Are you doing Pilates effectively at the gym?

I have often been asked about the differences between doing Pilates at a Pilates studio as compared to a gym. As an avid gym goer who started my Pilates journey at the gym and progressing to learning and eventually teaching Pilates at studios, my experiences at gyms and studios are vastly different.

An obvious difference would be the number of clients in a class. Gyms typically accept a large number of clients in classes and it is not uncommon to see thirty or forty clients in the class. Pilates studios accept a much smaller number of clients, on average eight clients per class.

While there is nothing wrong with conducting or attending large Pilates classes, in fact, it is great that so many people have turned up, big classes poses a number of challenges for both the client and the teacher.

For the teacher, it is always challenging to teach big groups of clients. For one, due to the sheer number of clients in the class, it is usually impossible to give each student enough attention. Think 30 students in a 60 minute class and the teacher would have to spend a maximum of 2 minutes with each client correcting alignment, giving cues etc in order to give each client the proper attention. Yet at the same time, besides walking the floor, there is a 101 things that teachers need to do from ensuring all clients are moving safely, the newbies are not lost, the exercises flow from one piece to another to giving modifications when required.

Realistically, it is often impossible to achieve all of these especially correction in big classes. As a result, the teacher often provides limited (or none at all) correction to clients. Comparatively, it is easier to manage these with smaller number of clients.

For the client, while it is great that they are exercising and enjoying the benefits of Pilates, it is often easy to fall into the trap of not using the right muscles efficiently and, therefore, not getting the most effective workout. It is, thus, important that clients are taught to move properly, incorrect posture and alignment pointed out and corrected. This is also done to ensure that the client works out safely and do not injure themselves.

In my experience, I have seen clients who have spent many years doing Pilates at the gym coming to studios and discovering that they have been moving incorrectly all this time. If we look at the amount of time a teacher in a gym class can provide for correction, it is not at all surprising that the client is not moving efficiently. Once the body has registered the incorrect muscle movement, it takes a longer time for the body to change the habit and re-learn the movement.

For clients who have specific conditions such as osteoporosis, back pain, herniated discs to address, working out in a class in a gym setting is definitely not ideal! This is because certain exercises are not suitable for certain conditions and modifications will have to be given to address these issues. For example, a client suffering from a herniated disc should not be doing flexion exercises and modifications will have to be provided for exercises that involve flexion work. It will be challenging for these client specific modifications to be provided in mass gym classes. Comparatively, studios with smaller teacher-client ratios are better placed to help clients address their issues.

With that being said, group classes in our studio are kept small and we work with up to 3 students in a group class. This ensures that each client derives as much attention from the Pilates teacher and gets the most efficient workout.

Speak to us today!

Osteoporosis and Pilates

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to be weak and brittle, making them more prone to fractures. It is also known as the ‘silent disease’ because the bone loss occurs without symptoms and people often do not know that they have osteoporosis until the first fracture occurs.

Research has shown that as the disease progresses, the bones can become so vulnerable that fractures can occur during simple everyday tasks such as lifting a light object from the floor, closing a window and even through coughing and sneezing.

The disease is of such concern because the risks associated with poor bone health are high.

Hip and spinal fractures can cause the individual to become bedridden or wheelchair bound resulting in a loss of mobility and independence as well as an increased risk of early death.

Alarmingly, one in five with osteoporotic hip fractures die within a year.

10 million Americans older than 50 years already suffer from osteoporosis.

Another 34 million are at risk of developing osteoporosis.

By 2020, half of Americans aged 50 and over will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass if there is no immediate action taken to improve their bone health.

Worldwide, over 200 million women have osteoporosis and the risk of a woman fracturing her hip is equal to the combined risk of her developing breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

In Singapore, the number of osteoporosis hip-related fractures in women over 50 is 8 times more than that of breast cancer.

Doctors used to believe that osteoporosis is a natural process of aging. However, this is no longer the case and we can in fact do something about it through lifestyle changes.

Besides ensuring proper nutrition, it is essential to be physically active. Weight-bearing exercises that improve strength and balance must be incorporated as they build strong bones and slow down bone loss.

Pilates is the most often recommended program to take up because Pilates builds muscle strength and increases bone density. Pilates also teaches awareness of where the body is in relation to space so that the individual develops better balance.

With improved sense of balance, it can prevent devastating falls that result in fractures.

Because Pilates is a low impact exercise, it is suitable for most people especially the elderly.

Pilates is also recommended for individuals who have osteoporosis. Whilst one can learn Pilates from books and online videos, it is essential that the individual works with a qualified Pilates teacher who is aware of his condition as not all Pilates exercise are suitable for him and modifications may be required. A qualified Pilates teacher will be able to develop a program appropriate for this individual modifying where necessary.

It is never too late to start moving and get active. Make an appointment for a Pilates trial today. Book online or call us now.


Is Pilates only for women?

Man Pilates

The number one question that men often ask in Pilates is “Is Pilates only for women?”

That is an interesting question.

Pilates or Contrology as it was originally known, was developed by a man (Joseph Pilates) for men. While serving in an internment camp in England during World War I, Joseph Pilates developed a series of exercises to rehabilitate detainees in the camp who were suffering from injuries and diseases, to great success. The early students of Contrology can be considered to be the male detainees.

If it was developed by a man for men, why then did this question arise?

The surge of popularity of Pilates is said to have been powered by women as they quickly recognised the benefits of Pilates of achieving a toned body and the desirable flat tummy.

With many women doing Pilates, a general perception possibly developed as a result that it is not ‘manly’ enough and this is only for women.

This is a misconception.

Pilates presents many benefits for men as it does for women.

Research has shown that the best way for men to develop muscle strength is to strengthen the core muscles.

Very often, our favourite activities like running, swimming, cycling can cause muscles like our quads to become overused and over developed. This causes the body to go out of balance and can result in tightness in the body, most commonly tight hips and hamstrings.

Muscle imbalance can create problems from bad posture, lower back pain, knee injuries to even headaches! Our range of motion and mobility becomes limited. Injuries can arise as a result of muscle imbalance. All these affect the performance of our body.

Pilates works to realign the body and bring it back to balance. The core, as the centre of the body’s power, is strengthened. It is important to develop core strength as motions like bending and twisting are controlled by our core muscles. The core muscles provide strength, stability and power to the rest of the body.

When your core is strong, it is easier to move and stretch your body with less effort. You are less likely to sustain injuries especially of the lower back. Healing of injuries can be in fact faster by strengthening the core. You will find that knee problem that used to bug you is no longer an issue.

It is for this reason that many athletes incorporate Pilates into their fitness programme.

The best swimmers swim with their cores. The best runners have stable hips so that they can run the distance without injuring themselves. The best tennis players get power from their core to hit the tennis balls to their opponents and develop the stamina to last for hours on the court.

It is no secret that top sportsmen – Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Andy Murray, the New Zealand All Blacks team do Pilates and have used Pilates to up their games.

Real men do Pilates. Come join us today.

Is Pilates the same as Yoga?

I have frequently been asked this question whether Pilates is the same as Yoga. Many people often think Pilates and Yoga are the same. As both are focused on mind-body exercises, it is easy to get confused that they are the same.

In fact, Pilates and Yoga are very different.

Firstly, Pilates is scientific in nature. It started out as a method by Joseph Pilates to rehabilitate injured German soldiers during World War I and has a greater focus on centering, working the core and alignment of the body. Yoga tends to originate in spirituality, and may have elements of chanting, meditation.

Because of its rehabilitation background, Pilates has been used widely by medical practitioners to rehabilitate people suffering from spinal and back injuries.

Pilates exercises are functional as there is an emphasis on how the Pilates movements can be applied to daily life in walking, sitting or in sports like swimming, golf, basketball, soccer. This functional movement aspect is usually missing in yoga.

With Pilates, you strengthen your core muscles by working the abdominals, lower back and pelvic muscles. This makes achieving a flatter and firmer stomach more likely with Pilates than yoga. The core serves as the centre of movement and the Pilates exercises flow from one movement to another. Poses are not held for prolonged periods of time but rather for the body to just move.

Precision of movement and quality rather than quantity are taught in Pilates. This means that effectiveness is achieved without the need to perform many repetitions of the same exercises.

Pilates exercises adapts to the individual’s fitness and can be modified to make it easier for someone or increased to make the exercise more challenging and advanced to the seasoned practitioner. This makes it suitable for people of all ages and varying fitness levels.

Pilates utilises equipment such as the Reformer, Wunda Chair and the Cadillac to create resistance which make it easier or harder for muscles, allowing versatility in challenging the muscles appropriately. Yoga is often focused on purely mat work.

Now that you know the differences, come and experience this change for yourself.

Frozen Shoulder and Pilates

When you hear the words ‘frozen shoulder’, one tends to associate the shoulder as frozen, literally and not being able to move. To be exact, a frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is a condition whereby the capsule of the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and thickened with scar tissues. This results in a loss of mobility in the shoulder joint and is accompanied by pain and stiffness.

This condition can be debilitating as you may find difficulty in performing everyday tasks such as lifting your hands to reach for your favourite box of cereals at the supermarket shelf or reaching for the zip at the back of your dress.

Whilst the exact cause is unknown, research has suggested that it can happen after an injury or surgery or to people with chronic illness such as diabetes. Women over the age of 40 years seem to be more affected by this condition than men.

Pilates can aid and speed up your recovery and get you back on the things that you enjoy doing. With Pilates, you are taught to become responsible for your own rehabilitation. It is more than just visiting the therapist, lying on the bed and having the therapist work your body. You learn where your body is in space and the best movement sequence for your body. Exercises are functional and can be modified as required and yet still remain effective.

Pilates works to restore range of motion and stability to the shoulder joint. Very often, the stiffness can create muscle or postural imbalance as the body tries to compensate by working other muscles harder. Pilates strengthens not only the shoulder joint but also works the whole body.

It is possible to return to the things you enjoy doing. Speak with us today!

Back Pain During Pregnancy

One of the most common complaints during pregnancy is back pain and many women experience back pain typically starting from the second trimester. Back pains occur because of the following changes in your body:

  1. Weight gain – During pregnancy, a women generally gains about 11-16kg. This extra weight will have to be supported by your spine. The weight from the growing baby and uterus put pressure on the muscles to work harder and increase the stress on your joints.
  2. Hormonal changes – During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin to prepare your body for birth. Relaxin causes your ligaments to relax and your joints to become looser. The ligaments that attach your pelvic bones to your spine loosen and this can make you feel less stable. As such, you may experience pain when you walk, sit for long periods of time, bend or lift things.
  3. Separation of abdomen – During pregnancy, the uterus stretches the abdominal muscles which can cause a condition known as diastasis recti. This is when your abdominal muscles (which run from your ribcage to your pubic bone) separate. Diastasis recti weaken your abdominal muscles causing lower back pain and difficulty in lifting objects or do routine activities.
  4. Stress – Emotional stress can cause muscle tension in the back which can be felt as back pain.

There are two common patterns of low back pain during pregnancy – pain around the lumbar vertebrae and pelvic pain felt in the back of the pelvis.

Lumbar pain is typically felt over and around your spine approximately around the waist level. The pain may radiate to your legs and sitting and standing for long periods of time can make the pain worse.

Pelvic pain is usually felt below the waist where the pelvis is. You may feel it deep inside your buttocks either on one or both sides or the back of your thighs.

To reduce and relieve the symptoms of back pain, Pilates is the best exercise for pregnant women as it strengthens your abdominals, lower back and pelvic floor muscles.

Each session in our studio is conducted as a private 1-on-1 session personalized according to your body condition and pregnancy progress. As every woman experiences pregnancy in her own way, this private session ensures that it is developed just for you and you have the full attention of the instructor during each session. You will progress at your own pace.

In each 55-minutes prenatal private class, you will work through a series of low impact exercises. The exercises are designed to be gentle and does not place strain on your joints and back. The sessions are structured to incorporate regular short breaks and we encourage you to drink lots of water during the sessions.

You should start Pilates as early as possible. Starting early will equip you with the necessary tools and knowledge to prepare you for your baby’s birth and post-birth recovery.

What your feet reveals about you

Your feet can reveal a lot about your current state of health.

Your feet perform several functions. They support our body weight allowing us to stand upright, maintain balance so that we do not fall over when we walk, act as a shock absorber and a lever to propel our feet forward when we walk. How we use our feet has a direct influence on how we move and yet not many people pay them the attention they rightly deserve.

We may wear shoes that are not the right size or have improper support to cushion and protect our feet. Even the way we stand or how we move our feet can affect our body structure. This can in turn trigger a variety of problems such as back pain, knee pain and even headaches!

Pilates is excellent in working the feet. Pilates helps clients to connect to their feet by getting them to place their body weight evenly on three points of a triangle on the feet known as foot centres. Many people do not realise that when they are standing upright, they lean too far forward from the midline or backwards. Foot centres is a good exercise to develop such awareness and bring the body back to centre.

The Pilates Reformer is great in bringing awareness, strength and flexibility back to the feet. Footwork exercises on the reformer enables you to correct hip, knee, ankle alignment and strengthen the muscles in the feet and legs. Aided by various levels of spring resistance, it is a perfect exercise for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Once the muscle imbalances are corrected, you may find that your back aches or headaches are a thing of the past.

Isn’t that great!

Looking at your phone can add 27kg of weight to your spine

In the age of information technology, the smartphone has slowly crept into our lives and we cannot imagine a day without it. It is not uncommon to find one bending his head looking at his smartphone engrossed in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Whatsapp.

Recent research by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at the New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine found that bending your head at a 60 degree angle puts a hefty 27kg (60lbs) of pressure on your cervical spine. That is more than the weight of an average 7 year old!

The study published in the 25th edition of the Surgical Technology International found that the weight on the spine increases when the head is flexed forward.

Tilting the head forward at 45 degrees puts a pressure of 22kg (49lbs) to the neck.

A 30 degree neck tilt puts a pressure of 18 kg while a 15 degree neck tilt puts 12kg of extra weight on the spine!

The average adult head weighs about 4.5kg to 5.4kg when it is in neutral spine position. As the head bends forward, the force of gravity pulls on the head and loads additional weight onto the spine. The loss of the natural curve of the spine leads to increased stress on the neck. These stresses on the neck may lead to early wear and tear, degeneration and possible surgery.

It is, therefore, essential to maintain proper posture. The study defines proper posture as when ears are aligned with the shoulders and shoulder blades are retracted. In this position, spinal stress is diminished and it is the most efficient position on the spine.

The results of this study, in my opinion, provides a scientific basis on what we Pilates teachers have been teaching. Bad posture can lead to a host of problems like back pain. Pilates works to correct this bad posture and bring the spine back to alignment.

For clients who are new to our studio, we always start off with a postural assessment and point out the areas that are out of alignment. This can be the head tilted unnaturally forward or one side of the shoulders higher than the other. Based on this assessment, we develop a series of exercises to bring the body back into alignment. At the end of the first lesson, it is not uncommon for clients to find that they are standing taller and are in better alignment.

While we cannot avoid the onslaught of smartphones, we can take steps to change our posture and enhance our lives.

Another great reason to start your Pilates journey! Contact us now!

Recovering from Ankle Sprain With Pilates

On the way to Pilates class two Sundays ago, I was deep in thought and mentally going through the series of exercises that I wanted to teach in class. It was a familiar route and I walked quickly. Lost in my thoughts, I stepped onto an uneven surface of the pavement and tripped. Immediately, I felt a shooting pain from my left ankle and I was momentarily immobilised. A dreaded realisation that I had sprained my ankle. What a great way to start my class! I hobbled to the studio but there was no time to think about the injury while I did my classes.

When I finally had time to rest, I was in acute pain. With each step on the injured ankle, I winced in pain. I had to act quickly to lessen the misery and developed a Pilates programme to rehabilitate my ankle.

With ankle injuries, the main focus is to first stabilise the ankle as the injured area heals before progressing to strengthening the muscles around the ankle and increasing mobility of the injured ankle and leg.

My programme included Pilates fundamentals of toe lifts, calf raises, and leg and footwork exercises on the reformer. The body naturally protects the injured leg by placing less weight on that leg which results in the person walking with a limp. It is, therefore, important to bring our focus back to the Pilates principle of foot centres and transferring our weight evenly on the foot centres of both legs. There is also added stress to other leg and joint muscles as the body recalibrates itself to support the injured ankle. I watch out for misalignment of the ankle, knee and hip.

The pain went away by the second day. By then, I could feel a considerable difference in strength of both legs. The muscles in the injured leg had become weaker. With the ankle healing, I progressed to weight bearing exercises on equipment to strengthen the leg in order to support the body. Mobility exercises were incorporated to bring movement back to the foot.

With pain, I have observed that fear manifests. Even when the injured area has physically healed, the fear remains. This explains why an individual with ankle injuries continue to limp even though the ankle has healed. Whether it is fear of not being able to walk again, fear of not being able to run in the upcoming marathon or fear of pain, it is important to address these emotional issues as it can block the healing process. I teach my clients to also let go of these fears so healing can take place.

The programme I developed certainly helped to accelerate the healing process. I have not had pain since then. I am back spinning and doing cardio classes.