If you suffer from hip pain, Pilates is an excellent way to remedy discomfort. Often caused by issues with nearby muscles, ligaments or tendons, hip pain can also be referred from the lower back. While it may be tempting to keep the area immobile, in fact, a Pilates practise can decrease pain significantly. This is because the joint itself benefits from gentle yet deliberate movement.

Inside this large, weight-bearing ball and socket joint, the surfaces of the hip bones are covered by a thin synovial membrane, which lubricates the joint and nourishes it. Pilates activates this healthy process which keeps the hip limber.

Certain stretches and exercises also increase flexibility and builds strength in the surrounding muscles, such as the hip flexors. This group of muscles allows you to lift your knees and bend forward from your hips. Sitting in a chair from long periods of time causes the flexors to become tight, as they stay in a shortened position. This often causes pain and makes them more prone to injury, especially for runners due to the repetitive movement. There are many hip-strengthening exercises in Pilates that can prevent the muscles from weakening, and many stretches that can encourage muscle health. All benefit the hip joint immensely.

Here are three gentle movements that can be carried out easily and effectively from home.  

  1. Bridges: lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet firmly on the floor. Your arms should be down at your sides. Squeeze your glutes, press down into your heels and then lift your hips up off the floor towards the ceiling. Hold for a moment and carefully lower down to the ground.
  2. The Clam: this movement increase hip joint mobility. On your mat, lie on your side with your knees bent 90 degrees. Your hips and shoulders should be in a straight line. Using your arms to support you, slowly rotate your upper leg, so that your knees move apart – keep your toes together. Slowly bring your knee back down to the start position.
  3. Kneeling lunge: on your mat, kneel in a lunge position. Make sure you have good alignment with your tailbone tucked in slightly and your body upright.

If you have any questions about hip health or want to find out if Pilates is for you, get in touch with Chris today to find out more about incorporating it into your training and to book an assessment class.


Whether you are an athlete or not, having a good level of stamina helps you to keep in good health. For those that know the term but are not quite sure what it means for the daily context, stamina is the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. As you get older it takes more effort to keep a good level of stamina. This is often where people can become disheartened as it can take a while to see the benefits. Pilates is great for building stamina that fits you and your lifestyle, instead of slaving away in the gym, not quite sure whether what you are doing is correct.

In Pilates, the controlled and deliberate movements and exercises may not feel the same as gaining strength through weight training, but you are actually building muscle and strength in a way that weight training doesn’t allow you to. The common mantra in a gym is ‘bigger, faster, stronger’, whereas in Pilates it is ‘longer, smoother, less’. This is because you are able to target specific muscle groups in your body and if you are doing it right you can really feel the muscles working. This is a fantastic benefit for anyone, no matter your current level of fitness. For example, during my Pilates journey, Chris helped me to target my outer hamstrings. By working on my outer hamstrings it allowed me to help correct my posture as I was relying on the strength of my hip flexors, which I had gained through gym work. This increased my overall stamina when I was in the gym doing cardio, for instance, as I was not solely relying on one muscle group to carry me through my workout.

A real strong point of Pilates to build stamina is that it teaches you how to utilise your lungs as breathing is a core principle and part of each movement. Most of us are not making full use of our diaphragm when breathing deeply. This means that, for the majority of us, there is already an area to work on to increase stamina before you even get down to the exercises. As concentration on breath allows us to turn inwards, there are also positive effects on your mental health stamina too. Studies have shown that Pilates can help to improve your mood, sleep quality and relieve anxiety.

Pilates is about channelling into a muscle group to work hard but to feel the sensation of it working hard rather than push away from it. Unlike in the gym, where the usual mentality is to work as hard as possible until your arms and legs are aching. This is where the true strength of Pilates comes in for building stamina for both the body and the mind as you are connecting both together to work in tandem together.

Wondering if Pilates is for you? Get in touch with Chris today to find out more about incorporating it into your training and to book an assessment class.

When people start their Pilates journey it’s very common to ask how often. After all, we are keen to see results yet we don’t want to do too much too soon – or we rush in full steam ahead! The answer is that it truly depends on each individual. For beginners especially, consistency is important: two to three times a week is enough to start seeing noticeable changes. However, one of the many benefits to Pilates is that it is safe to practise daily.

Let’s make it clearer…

To work out the ideal number of sessions for you, a great place to start is your ‘why’. It is common for clients to practise Pilates for a number of reasons, so honing in on why you take part is key. What has brought you to the practise? Is it to help you perform better in a separate sport? Is it general strengthening and toning of the muscles? Or do you have a physical issue that needs addressing?

If you are someone already engaged in other sporting activities, once a week may work well for you. This supplementary session serves as an addition to your fitness routine and can aid performance in other areas. It allows you to keep moving and still work out but at a lower intensity.  

See Swimming and Pilates and Cycling and Pilates

If you are working with a goal of improving your overall health then more frequent sessions may be advised, especially at the beginning or if you are returning after a break. Consistent habits equal results.

If you are working towards a more specific aim, such as rehabilitation, Pilates should be done multiple times per week – once enough may not be enough to make the significant change you require. If you are working to ease lower back pain or recover from an injury, for example, it is more likely that an instructor will give you an individualised plan to follow.

Even though Pilates is low impact, it is still important to make sure there is plenty of variety in your programme – you will need a wide range of exercises to ensure you keep progressing and developing optimally. Having rest days to recover and working different muscle groups over different days is still advised. It is also important to listen to how you are feeling, so that you can be present in each session. Your body will thank you!

Wondering if Pilates is for you? Get in touch with Chris today to find out more about incorporating it into your training and to book an assessment class.

One of the many benefits of Pilates is its unique ability to improve performance in sport. It subtly yet effectively increases body control without straining muscles. Importantly, this reduces the risk of injury, all while building strength. Athletes participating in swimming in particular can notice exciting and significant improvements in race and recovery times by following a Pilates routine that focuses on ideal body alignment and building core strength.

The shoulder joint is used enormously during swimming, and it is this area of the body that can frequently suffer from wear and tear injuries from continual repetition. The following article discusses the complex use of this joint during the butterfly stroke, and shows how important it is to have a strong trunk to support the shoulders as they propel the body forwards in the water.

This is one of the main ways Pilates aids swimmers is its effective muscle conditioning of the inner support system, including the abdominal muscles and core. This helps to reduce recovery time overall for an athlete. Swimmers most often train the larger,  global muscles, which means these smaller, deeper internal muscles can be neglected. By training them, however, the likelihood of neck strains or shoulder injury is reduced, as they support the movement in the extremities. If you are suffering from a neck strain from swimming, Chris explains some simple methods of relieving tension in this video:

Pilates also provides an increased sense of balance for swimmers. It is a highly functional practise, and its exercises carry over to many sports that require careful positioning. Swimmers must be balanced in the water in order to keep their body in ideal alignment for maximum efficiency. Even the smallest misalignment can have a great effect on different strokes, so this is key for success. Pilates also improves joint flexibility by lengthening and increasing range of motion.

The concentration that is applied during Pilates is a further added benefit to time spent in the pool; swimmers can gain a heightened state of focus to help them reach their goals. The practise of breath control also aids athletes, as it builds an awareness of the respiratory system.

Whether you are an elite athlete clocking up hours and hours each week in the pool, or you are a regular swimmer, Pilates can be beneficial for these reasons. By working on the inner stabilizing muscles and taking the time to work on your ability to focus and concentrate, your swim speed and strength can be increased dramatically and your strokes can become far more efficient!  

Wondering if Pilates is for you? Get in touch with Chris today to find out more about incorporating it into your training and to book an assessment class.

In this week’s blog we are going to be looking at how incorporating Pilates into a cycling training programme can be beneficial for reducing fatigue in certain areas of the body and how it can boost endurance.

It is understandable that cyclists are more drawn to working on their legs and forget to work on their upper body, core or flexibility. The core, especially, is crucial to cyclists. By not having a strong core, both abdominals and back, you’re reducing your ability to produce a solid base for your lower body to work with. A common trope within the cycling world is that the lower back is the first area to fatigue on a ride or a time trial due to their positioning and rounded shoulders. Pilates helps to engage the lower back, build stamina and flexibility there that will benefit your ride or time trial, as well as increasing your recovery time in between rides or competitions.  

Watch the video for 3 simple stretches to help your core and shoulders.

Cycling can also be quite an individualistic sport, even if you are competing in a team, it is up to you to get the best time. Depending on the level you compete or cycle at, this can create extra stress for the mind. This is where another side of Pilates can come in for cyclists. Pilates has a certain meditative practice to it that is proven to help with stress and anxiety and to help improve sleep, making it a perfect addition to your pre-race routine.

Ultimately, where cyclists can really benefit from Pilates is that it teaches you to recognise when the pain is one that you are able to move into rather than pull away from, making Pilates ideal for endurance athletes like cyclists. A common trait in cyclist in their training, similar to other sports, is that they look to avoid the pain and therefore can push past it. Practicing Pilates will allow you to become more aware of how you carry yourself on and off of the bike. Do you notice that after a long day of sitting on a bike your hip flexors are particularly tight and take a while to recover? In the Edinburgh Pilates Studio, Chris has a real skill for pinpointing the exercises that will help you whilst encouraging you to come into each class with your own observations of how you hold your body. Pilates is, therefore, ideal for endurance athletes like cyclists and for those looking to build more awareness of how they carry themselves.

Tempted to see how Pilates can help your cycling? Get in touch with Chris today to find out more about incorporating it into your training and to book an assessment class.

Joseph Pilates, the German-born founder of Pilates, stated that, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young.”

We agree! It’s never too late to get started with Pilates. In fact, for the over 60s it can be increasingly important to build up strength, maintain flexibility and improve posture. Like yoga, Pilates is known for its ability to build concentration and control of the body, making it a great way place to start. It focuses on stretching and strengthening your abdomen, obliques and lower back in particular and has been shown to help those with lower back pain.

As we get older and life takes a slower pace it is easy to become sedentary, yet we know how important it is to keep moving for both mental and physical health. The idea of starting a new exercise routine can seem daunting, yet there are many reasons to start your Pilates journey, one of which is bone health. As we age, the risk of developing osteoporosis increases, so building healthy bones becomes as important as working your muscles.

As the practise is low impact, it is a very safe method of exercise. The risk of injury is minimal, and under careful supervision you can make impressive progress. If you have any pre-existing conditions or pains, instructor Chris will be able to assist and adapt movements – every client is personally assessed before the sessions are started. Watch this video to see how the Edinburgh Pilates Centre uses props as part of its methodology to help keep the body safe and painfree:

Chris’s unique approach in his studio emphasises correct form, and his ability to adjust each exercise to suit all needs makes it an ideal option for over 60s in particular. Pilates can help prevent aches and pains associated with older age, and helps to prevent inhibited movement by correcting body alignment and getting your muscles to work as they should.

If you are over 60, and are thinking of starting Pilates, you can look forwards to improved strength and better posture, increased flexibility and a greater range of movement, which is so important as we enter later years. After all, we are only as old as we feel!

Get in touch with the studio on 0131 652 1904 to arrange an assessment session.

A common question that gets asked to the Edinburgh Pilates Centre is whether they should do Pilates, Yoga or Body Balance. To help, we’ve summarised the three areas that we advise you think about in your decision making process.

What are you looking to gain?

Are you looking for rehabilitation from an injury? Yoga and Pilates both offer methods for reducing physical pain from an injury and regaining health. Pilates particularly was founded with rehabilitation and recovery in mind physically. Pilates focuses more on your core, your posture and the ability to listen to your body. Although there is a meditative state needed to complete Pilates, this is more so in Yoga. If you are looking for a mental and emotional process as well with a physical element to it, then Yoga may be more what you are looking for. Body Balance is a mixture of Yoga and Pilates moves with a meditation at the end and is often more popular at local gyms. Body Balance offers the benefits of both Yoga and Pilates to popular songs which many people enjoy. It is, therefore, more engaging for those that are looking to gain the benefits of Yoga and Pilates without a specific injury or mental goal in mind.

Are you looking for a group or bespoke environment?

You can often find all three offered at your local gym in a group environment. As Pilates and Yoga are more specific – whether it be building strength or rehabilitating a certain area or connecting to yourself –  than Body Balance they are better to do in a more bespoke environment. We would advise that for Pilates and Yoga you look for classes that are smaller and that are led by a teacher that takes the time to understand you and your goals.

What key factors should you take into account?

Firstly, the teacher. Even if you choose the one that is the best fit for your injuries, personality and available time, if the teacher is unable to understand you and your body then you won’t be going very far. The teacher is crucial to engaging with the exercises, getting the right technique and having a positive experience. We would advise that you go to meet the teacher for an assessment or a general enquiry meeting to ensure that they are right for you. Secondly, what matters more is that you are enjoying the process and seeing positive results mentally and physically. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t connect with one of them that your friends or your research online raves about. That’s ok – do you.

Listen to Chris explain why he recommends Pilates

If you would like to understand more about Chris’ teaching at the Edinburgh Pilates Centre, get in touch with him on 0131 652 1904 to find out more or book an assessment class.

ReformerFor those that have been to the Edinburgh Pilates Centre studio or seen pictures of it, you would most likely recognise the Pilates reformer, even if you haven’t used one before. It is the big machines that have a sliding carriage where you can lie, sit, stand, kneel to complete the different movements. The machine originated from when Joseph Pilates was helping injured soldiers rehabilitate by removing the springs from under the hospital beds and attaching them to the bed’s themselves to complete the movements Pilates had developed.

It may look a little intimidating the first time you see it, but it is actually your best friend in your journey to create a stronger core and tackle problem areas.

Target specific muscle

One of Pilates’ strong points is its ability to really work into a certain area of the body. If you work to your maximum capability on the day, are committed to the movements and the process you will see results. A study in 2015 found that women who committed to 4 months of reformer workouts gained lean mass and lost fat from their waist, thighs and triceps.

An example of a specific muscle being targeted, in the video below, Chris demonstrates using the machine to target the outer hamstrings and the process needed to complete the movement effectively.

Maximum effort, minimum repetitions

The level of precision that you are working at using these machines over the mats, means that you only have to do a few repetitions to get results. Also, as the machine has an adjustable level of resistance depending on your level, you are able to achieve more and an even better posture than if you were only using your body weight on a mat. As you become more in tune with your body and gain a higher knowledge of Pilates, the fewer repetitions you have to do because you are able to effectively and efficiently target the muscles.

What does this all mean for you?

Ultimately, it comes down to how deep you want to go into sorting out an injury or any niggles that you may have. The main thing is that you find a teacher who you feel comfortable knows how to understand where you and your fitness is at and adapt that to the machines. From my own experience, Chris is fantastic at this, I was pushed enough each time to improve and to build confidence and from what I saw in the studio that is what he did for others too.

Get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about Reformer classes, or Pilates in general.

You may have heard Chris say in the studio: “Hail Goddess Martha!” and wondered who he was talking about. This week’s blog is going to give you an overview of who Martha Graham was, and why she is so renowned as an American artist of the 20th century and in the world of Pilates so that next time Chris exclaims this in the studio you know what he means.

As many of you will know, Pilates was started by Joseph Pilates. However, what most don’t realise that the modern day Pilates is largely shaped by Ron Fletcher, a Martha Graham dancer. Fletcher took much of what he learnt from Martha, and another mentor (Yeich Imura), and put it into Pilates. Fletcher went to Martha Graham’s dance company to evade a potentially career-ending surgery on an injured knee. Later, Fletcher would return to the dance company to aid his recovery from an addiction to alcohol that was negatively impacting his career.

What did Fletcher learn from Martha then? Martha was known for her ability to cross artistic boundaries with her creativity and her ability to embrace every artistic genre. Graham’s style was groundbreaking to the art world as she experimented with the movements of contraction and release. In this video below, Fletcher discusses the similarities between Martha and Joe in their views towards short spine and the contraction and release method.

Throughout her career, Martha received many awards and symbols of recognition in her time. Including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center of Honors, List of recipients of the National Medal of Arts, the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada, and being the first dancer to perform at The White House. She was renowned around the world for the impact she was having in the world of dance. Martha was invited to be a cultural ambassador and was welcomed from Paris to Japan, and further. This attracted many dancers that would later go onto Broadway and dance companies like the Noemi Lafrance Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company and more. Martha also influenced generations of choreographers, such as Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham. She also taught Bette Davis, Madonna, Liza Minelli, Tony Randall and many more actors to use their bodies as expressive instruments.

At the age of 96 years old, Martha died in her Manhattan home leaving a legacy that impacts dance and Pilates to this day through the people that she taught and the methods of expression she explored. For those that want to get to learn more about Martha Graham, this documentary is a fantastic exploration of her impact to the world of dance and using the body as an expressive art. 

If you’re interested in exploring Pilates, then please give us a ring at 0131 652 1904 or get in touch through our contact page.

Sitting at a Desk is the eighth post in a series called “My Pilates Journey” where Mary writes about her experience as she begins Pilates sessions with Chris Blagdon at the Edinburgh Pilates Centre. Click here to read about the first class. 

sitting at a desk

In between the 7th and 8th class, there was a break between the two for a holiday. We’ve all been in the position where we have returned to emails and work that means you are tied to your desk for longer than usual to catch up. When you are sitting at your desk for long periods of time, it is natural to start to hunch over. This has a negative impact on your posture, which can lead to other issues, and reduces the space that the lungs have to breathe. As you can’t breathe as deeply, your energy levels deplete and can increase your anxiety levels. Studies have shown that being sedentary for this long has a negative impact on your physical also. It has been linked with health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems.

The good news is that there are things that you can do to combat these health problems head on. Pilates is an excellent example and I found myself very eager for the 8th session. To begin with, principles of Pilates such as breathing and centering allows you to inhale and exhale fully, reducing stress and creating more energy. The exercises themselves strengthen and help to correct your posture so that the impact of sitting at your desk all day is significantly reduced. For myself, through Pilates, I’ve become more aware of how I hold my body. When I am at my desk, this means that I am able to adjust my positioning so that it doesn’t cause creaks and cracks later on in the day.

For those that struggle with pains from sitting at their desk all day, working with a Pilates instructor like Chris who can give advice and tailor your session to you will help you more than a mat Pilates class. Chris is able to give great advice about how to combat pains in the day in accordance with your daily schedule.

The exercise of the week:

Starting lying on your back with your feet tucked into something to hold them, put your arms above your head with a wooden pole.

Step 1: Inhale, exhale, tighten your abdominals and bring the pole up in line with your vision.

Step 2: Engage your latissimus dorsi and rise up slowly towards your feet.

Step 3: Exhale and push the pole forwards with your legs straight to stretch your hamstrings. Inhale and return to the seating position with your legs straight. Exhale and push forwards again.

Step 4: Inhale and take yourself back to the starting position slowly.