The Mysterious Pelvic Floor

If you’ve taken a Pilates class, you’ve probably heard your instructor talk about engaging your pelvic floor.  And you’ve probably wondered... “what exactly is a pelvic floor,” “why should I engage it,” and “what should I feel.”  Well, I am here to hopefully clear some of that up so you can in turn get the most out of “engaging your pelvic floor!”

What do these muscles do?
Your pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles which are located at the bottom of your pelvis.  Their functions include:
  • Provide support and stability to your pelvis and low back;
  • Support the pelvis organs, including: your bladder, uterus and rectum
  • Help you breathe efficiently; and,
  • Help control bowel and bladder function.
Pelvic Floor Image

Why strengthen the pelvic floor muscles?

We do not see these muscles, nor think about them on a regular basis so they often get neglected.  Other factors like pregnancy, menopause and obesity may also contribute to pelvic floor weakness.   

Studies have shown that an exercise program that involves strengthening the pelvic floor are effective ways to decrease low back pain and prevent/help with incontinence.  These muscles support the organs in the pelvis to reduce the risk of organ prolapse (An organ prolapse is when the pelvic organs bulge into the vaginal canal).  Pelvic floor strengthening can also help improve sexual function and recovery from giving birth.

How to strengthen your pelvic floor?
So, what exactly does it mean to engage your pelvic floor?  The pelvic floor muscles are different from a lot of muscles we exercise and use regularly.  They are more internal and because we cannot see them like we can muscles in our arms and legs they can be more challenging to contract. 

Imagine your pelvic floor muscles like a hammock that is hung up between your tailbone, sitting bones and pubic bone.  When the muscles contract, it is as though that hammock is being pulled taught and lifting.  This contraction will feel like you are stopping the flow of urine mid-stream or holding in gas if the time isn’t right.  If these bodily function cues are not resonating, some other visuals that may help include imagining an elevator rising from the base of the pelvis toward your naval or a layer of material lying flat at the bottom of the pelvis that is being pulled up from the center as you contract the pelvic floor muscles.  (Please note that stopping the flow of urination mid-stream is a tool that can be used to ensure you are correctly engaging the right muscles.  It is however not recommended as an exercise to strengthen these muscles and should not be performed regularly as it may lead to infection).

If you are having difficulty finding your pelvic floor muscles, attempt contractions in different positions. For example, try lying on your back with a folded blanket or towel under the back of your hips to allow gravity to help you.  As you get stronger you can progress to removing the towels, to sitting, and finally to standing! 

When to seek professional help?
It is important for these muscles to relax and contract at the appropriate times.  Just like any of our muscles, problems can occur when the pelvic floor muscles become weak, stretched or too tight.  

It may surprise you that physical therapy is an option for individuals who are experiencing problems related to the pelvic floor.  Physical therapists who specialize in women’s/men’s health and pelvic floor dysfunction can assess your pelvic floor function and tailor an exercise program to meet your specific needs.   It is recommended you talk to your physician or seek a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
  • Leak urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze;
  • Inability to make it to the restroom in time or constantly having an urge to use the restroom;
  • Inability to contract pelvic floor muscles or decreased sensation in the pelvic area; and,
  • Pain in your pelvic area or pain with intercourse.

Ashlee Richardson, PT, DPT is the owner of CoreWorks Physical Therapy and co-owner of Pilates Center of Omaha.  She specializes in women’s health and pelvic floor dysfunction.  If you would like more information or to set up a physical therapy appointment email: ashlee@coreworksphysicaltherapy.com. 

Real men do Pilates – The benefits of Pilates for Men

Real men do Pilates – The benefits of Pilates for Men

Pilates is often misconceived as being too slow-paced and gentle, and unfortunately this means that a lot of men believe that it’s an exercise just for women. But this couldn’t be further from the truth and Pilates can be just as challenging as working hard in the gym. In fact, most men will actually benefit even more from Pilates than lifting heavy weights or running on the treadmill…

So, whether you do lift weights in the gym, run marathons or if you’re just looking to improve your health and fitness then Pilates can be the perfect workout for you.

The benefits men can expect to achieve from doing Pilates1. Improve your Posture – The origin of most aches and pains is bad posture.

Improve your Posture – The origin of most aches and pains is bad posture. Every Pilates exercise you do will have a postural benefit; due to the combination of challenging your strength and flexibility, Pilates will develop muscular balance in your joints which will improve your posture and reduce your likeliness of injury.

Become More Flexible – Reformer Pilates involves various three dimensional movements, these movements challenge the length and elasticity of your muscles and encourages your joints to be able to move through the greatest possible range.

Strengthen your Core – Your core is the combination of muscles that support your spine and torso, these muscles form the foundation for all movements. A weak core causes instability and reliance on dominant muscles, overtime this will inhibit flexibility, reduce range of movement and ultimately cause injury. Pilates promotes core activation and engages all of your postural muscles leading to more stable and powerful movements.

Reduce Stress – A stressful mind is often a reflection of how your body feels, so just by stretching and moving your muscles will relax and release tension, this will allow you to feel more comfortable. Naturally this will allow your mind to relax and unwind.

Develop Neglected Muscles – Some of your muscles, like those that dominate your daily movements, are stronger than others, and a big part of Pilates is focusing on those muscles that don’t typically get a lot of attention. Pilates teaches you to consciously move in certain ways to challenge muscles that you don’t hit while lifting heavy weights in the gym, running or in your daily life.
Sport Performance
Alternatively if you a keen sportsman, I’m sure you’ll find that Pilates can also significantly improve your performance.

Injury prevention and rehabilitation are undoubtedly two of the key benefits that sportsmen can experience from doing Pilates, but there are numerous ways that Pilates can actually enhance your sporting performance.

Balance & Co-ordination – Pilates enhances your muscle control and core stability, these are both related to improved balance and co-ordination. Numerous golfers including Tiger Woods have utilised Pilates to develop their balance while transitioning their body weight throughout their golf swing.
Strength and Power – In order to generate the maximum amount of force while under control you must have stability in your core. Consider a Tennis player who has to return a ball while moving and contorting their bodies, for them to be able to generate the optimal amount force on their return they must have unbelievable core strength.
Concentration and Focus – Pilates forces you to pay attention to your body, you’ve got to focus on your breath while working through each movement and concentrating on proper form and activating the correct muscles. This significantly enhances your body control and awareness which are both fundamental skills to maintaining sporting performance.
These are some of the benefits that men can expect to achieve from doing Pilates, so if you think you’re man enough then come and give it a try…

Compliments of:  http://chillipilates.co.uk/wellbeing/real-men-do-pilates-the-benefits-of-pilates-for-men/

CoreWorks Physical Therapy Opening at PCO!

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Pilates Center of Omaha is excited to announce the addition of physical therapy to the services offered at our location!  We are the home of CoreWorks Physical Therapy, owned by Ashlee Richardson, PT, DPT. As many of you know, Ashlee graduated with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy this last spring, and will now be offering these services in addition to seeing Pilates clients and teaching classes.  Please continue reading to learn more! 

CoreWorks Physical Therapy is committed to helping you stay active and healthy.  The entirety of each visit is one-on-one with Ashlee Richardson, a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  Ashlee is a movement specialist with expertise in instructing patients to improve body awareness and mechanics.  The clinic is located inside Pilates Center of Omaha and utilizes a Pilates based approach along with Postural Restoration, Manual Therapy Techniques and Soft Tissue Massage to treat and prevent a wide variety of injuries and conditions.  Orthopedic, neurological, pelvic floor rehabilitation, and women’s health are just some of Ashlee’s specialties.  Whether you are returning to triathlon training, recovering from a joint replacement, or improving balance to prevent falls, Coreworks Physical Therapy is committed to helping you reach your goals.

Ashlee believes in assessing and treating the whole person to determine the cause of an injury or symptom and to prevent recurrence of an injury.  She will work with you in a one-on-one setting to achieve your goals, enhance your function and live an active, healthy life. 

A variety of diagnoses are treated at CoreWorks Physical Therapy and are included below.  This list is not exhaustive; Please call 402-512-3237 or e-mail with any questions. 
diagnoses list_copy1
 CoreWorks Physical Therapy Pricing and Payment:
Payment is required at the time of service.  
Cash and Check are accepted forms of payment at this time. 
Initial Evaluation:  $110.00  
Treatment Sessions (55 min.): $90.00

Coreworks Physical Therapy offers a unique patient focused experience and does not accept insurance including Medicare/Medicaid. This allows us to maintain a low cost of service and provide the best care for our clients without the restrictions from third party payers.

All of the documentation needed to submit insurance claims at your discretion can be provided.  If you would like to submit physical therapy services to your health insurance provider, please contact your provider to confirm coverage and any information they may need to file a claim prior to scheduling your initial appointment. It is also important to determine if your insurance company requires a doctor’s referral in order to be seen by a physical therapist.  Although it is not a requirement in the state of Nebraska, some insurance companies require a physician referral in order to reimburse you for physical therapy services. 

If you would like the guidance of a physical therapist for a generalized exercise or Pilates program, this can be scheduled at Pilates Center of Omaha. Please contact us for more information on private sessions, classes and pricing. 


Contact Information
We are located inside Pilates Center of Omaha:
11303 Wright, Cir.
Omaha, NE 68144
Phone: 402-512-3237
E-mail: ashlee@coreworksphysicaltherapy.com

From Grief to Gratitude Through Pilates

By JoAnn Smith
Certified STOTT PILATES Instructor

“Grief is a tidal wave that over takes you, smashes down upon you with unimaginable force, sweeps you up into its darkness, where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces, only to be thrown out on unknown beach, bruised and reshaped.” Anonymous

I found out how true this quote was when my son, Brian died in March 2008. He was 20 years old, attending the University of Nebraska at Lincoln studying Wildlife Management. While on a ecology study trip to Puerto Rico, he suddenly collapsed, went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived. The autopsy showed his heart was so greatly scared and enlarged, that if he had survived, he would need a heart transplant immediately.

The death of a child affects parents physically, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively. It is one of the worst traumatizing experiences a parent can face. Such extreme grief is hard, demanding, physically draining and exhausting. It is not unusual for newly bereaved parents to experience flashbacks while processing the death. We can be catapulted back to that “moment” in an instant.  That moment of the phone call or that knock on the door that brought us literally to our knees. We relive that moment over and over again during those initial days, weeks, months and sometimes years. John and I learned that creating our own personal “grief toolbox” was the best way to cope. One of my tools was Pilates.

 My Pilates practice helped me strive towards becoming grounded again. The breathe pattern calmed down the constant emotional chaos and softened the anxiety.  The exercises required concentration and  this helped me to stay in that present moment.  The verbal cues that I came to treasure provided a way to engage my mind with other images and provide a respite from the “playbacks” of that night. The movements were soothing and comforting. Feeling my muscles move, contract and stretch was life affirming for me. Pilates encouraged me to experience hope.

Practicing Pilates also helped me to gradually move away from the more physically demanding exercise I was doing. I rode my bike over 100 miles a week and walked, jogged and ran to push away the intense emotions. Pilates helped me acknowledge that no amount of pounding into the ground for days, weeks and months will take away the pain.  You see, it is not just grief and sadness we feel when our child dies, there is also the anger, bitterness, regrets and guilt. The “why”, “how” and “if only I had” questions can really reek havoc on a parent's life and ability to just even function, to “re-enter” back into the responsibilities and tasks we still need to return to.

I firmly believe that engaging in purposeful movement activity such as Pilates can provide parents a way to practice making life choices again. We had no choice regarding the death of our child, but we can choose how we treat and care for ourselves because this journey, this process never ends. It only shifts, changes and evolves. As bereaved parents, we experience the inability to protect our child. Even if we know rationally, we could not have prevented their death, emotionally we can be left with a deep wound. Parents are supposed to protect their kids, yes, even their adult children as well.  We may know intellectually that their death was not our fault, but finding peace in our hearts can be a monumental undertaking. 

My son's death was indeed the catalyst for my decision to pursue additional Pilates training. But it was and is the Pilates Center of Omaha that had my back since my first training about 5 years ago.  It started with Wendy 's email reply that said “yes, please come. We will teach you what you need to know” to the numerous teaching opportunities they offer, that support has been steady.  I do not think I can express how much gratitude I have come to experience for the Pilates Center of Omaha, the instructors, owners and clients. This is another place that I have the opportunity to honor my son's memory. Brian was an athlete, and very fit. His favorite sport was Lacrosse. Shortly after he died, someone told me that he was impressed with my Pilates practice. I decided at that moment that this was one way I was going to honor his memory, to continue feeling connected with him. And most importantly, to share how important it is to move our bodies, to strength and stretch our muscles. To honor our bodies as they are and to be grateful for the opportunities a healthy body can lead us to. We may never know why Brian's heart gave out when it did, but we were told that most likely he lived a longer life in spite of his heart condition because he did exercise. How powerful is that! 

The Pilates Center is more than just a place to practice Pilates. It is also a place to re-wind, rejuvenate and refresh both the body and mind. Since I primarily teach evening classes, I see clients coming in after a full day, fighting traffic and coping with last minute responsibilities at work and home. I see them leave relaxed and feeling great that they made that effort. There is a great feeling of gratitude I have for these clients! They have helped me in my journey and I hope that I have provided the same benefit to them as well.

Jo Ann Smith has a B.A. in Special Education from William Paterson University located in New Jersey where she is originally from. She moved to Omaha after graduation to teach in the Omaha Public Schools system developing social and vocation skills for young adults with developmental disabilities.

Jo Ann began practicing Pilates 12 years ago to help manage a low back issue. She started teaching Pilates shortly after seeing and feeling the physical benefits. She became certified as a STOTT PILATES® Intensive Mat -Plus instructor in 2011 and completed the Injuries and Special Populations training the following year.

Jo Ann has completed the Total Barre Instructor, Core Instructor and Zenya Instructor training. The most recent training was Aerial Silks and she has discovered that is a fun way to diversify a Pilates workout. She is pursing a goal of becoming a Fully Certified Stott Instructor and completed the Intensive Reformer and Intensive Barrels training.

Her true Pilates passion is encouraging bereaved Moms to consider the value of Pilates work to manage and support the grief process. The Pilates Center is now offering an Introduction to Reformer class to Mothers/Grandmothers who are living with the loss of a child.

Do I Need My Hundred Examined?

By Sue Lessor
Certified STOTT PILATES Instructor

While on vacation recently, I did one of my favorite things.  Attend a Pilates class! This one happened to be mat and I was excited for the workout against gravity. The instructor was certified in a another Pilates method and I listened intently for her cues. At about fifty arm pumps into the Hundred, one of my least favorite Pilates exercises, she stopped next to me. I tried not to hold my breath and waited for a comment or adjustment.

Instead I heard, “Is that the way you always do the Hundred?” I think I nodded or grimaced and waited for her to continue, explain, correct, compliment, something! But she didn’t. Say. Anything.

She walked away, then led us into the Roll Like A Ball. I did my best to concentrate the remaining forty-five minutes, determined to ask her after class what she’d meant by her question. However, by the time I got over to her, she was deep into conversation with other clients. I left without knowing.

One question followed me home.

Did I need to have my hundred examined?

In search of answers, I revisited and studied the exercise in my mat manual, I ordered Joseph Pilates’ book, ‘Return To Life, Through Contrology’, and sought out quite a few other contemporary methods taught nationally and internationally.

I started paying closer attention to my clients during the Hundred and was surprised to see looks of discouragement and frustration.  Especially at about the forty or fifty mark. I also saw shoulder blades pressed on the mat or carriage, chins jammed, eyes fixed on the ceiling. Many legs way too low for their ab strength.

At this point you may be asking yourself, so what does a proper, safe, well executed Hundred look like? How will it benefit me? What should I feel when I perform it incorrectly? Have I hurt myself by doing it improperly?

As one of Joseph Pilates’ signature ab exercises, the hundred is the first exercise in the classic lineup and recognized for it’s breathing pattern. Joseph Pilates instructed his clients to lock their knees and hold their feet a miniscule two inches off the mat, with eye gaze directed at their toes.

Yikes! Two inches? It’s tough for most people’s abs to support their back or hip flexors two feet off the floor!

(Not sure if the following paragraph is necessary?)

Contemporary Pilates methods, on the other hand, such as The Stott® Pilates Method, build on the principles of Joseph Pilates original exercises, yet incorporate modern knowledge about the body. Focus still centers on the abdominal muscles, stabilization of the shoulder girdle area, and maintaining an imprinted spine when the feet are off the floor, however modifications have been added and encouraged for beginners and those with health issues or limitations. Legs are held only as low as imprint of the spine can be maintained. It’s also not the first exercise, but preceded by at least three to five exercises which warm up the abdominals, neck, and shoulders.

To Joseph Pilates credit, he did say about the Hundred, “At first you will not be able to carry out instructions as illustrated--this proves why (this) exercise and preceding ones will benefit you.”

So even Joseph Pilates encouraged building up to the full exercise. Earn Your Progression, might be an expression he used with his clients.

Things you SHOULD NOT feel while happily(and correctly of course) performing the hundred:

Neck tension
A tucked pelvis or tight buns
Pooching or popping appearance in your abs
An overworked upper rectus abdominis
Low back pain or discomfort
Like giving up

What you SHOULD experience:

Your lumbo-pelvic area imprinted to support the weight of your legs
Your shoulder blades off the mat to their tips
Your shoulder blades stabilizing against the movement of your arms
Concentration in your lower abs
A free neck and upper torso
Lungs that can inhale and exhale fully, unhindered by tension or “sucked” in abs
A feeling of accomplishment!

(Keep in mind, though, it’s important to ‘earn your progression’, to work your way up to the full hundred by performing twenty really well and safely. Start with your feet on the mat or carriage, knees bent, spine in neutral, making sure you have proper ab support and shoulder stabilization before you bring those knees to table top or extend those legs to the ceiling, or lower.)

Starting Position

Lie face up, imprinted spine, legs parallel in tabletop, toes gently pointed, arms long by your side.

Inhale: stay

Exhale: nod your chin slightly, stabilize your shoulder blades, contract your low abs, curl up your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor or mat-- to the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, lift your arms off the mat, reach fingers just above your hips.

Then pump the arms, making sure the movement originates at the shoulder joint not the elbow, inhaling for 5 counts, then use that exhale for 5 counts. Inhale for 5. Exhale for 5.

(Joseph Pilates instructed a specific radius of 6-8 inches for the arm movement without touching the body, but small vertical pulses work.)

Then stop. Take a body inventory break.

Did you maintain imprint, keep your shoulder blades off the mat, hold your eye gaze safely toward your thighs, avoid tightening and tucking your pelvis, avoid tension in the your neck?

If not, go back to feet on the floor, knees bent and keep working on it.

Remember, concentrate on correct form, stabilization, and movement each time you perform the hundred, for all 100 counts. But progress yourself with confidence and knowledge, work your way up to the full hundred by performing twenty really well. Then maybe twenty more and so on until you can perform all one hundred counts in good form. The middle breaths and arms pumps should be just as strong as the first ten. And strive to finish those last ten counts as well as, if not better, than the first ninety. And use that breath!!

Ask to have your hundred examined next time you’re in class. That’s why we’re there-for you!

I wish I could say I emailed the instructor from vacation and solved the mystery, but alas I did not. But I did have my hundred examined and found out I was rounding my shoulders forward too much. Whether or not that’s what the vacation instructor saw or not doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that her comment drove me to investigate and learn and improve.

And I am happy to say, the hundred is now one of my favorite Pilates exercises!!

Sue is a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor with certifications in Matwork, Reformer, Total Barre, Zenga and Injury and Special Populations and is trained in the Stability Chair.  After dancing and jogging her way into her forties, Sue was left with neck and shoulder injuries and three choices--surgery, painkillers, or a new life style she was able to choose the latter and after consistent sessions of Pilates, she has been surgery free and almost completely pain free, along with increased core strength, flexibility and balance. Her greatest desire as a Pilates instructor is to help others find similar freedom and healing while reaching their goals for their exercises or hobbies. When Sue's not teaching or taking Pilates, she enjoys reading, sewing, writing, hiking and kayaking. And recently, kale chips have become a major addition to her life. Yum!  Sue's mantra is Life is so very short, try not to take one single moment for granted!