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

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!

Modifications for common injuries, part 2

I was listening to Katy Bowman’s podcast over at Nutritious Movement, and loved her advice to someone who wanted to keep moving her body, but had plantar fasciitis (a painful inflammation of the fascia on the bottoms of the feet).  With plantar fasciitis, she couldn’t keep up her usual walking.  Katy’s advice?  Get down on the floor!  Roll around!  There are so many other body parts you can move, move those!

I love Pilates for how versatile it is – it’s a great way to keep all healthy parts of you moving and strengthening!  Last month, we looked some ways we work with  low back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome at Corpo Kinetic.  This month, we’re looking at two additional common sites of concern: knee and neck pain.  We’ll look at how we can modify challenging exercises to take stress off of an area while still strengthening the rest of the body.  We’ll also look at some orthopedic body work techniques and gentle rehabilitative Pilates exercises designed to help an injury get better.

Knee Pain

Knee pain sometimes comes with a diagnosis of patellar femoral syndrome from your doctor.  Whether diagnosed or not, if your knees hurt you know it!  Often your knees will talk to you as you go up or down stairs, when you have to kneel or get down to the floor, or after higher impact exercises such as running.

Traditional Pilates exercise: Squats!

Squats are an excellent exercise which strengthens the muscles which support the knees.  If your knees are healthy and happy, getting into this deep squat with the balance challenge of the springs is a good thing to do to keep them so, but if you have knee pain the deep squat may aggravate the problem.

Modified Pilates exercise

If your knees need more support, a smaller squat with the more stable push through bar can be a great way to strengthen the muscles of the legs, adding support to the knees.  A ball between the inner thighs can help the knee track properly, avoiding the pain on the inside of the knee as the squat deepens.  

Rehab: Orthopedic Bodywork

Sometimes knee pain is caused by a poorly tracking kneecap, or patella.  If there is too much tension on the quad muscle on the outside of the thigh, that can pull the kneecap to the side, causing grinding and discomfort at the kneecap.  Orthopedic bodywork can release excess tension, allowing the kneecap to glide more freely.

Rehab: gentle and specific Pilates exercise

Proper knee alignment during movements such as squatting and climbing stairs is key to avoiding knee pain.  If the muscles on the outsides of your hips are weak or not activating properly, your knees will drift towards your midline as you bend your knees, and that’s not a happy place for them to be.  This exercise is essentially doing a one-legged squat while laying down – which takes the load of gravity off the knee, and allows you to focus on good alignment throughout the movement.  Laying on your side also puts those muscles on the outsides of your hips under a particular load so that it’s easier to target them and build strength without pain.

A Pain in the Neck!  

Whether caused by a specific injury such as whiplash or a general tension pattern from a lot of time at the computer, neck pain can be debilitating – in some cases leading the headaches, in others a reduced range of motion, or the inability to turn your head fully to one side.

Traditional Pilates Exercise:  The Hundreds!

Remember the hundreds from our last post?  The hundreds is a traditional Pilates ab buster, but one which can be aggravating when working with injury.  In the case of neck pain, holding your head up against gravity can strain tight muscles.  If all you’re feeling while you’re trying to strengthen your core is tightness is your neck, you aren’t getting the benefit out of the exercise.  Time to modify!

Modified Pilates exercise

Placing a magic circle behind the head allows you to relax the weight of the head into the support.  The neck is free and easy, while the abdominals work like crazy to hold the weight of the head, shoulders, and arms off the floor.  Once the neck is supported and relaxed, you can focus on the purpose of the exercise – abs!

Rehab: orthopedic bodywork

If your neck has been carrying a lot of tension, Active Release Technique is a great modality which incorporates an active stretch with manual therapy applied to the tightest fibers.  Releasing chronic tension in your neck can help your shoulders and upper back feel better and move better as well.

Rehab: Gentle and specific Pilates exercise

Key to resolving neck pain is proper shoulder stabilization so that every action we do with our arms doesn’t translate up into tension in the neck.  This exercise teaches shoulder mechanics and helps strengthen the muscles which stabilize the scapula on the ribcage.  When these are strong, our arms can connect into our trunk, and our neck can rest free and easy on top.

That’s it for this month!

If you are considering Pilates and are curious about where to start, give us a call at 510-463-1473.  We’re happy to chat with you to see if we might be a good fit.

Modifications for common injuries

One of the things I love about Pilates is that it is a highly versatile system of exercise, which can be gentle enough for rehabilitation, and yet challenging enough for athletic conditioning.  When you want to strengthen but you’re working with an injury, you can count on your Pilates instructors to keep you safe, help you heal, and give all the other body parts a workout while we’re at it.  This month, we’re focusing on how Pilates accommodates injuries.  We’ll show you some ways we modify exercises to keep you safe while you strengthen, as well as highlighting how we use orthopedic bodywork and rehab-specific exercises to help the injury get better.

While rest is a vital component of recovery, Pilates is exceptionally good at keeping all of those other body parts moving while the injured part gets some TLC.  In fact, working with an injury is what drew me to the Pilates system in the first place.  After tearing my ACL (a major stabilizing ligament in the knee), I was looking at months of being out of my usual dance classes.  I was bored, emotional, and my body missed movement like nothing else.  Putting full weight on my leg hurt, but I could walk into the Pilates studio with crutches, lay down on the reformer, and still be able to strengthen and challenge the rest of my body.  My sessions with my Pilates trainer lifted my mood and kept me sane while I was recovering.  In the meantime, I strengthened my core and upper body so that I came back almost stronger than before the injury.  Along with my highly talented surgeon who hooked me up with a new ACL, I credit Pilates with all the professional dancing I did post-recovery.

But enough about me.  How do we help you and our other clients going through a similar journey? Here are a couple common areas of pain or injury we see often at Corpo Kinetic, and some ways we address them.

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is so common in our culture that it is just written out as an acronym among medical professionals:  LBP.  Because low back pain is often accompanied by a weak or under-active core, we tend to see a lot of clients looking to improve their back pain through Pilates.  However, traditional abdominal exercises, even those done in a typical Pilates class, may not be appropriate if your back hurts, and may even end up making it worse.

Traditional Pilates Exercise: The Hundreds

The hundreds: the traditional Pilates abdominal buster we all love to hate.  You will definitely feel that deep abdominal burn in this one, but if you’re not able to also recruit the inner core unit to properly stabilize your lower back, you may end up making your back pain worse.

Modified Pilates Exercise

By keeping your legs in table top, the stress of holding your legs up is much less, and you can focus on feeling the engagement of the inner core unit, which stabilizes your lower back.  As you get stronger, your trainer can have you straighten the legs up to the ceiling.  As you gain strength, you can work on lowering your legs with proper low back stabilization, getting closer to the full “hundreds,” pictured above.

Rehab: Orthopedic Bodywork

The muscles of the lower back often get over tight in instances of low back pain.   While stretches can help, orthopedic bodywork can pinpoint and release the cause of the pain, and help reset the nervous system so that the pain is less likely to recur.

Rehab: gentle and specific Pilates exercise
With acute low back pain, learning where the inner core unit is and how to activate it is critical.  Stabilizing your pelvis and lower back while balancing on the roller teaches a recruitment of the transversus abdominus, pelvic floor, and lumbar multifidi muscles, all which need to be active to progress to more advanced core strengthening.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

While the surge in ergonomics and postural education has helped, carpal tunnel syndrome is still considered a very common injury.  Marked by a numbness or tingling in the hands, it can make any repetitive motion which involves the wrist painful, and can make it challenging to develop upper body strength without aggravating the wrists.

Traditional Pilates Exercise: Long Stretch

Pilates loves to plank, and for those looking for a good heavy-hitter exercise which can strengthen shoulders, back, core and legs all at once, this version called “long stretch” will get you there.  However, if you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, this version of the exercise would be off limits due to the stress placed on the wrists.

Modified Pilates Exercise

Putting the forearms on the box takes all the pressure off the wrists, giving you all the benefits of strengthening your shoulders, back, core and legs – without aggravating your carpal tunnel syndrome.

Rehab: Orthopedic Bodywork

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be aggravated by too much tension on the wrist flexors and transverse carpal ligament, which then compress the space the median nerve has to pass through the carpal tunnel.  By relieving tension on these structures, the space for the median nerve can be restored, reducing symptoms

Rehab: gentle and specific Pilates exercise
In some cases, weakness in the shoulder musculature can cause the wrist flexors to be overactive, leading to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  If this is the case, cuffs can be used to take stress off the wrists during strengthening of the shoulder muscles.  When using the wrist cuffs, the hands and muscles of the forearms can remain relaxed, and the work is focused where we want it – in the muscles of the shoulders. 


That’s it for this month!

We hope you’ve enjoyed a look at how we modify for common injuries, as well as the glimpse at how we use orthopedic bodywork and rehab-specific Pilates exercises.  Stay tuned next month when we’ll look at knee and neck pain!

Anatomy Moment: the shoulder girdle

Shoulders have been on my mind lately.  Sometimes in the rehab and movement world we see themes in our clients, and lately our clients have been bringing us lots of shoulder puzzles.  So thank you all — you know who you are! — for the inspiration of this Anatomy Moment.

What is the shoulder girdle?  Let’s start with that often confusing word “girdle” – we’re not talking shape-wear here.  Merriam-Webster’s defines girdle as “something that encircles or confines.”  I LOVE this definition, in particular the image of encircling, as that is exactly what the bones that make up the shoulder girdle do: they cover a  360 degree range, encompassing the front, sides, and back of our trunk.

The bones.  This picture is looking down on a skeleton, with the head and neck bones removed.  The white bones in at the top center of the image which poke up are the vertebrae which make up the spine.  The long white circular bones are the ribs.  The shaded grey bones, with the exception of the central hexagonal bone on the bottom (we’ll get to that one later) make up the shoulder girdle.

The shoulder girdle is officially made up of six bones: a right and left clavicle (or collar bone), a right and left scapula (or shoulder blade), and a right and left humerus (or upper arm bone).  These bones sit on top of our ribcage, much as a queen’s cape would sit on top of her torso.  Imagine the collar bones as the strings which tie the cape in the front, and the shoulder blades and arms the heavy velvet which make up the cape.  (Most of the cape is behind the queen, while some of it wraps around her sides.  The side parts of the cape are analogous to our arms, the back of the cape to our shoulder blades.)  Because the cape is one unit, any movement of one part will effect the rest:

  • If you tug the cape down in the back, the strings will pull upwards towards the neck.  If you place your fingers on your collar bones, and then gently drag your shoulder blades downwards towards your hips, you should feel the collar bones gently rolling up towards your neck.
  • If you pull the sides of the cape forward around the body, the fabric on the back of the cape will stretch taught.  Reach your arms as far forward as you can – really stretch them out, like you’re trying to grab something just out of your reach!  You should feel a gentle stretch in your upper back.
  • If you were to lift the back of the cape up towards the back of the head, you would get a lot of scrunching of the fabric around the neck, and you may start to feel a connection between your “shoulder girdle cape” and your neck musculature.

Joints: the place where two bones meet.  As mentioned in our foot post, where we have bones we have joints, and where we have joints we have movement.  The joints of the shoulder girdle are unique, as they allow for a huge range of motion unseen anywhere else in the human body.  The simple movement of raising your hand above your head actually involves movement at three joints!

The first and most obvious joint is the glenohumeral joint.  This is where the upper arm bone (or humerus) meets the shoulder blade.  (Gleno- comes from the fact that the part of the shoulder blade which is in contact with the humerus is called the glenoid fossa.)  If you raise your arm from your side to shoulder height, that’s a movement at your glenohumeral joint.

The next joint of the shoulder is the acromioclavicular joint, where the collar bone (or clavicle) meets the shoulder blade (particularly the acromion process of the shoulder blade).  If you were to wear a coat with epaulettes — or maybe just a really good blazer from the 80s with some fantastic shoulder pads — the widest part of your coat would be about where your acromioclavicular joint is.

The third joint of the shoulder girdle is the sternoclavicular joint.  If you find the widest part of your shoulder (right under that fantastic shoulder pad), and then trace the long, thin collar bone inwards towards your midline, right where the collar bone ends is the sternoclavicular joint, where the collar bone (or clavicle) meets the breastbone (or sternum).

Did anyone notice that we have another bone in play here???  The sternum, or breastbone, is the long flat bone in the center of the chest.  It’s located about where a necklace would hang.  Going back to this picture from earlier, it’s the hexagonal bone shaded grey in the center bottom of the drawing.  It’s not an official part of the shoulder girdle, instead anatomists consider it part of the torso.  Thus, this spot where the collar bone meets the sternum is where your shoulder girdle attaches to your trunk.

Find your sternoclavicular joint again, and then move your arm around.  Raise it all the way up above your head, and then put it back down.  Trace a big circle with your hand, all the way in front of you, all the way, up, all the way behind you and back down.  You should feel some movement at your sternoclavicular joint.  While the degree of movement is much less here than all the way out at your hand, you should feel some:  the collar bone will raise and lower with the arm.  We often don’t think of our shoulders starting this close to our midlines, but they do!

NOW!  I would like to come back to the point that the sternum the ONLY boney connection between your shoulder girdle and your torso.  That’s right.  While the arm bone and shoulder blades have muscles which attach to the torso, the only boney connection your arm has to your trunk is that tiny sterno-clavicular joint.  Amazing!

Why is this important?  A boney connection, or joint, is supported by ligaments.  Ligaments are tough, fibrous tissue which bind one bone to another.  While they are designed to allow movement, their main job is to stabilize and support the joint.  For the shoulder girdle, we only have one tiny joint — and one small set of ligaments — to support the wide range of motion our arms are capable of.

This wide range of motion our shoulders are capable of, supported by such a tiny boney connection, puts more of the jobs of stabilization and creating balanced movement on to our muscles.  This is why balanced strength and flexibility throughout the musculature of the shoulder girdle is important, and why Pilates upper body strength work incorporates not just movement of the arm, but full range of motion of the shoulder girdle.  We talk a lot about how to best position your shoulders for optimal muscular control, and what muscles you should be feeling when.  Check out our Arms & Abs: Pilates for Upper Body Strength class on Tuesday mornings if you’re ready to build your strength.  If you’ve been dealing with a shoulder issue and need to restore the health of your shoulders first, try our Therapeutic Pilates Springboard on Tuesday evenings.

Sign up, or see our full group class schedule.

Group Class F.A.Q.

What’s your group class schedule?
We currently have group classes six days a week.  Our most up-to-date schedule is on our Group Pilates Classes page.  If you want to be notified of when we add new group classes, I recommend joining our mailing list.

group Pilates classes, Pilates classes in OaklandDo I have to come to the same class every week?
Nope!  Our classes work on a drop-in basis, meaning that you are free to come to whichever class matches your ability and schedule.

That said, most clients find that coming to the same class(es) on a weekly basis works best for them as they build Pilates into their life.  If you’re going out of town or have a conflict one week, you are free to come to a different class or skip a week.  We want you to build a Pilates practice which works with your life, and while most people find they do that best by making a consistent commitment, we don’t hold you to it – that part is up to you!

How much does a class cost?
Springboard classes start at $35 for a drop in, and then have packages of:

  • 4 for $120
  • 8 for $220
  • 12 for $300

We offer one mat class on Wednesday mornings, and rates for that start at $30 for a drop in, or:

  • 4 for $100
  • 8 for $180
  • 12 for $245

Please note that the packages are promotional, and they will expire if you don’t use them within a given time frame.  See the rate section on our group class page for specifics.
– Why the difference in cost?  The Springboard equipment costs more to maintain, and we can accommodate one less person in a Springboard class.

group Pilates classes, Pilates classes in OaklandIf I buy a package, do I have to come every week?
Nope!  We build in some “cushion” to our promotional packages to allow for the occasional week out of town or scheduling conflict.
–  What happens if I’m going out of town for an extended time?  We are happy to extend the expiration date of your package.  The expiration date is meant as an incentive to help you take care of your body while you’re in town, not to punish you for taking some time away.

How big are your classes?
We pride ourselves in keeping our group classes small.  All Springboard classes are a maximum of four attendees.  Our mat class is slightly bigger at five.  This allows us to keep an eye on everyone, and offer individual attention in the group setting.  We care about helping you make real changes, so this small class size is very important to us.

I’m new to your studio.  Can I start with a group class?
We’d love to have a conversation with you first – give us a call at 510-463-1473 or email  Bodies and experience levels come in all shapes and sizes, and we like to make sure that the class you’ll be trying out is a good fit.

In most cases, if you’ve done Pilates before and are injury free, there shouldn’t be a problem with you starting off at Corpo Kinetic in a group class.

I’m new to Pilates.  Can I start with a group class?
We’d also love to have a conversation with you first!  (Give us a call at 510-463-1473 or email  We do have some group classes which are more appropriate for the beginner, including our Thursday evening Therapeutic Pilates Springboard, and our Monday and Wednesday morning Basic Mat and Springboard.

Some beginners really prefer to start their Pilates journey off with a few privates.  If you can take advantage of our Pilates Intro package (3 sessions for $240), you may find that you start your group classes feeling more confident, better able to follow the cues given by the instructor, and getting much more out of the group experience than if you started without private instruction.

I’m working with an injury. Is a group class right for me?
Guess what!  We’d love to have a conversation with you.  (In case you didn’t catch those digits yet, call us at 510-463-1473 or email  Our Thursday evening Therapeutic Pilates Springboard group class was designed for people working with injury, and moves at a deliberate pace, with extra attention to form and proper muscle firing patterns.  However, many factors may influence whether starting with this group class is right for you or not.  Even if you don’t do private instruction long term, you may benefit from both the familiarity your instructor will have with your body if you do a few privates before joining the group, and from knowing what modifications you need specific to your body.

What if I can’t keep up with the group?
I get different forms of this question all the time!  Let me start out by saying: most of us in Copro Kinetic group classes are not athletic-wear fashionistas – feel free to get yourself a fancy new Pilates outfit if you wish, or come in your favorite old t-shirt.  We don’t do Pilates 5 times a week, and we haven’t been doing Pilates since we were teenagers – we’re still learning.  Most of us have discovered Pilates later in our adult lives, and use it as a way to keep ourselves healthy and pain-free.  Many of us started off on our Pilates journey with an injury or pain.  We’re looking to progress in our own journeys and feel better, not to impress anyone.

group Pilates classes, Pilates classes in OaklandNow that that’s out of the way, let’s get a little more technical:  in some cases, an exercise which the group is doing won’t be right for you. While we as instructors do our best to program classes so that exercises are appropriate for those attending, we won’t be offended if you let us know an exercise doesn’t feel right or you’re not sure how you’re supposed to be executing it.  Often when one person asks a question in a group class, the rest of the group is wondering it too.  They’re probably thankful you spoke up!  If your questions is more specific to just you, the instructor may ask you to hang tight for a second while she gets the group moving, and then can come over to you and answer your question or give you a modification if you need it.  Remember, we keep our group classes small so that we can do just this type of thing.  Our goal is to make group classes work for each individual who is there.

I signed up for class, but [insert life event] happened, and I can’t make it!  What happens now?
Let us know as soon as your conflict comes up.  If it’s over 24 hours before the start of your class, all cancellations are free of charge.  Please keep in mind that, since we keep our classes small, the spot you reserve in class means that others aren’t able to take advantage of that spot.  Cancellations made with less than 24-hours notice are charged a “late cancel” fee of the equivalent of one class session.

That said, life does happen, and we understand.  If you’ve been coming to class consistently and cancelling with 24-hours notice or more when conflicts come up, when life takes you by surprise in the way of illness or emergency on the day of your class, please let us know as soon as you can.  Generally we can make an exception and waive the late cancel fee.

What if I’m late?
We ask that you make every effort possible to arrive to group classes on time.  If you are late, you’ll miss the verbal check-in we do at the start of each class, and your instructor won’t know if there’s anything she needs to be aware of with your body that day.  You may also miss the warm-up, which at worst could put you at risk of injury, and at the least means you won’t get the most out of the more advanced exercises which come later.

Sometimes we make every effort possible, and there’s still horrible traffic or an unanticipated tragic parking situation.  If you can make it to your mat within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time of class, please let us know you’re running a few minutes late and quietly join the class when you arrive.  If you can’t make it within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time of class, we ask that you skip this one in consideration of your safety and the disruption others in the class.

I’m ready to go!  How do I sign up?

Online scheduling for group Pilates classesThat link should take you to our online scheduling system.  You can also find this scheduling button on the group class page of our website – bookmark it for easy access!

Have a question not answered here?  We’re happy to help – give us a call at 510-463-1473 or email

Top photograph on this page by Bénédicte Lassalle

The role of manual therapy in your fitness program

There went Thanksgiving!  December holidays are just around the corner, and if you’re a planner like me, you may already be contemplating what you’d like to incorporate into your New Year’s fitness and wellness goals.  Whether or not your personal thought process has taken you into next year already, at a time when many fitness advocates will be pushing for more time spent working muscle and elevating heart rates, I’d like to propose another idea:  include more constructive relaxation for your muscular-skeletal system by incorporating some manual therapy.  Receiving manual therapy can help you overcome or avoid injury, and can make the time spent working on strength and endurance more productive.

While most of us are familiar with massage therapy, manual therapy tends to be a less familiar term.  Let’s start with a definition.  What is manual therapy?  Massage and manual therapy use treatments which include kneading and manipulation of muscle tissue, joint mobilization, and stretching.  The difference between massage and manual therapy lays primarily in the intent:  generally speaking, the intent of massage therapy is relaxation, whether achieved through calming the nervous system with the soothing aspects of massage or by techniques which reduce muscle tension.  In contrast, the primary intent of manual therapy is addressing the cause of a specific dysfunction. Dysfunction can cause injury or pain, or in less extreme cases it can lower performance levels, making it harder to reach an athletic or fitness goal.  Manual therapy may include more orthopedic tests and evaluations than you would expect from a relaxation-based massage.  While massage is often done with sheets and oil, manual therapy is more likely to occur clothed, with minimal amounts of lubricant applied to the skin.  At Corpo Kinetic, we use both massage and manual therapy with our clients, as appropriate to each individual’s needs and goals.

Three reasons manual therapy can be a positive addition to your fitness program:

1)  Get an evaluation before you begin.  Want to start jogging, but not sure if that ankle you sprained last spring is up for it?  A manual therapist can evaluate the strength of the muscles you’ll be taxing, and make a recommendation for whether or not they feel you are ready to begin.  They can also help clear up any remaining stiffness or lack of mobility left in the ankle so that it’s less likely to get re-injured.

2)  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Getting excited to start something new, starting off strong, then getting sidelined by an injury not only can set your progress back, it’s absolutely no fun.  While safe training and good body mechanics can take care of a lot in prevention of injury, it’s a rare human who comes with no areas of concern in their body, whether it be the elbow broken as a kid, the knee which acts up every once in awhile, or the back which used to give you trouble.  Getting a manual therapy “check up” as part of your fitness program can make sure all parts are working at their optimal level.  If small areas of muscle tension begin to build up, a manual therapist can help discover what may be off, and help release the problem areas before they become something larger.

3)  Optimal performance comes from a balance of strength and mobility.  If your fitness goals include a “performance” goal, such as running your first 10K, biking up Skyline Boulevard, or improving your golf swing, you’ll need strength to get there, but you’ll also need mobility in your joints and muscles.  For example, your best running time will come when you can push off strongly with the hip extensors, and then have the length in your hamstrings and mobility in your hip socket for the leg to swing forward in your full stride length.  If you’re training enough to get the strength, and not seeing the increases you want in your performance, consider adding some manual therapy.