It’s February and many of us are feeling a little flat. We’re going to be bringing lots of techniques into our classes this month to work with you to feel rejuvenated ready for spring and beyond. You can expect breath work, relaxation, fascial release as well as ways to can boast our energy and get our heart pumping!
Are you foam rolling your IT band? Does it hurt in a satisfying way but not really changing how your IT band actually feels? Here we show you an adapted Pilates exercise using a band which lengthens your IT band, inner thighs, ankles and glutes. You will literally feel the difference instantly!
Pilates is an incredibly popular form of exercise that was developed in the early-1900’s, but didn’t make it over to England until the 1970’s. Since then it’s been knocking around on the fitness scene and been a constant presence in people’s workout routines.
Focusing on core strength and stability, it utilises controlled movements and breathing to build strength, coordination, balance and improve alignment.
Where did Pilates come from?
It was developed by Joseph Pilates, a German bodybuilding enthusiast who focused his life on becoming fit and healthy after a sickly childhood. He began a new approach to fitness which combined body conditioning using body weight and apparatus, such as the Reformer, which is still used in studios today! He extensively researched many different forms of exercise; from Ancient Roman exercise routines to modern day fitness, such as gymnastics, and from tai chi to meditation.
In the 1920’s Joseph Pilates opened his first studio in New York and his methods were a hit! Especially with dancers - they found it a perfect way to recover from injuries and strengthen their weak spots. It grew in popularity before being brought over to the UK where the first Pilates studio opened in London in 1970. And, as they say, the rest is history!
A beginners guide to Pilates
Hundreds of studios and venues across the UK now offer Pilates and they range in a broad spectrum of styles. Have you ever been curious to try it out? We’ve collaborated with Soul Pilates, a quality Pilates studio based in the centre of Bristol, to bring you an in-depth beginners guide to Pilates. See what it’s all about and if it’s something you would want to give a go!
Feeling a bit tense? A bit tight? In need of a massage? Tight shoulders? Sore lower back? Check out these videos on tips and tricks to release at home and to keep your body feeling supple and moving freely.
Release Those Hips!
If you're back is tight or your knees are in pain, often the hips are a great place to find release.
Tight Shoulders? Feeling Hunched Over?
Check out this video for ways to open up your spine!
By Studio Founder & Lead Instructor Nic
We are passionate about moving, about HOW you move and about how you FEEL about moving.
So we decided to put on a full day of free classes, postural assessments and 1-to-1s to celebrate movement with you.
We had over 90 people attend the day and it was amazing to see so many old and new faces trying out some tried and tested class formats and some brand new such as PHIIT - combining Pilates with High Intensity moves.
Thank you to everyone who attended, I am looking forward to getting to know you more.
Some of our favourite feedback from the day....
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!
I wanted to share some thoughts from my good friend Martine Moorby who wrote this blog piece as a guest author this month. Enjoy and please let me know your thoughts....
With only a few of days into 2016, are you just waiting to see what happens?
“I’m waiting to see what happens” or “I’m going with the flow” are comments I often hear people make when faced with having to make a decision. This can be a simple as being invited to choose what film to go and see, as habitual as New Year resolutions, or as potentially complex as a major turning point in life. And even though we are told by various sources that “going with the flow” is good, natural and, dare I say it, “spiritual”, I have also observed that this is mostly a disempowering way of moving forward.
Life and “things” will always happen and rivers flow downstream for sure. I also believe that more often than not we misunderstand or misapply this philosophy in our lives, leaving us at the mercy of “events”. We project the happenings, the circumstances and other people’s decision as being “out there”, the implication being that we have no power to influence them.
I was recently having acupuncture (with the wonderful Verity Allen) and we got chatting about phycology of running, for many. She explained that it wasn’t running she had an issue with, but people’s relationship with running. I said that for many people running is like mediation, it relaxes them. She agreed but said, “well what happens, for example, when you have children and you can’t go running so much, or you have an injury and can’t run at all? Where does your off switch come from then? People should learn how to relax in more genuine meditative ways”.
"People should learn how to relax in more genuine mediative ways"
I guess for us all we develop strategies for how we cope with the ups, downs and general stresses of everyday life. But we’re told cardio is good for us. It burns off stress – right? Well actually this isn’t so much the case when you delve a little deeper and look at what’s going on inside us at a bio-chemical level.
My few days away in Ireland has been so relaxing, although as well as possibly taking in too much of the black stuff (I LOVE a Baby Guinness!) I think I have over dosed on sea air. I literally feel drugged with the need to sleep. My mum’s house overlooks the sea and every morning I have run down to the beach and back. I am not a natural runner and have always been envious of those who are. However yesterday I felt so in tune with my surroundings I somehow ran 10km straight. I was enjoying the stillness of the sea lapping the shore and the salt in the air that I literally forgot how far I had run. Now if only I could take this feeling back to Bristol!
I am currently staying in Kerry, possibly the most beautiful county in Ireland. I say ‘staying’ but I’m actually from here although you’d know by my accent it is a long time since I lived here. All my family now live in Ireland and I’m the only one in the UK. And for so long Kerry has never felt like my home despite the fact my mum, brother and sister live here. However of late, I have enjoyed coming here to switch off from the world. For so long I resented that not much went on here, now I look forward to it. Is that growing older or possibly realising that you need different parts and paces to your life? It’s like my running; when I think about how frequently I should run, or how I should stay out longer I always felt like I was battling myself. And I therefore battled with any sort of decent distance and regularity to my running and I certainly never enjoyed it. Today I just ran because I was taking in the beautiful views and feeling like the fresh air was cleansing my soul and somehow the distance just came. It was the first time I understood how some people talk about running as a kind of meditation.
It’s interesting how our motivations and intentions can have a huge impact about how we feel. I spend a lot of my days talking to clients about how there really is too much ‘should’ in their lives. They tell me, “I should hold my shoulders down and back’, ‘I should go to the gym more”, ‘I should relax more’, ‘I should have better posture’. My response is always the same “How about you have a little less ‘should’ in your life?” Which is an interesting concept. We are conditioned to believe that nothing comes unless you work hard for it. That no gain comes without pain. And that you can always do better.
If like me you love your mid morning sweet hit then these refined sugar free flapkjacks will provide you with a healthier natural sweet kick courtesy of the bananas and honey but without the guilt.
The only issue will be trying to only eat one piece, as I write this I’ve already eaten around 4…
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.
Mash the bananas in a bowl and then mix in all the other ingredients into a bowl until the mixture feels moist throughout.
Grease a shallow tin with the cococnut oil and line the base with parchment paper.
Put the mixture into the tin and press lightly but not so the mixture is too dense.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until golden and then allow the mixture to cool in the tin.
Cut into squares and enjoy! Will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.
This must be the question I get asked the most when I’m introducing Pilates as a concept to people who have never done it before. So I thought for this blog I would explain a little bit more about what Pilates is.
Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates - although it wasn’t called Pilates until after he died. He was inspired by Yoga, amongst other things, so there are elements of Pilates where you can see this influence. He was also inspired by martial arts and other forms of movement, and in essence Pilates is about teaching successful movement strategies. He worked rehabilitating soldiers and later training ballet dancers from his New York studio using equipment he designed to facilitate this.
Ok so that’s the history, what is Pilates now? You may have done Pilates in a gym before and think you have an idea of what it’s about. But coming to a dedicated studio with equipment, highly qualified teachers and small class numbers is a very different experience to the fitness style of Pilates gyms tend to offer.
I like to think of Pilates as almost a form of meditation. The ability to focus internally on what your body is doing is a form of being mindful and in the moment. So being able to meditate, be mindful and work on your strength, tone and posture has to be a majorly efficient workout right? And there’s a reason for that. Joseph was a big believer that health comes from not only your body but also your mind “Through Pilates this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit can be attained. Self confidence follows”
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