Home & Garden Article
Thursday, April 29, 2004
By Kym Pokorny
Pilates helps take the aches and pains out of gardening
Barbara Feller remembers it well: Three weekends of shoveling, lifting heavy wheelbarrows and spreading until the truckload of soil was finally empty. After one day, her husband was off to the chiropractor, his part in the project over.
"I worked every Saturday and Sunday, all day. I was amazed that I actually made it through," says Feller, who has suffered back and shoulder pain for years and would normally have followed her husband to the chiropractor.
Things changed when she discovered Pilates (pronounced puh-LAH-teez). The chiropractic sessions are a thing of the past. Stressful physical activity no longer equals pain. Feller is thrilled, and so enamored of Pilates that she's now teaching it, along with Linda Kohl, at One on One Pilates in
Whether you call it a system, a process or a program, Pilates has become the "in" exercise. Dancers do it. Actors do it. Athletes do it.
Now it's time for gardeners to do it.
All too often, especially this time of year, we jump into gardening projects and end up with sore muscles, at least, and injuries all too often. After a winter of semihibernation, gardeners get so excited about getting out in the yard, we forget or ignore our bodies' limitations.
"When we do gardening, we don't think about how our body is working," Feller says. "Then when you're done, you're hurting."
Feller and Kohl want to show people how to avoid the pain. They say Pilates is the way to go.
Cheri Hyde agrees. A client of Kohl's, Hyde became aware of Pilates about four years ago after a car accident. Referred to Pilates for a severe injury to her right side, Hyde says it's made all the difference.
"It just tickles me that it worked so well to resolve the issues from the car accident and that I can continue to apply it to gardening and all-around conditioning. It's a wonderful workout."
For Hyde, who is over 50, has a large garden in
Appearance does change when you practice Pilates. People say it reshapes their bodies, without necessarily taking off the weight. It also reshapes your posture, body alignment and the bad habits your body's picked up along the road of life.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But it's not always easy.
"When you're doing Pilates," Feller says, "you have to focus. People say, 'This is hard.' "
And there is a lot to think about. You've got to concentrate on breathing, body alignment, technique and, of course, your core.
In Pilates, core is everything. Here's how Kohl explains it.
"Pilates is a system of exercise that helps you strengthen your core, which is the abdominals, low back, buttocks, hamstrings and inner thighs. When you strengthen your core, less stress goes into the arms, legs, lower back and neck."
A strong core means a stable base. When you have a weak core, there's no support in the center of your body so everything else has to work harder to get the job done, whatever that may be.
Joseph Pilates probably said it a million times: "Draw your navel to your spine." And that's exactly what Kohl and Feller will tell you during a Pilates session.
In the simplest terms, "navel to spine" is the center of the exercise program created by Pilates, who developed a keen interest in body conditioning and training after spending a great deal of his youth sick and frail. When World War I broke out, Pilates was interned in
After the war, he emigrated to the
Generally, women have an easier time understanding what it means to draw your navel to your spine. Everyone is different, but it's definitely a concept that takes time. For Kohl, who'd been a dancer for many years, understanding came pretty quickly. But Feller says it took her about eight session before she "got it."
Since everything in Pilates is based around core awareness, getting it is key. But the good news is that once you have it, core awareness can become second nature.
"You can take this awareness and use it to do whatever you do: holding your child, chopping vegetables, driving," Feller says. "You keep correcting yourself, and that changes old habits and creates a new habit that makes your body function better. It's like you're changing your body's memory."
Of course, Pilates is more than core awareness. There are hundreds of movements or techniques, but practicing just a few will help you reap the benefits. The exercises can be done on machines that resemble the hospital beds, cots and chairs Joseph Pilates had to work with when he began developing the exercises. Pilates can also be done simply on floor mats.
Hyde, who uses Pilates in conjunction with a cardio program, confirms the staying power of Pilates. "I was running the rototiller in the garden yesterday. When I started, I was thinking about my core. For about two swipes. Then I thought, 'Oh, what is my core doing?' Immediately, I pulled navel to spine. I realized at that moment that I had been doing it. I was quite surprised. That's pretty good. Navel to spine and I wasn't even thinking about it."
Not a bad goal.
(©2008 - The Sunday Oregonian - reprinted with permission)
©2008 One on One Portland Pilates - All rights reserved.