Client Guide for Virtual Sessions

Your Space

    1. Set up your mat square to the room so that you can use your room to help you with your own alignment.  Check the space around you and move furniture out of the way. 
    2. Gather your props.  Below is a comprehensive list of what you may have at home, as well as some DIY hacks if you don’t have the official prop.  No need to have all of these, just get together what you do have.  If all you have is a piece of carpet with just enough room to move, we can work with you!
      • your mat
      • roller
      • gertie ball — or a pillow folded in half!
      • pinky ball(s) — or tennis balls!
      • magic circle
      • ther-a-band
      • yoga blocks — or some sturdy books!
      • hand weights — or cans of food!
      • a pillow 
      • a full-sized bath towel
    3. Lighting: as in the studio, we need to be able to see you.  The best way to do this on camera is to ensure that you are front-lit, and not back lit.  Do not set up with a window behind you.  If easy to do, an extra lamp in front of you will make sure we can see you well.
    4. If you can, please wear contrasting colors to your mat – we love our black leggings, but black leggings on a black mat is especially difficult to see your alignment on screen. 

The technology

    1. You will need a screen, microphone, and camera.  Ideally, you can use a laptop which has these, as the camera has a wider angled lens, and the angle of the screen is easier to control, allowing us to see you better.  However, a phone or tablet can be used if your laptop does not have a microphone and camera.
    2. Turn the volume of your device up.  If you get feedback, try turning it down a notch or two.
    3. Set your computer, phone, or tablet up so that your full body can be seen.  The best placement for us to see you is to place the device so that the screen is at an angle (not square on in front of you), and slightly above you, so that the screen is looking down at you.  If you are using a phone or tablet, you may need a tripod, or to work with books, soup cans, or other props so that the screen can be angled down. 
    4. Keeping the screen going
      1. Switch your screen saver to one hour or never
      2. Ideally, plug your computer in.  If that’s not possible with your set up, switch your energy saver to one hour or never.

Anatomy Moment: The Dynamic Pelvic Floor

If you’ve ever done a kegel, or even if you know about this simple exercise, you may know where the pelvic floor is, but why is it so important?  The pelvic floor is the “pilot light” for our internal core unit, it helps support our organs and it helps ensure proper hip, lower back, and pelvic movement mechanics.  And there is so much more to it than the kegel!

The pelvic floor is a muscle and, like any muscle, it can (and should) contract and relax, shorten and lengthen.  I’m sure you can imagine that you may have problems with your arm if you biceps were too weak for the tasks you asked of it, be it yard work, holding the leash as you walk your new puppy, or pumping iron.  Conversely, a biceps could also become too tight/shortened either by repetitive positioning in a shortened position (I’m looking at you, computer users aka all of us!), or by heavy use (new puppy yanks on leash, bicep contracts to try and hold puppy back, bicep is sore and tight the next day but puppy still needs a walk, process repeats resulting in, over time, a chronically tight and short bicep).  In either condition of weak or too tight, over time problems might develop with the structures around the bicep: elbow, shoulder, or arm.

If we extrapolate this explanation of the well-know bicep muscle to the lesser-understood pelvic floor muscle, it follows that a dysfunctional pelvic floor, be it too weak or too tight, could also result in problems for the surrounding structures: pelvis, sacroiliac joints, hips, and lower back.  A few years ago, if someone had pelvic floor dysfunction, the standard advice was: do kegels and strengthen that pelvic floor!  Now, we’ve expanded our understanding of the pelvic floor to see it’s full dynamic capabilities.  The pelvic floor should be able to both contract/shorten, and relax/lengthen.  And while it’s fine to isolate the pelvic floor with a kegel, being able to dynamically integrate the contractions and lengthening of the pelvic floor with full body movement is even better.

One of the best and simplest exercises to feel the dynamic function of your pelvic floor is the squat.  Starting from standing, as you bend your hips, knees, and ankles in to a squat, the sitz bones, pubic bone, and tail bone slightly widen away from each other, and the pelvic floor lengthens and widens.  As we come up to standing, the pelvic floor contracts and shortens, lifting in and up, slightly hugging the sitz bones, pubic bone, and tail bone towards each other.  If the pelvic floor is too tight and isn’t lengthening enough as you go in to your squat, your hips and lower back may take more of the stress of that deep bending position.  If you pelvic floor isn’t initiating the lift up out of the squat, the other muscles of your lumbopelvic area won’t be firing optimally, and you may get pain or overuse symptoms in the low back, SI joint dysfunction, or even knees.  *Please note that these are examples, and not meant to be a comprehensive or definitive list.

When the pelvic floor is working optimally with the other muscles around our hips, core, and lower back, what we get is a kegel plus glute strength plus core activation, and plus happy hips and spines.  We get another muscle which can contract when asked to, relax when needed, and support our moving bodies.  Checking in to this dynamic pelvic floor is, in my opinion, much more functional, and way more fun, than doing 3 sets of 10 kegels.  😉

If you are experiencing pelvic, hip, or low back pain or dysfunction, or if you’ve found it hard to really “find” your core, or if you’re just curious about how an understanding of your pelvic floor can deepen your Pilates and movement practice, check out Jenna’s workshop, “Demystifying the Pelvic Floor,” on Sunday September 8th.  See you there!