The clocks have gone forward, the days are longer, the weather getting better. With this in mind the Tuesday class will now begin half an hour earlier at 0930, leaving everyone more of the morning left to resume their work or head out to play.
The usual classes will run over the Easter weekend so if you’d like to join me for Pilates on Good Friday 15 April at 0930 or Small Equipment Pilates on Easter Monday 18 April at 1800, that would be great. Rumours I’ll be teaching the classes dressed as the Easter Bunny are completely unfounded…I’ll save that outfit for Christmas.
Need cheering up? Here’s Elvis with the best version of Are You Lonesome Tonight…”sing it, baby!”
Taught as the founder intended, Pilates is a very mindful form of exercise. Throughout my classes I encourage you to feel what is happening to your body as you perform the exercises and in the pauses between the movements. You will hear me drawing your attention to your heart beat, postural tone, how and where you are breathing, the temperature of your body, the sensation of tissues lengthening, contracting and releasing, gurglings in the gut when you perform the navel to spine core engagement. It is this aspect of our Pilates practice that helps us be more present in the body as we go about our day-to-day life and be more mindful of how well we’re moving. Are we sitting, standing, walking with good posture? Do we feel well-balanced?
New research from Anglia Ruskin University highlights another important benefit of being tuned into our body and the sensations we can feel happening inside us. In an interview with cognitive neuroscientist, Dr Jane Aspell on a recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, developing this ability to detect physical sensations going on inside the body – or interoceptive awareness as it’s called – can have a positive effect on how we view our body, how we feel about our appearance. The study showed that people who have stronger brain responses i.e. greater awareness of signals from inside the body (heart beat, rumblings in the gut) have a more positive body image.
Pilates is therefore a useful way of training ourselves to be more aware of what we can feel happening inside the body, which in turn helps us be more comfortable in our own skin and more in tune with our body’s physical and emotional needs. Fascinating stuff.
The images in this post are of Peter Jansen’s Human Motions Sculptures. Another new discovery this week. Thank you!
New for 2022. Starting next week (from 7 February) all four online classes will feature a short Q&A at the end of the session.
Once we’ve said our goodbyes to those who need to leave straight away, I’ll invite those remaining to ask any questions about the specific exercises we performed in our hour of practice or any general teaching points I made along the way.
This will be the perfect opportunity to check you’re doing the exercises correctly, to ask for further guidance on any adaptations or alternative exercises I provided, to say I felt this when I did a certain movement, is that right? etc etc. Anything that comes to mind really. Ask away.
I’ll return the session to gallery view when the class has finished and invite you to turn your microphone on if you have a question. You could turn your video on too if you like. When I need to demonstrate an exercise to answer a query I’ll put the session on speaker view again so you can see me more clearly.
If you don’t have a specific question and just want to watch the Q&A, that’s great too. A point raised by someone else and my answer might be just what you need to feel more confident doing the exercises, particularly the newer or more challenging ones.
Thank you for continuing to support the classes and I hope this small add-on to each session will help you get more out of your Pilates practice.
To close, here’s one of Lyse Doucet’s tracks from Desert Island Discs this morning, which had me (belly)dancing in my kitchen…
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!
Bonus feature, a mini concert from Goat Girl, whose album On All Fours is on my best of 2021 list…
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.
To help you get the most from my online Pilates classes, a few tips…
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.
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.
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.
Finally, I use a webcam instead of the internal camera on my laptop so the quality of the images should be top notch.
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…
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!