This is the first of hopefully many more logs of my experiences at the Pilates studios I’m visiting. I’ve always enjoyed traveling and after spending the last 7 years in New Hampshire opening and growing my own Pilates studio, I’m ready to hit the road again.
My experience at the Pilates Studio in Hadley, MA is always wonderful. I took my Polestar training there and the team is kind, supportive and a ton of fun. Just a few minutes away from the studio is a wonderful walking path along the Connecticut River, which lends itself perfectly to let the brain rest in the middle of a long day of training.
My session with Katrina Hawley on May 5, 2017
After my 2 hour 20 min drive to the Pilates Studio in Hadley in constant pouring rain, my left shoulder was unhappy. I had a bit of pain in the shoulder blade area from gripping the steering wheel.
Upon my arrival on this Friday afternoon, Katrina was the only teacher left, at a usually very busy studio. I mentioned I felt bad keeping her this long, but she mentioned she still had a client after my session at 5pm. (Knowing Katrina for a while, it's amazing to me that she never seems tired when working with me.)
She asked me what I wanted to work on and I mentioned my shoulder. I added that I’d like to continue working on activating my glutes.
We started on the Oov in supine with my feet against a wall (we used a spring board). Holding a weight in my hands, Katrina asked me to slowly move my arms overhead and later out to the sides. This is supposed to activate my core while eccentrically working my pecs. My shoulder girdle is generally the least aligned part of my body, and I never manage to get a stretch in my pecs, although they are significantly shortened. My rhomboids and middle traps have a strong grip on my scapulae and retract instead of staying wide and letting the pecs open in the front. Since muscles have to lengthen when working them eccentrically, this is a smart way to get them to open up.
We then proceeded to activate my glutes also in a supine position on the Oov. I used the small Oov. Katrina wrapped a thera band around my thighs and asked me to externally rotate one leg. After a few repetitions of that she placed the outside of my calf on a squishy ball and asked me to keep the leg turned out and slide the foot to the opposite side (underneath the top leg). This definitely worked my glutes.
We moved on to the Trapeze Table, where we started with Supine Scap Series. Katrina used her hands to help my upper arms roll out while pulling the bar down which felt really good. She also used both hands on the same arm and rolled the forearm in while rolling the upper arm out. She had me do Seated Pull Down on the Trapeze Table as well, and she helped me realize that I over depress my scapulae and don't allow the bottom tip of my shoulder blade to rotate out to the side. I tend to keep it tucked down into the back pocket.
Allowing this rotation fully gives me a feeling of tremendous width across my mid back. I imagine I look like a swimmer with their wide V shaped backs.
We continue with side-lying arm circles over the Spine Corrector. She manipulates my shoulder blade, giving me a better feeling for how it should move out and in.
Reformer class with Suzanne Mente on Saturday, May 6, 2017
The atmosphere at the Pilates Studio is very laid back which I noticed immediately when one of the other students brought her newborn into the studio with her and placed her in a car seat on the floor next to her reformer. I'm happy to say the girl slept peacefully through the whole class.
We started lying on the Oov. Suzanne is a huge Oov fan. Since I didn't have a lot of experience with the Oov, I took it easier and chose simpler variations, and occasionally performed the exercises without the Oov.
I decided to take a lesson with Suzanne the next day to get to know the Oov better.
My session with Suzanne Mente on Sunday, May 7, 2017
We focused mostly on using the Oov correctly. I've only used the Oov twice before, and I struggled with my position on it as well as understanding how it works. I'm hyper mobile and have fairly loose joints, especially around the pelvis. When I first lay down supine on the Oov I felt a bit of a twinge in my SI joint. We worked to position my pelvis in neutral on the Oov.
We did a few of the same exercises I had done the previous day with Katrina, such as slowly lowering both arms overhead. We tried snow angels but I usually get a nerve pain in my forearms, probably from a compressed brachial plexus, so we decided to do the exercise one arm at a time with the non-working arms extended to the ceiling. This worked a lot better. We of course repeated it with the second arm. Once we were finished with that, my back had gotten a bit tired from being in the same position for quite a while.
We proceeded into a prone position. I had heard that the Oov helps free up the diaphragm and I wanted some of that. Suzanne turned the Oov upside down and told me to put my hip bones to either sides of the skinniest part of the Oov’s neck. I barely laid down that I started to feel huge pressure around my rib arch. So much that I couldn't drop my whole body weight on it. I stacked my firsts under my forehead to take some pressure off and rested like this for a while. I felt my pulse throbbing in the front of my abdominal wall.
We proceeded to do Swan, spine extension, and what I really liked about it was that I could come up pretty high compared to the mat. On the floor it always feels so tiny, before a kink comes into the "tube" of my cervical and/or lumbar spine.
We then did Sleeper on the Reformer on a blue spring which is much lighter than I would usually choose but it activated my glutes fabulously.
Finally Suzanne had me standing on the Oov in front of the Springboard to do Punching and then Chest Expansion facing the other way. Standing on the Oov is nice work for the feet which I always enjoy and we focused on improving dorsiflexion.
My session with Katrina on Fri, June 3, 2017
This is just a list of exercises and variations I could remember from our session. This might not be the actual order, it serves more as a reminder for me about what we did and the specific cues that I have to remember for my body.
T - Supine Scap Series: Started with oblique version. Instead of depressing shoulder, try to connect humerus and scapula. Bring them towards each other. When going overhead with both arms widen the mid back on table with inhale. Inferior angle of scapula rotates away from center. Allow slight shoulder elevation. (Remember, I’m an “over-depressor”.)
SC - Side-lying arm circles: Start with arm vertically to ceiling. Begin circle backwards, rotate humerus in socket so palm faces overhead, lift arm out of socket to lengthen rhomboids eccentrically, then allow inferior angle of scap to rotate out and widen back.
C - Swan from floor: Don't press pedal all the way down. Allow shoulders to elevate, but not retract. When externally rotating legs, tissues around SI are more contracted and stabilize SI.
R - Overhead press: Allow shoulder elevation.
R - Side Splits: bend and straighten knees while holding and/or moving carriage.
C - Forward lunges: Wrap thera band around pole. Slide leg that’s closer to the pole into loop. Press leg against band. Then try it with the leg that’s farther away from pole. Then switch band to other pole and repeat with both legs. Works adductors and abductors respectively and helps with knee tracking and lower extremity alignment.
Dorsiflexion: Try to figure out how to disengage tendon in front of ankle to allow more ROM.
Oov - supine: Thera band around thighs. One foot on springboard/wall, other foot pressing down onto squishy ball. Posteriorly tilt pelvis. Externally rotate and abduct leg, press outer edge of foot into ball.
C - Frogs Facing out: Abduct less, but rotate thigh muscles externally around the thigh bone.
The Pilates Studio