Tuesday, January 31, 2017

9:56 AM 0

Attention Yoga Lovers: 3 Reasons to Love Pilates

Attention Yoga Lovers! I've been talking lately about how Pilates will help you grow your Yoga practice. If you missed out on this read HERE and HERE first.

One of the most common questions I get asked as a Pilates teacher is "Pilates is just like Yoga, right?." My answer is always something like "Well, yes and no...but did you know Joseph Pilates (shocker, he's the guy in the picture above we can credit this great form of exercise to) studied and incorporated Eastern Philosophy into his method, including Yoga." I say all of that to get at- If you love Yoga, I'm 100% sure that you will also love Pilates. Here's why:

1. Pilates is all about the flow.
Beginning from the second you step onto your mat until you return to standing following Seal, your Pilates practice is continuous. There are no breaks. And because you don't have to change the settings on any equipment, you can really focus on finding the connection between each exercise. Yes, even the transitions are part of the workout.

Pictured above is the Side Series. To switch to the opposite side, you lie flat on your stomach and beat your heels together for 2 sets of 10 THEN roll to the other side.

2. You still get told by your teacher to breath.
Ever tried to count the number of times your Yoga teacher has told you to inhale and exhale during class? Yea, me neither, but I will say I don't think I could keep track. Breathing is SO important and both in your workouts and everyday life. "Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it."- Joseph Pilates

As a Pilates teacher, I focus a lot on breathing with my clients as well. There are so many benefits to finding full inhalations and full exhalations in your matwork. Breathing gives your body energy as well as helps you control your movements on the mat during exercises. Did you know that breathing deeply also helps cleanse your bloodstream?

3. All you need for class is a Mat.
And of course water. I'm all about not needing anything special to do a workout. That also means that when I'm traveling or going on vacation I can still get a quick, efficient yet also challenging workout in without the need to take anything extra with me. Because if you have kids, you also know that there is NO extra room in the car (I pretty much have rationale with my husband why I need more than pair of shoes ha) especially for a mat. So usually when I'm out of town, I won't even bring my mat with me. I'll take two towels from the hotel or where ever we are staying and double them up on the floor.

Pictured above is Rolling Like a Ball, which is one of the Rolling Exercises found in the Mat Series. In this exercise, it is important to only roll back no further than the tips of your shoulder blades AND keep the chin tucked into your chest. I find that two towels provide the perfect amount of cushion for my spine as I am doing the Rolling Exercises if I do not have a mat.

So there you have it. Now go give Pilates a try for yourself.

Monday, January 30, 2017

4:19 AM 2

Confessions of A Pilates Teacher #1

Happy Monday! Where did the weekend go?! Anyway, today I'm sharing my confessions with you today...

While you may think your Pilates teacher is an indestructible super human, who eats all things fresh and healthy, commits to working out a minimum an hour every single day of the week, and the list goes on...You may be surprised to find out that your Pilates teacher is human just like you AND isn't the health whiz you imagined.

I confess:

1. I don't work out everyday.
Ideally, as Joseph Pilates would probably advise you if he were still alive today, you should aim to workout 5 to 6 times a week and incorporate 1 day of rest a week into your fitness regime. HOWEVER, does that mean that I always get that number of workouts in every single week? No! For example, this past month the stomach bug went slowly around our house for two weeks. Between taking care of sick ones and then getting sick myself- there were about two weeks that I only got maybe 4 workouts in. AND it is okay. The next week I got myself back on track because even if I don't feel like I always have the energy to workout- I'm happier, less stressed, and energized when I do Pilates. This makes me more able to take care of the little feet running around my house, my sweet husband, and even my Pilates client that walks in the door.... like the saying "If mama is happy, then everybody is happy." I know it is the counselor in me coming out, but I really think self-care is important and you should too!

2. I love Pizza, french fries, and did i say ANYTHING sweet!
Yes, I admitted it. I like to eat all of those things. Do I eat them every single meal? No, but on occasion I do enjoy them from time to time. The key here is in moderation. I don't follow a certain diet rather I strive (and am still learning) ways to live a healthy lifestyle. I talked last month about my goal being working on cutting out processed food in my diet. And I should probably say most processed foods. I may eat something that is processed, has way too much sugar, and isn't organic from time to time. But for the most part, I try to incorporate easy, practical ways to eat healthy. For myself, I've found things that make this lifestyle work for me. I like to cook with organic unrefined coconut oil for most recipes- such as banana bread muffins. I buy fresh or frozen organic produce as much as possible (especially the produce on the dirty dozen.) And I could go on...but my point is my goal is to eat well most of the time.

Pictured above is some of the food items that I try to buy Organic. Did you know you can buy a lot of Organic products at Aldi?! Keeping the grocery budget in line while buying organic sounds like a win to me! I'll have to share more of my Organic grocery finds at Aldi soon.

3. I won't think you are cheating on me if you take a fitness class besides Pilates.
I've talked about Yoga and Pilates the past two days (here and here.) I myself LOVE yoga and especially fell in love with it during my second pregnancy. In fact this weekend, I took two Yoga classes and did not do much Pilates. I've actually recommended to clients before to try out a Slow Flow Yoga class or Long Slow and Deep Yoga class. I think any exercise is good for your body and will complement the work you are doing with Pilates. I know it's nice to have variety in your workout from time to time as well. So whether it's Pilates, Yoga, Cycling, Boxing, Weightlifting, Dancing, Swimming and I could go on and on- just live an active lifestyle! I think the idea I'm getting at here is do what feels good to your body and enjoy it!

Pictured above is the Foot Work Series on the Exo Chair (a Balanced Body version of the Wunda Chair.)

That's all of my confessions for now. I probably could share more, but then you might not want me to be your Pilates teacher. All jokes aside- we are all human. We aren't perfect. I like to give room to live a little bit in a healthy lifestyle and give myself grace- while finding the balance of not making excuses.

(For this post I'm linking up with A Fresh Start on A Budget for Motivational Monday.)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

11:05 PM 0

How Pilates Helps Your Yoga Practice: Part 2

Next up on the mat, Yoga with a side of Pilates. Downward Dog, Warrior Two, Crescent Lunge, followed by the Pilates 100 and 10 repetitions of each exercise in the Abdominal Series. That's what your Pilates teacher has ordered.

So if you didn't catch on yesterday I really believe adding Pilates to your workout can be a total game changer to your Yoga practice. (And if I'm being honest vice versa ... I found Pilates and then Yoga. I've found Yoga has helped increase my flexibility, which was hindering me in my Pilates practice, but that's another story for another day.)

4. Understand how to Engage Muscles While Stretching.
To the hyper flexible Yogis: this reason is for you! (Not this girl) All jokes aside, if you are hyper flexible, so many Yoga postures may seem really easy for your body to get into because you are so bendy. However, I assure you, there is even more you can get out of the pose by finding the strength coupled with the stretch. Pilates will help you find this. 

Pictured below is Single Straight Leg Stretch from the Pilates Abdominal Series done on the Mat. I like to think of this exercise as the "dessert" of the Abdominal Series. I love the stretch I get in the hamstrings while working on my core.

5. Increased Range of Motion for Backbends.
Pilates will certainly teach you where your powerhouse muscles are - which, by the way, if you do not feel your abdominals during the Abdominal Series then you'll be the first person I've heard say so (its a dozy!). So often to get into a backbend, Yogis will push their hips forward rather than lifting up out of the pelvis by turning on the core muscles. Maintaining length in the torso by activating your Pilates powerhouse and avoiding "crunching" into the back will help prevent low back injuries and pain as you go into a slight backbend in Peaceful Warrior for example. This same concept also applies to poses such as Cobra. 

Pictured below is Swan Dive on the Wunda Chair. Swan Dive is also found in the Pilates Mat Series. This exercise is very similar to Cobra. To begin this exercise, you start in a Cobra-like form then the arms lift up off of the mat and you rock back and forth between the arms lifting up overhead and the legs reaching towards the ceiling. 


6. Improved Body Alignment and Posture.
"Never slouch as doing so compresses the lungs, overcrowds vital organs, rounds the back, and throws you off balance"- Joseph Pilates. Every time I find myself slouching I imagine Joseph Pilates giving me the stink eye. Seriously though, if this doesn't give you reason to stop slouching then I don't know what will. 

A majority of the Pilates mat is done lying down on your back. By having a sensation of the spine pressed into the floor, you can easily become familiar with correct alignment. Are your shoulders open and pressed into the mat? Can you feel the back of your rib cage become wider? Is your chin relaxed into your chest? Is your navel sinking back into your spine? These are alignment cues that your Pilates teacher will help you to be mindful of and assist you with finding in your body. Take a Pilates mat class, and I'm sure you'll feel at least 5 inches taller when you walk out the door. An awareness of your alignment will help you take you further along in your Yoga journey because you will begin to initiate adjustments on your own, rather than solely relying on your Yoga teacher for feedback.

A Pilates Mat class is a great place for Yoga lovers to expand their mat practice. See you on the mat!

(For this post I am linking up with Ilkasblog and Marathons and Motivations for Sunday Fitness & Food Link-Up.)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

6:19 PM 0

How Pilates Helps Your Yoga Practice: Part 1

In college, I was introduced to several mind-body modalities including both Pilates and Yoga. I found that both methods together helped me find the flexibility and core strength that I needed to improve as a dancer.

Since my college years, I have continued to enjoy both Pilates and Yoga. While I might not dance as often now, I do Pilates and Yoga because it keeps my body happy and feeling good. Needless to say, I do not think one practice is better than the other. I believe Pilates and Yoga compliment one another. 

If you're looking to grow your Yoga practice or even feel a little stuck with Yoga, I would really suggest giving Pilates a try. Here's what you'll find if you do:

1. Boosted Stamina for Holding Yoga Poses Longer.
Ever been asked to hold High Plank for 5 deep breaths? Here's a hint: If you take Long Slow & Deep Yoga, you'll be holding poses for at least two minutes. In a recent Yoga class I took, I relied on my core, activating the deepest layers of the abdominals we often don't acknowledge- such as the transversus abdomininis. Think of the transversus abdominis as if you were putting on a corset (this layer of the abdominals wraps horizontally around the torso.) We often think of only activating the abdominals we can see- the rectus abdominis (think 6 pack abs). Pilates matwork will train you to engage all layers of your abdominals to fuel and power your body's movement. Pilates practice will give you the core strength you need to hold High Plank, Side Plank, and even Airplane to name a few.

Pictured above is Single Leg Stretch from the Abdominal Series. Learn the Pilates Abdominal Series and integrate it into your personal Yoga Practice. (Even if I do not get in a full workout everyday, I make sure to do the Abdominal Series daily. It takes less than 5 minutes!) I guarantee Pilates will feel help you feel stronger and less unstable in your Yoga practice. 

2. Increased Stability for Yoga Poses.
One of the lessons both Pilates and Yoga have taught me is finding my balance. I talked about this recently here. Pilates has helped me find what it means to "use my core." Pilates keeps you honest and shows rather if you a truly using the powerhouse muscles. There is no cheating!

 In the exercise pictured about- The Roll-Up- there is NO WAY you are going to be able to roll up to into a seated position while keeping your feet or heels (depending on the modification used) glued to the floor without relying on your core. I think about activating my core in this exercise by pulling my belly back as I stretch forward- this creates an opposition.

Stronger core helps you maintain your balance. It is as simple as that. By the way, did you know that your core or Powerhouse muscles as we refer to in Pilates includes your gluts! Tip: Next time you do Tree, think about activating and squeezing your glut muscles. So the real question is: do you ever feel wobbly in Yoga poses such as Airplane, Eagle, and Tree. If you do, then Pilates is most definitely for you.

3. Relieved Pressure in the Joints, such as the Wrists and Knees.
As we hold Yoga poses such as Plank, Pointer, Chaturanga sometimes the wrists can become aggrevated, especially if you have carpal tunnel syndrome.  For individuals with knee issues, Hero Pose or various versions of Pigeon might not feel the best on the knees. While there are numerous modifications to help relieve pressure in the joints, one thing I have found is by ultizing my core strength (Thank you Pilates!) I take tension out of the joints.

Pictured here is the first exercise in the Pilates Mat- The 100. This exercise is perfect for warming up the body (it really gets the blood flowing!) AND turning on the powerhouse (think abs, gluts, hips, pelvic floor). 

For example, in Heros Pose, I think about lifting up out of my Pelvis (using the abdominals of course!) to take pressure out of the knees. In Down Dog, I think about lifting the belly in and up to turn on the core muscles, deepen the stretch, and take the tension out of my wrists.

So my fellow Yogis, if you still are not convinced that Pilates will help you grow your Yoga practice- I'll be talking more about this tomorrow, as well. You'll especially want to join me back for this post if you are a hyperflexible Yogi. I'll be giving you some insight to help you grow your Yoga practice.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

4:17 PM 0

Finding Balance: Part 1

The Pilates method has taught me so much not only on the Reformer or mat, but in my personal life as well. One of the most important lessons that I have learned from delving into Pilates is the importance of balance. In my Pilates equipment class at Applachian State, I remember learning what is now one of my favorite exercises on the Reformer- Side Splits (found in both the Intermediate and Advanced Classical Pilates Repertoire). When instructed to stand on top of the Reformer to do this exercise, at the time I thought what if I fall and loose my balance? A topic for another day, but fear is often our own worst enemy. 

More about Side Splits- Side Splits are down towards the end of a Reformer workout. Use 1-2 Springs (2 when learning the exercise. This is a great place to use a 1/2 spring if your Reformer has this option). A platform and/or sticky pad are great options to use with this exercise. Come to standing carefully on the Reformer, making sure to always first place one foot on the frame before heel toeing the opposite foot towards the shoulder pad. Make sure that both feet are in line with one another. Find your balance before you begin the exercise. Be careful not to get too carried away when you pressing the carriage out- the challenge in this exercise comes when you squeeze the inner thighs and lift up out of the torso (activating the Powerhouse) to bring the carriage back in. When you bring the carriage in, hold for 3 counts before beginning the next rep. Personally, I like to do 3 reps on each side. To switch sides, always bring the foot on the carriage towards the foot on the frame (heel toe again) before stepping back on the Reformer to switch sides. 

How do you find balance in Pilates? By using your powerhouse! The muscle group Joseph Pilates referred to as the "Powerhouse"or commonly known as the core is a large muscle groups that essentially connect the upper portion of the body to the lower portion of the body. So we're talking about more muscles than just the abdominals. Without getting too technical, the powerhouse includes the gluts, muscles surrounding the hips, pelvic floor, and of course the abdominals. 

Often you'll hear your Pilates teacher, cue you to engage and activate your powerhouse by saying "pull your rib cage together" or "sink your navel into your spine." By activating your powerhouse, you are placing the control of movement to the center of your body and gaining stability. This gives you the strength, energy, and stability to stand on top of the Reformer for example and do those Side Splits. 

I'll be sharing later how to find balance with the Rolling Exercises in the Pilates mat sequence, how I integrate the theme of balance in my daily life, and much more.

Friday, January 13, 2017

5:21 PM 0

Five on Friday-- First Edition

Happy Friday!

I'm really excited to be starting my blogging adventure. I have read blogs for years, love sharing Pilates with others, and talking about overall wellness, but never had the courage to actually start blogging. The start of a new year seemed like just the right time to open up to the blogging world about the things I love most! I've loved reading April's from a Smidge of This Five on Friday posts, so I'm going to start linking up with her and joining the Five on Friday fun. So here it goes- 

I've been using my Thieves essential oil so much lately! There are so many great uses for Thieves oil. It is definitely my go-to essential oil for fighting off germs, cleaning, and helping with sinus congestion. My whole family has been battling sinus congestion lately, so I've been running Thieves oil through my diffuser several times a day. I'm sure our nice southern winter is part of the problem, especially going from snow to a week later with temperatures in the 70's like today. I just placed a new order for Thieves Oil and I hope it arrives soon. We are about to run out over here!

Since I have shifted back into teaching Pilates again, I really could use some new workout clothes...at least that's a good excuse to tell my husband right?! Anyway, I've been on the lookout for workout tanks that are more form fitting. A lot of the Pilates exercises, such as short spine massage on the reformer and the jack knife on the mat, require the legs go up overhead. To me nothing is more annoying when I'm working out than having to readjust my tank top! I stopped in Lululemon this week and found this perfect workout tank- the new Simply Bare Tank. It is super soft and has a really pretty high neckline.

I plan on sharing my wellness goals for 2017 more next week, but I'm hoping to start cutting out a lot of the processed food that we eat at home out of our diets. I purchased 100 Days of Real Food this week to help get me started. I'm looking forward to reading it and trying out some new recipes.


I've been loving adding the Pilates Magic Circle into my mat practice this week. It's a great tool to use to switch up your mat practice and of course is an added challenge to your workout. The Magic Circle helps me activate my inner thighs for exercises such as The 100. I especially love using the Magic Circle for a finishing stretch following Single Leg Circles. 

That's all for now! Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

1:09 AM 0

Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Hey, there. Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm Donna, and I've been practicing Pilates for more than seven years and I've been a certified instructor for four years.

Growing up just north of Charlotte, I started dancing when I was two years old, so movement, balance, and flexibility have always been very important to me. When I went to college at Appalachian State, I began looking for opportunities to learn more about movement and strengthening my core. While in Boone, I picked up two Bachelor's Degrees (Spanish Education & Dance), a Master's Degree (School Counseling), and a Third-Generation Classical Pilates Instructor Certification. After graduating, my husband and I moved back down to the Lake Norman area.

As a Third-Generation Classical Pilates Instructor, I am two generations removed from Joseph Pilates. He's that guy to the right, and if his name didn't give it away for you, he invented the Pilates method. My Master Trainers (Marianne Adams and Rebecca Quin at App State), were trained by Romana Kryzanowska, who was Joe's protégé. Since earning my certification, I have been exposed outside of the classical style of Pilates through my time at Davidson Pilates and continuing education at App State.

If you've never tried Pilates, you should really consider giving it a shot. It's a type of exercise that truly strengthens your whole body. It can be very therapeutic as well.

I'm looking forward to using this blog to share my experiences in Pilates, and how it helps me find balance in other areas of my life. I'll also talk about how I try to seek overall health and wellness for my family by sharing life hacks, tips, and stories. With a toddler and seven-month-old, running and crawling around the house, trust me, there's no shortage of stories to share. Here's to chatting it up again real soon!