Just to let you know that there won’t be any classes from Monday 26th September for a week and we will be restarting on Monday 3rd October…..have a cup of tea and a sit down ready for classes restarting!
There is a debate that seems never-ending. Which is the best exercise out of Yoga and Pilates? This article will not provide a definitive answer but it is based on the experiences of a client, so hopefully it will prove informative.
It has been 18 months since my life changed. Overnight I went from successful cyclist to painful hobbler and soon I was going to see a surgeon about having a back operation. The surgeon was adamant that in order for me not to have the op I would need to invest in some time building my body back up.
What would speed this up? The common consensus among everyone I spoke to was an activity to strengthen my core but here consensus ended, and I was soon dragged into the great Yoga versus Pilates debate.
A non-practitioner like me tends to throw Yoga and Pilates into the same category. They are both therapeutic exercise, as opposed to lung-busting cardio activities; they both involve breathing technique; and they both promote self-awareness and body awareness. But, as I discovered, they are very different activities and within both Yoga and Pilates there are different forms of activity, which makes a straightforward comparison between the two disciplines very difficult.
Firstly, there is the age difference.
Yoga is very much the elder statesman. It originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and has evolved over time. This has led to the different types of Yoga, the main ones being Ashtanga, Bikram, Kripalu and Vineyasa.
It was not until the mid-20th century that Joseph Pilates introduced exercises as a form of rehabilitation. Joseph was an athlete, and his exercise was aimed at curing athletic injuries, but the practice was seized upon by dancers, who began to use Pilates to strengthen their bodies for performance.
A different outlook
While both disciplines focus on a connection between body and mind, Yoga adds a third dimension – that of spirit, meditation creates the perfect situation in which to explore spirituality, so much Yoga practice is devoted to clearing and cleansing the spirit.
This is a difficult one to pinpoint. Each class you walk into will be different, so it’s tough to highlight specific distinctions. At a basic level, it comes down to flexibility. Yoga classes tend to be less regimented than Pilates. Postures, sequences and variations can be combined into thousands of routines from one class to the next. The form of the class will be set by the teacher and the style of Yoga you choose to practice. Ashtanga and Bikram has a slightly higher level of structure, and often appeal to athletes who are simply seeking more flexibility rather than a mind/body/spirit connection.
Pilates classes are more regimented, and tend to follow a pattern of movement that works specific body parts, rather than achieving a ‘whole body’ flow. Some Pilates classes will use specialist machines to achieve greater strength and target specific body areas.
In both practices, you will gain strength and flexibility. Pilates offers a total body workout but tends to focus on aligning the spine and strengthening the core, whereas in a yoga class balance is key. A Yoga workout will work every muscle in your body equally and each posture is accompanied by a counter-posture to ensure you create balance in your body. While core-strength is definitely an important element in Yoga, it is not the entire focus.
Take a deep breath
Breathing and concentration techniques are important to both Yoga and Pilates practices. However, yoga uses breath work on a very deep level. In energetic flow-based yoga classes such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga, the practice is called the ujjayi breath, where yogis breathe in and out through the nose, matching these deep
breaths to the movements and postures. Often in yoga classes, there will be segments dedicated to breath work, called pranayama.
Pilates practices keep it much simpler: you inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
A question of choice
I was seeking core strength and simplicity, so I am now a dedicated follower of Pilates. I do three or four sessions a week, and have found it has really helped me function better on a daily basis. From cycling to just standing, I feel more in tune with my core. Someone even told me I looked taller! But, if you are seeking a spiritual practice which helps you manage stress levels then Yoga might be best. A good friend of mine practices Yoga daily, and starts each morning with meditation. She has gone from stressed-out wild-child to serene maturity – but that might just be age and experience!
The best way to find out which activity suits your needs is to try them out!
Brilliant, just to let you know that classes are as normal this Bank Holiday, thats Monday 29th August!
A brilliant article taken from the Observer magazine written by Anna Kessel 12th June 2016
Female body image, and its associated woes, is one of the biggest contributing factors preventing women from being physically active in the first place. A recent Sport England report found that 75% of the women they surveyed wanted to take part in sport, but were inhibited by fear of being judged on their appearance and ability. While the United Nations has suggested that sport will play a leading rolein the journey to equal rights for women and girls, cruelly our own messed-up ideas about body image are preventing us from doing the one thing that could liberate us all.
Unfortunately as a society we are so used to the image-obsessed narrative that even sportswomen buy into it. Take 14-year-old baseball sensation Mo’ne Davis, the first-ever girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series. In 2014 Mo’ne became an overnight star and knocked Kobe Bryant off the front cover ofSports Illustrated. Spike Lee made a moving documentary about her. An exchange when the filmmaker asks her how she feels about being on the cover – an action shot, ball in hand – leaves a telling reminder of how we are teaching our young girls to see themselves.
“Just to, like, see my face on here is pretty cool, but not the face that I’m making…”
Spike interrupts. “You don’t like your face on the cover?” he asks, incredulous.
“I mean I look like a blowfish,” says Mo’ne, “but otherwise it’s pretty cool. You can see how much power I put into it.”
Mo’ne’s first comment is about how her face doesn’t look good because she is puffing out her cheeks with the effort of her throw; her second is about how powerful her sporting talent is. Why are we teaching young girls to care first about how they look and second about their talent? When Kobe Bryant is on the front cover of Sports Illustrated no one’s going: “Eww, you can see Kobe’s armpit hair while he’s hitting that slam dunk.”
In a recent poll of Britain’s elite female athletes by BT Sport, 67% said they feared that the public and the media valued their appearance over their sporting achievements. They thought how they looked was more important to the public than the medals they won. Meanwhile more than 89% said they could relate to British Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington’s I’m A Celebrity reality TV meltdown over her body-image insecurities, and 76% said the same concerns had influenced their diet and training regimes. These are the women who do an eye-watering number of abdominal crunches every day and hill runs in the icy, wet winds of December. If they feel pressured, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Women are celebrated when they work on their bodies: whether it’s the pre-holiday bikini workout or post-baby Bikram yoga sessions. Because exercise = perfection. Doesn’t it? Putting aside the fact that this equation is just another version of the worn-out idea that women’s bodies have to strive for acceptance, the message that exercise and sport creates a particular body shape is propaganda. Small waist, toned arms, pert bottom, wobble- free thighs and perky breasts: it is a myth that if only we did more exercise we would look this way.
All bodies are different; all bodies have their own individual way of reacting to the work we make them do. As Adlington said when I interviewed her, grabbing a roll of flesh: “I don’t have a flat stomach or anything. Mine’s quite podgy. I’ve got the bits, the hang, the tyre… It is quite difficult.”
Elite sport, of all sectors, should understand this. But over and again sportswomen tell us that they have been subjected to derogatory comments from male coaches about their bodies. The latest example is Olympic cyclist Jess Varnish, who accused British Cycling’s technical director Shane Sutton of telling her to “move on and get on with having a baby”, alongside a litany of insults about her shape and size. Sutton has since resigned, albeit protesting his innocence, while double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton has backed Varnish’s claims with her own troubled experiences in the sport.
The subject of body image in sport first really came to our attention in the UK with the bomb-drop that Jessica Ennis-Hill, the face of the London 2012 Olympic Games, was allegedly called “fat” by a senior figure at British Athletics. Promising British triathlete Hollie Avil retired from the sport just months out from the Olympic Games in 2012, citing an eating disorder, a problem she claimed was “rife” in her sport, while heptathlete Louise Hazel said she had suffered similar criticism to Jess’s from the sport’s governing body.
The sportswomen I spoke to in the wake of the Ennis-Hill affair told me that women were more likely to experience criticism than their male teammates. Most damningly of all, they felt that many male coaches had little or no understanding of the diversity of female body types. They were being told that to compete in their event they had to look a certain way, meet a certain weight.
In sport, where athletes come in extraordinary shapes and sizes, the mind boggles that a coaching set-up could be so conservative and traditionalist. Until triple world-record-holder Usain Bolt came along, sports scientists didn’t believe tall people could sprint competitively over 100m. The diminutive Jessica Ennis-Hill, at 5ft 4in, defies logic in her ability to high-jump the British record. So why would we resolutely stick to old-fashioned ideas about what a female runner looks like?
While sport can be liberating for women, too often it has been our oppressor, from the death penalty imposed in Ancient Greece on any woman caught watching the Olympic Games to the ban on women’s Olympic ski jumping because of unfounded fears over the damage it could cause to a woman’s reproductive organs, revoked in 2014.
One of my favourite stories is of the US marathon runner Roberta Gibb, the first woman to compete in the Boston Marathon, in 1966, when women were not allowed. Gibb, an amateur runner who clocked 40 miles in a day, hid in the bushes at the start line and then jumped out at the gun to join the men-only race. She ran in disguise, a hoodie concealing her face, but supported by the male runners around her, she slowly peeled off her layers. Up and down the course word spread like wildfire: a woman was running in the pack!
In her book A Run of One’s Own, Gibb describes the reaction from the crowd as she passed Boston’s famous women’s arts institution, Wellesley College. “They were screaming and crying. One woman standing near, with several children, yelled: ‘Ave Maria.’ I felt as though I was setting them free.” It would take another six years before women were allowed to compete at Boston, in 1972. And it was only in 1984 that the Olympic Games finally allowed women to compete in the marathon.
Sport – in it’s truest form – is as much about women taking back control of their own bodies as any other feminist act. Women are told that being physically active is all about hard work, about getting the perfect body. Shifting that baby fat. We are not told we might have fun running about, chucking a ball, leaping into the air. No wonder we turn young girls off sport. And because, from an early age, we routinely categorise girls into “sporty” and “non-sporty”, we fail to share with them that the truly wonderful thing about sport is that there is no single acceptable body type. Sport showcases the amazing diversity of the human body, from pint-sized US gymnast Gabby Douglas breaking race barriers to become all-around Olympic champion in 2012 to the slip-of-a-frame world and Olympic champion rower Helen Glover or the power of New Zealand shot-putter Valerie Adams.
And when these bodies are in action – powerful, sweaty, determined, strong – we see women in a different light, one very rarely depicted in the mainstream media. And what is incredible about the experience of viewing these images is that they tell a story encapsulating everything I want my daughter to aspire to. They show women being inspirational, focused, unstoppable. They show women achieving, winning, enjoying themselves, unburdened by social norms and unselfconscious.
A recent study published by the British Psychological Society focused on how exercise can change the way we view our bodies – even before any discernible physical change. Dr Katherine Appleton explored participants’ feedback over a two-week period, crucially a short enough period that physical benefits would not yet begin to factor. Her conclusion that “a focus on body image [and our responses to it]… may be more rewarding for those embarking on an exercise programme” is enlightening because it is a rare example of the emphasis being placed on how we feel after doing exercise as opposed to how we look.
Sport is one of our greatest opportunities to escape this constant drip feed about what women and girls should look like. Because if we embrace sport and exercise for women properly – championing female athlete role models – we won’t have this body dysmorphia crisis. There won’t be a “normal” woman’s body, just a life-affirming array of every type of female body under the sun – boobs of all shapes and sizes, curvy hips, slim hips, broad shoulders, tiny bums, huge powerful gluteal asses, wispy legs that travel for miles, hulking great thighs that accelerate over 100m, bellies that dance or are neatly stacked in six-pack squares.
We need to reclaim sport and exercise for women. It needs to become part of our world, not a borrowed space where we are allowed to intrude. These are the real miracles our bodies perform. Not squeezing into that size-10 dress or nailing the latest up-do. But finding our muscle, and wielding it. Just a little.
Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel is published by Macmillan at £12.99. To buy a copy for £10.39, go to bookshop.theguardian.com
Classes will be as per normal next Monday 30th May which of course is Bank Holiday, please join me for either Pilates at Barnack at 11.15 or at Great Casterton at 6.15.
Last Thursday over 20 of you took part in our walk/tea and cake afternoon to raise money for Rosie who was running the London Marathon in aid of the St John’s Ambulance. Well I’m so pleased to tell you that we walked over 6.5 miles and indeed ate lots of cake and drank lots of tea….oh and did I mention there was lots of chatting going on too! Rosie sent me this little message to you all ‘To everybody that came for the walk yesterday around Wellies a huge thank you from me and extra special thanks to Louise who organised it and filled the afternoon with her usual enthusiasm. I raised £264.37p and was over the moon.