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.
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!
What is the difference between Pilates Matwork and Pilates Machine Classes?
This is a question we get asked a lot at Soul Pilates!
The Pilates Machines, designed by Joseph Pilates, were created as a way to teach the strategies needed to perform the mat exercises with ease. We all have those exercises that we struggle with, and the springs used on the equipment provide us with valuable feedback, which helps our nervous system develop improved strategies for movement. It is these strategies that then get picked up by the nervous system and turned into better posture, better movement and therefore less pain and quicker recovery times following exercise.
You can’t impose posture no matter how much you try. Often our conscious acts of trying to correct what we see as poor posture ends up beings just as bad as the starting point! Instead the body needs to learn better patterns of movement and naturally start to incorporate these into the body. Pilates is really about creating these patterns. At Soul Pilates we combine Pilates with the latest studies in movement science so that the focus is on what each exercise is tying to teach. It’s not just about doing exercises for exercise sake!
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.
Those of you who know me well know I absolutely hate the thought of any sort of ‘diet’. I never ever weigh myself (it's way too depressing to judge if you feel good by a number on a machine) and the thought of depriving myself of food in order to look good seems like a wasted life to me – yes I know that’s dramatic but I really LOVE my food (and my wine). I literally cannot miss meals without wanting to rip somebody's head off so food for me is a really important, and enjoyable, part of my day.
That said, I have been gluten free for a number of years, as well as free from a long list of other foods which I am intolerant to. For those of you who are interested the list includes: potatoes (I blame my Irish heritage for putting 3 types of potato with every meal growing up), tomatoes, all the deadly nightshades, apples (I react as badly to apples and gluten - goodbye lovely ciders) and strawberries (Wimbeldon is just not as fun these days). So after years of being ill I simply have to cut certain foods out of my life which doesn't seem like such a hardship in order to have energy and be pain free. So I feel like I already have to be careful of what I eat, but for health benefits not to deprive myself or fit myself into something. So the thought of a high protein, low carb, counting calories or low fat lifestyle really doesn’t do it for me. Saying that, I do like to be healthy but I do believe you can be healthy and eat really tasty food.
Recently I started looking at the ‘eating clean’ thing that I heard people talking about and I have to say, whilst I don’t personally feel the need to do it 100% of the time, I really am loving the taste and how it makes me feel. Inspired by the likes of Madeline Shaw and Deliciously Ella, I have finally moved onto looking at treats and snacks which are not only gluten free and dairy free but also guilt free. I have to say the thought of healthy, guilt free treats did not appeal one bit but after a relapse of feeling ill recently and realising my sweet tooth was partly to blame, I decided to give it as go. And to my utter surprise, it turns out raw chocolate goodies are unbelievably delicious and totally curbing my sweet tooth. So I thought I would share with you some recipes I've been working on.
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”
So I’ve just got back to Bristol following a fabulous 5 days in Portugal spending time with my family. Those of you who don’t know, my family all live in Ireland so it’s rare I get to spend time with all of them together. While I was there I got a call from an old friend who moved to Texas last year and she happened to be on retreat not far from where I was staying and wanted me to come visit. Small world hey?
I met her on my last day and drove up to the house nestled in the heart of the Algarve countryside. Hollie is a naturopath and she was volunteering there. It was day one of a ten day fast where only juice and broth are allowed combined with the twice-daily colonic ritual. I was really interested seeing the types of people who were there, expecting a load of hippies but finding lots of stressed out city people who wanted to detach from the world for 10 days and bring their system back into balance.
And this got my thinking about my life and its balance. Since I was a child I have run every facet of my life at a million miles per hour. That’s not such a bad thing where school and ambition are concerned but as life throws more and more responsibility at you, I had got to a point where I had too much on my hands and my health and wellbeing were taking a huge battering. I decided that I should take some time out to reflect and think about what the important things are for me. The things I love and that make me happy and fulfilled.
The challenge for me is I like things done to perfection and finished in the moment I think them up. So whilst in the process of setting up a business, dealing with a relationship break up and all the financial ties that go with it, freelancing in the marketing world and refurbing my house I thought ‘what things can I drop?’ The truth is I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but then I think for me, creating balance is a life’s work in progress. So instead I decided that I needed some more structure in my life to give my true self more room to breathe. I love a list, so it seemed a fitting way to start my journey.
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