be seeing a specialist and should be given rehabilitation exercises that will help them recover and resume normal, healthy function.

  • Do you have short classes that serve as warm up to other classes?

    That is a very interesting question and one that troubled me many years ago when I just started doing Pilates... :-)
    We do have quite a number of short classes that can be used as a "warm up" to other, more intense classes and we also have classes that can be used as a"cool down" at the end of more vigorous classes. Saying that, there is no need really to warm up before any of our classes as a good class is always structured with a warm up within it. The approach to the warm up and its intensity will depend on the level of the class and the style-approach of the teacher but it will always be sufficient as long as you are taking a class that is appropriate to you.
    If you have more time I would certainly support the idea of taking a short, relatively easy class before a longer, more intense class, but again it is not something you should think is necessary.

  • Hours of computer work have resulted in sensitive wrists which can be painful when doing some weight bearing exercises. What can I do?

    Many people suffer from sensitive wrists these days. Hours of working at a computer and smart- phones coupled with poor posture make this a modern day “disease”.

    First of all- if any exercise hurts your wrists and you can not “pull your weight up” from the wrist and stop the pain, then you should modify the exercise. We have created a video to help with that so please watch it on http://www.pilatesod.com/exercises/modification-assists/wrists/ One other modification, that is not mentioned in the video, is to do the exercise on the forearms, but this will be appropriate only with some exercises such as the Front Support (plank).

    As for the issue itself- a number of things may help:

    1. Watch your posture during the day. Sitting for long in the same compromised position will lead to stress and strain. Make it a habit to stand up/ move around/ change positions as often as possible
    2. Whenever you think about it, take a couple of deep breaths. Really deep… this will “lift your rib cage up” and “reorganize” you.
    3. Do wrist exercises whenever you can! With your arms pretty straight- pull your fingers as far back and as far under the wrist as possible- feeling the stretch in the underneath and the top of the forearm. Then try to touch each finger individually to the palm of your hand and stretch it as far back as possible. Not as simple as it sounds… The movements of the fingers and wrists will improve blood flow and circulation and will help a healing process.
    4. Squeezing a tennis ball (or any of the special products found in the market) can help strengthen your fingers and wrists. In the evening… while listening to music or watching TV… or while on the train/bus etc…
    5. Massage your forearms from wrists to elbows. No doubt that you will find sensitive spots!! Massage those as often as you can to relieve the tension stored in them. This can potentially help a lot!

     

  • I have recently had a hip replacement operation. Can I go back to my Pilates?

    The answer to this question would be the same for all joint replacement operations as well as any other orthopaedic surgery... following an op one must rest for as long as instructed and then do some rehabilitation with a physiotherapist. When your physio is happy for you to resume "normal" physical activity then you should be ready to resume Pilates classes. Please ask your physio if there are any movements/ positions you should avoid and please always make sure not to do anything that hurts in the classes. it could be a good idea to take some private classes with a fully qualified Pilates teacher and show them exercises you have been struggling with on PilatesOD. Ask the teacher to modify the exercises for you and make sure you do them correctly.

  • What is the best time of the day to exercise? I have heard that if you are overweight you should exercise after you eat. Does it matter at all?

    A considerable amount of misinformation and mythology exists concerning the question of "when is the best time to exercise?" Trends and scientific knowledge may change from time to time and you can find yourself confused reading contradicting" knowledgeable opinions".
    With regard to the specific issue of the alleged relationship between the time of exercising and weight control efforts; to the best of my knowledge no such relationship exists. If you exercise at a particular level of intensity, you'll "burn" the same number of calories regardless of when you exercise.  Saying that, you will probably find it uncomfortable to exercise after a heavy meal... so the general advice is to wait about two hours after a meal and before you start exercising (depending on how much you ate and how hard you are about to exercise).
    Meal times a side, I think the best time to exercise is the time of the day you find works best for you... the important thing is to exercise consistently and the only way to make it happen is if you fit exercise around YOUR busy schedule and preferences.

  • Why does resistance training create and maintain bone strength?

    This is a really good question and one that troubles MANY researchers around the world and that A LOT of money has been spilt over… sadly, no clear cut answers have been established yet and it all depends on who you ask and what research you choose to believe to. So- instead of answering the question, please allow me to raise a few related topics and also refer you to some more in depth articles that you might find interesting.
     

    • Bone is not an inert object. It is a dynamic tissue, which is constantly broken down and rebuilt throughout life. As is the case with muscle tissue, the bottom line is “use it or lose it”. For exercise to be effective, it must be weight bearing which means you must place a stress or load on the musculoskeletal system by loading it with weight. Examples would be- Walking, jogging or skipping where the ground force creates an impact on the bones; Resistance Training (exercise using an opposing force i.e. weights or resistance bands) which activates your muscles in a way that makes them “pull” on the bones; and exercise such as Pilates Mat which makes your muscles work against gravity and again “pull” on the bones, creating a positive response.
    • Building and maintaining bone mass requires more than weight-bearing exercise alone. A combination of good nutrition and weight-bearing exercise is the ideal way to build bone mass. Once we reach about age 30, we don't build bone as readily so building adequate bone density early in life is the best way to prevent osteoporosis later. As an adult, the best way to maintain the bone mass is the same way you build it -- getting adequate calcium in your diet and doing weight-bearing exercise. More on that you can find here
    • Contrary to conventional belief, dairy foods are not necessarily the best source of calcium, which is one of the most important bone building agents found in our food. Some research suggests that "Those countries that use the most cows’ milk and its products also have the highest fracture rates and the worst bone health”… that is a big one to take on board… More on that can be found here

     
    So… like I said, not an easy one to answer… but I think the bottom line is quite clear- good diet and regular exercise are key to maintaining the health of our bones. Not a big surprise, is it? ;o)