“Precise and Controlled Movements” is the fourth 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. 

Every week I feel like I am writing that there is a genuine difference and each time I really mean it. I suppose it’s easy to think that I am writing this blog for the Edinburgh Pilates Centre and that I have got to say that. And the cynical part of myself at the beginning did think, “It would be great if it did work, but what can really be done in 10 sessions?” The answer is a lot more than I could have expected. I had made the terrible mistake of underestimating how literal Chris had been in his videos about how precise and controlled movements can have an impact.

An example of the difference that I have felt was on a recent weekend trip away with some school friends to Berlin. We walked around the city, enjoying the sights (as well as the beer) and normally at the end of the day my lower back would be sore from standing all the time because my hip flexors take most of the weight and pull my back to bend inwards. Thanks to the work that Chris has guided me through on my hip flexors, the pain was minimal – you can imagine the delight at this revelation!

Pilates is ideal for those who feel back pain at the end of the day or for those who pull their neck when they turn too fast. This is because by practicing the precise and controlled movements in Pilates will help align the spine and improve your posture.

precise and controlled movements

Exercise of the week:

This week’s movement does need to be done in the Pilates studio rather than at home due to the equipment needed.

  1. Lying on your back, with a triangle cushion for your head and shoulders, feed one foot through the straps that are attached to the spring with your other leg bent with the knee to the sky.
  2. Inhale, exhale, tighten and lower your abdomen, with your foot turned outwards and your knee tight, lengthen and stretch your leg out as far as you can, then inhale will drawing the leg back to centre.
  3. Repeat this on either side, if you come into the studio, Chris will be able to advise you on how many times to it on each side for your own body. Doing this movement, you should feel a sensation in your hip flexors.

– Mary

Please get in touch if you have any questions about Pilates or are interested in beginning your own Pilates journey.

“Using the Machines” is the third 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. 

Using the machines

One of the best things about how Chris runs the Edinburgh Pilates Centre is the specificity of each session. As you walk in Chris will ask you how you have been that week and if you had been aware of any changes or niggles in your body that week. This allows for him to tailor that day’s session not only to your own requirements but also how you are feeling at that time. This is one of the aspects that makes me prefer the studio to Pilates mat classes where everyone is doing the same thing. It is also a much more relaxing environment to be able to work on your own body rather than to try and keep up with everyone else.

Going into the session, I could feel that my back, in particular, was unsure of which way to hold itself. It was going to the way that I had always done before with my back arching forward and an actual straight back. To say this felt odd is an understatement, but it was interesting to see how quickly my body was adapting to the movements that I had been practicing in the studio under Chris’ guidance.

After the third session, what struck me is how different I felt from when I walked in. I was feeling stressed and I could tell that I was holding this in my body. By focusing on my breath and doing the various exercises my body felt loose and relaxed. The addition of using the machines in the session helped the feeling that we had targeted the exact areas that I wanted to get to but didn’t know how to stretch. The perfect way to get rid of the Monday blues!

Exercise of the week

An area that Chris pinpointed that I needed to build strength was my hamstrings. To do this, we used a plié machine. This machine looks like it could be potentially scary before you go on it, however, when you are on it is a lot easier to use than machines at the gym. To see an explanation of the movements, you can watch this video here of Chris’ explaining it:

After I got off the machine, my hamstrings were shaking a little even though there had only been ten repetitions. This is what I have enjoyed so far from the Pilates sessions with Chris – he chooses exercises for you that work the areas needed for the maximum result in a short space of time.

– Mary

Please get in touch if you have any questions about Pilates or are interested in beginning your own Pilates journey.

 

This is the second 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 last week’s class. 

Taking Responsibility For Your Body

On the second session out of ten, the overarching theme was to take responsibility for your own body. Chris’ teaching is very unassuming and he is frequently saying throughout the sessions that although he is the one that is able to guide your body, it is your own. You know your body better than he does and you should be working on it for yourself not because someone is telling you to.

Taking Responsibility       Taking Responsibility

Instead of doing 10 of each movement on each side, Chris told me to listen to my body and to switch it up if need be. On one move, for example, my left leg was stronger than my right. I was, therefore, advised to do 7 movements on the left leg and 10 on the right to help build strength on the side of the body that needed it the most. We progressed from the previous week with some new exercises and also the introduction of moving into the sensation of the movements rather than to pull away from any perceived discomfort. A small mental tweak to working with your body instead of fighting a movement, but one that made the process a lot easier and more enjoyable.

What I noticed that was different from the first session was that I felt more comfortable with the processes within each movement. I wasn’t worried that I had skipped a bit or that I was doing it wrong as I was starting to remember the movements and knew that Chris would be able to point my in the direction if need be. This made it easier to focus on getting the maximum out of each movement. At the same time, I could start to feel a difference from the previous session in the areas that were tight. After having a cold the previous week, this was the perfect way to boost my energy.

Exercise of the week

Each week, I will share an exercise that we did in the class so that you can get a taster from the comfort of your own home. This week, it is one of the final stretches we did in the cool down that has been making my upper and middle back feel incredible this week.

Step 1: Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, breath in and out.

Step 2: Whilst exhaling, pull your tummy into your spine as much as you can.

Step 3: Put your arms behind your back and wrap your right hand around your left hand’s wrist.

Step 4: Lift both arms up as high as possible and then pull your shoulder blades down. Hold for a couple of seconds, breath out, relax and then do it again. When ready swap over with the left hand holding the right hand’s wrist.

– Mary

Please get in touch if you have any questions about Pilates or are interested in beginning your own Pilates journey.

My Pilates JourneyWelcome to the first post in a new series called “My Pilates Journey” where Mary writes about her experience as she begins Pilates sessions with Chris Blagdon at the Edinburgh Pilates Centre.

Making my way to the Edinburgh Pilates Centre, I was nervous about what to expect from the assessment class. The word assessment can come off a little scary, especially when it is your own body someone is looking at. Although I have done yoga in the past, Pilates has always remained a mystery that, in my mind, was made for flexible people – a quality I have never attributed to myself. Upon entering the studio, all of my nerves dissipated. The room was warm and calming, with a class of three were already working on different areas of their body with Chris Blagdon, the owner and head of the Pilates Centre, moving expertly between them.

After filling out a medical history from, Chris asked me to stand in front of the mirror. Here he walked around and examined how I held my body when relaxed. Chris’ professional and warm nature was non-judgemental. After a minute or so, he pinpointed areas that we were going to work on in that session and for future ones – pelvis tilted forwards, left shoulder raised (my bag carrying arm), feet pointing slightly outwards, and shoulders rounded forward.

Listening to Chris explain how each of these issues was impacting my body and explaining the lower back pain I was having, I was struck by how much knowledge he has and how each person in that class was doing different exercises to benefit them rather than for sake of it.

If you’ve read a previous blog on here about the six principles of Pilates, then you will know that breathing is a key pillar of the practice. Our first exercise was to work on my breathing to completely fill up my rib cage, release and squeeze the abs whilst lying on my back with the knees bent. From here, in the same position, I did the same breathing but after squeezing the abs as far down as possible I pushed on my feet to lift my lower back of the couch and exhaled down. This was then built up to oblique, shoulder and hip flexor stretches. In between showing the exercises, Chris would walk between us and either encourage or correct a movement. Even if Chris was not next to you, he was still keeping an eye on each of us to make sure that we were doing the movements correctly. At the end of the session, we did a cool down where Chris took the time to demonstrate the best way to stretch by using your breath.  

After the first session, I could already feel the difference. My hip flexors and obliques, in particular, felt lighter. As I was walking back to my car, laughing comically at myself for how my legs were kicking out more the usual as my hip flexors were relaxed, I was already looking forward to the next session. For those that are nervous about starting the Edinburgh Pilates Centre is warm, inviting, and a safe environment that I, already, cannot recommend enough.

– Mary

 

Please get in touch if you have any questions about Pilates or are interested in beginning your own Pilates journey.

 

 

 

weight lossOften, people come to the studio and ask about whether Pilates is an effective weight loss exercise. This is an understandable question as many people who begin Pilates are looking to improve their health and joints, and weight loss can be a key component of this. There is a lot of pressure and confusion that weight loss is the main measure of health. Rather, becoming more aware of your body and strengthening your muscle and joints can contribute to greater health benefits.

Muscle Tone > Weight Loss

What you are more likely to see from doing Pilates is an increase in muscle tone and strength. Following the six principles of Pilates will help you become more aware of your body, and help you feel more confident in your clothes.
A lot of the work that is done in the studio will strengthen your core and address any issues that you have. This increases your range of motion and, therefore, reduces your risk of injury. This means that you are able to work out more frequently to aid weight loss, and enjoy having a more active lifestyle.

Lifestyle

As you begin Pilates, you will most likely find yourself filled with more energy and awareness of your body. This often leads people to adding other exercises to their regime. Whether it be walking to work instead of taking the bus, going for a run or entering a challenge with a friend.

Also, it is important to look at other areas of your lifestyle when thinking about weight loss. Take a look at your nutrition – are you setting your body up the right way to be healthy? Similarly, do you live a mostly sit at a desk all day and live a sedentary lifestyle? If so, you are more likely to find that Pilates will lead you to lose a little bit of weight as your body becomes accustomed to a more active routine. On the other hand, if you are already very active then you are less likely to see any loss on the scales.

Don’t shy away

Pilates is a fantastic exercise to strengthen your muscle and joints to help you avoid injury in your daily life and exercise regime but it was not designed as a weight loss regime. You shouldn’t shy away from Pilates if you are aiming to lose weight. Rather, lean in to Pilates as a practice to increase stamina, flexibility, learn new skills and connection with your body. Get in touch to find out more!

Stretch in 10 MinutesIt’s Monday morning, you get up, what part of your body groans or niggles at you? Notice the area that is the tightest on your body and target that first. Is it your hamstrings? Is it your knees? Is it your shoulders? Sadly, there is no one size fits all type of stretching you should do every day. Each individual is different and the areas of their body that they have trouble with will vary. For some guidance on where to begin on your daily stretches, here is some advice from the owner here, Chris Blagdon, on the types of Pilates stretches you can do in just 10 minutes to target different areas.

What’s the difference between normal stretching and Pilates stretching?

Pilates stretches focus on stretching and strengthening the muscle that is part of the stretch. This allows you to maintain and build physical alignment and integrity. As one part of the movement strengthens the muscle, the other increases the flexibility at the joint. Whereas normal stretching only works on increasing the range of motion at the joint and, if done incorrectly, it can cause damage rather than help. Also, having a Pilates coach on hand to direct you in the stretch and make any corrections always helps!

How do you get into a targeted muscle?

Firstly, use the six Pilates principles to get the most out of each stage – breath, centering, concentration, control, precision, flow. Engage and grip the muscle and then you move into the stretch inhaling, and then out of the stretch exhaling.

Hamstrings

If need be, you can target the outer hamstrings alone. This means that you will have to do fewer repetitions as it is working the problem area. For example of how Chris does this in the studio, watch the video below.

Bad Knees

As you get older, bad knees can be a common complaint. The good news is that there are simple exercises that you can do to ease the tension.

  1. Roll up a towel, sit on the floor with the knee you want to work first straight and your other leg bent. Then place the towel under your knee, point your toes to lengthen your leg. This will make the muscles near your knee work. If you are feeling the stretch close to your hip then you are shortening your leg by bringing your toes forward, and this isn’t what you want. Repeat whilst tightening as much as you can without any shooting pains.
  2. Stand parallel with your feet hip-width apart, tighten your knees and roll your feet in whilst bending at the hip. You will feel it on your inside quad.  

Shoulders and Core

Quite often, tight shoulders can be a part of the daily stresses and of sitting at a desk all day. There are three simple stretches that Chris advises for loosening the shoulders.

  1. Sit with a straight back, breathe in and lift your shoulders up to your ears and feel the tension in your shoulders. Then exhale whilst relaxing your shoulders. Repeat this 10 times.
  2. Once your shoulders are feeling a bit more relaxed, sit with a straight back again. Then bring your elbows close to your body and hold your arms at a right angle in front of you. Breath out and open your arms out from your shoulder blades. This will strengthen your shoulder blades and ease some of the tension out.
  3. To stretch out rounded shoulders, hold onto a door post or an edge of a wall, pull your shoulder blade down, breathe in and out.

If you have any questions about these stretches, or if you would like help with your specific groans and niggles, then we’d love to hear from you

To meet Chris Blagdon is like a breath of fresh air. His zeal for life and warmth radiates around his studio. New to the marketing team for Edinburgh Pilates Centre, I got the chance to meet Chris to find out more about his background in dance, how he came to Pilates and what drew him to Edinburgh.

Chris Blagdon“Professional tights wearer.”

Chris Blagdon joined the Scottish Ballet Workshop, the educational and experimental arm of the Scottish Ballet, in 1976. From dancing in Orfeo ed Eurydice (Opera) to Cinderella to Picnic to Economy in Straitjacket but Still Room for Movement in the late 1970s and more, Chris danced in numerous productions that allowed him to travel and go to places where they had never seen professional dancers. Whilst with the company for nearly twenty years he received fantastic reviews for his work:

“They laughed too, catching every nuance of Christopher Blagdon’s masterly characterisation of the doll-maker Dr. Coppelius.” – A review in the Herald Scotland, 27 November 1992

When asked what it was that he remembers most from this time, he talks fondly of the family of dancers in the company that supported one another personally and the trust that they shared with each other to be honest about their performances. His time as a professional ballet dancer also gave Chris an immense set of skills that he would take forward in life and later to Pilates teaching – discipline, old stories, how to understand music and the wonder of how the body works are a few examples.

“I’ve always had a keen interest in how the body works and the people that answered this the best were Pilates teachers.”

After playful teasing a friend for doing Pilates, Chris was challenged to try it in 1982 at a studio in London. At the time, Chris was free of any injury and his stamina was at its peak due to the number of shows he was doing. The instructor put Chris through his paces and despite his high level of fitness, Chris left absolutely shattered – as am sure many of you can testify to! In the next day’s dance class, Chris marveled at how his leg’s positioning had improved and how his dance classes became much easier. Since then, Chris has never looked back.

Edinburgh Pilates Centre

Originally opened by Jane Paris, the Edinburgh Pilates Centre was the first studio to be opened in Scotland.

Many years later, Chris was looking for an opportunity for something to do once finishing professional dancing. Working in Pilates made sense and in 1994 he was offered to run the Edinburgh Pilates Centre from its original founder Jane Paris. Chris has given back to the Pilates community in various ways. He is acknowledged in ‘Teaching Pilates for Postural Faults, Illness and Injury: a practical guide’, 2009, for making the Edinburgh Pilates Centre available for photography sessions for the book.

Taking the Edinburgh Pilates Centre from strength to strength, Chris has created a team of friendly experts to help run the sessions alongside himself. Pat Morais is one such example. Pat is a fully qualified teacher of Yoga and Alexander Technique in her own right teaches at the studio on Mondays.

For anyone that is unsure about Pilates, then I would highly recommend having a chat with Chris. His nature is infectious and his expertise is obvious to anyone that walks into the studio.

Mary

Pilates MethodPilates is not one of those exercises that you can do whilst multi-tasking thoughts in your head, as many of you will know from our sessions! It requires you to be aware of the six key principles of the Pilates Method before beginning a class. These principles have been refined over the years and are originally based on what Joseph Pilates called Contrology – complete coordination of the body, mind and spirit. It was Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen that first published ‘The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning’, 1980, that outlined the following six principles. Many of you will recognise the principles from the frames that line the walls in the studio. They require practice, but the more you do, the better the results you get.

The Six Principles of the Pilates Method

1. Breath: The breath is an integral part of Pilates exercise and our lives in general! Bf focusing on the breath you allow yourself to concentrate on your body and begin the centering process.

2. Centering: We all live busy lives that can take a lot of our focus. This can have a negative impact on our health. This concept is based on the principle that by bringing your focus to the centre of your body you are calibrating your energy.

3. Concentration: Like other areas in life, by committing your full attention to the task ahead of you, you will get the maximum benefit. Concentration is key to improvement.

4. Control: Each movement is done with deliberate action and intent to hone your muscular control and improve your health.

5. Precision: Our bodies are aligned to impact one another. Pilates uses this knowledge and awareness to ensure each movement is in alignment to the rest of the body.

6. Flow: Last, but not least but no means, is the flowing manner that Pilates works under. It is crucial to be moving into each move with ease, grace, and balanced control. The equipment that we use in the studio is set out to optimise the flow of the sessions.

Regular Pilates practice can help to improve your posture, balance, joint issues, flexibility, body strength, general wellness and can provide pain relief. Two of the most common injuries that we’ve all had the displeasure of dealing with are stiff necks and bad knees. Watch these two videos that I’ve done to see how we target those areas:

Pilates has something to offer everyone, whether you are young or old, beginner or experienced, you are in safe hands! Before starting any of the sessions, we collaborate with yourself, the physiotherapist and the class instructor to assess and adapt the choice of exercises to what needs to be worked on. We believe it’s important to have you involved in this process because it is your body and you should have a say in the process. The equipment in the studio then allows us to support the injured area whilst it is being worked on. This allows us to ensure that the whole area’s strength is built up until it is fit again.

What injury niggle or ache do you have at the moment? Let’s have a chat about how we can solve it for you.

Joseph and Clara at The Pilates StudioIf you missed the first of our two-part series on the life of Joseph Pilates, then you can read it here. This week we continue with the incredible journey from an English Internment camp to opening the first Pilates studio in New York. 

Looking back on the life of Joseph Pilates, his internment in England during World War I was both a difficult and a pivotal time in his life. Whilst at the internment camp, Joseph began to apply his Contrology method with the purpose of rehabilitating injured soldiers. He also taught wrestling and self-defence to his fellow internees. Those that he instructed and helped to rehabilitate kept in good health even despite the influenza epidemic that spread throughout most of Europe at that time.

Pilates’ efforts and results were noticed by the British military and they asked him to train the British troops.

Through his training with the British military at Knockaloe in the Isle of Man, Pilates was able to refine Contrology with his minimal equipment system of mat exercises. Contrology is simply defined as the complete coordination of the body, mind, and spirit. The purpose is to use whole body movements to fine-tune overall balance and to use this natural rhythm to build towards well-being and happiness.

At the end of World War I, Pilates returned to Hamburg, Germany to train police officers and begun collaborating with expert dancers like Rudolf Laban. In the early 1920s, he emigrated to the United States of America where he would meet his wife and open the famous 8th Avenue studio.

The First Pilates Studio

The opportunity to immigrate to the United States happened when a well-known boxer in England was asked to fight in New York City and agreed to finance Pilates to open an exercise studio if he moved to New York with him. Pilates accepted – as I think most of us would – and as fate would have it he met his wife, Clara, on the boat. They would open the first pilates studio in America together in 1926.

Pilates as an exercise grew in popularity and the studio became the place for many athletes, performers, choreographers, and socialites to keep fit or to rehabilitate when injured. For instance, here is a video of Anna Woolley Shaffer (who danced with The Atlanta Ballet, The National Ballet, professional opera companies and in Broadway musical tours) and Romana Kryzanowska (an injured dancer who was originally thought to have needed surgery).

Joseph continued to operate The Pilates Studio with Clara until his passing in 1968. Clara continued their work, and in 1970 former patient Romana Kryzanowska took over as director. As we all know, Joseph Pilates’ legacy continues to be a source of inspiration and healing to this day.

Quite a life, right? If you have any questions about the teachings that Pilates’ shares, I’d love to discuss them with you.

Love and blessings,

Chris Blagdon

Joseph PilatesPilates is often compared to Yoga, which everyone knows has been practiced for centuries. But did you know that the origins of Pilates only goes back as far as the First World War? And that is was just one man who started it all.  The story of Joseph Pilates and his constant quest for health through physical and mental training has been a big source of inspiration to many. This is the first in a two-part series on the founder of Pilates.

Who was Joseph Pilates?

Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1880 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. Suffering from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, Pilates’ frail, early years were not perhaps what you would expect from a man who would go on to be a world renowned physical trainer. From a young age, Pilates was encouraged by his father, Henrich Friedrich Pilates, an enthusiastic gymnast and a metal worker, to dedicate himself to improving his physical strength through exercise.  This and the impact that his illness had on him pushed Pilates forward and by the age of 14, Joseph was physically fit enough to pose for anatomical charts – quite a turnaround!

Throughout his teenage years, Pilates became fascinated with the Greek ideals of a man perfected in the development of the body, mind, and spirit. Pilates began to incorporate both western and eastern philosophies into his exercise regime. He studied anatomy, yoga and karate while also training to become a boxer, bodybuilder, gymnast, and circus performer.

The circus provided Pilates with the opportunity to move to England as part of the act and he moved from Germany just before the outbreak of World War I. Here he really began teaching others what he had learned from his studies and experience.

Interment in England

Upon moving to England in 1912, Pilates first earned a living as a circus performer, professional boxer and a self-defense trainer at police schools in Scotland Yard. However, the British authorities interned him during World War I along with other German citizens in a camp. His internment brought him into close contact with injured soldiers. Using his initiative, and his unique understanding of the human body, Pilates removed the springs from under the hospital beds, attached them to the bed and encouraged the injured soldiers to exercise back to health. Those of you who have been to the studio may recognise this as the beginnings of the spring resistant apparatus we have!

We will continue the story of Joseph Pilates, and how he goes from being interred to training the British Military, next week with part two the series.

Love and blessings.

Chris Blagdon