THERAPEUTIC YOGA AND PILATES or YOGA AND PILATES FOR PAIN CARE??
A newly certified yoga teacher, I have been practicing yoga and teaching and Pilates for over 20 years. Both are intelligent movement approaches that are effective for most people. As someone who practices and teaches both I can confidently say that they have more in common than they have differences. These two body-mind approaches are highly complementary to each other. Both focus on:
Breath as an important foundation to all movement
The combination of strength, mobility and flexibility with most postures and movement sequences
Using patterns of movement
Emphasizing the importance of body awareness and the connection between body, mind to enhance the movement experience
Listen to your body, it’s smarter than you are
I am often asked why I would recommend one over the other. I don’t think one is better than the other and there is no one solution that works for all. Each of us is unique and finding the right movement approach and the right teacher can make all the difference. Keep in mind that our bodies are constantly changing, adapting, and regenerating so what you need next month may be different from you need today. Be open to listening to what your body needs at any given moment and responding in kind. Listen to your body, it’s smarter than you are!
Variety is the spice of life
The human body does not respond well to inactivity. We are built to move and continuing to move as we age strongly contributes to a better quality of life. The more we learn about the neuromyofascial web (commonly referred to as ‘fascia’) the more we understand that varying our movement repertoire is extremely important. If you are someone who has been practicing Pilates all your life, then yoga would be a nice change of pace. For someone who has been a devoted yoga practitioner, Pilates could be a nice addition or compliment. There is no one way that is THE way.
Dare to be different
The tissues become good at doing the movements they do often. In order reach the areas that we are not used to moving we need to move unusually. Change the angles, the vectors, the rhythm, the speed. Use your imagination, be creative, be playful and find ways to make movement you are used to brand new again.
“Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play, in which case it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions”
Dr. Karyn Purvis
Learning to listen to your body as you move, being conscious of how you move and taking the time to compare and record changes in your body is more important than what ‘style’ of movement you choose. If yoga and / or Pilates is what you love then keep doing it but be mindful that changing how you move, the direction in which you move and the rhythm at which you move helps to keep the nervous system responsive.
Difference between yoga and Pilates
If I had to describe the benefits of one over the other, I would say the following. The equipment used in Pilates are unique and highly effective tools. The Reformer, the Trapeze table and the Chair are based on a spring and pulley system, a design that allows for great versatility. Someone who has no experience with movement whatsoever, who has little or no body awareness, and / or who is injured can benefit from a full program on the equipment that is safe. The equipment can be set up in a way that supports and assists the body through various movements.
Using the same equipment, you can challenge elite athletes by simply modifying the set up to create resistance, rather than support. Thanks to the equipment design, all angles and planes of movement are available which means that your imagination is the limit! After 25yrs of using the equipment almost daily, I am constantly coming up with new exercises, sequences, modifications and variations. The equipment allows for imitation of the functional movements of daily life, the actions required for any given sport and the movements
required in the workplace. The versatility of the equipment is something that makes it accessible, effective, unique and fun for everyone.
Yoga brings with it an incredibly rich history with strong, far reaching roots. The moment you enter into the yoga community you feel a part of that history and the lineage of teachers that have come before you. Yoga brings in the yamas, the niyamas, the koshas, the doshas, meditation, numerous pranayama practices, all of which, and more, make it a multi- layered approach that has something to offer everyone.
True yoga is lived on and off the mat. Practiced the way it was intended, yoga has the power to change your relationship with the environment, yourself, the people in your life and how you participate in the world you are privileged to live in. SPEAK HERE ABOUT THE YAMAS / NIYAMAS / SUTRAS….
Limitations of yoga and Pilates
When it comes to the human body, there is no one solution that works for every body. In my experience, yoga and Pilates both offer a wide range of possibilities and variations and are suitable for most. When asked about their limitations these are my thoughts. Both approaches are traditionally based on a particular repertoire of poses, postures, movements or asanas. While these are beautiful sequences / movements / postures that are beneficial in many ways, if we always practice the same movements we limit our bodies to only having success with those movements. Both approaches offer a multitude of incredible choices, but we need to be open to the idea of exploring beyond the traditional list of postures / asanas. Now that we understand more about fascia’s role in movement, variation and playful exploration are key to good health. Using classical yoga and Pilates as a foundation, I encourage my clients to then let go of the ‘perfect posture’ and explore variations according to what their bodies need. Taking a traditional movement or posture but adding a spiral element, an extension element, an arm, foot or leg element can make all the difference. “Explore to restore!”
When it comes to movement, our best teachers are animals and toddlers. Take a moment to observe both and notice how freely they move in their bodies. They don’t plan their movements the way we do when we go to a Pilates class, a yoga class or the gym. They simply move instinctively. As a result, their movements have a sense of freedom and ease to them that are often lacking in humans, especially as we get older. Animals and babies also tend to pandiculate, naturally and frequently, throughout the course of a regular day. If you have a dog or a cat in your home, I’m sure you’ve noticed that they stretch every time they get up from a nap, from lying down or sitting. Such simple habits, over the course of a lifetime, can make a huge difference and if we got in the habit of pandiculating every time we got up from sitting or lying down imagine how much happier our bodies could be!
If you observe a toddler, you will see that they do not move linearly. They do not just reach out straight in front of them, or straight out the side. They move diagonally, they twist, they roll and they spin. As a result they use every millimeter or every fiber in every muscle. As adults we tend to have patterns of movement that have been created over the course of a lifetime of habits and repetition. By repeating certain movements or postures over and over and over again throughout the course of our lives we become very good at those movements. The problem is we tend to become ‘body stupid’ the moment we try anything outside of our usual patterns. New movements feel stiff and sore in our bodies and many will tend to avoid the challenging movements when those are precisely the ones we need to introduce to achieve better balance in our tissues.
I always find it fascinating that the people who need a slower, gentler approach to movement tend to be drawn to the challenging, power classes. Those that could benefit from moving quicker and building more strength tend to be drawn to stretching and restorative classes. Why? Because we are more comfortable doing what we already know how to do. While there is nothing wrong with doing what you enjoy and what you are good at, be aware that you need to “challenge your body to change it”.
When you look at other cultures, it is those that continue to squat down all day, who sit on the floor to eat, who bow down on the floor to pray, whose livelihood depends on working in the fields that have much healthier spines, hips and knees than we do in North America. We spend so much of our lives seated that it is essential to incorporate movement that counteracts all of that sitting for us to remain healthy and active.
GENTLE SOMATIC YOGA