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Wheelchair, Walker, Cane – NO WAY!!


For about a year I attended a business meeting that met in a room at a senior living facility. I saw so many seniors in wheelchairs, with walkers or canes. “IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT!!!,” I wanted to shout at the age 30, 40, and 50 something people in my meeting. I could see that many of them did not take care of their bodies through any sort of regular physical fitness program. But if they didn’t wake up and start doing something, one day they too would be resorting to a wheelchair, walker or cane to get around. I feel passionately that old age does not have to mean debilitating physical limitation.

Barring a catastrophic accident or serious illness, there is no reason that a person in their 60’s and older cannot live a functional life and maintain independence and freedom. I look to my parents as an excellent life lesson: my dad, age 84, can travel, take out the garbage, bike to his office, drive, lift stuff, work out at his gym, ski, and go out in the sub zero weather of this current Midwestern winter without suffering any consequences. My mom, also age 84, can no longer drive, uses a cane or walker in the house, a wheelchair in the airport (though she no longer feels confident to travel), is housebound, cannot walk to the mailbox, grocery shop, clothes shop or go the theater by herself, could not pick up her baby grandson (!) when he was born, and cannot get up off the floor if she falls.

What’s the difference? My entire life I have seen my dad play squash, run, bike or go to the gym to workout every day. Every. Single. Day. My mom, on the other hand, did nothing more strenuous than take a leisurely walk after dinner, when she felt like it.

Yes, as we get older, things deteriorate, we get stiff, we get arthritis from wear and tear of our joints, maybe we gain a bit (or a ton) of weight. Injuries and scar tissue accumulate. We can deal with the incremental creeping changes until one day we wake up and need a home care assistant to help us get out of bed!

There are three main components to physical fitness – cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. Everyone needs to get a minimum of 150 minutes (preferably more) of cardio exercise per week, two or three sessions of strength training, and two short sessions of stretching per week. Pilates combines strength and flexibility training and is an excellent way for seniors to improve their balance, core strength, muscle mass and joint stability. My older clients experience improvements in balance, reduction of knee pain, greater shoulder mobility and overall improvement in their ability to function effectively in their daily lives.

It’s never too late to begin a strengthening program and if anything, it becomes even more important as we age to lessen the impact of the aging process.

To learn how Brace Point Pilates can help you improve the quality of your life today and tomorrow, contact us today.

Private vs. Group Pilates: What’s best for you?


For people wishing to study Pilates, group classes are an economical option. Group classes are best for people who have studied the method for a long time with a private instructor so that they are able to work independently within a group setting, understand the fundamentals of the exercises, and know the basic principles that hold true throughout the workouts. Without this prior knowledge and practice, group classes will probably not give people the full benefits of the Pilates method. In fact, they may even get injured.

A few people have told me they took Pilates to help their low back pain, but ended up no better or even worse. When I inquired further, it turns out that invariably they have been taking group classes.

At Brace Point Pilates, I believe the best way that I can help my clients achieve their fitness goals, whether they be to get rid of back pain, gain core strength, or become a better athlete, is to focus on one person at a time through private sessions. Each individual has a unique body with unique strengths and weaknesses. No two workouts are the same – each client has a program designed specifically to meet their particular needs. During sessions, I constantly watch, evaluate and improve the client’s form, posture and technique. I use both verbal and hands-on cues to help them become aware of their body and how to improve function, both during the session and beyond into daily life. Yes, it costs more up front, but the results speak for themselves: my clients benefit from my 20+ years of teaching experience and quickly realize their health and fitness goals.

Of course, cost is an issue for many of us, so if group classes are the best option for your pocketbook, at least consider periodically taking a private session with a qualified instructor to hone your technique and make sure you are performing the exercises properly both to avoid injury and to gain the most out of your Pilates practice.

The Benefits, History and Principals of Pilates


From Wikipedia..

Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is a body conditioning routine that may help build flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance in the legs, abdominals, arms, hips, and back. It puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing, and developing a strong core or center, and improving coordination and balance. Pilates’ system allows for different exercises to be modified in range of difficulty from beginning to advanced. Intensity can be increased over time as the body conditions and adapts to the exercises.


Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates, a physical-culturist from Mönchengladbach, Germany. During the first half of the 20th century, he developed a system of exercises which were intended to strengthen the human mind and body. Pilates believed that mental and physical health are interrelated.

In his youth, he had practiced many of the physical training regimes available in Germany, and it was from these he developed his own work. It has clear connections with the physical culture of the late Nineteenth Century, such as the use of special apparatuses and claims that the exercises could cure ill health. It is also related to the tradition of “corrective exercise” or “medical gymnastics” as typified by Pehr Henrik Ling.

Pilates published two books related to his training method: Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education in 1934, and Return to Life Through Contrology in 1945. In common with early twentieth century physical culture, Pilates had an extremely high regard for the Greeks and the physical prowess demonstrated in their Gymnasium.

His first students that went on to teach his methods and open studios, and most prominent include: Romana Kryzanowska, Kathy Grant, Jay Grimes, Ron Fletcher, Maja Wollman, Mary Bowen, Carola Treir, Bob Seed, Eve Gentry, Bruce King, Lolita San Miguel, and Mary Pilates, Joseph’s niece. Contemporary Pilates includes both the “Modern” Pilates and the “Classical/Traditional” Pilates. Modern Pilates is partly derived from the teaching of some first generation students, while Classical preserves and promotes the original work as Joseph Pilates taught it.

The method was originally confined to the few and normally practised in a specialised studio, but with time this has changed and Pilates, in whatever form, can now be found in community centres, gyms, and physiotherapy rooms, and many other fitness services offered by Pilates-inspired businesses who have mixed their own understanding of Pilates with other disciplines. A variety of “modern” schools of Pilates, heavily influenced by a physiotherapeutic approach to Pilates, have adapted the Pilates system in different ways for reasons unknown to and unapproved by its creator, Joseph Pilates, and by the contemporary schools of Authentic Pilates who continue teaching his method. Joseph Pilates died as sole master of his own method and still controlling the intellectual property of it, including his apparatus: a fact that only changed with the Lawsuit of October 2000.


Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen, two students of Romana Kryzanowska, published the first modern book on Pilates, The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning, in 1980 and in it they outlined six “principles of Pilates”. These have been widely adopted—and adapted—by the wider community. The original six principles were concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.

Pilates demands intense focus: “You have to concentrate on what you’re doing all the time. And you must concentrate on your entire body for smooth movements.”This is not easy, but in Pilates the way that exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves. In 2006 at the Parkinson Center of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, the concentration factor of the Pilates method was being studied in providing relief from the degenerative symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“Contrology” was Joseph Pilates’ preferred name for his method and it is based on the idea of muscle control. “Nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.”All exercises are done with control with the muscles working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus. “The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.”

For practitioners to control their bodies, they must have a starting place: the center. The center is the focal point of the Pilates Method. Many Pilates teachers refer to the group of muscles in the center of the body—encompassing the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs—as the “powerhouse”. All movement in Pilates should begin from the powerhouse and flow outward to the limbs.

Flow or efficiency of movement
Pilates aims for elegant sufficiency of movement, creating flow through the use of appropriate transitions. Once precision has been achieved, the exercises are intended to flow within and into each other in order to build strength and stamina. In other words, the Pilates technique asserts that physical energy exerted from the center should coordinate movements of the extremities: Pilates is flowing movement outward from a strong core.

Precision is essential to correct Pilates: “concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value”.The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. Pilates is here reflecting common physical culture wisdom: “You will gain more strength from a few energetic, concentrated efforts than from a thousand listless, sluggish movements”. The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.

Breathing is important in the Pilates method. In Return to Life, Pilates devotes a section of his introduction specifically to breathing “bodily house-cleaning with blood circulation”. He saw considerable value in increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood to every part of the body. This he saw as cleansing and invigorating. Proper full inhalation and complete exhalation were key to this. “Pilates saw forced exhalation as the key to full inhalation.” He advised people to squeeze out the lungs as they would wring a wet towel dry. In Pilates exercises, the practitioner breathes out with the effort and in on the return. In order to keep the lower abdominals close to the spine; the breathing needs to be directed laterally, into the lower rib cage. Pilates breathing is described as a posterior lateral breathing, meaning that the practitioner is instructed to breathe deep into the back and sides of his or her rib cage. When practitioners exhale, they are instructed to note the engagement of their deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and maintain this engagement as they inhale. Pilates attempts to properly coordinate this breathing practice with movement, including breathing instructions with every exercise. “Above all, learn to breathe correctly.”