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'.
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.
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.
I so often get asked by clients “what Pilates exercises can I do while I'm away?” There’s usually 2 reasons for this:
1 - To stop everything stiffening up: those who have a regular Pilates practice know that feeling after two weeks away when everything doesn’t seem to move like it did when you come back to your first class.
2 - To help you feel body confident while you're away.
I’m writing this as I sit by the pool on the last day of my holiday in Majorca, and for me having a short Pilates routine really helps me to feel good, keeps my energy flowing and generally helps me justify the Sangria I may, or may not, have consumed the night before.
Overall I like to try to stay active on holiday as I don’t find lying by the pool all day, everyday too relaxing. For me it's nice to have time to do the things I can't always fit in when at home, so during my 10 day holiday, I’ve done a few 5.5km (VERY hilly) morning runs, walked to and from places wherever possible, tried to do 30 laps of the pool every other day (I'm not the best swimmer so for me this is a challenge), used a day at the beach to incorporate some Stand Up Paddle Boarding (my thighs hurt for days!) and found a local 11km hike into the hills with spectacular views to get my pulse racing.
As for my Pilates practice, I usually try to condense this into 15 minutes which I do every evening on the balcony before I get ready for dinner. This year I forgot to bring a mat and it occurred to me with just a tiled balcony and a towel for support that there are a lot of exercises which don’t feel too good without the support of a mat, so here are my top exercises to keep everything moving and help you feel even more bikini confident…
We have another delicious guest blog post from our lovely client Rosa, from Fusion Cakes & Bakes www.fusioncakesandbakes.co.uk
I am a sucker for sun and summer and I love indulging with any kind of local fruit when I’m on holiday. Fruit and vegetables are the best when they are local and in season – it’s not only good for the environment and reducing food miles, but also good for your pocket as they tend to be much cheaper.
So this mousse is incredibly easy to make and very low in sugar, and with just 5 ingredients that are easy to find anywhere you are. I’m fortunate that, here in Fuerteventura, pineapples are currently in season and they are incredibly sweet -If you ever find yourself on the island, head to the Biosfera market in Puerto de Rosario for a great selection!
When we decided to add a "Barre" class to the timetable we knew we had to find the right teacher. I've done lots of Barre in the past and whilst I loved the burn and toned bum it gave me, I often felt like I wasn't actually learning the strategies to perform the ballet moves in the right way and without putting any undue strain on my body.
At Soul Pilates, finding the strategy to make a movement feel 'easier' is a key part of our offering. Movement shouldn't be hard: if I want to challenge myself I take a solid movement strategy and maybe add some additional load or change my orientation. We move around all the time - we need it to be effortless!
So when Katherine emailed me to say she was a Pilates teacher looking to work for us I jumped at the chance. As a professional dancer and dance teacher, with a background in Ballet, as well as a Pilates instructor I knew we were onto a good thing.
Just back from an amazing week skiing at the Lac Salin Hotel & Moutain Resort in Livigno (where I also run a mountain biking business in the summer, www.monkeymtb.com) in the Italian Alps and boy do I feel like I’ve been skiing for a week!
I have been trying to increase my leg work recently in preparation, but having lessons where I was learning to carve at high speeds for 4 hours each day really pushed my body to its limit, not just in terms of strength, but also flexility and range of motion. So whilst this blog post is probably a bit late for many of you this year, I thought it best to write it when my body was still telling me what it needed and this will hopefully serve as a little reminder for us all next year!
Also as I write the exercises that I think would provide you with the most benefit, I’m aware that many of these take months to perfect and sometimes even longer to really gain the strategies and strength needed to really perfect the moves and get them subconsciously into your nervous system.
So this is a plan of where you need to get yourself to, ready for next year. So you can use this year to build your movement patterns to a place where you can master some of these complex moves with ease - hopefully transferring them to the mountain with as much ease…and grace!