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This new edition contains information on daily living patterns that can disrupt the body's biomechanics; back-strengthening routines for sports like golf, tennis, and racquetball; exercises for computer users - upper back, neck, and shoulder routines; more advanced versions of the original exercises; and the stamina stretch, to increase breathing capacity and support abdominals before each exercise. In addition, the book offers an introduction to the history and philosophy of the Pilates system, information specifically for athletes, a chapter addressing pain relief, and helpful illustrations and worksheets.
Man should bear in mind and ponder over the Greek admonition-not too much, not too little. - J. Pilates
THE EFFECTS OF LIFESTYLE AND STRESS ON THE BODY
Have you ever wished for more mental and physical stamina to aid you in playing longer with the children or grandchildren, completing the daily household chores, or even playing that extra game of tennis without becoming overfatigued? Have you ever wished to have more energy at the end of each day, rather than feeling drained? Have you ever wondered why so many people accept the back pain with which they live?
Why do we act and move the way we do? Why do we sometimes feel the same aches and pains as our parents did? Why do we develop new ones that our parents did not have? Will we acquire the same maladies that afflict the elderly people we know?
To a great extent, the answer to many suchquestions can be found in our current lifestyle: the fast pace of modern life, our eating habits, the effects of the greenhouse gases, and so on. Over many years, such a lifestyle can lead to mental and physical stress, which in turn causes the body to break down. This breakdown can manifest itself in several forms, ranging from mild allergies to severe and chronic aches and pains, to various types of injuries, or even to the breakdown of our personal relationships.
Such stresses can have a lasting effect on our lives. That is why we feel the urge to "get away from it all"-to escape to the mountains or the coast, to a quieter, more tranquil environment where we can "be ourselves." But at the end of our getaway we have to face it all over again. How are we supposed to cope with the pressures of life? How do we control our bodies so that they do not give way on us? Ultimately, how do we live longer, happier, healthier lives?
We can usually do very little about our inherited conditions. We cannot change the color of our eyes or the tone of our skin. And other, noninherited factors affect us as well. As we develop, we learn from those around us-our parents, our teachers, our peers, and others with whom we come in contact. Whether these experiences are good or bad, we tend to use them as reference points in our lives. We develop a mindset about what our abilities and capabilities are, formed in part by what we are told we can and cannot do.
We are affected by the choices we make in these formative years. Consider how as schoolchildren, many of us carried a heavy bag full of books, usually slinging it over one shoulder. One possible effect of this behavior is the development of scoliosis of the spine, a condition that can lead to back pain later in life if left untreated and if the contributing behavior continues throughout our developmental years.
As adults, we attempt to achieve more and to improve ourselves, usually by working long hours. As we try to accomplish higher goals, whether in the workplace or in our personal relationships, our physical and mental selves bear the brunt of our efforts at self-improvement. In order to handle difficult situations on a day-to-day basis and to sustain the changes we undertake, we require our bodies to provide us with increased mental and physical support and energy. The adage of "healthy body, healthy mind" is as true today as it has ever been. Even truer still is one of Joe Pilates' favorite quotes, from the German philosopher Frederich von Schiller: "It is the mind which controls the body." It is certainly of more benefit to be in control of your body rather than at its mercy!
HOW WE ESTABLISH FAULTY PATTERNS OF MOVEMENT
Our workplace environment has become more sedentary, and our leisure time has followed suit. Children now spend more time in front of television and computer than ever before. These habits tend to follow them into adulthood. The era of the "couch potato" is upon us, and we have failed to notice that fact until almost too late. In addition, when our forebears began to walk upright many millennia ago, the resulting changes in how we moved our bodies led to a restriction of movements in our joints and an unbalanced configuration in our bodies and muscles.
This means that we tend to favor one group of muscles more than the others when we perform most of our day-to-day activities. For example, each time we throw or kick a ball we tend to use the same arm or leg, women tend to hold a baby predominantly on the same hip, and we tend to hold a telephone to the same ear with the same hunched shoulder. These one-sided actions cause imbalances in the body. Even the way we walk, perhaps with an unnoticeably longer stride in one leg, can unbalance our musculoskeletal structures and can lead to back pain and even migraines.
Over time these continuous, repetitive movements become set in the memory of the muscle. These set movements, or engrams as they are known, stay with us for many years. For instance, even if we have not ridden a bicycle for many years, we are still capable of doing so without falling off. Engrams also set a neuromuscular pattern in our brain, so certain movements become habitual. These habits may not affect us for years. The problems occur when we change a habit and attempt a different movement.
Our pattern of movement, then, becomes our physical "safety zone." Even if we know we move in an ungainly way (usually because it's been pointed out to us, not because we have noticed it ourselves), we feel it is normal.
For example, walking with slight knock-knees is not a grossly distorted movement. It is, however, noticeable to others. To the person walking this way, the movement seems normal, and the gait feels just as fast and fluid in execution as anyone else's, but it is not how 90 percent of the population walks. If the gait is to be corrected, the inherent pattern of movement requires change. Even though the person who has knock-knees may experience no physical discomfort, there may be reasons to change his or her way of walking, such as to improve speed in a 100-meter race, or to walk as a model down a catwalk.
Similar muscular pulls occur in many of our everyday movements: women who wear high heels walk with a forward tilt, which they correct unconsciously by leaning backward. The result is forward tilt of the pelvis; the compensation of the backward lean tends to arch and tighten the lower back.
In most cases a realignment of the body's "abnormal" position to one that is normal requires a reeducation of the musculature, assuming there are no structural (skeletal) problems.
From the preceding case study we see that our body will align itself without our knowledge according to its own frame of reference. In this case, the frame of reference is a "squaring" of the torso when standing. Visual images of what is straight and correct alignment are imprinted in our subconscious from what we see around us. We then stand accordingly, even if this is not our "natural" position.
Another example is children who experience growth spurts and outgrow their peers, or girls who develop large breasts at an early age. These young people tend to walk with stooped shoulders to avoid bringing attention to themselves. This action tightens the pectoral group of muscles in the chest, resulting in rounded shoulders or a stooped posture that may be carried into adulthood, even though their peers have caught up in height! As a corrective measure, to avoid future problems in the neck and even the lower back, the muscles in the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades (the rhomboids), would need strengthening and the chest muscles lengthening.
In the example of the woman in high heels, the back muscles are forced to tighten into an arch in order to prevent the body from leaning forward. This can lead to a weakening of the opposing muscles-the abdominals. The weakening of the abdominals and the forward (anterior) tilt of the pelvis lead to tight thighs, or quadriceps (see Figure 3).
The situations I've described are of less concern if they do not cause discomfort. However, many years of repeating the same action can set the muscle into what becomes its normal pattern, and this can eventually lead to more noticeable problems, especially if the person fails to follow a corrective exercise program.
Tightness in one group of muscles invariably indicates a weakness in another, usually opposite, group of muscles. In the high-heel example, the weak area would be the abdominals. However, strengthening the abdominals is not the total solution to the condition. Stretching and lengthening the tight muscles (calves, thighs, psoas) is also of great importance in alleviating the problem. Control of these muscles on a continual basis is important. If the lower back is arched because of weak abdominals, then concentration is required to "pull" the abdominals in, even when standing at a bus stop. Reminding the muscles to do the right thing will eventually lead to a more comfortable, correct posture. However, people find it easier to let the body think for itself than to remind it what to do for a few seconds now and then.
Here's a simple activity that can demonstrate how we develop patterns of movement: Fold your arms across your chest, as you would normally do. Next, stretch your hands above your head, then rest them by your side, and now fold your arms the opposite way as quickly as possible. A little confusion occurs here. You may have to focus visually, as well as mentally, on what you are doing. Retraining your thinking to perform the new movement is unusual and requires focus. And tomorrow when you fold your arms, you will automatically revert to the old, set pattern. We do not want to make the extra effort necessary to relearn patterns of movement. Why should we? Everything works well enough, does it not? So leave it alone! As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke don't fix it."
Varying a set pattern, however unnatural the set pattern is, causes confusion both physically and mentally. For a new pattern to become habit takes far longer than we might anticipate. Many people assume that when pain occurs it can be fixed immediately and permanently. In many cases, if the pain is not caused by a sporting injury or an accident, it is the result of an accumulation of incorrect muscle control over a period of time. This gradual buildup of muscle imbalance can later manifest itself in one sudden occurrence: You might be doing something as simple as turning around a little farther than usual in the car seat while driving in reverse, when suddenly your back "gives out." However slight this extra, different movement is, in some cases it is capable of causing extreme pain.
We can see the effects of chronic pain in people all around us. We all know someone who endures pain of some kind, whether it be back pain, neck and shoulder pain, or another type. Pain can be a debilitating "dis-ease" that can lead us to despair of ever finding a "cure."
LOADING THE BODY
Weight training and certain sporting activities, such as tennis and golf, create unbalanced muscle structures purely because of the nature of the action that the muscle is required to undertake. For example, the playing forearm of a world-class squash player would be significantly larger than the nonplaying arm. In our everyday lives, the body is "loaded" by normal gravitational forces and also by unnatural forces such as the lifting of shopping bags or the lifting of weights at the gym. These activities sometimes impose a greater force than the counterforce exerted by the body to sustain a level of equilibrium, resulting in muscle strain and possible injury. For example, lifting or bench-pressing a weight greater than that which the body is capable of sustaining results in an extra strain that leads to torn muscles, because the muscles were commanded to exert a far greater effort than they were capable of adequately supporting.
Our joints endure tremendous forces when we run, climb, jump, bend, twist, arch, push, and pull. Joints affected by these movements include practically every place in the body where a bone comes into contact with another bone. For example, although we commonly think of the joints at the elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, wrist, and ankle as bearing most of the brunt of our activities, even those at the fingers, toes, and spine (the vertebrae) are affected by our patterns of motion.
As I have mentioned, gravity is a major stress on the body. As Isaac Newton said, "To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." This is true of every movement we undertake; each of our movements is a counteraction against the gravitational pull of the earth. It is when we make a movement to which the body cannot react comfortably that the weakest joint or muscle may give way, and occasionally even the strongest muscles and joints may overload and strain.
Our skeletal frame is held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We feel overexertion as aching muscles, perhaps after a strenuous aerobics class or a long run. Too much stress or more loading than is comfortable affects not only the muscles but also the tendons and/or ligaments. (Tendons are the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone; ligaments attach bone to bone.) For example, sudden loading and twisting on a skier's knee can tear the cruciate ligaments in the back of the knee, causing him to feel pain in the knee joint.
The direction of the forces that are placed on the joint is also a determining factor in the resultant ache or break of the muscle or bone. In the example of the skier, he could reduce his chances of injury by maintaining flexibility in his hips, knees, and spine. In addition, strength in his thighs, buttocks, and abdominals would give him a greater sense of balance when he's in a forward, bent position. Football players need extra strength to protect their joints because of the extra forces placed on their bodies from all directions. A football player is tackled from the front, back, sides, and other angles, and by different amounts of force, depending on the weight and size and speed of the person performing the tackle.
If a football player were to ski and a skier were to play football, it is clear that further physical conditioning, strengthening, and a change of mental attitude would be required for each to perform the other's sport. Because the muscular and joint stresses of these activities are different, each athlete would ache after an initial training session in the other's sport.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEVERS
"Give me a lever long enough and I will move the Earth!" - Aristotle
In order to understand the concept of stresses or loads on muscle groups, we need to understand the principle of levers and how they relate to the human body. Having this knowledge will help us be aware of how to reduce the strain on certain muscles by physically (and mentally) applying effort from a stronger muscle in order to protect weaker muscles and joints. (Portions of the following discussion of levers and the human body have been adapted from Fitness Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. See References.)
Levers are rigid rods that move about a fulcrum (also called an axis or pivot point). Two different types of forces act on the lever: resistance (or load) and effort. In the human body, the lever is the bone, the fulcrum is the joint, the effort force comes from the muscle, and the resistance force comes from gravity. Resistance may be increased by adding weight or using elastic bands.
Excerpted from THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO JOSEPH H. PILATES' TECHNIQUES OF PHYSICAL CONDITIONING by Allan Menezes Copyright © 2004 by Allan S. Menezes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|About the Author||ix|
|1||Why Our Bodies Need a Regular Fitness Program|
|The Effects of Lifestyle and Stress on the Body||6|
|How We Establish Faulty Patterns of Movement||6|
|Loading the Body||9|
|The Importance of Levers||10|
|You Can Do It!||12|
|2||Mental Control over Physical Movement|
|The Inevitable Aging Process||16|
|Find Your Focus||17|
|Developing a "Thinking Body"||17|
|The Eight Principles of the Pilates Method||21|
|3||The Importance of Posture|
|Factors Influencing Posture||34|
|What Is Correct Posture?||34|
|The Tripod Position||34|
|Bad Posture and Lower-Back Pain||36|
|Identifying and Avoiding Pain||38|
|Listening to Your Body for Greater Results: The Stretch Scale and the Work Scale||41|
|Body Positioning for Better Exercising||43|
|The Exercise Formula||43|
|Body Awareness and Posture||47|
|The Perfect Torso Posture (PTP)||48|
|Establishing Correct Posture||48|
|4||Making Your Pilates Workout Effective and Safe|
|Warm-Up and Stretching Before Your Workout||56|
|Pointers for Safe Exercising||58|
|The Structure of the Exercise Program||58|
|Exercise 1||Resting Position (Baby Pose)||62|
|Exercise 2-1||Standing Roll Down||63|
|Exercise 2-2||Stamina Stretch||64|
|Exercises 3 through 6a||The Start Stretches||65|
|Exercise 7||Spiral Stretch||67|
|Exercise 8-1||Calf Stretch||68|
|Exercise 8-2||Alternating Calf Stretches||69|
|Exercise 9-1||Hamstring Stretch: Basic||70|
|Exercise 9-2||Hamstring Stretch 2||71|
|Exercise 10||Hamstring Stretch 3||72|
|Exercise 11||Thigh Stretch 1: Prone||73|
|Exercise 12||Thigh Stretch 2: Standing||74|
|Exercise 13||Thigh Stretch 3: Kneeling||75|
|6||The Routine for Lower-Back Pain and Weak Aboominals|
|Exercise 14||One-Leg Lifts: Supine||78|
|Exercise 15||Sliding Leg||79|
|Rest Position with Knees to Chest for Exercises Done while Lying on the Back||80|
|Position for All Exercises with Cushion||80|
|Exercise 16||Preparation with Cushions||81|
|7||The Basic Routine|
|Exercise 17||Preparation for the Hundreds||84|
|Exercise 18||The Hundreds: Basic||85|
|Exercise 19-1||The Hundreds: Intermediate||86|
|Exercise 19-2||Percussion Breathing||87|
|Exercise 20||Single Leg Stretch||88|
|Exercise 21||Double Leg Stretch: Basic||89|
|Exercise 22||Single Leg Circles 1||91|
|Exercise 23||Side to Side||92|
|Exercise 24||Stomach Stretch||93|
|Exercise 25||The Perfect Abdominal Curl (PAC)||94|
|Exercise 26-1||Ankle Weights: Outer Thigh (Abductor)||96|
|Exercise 26-2||Ankle Weights: Inner Thigh (Adductor)||97|
|Exercise 26-3||Ankle Weights: Outer Thigh Flexion (Abductor)||98|
|Exercise 27||Back of the Thigh: Hamstring/Buttocks||99|
|Exercise 28-1||Arm Weights: Position for All Supine Routines||100|
|Exercise 28-2||Opening Arms||101|
|Exercise 28-3||Alternating Arms||102|
|Exercise 28-4||Double Overhead Arms||103|
|Exercise 28-5||Arm Circles||104|
|Exercise 29-1||Arm Swings: Alternating||105|
|Exercise 29-2||Arm Swings: Chest Expansion||106|
|Exercise 30||The Pole||107|
|8||The Intermediate Routine|
|Exercise 31||The Hundreds: Alternating Legs||110|
|Exercise 33||The Roll-Up||112|
|Exercise 34||The Roll-Over||114|
|Exercise 35||Single Leg Circles||116|
|Exercise 36||Double Leg Stretch 2: Lowering and Raising||117|
|Exercise 37||Rolling Like a Ball||119|
|Exercise 39||Stomach Stretch: Alternating Arms and Legs||121|
|Exercise 40||Single Leg Kick||122|
|Exercise 41||Double Leg Kick||123|
|Exercise 42-1||Swan Dive 1||124|
|Exercise 42-2||Swan Dive 2||125|
|Exercise 44||Spine Rotation||127|
|Exercise 45||Spine Stretch||129|
|Exercise 46||Open Leg Rocker||131|
|Exercise 47-1||Corkscrew: Basic||133|
|Exercise 47-2||Corkscrew 1: Intermediate||134|
|Exercise 47-3||Corkscrew 2: Advanced||135|
|Exercise 48||The Saw||137|
|Exercise 49||Side Kick 1||139|
|Exercise 50||Side Leg Lifts||141|
|Exercise 51||Pelvic Curl||142|
|Exercise 52||Pelvic Lift||143|
|Exercise 53-1||Teaser 1: Basic||144|
|Exercise 53-2||Teaser 2||146|
|Exercise 53-3||Teaser 3||147|
|Exercise 54||Leg Pull Prone||148|
|Exercise 55||Leg Pull Supine||149|
|Exercise 56||Side Kick 2||150|
|Exercise 59||Control Balance||154|
|9||The Aovanced Routine|
|Exercise 60||The Hundreds: Lower and Raise||156|
|Exercise 61||Roll-Over: Bent Legs||157|
|Exercise 63||Neck Curl||159|
|Exercise 64||Helicopter Hundreds||161|
|Exercise 68||Shoulder Bridge||166|
|Exercise 69-2||Can-Can Extension||168|
|Exercise 70||Hip Circles||169|
|Exercise 71||Lying Torso Stretch||170|
|Exercise 72||Stamina Stretch: Advanced||171|
|Exercise 73||Lumbar Stretch||172|
|Exercise 75-1||Twist 1||174|
|Exercise 75-2||Twist 2||175|
|10||More Chrllenging Exercises|
|Exercise 76||Oblique Curls||178|
|Exercise 77||Wrist and Forearm Strengthener||179|
|Exercise 78||Neck Stretches||180|
|Exercise 79||Seated Spine Rotation||181|
|Exercise 80||Cushion Squeeze||182|
|Exercise TB 1||Pointing the Foot (Plantar Flexion)||184|
|Exercise TB 2||Pointing the Toes||184|
|Exercise TB 3||Dorsiflexion of the Ankle||184|
|Exercise TB 4||Eversion of the Ankle||185|
|Exercise TB 5||Inversion of the Metatarsal Joint||185|
|Exercise TB 6||Adduction of the Inner Thigh||185|
|Exercise TB 7||Flexion and Extension of the Leg while Using Outward Rotation of the Hip Joints||186|
|Exercise TB 8||Hyperextension to Extension||186|
|Exercise TB 9||Flexion to Extension on the Back||186|
|Exercise TB 10||Prone Hyperextension to Extension||186|
|Exercise TB 11||Biceps||187|
|Exercise TB 12||Triceps||187|
|Exercise TB 13||Pectorals||187|
|Exercise TB 14||Pectorals and Deltoids||187|
|Exercise TB 15||Latissimus Dorsi||188|
|Exercise TB 16||Back||188|
|Exercise TB 17||Overhead||188|
|Exercise TB 18||Side Stretch||188|
|12||Move Yourself Out of Pain|
|Specific Conditions and the Exercises That Help to Relieve Them||192|
|Increasing the Challenge: A Plan for Progressing Through the Exercises||195|
|Studio-Based Pilates Programs||199|