How Pilates Benefits MS: A Pilates NYC Case Study

How Pilates Benefits MS: A Pilates NYC Case Study

People with Multiple Sclerosis face many physical challenges. Among the therapies that can help with their symptoms, Pilates truly stands out. I’ve seen for myself how Pilates benefits MS through my client work, as you will see in this post.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

To understand how Pilates benefits MS, it’s important to understand what the condition is and how it affects the body.

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that damages the protective sheath—called myelin—around nerve cells. As one would expect, the resulting symptoms affect movement. Numbness, pain, muscle tightness, and difficulty with balance are some of the symptoms people with MS experience.

Pilates benefits MS because it teaches proper movement. One of the problems people with MS face is overusing muscles, which can result in fatigue. It happens because the person with MS favors stronger muscles over weaker ones inadvertently. Often, he or she will have weakness on one side of the body.

Another issue for people with MS is that muscle weakness often leads to poor posture. This is often due to weak muscles in the torso and lower back. Poor posture can interfere with proper breathing, which interferes with circulation of oxygen through the blood, and so on.

Practicing Pilates can help improve posture, which is another reason it’s an ideal form of exercise for people with MS. Pilates exercises can help strengthen those weak core muscles, helping to improve posture.

Pilates NYC Client Case Study

As a Pilates instructor myself, I know firsthand that the practice is ideal for people with MS, because one of my clients—John—has the condition. A family member recommended that John try Pilates to help with his symptoms, and he agreed. That was two years ago.

John has been wheelchair bound for the past 10 years. He has lost his ability to walk and his back is weak and rounded from so much sitting. I work with John in his home in accordance with his MS physical therapist.

John’s primary goals are posture, strengthening the spine, and lengthening the spine. We also work on his ability to transfer himself from his bed to a chair or to the toilet, etc. To help John achieve these, I use a traveling prop called the PilatesStick, which attaches to his front door. John can use this prop to do different exercises while seated in his wheelchair.

The first step was to teach him to use his transverse adominus—his deepest abdominal muscles—to coordinate lifting from his lower back (lumbar spine) to and through the top of his head. We worked on feeling his lumbar curve and lifting tall. This was something he could use not only during our session but all the time. Making it a new habit.

As time progressed and John became stronger, we began to use his stander (a special apparatus he uses to stand by attaching a belt around himself). John can hold on to the sides of the stander and lift himself away from the back of his chair. This further strengthens his back and creates natural curves in his spine. We work on rotation, letting go of the stander one hand at a time, and turning his body and arm at the same time. We also work on his bed as if it’s a mat, doing chest lifts arm circles, and basic work rolling over side to side.

Since beginning Pilates, John has seen a significant improvement in symptoms. He was kind enough to offer this testimonial to encourage others who have MS to give Pilates a try:

Susan is professional and caring. Her subtle and helpful guidance has helped me improve my posture as well as the ability to do day-to-day things with more ease.

Is Pilates Safe for People with MS?

The short answer, of course, is yes. Pilates benefits MS patients in many ways. But it’s important to work with a qualified instructor who understands the challenges people with MS face. For people with MS especially, one-on-one instruction can make a dramatic difference.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about the therapeutic benefits of Pilates for MS or any other condition.

Improving Strength and Flexibility with Susan’s Individualized Pilates Instruction

Improving Strength and Flexibility with Susan’s Individualized Pilates Instruction

This is a case study about working with Susan from PIlates Body NYC, written by Susan’s client Lisa.

Six years ago, some friends suggested I try Pilates. They thought it might be something I would enjoy. And of course, they also thought it would be good for me! I’d thought about doing Pilates before, so their suggestion stuck with me. When I saw a notice in our building about Pilates instruction with Susan, I remembered what my friends had suggested. I was interested in improving strength and flexibility, so I decided to try it.

I’m glad I did.

I’ve been practicing twice a week with Susan ever since, and the results have been great! I’ve reached my goal of improving strength and flexibility, and I continue to improve. I began to see results almost immediately. While I did expect to see these results (thought maybe not so quickly), I honestly did not expect to become as dedicated to the Pilates practice as I now am.

Overcoming Hesitation and Finding Time to Practice

I’d thought about doing Pilates for many years before I finally took my first class. I hesitated, because I didn’t think I’d be able to fit classes into my schedule easily. I didn’t think getting to Pilates classes would be convenient.

I’d done other kinds of physical activity in the past. As was the case with those practices, I was mostly interested in the physical benefits of Pilates. That is still the main reason I practice.

But there’s an added benefit of Pilates, and its importance surprised me. That benefit is mindfulness. Being present (mindful) is not only a significant part of Pilates practice but is important in daily life—more important than I thought it would be. I see all the time how mindfulness translates into other activities in my life.

A Customized Pilates Program with Dramatic Results

Before I started individualized sessions, I took a group class that Susan ran in our New York City apartment building. The group class was meaningful and fun, and I’m glad I was part of it. But the benefits from the individual, customized program Susan provides delivered more dramatic results in less time. The personalized attention, customization and flow of a private session means I can have a more efficient practice.

Susan is extremely passionate and innovative. While classic Pilates is the baseline of her teaching, she is always introducing something new. Susan cares deeply about her clients and about Pilates. At the same time, she makes the practice fun!

It’s still sometimes difficult for me to find the time to practice. But I do make the time, so I can continue to work with Susan on improving strength and flexibility. I want to continue to see improvement in this important area of fitness, and I believe I will if I continue to practice.

Susan has kept me motivated to stay with my Pilates practice over the past six years. Her flexible scheduling and routines meet my needs. I’m happy to say that because of Susan, Pilates continues to be an integral part of my physical fitness.

Pilates for Headache Relief: Skip the Painkillers and Treat Your Whole Body

Pilates for Headache Relief: Skip the Painkillers and Treat Your Whole Body

Millions of people suffer from chronic headaches. If you’re one of them, you know they can interfere with your quality of life significantly. Did you know you can practice Pilates for headache relief?

If your headaches are a result of stress, poor posture, or a problem with your neck or spine, Pilates can help! You may also benefit from other lifestyle changes as well. Let’s look at the most common types of headaches and what we can do to about them.

Types of Headaches

The most common types of headaches are tension headaches and migraines. Stress causes most tension headaches. When you’re stressed, you tend to do things like tighten your muscles, clench your jaw, or hunch your shoulders. You may also sleep poorly or skip meals. These are all potential headache triggers.

Stress can also trigger migraines, which are vascular headaches. Other migraine causes include hormonal changes, sensory overload, and reactions to foods or ingredients in foods.

Whatever the cause of your tension or migraine headaches, you may find Pilates for headache relief effective. If this is a surprise because you always thought Pilates was all about the core, read on!

Pilates is For the Whole Body

Since it is a workout for the whole body, Pilates offers exercises that can help relieve headache pain. According to Australian physiotherapist Peter Tziavrangos, one of the most beneficial aspects of mat Pilates for headache relief is not the physical exercise, but the meditative effect of practicing mindfully.

Since mindful practice helps us master staying in the moment, it can help reduce stress. But Pilates also helps with body awareness. We become more mindful of that clenched jaw or more aware of that trigger food or hunger that is causing our head to ache! We may also sleep better when we practice Pilates regularly.

Pilates for Headache Relief

In addition to mindful movement to reduce stress and help with headaches, some specific Pilates exercises that can help correct problems with alignment that cause headaches. Neck rolls are one example. Neck rolls help strengthen the muscles in your neck, which can help with “forward head syndrome,” a type of misalignment that can lead to headaches. You can also do neck rolls to reduce chronic muscle tension in the neck. The exercise improves range of motion, which enables better posture.

And don’t forget the core. If you practice Pilates, of course you can’t forget the core! Core work does help with headache relief. One reason is core work requires breathwork. So, again, you are increasing the flow of oxygen when you work on strengthening your core.

A strong core is also the basis for good postural alignment. With good posture, you’re less likely to put your body in a position that will lead to headache pain.

So, now that you know you can practice Pilates for headache relief, what are you waiting for? If you need some help designing a program that works for you, or if you want some individualized attention to keep you on track, let’s talk. I’m here to help!

Pilates is Enjoyable: How Susan Helped Me Move Past My Resistance

Pilates is Enjoyable: How Susan Helped Me Move Past My Resistance

The following review is from my client Babette, who has studied with me for the last five years. Thank you, Babette!

Many years ago, I tried Pilates but found it difficult. Because of that experience, I didn’t try it again for quite a while. The idea that Pilates is enjoyable for anyone never crossed my mind. But five years ago, I learned from other students about Susan Sommers, who offers private and semi-private Pilates instruction in my building in Manhattan. I decided to try Pilates again.

When I began taking Pilates classes with Susan, I didn’t have anything specific to work on. I just wanted to improve general fitness, strength, and flexibility. At first, I really had to push myself, though, and I’m glad I did. Thanks to Susan’s attention, I learned that with consistent effort, results do come. Now I know Pilates is enjoyable, and I’ve come to appreciate its benefits for the entire body!

I began a once-per-week practice, and saw results very quickly. I gained strength, and in a relatively short time could do some of the exercises more easily or without a lot of modification. Five years later, I’m still improving.

Pilates is Enjoyable!

I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy Pilates. I had always viewed it as a struggle or too hard, particularly the mat classes.  But now I enjoy a lot of the exercises, even the ones that are still challenging for me.

I was a competitive ballroom dancer for many years and have had dance training since childhood, so movement isn’t something new to me. Still, I had the idea that Pilates is hard and thought there would be too much focus on abdominal work. What I learned is that Pilates is a full-body approach to fitness. My attitude toward the exercises has changed from something to resist to something I can enjoy.

In addition to the physical, I appreciate the focus on mindfulness in Pilates. As a form of mindful movement, Pilates certainly helps with body awareness. I have always pursued this kind of thing, and I bring mindfulness to my Pilates practice as well.

Pilates with Susan Stands Apart from Group Classes

I take semi-private classes with Susan and appreciate having a more intimate setting to work in. I’ve attended group classes in the past, but now I have more opportunity to focus on getting the form right. I have the individual attention to help me see where I can improve.

Susan’s teaching style works so well because she is accommodating to students’ various needs and limitations. I always enjoy her friendly and warm nature. I love seeing myself improve at Pilates over time and observing myself gain strength and flexibility. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment, especially as I get older.

Since I’m not very flexible, it took a while before I could sit easily and do certain exercises confidently. Now that I’ve had the experience of working with Susan and seeing positive results, I want to continue the upward trajectory and can feel comfortable and confident with the full Pilates program.  Before I met Susan and began working with her, I would not have thought this was possible!

Body for Life: How to Have a Great Relationship with You

Body for Life: How to Have a Great Relationship with You

Wouldn’t it be great to have a healthy body for life? Imagine feeling strong and confident no matter what your chronological age. Think about this: Whether you’re healthy or not, you only have one body. It’s your body for life. It is my hope that you will feel empowered to build and maintain well-being!

 “The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” ~Martha Graham.

Are you aware of your body? What do you think of it, and do you know how to speak its language? Let’s start this exploration of our body and its health with some questions and some simple, straightforward answers.

What is Body Awareness?

Body awareness is a term that refers to knowledge and attention to what the human body can do. When we practice body awareness, we think about things like transferring weight, flight, and balance.

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.” ~ George Sheehan

What is Body Image?

Body image is the perception we have of our own body. Do you love your body or hate it? Or do you have feelings somewhere in the middle of these two extremes? Body image can be positive or negative and is often influenced by the standards society sets about how we should look.

“Research suggests that in general, women have slightly lower self-esteem overall when compared to men. But when it comes to body image, there is an enormous gender gap, with women reporting an overwhelmingly greater body dissatisfaction when compared to men,” says Denise Martz, PhD, a clinical health psychologist, and professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

When you consider your knowledge and feelings about your body, is there room for improvement?

What is Body Language?

Your body is always sending signals about you to others. Take a look at yourself in a mirror or a window reflection. How do you think another person would perceive you right now? Are you slouching and trying to hide, or are you standing tall?

Look at your facial expression. Are you smiling? As Martha Graham said, “The body never lies.”

Fall in Love With Your Body for Life

To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ~ Buddha

If you want to have a strong and healthy body for life, practice Pilates or yoga. Pilates and yoga both work to unite the mind, body, and spirit. With commitment and dedication to either of these practices, you will eventually discover better physical awareness.

Feeling healthy and fit can improve your body awareness, which can improve your body image. With these improvements, your body language may change as well. Instead of hiding or showing the world that you are not feeling secure, your body may begin to say I am confident and beautiful!

The first step toward better health and fitness is always the hardest. With desire and dedication, it can be done. It’s your body for life. Self-confidence is the best outfit. Wear it. Own it. Rock it!

Exercise Personality: What is Yours and Why Should You Know It?

Exercise Personality: What is Yours and Why Should You Know It?

What is your exercise personality? Do you know that finding out may lead to your success or failure? Studies suggest that people are more likely to follow through with a workout routine and get results when they enjoy what they’re doing. It makes sense if you think about it. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll want to do it more often!

So, you’ve decided to start exercising for one reason or another. Whether it was your doctor’s warning, an upcoming vacation where you’ll be on the beach wearing that dreaded bathing suit, or an upcoming high school reunion, something motivated you to take the first step and start.

Now what? How do you set yourself up for success? Remember you are doing this for you, so you’ll want to find something you enjoy enough to stick with it. This is where knowing your exercise personality comes into play. In short, no one else is going to exercise for you!

How to Determine Your Exercise Personality

An important thing to keep in mind when thinking about your exercise personality is the idea that what works for one person does not work for everyone. So, if you know someone who swears that yoga has changed her life, that doesn’t mean yoga is the right kind of exercise for you. Similarly, you may know an elite athlete who thrives in competitive team sports. But competition and intensity may not your thing.

It’s okay. You don’t have to try to be someone else. We all have unique personalities and needs, and the exercise programs we gravitate towards depend on that uniqueness.

You can determine your exercise personality by answering some simple questions.

  • Do you prefer the solitude of exercising alone, or is companionship more motivating?
  • Are you more attracted to activities that require great mental alertness and quick bursts of energy? Or are you more attracted to workouts that promote tranquility?
  • Do you thrive on competition? Do you enjoy participating in team sports?
  • Would you rather be indoors or outside? Perhaps it depends on the weather.
  • Does your previous experience with exercise programs lead you to believe you will like or dislike a certain activity?

Your responses to these questions should offer insight into your exercise personality.

Finding your exercise niche

The key to success when it comes to exercise is to keep trying. And remember that even if you try a type of exercise—like Pilates—there are unique styles and teachers. If one experience doesn’t quite fit, you may want to try another before you give up and move on to something else.

In the end, no matter what your exercise personality may be, it’s important to take time for you. In other words, do something! Many people make time to take care of others but don’t make time to take care of themselves. In the end, this leads to burnout and makes you less effective as a caretaker.

Instead, make your “you” time a priority, and don’t miss that exercise appointment with yourself. Exercise will help you stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Don’t skip it. Your health is your life!

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