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Pilates

Is it time to drop the C Words from our Pilates Vocabulary?

Mea culpa – yesterday, I used (one of) the C words.  Twice.  No, I lied – three times!  What, you gasp, nooooo!?!  YES and…, I’ll do it again.  Classical.  Classical.  Classical.  For those who didn’t hear it the first three times.  Classical.  Really, Rebekah, you’re starting to sound like “one of them”. Um, one of whom?  One of them, an elitist.  Because I describe my teaching as classical?  Exactly.  The terms classical and contemporary Pilates lead to arguments,  fighting and probably, the Apocalypse.  Whoa, slow down there.  How does using the term classical lead to the Apocalypse?  Because when you describe yourself as a classical teacher, you imply that classical is superior to contemporary.  That is wrong and in fact exemplifies all that is wrong in the universe.  Away with these distinctions.  Really? But how will people know what I am teaching? They don’t need to know.  Just say you teach Pilates.  So is all Pilates the same, and is everything Pilates just because someone says it is?  Uhhhhh.  Yes.. I don’t know.  Maybe?

Sound silly?  I am obviously exaggerating, but only slightly.  Some members of the Pilates community recently opined that we should no longer use the terms classical and contemporary.  And the editor of Pilates Style Magazine announced that the magazine would not use them because they fostered negativity, an “‘us v. them’ mentality”, and that eliminating them would make “our Pilates world a better place.”  I disagree.  This is not a revival of the tired classical v. contemporary debate.  It is not “us versus them.”  But all Pilates is not the same and pretending otherwise won’t make it so.   As my friend Maria stated when this subject was discussed on social media, “ everyone uses the term classical music or contemporary music .  There are the classical philosophers and the contemporary ones.  Can we just wake up one day and say music is music and philosophy is philosophy….”  There is not A Pilates style; there are styles, plural.  Classical and contemporary are the two primary styles.

Those who seek to abolish the terms classical and contemporary Pilates claim that the Pilates world will be a better place if we do so.  Is this argument an attempt to couch what is in reality a business decision (sell more magazines, attract more students..)?  Or is it misguided political correctness?  Probably a bit of both, but mainly the latter.  Much as the trend toward excessive political correctness in recent years has taken a nosedive into the realm of the ridiculous, the same phenomena is starting to take root in the Pilates world.  We cannot describe our style or lineage without offending those who do not conform to the definitions we use.  Shall we no longer use any descriptions that others might find exclusive?  In that case, should we even use the term Pilates teacher? Why not movement professional?  Or simply professional so that we don’t offend non-movement professionals.

Another argument espoused by those who want blur the lines is that the term classical Pilates is not universally agreed upon even within the classical Pilates community.  (I do not know if this disagreement exists with the contemporary Pilates world).  This is not false.  There is indeed disagreement as to what is considered classical, particularly as there has been a recent shift toward classical and more teachers are beginning to explore the original work. Some believe that classical Pilates refers exclusively to the Romana lineage; others consider it to include the work of the other elders.  But since when do let the failure to achieve a consensus on a definition lead us to just wipe out the word from our vocabulary? That is intellectual laziness.  Again, drawing a parallel to the word Pilates itself – it appears improbable that the Pilates community will ever agree upon a universal definition of the term Pilates.  That ship arguably sailed in the year 2000*.  Does that mean that we should no longer use the term Pilates?

Will blurring the classical/contemporary lines result in a kinder, gentler Pilates world? I defy someone to produce a shred of evidence that substantiates that theory.  Were we to drop the terms men and women, would gender equality ensue, would the pay gap disappear and would sexual discrimination, harassment and violence cease?  If we no longer used the terms Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative, would everyone hold hands and sing Kumbayah?  Sure, and unicorns and leprechauns exist too.  That people have different opinions on pretty much everything  is reality, and a healthy one.  Negativity ensues when people are incapable of reasonable discussions to voice their opinions.  The use of the terms classical and contemporary Pilates is not the source of the negativity pervading the Pilates community.  The two styles are different.  It is  futile to pretend that they are not,  or to close our eyes and hope the differences go away or go unnoticed.  Expressing a preference for one or the other is in no way equivalent to belittling those who teach differently.  Admittedly, this behavior (belittling) has unfortunately occurred within both the classical and contemporary communities.  However, and  again I cite my friend Maria who astutely stated, “our Pilates world becoming a better place has nothing to do with classical or contemporary.  It will become a better place when people become better people.”  Let’s direct our energy toward becoming better people and teachers .  (Apologies to all non-teachers and non-people I may offend with these terms).

Finally, I would argue that, in our post-lawsuit era*, when anyone can say they teach Pilates, we need these distinctions more than ever.  This sentiment has been echoed by both classical and contemporary teachers.  As my friend Cathy commented, “this is a slippery slope to dumbing down both/all styles of Pilates.  There needs to be a distinction made for purposes of training, for clients who walk into a studio to know what they are paying for, and to continue to honor the work that was developed by Joseph Pilates and by the First Generation teachers, and by modern  teachers who create exercises based on his work.”  It is both possible and rewarding to be part of a greater Pilates community, while maintaining our classical or contemporary identities and also our unique personal identities. Instead of worrying that we weren’t invited to the cool kids party down the block, let’s make our own party.  Ultimately, it boils down to a choice –   celebrate our shared heritage AND our differences?   Or take offense where there is none meant?  Take pride in our own teaching or censor those who choose to underscore their differences? My choice is made.  I plan to keep using the C words.  What about you?

*October 2000 – the term Pilates was deemed a generic term that could not be trademarked.

About the Author

laracroftRebekah is a supremely talented and accomplished human being. In fact, she is so accomplished that to list her myriad accomplishments would take too much time. Suffice it to say that she was voted best all-around in preschool and has saved a ladybug on more than one occasion. She is so nice to animals that she does not even have to be nice to other people. She does not post many pictures on facebook because she does not want others to feel bad about themselves. The word that people use most frequently to describe her is enchanting, although delightful is a close second. She teaches Pilates in her home studio in France (over 200 hours a week), where she is not above making her students do extra teasers if they question her authority or mock her accent. Yes, rumor has it that a few people have apparently dared mock her, but when we went to question them, we couldn’t find them anymore. *note- for those of you who don’t know me, this bio is meant to be humorous and there is no intention to offend animals, ladybugs or humans.

 

Pilates

When is it No Longer Pilates?

Something caught my eye at the store recently– an aisle with exercise equipment – weights, a Pilates ball (which looks disarmingly like a Swiss ball), and a Pilates Circle.  In France, where exercise is still exotic, this is new and exciting.  Suddenly, Pilates is everywhere.  Skimming through a fitness equipment catalog, I find a Pilates foam roller (which, strangely, looks just like a normal foam roller).   The sporting goods store devotes an entire aisle to “Pilates clothes” (apparently the powers-that-be don’t think people sweat during Pilates because none of it looks sweat-proof).  At the bookstore, I count at least a dozen Pilates books.  On the Internet, I learn of Pop Pilates, Aerolates,  Piloxing,  Piyoga, Yogilates,  Zumbalates, Poolates (my guess is that this has something to do with water and not excrement) and Hot Pilates.  There is a site called pornolates.com and a trademark for sexilates (which lapsed, so it is up for grabs if you are interested).    All the local gyms, vacation resorts, physiotherapists and mid-wives also teach Pilates classes.  It’s raining Pilates!!  But is it really Pilates?  When is it not Pilates?  Enquiring minds want to know.  I want to know.

I don my Jimmy Olsen cap to investigate.  First, what is naked Pilates?  There are a surprising number of videos on the Net.  Please, you are totally going to check it out too.  I find a video with two women who appear to have some Pilates education.   One begins to speak authoritatively about the powerhouse, but then proceeds to say that the pelvic floor, (consisting of the sacrum and the tailbone) must touch the mat.  Um, what?!?  I think that would be cause for alarm as in – Houston, we have a problem!  My pelvic floor is on my Pilates mat, please call an ambulance!  I stopped watching when it became sadly evident that Harrison Ford was not going to make an appearance.  Also, my kids were becoming curious about what I was watching and I doubt they would be convinced that I was doing “research”.  Ten hours later (joke) I am no closer to knowing what is not Pilates and I also don’t know why one would need a knit cap for naked Pilates.  Conclusion – naked Pilates probably isn’t Pilates, but viewers are likely looking for a different sort of “Teaser”.   And “in and up” – well I won’t go there.

Perhaps it is easier to start with the question – what is Pilates?  As a friend put it – is it Pilates just because we say it is or because we want it to be?  Does anything go as it long as it respects the oft-cited “Pilates principles” – centering, control, concentration, breathing, precision and fluidity?  These principles were not defined by Joseph Pilates himself, but by the 1980 Friedman/Eisen book on Pilates and have since been widely adopted. Frequently teachers insist that Joe would be delighted by the changes to his method and would have encouraged teachers to give free rein to their creativity.  Easy to say, but problematic to prove since Joseph is deceased and there is no “Return to Life” after death, as far as we know.

Do teachers really believe that anything goes – “fusion” classes, gym classes, large group reformer classes?  What if the instructor doesn’t know the difference between Joseph Pilates and Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism (as one teacher recounted)? What if the teacher just barks instructions and provides no corrections? What if few or no exercises resemble those in Return to Life, if props like the Bosu, swiss ball or foam roller, which have origins in other methods, are used?  We all laugh when Pilatesology airs parodies with the baby chair on the reformer and the ladder barrel upside down, but that is not that farfetched given what we see on Instagram.  Blaring music?  Concentrating on Sir Mixalot’s fondness for big butts will take our attention away from our own derrière.

Social media is alive with Pilates images, many of them recognizably Pilates, others less so.  Some look useful, others, well…. less useful.  I find myself scratching my head (no, not lice) … is this still Pilates?  At times, the answer is a no-brainer.  Dangerous exercises are clearly not Pilates.  Ever.  End of story.  More often the answer is murky.  And there is a backlash against the so-called Pilates police – any comment that could be perceived as mildly critical is found offensive and its author all but tarred and feathered.  Perhaps we are taking an admirable idea – inclusiveness – too far.  We have no legal standards defining Pilates -should we have no standards at all?

I took the question to a non-classical facebook forum and was surprised to be met with strong opinions on the subject and a clear rejection of the “anything goes”assertion.  Many decried the proliferation of “crapilates”.  But the line between Pilates and Pile-of-shit-ates was unclear.  What makes something Pilates and something else, Poo-lates?  Is it only a question of being safe and functional and following the “principles”?  A good vinyasa or Iyengar yoga class could follow the “principles”.  Can yoga be Pilates?  It does sound silly, but if you consider that any safe movement class that follows the “Pilates principles” is Pilates, then yoga could be Pilates, and even cooking could be Pilates.  A friend of mine suggested that a Pilates class should have a significant number of original Joe exercises.  What is significant?  Ninety?  Fifty?  Twenty?

Many teachers assured me that they harbor the same concerns.  Yet each had a different view of what Pilates isn’t.  Classes that were too slow were not Pilates.  Classes that were too fast were not Pilates.  Adding props like Swiss balls, flexbands or Bosu were not Pilates.  Fusion classes – no.   Too much breath, not enough movement; too much movement, not enough breath.   Too much sweat, not enough correction; too much correction, not enough sweat.  Like Monica on Friends trying to duplicate the chocolate chip cookie recipe, no one could quite pin down the special ingredient that makes Pilates what it is.  Not just the exercises themselves because, as one person noted, a bicep curl could be a simple curl or it could be done in a way that would make it Pilates.  The intention behind the movement is equally important as the movement itself.  Not just the “principles” because other movement methods that are not Pilates may also respect the “principles”.  Not just the equipment because swinging like Tarzan from the trapeze bar does not a Pilates practitioner make.  Not the lack of equipment because Pilates can be done with only a mat.  Some asserted that a Pilates class needs to reference RTL in some way, that the exercises should be traceable back to the originals, that the teacher should, at the very least know who Joseph Pilates was.  Most agreed that a true Pilates teacher needed to undergo a comprehensive and not a weekend program.  And everyone concurred that teachers must respect the integrity of the method, and not merely exploit the name for marketing purposes. One person wrote, “I suspect that what is not Pilates is like porn.  I know it when I see it.”

Social media, however, reminds us daily that many believe that we should be creative with the method.  One teacher wrote that when an experienced teacher truly understands the method, he should feel free to create new exercises.  After all, Joseph both invented and borrowed from others.  True, but he made the method his own and gave it its own name and now it bears his name.  At what point does the creation deviate enough from the original that it should be its own creation?  When grandma no longer recognizes her chocolate cake recipe, it really isn’t still grandma’s chocolate cake.  And she wouldn’t want you to call it that, delectable though it may be.  If it really doesn’t look or act like a duck, maybe it just isn’t a damn duck.  And that’s fine.  It doesn’t need to be a duck.  When a teacher injects enough of his own inventions into the work so that Joe would no longer recognize it, or criticizes Joe’s work as unsafe or primitive, why even bother calling it Pilates? It isn’t Pilates anymore. It is something else.

Some people have argued that no one cares.  That assertion is patently untrue.  SOME people are simply looking for a safe, fun workout and don’t care what it is called.  But many do care and consider it important that the public learn what Pilates is.  They are concerned that non-Pilates classes using the Pilates name either give Pilates a bad reputation because they are, excuse my French, crap, unsafe or misleading.  Contrary to what many say, there is no Pilates police.  I am a not nor do I want to be, a Pilates policeman –this isn’t about me.  But it does matter what the Pilates teaching community promotes as Pilates because that is ultimately what the public will believe.  It is a fact that there is no Pilates trademark – anyway can say that they teach Pilates.  Anyone can also call yoga Pilates.  Legally.  But ethically?

This is a call for reflection –upon our responsibility as teachers to acknowledge and honor the work that went into creating the method, to uphold its integrity, and that of its creator.    Pilates should not be about egos or Instagram likes.  Would Joe have been delighted about the myriad changes to his method that bears his name ?  I am skeptical. Naked Pilates?  Although he DID suggest that one should wear as little as possible to work out, I doubt that he foresaw that naked Pilates would be a thing.

Do not go around policing others or trolling the Internet, but be your own police. Joseph entrusted his method to his teachers, who in turn gifted us with it.  With this gift comes responsibility.  Let us be responsible.  Let us be vigilant against denaturing the method into something that Joe would not recognize.

*special thanks to Patty Turner Mehl for the « porn quote » and the Joseph Smith anecdote.😂😂.

About the Author

laracroftRebekah is a supremely talented and accomplished human being.  In fact, she is so accomplished that to list her myriad accomplishments would take too much time.  Suffice it to say that she was voted best all-around in preschool and has saved a ladybug on more than one occasion. She is so nice to animals that she does not even have to be nice to other people.  She does not post many pictures on facebook because she does not want others to feel bad about themselves.  The word that people use most frequently to describe her is enchanting, although delightful is a close second.   She teaches Pilates in her home studio in France (over 200 hours a week), where she is not above making her students do extra teasers if they question her authority or mock her accent.  Yes, rumor has it that a few people have apparently dared mock her, but when we went to question them, we couldn’t find them anymore.

Leggings Reviews

Leggings Review: Liquido Active

You must have noticed that the news is invariably depressing these days.  Even my facebook feed, once filled with baby pictures and articles touting the benefits of kombucha, is now brimming with posts decrying the current political situation.  People are angry; people are sad; there are more shootings and natural (and unnatural) disasters than ever before, and many people I know are suffering from health problems.  I need a short break – something fun and utterly frivolous.   I have, therefore decided to start reviewing leggings.  Why, Rebekah, why, you may ask (if you care, which you probably don’t), waste your years of education that cost you and your poor parents  so many thousands of dollars?  Can’t you contribute something more worthwhile to the world?  Well, I could answer, every day, I work with students who are plagued with chronic back, neck, shoulder and knee pain, and I think most of them would agree that I have helped them substantially.  Or I could just tell the haters to kiss my legging covered ass, but that would be rude and unladylike.  The short answer is that I just think it would be fun to start reviewing leggings.  I’m not going to write about, for example, putting jade eggs in one’s vajay.  I’ll leave that to Gwyneth.  Leggings, however, I know.  I wear them every day.  I own more than I care to admit.  Buying cool leggings is my vice, I confess.  I don’t have any other real vices.  I am practically perfect. 😉 (That is irony, by the way, for those who don’t know me).  I don’t smoke (mostly), nor do I drink (those who knew me in college, feel free to not chime in – there is probably no proof of anything you might want to say anyway –that was before cell phones and social media).   When I have a cool pair of leggings, I instantly feel sportier and stronger, almost like I already worked out, even if I end up not working out.  And leggings are, for the most part, cheaper than cigarettes and booze, or shoes and bags, and definitely cheaper than jewelry.  So here I go.  Enjoy, or go read something else.

The first brand of leggings that I am going to review are by a brand called Liquido Active, a brand based in Australia, although now they have a US base.  I used to order from the Australian site, but I think that now they have a consolidated site that includes Europe.   Shipping to France is not too expensive either and I usually receive my leggings within a week to ten days after placing an order.  I own a lot of Liquido leggings.  A lot.  One of the reasons is because they have such an amazing choice.  Unlike most other companies, they offer about a dozen new limited edition designs every month.  Be sure to order your favorites while they last.

Design

Liquido is known for their beautiful prints.  They do offer some solid colors, but they offer such a dizzying array of beautiful prints, it is a shame to opt for basic black.  I always receive compliments when I am wearing my Liquidos.  Despite their thin material, they are not at all see-through. Kino MacGregor can often be seen in Liquido and has designed a few styles for them, the Om Stars Collection, which are slightly more expensive than the other styles.

Fit

Sizes run from small to large. The fit is fairly true to size, although it does depend on which style you choose.  I am 5’6 (168 cm), and weigh between 57 and 59 kilos (125 to 130 pounds – it depends).  I usually get a medium in the extra long because I favor long leggings.  They also have 7/8 and capri styles.  I have gotten small in the past when they were out of medium and they fit me fine too, except for the compression leggings, which are a bit smaller.  They even have some mini-me styles, so you and your little girl can match.  There are four types of fabric and all of them are exquisitely soft.  They are all breathable, quick drying and offer UVA and UVB protection, with the Freedom fabric being the lightest weight.  They are exceptionally comfortable and do not slip down (I hate to keep pulling my leggings up).  I generally wear my Liquido leggings for Pilates and not for high impact activities such as running, where I prefer more compression.  The UP fabric offers a medium compression, more appropriate for running, but most of the styles are in the other fabrics.

Price

The price is around 58 euros (about 67 dollars).  They have a sales page and often offer up to 40 percent off the sales page during special promotions (Black Friday, Mother’s Day etc.).  They also have a Teachers Appreciation program where they offer a generous discount to yoga and Pilates instructors and other fitness professionals.  Shipping to France costs about 13.5 euros.

Durability

I generally wash my leggings in cool water and hang to dry and have had no issues thus far with my many Liquido leggings.  They retain their vibrant color after several washings.

Where to buy

Liquido Active leggings are available at www.liquidoactive.com.  You can also shop their Instagram page.

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I am going to take advantage of this post for a shameless plug that has zero to do with this review- buy the new Pilates emoji T-shirt at http://www.etsy.com/listing/629864481.

Lire la suite « Leggings Review: Liquido Active »

Pilates

Mais C’est Quoi le Pilates?

Mais c’est quoi le Pilates ?

Quand j’ai commencé à enseigner le Pilates il y a  quinze ans, la vaste majorité des français n’en avait jamais entendu parler. Lorsque je rencontrais les gens pour la première fois et que je leur ai dit que j’étais professeur de Pilates, leur réponse étaient invariablement « Mais c’est quoi le Pilates ? ». La réponse n’est pas facile… Le problème est que le Pilates est difficile à décrire en quelques mots. Quand j’esquissais un début de réponse, leur réaction était quasiment toujours « c’est comme le yoga ? » Alors j’avais deux choix – soit je me lançais dans une description détaillée de ce qu’est réellement le Pilates, soit j’essayais une réponse courte et j’abandonnais avec – « oui, un peu. » J’avoue que parfois j’optais pour la deuxième solution.

Nous voilà en 2018 et maintenant tout le monde ou presque a désormais entendu parler du Pilates. Decathlon a même un rayon de vêtements « Pilates ». Dans tous les grands magasins, je vois des cercles « Pilates », des ballons « Pilates » ou encore des rollers en mousse «Pilates». La vérité est que les ballons et les rollers en mousse ne sont pas des vrais accessoires de Pilates. Le grand ballon est d’origine suisse et les rollers en mousse étaient utilisés par des kinés pour détendre les muscles. Depuis quelques années, ces outils ont été adoptés par certains professeurs de Pilates, mais Joseph Pilates, l’inventeur de la méthode Pilates, ne les a jamais employés. Joseph Pilates ? Eh oui, le Pilates tient son nom de son créateur, un certain Joseph Pilates, allemand d’origine, né à Mönchengladbach en 1883, qui a émigré aux Etats Unis en 1923. Il appelait sa méthode « contrology ».

Si vous êtes en train de lire cet article, c’est que vous avez certainement entendu parler du Pilates. Peut-être que votre médecin, collègue ou voisin vous a conseillé le Pilates. Mais est-ce que vous savez ce qu’est réellement le Pilates? Maintenant que le Pilates commence à être un peu connu, beaucoup d’erreurs sur la méthode et sur son créateur se répandent, surtout dans les magazines grand public mais également parmi les professeurs de Pilates ?!?. Déjà il y a en a qui ne savent pas que Pilates était un homme. Néanmoins s’ils le savent, ils ne connaissent que peu de choses sur cet homme qui a créé la méthode qu’ils enseignent. Certaines de ces erreurs viennent de l’homme lui-même, car Joseph Pilates, tellement convaincu des bienfaits et la supériorité de sa méthode sur les autres méthodes de remise en forme, n’a jamais hésité à embellir son histoire. Une des légendes qui circule est que Joseph a soigné des blessés de guerre pendant son emprisonnement sur l’Île de Man lors de la première guerre mondiale en utilisant les ressorts de matelas pour faire travailler les patients dans leur lit. Et c’est vrai que le « Cadillac », un appareil de Pilates, ressemble un peu à un lit d’hôpital (ou un instrument de torture 😊). Joseph, comme ses compatriotes qui se trouvaient en Angleterre, était bien un prisonnier sur l’Isle de Man, mais des recherches récentes ont démontré qu’il y avait peu de probabilité que Joseph a eu accès à des matelas à ressorts sur l’île, les lits des prisonniers étant construit de paille. Par contre, il a certainement enseigné ce qu’on appelle aujourd’hui les « mat classes » à d’autres prisonniers. Il s’agit des exercices sur le sol, qu’il a décrit en détail dans son livre « Return to Life » publié en 1945.

En quoi consiste le Pilates ? Je vois souvent dans les magazines « fitness » des programmes de renforcement musculaire qui montrent un ou deux exercice(s)soi-disant « Pilates ». Ces exercices n’ont jamais été destinés à être appris en isolation. Le Pilates n’est pas une chorégraphie, mais un système entier, avec plus de 500 exercices. Ce système contient non seulement les exercices au sol (appelés exercices de « mat») mais aussi des exercices qui se font sur des appareils Pilates, tel le Reformer, le Cadillac, le Wunda Chair et la Chaise Haute, des appareils inventés et brevetés par Joseph Pilates. Chaque appareil a ses propres exercices mais il y en a certains, tels le Teaser ou le Swan, qui peuvent se faire sur plusieurs appareils et sur le tapis. Joseph a développé son système qui doit être exécuté dans un certain ordre sur le reformer ou le mat qui suit une logique définie et qui renforcent, assouplissent et équilibrent le corps en entier dans une série qui comprend des flexions vers l’avant, des flexions latérales, des extensions et des rotations. Il y a même des petits appareils pour les pieds, les orteils et la respiration. Quelqu’un qui choisit les exercices au hasard n’a pas bien compris le fonctionnement du système. Par contre, l’ordre et les exercices sont modifiés si nécessaire par des professeurs pour correspondre aux besoins de chaque élève. C’est pour cette raison que le Pilates peut être pratiqué par les personnes de tous âges et conditions physiques. Et c’est également pourquoi il est préférable de prendre un cours de Pilates avec un professeur qui a reçu une formation intégrale avec un apprentissage d’au moins plusieurs mois plutôt que par quelqu’un qui n’a suivi qu’une formation courte ou pire, une formation en ligne.

Est-ce que le Pilates est comme le yoga ? Parfois les magazines montrent des postures de yoga pour illustrer un article sur le Pilates, d’où la confusion ! Ou encore, ils décrivent le Pilates comme un mélange de yoga, danse et Tai-chi. Le Pilates n’est pas une méthode de relaxation et n’a pas de côté spirituel, même s’il contribue certainement au bien-être global – « un esprit sain dans un corps sain ». Certains exercices peuvent ressembler à des postures de yoga mais le Pilates est une série de mouvements et chaque exercice est même censé enchaîner directement au prochain exercice sans s’arrêter, contrairement au yoga qui consiste à des postures souvent statiques (à part le vinyasa yoga). Il n’y a d’ailleurs aucune preuve que Joseph Pilates ait été inspiré de yoga et plus probable qu’il ai été influencé par la culture physique qui a été déjà populaire en Allemagne quand il était enfant. Dans ses deux livres et pendant ses interviews, il n’a fait aucune allusion au yoga, au tai chi ou à danse comme inspiration mais parle plutôt des mouvements des animaux. Mais une chose est certaine, c’est qu’il était convaincu que sa méthode était supérieure aux autres formes de mise en forme.

Le Pilates est-il réservé aux femmes ? Absolument pas ! Joseph Pilates était un homme et avait beaucoup de clients masculins. Il a enseigné sa méthode aux danseurs, aux boxeurs (lui-même était boxeur professionnel brièvement pendant sa jeunesse), aussi bien à des athlètes qu’a tout le monde. Le Pilates est maintenant pratiqué par beaucoup d’athlètes professionnels, tels Ronaldo et Andy Murray, car il améliore leurs performances sportives et leur évitent des blessures qui peuvent être causées par des déséquilibres physiques.

Est-ce que le Pilates est comme le fitness ? Certains cours de Pilates peuvent aujourd’hui ressembler à des cours d’abdo fessiers, surtout que maintenant on enseigne des cours de « gainage » dans toutes les salles de sport. Mais ce n’est pas en faisant des abdos et en disant à l’élève de rentrer son ventre qui fait d’un cours un vrai cours de Pilates. Un cours de Pilates consiste, normalement, en une série d’exercices qui s’exécutent avec une attention à l’alignement et sous l’observation du professeur vigilant qui corrige les mauvais alignements verbalement et tactilement. C’est pour cette raison que les participants à un cours de Pilates ne devraient pas être trop nombreux. Six à huit personnes est l’idéal. Les cours ne se font généralement pas en musique (à part peut-être une musique du fond) pour éviter que les élèves se laissent distraire au détriment de leur concentration.

Et finalement, le cours de Pilates n’est pas une séance de kiné ni un cours post-natal (même si c’est excellent après accouchement dès que le médecin a donné l’autorisation). Quelqu’un qui souffre d’une blessure devrait d’abord consulter son médecin et faire le cas échéant des séances de kiné. Un professeur de Pilates ne ferait pas travailler la partie du corps qui est blessé mais ferait travailler le reste du corps sans aggraver la partie blessée. Quant aux cours post ou pre-nataux – si vous restez allongé(e) sur le sol pendant tout le cours à travailler uniquement la respiration et le perinée, alors vous n’êtes pas dans un cours de Pilates. Le Pilates, c’est de l’exercice. Vous êtes censé(e)  bouger, transpirer, travailler et vous amuser! Pour trouver un cours de Pilates véritable près de chez vous, vous pourrez regarder sur le site de la Fédération des Professionnels de la Méthode Pilates – http://www.fpmp.fr.

Book reviews

Book Review : The Professional Pilates Teacher’s Handbook – Maintaining your Health, Sanity and Passion

Title : The Professional Pilates Teacher’s Handbook – Maintaining your Health, Sanity and Passion

Author: Laurette Ryan

Date of publication: 2013

Pages: 93

Availability: amazon

I bought this book some time ago, but life got in the way of reading it – as life tends to do. Stumbling across it recently, I started thumbing through it and discovered to my surprise that it was a little gem.  Its short size  – 93 pages – is an advantage.  With thousands of Pilates books on the market these days, authors seem to feel compelled to stand out by cramming everything and the kitchen sink into their work  – a strategy that often backfires because busy Pilates teachers rarely have much time to devote to reading.  Sometimes you look at that huge book on your table and you become  Scarlett O’Hara – “Tomorrow – I’ll start reading it tomorrow.” Not so with this book – which is user friendly and useful as a reference after the initial read because it is also a workbook with lists and space for notes.

Laurette is a Pilates teacher and mother of four – like me.  Unlike me, she somehow manages to run a teacher training program in several states and author books, including “Basic Cuing for Pilates Teachers – a Guide for Pilates Teachers and Other Movement Modalities” and “Ready for Pilates for Everybody”, a Pre-Pilates book.  She also writes Pilates articles and has a workout blog.  Clearly, she is more organized than I am!  I briefly think that she must be one of those annoying teachers who make you (meaning me, of course) feel bad for letting your kids eat too much processed food and pasta and spend way too many hours on the computer playing Minecraft.  Happily, she does not seem to be the judgmental type.  Rather, her book is full of the advice you wish your Pilates teacher trainer gave you but did not (at least mine did not– mine was actually pretty mean).  The book is primarily aimed at newbie teachers but even veteran teachers will find some helpful tips. If social media forums are any indication, many, if not most, Pilates teachers struggle to find balance between work and family, dealing with the physical and often emotional needs of their students, and handling the financial aspect of teaching or running a studio.  This book will hopefully help teachers avoid some of the pitfalls that may accompany their choice of career.

The book is divided into two parts.  Part One addresses the four aspects of self – physical, rational/mental, emotional and energetic.  The section devoted to the physical aspect of self includes topics such teaching posture, moving equipment and changing springs, assisting clients, and demonstrating.  The reader is encouraged to note his or her postural habits, such as standing on one leg or tilting his head to the side.  Of course we movement teachers know this stuff – we know that we should not stand on one leg, slouch over the equipment or put our bodies at risk, but the reality is that we all probably are guilty of not applying proper body mechanics a hundred percent of the time while teaching.  I, for example, notice that I like to spot from one side more than the other, particularly when I put my foot on the bar for an exercise like elephant.  This book (complete with “Do!/Don’t” photos) is a friendly call for increased vigilance.

The rational/mental aspect of self is the section I found most useful.  It includes tips for avoiding burnout, and also addresses subjects such as setting boundaries with clients – financial and emotional, selling things, training friends and family and navigating the teacher/client relation when a teacher becomes friends with his client.  Although I have been teaching for many years now, I have only run a home studio for a few years.  I realize that some of the boundaries discussed in this section have indeed become blurred.  I don’t mind beating clients up during class, but when it comes to addressing things like late cancellations or price increases, I tend to shy away from conflict.  And I do have a few clients who have become friends.  This section underscores the importance of firm boundaries as an essential ingredient to a professional environment.

Part Two is entitled Grow Your Business with 6 Steps to SASS (Steps Above Service System).  The title is fairly self-explanatory.  With Pilates studios now cropping up on every corner of the globe,  the most important quality for a studio is superior teaching.  However, the details and personalization of the global experience, not just the lesson itself, will significantly impact business growth. The details bring clients back. Laurette provides some suggestions for ensuring exemplary service.

At the end of the book, Laurette offers three free handouts –  “What are the Principles of Pilates?  And How Will They Help Me?”, “Pre-Pilates Exercises to Improve Your Performance”, and “Pilates Builds Fascial Fitness”. She encourages teachers to distribute the handouts to their clients.  She even offers to send the articles in a pdf version.  This is a generous, refreshing touch in a world where everything seems to carry a price tag.

I recommend this book, in particular to new teachers, or perhaps as a gift to students you may be mentoring.  It is also a useful resource for teachers who have been teaching for some time, especially those who may be opening a studio of their own.  If you decide to use Laurette’s handouts, please remember to give her credit.  You can check out her blog at http://www.pilatesworkout-blog.com.

Book reviews

Book Review: Movement Matters

Title: Movement Matters

Author: Katy Bowman

Anyone who follows the Pilates Book Review and Discussion Club forum (all ten of you 😉) knows that we are big fans of Katy Bowman.  We have reviewed four of her seven books, Alignment Matters, Whole Body Barefoot, Move your DNA,  and Diastasis Recti.  She has also written Don’t Just Sit There and Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief.  Her new book, Dynamic Aging, is on my wish list- it is not yet available in France.  A biomechanist by training, Bowman writes a popular blog, Katy Says, and has a podcast of the same name, directs and teaches at the Nutritious Movement Center Washington, and travels internationally to give movement workshops.  Nutritious Movement is also a facebook forum.

Movement Matters is somewhat different from Bowman’s other books, perhaps closest in nature to Alignment Matters, which is a compilation of blogs.  Movement is a collection of essays on movement written by Bowman over five years, not just movement as in moving an arm and a leg, or even moving one’s body, but of movement in general – small movements, big movements, bigger movements, how the movement of one affects the movement of all, how the movement of man affects movement of the world.  “I believe the expansion to an ecological model in human bod science- considering society’s impact when we investigate human movement – is necessary for scientific clarity,” Bowman states.

The back cover describes the book as a “groundbreaking investigation of the mechanics of our sedentary culture and the profound potential of human movement….”   Seems a daunting task to initiate such an investigation in only 225 pages, but one of Bowman’s strongest points is her ability to take complicated concepts and explain them so clearly, so simply, that it seems almost impossible that we ever believed otherwise or that the concepts never occurred to us before.  That is not to say that the book is superficial, rather that its simplicity is deceiving.  Each read reveals new insights.  It is not a book of facts from which to learn, although learn you will, nor is it a how-to.  It is more aptly described as a series of reflections that “invites us to consider our personal relationship with sedentarism, privilege and nature.”  I found myself going over some of the chapters again and again, not because I did not understand them but because I wanted to mentally revisit the ideas within.

In lieu of a traditional review, I will mention my favorite parts and how they affected my thinking as both a Pilates teacher and (normal?? 😉 )person, and then render my overall impression.  In the introduction, I came upon this sentence: “For many, the publication of a research article in a peer-reviewed journal was the equivalent of truth and not a single data point in a much larger library of information.“ This statement and in fact the entire chapter one, Science Moves, is highly relevant to the Pilates community, specifically in relation to the two major debates dividing the community, the neutral spine and the “is flexion bad for you” debates.  Both arguments begin similarly, something along the lines of-  “science has changed so much from when Joe was alive.  We have now learned from science that Pilates as Joe taught it was unsafe.  Because Joe was an innovator, he would have evolved his teaching to reflect the latest scientific research.”    Funnily, the same people who cite “science” generally only cite one researcher, Stuart McGill, or worse, they have not even read McGill, but cite someone else who cites McGill, without ever seeking direct answers themselves.  Even those that have read a McGill article or two generally have not read his books nor have they explored in greater the studies McGill describes, exactly how the studies were conducted, their limitations (every study has limitations), whether other studies contradict or at least limit their relevance or the reach of their conclusions.  Does anyone else see the contradiction?  On the one hand, the people making these arguments insist that science has evolved and that this evolution substantiates their thinking.  On the other hand, they refuse to submit to the idea that science is STILL evolving, and accept as gospel what they have been taught without probing more deeply.

I truly cannot overstate my enthusiasm for the Science Moves chapter.  As tempting as it is to go into more detail and describe each of the different subchapters, to do so would be way beyond the scope of a review and would not come close to doing Bowman‘s arguments justice.  I will instead list the subchapters and some of what I deemed the more important sentences to give an idea of the content. The subchapters are: Muscle: A simple Model, Expand Your Muscle Model, You’re More Than (Two of Your Parts, Proof, Putting all Your Eggs in One Comment Basket, Don’t be A Stupid, Sometimes Science is Sedentary, and Dear Katy.  The following are some of the statements within the chapter that most resonated with me.  :

“Research titles shouldn’t read like magazine headlines; every study presents just a tiny aspect of something…. a conclusion drawn from a single research paper might change when compared to one drawn from a more robust literature review.”

“My assumption is that if you’re interested in evidence, you’re interested in all of it.  And that if you use a scientific publication to support your behavior, you are extensively reviewing the literature yourself, and that a new idea sparks a surge in research in reading, and not only in online commenting.”

“Being certain about “how certain things work when your certainty is based on a limited perspective can leave you many avenues unexplored.”

I will say something about how this relates to my experience first as a Pilates student, then as an apprentice and now as a teacher.  I believe that Pilates teachers should always ask questions. and should always seek answers, continually, eternally.  No matter how wonderful your teacher or mentor or that workshop presenter or blog writer is, no matter how talented, no matter that his or her list of credentials is as long as my arm, he or she does not know everything.  There is no reason for you to accept everything he or she says as the gospel.  Think for yourselves.  Seek your own truths.   Disagreeing with someone is not a sign of disrespect and someone who discourages questions is likely not entirely confident in the veracity of his assertions, or else is just an arrogant ass – I know a few.    When I was going through my Pilates certification, I asked questions because that it how I am wired. (My second grade teacher told my parents to buy me a book about reproduction because I was, it seems, asking “questions” in class.)  But asking questions during my certification was highly discouraged and some people were frankly unpleasant about it.  But then, a lot of people in that program were jerks – that is a story for another time and possibly petty, but truthful 😉.   It just wasn’t done to ever question what we were taught.  This was in stark contrast to my training as a lawyer, where students were encouraged to ask questions and even to disagree with our professors if their arguments were well presented.

Following the Science Moves chapter are Nature Moves, Food Moves, and Just Move.  Just Move was also a favorite chapter of mine.  Those who read my review of Bowman’s book, Whole Body Barefoot may (but probably don’t) recall that I expressed my astonishment as Bowman’s ability to write so many books, teach, and run an education center, while at the same time maintaining the healthy outdoor lifestyle she espouses and spending quality time with her kids.  She must have read my mind because in Movement Matters, she explains just how she does it.  It seems that what I do, multi-tasking (answering emails while brushing my teeth and listening to my ten year recite her poetry lesson) is not the answer.  The answer is something called stacking.  Instead of doing four things (not very well) at the same time, you do one activity that fulfills four objectives.  For example, Bowman goes foraging for fruit with her kids – in one fell, she spends quality time with her kids, she educates them, she climbs trees, working her muscles and bones, she and her family get the fresh air and vitamin D they need and she sources healthy food for her family.  Sounds like a brilliant idea.  Unfortunately, when I suggest to my kids that they join me in foraging for food, they barely look up from whatever electronic device in which they are engrossed to scowl at me and remind me that their idea of fruit are gelatin candies in a fruit form.  Well, uh, that went well.

I have to say that while I thoroughly enjoyed Movement, it did make me painfully aware of my own shortcomings as a mom, as a “healthy, active, sporty” person and as an environmentalist (which I really don’t claim to be although I do recycle and use those long-lasting, low-energy lightbulbs).  My shortcomings as a mom because I don’t send my kids to nature school and I let them drink sugary drinks (only one a day) and ruin their eyesight and dull their intelligence with computer games.  My shortcomings as a healthy sporty person – just as I am reading about how Bowman loves research and questions and is continually seeking answers and I think that we must be soulmates and how are surely destined to be BFFs, then I read some brilliant statement about how we humans today constantly outsource our movement and use exercise the way we take vitamins, to fulfill what we should be getting and doing in our everyday activities but are not.  This outsourcing has consequences on a personal and a global level.  As I nod enthusiastically in agreement, and think that I need to note this down, I take a photo of the page with my IPhone because I can’t be bothered to get up and find a pen and paper.  Then, slowly, it dawns on me that Katy (I would get to call her Katy as her new BFF) would not want to be BFFs with a lazy bum like me – in fact, she would probably hate me….  ☹

Happily, my sadness is short-lived.  At the end of each chapter, Bowman includes a question and answer section entitled Dear Katy.  In the Dear Katy section of the Just Move chapter is a letter from someone who read an advance copy of the book and like me, is “freaking out” and feeling guilty because although she thought she was a good human being, she has realized that “just by living in a peaceful manner”, she could actually be “contributing to all the world’s problems”.  No worries, says non-judgey Katy (whom I again am convinced will be my new BFF), and she proceeds to assuage our/my guilt by stating that there are numerous ways that we can contribute to making the world a better place.  Ok, I can do this – hmm – turning the car key instead of clicking on the automatic key – no, I don’t like that one (I love my automatic sliding door); sourcing raw ingredients – um, no; spending some time on a local farm, squatting to weed or harvest – no, no and no!; using loose tea instead of teabags – ok, I can get on board;  and buying (I am good at buying) handmade items from those making a living from making them and under conditions I deem acceptable – does buying fair-trade chocolate count?

In conclusion, Movement Matters is a must-buy.  You will read it again and again.  Hopefully, it will motivate you to, like me, “question everything, including what you’re doing right this moment and what has made what you’re doing possible.”  And if you conclude that you should and could be doing more, then hopefully it will help you take at least baby steps to get you started.  And at least you will be off facebook if you read a book.  Although – if you are reading this review on facebook, then kudos – you are stacking!!

Book reviews

Book Review: Discovering Joe Pilates

Title: Discovering Joe Pilates – a Whimsical Exploration of Joe’s Inventions

Authors: written by Christina Maria Gadar; illustrated by Taís Haydée Gadar

Year of Publication: 2017

Availability: www.pilatespersonaltraining.com, also available on amazon.com and amazon.fr and probably amazon in other countries.

Reviewed by: Rebekah Le Magny

I will let you in a little secret.  I only review books that I like.  That is not to say that I will lie and write a positive review of a book that I don’t enjoy.  I just prefer to read a book first and then offer to review it once I am sure that I like it.  For me, the book review forum is an opportunity to share with my Pilates peers the books that I love.  I don’t really enjoy sharing negativity.  (If you strongly suspect that your dress makes you look hideous, please don’t ask me- I don’t want to lie, so I will hedge and may jump out the window to avoid answering).   I ordered this book as soon as it came out and happily, I loved it!   I am supposed to be finishing up my review of Movement Matters, but decided to do a short review of Discovering Joe Pilates first….

 

Review:

Christina Maria Gadar is a Romana-trained Pilates instructor who has been teaching in her Sarasota, Florida studio, Gadar Pilates, since 2000.  She is also the author of Pilates, An Interactive Workbook: if You’re Going to Do It, Do It Right (reviewed by Sunni Almond for this forum).  Obviously, this has nothing to do with the quality of the books themselves, but Christina’s video trailer for her interactive workbook is one of the most exquisitely executed displays of Pilates that I have seen.  Click this link to watch it – it is a must-see-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK5gulrdRUQ

and the following link for the video trailer of Discovering Joe Pilates.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pAWKtebr90#action=share

Discovering Joe Pilates features Christina’s two beautiful children, both of whom practice Pilates regularly.  Marcello is ten years old and Taís Haydée is eight years old.  Taís is not only one of the models, she is also the illustrator of the book and her illustrations are truly delightful (they have been made into greeting cards – note to self – try to find them).  The book features a photograph and description of each of the major Pilates apparatus (apparatus by Gratz), together with an illustration of the apparatus as seen through the eyes of a child.  A reformer becomes a skateboard, the Cadillac becomes a monkey playground, the spine corrector a turtle.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the ladder barrel described and drawn as a snail.  A few weeks ago, my young student (twenty-three years old, practically still a child) referred to the ladder barrel as the escargot (snail in French), a description that I found hilarious and that had never occurred to me.  How wonderful to rediscover Pilates through a child’s eyes. Christina describes her book as being “for kids and the young at heart.” I’m not sure when it happens, but at some point, sadly we lose our child eyes!  Let’s try to get them back!  Too often we become absorbed at “fixing” our students and forget that Pilates should be fun.  In keeping with the fun, creative spirit of the book, each photo and illustration is also accompanied by a limerick!

 

“This barrel will stretch out your spine

And hopefully not make you whine.

Resembling a whale

That swims with its tail

The barrel is simply divine.”

 

The book also contains a short section on Joe Pilate’s life (illustrated with Joe in the snow wearing nothing but his famous briefs) as well as another part devoted to Joe’s successor and Christina’s mentor, Romana Kryzanowska.

As a mother of four (including an eight-year old daughter who also loves to draw), I was particularly touched that the book was the collaborative effort of Christina and her children.  My smaller kids do like to come play in my own home studio, particularly on the ladder barrel, but the studio is mostly off limits to them as it is what we call an intimate (translation – small) studio and my kids tend to be energetic (translation – noisy and disruptive). I hope to share with them one day my passion for Pilates; they currently have only a vague idea of Mom teaches and have not manifested much enthusiasm about learning Pilates, although my youngest son is beginning to show some interest.  Perhaps this book will spark a flame and we can explore Pilates together… Pilates is a gift to be shared, particularly with our children.

I was also deeply moved by Christina’s acknowledgement of “the special person who helped me see rainbows again”, whom Christina credits as having “inspired her into bringing Pilates into the lives of young children” and in whose memory the book is dedicated.  A portion of the royalties from the book will be donated to the Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research.

I just sat down with my daughter and went over the book with her.  She loved it and we made a date to go play on the equipment tomorrow! 😊 Discovering Joe Pilates is a wonderful book to share with your children and for your students to share with their children.  It will also make a great gift to give to your favorite students themselves, those that are “young at heart”.

Book reviews

Book Review: Whole Body Barefoot

Title : Whole Body Barefoot – Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear

Author: Katy Bowman

Date of Publication: 2015

Pages: 117

Availability: Yes, amazon may be evil, but I do love amazon prime next day delivery.  I wait impatiently for the delivery person, checking my mailbox incessantly, like a teenager waiting to catch a glimpse of Justin Bieber.  My excuse is that my local bookstore does not carry books in English, but I confess to ordering even French books from amazon.

Review:

When I was in college, I was a bit short of money and I had a habit to feed.  No, not drugs.  I was running up huge phone bills from calling my then-boyfriend, (my now-husband of 24 years) in France.  So, in addition to my pizzeria job and work-study, I had to find other ways to make money.  No, not stripping or prostitution.  Geez, people, get your mind out of the gutter.  I participated in some medical and psychological experiments run by the medical school.  So you see, I can fully empathize with the need to participate in potentially harmful experiments for money.  What about you?  What if I asked you to participate in an activity that was proven to be harmful to your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back, which in turn would cause problems for shoulders and neck as well, from compensation.  What if this activity was risky not only because of the greater potential to trip and sprain or fracture a limb, but also caused unsightly deformities and often led to long-term pain?  How much would you ask before you undertook the risk?  What if I said that you would not even receive monetary compensation, but that during this activity, you would look (temporarily) fabulous with mile-long legs and that would be the ONLY compensation you would receive?  Does that sound crazy?  If not, then throw on a pair of vertiginous Louboutins.  The idea makes me shudder, especially since today’s heels are so darn high – at a size 5 1/2 to 6, those heels are not made for small feet.  Lest I sound judge-y, let me say that some of my favorite people wear heels.  I know of some amazing Pilates teachers who wear towering heels on a regular basis.  I would rather be barefoot.  That is not to say that I do not succumb to siren call of vanity on a regular basis.  I would not be caught dead wearing the gladiator things that Bowman recommends and ballet flats give me cankles.  The horror.  The horror.

So – the book.  This is actually one of three Katy Bowman books addressing the feet.  She seems to have a thing about feet.  I have not yet read Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet or Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet, but have plans to do so.  The problem is that Katy is such a prolific writer, I just cannot catch up to her.  I just received her latest book, Movement Matters (planning to review), as well as last year’s Diastasis Recti, which was reviewed by Christopher Roberts. (We have also reviewed Alignment Matters and Move your DNA – In case you haven’t figured it out, we are big Katy fans on this forum.).  It turns out that she has yet another book coming out next month.  Damn it, Katy (I am calling her Katy because her blog is called “Katy says”), how is it that you can write books faster than I can read them?  Katy’s bio in Diastasis Recti says that, in addition to her books, her award-winning blog and her dvds, she “directs and teaches at the Nutritious Movement Center Northwest, travels the globe (…), and spends as much time outside as possible with her husband and two young children.”  Um Katy, in addition to helping me with my posture, feet and pelvic floor, can you please send me some time management tips, because I rarely have time to drag a comb through my hair and my beauty routine is limited to the most basic personal hygiene.

Katy first addressed the issue of foot alignment in her first publication, Alignment Matters, offering very compelling arguments against wearing heeled shoes, not just women’s high heels, but also the lesser heels in men’s and children’s shoes and women’s “flats”. Katy repeats this assertion in Whole Body Barefoot, exploring it in greater detail.  One of Bowman’s strong points is to take biomechanical concepts and to break them down so they are easy to understand, using layman’s words and basic illustrations in lieu of complex diagrams or mathematical equations.  In the first part of the book, “Think”, Katy explains the problems that shoes cause, including something she describes as “ankle shmear”.  Now, I found some definitions of shmear in urban dictionary.com – either “a small amount of condiment applied to a food item or “to rub one’s (usually naked) rear against any surface such as the carpet, wall, chair in a smooth -flow flick movement.”  Ew.  I will let you read the book to learn what Katy means by shmear.  She asserts that our feet are designed to be barefoot for the most part, but minimal footwear may be necessary to protect the feet from the elements.  After a lifetime of confining feet in shoes, it would be foolhardy and cause injury to immediately begin wearing minimal footwear without preparation.  The solution is to transition to minimal footwear by wearing progressively lower heels and by performing exercises to strengthen and stretch the feet.

The second part of the book is entitled Move.  This section describes the correct stance and (except for the parallel v. slightly turned out feet position) pretty much aligns with how Pilates teaches us to stand, lengthening the back, untucking the pelvis and softening the ribs.  I am not entirely convinced by Katy’s assertion that the proper alignment of the foot is with the outer edge parallel, resulting in a slightly pigeon-toed look.  This contradicts what we have learned in Pilates as well as Esther Gokhale’s stance that feet should be very slightly turned out as that as the stance of in the indigenous populations in Africa and South America, where there are virtually no back problems (see our review of Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back).  However, Katy’s arguments (they are set out in more detail in Alignment Matters) are compelling and Katy is after all, a biomechanist. I will leave you to form your own opinion.

Katy then describes about a dozen exercises to strengthen and stretch the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the feet.  She suggests walking on uneven terrain as often possible because limiting our movement to flat, man-made surfaces such as concrete does not allow us to develop maximal strength, flexibility or adaptability.  A reduction in any of these, as we know, will eventually have negative consequences further up the chain – the knees, hips or back are often the victims of crimes against the feet.  Lastly, Katy provides a lengthy list of websites from which to procure minimal footwear.

Pilates teachers – do you need this book?  Well, we have the Pilates foot corrector and the toe gizmo, but this little book provides some great ideas for additional ways to work the feet, including pillows, towels, books, yoga blocks.  This is a great addition to your wellness library.  I did not enjoy it as much as Alignment Matters, which literally had me lol’ing from beginning to end (there was a little part on the passing of gas, for example and Katy insisted that we not shy away from using the word vagina.  I recall that she even said vagina, vagina, vagina just to make her point).   However, while I did not lol as much as I did upon reading Alignment, I found the book very helpful and very user -friendly, a nice book to own and to recommend to your students.  I know of no one who tootsies could not use a little lovin’.

Book reviews

Book Review: Mysteries of the Ear

Title: Mysteries of the Ear

Author: Dr. Nadia Volf

Published: 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 183 (French version)

Availability: French and English versions on amazon

Reviewed by : Rebekah Le Magny

I am going to begin this review by describing the path that led me to it.  Why, you may wonder, do my book reviews always contain a lengthy part about me?  Well, I believe that you may be more inclined appreciate the book if you can relate to parts of my story.  Also, I may have just a teeny problem with narcissism, but hey, narcissism has recently become the new cool.  Today, narcissist tendencies, coupled with delusional, racist, misogynist, paranoid ravings may just get you the nomination of a major political party.  I won’t say which political party either here or on social media or in any conversation because I fear that my conversations are being recorded by mini spy drones hovering outside my window and will be released on Wikileaks.  Luckily, I am not prone to racism, misogyny or paranoia (those drones are real, dammit) nor do I have presidential aspirations.

I had been struggling with some on and off again sciatic pain from a moody piriformis for some time, moodiness exacerbated by a hypermobile and shifty pelvis.  I more or less manage to keep the problem at bay, but it is always lurking around the corner (like the spy drones).  I had been feeling that a trip to the osteo was in order because my pelvis was “off” but decided to go for my weekly run regardless.  To make a long story short, I ended up with sciatic pain on both sides, and a disturbing numb feeling on my inner thigh and ankle.  Thus began a delightful month filled with visits to various medical professionals (osteo, gp, rheumatologist and neurologist), rest (major facebook scrolling), with the occasional Pilates lesson (luckily most French leave the city during the summer months) and the heating up of food in the microwave, I mean cooking, for my kids.   I decided finally to see an acupuncturist.  On the same morning, one of my Pilates students mentioned a documentary he had seen about an amazing Russian acupuncturist who had moved to France, graduated at the top of her class in medical school and France and who had just released a book…Nadia something.

Later that afternoon, I discovered that my acupuncturist, who is also an osteopath and a general practitioner, primarily practices auriculotherapy, a form of acupuncture that involves placing needles in the outer ear, or auricle.  Technically, auriculotherapy refers to the stimulation of the ear, and the use of needles is called auricular acupuncture.  Auriculotherapy is used both to diagnose and to heal. Let me interrupt myself by saying that at the time, I sort of believed vaguely in acupuncture, but was not one hundred percent convinced.  Mainly my attitude was – what the hell, it can’t hurt.  After listening to my history, the acupuncturist told me that she is going to poke around my ear a bit.  Poke away, I told her confidently, – I have had four kids; I have a high tolerance for pain.  Poke away she did.  It felt like nothing, until…Holy f—!!!  What was this fresh hell?  She swore to me that she was barely applying any pressure, but that the point on my ear corresponding to a trouble area in the body was highly sensitive.  Once she found the point, she inserted a small needle and the pain I the ear eventually subsided. The needles hurt more going in than when I had undergone traditional acupuncture.  The doctor proceeded to examine my ears and place a multitude of needles in each.  What astounded me was that the points on the ears into which she inserted needles corresponded exactly to the parts of my body that were giving me grief, psoas- lumbar spine, pelvis, buttocks, intestines.   I had so many needles in me (she also placed them in the body) that I looked like a porcupine. The doctor also told me that I had a disk bulge that was pressing on the sciatic nerve.  I realized that she was right.  The sciatic twinge that I had was not from the piriformis (I couldn’t get rid of it with stretching and massage like I usually did.  After thirty minutes, then the doctor replaced the needles with a tiny bandage with a miniscule needle attached, instructing me to leave them in for a few weeks.  I was truly flabbergasted that my ear provided such an accurate map of the rest of my body.

Once home, I immediately went on amazon and ordered The Mysteries of the Ear and Acupuncture for Dummies by Nadia Volf, both of which I noticed on my acupuncturist’s bookshelf.  A few of the amazon reviews of Mysteries of the Ear criticized the book’s style, likening it to a magazine article.  I actually appreciated that quality – no fuzzy woo woo, but no Ph.D required to understand it.  The book is an easy read; despite the 180 pages, I went through it in an hour.   Not a typical how-to manual, it is something of a mashup between an autobiography, a history book and a manual, written in very large font of various sizes, similar to, yes, a magazine article.  Volf learned auriculotherapy from a Russian doctor named Maria, who learned the technique in China.  Maria saved the life of Volf’s father using auriculotherapy after traditional methods failed (both her parents were in the medical profession).  Intrigued, Volf implored Maria to let her work in her office, first as a cleaner/helper, then later as an apprentice.  Volf later went to medical school in Russia, where she graduated at the top of her class.  She also graduated at the top of her class in medical school in France.  The book includes a brief history of auriculotherapy, interspersed with some interesting personal anecdotes.  For example, Volf managed to gain an audience with the Minister of Higher Education after noticing a young women grimacing in pain at the Ministry.  The woman turned out to be the Minister’s mistress. After Volf miraculously eliminated the woman’s excruciating migraine and the Minister’s allergy symptoms with her needles, the Minister agreed to include acupuncture as part of the sixth year medical school curriculum of sixth year medical students.  Volf also saved her father’s eyesight after top doctors in France declared that nothing could be done; she convinced her father to let her pierce his ear on the part of the earlobe that corresponds to the eyes.  Other notable stories include famous athletes, dancers, the Russian space program and a KGB general.

The second part of the book is the how-to part.  It contains a picture of an ear that is numbered from one to thirty-nine, each number corresponding to a part of the body.  Finding the right point is surprisingly simple.  The shape of the ear corresponds to that of an upside down fetus and the auriculotherapy points match accordingly.  The points corresponding to the face and sensory organs are on bottom of the earlobe and the top of the ear contains the points corresponding to the feet and ankles.  The lumbar spine, sacrum and hip are somewhere in the middle.  The last part of the book contains a glossary enumerating some common problems and the points on the auricle to stimulate.  Although the use of acupuncture needles is probably the most effective way to use the technique, pressing on the spot with one’s fingers or something sharper can also be effective.

I felt better and better following my visit (I also had a follow-up two weeks later), and excitedly described my experience to everyone who wanted to listen, as well as a few who didn’t.  My close friend, who is from Vietnam, complained of neck pain during a visit.  I pulled out my book and she enthusiastically “lent me her ear”.  I used the wooden tip of a paintbrush to poke her ear.  Sure enough, she felt pain at the site corresponding to the neck.  She applied pressure to this point for a few minutes and convincingly proclaimed that she felt better.  Of course, she may just be a good actress.  I used this method a few more times and successfully headed off a migraine without needing an advil and also managed to rid myself of a stiff neck.  I also cured my seven-year old daughter’s hiccups, but she refuses to let me touch her ear now, because she found my poking and pressing to be painful.  My family complained about the gleam in my eye and my rush to find a pointy object whenever they had some kind of pain.  After exhausting all other remedies, my husband finally agreed to let me approach his ear to alleviate his bronchitis symptoms.  While his ear was indeed painful at the site corresponding to the lungs, his suffering was not lessened and he rushed to the doctor the following day, whereupon he was promptly hospitalized for six weeks due to heart failure from a defective left ventricle.  So, it is in fact not surprising that my auriculotherapy efforts were a thorough failure.  He is doing much better, thank you.  Happily, modern medicine is available when ancient holistic methods are not enough.

I recommend this book to those of you interested in alternative medicine.  It is an interesting and amusing read.  I am not convinced that a book on the subject needs to be very sophisticated.  I have used the how-to part several times and sometimes consult a chart that I found on the Internet with little pictures instead of numbers on the auriculotherapy chart.  I find that massaging the area has great benefits; however, for bigger or chronic problems, I head to the auriculotherapist and her needles.

Book reviews

Book Review: Practical Paleo

Title: Practical Paleo – A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-foods Lifestyle

Author: Diane Sanfilippo

Published: 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 415

Availability: widely available in bookstores and on amazon

Reviewed by : Rebekah Le Magny

I think I first heard of the term « Paleo » a few years ago.  Just another crazy diet to avoid, I thought, like the Zone, Atkins, South Beach, Slimfast.  Now, I see « Paleo » every way I turn, – cookbooks, blogs, recipes, forums – yes even in France (!?!?).  On a side note, I feel compelled to inform you that Frenchwomen do indeed get fat; the French may drink wine at lunch on workdays and consume the most delicious cheeses and the famous foie gras, but then they go one strict régime the following day. Diet products abound and many a French woman I know has gone on the protein diet, the Atkins diet and something called the Dukan diet, which I think may be similar to Atkins.  Oh and by the way, French children are just as bratty as Americans.  But I digress.  Back to Paleo.  The term was apparently coined by Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, who was inspired by Boyd Eaton’s (M.D) scientific paper, Paleolithic Nutrition: A Consideration of its Nature and Current Implications.  The concept, however, dates back to gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin in 1975.  Eaton and several others developed it further.  Cordain has trademarked the term « Paleo Diet ».

I have never been one to believe in diets.  The last time I went on a diet was when I was a freshman in college, unless you count the time when, prior to a colonoscopy, I was forced to only eat white food for three days (which caused me to throw myself onto every colorful food in sight once it was over and gain two pounds in the process).  Hence my firm conviction that diets of any sort were bad news.  At some point, however, I began to hear of the Paleo diet and how it helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people overcome symptoms ranging from tendinitis to skin problems to serious illnesses such as thyroid disease and other autoimmune disorders.  I became intrigued, particularly because, despite a pretty healthy lifestyle, my body was going through a rebellious phase at the same time as my preado kids.  I had been dealing with a double piriformis syndrome for two years that, although manageable, did not seem to want to disappear.  I had achy shoulders and sometimes my hand would feel numb.  In addition, I had pelvic pain that I had initially dismissed as « women’s normal issues » but that I was beginning to think might not be so normal.  Would Paleo be the miracle answer to these problems?  Lots of people said that Paleo changed their lives. I decided to check it out…

I read a few blogs (Paleo mom, The Paleo Diet…) and many reviews on Amazon to help me choose the book which would lead me upon my Paleo adventure.  I decided to purchase The Paleo Approach and Practical Paleo. I went with Practical Paleo for my review because it seemed like a friendlier introductory excursion into Paleo land.  The author, Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC, describes herself as a holistic nutritionist « specializing in Paleo nutrition, blood sugar regulation, food allergies/intolerances and digestive health ».  She turned to a full-on Paleo diet after being inspired by a seminar given by Robb Wolf, author of the Paleo Solution.  San Filippo asserts that the Paleo diet healed her gut (digestive system) and balanced her blood sugar, allowing her to resolve the chronic digestive issues, sinus infections and vision deterioration that had ailed her for years.  She has authored four books, Practical Paleo, Meditarrean Paleo Cooking, The 21 Day Sugar Detox and Practical Paleo Holiday e-book.  Sanfilippo sends out weekly newsletters, offers free shopping lists to download, has regular podcasts and travels around the world promoting the Paleo lifestyle.

The book is a hefty 416 pager, divided into three parts.  Part 1 is entitled The Why – Food and Your Body.  It begins with a guide to paleo foods.  In a nutshell, the true Paleo diet requires only whole foods such as meat, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fats and oils (but not all fats and oils) and eliminates grains (including whole grains), dairy, pretty much every enjoyable beverage, and sugar (certain sweeteners are to be used sparingly).  The book has guides to stocking your pantry, travelling, and eating out.  Apparently, staying Paleo is possible in Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Thai and Indian restaurants, but requires you to ask the server many questions and make a lot of demands that might work in the U.S. where the client is king but almost certainly would get you kicked out of a French restaurant or at least cause the waiter to spit in your vegetables.

The remainder of part 1 describes the role of the brain and each of the digestive organs in the digestive process – stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, intestines and rectum.  Malfunction in any of these will cause problems.  The term « leaky gut » has become a popular term used to described increased intestinal impermeability.  Leaky gut occurs when the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and allow undigested food particles to slip through the intestinal lining without being properly broken down, which in turn causes inflammation because the body’s immune system sees them as harmful.  The inflammation can manifest itself anywhere in the body and become chronic.  According to the book, chronic inflammation is at the heart of most disease and can cause many autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease or lupus.

Prior to purchasing the book, I thought that the Paleo diet was primarily a no gluten diet.  Paleo goes much further than that, however, requiring the elimination of all grains, including those that we had considered « super foods », such as quinoa.    No cereals are allowed, nor are legumes such as chickpeas, beans, lentils or peas.  Hmm, I had always read that beans are heart healthy, but according to the book, beans and other legumes, contain anti-nutrients, which the body cannot properly digest.  Furthermore, some vegetables called nightshades, which include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes, could also cause inflammation.  Oh, and some foods contain something called FODMAPS, molecules which can also cause digestive distress – garlic, onions, beets, cauliflowers, among many, many others.  Holy mackerel (mackerel is possibly still Paleo, I think), Batman, what is a girl to eat?!?  Not to worry, because after this rather depressing part 1 comes part 2…… stay tuned!  A short intermission while I try to find some Paleo appropriate snack to calm my hunger pangs…

Back after a short Paleo permitted snack of water.  Part 2 sets out eleven different 30-day meal plans, each addressing a particular issue.  The meal plans are: Autoimmune Conditions; Blood Sugar Regulation; Digestive Health; Thyroid Health; Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue; Neurological Health; Heart Health; Cancer Recovery; Athletic Performance; Fat Loss; and lastly Squeaky Clean Paleo.  Some of the plans overlap and are similar to each other.  Each meal plan section contains diet and lifestyle recommendations, summarizing what to avoid (stress, chemicals…) and what to add (superfoods, well-cooked foods, stress management…).  This part is followed by guides to nutritional supplements and herbs to consider, supportive nutrients and the foods that contain them, and finally, the thirty meal plans themselves.  Part 2 is impeccably organized, with color coded keys, boxed summaries of the main guidelines, detailed cross references to the recipes in the meal plan.  Shopping lists can be found on San Filippo’s website, www.balancedbites.com.

Part 3 contains over 120 “easy recipes”.  The term “easy recipes” is the author’s description, not mine.  My idea of an easy recipe is one where I can throw a box in the microwave.  The term “ easy” is however, supported by fairly short prep time for most of the recipes, ten to fifteen minutes.  A few recipes require thirty to forty minutes.  Again, I am not sure that this is entirely truthful.  Each time I have tried a recipe (any recipe, not those in this book), I tend to take twice as long as the stated prep time.  The recipes themselves are beautifully photographed and clearly explained.  They contain modifications to make them nightshade and FODMAP-free.  There are even instructions on how to chop onions, peppers and anything else.   The recipes appear to be mouthwateringly delicious.  I say “appear delicious” because I am embarrassed to say that I prepared both approximately and precisely zero of them.  This is perhaps the moment to confess about my ME (capital M), the Me that lives in my head.  This ideal me is a bad ass version of Martha Stewart, a true renaissance gal who surfs, plays the guitar, surfs, speaks perfect Italian and can also whip up a four course meal in fifteen minutes.  Sadly, my ME has not yet materialized.  But because my lack of culinary competence should not affect my appreciation of the book, I will list some of the delicious looking recipes: Italian style stuffed peppers, lemon rosemary broiled salmon, quick and easy salmon cakes, chocolate coconut cookies and moo-less chocolate mousse.  I was happy to see that eating chocolate is still possible in the Paleo diet.  The mousse looks delicious.  I did try a chocolate mousse recipe that I found on the Internet that involved avocados.  It was a resounding failure.  The recipe in this book, thank goodness, does not contain avocados, although the pistachio mousse does.

I tried to follow a pseudo Paleo routine for about two months.  I did eat many more fruits and vegetables, and gave up sugar and gluten, but was unable to completely give up all grains such as rice or quinoa.  Having just read an article in the NYT about how all of the past contestants of The Biggest Loser permanently screwed up their metabolisms by dieting, I was wary about cutting out too many calories.  Plus, I do not like being hungry.  I did not cut out nightshades or FODMAP foods, since the only vegetables I like fall into one of these two categories.  So the fact that two months after embarking on this journey, my physical state is exactly as it was prior to the routine cannot be conclusive evidence that the Paleo diet does or does not work.  All the aches and pains that I had before are still present and they have actually brought some friends.  Nonetheless, even though I remain primarily a Scully, I do retain a bit of Mulder.  I WANT to believe…  I plan to continue going gluten and sugar-free because I believe that it is healthier than my previous diet and may become even stricter if I continue to have health issues.   And I still believe that one day, I will cook…..

Before I conclude, I must add two side notes, which I could not figure out how to fit into the review. First, when I first received the book, I immediately looked up whether it said I could still have coffee.  The FAQ section in Part 1 stated that I could have one cup of coffee as long as I thought I had a “healthy relationship” with coffee.  Whew!  That was a relief.  The second side note concerns the page on poop – “know your poop – it can teach you a lot”.  Although this part is not one of the more important sections in the book, I am just immature enough to find it hilarious and cannot resist mentioning it.  It contains an illustration called the Poop Pageant, which depicts different poop manifestations – Ms. Ideal, Ms. Runny, Ms. Rocky, Ms. Showoff, Ms. Muscles, Ms. Swim Team and Ms. Toxic.  You are supposed to classify your poop according to these categories and this will be a good indication of your digestive health.  No fears, as I reassured my friend when she worriedly inquired whether I was planning to describe my poop, I have no plans to overshare to that extent.  ;D.

In conclusion, despite my own Paleo shortcomings, Paleo Approach is a great book- well organized, user-friendly, very complete, chock-full of explanations, lists, guides, recipes, photographs, plus the hilarious poop section.  If you are curious about the Paleo diet, this is the book to buy.  San Filippo also has many, many more recipes available on her site and in her newsletter.   Please share your Paleo experiences in the comment sections below the post.