Pilates Mat Class – Breaking Down the Benefits and Values

At Corpo Kinetic we have a new mat class on the schedule – Sundays at 9am! We’re frequently asked what are the primary benefits of a Pilates mat class vs. an equipment class. The most obvious difference is that a Pilates mat class uses just one piece of equipment – your body – to execute movement. In a mat class, you’re not using the springs or the equipment. We do many of the same exercises, with the same names, but the look and feel is so different. When working with the equipment, the body has support and feedback from the spring resistance. Mat work is done with just your body working against gravity.  Not only does this challenge and build your sense of proprioception (where your body is in space), you are also learning exercises you can take with you.  Pilates mat exercises transfer seamlessly to home programs. Mat programs are effective, safe, challenging and fun!

It’s All on YOU – AKA Its Challenging

Let’s be honest. Mat work can be exceptionally challenging! You move without assistance and execute each exercise using your own sense of control and resistance. In most mat classes you’ll spend time in the beginning mastering the breath to movement connection. Why? To initiate movement properly – using the correct muscles – you’ll have a deeper connection when you let the breath lead the way. The breath helps you navigate the movement from a place of control vs. momentum.

Let’s also talk about alignment. Without the feedback provided by the equipment, alignment plays an essential role in a mat class. And why does alignment matter? To work the right muscles, in a safe and effective way, you need to have your body in the right position. We find that even subtle adjustments make the difference between someone saying, “I don’t feel where I’m supposed to move from” to “ah, now I feel it, wow!” Especially in a mat class where it falls all on you to make the movement happen, alignment is key. Over time, you naturally start to feel your sacrum heavy on the mat, the shoulders relaxing, your ribs softening down to your spine, your toes expanding and pressing evenly on the mat. Being in alignment means you move from a place of intention, which means you’re working harder and smarter.

Hello Abs – That Pilates Core Burn

It’s true. A Pilates mat class focuses quite a bit on the core! Many of the exercises are focused on how to engage the core properly, with a deep connection, and the various exercises in a mat class work the entire family of abdominal muscles. It starts with our inner core unit of the pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, multifidus muscles and the diaphragm (remember that breath work?). We also then involve the internal and external obliques, which help us twist and bend, and the rectus abdominis – that good ‘ole six pack muscle. In Pilates, we love ALL the abdominals!

Generally speaking, we like to have you moving in all planes in a class — this is key to happy and healthy spines, as well as targeting how the core fits in to the functional movements you do in real life. This means we’ll spend some time doing exercises lying on our backs, doing things which may look like a traditional “crunch” or “sit up,” but are executed with that Pilates attention to detail and precise engagement. We’ll also do exercises lying on our tummy, working the core to support the spine against gravity. Also in the mix: exercises lying on each side, on our knees and wrists and even standing. The work in all those other positions help us harness gravity in multiple directions, building a strong and dynamic core.

3 P’s – Patience, Practice and Place

Overall, a mat class is a great way to move. But like anything good in life, it takes time to master. It takes time to feel the connection, to feel comfortable with all the breathing, to move from a place of control, to feel centered when moving and to feel confident putting it all together. Patience and practice bring it full circle.

We don’t expect people to master it after the first or second class. We simply want people to walk away with something small. With our clients, we notice a profound difference in how they feel with just a small adjustment in how they’re moving. One class may leave you feeling more connected to your breath, the next might give you a deep connection to your core. One day at a time, you’ll be moving better – and soon feeling better in your body. Mat class is something you want to come back to each week.

Another beautiful aspect of the mat program is that it can go with you. You can do it at home, on vacation, at work, on the go. You don’t need anything but the knowledge of how to move! Mat exercises can be sprinkled in to your day wherever you might be. Add a cat / camel in the middle of your workday, do the series of 5 and the 100s during your lunch break. Spend 15 minutes after work doing a few bridges, toe taps, swimming. You’ll feel lighter and better.

Join Us – Mat Class

Come join us for a mat class to see why this work is a challenging, effective and nourishing addition to your movement journey! Even if you’re familiar with the equipment classes or tried a mat class someplace else we promise to delight you with our love of the mat program. We just added a new mat class on Sundays at 9am – join us!

Mixed-Level Mat Class Schedule

Sundays 9am

Wednesdays 8:30am

Online scheduling

Client Spotlight: Meet Nicole!

At Corpo Kinetic, we specialize in Pilates and bodywork for rehabilitation.  This means that the majority of our time is spent with people one-on-one, addressing individual needs and concerns.  However, we also offer a nice array of  group classes — check out our full schedule!  For clients who have advanced past an acute rehab need, group classes are a great way to maintain their newfound strength and flexibility and gain community by working out alongside others.  For this month’s client spotlight, we talk with Nicole!  Nicole has been doing Pilates with us for a few years now, and mixes it up with a private and a group class or two each week.  She’s gotten to work with three out of our four trainers, and we all love her sweet personality and determined nature.  Meet Nicole!

How long have you been doing Pilates?

I’ve been doing Pilates for about 4 years now!

Why did you originally start Pilates lessons? 

Originally, I sought out Pilates because I had constant lower back pain and I wanted to work on building back my strength. My mom was actually the one who introduced me to it – she said it’s not only good exercise but it’s also great for rehabilitative purposes.

What changes have you noticed in your body since you started?

I’ve definitely become more aware of my posture and body movements (especially trying to correct poor tendencies and habits when standing or sitting). I’ve also noticed a difference in flexibility. Although I’m pretty inflexible to begin with, I feel like through Pilates I’ve been able to gain more range of motion and develop a stronger core!

You do both private sessions and group classes with us here at Corpo Kinetic. What benefits do you get from your private sessions?

Private sessions give me the opportunity to really focus on specific areas whether it’s trouble spots, injury, or tight muscles. It also gives me the chance to choose the level of intensity (to a certain extent) in the case that I want to feel the burn in my abdominals or arms and what not =). Finally, in private sessions I’m really able to concentrate on correcting any postural habits and working with the trainer to achieve a certain short-term or long-term goal (flexibility and strength).

Are there things you enjoy about group classes that you don’t necessarily get in the one-on-one private sessions?

Absolutely! I love how in group classes you are working alongside people of different backgrounds so you get try out different workouts – it’s a nice mix up of levels and full body exercises and everyone gets a chance to provide input on what they would like to work on.

Do you have a favorite exercise?  

If I really had to choose…I would probably say bridges, roll downs, mermaid, and the one where you are horizontally jumping on the reformer! I also have a love-hate relationship with the elephant. I know that wasn’t just one exercise, but it’s hard to them narrow down – there are so many!

Joe Pilates famously thought that if the members of the UN could just do his first 10 exercises, we would finally have world peace.  What challenges – big or small, physical or mental – do you feel Pilates has helped you overcome?  

Pilates has really helped me overcome roadblocks when I workout by learning how to use your breath and constantly engaging your core muscles to help support movement and include more reps. Some of the breathing exercises involved in stretching and warming the muscles up are also really nice and meditative, so it relaxes the mind and body. You feel great afterwards!

Happy Earth Day! Getting grounded…

Sunday, April 22nd is Earth Day.  Fun fact!  Did you know that when you stand barefoot on natural ground, there is an electron transfer between your body, via the soles of your feet, and the earth?

This scientific phenomena is called “grounding,” sometimes also referred to as “earthing.”  Wearing shoes, which are rubber-soled and not conductive, prevents this natural process from occurring as we go about our day.  So, for Earth Day, get a little adventurous (or out there) with us and try some grounding!

  1. Find some natural ground – i.e. not covered in cement or pavement.  Grass will work, so will dirt, rocks, logs, etc.  You can go to a natural area such as your local park, step out into your backyard, or just find any patch of ground in between the concrete jungle…
  2. Take off your shoes!
  3. Stand on the ground.  That’s it, you’re grounding!


You could stand there and do nothing for 10 minutes and the process of grounding would take place.  According to those who study this phenomena, grounding can improve your mental clarity, your quality of sleep, increase your energy, and for some lessen chronic health condition.  However, I’m a movement person, and as much as I love some time outside in my bare feet, I’m probably not going to just stand there for ten whole minutes!  So, while you’re out there, here’s some kinesthetically-focused information to think on:

The bottoms of our feet are rick with sensory neurons which, when functioning well, provide feedback to our brains on our environment.  Our brains take in this information about our environment and use it to affect our motor control and balance.  The way our feet feel the surfaces we stand on affects how we load our knees, hips, and back, and how the muscles which affect our knees, hips, and back engage.  Feet which are “sensory deprived” may not give the necessary info up the chain, resulting in poor balance or gait mechanics (how we walk).

foot pain exerciseIn the Pilates studio, we take off our shoes, roll our feet on pinky balls, and balance on spiky domes — all activities which help to “wake up” and stimulate the sensory neurons in our feet.  These “awake” feet are then able to better sense the ground underneath them, adapt their shape to the ground, and thus inform the knee, hip, and back how to adapt to keep you safe, balanced and happily walking along, all without you having to stop or consider all the work your feet are doing.

To further appreciate how our brains use sensory information to affect our motor control, let’s consider the hands, an area we’re more used to thinking about in terms of fine motor control.  Imagine reaching deep into a bag to find your phone.  If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of stuff other than the phone in there, and your fingers brush against your water bottle, a notebook, a pack of gum, some old receipts, and whatever else.  With just a light brush, your fingers are able to determine within milliseconds “not the phone,” and within a few seconds find the object they’ve been searching for.

Now imagine reaching into your bag to find your phone while wearing thick mittens.  The mittens would mute your hands’ sensory awareness, and it would probably take much longer to find your phone – or you may have to recruit other senses, such as your eyes.  Remember that the process of “feeling the ground beneath you” happens with every step – waking your feet up can help you walk, stand, and balance much more efficiently.

So, as you are standing out there on your patch of natural ground this Earth Day, consider how by taking off your shoes you’ve “unmuted” your feet.  They can now feel a lot more than moments before.  Check in, and see how your feet feel on the ground.  Since muscle tension can also decrease sensation, let’s do some mobility exercises while we’re here.  Roll to the pinky toe side of your feet, slightly lifting the big toe side off the ground.  Roll to the big toe side of your feet, slightly lifting the pinky toe side off the ground.  Repeat several times.  Lift the toes off the ground, standing on your heels.  Lift the heels off the ground, standing on your toes.  Repeat several times.  Spread your toes.  Are you standing on grass?  If so, can you spread your toes wide enough to get grass between them?  Enjoy your new awake, happy, grounded feet – and Happy Earth Day!

7 Ways to Love Your Musculoskeletal System

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  On this day of love, your local Pilates studio would like to chime in with some simple ways to give your muscles and bones the care they deserve. As everyone who has just been to a great Pilates class knows, giving your body some love often makes the rest of you — be it mood, energy, or spirit — feel better too. So, on this Valentine’s Day, enjoy the chocolate, and as your digestive system is working on that, check out our list for your muscular-skeletal system:

  1. Constructive Rest Position.  A great way to do nothing while still providing your body with some great benefits. Spending 2-10 minutes in Constructive Rest Position lets the muscles in your neck, back, and hips release, often alleviating pain or discomfort.  
    Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. (Use a pillow behind your head if it helps your neck feel more comfortable.) Let your arms rest by your sides or cross across your torso.  Let the weight of the  rib cage sink into the floor, and the weight of the legs sink into your feet. Hang out, and just let things go!  Pro tip:  tie a yoga strap around your thighs so they don’t flop out to the sides, and you can relax the hip muscles even more.

    1. Pelvic Clocks.  We teach these to beginning Pilates students as a way to find your core and learn how to stabilize your pelvis.  They’re also a great exercise on their own to mobilize the lower back and release tension.Imagine your pelvis is a clock face, with your belly button as noon and your pubic bone as six. On an exhale, tip your pelvis towards noon, gently bringing your low back to to mat. On an inhaler tip your pelvis towards six, gently arching the low back away from the mat. Repeat 5-10 times. Pro-tip:  try tipping from 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock.
    2. Deep breathing.  Breathing is a cornerstone of Pilates.  Breathing deeply is also one of the was we can directly calm our “fight or flight” response.  I use this trick in traffic. 

      Imagine your torso is an empty glass of water. The bottom of the glass is the base of the pelvis (pelvic floor), and the top of the glass is the tops of your shoulders. As you breath in, start filling the glass, from all the way at the base.  Feel the breath travel up your spine, all the way into your shoulders. Exhale and slowly empty the glass, top to bottom.

    3. Neck release. Our necks take a lot of abuse with our screen-focused culture. Give your neck a break throughout the day with this simple release!
      Clasp your hands behind your head, holding the base of your skull in your hands.  Gently pull up.  Gently lean back — just a little, think 5-15 degrees — and let the weight of your head be supported by your hands. Ahh!
    4. Seated Spine Twist. Another movement we don’t get enough of is rotation.  You can do this one without even getting out of your chair.
      Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the back of your chair.  Look over your right shoulder, and use your hands to gently encourage the spine to twist to the right.  Take a few deep breaths, then repeat to the other side.
    5. Goal-post stretch.  This is another one which feels so good after a work day. Let the shoulders open up, and you’ll get some releif in your upper back as well.
      Lay on your back along a foam roller — make sure it supports your hips and your head. Bring your arms out to the sides and bend your elbows, like you’re making a “goal post” with your arms. Let the weight of your arms drop down towards the floor. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
    6. Hip-flexor stretch.  While you’re down there on the floor with your foam roller, why not give another often tight area of your body a release?  Sitting puts the hip flexors in a chronically shortened position. It’s nice to spend some time letting them lengthen…
    7. photo by Bénédicte Lasalle

      Lay on your back on the mat with your feet flat on the mat and the roller between your bum and your feet.  Lift up into a bridge and roll the roller under your hips.  Engage your core, and bring your legs up to table top. From that position, pull one knee into your chest and let the other leg lengthen over the roller. Hang out and breathe in that position for awhile – focus on letting the leg hang heavy and the ribs gently sink down towards the floor.

Bonus! Need a way to give your whole body some TLC?  Come to class!  A lot of these simple tricks we’ve mentioned above, and many more, are integrated into a Pilates workout.  We’ve added additional group classes to the schedule this year –  check them out, and join us for an hour of love!

Anatomy Moment: Good glutes!

Happy New Year!  I may be a little late, but it’s still the start of 2018, and a time of year that many people make body-related resolutions.  Goals are a great way to get motivated, so I’d like to offer a Pilates-themed one out there… what about for 2018 making a resolution to build a better butt?  Teehee!

Why would I care about your behind?  We’re a studio who’s focus is proper function, injury prevention, and pain reduction, so you won’t see tips and tricks for making your booty look better in jeans here.  However, a stronger behind will protect your back, knees, and hips – and that’s exactly what we care about.  Enjoying how you look after your training has paid off is just a side benefit.

Let’s start with the anatomy:  what are the glutes?  “Glutes” is a catch-all term describing all of the muscles on the back half of the pelvis.  While there are nine different muscles in this region (actually, 18 if you count each side separately!), the name “glutes” comes from the anatomical name for the three largest ones.  Let’s start there.  We have:


The Glute Max shown all alone – even without it’s friends, it’s very butt shaped!

  • gluteus maximus – the largest muscle of the three, which really gives the butt its quintessential butt shape
  • gluteus medius – the middle sized one of the three muscles.  Sometimes referred to as the “jean pocket” muscle, it is more on the sides than the exact rear
  • gluteus minimus – the smallest of the three, it lies below the gluteus medius and shares many of the same functions as its middle sibling

So, there’s three.  I told you there were nine on each side, so we’ve got a ways to go!  The other six are sometimes referred to as “the deep six.”  What you can tell from this name is that:

  1. The deep six lie below the other muscles.  Deep in anatomy is further from the skin surface.  A deep tissue massage is one which affects these deep muscles, as opposed to just the superficial ones close to the skin.
  2. The deep six share a similar function – otherwise they wouldn’t be grouped together when named.  Another example of a group of muscles sharing one colloquial name is “the rotator cuff” in the shoulder, which refers to a group of four muscles which support and stabilize the shoulder.  Some anatomists think of the deep six as the hip’s version of the shoulder’s rotator cuff.

Just for the fun of naming them, the deep six are the:

  • piriformis
  • obturator internus
  • obturator externus
  • gemellus inferior
  • gemellus superior
  • quadratus femoris

I personally consider the glute region to include ALL of these muscles – both the deep six and the three muscles which actually have the work root “glute” in their name.  However, functionally, they act quite differently.  In general:

  • the deep six act with the psoas muscle on the front of the pelvis to center the thigh bone in the hip socket.  They create small, precise movement which contribute to balance and stability.


Here’s a great example of the movement “abduction,” or bringing the legs out to the side.

  • the gluteus medius and minimus abduct, or move the leg out to the side.  Unless you’re laying on your side doing leg lifts, doing jumping jacks, or doing some cool side kicks on the dance floor, you may not be doing straight abduction in day-to-day life.  However, every step involves a moment of balance on one leg, and it is in the full gait cycle that the gluteus medius and minimus should be active to help move and stabilize the hip joint in the side-to-side plane.
  • the gluteus maximus extends the hip, or brings the leg behind the body.  Again, we have lots of exercises in the Pilates studio which target and strengthen the gluteus maximus.  However, the gluteus maximus also works in a healthy walking pattern.  Every time you step forward, the gluteus maximus is essentially “pushing” the ground behind you to propel you forward.  Walk up a hill, and the gluteus maximus is now pushing you up hill – a heavier load and more work!

So, from starting with nine different muscles in the region of “glutes,” we now have three different groups of glute muscles, each with a different function.  If you want to build your glutes this year, you can of course come to the studio, where we have a host of different exercises to target each one, and where we ca evaluate you to be sure your glutes are firing when they should be.  And when you’re not at the studio, here are a few simple things to do to build yourself a better booty in 2018:

  1. Get off your glutes.  When we’re sitting, the whole region is smushed and not doing much.  Stand up walk around, and get some circulation and movement down there.
  2. Every time you get up out of a chair, you’re essentially doing half a squat.  Squats are one exercise we frequently use at the studio to strengthen our clients’ glutes.  As you’re getting up from your chair (and off your glutes), think about feeling your weight on your heels.  Push through the heels as you stand up, rather than the toes, for more glute engagement.
  3. Stand on one leg.  Every step involves a brief moment of standing on one leg.  Ideally, our gluteus medius and minimus are working at this moment to stabilize the pelvis.  However, most of us don’t use these muscles much as we walk.  Stand on one leg with your pelvis even and hips level, and see if you can feel the engagement on the side of your hip – around where a jean pocket would be.  How long can you hold the stance?  I do this when I brush my teeth.  That’s a twice-daily glute workout, right?

    Walking is good for your glutes – walking on uneven ground is even better!

  4. Take walks.  Remember that the gluteus maximus is responsible for “pushing the ground behind you” as you walk.  Focus on that push off, as opposed to the leg swinging forward.  If appropriate for your body, take your walks up some hills.  Also if appropriate for you, start walking on uneven ground: beaches and hikes are great places for this.  Uneven ground challenges the small stabilizing deep six muscles to make their micro-adjustments at each step, and builds better balance.

That’s it for this month!  Here’s to health, happiness, and a better booty in 2018.  😉

Men Who Pilates

First, as a grammar nerd, I’d like to apologize for this post’s title.  Pilates is not a verb – it is a noun referring to the system of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates.  However, social media has changed everything, including our use of grammar.  The title of this post comes from a hashtag: #menwhopilates

If you haven’t seen it, here’s one of the most popular #menwhopilates posts :

Yes, that’s Kobe on a reformer!  Looks like he’s doing a prep for the Hundreds.

At Corpo Kinetic, we have men who do that too!

While Pilates originally had a reputation of only being done by rich women in between facials and hair appointments, in recent years I’ve seen a big change around that perception – and thank goodness.  Pilates is a challenging, adaptable system which is appropriate for men, women, injury rehab, and training for athletic performance.  Joseph Pilates, the founder, was a man after all:  a professional boxer who trained the Scotland Yard before emigrating to the USA, and is said to have spent his spare time walking around the streets of New York City smoking cigars.  The original spring equipment came from Joe’s work rehabilitating injured soldiers.

Let’s talk briefly about the Pilates springs:  they come in different colors.  The colors stand for different weights.  If a Pilates instructor needs to challenge you, they can adjust the springs to do so.  That means that if you’re grandmother and you were to do the same Pilates reformer exercise, the spring settings might be completely different.  Chances are, your grandmother would use lighter springs.  (But then, you never know:  I have worked with some incredibly strong seniors in my day.)

So men, welcome to the Pilates world.  We’re glad you’re here.  If you’re an athlete who’s forgotten to stretch for the past decade, we can help with that.  If you’ve realized your core strength has something to be lacking, we’re here for you.  If you’re hoping to train to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, have you tried lunges and mountain climbers on the Wunda chair?  They’ll make Kilimanjaro feel like a breeze.  Men, we got you!

Without further ado, here are a few of the men of Corpo Kinetic, with a brief statement on what they get out of their Pilates sessions:

“I started Pilates with a shoulder injury, but since then a lot more has benefited than my shoulder.  Through Pilates, I’ve learned about proper body mechanics and posture.  I feel like my weekly sessions are essentially an insurance policy which helps me nip things in the bud before they become an issue.  I go in with curiosities and leave with strength and understanding.”  – Dave K.

“Pilates has allowed me to regain the ability to once again enjoy many of the things I lost after I was injured and has lowered the amount of pain I’ve been living with for years.  On a day to day level, pilates helps me be much more functional.  Julia’s attention to detail and form is amazing and something I just wasn’t getting with physical therapy.  Pilates, without a doubt, has increased my quality of life and although I was hesitant to do it in the past, I’m now a firm believer!” – Mason K.

“Pilates is more than a physical activity. Balance is vital for a healthy lifestyle and Pilates provides me with the perfect balance between body and mind.”  – Angel B.

“Two words–fluid strength. That’s what this is all about.  I have rediscovered movement that had imperceptibly disappeared over the years and regained strength I thought was irreversibly gone. Now I am more present in my body, more active and find myself dancing in the kitchen again. But the real surprise and delight, in my experience, is that the exercises themselves go from embarrassing clumsiness to a dance, an unexpected grace, a growth of fluid strength. So you feel your progress in the moment as well as across time. And, inevitably in this process, you learn to know and experience your anatomy, musculature, breathing and balance. Hello body.”  – Richard B.
“Pilates gives me the opportunity to challenge my physical, emotional and psychological strength in ways that no other activity can. By engaging in Pilates on a regular basis, I have a chance to dialogue with myself about how I’m doing and how I’m feeling about my body and, by extension, about myself. It’s not for sissies, that’s for sure. But the end of each session comes with its own reward of satisfaction and gratitude.” – David H.

Client Spotlight: Meet Linda!

I first met Linda a little over a year ago when she came to the studio for private sessions in order to strengthen her core in order to help with an old back injury.  As a long-time yoga practitioner, Linda was already cued into the mind-body connection, and approached Pilates with an impressive eagerness to learn.  After several months of working together, Linda let me know that she felt strong enough to pursue a life-long dream of hers: to complete a yoga teacher training program.  After completing an 200 hour program over the course of nine months through the Niroga Institute, followed by 20 hours of service teachingwith a focus on reaching people without access to yoga, Linda is now a certified yoga instructor.  Way to go, Linda!
I don’t get to see Linda as often these days, as she’s gotten strong enough that she can work safely in our studio’s small group classes to maintain her core strength.  I’m so excited for Linda’s progress: that she got so much out of our private sessions, that she’s now comfortable in the group setting, and that she’s been able to take her yoga practice to the next level!  Like many of our clients, Pilates has been key to a helping Linda get past pain and on to what she loves to do.  Here’s my conversation with Linda:
J:  How long have you practiced yoga? 
L:  I first discovered yoga at the tender age of 20, more than 40 years ago.  Even though I’ve gone astray now and then, I always come back because it is so much a part of my sense of well-being.
J:  When did you first decide you wanted to do a yoga teacher training program? 
L:  I first contemplated yoga teacher training about a dozen years ago, but I had two very young daughters at the time and knew I wouldn’t be able to even keep up with the curriculum, let alone give it the time it deserved!

A couple of years later I injured by back, then spent many of the years following trying to find a doctor who didn’t want to operate, taking strong pain medication, getting physical therapy and chiropractic, all the while avoiding most of the activities I love – running, swimming, dancing, bike-riding, walking, even yoga.   I finally found a physical doctor who prescribed “therapeutic yoga,” and discovered, to my great relief, that one of my favorite early yoga teachers had a studio right down the street from home!  I could barely move when she and I started working one-on-one, then over time, as I felt better, I was able to take some beginner classes.

J:  Why did you originally start Pilates lessons?   
L:  A bit more than a year ago, a friend told me about Corpo Kinetic and how much she was being helped to recover from an injury. A total Pilates novice, I started training with Julia, eventually started taking some of the group classes and today I am stronger than ever – I just returned from a 4-day yoga retreat practicing many hours a day!
J:  Do you have a favorite Pilates exercise or technique?   
L:  I love to work with the springs on the Cadillac – I find that really fun, maybe like being in the circus!  I also love how building strength in my core and upper back has noticeably improved not only my posture, but my stamina throughout the day.  I love the concentration Pilates  requires. I believe Julia is a natural healer, and I really benefit from the mental pictures she creates to help me with my form.

Because of the strength and coordination I have built in my body with Pilates, as a yoga instructor I can demonstrate any pose with confidence  (even if I am not as flexible as I was years ago!)   I’m convinced that even beginning yoga students need core strength to practice safely, and I bring that to my teaching.  Pilates has also demonstrably improved my own yoga practice, because I rely on my “center” to support the rest of my body in a pose.

J:  I often get this question from people unfamiliar with Pilates: How is Pilates different from yoga?  You may be the perfect person to answer this question!  What do you think? 
L:  I think Pilates and yoga both can develop certain qualities like body awareness and strength.   I find Pilates different from yoga, however, in its unique focus on the precise alignment, engagement, and integration of our muscular-skeletal structure at a very deep level.  As yoga emphasizes flexibility and balance, these disciplines are a perfect pair!
J:  Joe Pilates famously thought that if the members of the UN could just do his first 10 exercises, we would finally have world peace.  What challenges – big or small, physical or mental – do you feel Pilates has helped you overcome?   
L:  I am so grateful that Pilates has given me back the courage to be physically active, and to pursue my long-time dream of being a yoga teacher.  Thank you Corpo Kinetic!
J:  Thanks, Linda, for taking the time to speak with me, and for being our client spotlight!

Moving Towards Fall: Join our Walk/Bike Challenge

As the days start getting shorter and we begin moving towards Fall, we’re trying something new at Corpo Kinetic.  In an effort to encourage us to keep all the benefits of summer hiking, walking, biking and outdoor activities going, we’re starting a Walk/Bike challenge!  Join us!

How it works:

  1. Walk or Bike to the studio instead of driving, and drop a chip in the jar when you arrive.
  2. Each chip represents $1 – when the jar is full, Corpo Kinetic will make a $100 donation to the Sierra Club!
    * Live too far away for a bike or walk commute?  You can still participate – keep reading!

Our Inspiration

Raise your hand if you want more movement in your life!  (Or better yet, raise both hands and reach your arms way above your head and enjoy a shoulder and spine stretch if you want more movement in your life!) If you’re a reader of these posts, chances are you recognize that movement is beneficial to your health, including small movements such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking stretch breaks at your desk, or spending 2-5 minutes on a foam roller.  Not all movement needs to be confined within an exercise class, or even within a full 30-minute bout, in order to give you very worthwhile benefits.

After a Pilates class, you probably feel good!  You may feel more aligned, balanced, and strong.  Your joints are moving well and your muscles are stretched and awake.  Small aches and pains may have subsided.  One of the great things about Pilates is that it works you out without beating you down.  After your session, you should feel energized, stretched, and ready for your day!  Now, how do we keep that feeling going during the time you’re not at the studio?

The easy answer to that is: do more Pilates!  (ha!  Yes, we’re a Pilates studio so of course that’s our first answer!)  Whether it’s a home program developed with your trainer or finding a group class which fits your schedule and needs, increasing the frequency of your Pilates practice will of course help you keep that great feeling of Pilates going throughout the week.

However, if devoting more time to your Pilates practice isn’t possible right now, finding ways to incorporate more movement into your life can help keep all those lubricated joints and activated muscles going in between sessions.  With our walk/bike challenge, we’re focusing on one way you can add more movement to the tasks you already do:  instead of commuting by sitting in your car, commute with movement!

Using commute time to get in more movement is pure gold – you already have to schedule time into your day to get places.  What if you could just block off a little more, and by doing so you doubled your movement time?   By applying your Pilates principles on your movement commute, you’ll be taking those lessons learned inside the studio out into the real world.

How to use your Pilates principles on a walk:

  1. Start with a neutral pelvis.  Place one hand on your stomach and the back of your other hand on your saccrum.  Make sure that your two hands are more or less parallel to the walls:not slanted forward (too much curve in the low back:  or slanted backwards (tail tucked under, too much tension in the glutes):A neutral pelvis is the best place for you to move from.
  2. As you walk, think about using your glutes as if you are pushing the ground behind you.  The glutes should be engaged with every step, but often our chair-heavy lives lead us to use only our hip flexors on the fronts of our hips, and not the glutes when walking.  Focus on the glutes and you’re stride will be stronger and longer!
  3. Look up!  Look around!  We’re often used to looking at screens just 20-40 inches from our face.  Not only is looking at things further away good for our eyes, but our vision is also a major contributor to our balance.  Change what you’re looking at, especially the distance and level of things you’re looking at.  You’ll be subtly challenging your balance with every step. 
  4. Breathe!  If you’ve been stuck in a chair for most of the day with your arms and shoulders in mostly one position, you may not have been breathing deeply either.  Swing your arms, and take deep breaths as you walk – doing so will bring more oxygen to your muscles and help mobilize your shoulders, ribcage and thoracic spine from the inside out.

How to use your Pilates principles on your bike:

  1. Start with a long neutral spine.  Too often I see people riding with a very rounded lower or upper back – aim to start more in a neutral, hips, ribs, shoulders, and back of head all in one line. 
  2. Draw the belly to your spine to engage your core.  Keep your pelvis as stable as you can as you pedal – the force should come from your legs.
  3. Support your shoulders by drawing your shoulder blades down your back.  Make sure you are lifting out of the shoulder girdle, as you would in your Pilates plank, not collapsing into it.

    lifted and supported shoulder girdle

    collapsed shoulder girdle

  4. Push with your glutes!  Your quads will and should work on a bike, but it’s all about balance:  since we tend to be a quad dominant society, focus on using your glutes as you press down on the pedals to help balance things out.

Ready to try a movement commute to the studio?

Keep in mind that this isn’t an all-or-nothing challenge.  Walk or bike once and you’ll still contribute to the cause.  Walk or bike a lot and you’ll contribute a lot.  I think that an all-or-nothing approach to exercise is one of the greatest things keeping us from moving.  Doing something differently takes all sorts of getting over inertia and potentially reorganizing your thinking (not to mention reorganizing the stuff you have to bring with you).  A little is still something – commit to trying the movement commute once this month and see how you feel!

Do you like the idea but live too far from the studio for this to be feasible for you?  Maybe you could replace some of your driving commute with walking by parking further away from the studio.  Or consider public transit as a go-between: we’re about a 15-20 minute walk from both the Ashby and Rockridge BART stations.  For purposes of this challenge, there’s no rule on how much distance you need to walk or bike to make it count – as long as you are moving yourself more than you normally do on your way to Pilates, it counts!

We look forward to moving with you!  If you’re not following us on Facebook and Instagram, this is a good month to follow us.  We’ll be sharing our stories of our walk and bike commutes with the hashtag #movetocommute, and encourage you to as well!

Facebook: Corpo Kinetic

Instagram: @ckpilatesstudio

Our Rehab Approach

This month, I wanted to offer an inside look into our approach to rehab at Corpo Kinetic.  While most readers of this blog are most likely familiar with Pilates and the benefits it can offer to core strength as well as overall fitness and flexibility, you may not be as familiar with how a Pilates studio approaches injury rehabilitation.

Let’s start with the basics:  What is Rehab?

Rehab is a broad term which relates to treatments intended to aid in recovery.  For us, we’re talking more specifically about recovery from musculoskeletal injury.  Many professionals can help you recover from such an injury, including your medical doctor, a physical therapist, and a chiropractor.  Massage therapists and fitness professionals who have been trained in how to work with injuries can also be a part of your rehab team.

The musculoskeletal injury treatment team

When you have an acute injury (acute = just happened, as opposed to chronic = been with you awhile), a medical doctor is usually your first go-to.  Your doctor can diagnose your injury, which is helpful because diagnoses often come with a treatment plan.  You now have years of medical research at your side telling you what has and has not worked for other people with your condition!

Depending on the injury (and, getting real here, depending on your insurance plan…), a medical doctor may refer you to a physical therapist for treatment.  These days, recent physical therapist graduates have gone through a three-year program, and are doctors themselves.  While physical therapists will use the application of heat, cold, stem machines, and more to treat injury (there are some cool tools out there!), the majority of their treatment time is in manual therapy and exercise.  In many cases, a physical therapists will perform the manual therapy and assign exercises, which will be taught and/or supervised by a physical therapist aide (often a young student who’s hoping to be accepted to a physical therapist doctorate program).

If you’re more into the alternative health route, you may start by taking your injury to a chiropractor.  Chiropractors are also doctors and can diagnose injuries.  All chiropractors are trained in joint manipulation, and if your injury is caused by or exasperated by a joint being out of place, they can help.  Some chiropractors (and, IMHO, the best chiropractors) also treat muscles and other soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, and fascia – the stuff that connects stuff).  In my experience, treating muscles as well as bones works better because tightness in the soft tissues may be pulling the bones out of alignment, and just treating the bones may leave you with a tight muscular structure which will pull you back into your misalignment soon after you leave the chiropractic office.

And now we get to who we are at Corpo Kinetic: massage therapists and Pilates instructors who have been trained to work with injuries.  That is quite a mouthful!  The reason for it is that not all massage therapists or Pilates instructors have the training to specifically work in a rehabilitative manner.  Learning about rehab care in the massage and Pilates world is continuing education – it is additional to the basic training required in order to be certified.

The trainers who offer rehab services at Corpo Kinetic are unique in that we are BOTH massage therapists AND Pilates instructors, AND we have additional training in each field to work with injuries.

The tools we use at Corpo Kinetic in our rehab services are two-fold.  As certified massage therapists, we can use massage and manual therapy to release tension in the soft tissues (muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons), and as certified Pilates instructors we can help you strengthen areas which need strengthening as well.  This two-fold approach can be very powerful in getting past injury.

Why would you see us as opposed to a physical therapist or chiropractor?  Your health care team is ultimately up to you.  Pilates and massage, even when combined in a rehab setting, should not replace an evaluation from a trained medical professional such as your doctor, a physical therapist, or a chiropractor.  Depending on your injury, our rehab services may be a good fit for you either as your main source or rehabilitative care or as an addition to the care you are getting in a medical setting.  Here are some examples of the types of clients who see us for rehab:

  1. Physical therapy has helped!  But you’re still not back to your full functioning.  Unfortunately, many insurances will only pay for a certain amount of physical therapy per injury.  If you’re better but still not back to all the physical activities you’d like to do, you may just need more care.  We can help pick up where your physical therapy left off.
  2. You’re currently doing physical therapy, but you want more supervised movement.  If you’re lucky, you get to see your physical therapists twice a week, but often PT appointments are weekly or even less frequent.  To get past an injury, you need to be doing your physical therapy exercises more frequently, and for best results you want to make sure that you’re doing your exercises with the best form and alignment.  In these cases, our rehab trainers make a great addition to your team, helping you maintain good form and strengthen the appropriate muscles in between your physical therapy appointments.
  3. Your doctor has offered medical interventions such as steroids and surgery, but you’d like to try a more conservative approach first.  Because surgery has risk of complication, and is essentially another injury the body will have to recover from, many people would like to avoid surgery if possible, or delay it as long as possible.  Some people also believe that steroids do more to mask symptoms than treat the cause of injury.  Many people turn to Pilates when they are seeking to avoid back surgery, and adding manual therapy with our rehab services can be even more effective.  Even in cases of more advanced osteoarthritis, where eventually a joint may need to be replaced, I have seen our rehab services decrease pain, increase mobility, and push back a surgery date, adding years of healthy function.  Manual therapy and strengthening exercises can help make sure that the musculature around the joint isn’t pulling it out of alignment, which would increase the bone-on-bone rubbing which causes pain and lack of mobility.
  4. You’re seeing a chiropractor, and you both feel strengthening is the next step towards getting you back to full functioning. If you keep getting adjusted and the pain or injury keeps coming back, you may need to strengthen the musculature around the area.  Increased muscular support can help you resist the loads you’re placing on your body as you go about your daily life, helping you hold your adjustment for longer.
  5. You have a chronic injury you’d like to address.  Let’s go back to semantics: acute and chronic injuries raise different alarm bells in the treatment world.  For acute injuries, think:  this just happened!  lots of pain!  need help now!  Acute injuries are best initially evaluated by a medical doctor or chiropractor for diagnosis.  For chronic injuries, think of the old ankle sprain that keeps acting up, the “bad back” you’ve had ever since becoming a mom, your “weak knee,” or the old shoulder injury from playing football in high school.  These types of injuries often don’t require immediate medical attention: in many cases you’ve already gotten help from a medical professional back when the injury initially occurred.  However, as we age with injury, the scar tissue that originally helped stabilize the area can get “gummy,” restricting mobility and causing compensation patters.  The result can be unbalanced areas of weakness and restriction, which can be addressed very well with a combination of manual therapy to release the “gummy” areas and strengthening exercises to correct the years-old compensation patterns.

How do rehab services work at Corpo Kinetic?

When a new rehab client comes to our studio, we start with a 90 minute initial appointment.  This longer session allows us to do a thorough intake and assessment.  We’ll start with a conversation with you.  We want to know the history of the injury, what you’ve done so far to help it, what has helped, what hasn’t, and very importantly: your goals.  Are you looking for pain relief?  Are you looking to be able to return to your full athletic functioning?  Both?  Assessments might include evaluating your range of motion, a postural analysis, watching you move, and muscle testing to determine relative strength.  Then, depending on your injury, the session will proceed with a combination of manual therapy and Pilates strengthening exercises.

Follow up appointments are typically an hour.  We always do a quick intake and assessment to make sure things are progressing as expected, or allow us to change course if need be.  Often, as injuries improve, clients will find themselves receiving less manual therapy and doing more rehabilitative Pilates.  As appropriate for you and your injury, we may suggest some exercises to do at home, or even lifestyle changes if it seems like some simple changes could improve your progress.  (These changes are usually simple, such as changing shoes to addressing how or how much  you sit.)  If possible, we suggest rehab appointments be scheduled twice a week.  If scheduling only allows a weekly visit, we may be able work with that as well, but we will likely spend more time developing a home program and making sure you are confident with doing those exercises well on your own.  When exercising, frequency matters, and if you’re recovering from injury we want to be sure you get the benefit of adequate frequency.

That’s it for this month!  I hope you have a better idea of how our rehab services work, and how they can fit in with your current plan for injury recovery.  If you are wondering if we may be able to help you, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 510-463-1473 or email us at info@corpokinetic.com.

Anatomy Moment: A Trip Around the Hip

As we get into the summer months, I thought, what better time to write about the hip?  Just kidding -there’s no seasonal reason for my post, but I am inspired to spend some time breaking down the anatomy of the hip and pelvis, as I find in my classes and sessions that is it an often misunderstood (or not-well-understood) area.  As you know if you’ve been reading these posts for awhile, we are anatomy nerds here at Corpo Kinetic, and we love sharing.  Here we go!

What exactly is the hip?  In everyday language, it tends to reference a very broad area of the body including the boney points in the front where we would rest a belt, the musculature on the sides of the pelvis, and occasionally the glutes (butt muscles) as well.  Somewhere in that broad structure of bones and muscle we know there’s a joint called the hip socket or hip joint.  Are the muscles on the insides of our legs part of the hip?  What about the boney structure slightly above the glutes, in the center?  Is that low back or hip?

The general amorphous quality of the word “hip” explains why, if someone comes into our studio complaining of hip pain, our first question will likely be, “where in the hip?”  Outside of the Pilates studio, there may be no need to be so specific, but inside the studio, knowing specifically what part of your anatomy is bothering you can help us to better treat the cause of your discomfort.  When my anatomy brain starts to break down and explain the colloquial term “hip,” the first thing I go to is:

It’s actually many parts.

Look at that!  Look at how many labels there are!  And those are just the bones!  Those labels are just some of the many smaller parts which make up what we think of as the “hip.”  Labels and names are a fun thing to think about if you’re an anatomy nerd.  However, whether you’re ready to dive deep into learning anatomy or not, some basic knowledge about the function of our hip is useful in understanding why we have all those labeled parts.  When I think function of the hip, two things come to mind:

  • The hip is responsible for transferring the load of the upper body to the lower body.  (And that load includes the weight of the upper body as well as everything the upper body is carrying, from grocery bags to backpacks.)
  • Fluid mobility of the hip is crucial for keeping stress out of our knees, feet, and lower back as we bend, get up from sitting, go down stairs, and more.

Pilates works on creating stability in parts which are too mobile and mobility in parts which are too sticky.  When we look at core function, hip musculature which is not mobile enough can decrease the ability of your core to fire correctly.  On the flip side, hips which are too mobile can transfer unwanted movement up into the lower back, potentially causing pain and injury.  It’s all about balance, and luckily that’s something we thrive at in Pilates – creating balanced support for the body.

Let’s get down to business.  Here is our picture from before, a side view of the right hip.

If we were to have this person take a quarter turn and face us, we would see something like this, a picture of the right and left hips, connected by the pelvis:

Let’s break it down!  My first matter of business is a small clarification from the perspective of anatomical language.  “Hip” is a vague term, as discussed above, so for clarity I prefer to talk about the “hip sockets and pelvis.”  Remember all that other stuff from my initial question, “What is the hip?”  We had:

  1. boney points in the front where we would rest a belt
  2. the musculature on the sides of the pelvis
  3. the glutes (butt muscles)
  4. a joint called the hip socket or hip joint
  5. the muscles on the insides of our legs
  6. the boney structure slightly above the glutes, in the center

Number 4 from above is the hip socket.  The rest of the bones listed above (1 & 6), are part of the pelvis.  Numbers 2, 3 and 5 I would call muscles which move the hip socket.  Are all of these part of the hip?  Yes because that’s how we tend to talk about it in everyday language, and no because the hip socket is actually a very small component of the area we tend to refer to when we say hip, and the rest of our boney structure is the pelvis.

Starting with the pelvis, if you were to sassily put your hands on your hips, they would most likely land on a ridge of bone which wraps around the sides of your body, including the back and the front.  That ridge is part of one of the most easily felt bones of the pelvis called the ilium (actually, you have two, a right and left ilium).  Your hands are resting on a part of the bone called the iliac crest.  It’s easily felt because it’s not densely covered in muscle, as is the majority of the rest of the ilium.  The ilium bones serve several important functions, including housing and protecting our pelvic organs (those are important!), and providing large surface areas for muscles which move the hip socket to attach.

If you follow that ridge to the front and down a couple inches or so from the top, you’ll find a more pointy part which sticks out to the front.  This point is called the “anterior superior iliac spine.”  (Got that?  Anatomists often call it ASIS for short, so let’s follow their lead.)

The parts of bones which are easily felt and sort of “stick out” are often referred to as “boney landmarks” because they give us information on the placement of things we can’t as easily feel or see beneath the surface.  The ASISs are an important boney landmark for looking at the levelness of your pelvis.  Your Pilates instructor might check the levelness of your right and left ASISs to determine if your pelvis is level side to side.  We can also use the ASIS with other boney landmarks to determine if your pelvis is level front to back.

If you walk your hands back up to the top of your iliac crests (where you put your hands sassily on your hips earlier) and then follow the crest towards your back, they will slope down and together.  As you follow those slopes, you might feel two little dimples.  These are your sacroiliac joints, or SI joints for short.  In very close proximity to the SI joints are the posterior superior iliac spines (PSISs).  When you are standing and the PSIS and ASIS are level, then your pelvis is level front to back.

Did you have a hard time feeling the dimples or PSISs?  Don’t worry.  They are far less prominent than the ASISs.  When I was a new instructor, it took me quite some time and checking multiple different pelvises before I felt confident that I was on the right spot.  We use the PSISs as instructors because it is more precise, however a far easier way to check where your pelvis is on your own (and for everyday use precise enough) is to use a different boney landmark.

So – come back to your sassy hands on hips position.  Follow that boney ridge, your iliac crest down to your ASISs.  Keep walking your hands down and together.  We have more muscle here, so you may loose track of the iliac crest – you can use the crease in your pants where the leg meets the pelvis as a guide.  When your hands meet in the center, you’ll be on what we often refer to in the Pilates studio as the pubic bone.  If you look back at our front-facing picture above, they’ve labeled the point in the center as the “pubic symphysis.”  We actually have two pubic bones, a right and a left, which are connected by a dense and fibrous tissue called the pubic symphysis.  This connection is mostly immobile (and should be).  Fun fact, during pregnancy the body releases a hormone which relaxes all ligaments in preparation for birth, including the fibrous pubic symphysis.  This is why we modify certain leg exercises for momma’s-to-be.  Mommas need to be strong, and in most cases can work out hard, but we want to promote that strength without creating shearing at the pubic symphysis.

So – you know where your pubic bone is and where your ASISs are.  If you put the heels of your hands on your ASIS’s and your fingertips on your pubic bone, you can now line up your ASISs and your pubic bones in a vertical plane.  This is another way to tell if your pelvis is level front/back, and usually fairly easy for us to check on our own.

Let’s land on the iliac crests again (sassy hips), then take our trip back around to the PSISs and SI joints.  Walk your hands one more time down and together along the iliac crests and eventually land on those dimples.  Remember that the name of those dimples is the Sacro-Iliac Joint.  Iliac stands from the ilium part of the joint, which we’ve already visited.  Sacro stands for the sacrum, which is the broad flat part in the center back of your pelvis.  Here’s a view of the pelvis and hip joints from the back, as if the person were facing away from us.

It provides a good view of the slope down from the iliac crest (sassy hips!) to the sacroiliac joints, and the sacrum nestled in between the right and left iliums.   At the base of the sacrum lies the tail bone, or coccyx.  There is actually also a joint between the sacrum and coccyx, and the tailbone can move, occasionally being displaced.  The name of this joint is kind of fun:  sacrococcygeal.

At this point, we’ve visited three joints of the hips and pelvis which we often don’t think of as joints: the pubic symphysis (front, down, and center), the sacroiliac joint (on the back, the dimples at the top of the sacrum), and the sacrococcygeal joint (between the sacrum and tailbone).  These three are joints because they do move, but key to their health is that they actually don’t move very much.  Most of the movement in our hips and pelvis should come from the true hip joint – where the thigh bone meets the pelvis.  This joint is a classic “ball in socket” joint, and it’s mobility allows us to squat to the floor, climb mountains, ride horses, and much more.  This is the joint that we want to keep mobile, in all planes of motion, so that our smaller, less mobile joints are not overly stressed.

Phew!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip around the hip.  Now take your newfound knowledge and move it!  If you’re not coming to the Pilates studio today, taking a walk up some serious hills is a great way to get mobility and strength in your hips.  See you soon!