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Finding Fitness: When you don’t feel well

Posted Jul 09 2009 4:15pm

Finding a movement/fitness practice is hard for all. It is especially more difficult for those suffering from an injury or neurological disease. Traditional exercise does not always address how to create a fitness practice when the body is not well. How the mind influences the body can determine better function for most.

Traditional exercise has an emphasis on the loading of muscles, repetitions and sweat. This is important in the end result of good healthy fitness. The process for finding fitness should be different when the body is not well.

A lot of classes and fitness are too fast and/or too much exertion for the person who does not feel well. Sometimes the body will go to the muscles that are already overworked when the load/exertion is too much. For instance, abdominal and bridging exercises are important in back care. Many complain of back pain in these kinds of exercises. What is happening here?

The brain is giving the wrong feedback to the body.

Instead of initiating the movement from the abdominals in the crunch,
the brain goes to the back muscles to start the work. How do you make change?

You retrain how the mind thinks about movement. This is a practice in itself. These techniques are used by athletes, dancers and gymnasts.

Essential tools are:

  • Breath Imagery
  • Better understanding of functional anatomy
  • Cueing
  • Mental rehearsals
  • Relaxation techniques

We are going to look at how to train the abdominals and the legs using new tools. Breath is your road to deeper concentration, relaxation and core support. For further in depth practice see my podcast on breath. One can also used breath as imagery to assist in change. When you blow up a balloon, it swells up into a moldable shape. When you allow a balloon to let out the air out, the balloon releases back to its original shape.

  • Focus your breath to an area of tightness in your body.
  • Imagine the breath expanding that area like a balloon with the inhale.
  • As that area expands, feel how the muscles lengthen, widen and release.
  • On the exhale, imagine the muscles falling softer towards the ground.
  • Breath can be a great tool when the body is fatigued or in pain.
  • Let’s say you are in a class and you have reached a place of fatigued.

Instead of leaving class, go back as the class workout to the breath. Only join back into the class when you feel well.

ANATOMICAL IMAGERY

Understanding how the body works can really help one find new connections and a preventive measure from re-injury. We are going to look at the Bartenieff Fundamental, the thigh lift. This is a underlying concept how the thighbone moves in the hip socket. It is essential for a movements of the legs such as walking and level changes such as getting up from a chair.

When someone comes in with a back injury,
I look at how they do a thigh lift.

When the thighbone is not gliding well in the hip socket,
the pelvis will unleveled to lift the leg.
This repetitive motion can lead to more discomfort in the back, hips and legs.

Here(see above podcast) is the thighbone placed into the hip socket. Notice how it is a deep round socket for the head of the femur bone. When the leg is lifted, there is an opposition of movement of the two distal points of the femur bone; one where the knee is and the other, the femur head in the hip socket. In the thigh lift, the head of the femur will glide in the opposite direction of the knee. The higher the knee is lifted, the head of the femur will roll and glide lower in the socket towards the sitz bones.

Image the bone gliding down in the hip socket as you do the thigh lift.
Feel how the back lengthens with the bone gliding well in the hip socket.

When you understand how the body is designed, you will have better movement. As Eric Franklin says “Embodied anatomy improves function”. When the thigh lift is done correctly, the correct muscles will be invited to work. The Bartenieff Fundamental, the thigh lift is the underlying concept in all abdominal work and movements of the legs.
(See my podcast on Pilates Basics: Enhancing the core )

Mental Rehearsal

This is a technique used by musicians, dancers and athletes. You review the movement in your head like it is a film. You image the movement with complete success, expression and enjoyment. We are going to look at the Bartenieff Fundamental, the pelvic shift forward. This can be a great exercise to get the legs stronger and stabilized the spine. Sometimes when the legs are weak, the back wants to overcompensate. This can be painful for many.

  • Visualize yourself doing a pelvic shift forward. 
  • Press down on your feet feeling equal pressure on the inside and outside lane of the feet. 
  • Feel the hamstrings engaged against your thighbone 
  • Using your leg muscles rise the pelvis forward towards your feet. 
  • Your relaxed spine rises up in one piece. 
  • Your back is relaxed and the legs are doing the work 
  • Imagine your legs are like an elevator that carries the load of the spine up and down. 
  • Slowly descend your spine down with your spine in neutral. Your spine should come down in one piece. 
  • Practice this a few times and then try to do a real Pelvic technique.

 Mental rehearsal is great to use when you are fatigued or in pain. Research has shown through biofeedback that muscles are charged even with mental rehearsal.

Relaxation techniques

Sometimes to get to the correct muscles usage, one needs to release the overcompensating muscles. Stretching can be positive for some; for others over-stretching can put a muscle in spasm. Constructive rest position is a practice of lying on your back to release unnecessary tension in your body.

  • Lie on your back 
  • Have your legs bent with your feet on the floor or on a stool/chair. A belt can help keep the legs together. This can help diminish tension. 
  • Observe how your spine feels on the floor. 
  • What areas of the spine lay well on the floor? 
  • How is tension in your body affects how you lie on the floor? 
  • Use breath and image of the balloon to create new releases in your spine. 

Special pilates group sessions Movements Afoot would love to set up special classes for special needs. We would love to bring pilates movement to people who would love a Pilates class designed at the pace and needs of their present health. Please give us a call if you and your organization would like to set this up.

Possible Special Pilates classes:

  • MS 
  • Arthritis 
  • Back care 
  • Fibromylia 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Parkinson’s

Other resources Somatic/body therapies:

  • Alexander technique 
  • Bartenieff Fundamentals 
  • BodyMind centering 
  • Feldendrais 
  • Franklin Method 
  • Hanna Somatics 
  • Pilates 
  • Restorative yoga 

For further information about constructive rest:

  • Andre Bernard 
  • Eric Franklin 
  • Restorative yoga 
  • Another great book about release techniques Paul Escosque Pain-Free
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