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Pilates for Musicians

Do you play an instrument? Are you a professional or amateur musician?

 

Why you need Pilates

How do you get good at playing an instrument? You practice. For hours a day, every day, for months and years and decades. You get really good at it.

And you’ve also spent all that time in one, often lopsided, very much not ergonomic position. You’ve become stiff, developed various aches and pains – most likely, your low back, your shoulders, your neck, your forearms and/or your wrists and fingers hurt.

But you can’t stop doing it, because now, you’re really good at it. It’s your livelihood and your passion. It’s who you are. And you spend long hours sitting in a car or on a tour bus chasing your dreams.

So you keep creating more tension and imbalance in your body.

All of which impairs your ability to perform as well as you know you can! So frustrating!!

At this point, you’re likely to do one of three things:

  • Assume it’s just part of getting older and live with it/pop painkillers. Result: You just keep slowly deteriorating.
  • Decide you need to do something about it and spend oodles of money on chiropractors and massage therapists. Result: You keep doing that with limited results, but now you’re totally dependent on this form of relief.
  • Start an intense get-in-shape program – bootcamp or hot yoga or CrossFit … Result: You have all these imbalances. So you get injured or tear a muscle. Now, you’re totally frustrated.

And if you’re unlucky, in all three scenarios, you could wind up having to have surgery. Which puts you out of commission for a while and often creates more problems than it fixes.

(A quick aside: I am NOT against Western medicine when used judiciously. But doctors only have their toolkit, and that happens to be a “car repair”-type approach.)

Enter Pilates: It gives you the tools to restore your body’s natural harmony.  And get pretty fit in the process, I might add!

 

Things I see in many musicians (that we can fix with Pilates)

Just off the top of my head, here’s what I often see:

Guitar, banjo, and mandolin players – forward head posture, shoulder rounded forward on one side, tight hip flexors, low back pain. Some neck pain. Frequent pain in the forearms, wrists, and fingers, esp. thumbs.

 

Fiddle players – lopsided shoulders, shoulder of the bow arm rounded forward strongly with limited range of motion, neck pain, impingements in the upper back and neck area. Neck stiffness. Forearm and wrist pain.

Piano players – forward head posture, thoracic kyphosis (rounded back, can progress to a hump in extreme cases), low back pain, very tight hip flexors.

Touring musicians of all kinds – low back pain, circulation issues, forward head posture (with ensuing neck and back pain, headaches and sometimes migraines), tension headaches.

Yup. We can prevent and/or fix all of that.

 

What’s different about Pilates

Isn’t Pilates just like yoga? Or just for skinny, spandex-clad 20-year-old privileged white girls?

Heck no.

Pilates was CREATED for physical rehabilitation. It was also invented by a GUY – who was a boxer and a gymnast. Who smoked cigars and drank beer.

“Change happens through movement and movement heals.” – Joseph H. Pilates

So. Pilates is for EVERYONE. Because it is infinitely adaptable to EVERY body.

Pilates:

  • builds awareness – the necessary prerequisite for change
  • realigns the body – when the body is out of alignment, injury inevitably ensues (timeframes vary though)
  • makes you stronger – not only in the big, showy muscles, but also in the ones that support you (depending on how you count, the human body has 650-840 muscles!)
  • gives you mobility and flexibility
  • improves posture – making you instantly look and feel taller
  • creates stability – i.e. “control of mobility”
  • strengthens your core – your abs AND your entire torso
  • injury-proofs your body

So basically, it helps you build a healthy body. Side effect: It’s also going to look better. A lot better.

And that’s good for any stage presence, right?

How do I know?

I’m not a musician myself. But I’ve been surrounded by instrumentalists for the past 35 years and am married to one.

I fixed my own chronic pain and injuries with Pilates. And have helped numerous musicians of all ages and genders find relief – and get fit in the process.

I can help you do the same.

Ready to get on the Pilates train – or still not convinced it’s right for you?

Click here or message me to schedule a quick 15-minute conversation. It’s free, there are no obligations, and I promise you won’t regret it.

Pilates for Running (Part 1)

Pilates is the single best cross-training exercise for runners.

There, I came right out and said it.

Are you a runner? Want to be a runner? Wish you could run without constantly injuring yourself?

Pilates has your back. And your joints. Your knees. Your … everything.

Let’s take a closer look:

For running, you need good biomechanics and good alignment. (If you have any imbalances, running is going to exacerbate those tenfold.)

You need strong feet, calves, knees and legs. You need a strong, supportive core. You need to be able to breathe easily. Good posture.

And if you run a lot, you’ll also know that it’s great for you, but it can really make you stiff. So you need mobility (most people say flexibility – more about that in another post) as well.

How do you get all that in one package? Pilates.

Without going too deeply into the details (and believe me, I want to:)), here are three short and sweet exercises that will set you on the way to becoming a (better/less frequently injured) runner.

Calf raises

Stand barefoot with feet hip-width apart. (Ideally on the edge of a step, but the floor will work in a pinch). Keeping the knees soft, lift up onto the balls of both feet and control the motion back down (no plopping!). Notice if you’re rolling the feet out. If you are, place a soft object (squishy ball, tennis ball, a pair or two of rolled-up tube socks, a stuffed animal … whatever you have handy!) between the ankle and squeeze gently into make your feet work in parallel. Repeat 8-10 times

Calf raises 2.0

  • Come into a squat position – tailbone back (think sitting down into a tiny chair), chest lifted. With the ball between your ankles and keeping the hips steady, lift and lower the heels.
  • Try the single-leg version (minus the ball) – wrap one foot around the back of the opposite ankle and lift away! Try not to roll outwards, evenly distribute the weight on the ball of the foot. (Pro tip: Try to have something you can hold on to if you lose your balance!)

 

Bridging

Lie down on your back and plant your feet close to your buttocks in line with the sitbones. Curl your tailbone under and slooooowly start to peel your spine away from the floor. Hold your bridge. The weight should be on your shoulders (NOT your neck – drop your breastbone a bit if it’s there – this is not a yoga bridge!). Don’t let the ribs jut out and reach long through the knees while tractioning your heels towards your buttocks as you say hello to your hamstrings. Then gradually peel your spine back down onto the floor. This should feel great on the low back and it also created length in the hip flexors, strengthens the oft-neglected glutes and hamstrings and relieves tightness.

Bridging 2.0

  • In a bridge position, keeping the hips level with each other, reach one leg toward the ceiling. With the leg straight, reach it away from you to the opposite side of the room. (Did your hip drop? Bring it back up! I know it’s hard!) Then kick the leg back up to the ceiling and replace the foot on the floor. Repeat on the other side. Remember not to arch your back – think ribs knit together at the front and belly button to the spine.

 

Bicycle

No, not THAT kind! Sidelying bicycling to build core stability, lengthen the hip flexors (sense a theme here?) and generally mobilize + strengthen those tight hips. Lie on your side, cradling your head in your elbow. Place your top hand on the ground in front of your ribcage. Lift the top leg to hip height and reach it away from you to create length. Now, bicycle! That is, in a flowing motion, kick the heel towards your buttocks, then bend the knee and bring it towards your shoulder, reach the leg out and, pointing the toe, sweep it back behind you. Repeat 3x, then “backpedal”. Your torso remains still throughout – at least try to keep it still!

Bicycle 2.0

  • Lie on your back with a towel or a half-deflated small ball under your tailbone (NOT your low back). In a pinch, put your hands there. Your low back should be just slightly rounded towards the floor and stay that way. Lift both legs to the ceiling and start to move in a sweeping bicycling motion, keeping your pelvis stable and your low back reaching for the floor.

 

Like these? Stay tuned for more in the weeks and months to come!

And of course, if you want to learn with “eyes on you” (always a good idea), try a group class or a private. I promise there is: Zero woo. Zero annoying music. Zero expectation of being coordinated, lithe, skinny, “flexible”, “good at this”, “graceful” (whatever that means). Because my mission is to make YOU feel better, move better and live better in YOUR magnificent body.

See you soon!

Eva

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