Did you know that up to 80% of your immune system is found in your gut, and that the health of your digestive system affects your mood, motivation, will power, energy and even your intuition?
From a movement teaching perspective I find the gut / core absolutely fascinating.
I imagine that if you have ever worked out, you would have heard the cue 'tighten your core', 'pull in your belly' 'zip up your pelvic floor' and probably countless more ways to tighten your 'stomach' - unfortunately these really aren't the best cues to truly train your 'core', and in fact can have the unwanted side effects of anxiety, an increase in blood pressure, constipation, a flacid gut, indigestion, increased risk of injury, decrease in flexibility and less ability to absorb force - need I go on?
What is the core anyway?
Well it is way more that the thin layer of abdominal muscles that surrounds your belly. It is your stomach, your intestines, your colon, your kidneys, your psoas, your ql, your diaphragm, your pelvic floor, your spinal muscles - and these beautiful, clever parts work together as a whole, in symphony, they communicate with each other, they influence each other and they definitely do not want to be held in a vice regularly by 'tightening your core'.
By Nic Conroy, Studio Founder
What’s brought you here today? Are you looking to be toned, to be thinner, maybe it’s to not be in pain or are you seeking a bigger (or a smaller) bum…?
When I was in the planning for the opening of the Soul Pilates studio three years ago, I looked around at the wider industry and these were the kinds of messages I was constantly bombarded with. And, from a marketing point of view this is the kind of message that sells. People mostly want to be a better version of themselves it seems. But this wasn't my vision and it wasn’t my reality.
Rewind 8 years and I was living in Leeds as a Digital Director for a prestigious marketing agency. I drove a convertible, ran for my train in sky scraper heels, flew between Leeds and Geneva for meetings, went to the gym almost every day and weighted 2 stone more than I do now.
Now I can reflect and see that I was unfulfilled and living an incredibly stressed out life. But I didn’t see it like that then. I thought I was living the life I’d always worked for. I was a girl with good grades who was always going to go to university and have a big career - and I did: prestigious clients, dinners at 3 star Michelin restaurants, generous clients entertainment budgets to spend and have fun with, nights out until 3am and up again at 6am for a run before presenting at a board meeting. II’ll admit it was fun at times, but it was understandably exhausting now I look back and I constantly felt burnt out, yet frustrated at myself for being, too tired to cope with this life. “Surely other people could manage better than I was?” was something I often told myself.
There are certain parts of the body that always get more attention than others.
The pelvic floor (especially in the female demographic) is definitely a popular area of discussion in pilates, yoga and physical therapy. This is a good thing as so many women and men suffer from pelvic floor issues.
There are whole practices dedicated specifically to pelvic floor health. In pre and post natal pilates sessions it’s very common that the pelvic floor is the central focus ensuring the muscles are strong and well co-ordinated.
In contrast to this, I have also taught thousands of women that have left the hospital after having had a baby or pelvic surgery, with the instructions to 'do their pelvic floor exercises'- with absolutely no clue what that actually means, other than stopping the flow of water?!
In this blog, I aim to give you more support around how to train your pelvic floor to improve continence, pelvic and lower back support, balance, flexibility and even force absorption!
Since having my baby 4 months ago I don't manage to fit in so many workouts in the Soul Pilates studio **sad face**. So my kitchen floor has become my home studio and this 25 minute workout fits nicely with nap time.
This is a great workout to massage your spine whilst challenging your abs using the foam roller. If you don't have a roller you can do this without you just won't have such an intense an experience which is great when you only have a short amount of time.
Nic - Studio Founder
Studio Founder Nic talks through her home birth and trusting her instincts and her body in the face of induction of labour for being overdue.
“I must strengthen my core”, “my physio told me I have a weak core”, “my back hurts so I need to do sit-ups to strengthen my core” - these must be some of the sentences I hear the most as my role as an Instructor at Soul Pilates. And the outcome that most clients end up with is to think (or actually start acting on) that they must do a million sit ups EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to fix their back.
So what is this infamous ‘core’, why does it need strengthening and how the hell do you strengthen it? Your 'Core' is your tummy right? Well… actually the abdominal area is only part of the core story…
Not many of us can continue to run every day and stay fit at the same time. Running has the tendency to put considerable stress on joints and lead to all manners of pain and aches if you’re not careful. The repetitive movement involved can be brutal, especially as you age and your bones become weaker. This is where Pilates can better condition your body to deal with this stress.
Pilates is a functional routine that is all about strengthening the core. It improves your stability, flexibility and allows you to be in total control of your body’s movements. Read on to learn how and why Pilates benefits runners.
There is a common misconception that horse riding requires little effort with many people believing that the rider merely sits while the horse does all the work. This could not be further from the truth and horse riding is a great way to develop a strong core and build strength in the legs, glutes and back. The body is strengthened through a rider’s need to balance and control the horse. Many athletes use Pilates as a way to improve their overall fitness levels. In this article we look at how Pilates will benefit horse riders.
The muscle groups most affected by horse riding are those around the pelvic and hip joints. Popular horse magazine Horse & Hound spoke to Pilates expert Lindsay Wilcox-Reid about the effects of riding on the body. She told the magazine “you may not even be aware of this, yet the far-reaching effects through your back and shoulders can cause twisting, tilting and an inability to maintain an elastic contact.” In her article on Pilates exercises riders could try at home, she went on to explain how a few simple warm up exercises for Pilates could help: “these preparatory exercises are designed to be used before starting Pilates to ‘normalise’ your fundamental pelvic and spinal mechanics.” Lindsay Wilcox-Reid instructs the readers on two exercises that focus on the glutes and piriformis muscles at the side of the hip. Both these muscle groups benefit hugely from Pilates as they can get overused and potentially injured during riding.
It’s that time of year where we start to reflect on the year which has just been and inevitably plan resolutions for the year ahead. Looking at the statistics on the most popular New Year’s resolutions, it seems that we believe (or possibly are led to believe) that each year we need to do more to be a better version of ourselves with mantras like “Lose Weight”, “Get Fit” or “Spend Less”, essentially adding pressure onto an already long list of things which we should be doing. And whilst I can see the appeal, to me, there is clearly a reason why they all inevitably fail: they do not address any of the reasons why you are already amazing and already a rather excellent version of yourself.
I’ve never believed in New Year’s resolutions but that doesn’t mean I don’t set intentions for the year ahead or reflect on the year which as just been. Like many clients have talked to me about, and even the media has reflected upon, 2016 was a year where the universe decided to throw a lot my way. I positively try to tell myself that maybe it was a year where my soul needed to learn some valuable lessons. Despite loss, grief, death, burglary, car theft, illness, dog attacks and hospital stays, I reflect upon 2016 as a year where a lot of good happened: where I found love and unwavering support, where I learned a lot about myself and found strength from even greater depths, where I learned who my real friends were (they are often the people you least expect) and where I found my calling through the success and wonderful clients I’ve met through Soul Pilates. And for this I offer the universe my utmost gratitude. It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives in our lives but the real essence of joy and positivity for the future comes from finding the things to be grateful for in every situation – and yes sometimes that is really, really hard.
We all know that Pilates is great for us but so is Ballet, put them together and it’s a match made in heaven…….we’ve seen numerous ‘ballet fusion’ workouts pop up, particularly in recent years, so what makes ‘Soul Ballet Barre’ different?
Firstly, I am both a ballet (and dance) teacher and a Pilates instructor so when I was approached to teach a ‘Ballet Barre’ class, I thought long and hard about just what that should entail, especially as I was to be teaching at a designated Pilates studio. I wanted to ensure the class brought all the benefits of both, the safety of the Pilates principles with all the discipline and FUN of Ballet…..
To give you a bit of background, I took ballet classes from the age of 2.5, taking exams in RAD Ballet and continued to study RAD as well as ISTD Ballet during my 3 years at full time dance college. Finishing at age 21, having studied through to the grade known as Advanced 1.
When I was 19, my mum trained as a Pilates Instructor. Already fascinated by the body and movement, I got stuck in to studying alongside her as I lived at home during my college years and took her Pilates classes whenever I could. It was years later, after a 10 year career as a professional dancer that I finally undertook the full Pilates training myself as a way to understand how to protect my body and take these principles not only into the Pilates world, but the dance world as well.