Are you in need of a fresh challenge for September? Then you might want to join my FREE 30 Day Pilates Plank Challenge!
Be aware that this is NOT a traditional plank challenge where you’re asked to plank for an extended period of time!
This is a much smarter plank challenge, which focuses on teaching you good alignment, correct form and understanding the connections that are required to support your body in a truly intelligent way.
The Pilates Way!
If you struggle to find the time to build strength efficiently in your body then this is the challenge for you.
Strength is the number one way to protect your body from injury including things like back, neck and shoulder pain, and the pilates plank is one of the most efficient ways to build functional, full body strength.
Done correctly, did you know that you’ll see results quickly?
You can sign up below to be sent your challenge resources, which include:
Your FREE 30 day challenge calendar (printable PDF)
Access to a short ‘How to Plank (the pilates way) video’ (including modifications and tips to avoid wrist and toe discomfort when planking)
Access to a super quick ‘Pilates Plank Variations’ video (giving you planking options from beginners to advanced, so you can take part no matter what level you’re at)
PLUS I’ll be dropping in with regular motivation and teaching points to keep you inspired along the way!
Our challenge starts on 1 September (tomorrow!) but you can jump in at any point.
Work your body smarter not harder – SIGN UP BELOW to join us!
FREE 30 Day Pilates Plank Challenge
JOIN TODAY AND LEARN TO BUILD STRENGTH THE PILATES WAY!
Let’s talk about the unseen benefits of pilates for a moment.
We hear words like strength, toning, flexibility all the time when it comes to pilates. And whilst they are all incredible benefits, they tend to focus on the physical aspects of it.
But what about the things that are perhaps not as immediately obvious but just as important?
Using pilates as a stress relieving tool is actually the number one reason I practise.
After losing Dad, I learned just how stressful caring for someone can be and how important it is to stay healthy in body and mind, so as you can be the best carer you can.
Back then I wasn’t running my own business.
Since mum’s double surgery and chemotherapy, let’s just say I’m definitely experiencing some new challenges when it comes to staying on top of my stress levels.
I’m noticing that I need to work twice as hard to strike a balance between being the best support I can be for her whilst also balancing my own needs and the needs of my business as it continues to grow (I’m quickly learning it’s like having a small child!).
We all have caring roles to some degree so here are just 3 ways that pilates can you help you be the best carer for whoever needs you too (and that includes your business!):
Pilates helps release physical and emotional tension from your body Suffer from back pain? Or maybe you’re prone to holding tension in your shoulders and jaw? Tight and tense muscles are stressed muscles. We also store a lot of emotion in our body; for example, in somatics, the psoas muscle is well knowns as a site that stores trauma, especially for woman. Pilates helps you to ease tight and tense muscles by stretching and releasing them, helping you to get rid of unwanted tension from your body.
Pilates helps to slow your mind down, which can improve your thinking When your mind is always on the ‘go’ it means that sometimes you don’t always chose the most helpful response to a stressful situation. In pilates you are encouraged to become present by moving your body in a slow and controlled way; a more mindful way. In that moment, it can help create the space you need to choose how you respond to stressful events or situations in your life, rather than just merely reacting and making a situation worse.
Pilates promotes the rest and digest stress response Breathing and movement are two proven ways you can use to regulate your stress response. In as little as 10 minutes of movement, you can shift your entire physiology from fight or flight to rest and digest. If you having caring responsibilities, this is an important step you can take to help prevent burnout.
I’m curious, did you know that pilates could help you in this way?
A common question I get asked is what’s the best pilates exercise I can do for low back pain relief?
And whilst there are lots I’d recommend, all for different back pain relieving reasons, if I HAD to pick only one pilates exercise for low back pain relief, it would be the Pilates Spine Curl, sometimes referred to as the pelvic curl.
And today I’m sharing a simple How To video that breaks down the exercise, helping you to get the most out of it.
Joseph Pilates once famously said:
The spine curl then, is THE pilates exercise to build flexibilty in your spine at all ages and stages of life!
It’s an exercise that ticks all the boxes when it comes to your back because:
you move your spine sequentially helping to maintain mobility and length in it
it strengthens your glutes and hamstrings; two muscle groups essential for supporting your low back
it opens your hips (anyone that sits a lot needs this!).
When I had my chronic low back pain, this was a pilates exercise that I did daily to get mobility into my back after a long day of sitting.
And the good news is, you only need to do a few of them to feel the benefit – remember at Ostara we advocate for a less is more approach to our health and wellbeing.
The video is less than 10 minutes, so an easy one to sneak into your day.
That said, this is one where it really does pay off to focus on the quality of the exercise, especially if you’re in that low back pain camp, like I was! So watch this as many times as you need to help you get the most out of this tension freeing exercise.
Pilates Pro Tip: Holding the spine curl and taking it into single leg toe taps, will help strengthen those glutes even faster! This is often called the Pilates Shoulder Bridge.
Hit PLAY on your Pilates Spine Curl How To video now and feel for yourself the difference it makes.
Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know if it helps to get your back moving.
See you on your mat!
P.S. Ready to put what you’ve learned into practice and get that back moving? Then use this link to try my short 10 minute Healthy Backs pilates workout from my 21 Day Pilates Challenge. If you enjoy it, then you can sign up for the full 21 days below!
I’d like to thank my wonderful friend, James for writing this fantastic piece about looking after your back! James is a man who knows a thing or two about backs – a graduate of Cambridge University, he’s a Consultant Spinal Surgeon with the NHS and is the man you’ll end up in front of it you don’t look after your back! He’s also recovering from covid-19, which he contracted whilst working during the pandemic. A true hero and legend – if you don’t believe me about looking after your back, then you must believe him!
Back pain is a major cause of health problems world wide with up to 70% of adults experiencing back pain during their life time. Despite the attempts of Marty Mcfly going ‘Back to the Future’ remains rather difficult, meaning we cannot predict who will have problems with back pain.
In the majority of people back pain is a result of wear and tear changes in the lower levels of the spine where it joins the pelvis.
Mr. james tomlinson, nhs spinal consultant, frcs
Spine wear and tear will affect 100% of the population by a ‘certain age’ and is a natural part of the ageing process rather than a sign that something is wrong. Improvements in standards of living and healthcare have led to increased life expectancy, and higher levels of spine wear and tear due to longer lives. The treatment of back pain remains a difficult problem – largely driven by the fact that we still don’t understand the underlying causes, and why some individuals are so badly affected. The levels of spine wear and tear in those with and without low back pain may be very similar, and some of those who have significant pain may have no or little degeneration in their spine.
Back pain is more common in industrialised nations, and it has been suggested this may be due to lower levels of physical activity and physical deconditioning with weakness of the muscles supporting the spine.
Mr James tomlinson, nhs spinal consultant, frcs
Physical activity and movement will keep the spine muscles working and reduce the atrophy or loss of muscle bulk over time in those who have very low levels of physical activity. Any form of exercise that strengthens the low back muscles is useful to try and keep the spine healthy, but it is important to increase activity levels gradually!
Medical treatments for those who develop low back pain are usually pain relief and physiotherapy in the majority of patients with a lack of successful medical treatments for most cases. Physiotherapy often focuses on reconditioning the spine muscles and establishing normal movement patterns in the spine.
There is evidence that Pilates may help with keeping the spine muscles conditioned and can both help prevent back pain developing, and also improve symptoms in those who have low back problems.
Mr james tomlinson, nhs spinal consultant, frcs
In the words of Desiderius Erasmus the Dutch philosopher ‘prevention is better than cure’. It is of vital importance that we maintain our physical condition and health as we live longer and longer.
Given the lack of successful medical treatments for low back pain, maintaining spine movement and conditioning is critical and may play a key role in prevention of low back pain so get moving!
Did you know I ended up in pilates because I suffered chronic low back pain for over 2 years when I was in my mid twenties? It’s true. I was 25 and couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoes.
I had over 30 physio sessions, took prescribed sleeping tablets, had 2 MRI scans and a set of injections in my lumbar facet joints and not one single thing made a difference to the pain I felt day in and day out. It was truly debilitating in every way. I spent hours in the dead of night reciting Philip Larkin poems, willing the day to come. When it did, I spent hours lying on the floor stretching. I had to trade my beloved heels for not so beloved flat shoes and had to alternate between standing and sitting everywhere I went, and yet no position felt comfortable. I had to have a zillion adjustments made at work and used a wedge cushion for driving.
And then along came a newly graduated, fresh faced physio from Down Under who took one look at me and said, “you need to do pilates.” At that point in time, the only person I’d heard of who did pilates was Madonna and the only place to do it was in LA! However, if he had said get yourself and on a plane to Arizona and jump off the Grand Canyon to sort it, I would have done it! As luck would have it, I didn’t have to do that, nor did I have to go to LA to hang out with Madonna. Instead the gym at RBS Gogarburn, where I was working like a dog, was about to launch a run of pilates classes so I immediately signed up.
I remember every single thing about that lesson. There was a total of 5 exercises with the rest of the class being structured around learning completely alien things to me like spinal alignment, finding a neutral pelvis and how to make best friends with your ‘corset’ of support to support your back (corset = your deep abdominal muscles). I remember having to do a curl up and was shocked to find that I could barely lift my head off the mat, let alone my back! But in that 60 minutes something magical happened; for the first time in 2 years, I left that room with zero pain. How could that be? After everything I’d done to try and manage my back pain in 2 years, including a medical intervention, how could 60 minutes of 5 exercises melt it away? It left me feeling light and happy and I was hooked. The pain came back but the more I went to pilates the less and less it came back until eventually it didn’t come back at all!
That was way back in 2005. It’s a true story and, fifteen years on, is the reason I still do pilates everyday – be in 10 minutes or 60. I never want to feel that pain again – anyone who has suffered chronic low back pain will get my drift here. It is the pitts and effects everything in your life.
I felt stronger, calmer and more able to enjoy life with each and every class. I started to live my life in a different way and as time went on, I also started to notice things that were out of kilter with my new found way of living, particularly the fact that I had been spending faaaarrrr too long chained to a desk all day, working in a high performing team for a high performing company and busting a gut to keep up. It was stressful, fast paced and – dare I say it – cut throat at times. Recognise it? Yip, all of that contributed to my back issues too. In fact, within a year of conquering my back pain through pilates, I quit my high performing job and went to work for a smaller business that still had high expectations of delivery but without the competitive, internal politics of the big global corporation I was slogging away for. It was also handily located within the city centre which meant I could ditch the 1 hour commute to work each way and actually walk to work (and also meant I could fit in 2 pilates classes a week instead of 1).
Pilates really has been the only thing that has helped my back – it has been worth every penny of investment I have made on it. It is so easy to slip it in to your day – spending just 10 minutes on 4 or 5 exercises every day, or every other day, will leave you feeling stronger, calmer and better about everything; do if for long enough and you’ll start to see those little magical shifts in how you go about your every life stuff. I promise.
It is incredibly difficult to truly ‘damage’ your back but like any living thing (yes your spine is a living, breathing thing!), if you don’t look after it, it will stop working. There is lots of medical research to support the fact that you no longer have to hold an anatomical position and work the back mechanically; movement in all directions is best. Here are my 8 go to pilates exercises to help loosen off a stiff or sore low back – do all 8 or pick and choose a few. Aim for around 8 -10 reps of each 2 or 3 times a day if you can; they are truly magical for your back:
Sore back? Feeling stressed? Looking for a way to exercise that fits neatly into your every day life in a way that will build strength, reduce stress and will 100% leave you feeling better than before you rolled your mat out? Then join the other 100+ people signed up to my newsletter for hints, tips and guides on how the magic of pilates can help you every day too.
The LifeTonic Club is an online pilates and wellness membership that is helping you to stay fit and healthy in ways that fit neatly into your day and easily into your life, making it super easy to stay motivated, consistent and inspired for the long road.