Festive Pilates 2021

A quick note to say that the usual four online classes will be running each week throughout the festive fortnight.  Pilates, a healthy gift to yourself after another “interesting” 12 months and a good counter to the potential excesses of the holiday season.  If you’d like to join me, feel free to either book in advance or on the day up to 15 minutes before the start time of the session.

Wishing all my clients, past and present a very happy festive season.

Thanks for supporting me this year and in previous years, whether by coming to class or by keeping in touch by email/text or by taking the time to say hello and have a chat when I see you out and about in Clevedon on one of my walks. Outside is now my new inside!

Here’s to an even kinder, more free 2022.

Be well and keep moving!

Melissa

Bonus feature, a mini concert from Goat Girl, whose album On All Fours is on my best of 2021 list…

Pilates Meets Myofascial Stretching

For the past couple of months we’ve been exploring in class a range of Pilates exercises I’ve adapted to include more myofascial stretching.  Here is some background information on fascia and myofascial stretching which might help you get more out of your practice…

What is Fascia?

Fascia is the fibrous connective tissue that surrounds every part of the body.  Think of it as a three-dimensional spider web that holds together the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, nerves etc.  Fascia, like all connective tissue in the body is made of water and this water is arranged in microscopic tubules.

A key feature of fascia is that it is one continuous entity, which informs how we can stretch most effectively when we practise Pilates.  It is useful to think of muscles and other structures like bones, ligaments, tendons etc as links in various chains or slings which run throughout the body.  These links work together to move us about in different ways.  Fascia is the fibrous web that weaves in and around the different chains or slings of the body, supporting and nourishing them.  This view of anatomy is a holistic one, which respects the global organization of our tissues.

What is myofascial stretching and how does it work with Pilates?

Myofascial stretching (MFS) is a relatively new technique and differs markedly from traditional methods of stretching. Instead of focussing on stretching a specific muscle, MFS works on the fascia surrounding the muscles, ligaments, tendons etc in a specific chain or sling, e.g. extending from the toes to the back of the knee and into the pelvis.  

The Pilates exercises I’ve adapted to involve more MFS encourage us to move into and hold certain shapes with the aim of improving the quality of the movement of each link in the chain relative to another.

Other features of MFS I’ve incorporated into the Pilates exercises we perform in class include:

  • certain stretches being held for 90-120 seconds rather than the traditional 30 seconds to allow time for the fascia to “let go.”  This results in tissue releasing permanently rather than just temporarily.
  • active elongation and perpetual motion, two more ways of encouraging the fascia to “let go.”  These help us experience the natural elasticity in the body.
  • being present during each stage of performing an exercise. I provide cues to help you focus on any tension in the body, encouraging you to breathe into it, to notice the resulting slack as the release takes place, then inviting you to lengthen further and wait for the next release.

The benefits of Pilates exercises that incorporate myofascial stretching

Pilates and MFS together are a powerful combination.  They help to nourish and rejuvenate the tissues throughout your entire body and can be used to:

  • treat injuries and tight spots gently without the pain associated with traditional stretching and massage therapies;
  • enhance muscle performance. Particularly useful for sportspeople looking to go fast, be stronger;
  • improve muscle recovery.  MFS improves the blood flow to tired muscles, helping them recover faster from intense periods of physical activity and with less soreness;
  • increase flexibility and range of movement;
  • improve posture and alignment;
  • encourage the balanced use of muscles;
  • promote spine and joint health;
  • promote good hydration of the tissues of the body.

We will continue to explore myofascial stretching through specific adapted Pilates exercises in the classes I run each week online.

Celebs Inadvertently Doing Pilates

Vanessa Paradis’ version of the mermaid.

Teaching tip – only do Pilates on a pedestal if there are snakes on the floor.

Bonus alternative fact – Paradis’ famous hit Joe Le Taxi is actually about Joseph Pilates.

Prince’s version of the superman.

Teaching tip – to avoid making this face while doing the superman, keep your head ribcage and pelvis nicely aligned.

David Bowie’s version of the clam.

Teaching tip – when performing the clam in tight trousers, always have a sewing kit handy.

Brigitte Bardot’s version of the diamond press.

Teaching tip – avoid turning to look coquettishly at the camera in the middle of this exercise.

Marilyn Monroe’s version of the seated spine stretch.

Teaching tip – victory rolls add more flow to your Pilates.

Madonna’s version of the single leg raise.

Teaching tip – if you decide to support your head with your foot rather than a block while performing this exercise, always wear big pants.

Marlene Dietrich’s version of the arm circle chicken wings upper body release series.

Teaching tip – don’t try and draw your eyebrows on while doing the arm circle sequence.

Kate Bush’s version of the open leg rocker balance.

Teaching tip – al fresco Pilates plus white trousers minus a mat equals grass stain alert!

Blondie’s version of the mermaid.

Teaching tip – best performed wearing some form of leg covering.

UPDATED For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

To help you get the most from my online Pilates classes, a few tips…

WiFi Signal

First, try and have the device you’re using to access the class as near to the router as possible.  The router should face in towards the centre of the room.  Next, remove/turn off any cordless devices nearby, e.g. phones, baby monitors and any other devices that use a WiFi signal.  This will ensure you have the best WiFi signal you can get.

Better still would be to connect to the router via an ethernet cable.  You can ask your internet provider if they can provide one (Virgin Media sent me one without charge) or alternatively they are readily available to buy from a variety of retailers that stock computer accessories.

Finally, shutdown all the other apps etc that you may have running in the background so that all your device’s resource is concentrated on running Zoom as efficiently as possible. It also stops you being distracted during the class by notifications etc popping up.

Audio

I use an external USB mic during my online Pilates classes.  To optimise the sound quality still further I’d recommend you change the Zoom audio settings on your device.  It’s very easy to do.

If you use the Zoom app on your tablet or phone, simply click the gear icon on the home page to access the ‘Settings’ page…

…then scroll down and make sure the ‘Use Original Sound’ button is switched on…

That’s it.  You’re now all set to hear me without any noise suppression, which can make the audio signal chop in and out.  Noise suppression is helpful in a busy office environment where there is a lot of background noise but not necessary in an online Pilates class at home setting.

If you use a laptop or desktop, the above process is very similar plus you have a few more advanced setting options which will enhance the audio even further. You can make these changes before the class as follows…

First, open up Zoom Client, go to the home page and click on the gear icon top right to access the ‘Settings’ page…

On the ‘Settings’ page, select ‘Audio’ and uncheck the box next to ‘Automatically adjust microphone volume.’  This now allows you to control the volume of your speakers and mic by moving the sliders…

On the same ‘Audio Settings’ page, click the Advanced button bottom right, which brings up this screen…

Check the box next to ‘Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone.’  Then in the ‘Audio Processing’ section of this page, disable the ‘Suppress Persistent Background Noise’ and ‘Suppress Intermittent Background Noise’…

You can also make the above changes after you’ve joined the online class in the 5-10 minutes before we begin.  In the bottom left of the screen next to the mic icon is an arrow.  Click it and you can see ‘Audio settings’ at the bottom of the list.  Click this and it brings up the screens shown above so you can make the changes I’ve described.

Speakers

To further enhance the sound quality during my online classes, you might want to use external USB speakers.  Almost any on the market will give you better quality sound than the internal speakers in your device.  I have the Creative Pebble Plus 2.1 Speaker Set –  not too expensive, very good sound quality and nice design.

Video

Finally, I use a webcam instead of the internal camera on my laptop so the quality of the images should be top notch.

Hope that helps.  See you online in class soon.

 

 

Pre-class Chat

One of the many benefits of going regularly to a Pilates class is the social aspect – the friends you make and catch up with each week.  This is particularly important for those who live alone or who, due to the pandemic feel they’ve become a bit disconnected from others.

To address this I’d like to provide more of a chance for people to chat before my online classes.  From the 7 June I’ll be opening up each session fifteen minutes ahead of the start time.  I’ll use the Zoom gallery view setting so you can see as well as hear each other.  If you’d rather not be seen just leave your video off.  I piloted this idea in last Friday’s class and it went down well.  It also means those of you who have family and friends  from other parts of the UK who attend the online class with you, have a chance to connect more.

As always the Pilates session itself will start dead on time, microphones and videos will be off and I’ll use the usual Zoom speaker view setting so you can just see me doing the exercises with you and hear my instructions without any background noise from others.

For those who’d prefer not to join the pre-class chat, no problem.  Simply log on in the five minutes before the start time.

See you soon.

To close, here’s Billie Marten.  Eyes closed, volume up to experience the song in all its glory…

Play is Continuous…

This dress! Perfect for Pilates teachers…with gothic tendencies…so just me then.

In slightly more interesting news, play is continuous this Bank Holiday weekend with the usual Pilates x Melissa small equipment class on Monday at 1800. Join me, bring your spine. It’ll be fun.

To close, cover song magic from Brett Anderson and Nadine Shah, part of Paraorchestra’s Death Songbook project for GŴYL 2021…did I mention I have gothic tendencies.

Happy Pilatester!

Not too late to book into one of the online PILATES X MELISSA classes taking place this Easter.  Join us for a healthy hour-long, non-chocolate treat for your body and mind over the holiday weekend…

  • General Pilates class on Good Friday at 0930
  • Small Equipment Pilates class on Easter Monday at 1800

I’ll be hiding Easter eggs in amongst the exercises for you to find over the course of the session…not really, that would be silly…as well as messy.

To book online for the classes over Easter and next week please visit this page of my website.  I can process bookings up to 15 minutes before the start time of any class in case it suits you best to sign up on the day.

Enjoy your Easter holidays.  Keep moving.

To close, a choice choon from St Vincent’s forthcoming album, Daddy’s Home.  Finally, my green business suit is back in fashion!

Pop-up Pilates Tutorial 4 – How to Improve Your Balance

As voted by you, the fourth online pop-up PILATES X MELISSA tutorial is on HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE.  It will take place on Thursday 14 January at 1900.

This 30-minute session will start with a brief explanation of how the balance mechanism works.  We will then progress through a series of standing balances which will encourage the proper functioning of the systems we use in the body to balance.

Take part or just watch and take notes, whatever suits you best.

Who the tutorial is suitable for

The session is suitable for everyone except those based in the US and Canada who for insurance reasons I’m unable to teach.  Sorry about that. Children under sixteen are very welcome but must attend with a parent or guardian.

The people who will find this tutorial particularly useful are those who:

  • suffer from neck pain/tension
  • are over 50.  Balance is a key skill we tend to lose as we age
  • have had a whiplash injury
  • have hypermobility proprioceptive deficit
  • have osteoporosis or osteopenia for whom a fall would have more negative consequences
  • do sports and find they often get injured.

How will you benefit

Balance training can help:

  • increase the strength of your leg, gluteal and core muscles
  • improve the stability of your ankle, knee, hip, back and neck joints
  • encourage your ability to focus/concentrate
  • reverse age-related loss of balance
  • prevent falls
  • improve your posture and alignment
  • rehabilitate and prevent lower-leg injuries in athletes
  • improve coordination
  • promote a proper gait when walking/hiking or running.  People with poor balance often develop a poor gait to compensate.

How to join the pop-up tutorial

To attend this session, please register here with Zoom. Once you have done so you will automatically receive a confirmation email from Zoom.  Please check your spam folder if it doesn’t arrive straight away in your inbox.  If you didn’t receive this email you may have mistyped your email address so please re-register.

This Zoom confirmation email contains a link that only you can use to attend this tutorial. On the day of the session, 5-10 minutes before the start time just click on this link to join the tutorial.  The passcode for the session is embedded in the link but if for some reason you are asked to enter a passcode this is provided in the Zoom email.

Before the tutorial, if you’re using a tablet or mobile to take part you will need to download the Zoom App from the App store, which is free. If you’re using a laptop and want quick and smooth access to the session on the day, download Zoom Client for Meetings in advance and for free from their website. You don’t need any kind of Zoom account to attend my online classes and pop-up tutorials.

Please help me to help others by sharing details of this pop-up tutorial with any friends, family members and work colleagues you think might be interested in joining us.

The pop-up PILATES X MELISSA tutorials are free.  There is an option after the session to pay what the tutorial was worth to you or what you can afford.  I’m very grateful to all those who contributed something after the last two pop-up tutorials on the neck and meditative breathing. How to make such a contribution, for those interested in doing so is explained in the confirmation email you will receive from Zoom after registering.

Thanks for your continued support.

To close, here’s Elvis…not The King.  The less regal one from Blighty.  Sack the backing dancers…for stealing my moves!

Festive Pilates

The Kate Bush Christmas decorations are out at PXM HQ which means the festive season is fast-approaching.  There are plenty of online Pilates classes running over the festive fortnight to help keep us all moving and motivated.  Here’s the schedule…

  • Monday 21 December 1800 to 1900 Small Equipment Pilates class*
  • Tuesday 22 December 1000 to 1100 Rehabilitative Pilates class (no less challenging than the General and Small Equipment classes)
  • Wednesday 23 December 1900 to 2000 General Pilates class*
  • Monday 28 December 1800 to 1900 Small Equipment Pilates class*
  • Tuesday 29 December 1000 to 1100 Rehabilitative Pilates class
  • Wednesday 30 December 1900 to 2000 General Pilates class*

*not suitable for people with osteoporosis or osteopenia.

Same process as usual – the classes for the week commencing the 21 December will be available to book online from this Friday 18 December, and the classes for the week commencing the 28 December will be available for booking from next Friday 25 December.

In the New Year there will be a free online pop-up Pilates tutorial on how to improve your balance.

Thank you very much for supporting my classes this year, whether that was in the studio at the beginning of 2020…feels like a lifetime ago!…or online or both.  Being able to keep teaching and to run some kind of practice over the past ten months is something I will always be grateful for the chance to do.

Stay safe and well over the festive season, think of others.  2021 is just around the corner, a new chapter.  Let’s take the positive lessons we’ve learned from our experiences this year and use them to make a better world for everyone.

To close here’s the title track from one of my albums of 2020 – Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters.

Happy holidays.

Pilates with a Resistance Band

The new online small equipment Pilates class which began in September on Mondays at 1800 is proving popular.  Thank you for your support.  It’s great to hear from so many of you how much you’re enjoying the challenge of practising Pilates with the small ball and foam roller.  A nice complement to the general Pilates classes too.

Starting next Monday 2 November we’ll be adding a resistance band into the mix for those who want to use it.  Like the ball, resistance bands are cheap to purchase, easy to store and carry around and provide an opportunity to explore more exercises from the Pilates repertoire.

What are the benefits of using a resistance band in Pilates?

  • allows us to target specific muscle groups and tendons and strengthen them;
  • provides support to ensure exercises are performed with control and stability;
  • the tension created by the bands can be adjusted to suit an individual’s needs and ability;
  • helps to ensure good alignment while performing an exercise;
  • recreates the exercises done on Pilates studio equipment e.g. the reformer in a matwork class.

A lot of people will already have a resistance band but for those who don’t you can purchase one from the Physio Room.  A light and/or medium band will be perfect to use in our Monday evening small equipment Pilates class.  You can probably find them cheaper on eBay or Amazon but based on experience, you get what you pay for.  I’ve gone for the cheaper option in the past and have found they easily tear and often aren’t the thickness/resistance level they claim to be.

See you online on the mat soon!

To close, here’s my song of the month from Amythyst Kiah…