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- Understand the structures of the immune system and its responses and how this is affected by movement and actions in a Pilates studio
- Understand what the physiological response of stress is and how this affects the immune system
- Understand breath and muscular contraction and its contribution to immunity
- Understand simple Pilates exercises and modifications that can be used to support the important organs of the immune system
Now, there are some people that see the immune system as this defender against the environment. There are other people who see the immune system as a team player. A way that allows us to work with the environment and to continue living in what can be a pretty harsh world. Now, what I'd like to say is that our immune systems probably are a little bit of both, it's both a defender and a friend. So let's have a think about this.
There are two aspects to our immune system. There's what's known as your innate immune system and your adaptive immune system. We're going to break this course up into sections on each. So, first of all, let's cover the innate immune system. When we're talking about defenders, I'd probably say the innate immune system is your defense system.
It is the system that has the physical and chemical barriers to stop pathogens or problems getting in. So let's think about some of those barriers and those systems. Our skin let's think about it. Skin just stops germs getting in but skin can be broken. It can have wounds and scars.
If you see somebody with a cut, you need to make sure that that's covered before you work with them. One of the common problems that you will see with people with skin diseases are eczema or psoriasis. Now you can imagine that when your skin has that sort of level of rash or infection, how much more vulnerable you are to infections of other diseases. So it's very important for those clients to have their skin covered up when they're working. Now, I live in Queensland and in 2010, 2011, we had massive floods.
But what we saw after the floods were a lot of people with cellulitis. It was a skin infection because of bacteria getting into cuts and grazes. The skin was red and very hot. Now this is big, big problems. So you need to check.
If you know your client has a history of immune problems and you see heat, hot red rash, I would nag them to go and see their doctor. I've done it before. I've told the client, I need you to go and see your doctor today. And they get cranky with me but it's important. So remember, our skin is an important barrier.
More so we don't want to injure our client's skin. So that means no fingernails, no jewelry when you are working with clients. I know that some people, I mean, I can have my long nails and my fingernail, my beautiful jewelry. That's okay, but you can't touch your clients. And I know people will say, but we're not supposed to touch our clients.
I'm sorry, sometimes you do. You're helping them put their feet in straps. You're helping them off a piece of apparatus because they're struggling a bit. That's when you can scratch them. So very simple strategy, protect their skin by not cutting it.
Another important barrier is hair. Yes, hairs of your nose, your eyelashes. All of these hairs are part of your innate immune system, stopping dust particles and germs getting through. Now you can imagine clients with alopecia, post-chemotherapy, when they're losing all the hairs of their body, these barriers have been lost to them. So once again, it's one of the reasons why there needs to be some precautions within your studio if you're going to work with these clients.
We also have mucus. Don't you love that word, mucus, fluids, phlegm. All of those things line our trachea, our digestive system, and our lungs and they're designed to sort of almost drown certain germs, to stop them getting into our bloodstream. Now, the funny thing is that when we are sick and inflamed, we develop an immune response of developing more mucus. Now, some of you may have heard of this disease, it's called COVID-19.
Now, one of the things that it does, in some people, it creates a response to produce too much fluid. And that fluid in the lungs is actually one of the big problems for people with this disease, too much fluid. It's also a problem in a condition like cystic fibrosis. The too much fluid and you can virtually drown in your lungs. So sometimes these barriers or systems designed to help us, can be more deadly than the actual disease.
And I think that's an important thing to remember when we're talking about both the innate and the adaptive immune system. Often the consequences or the problems we are seeing is from the body's reaction to the pathogen or disease. Then we have cell-mediated responses. Now doesn't that sound fancy. Basically cell responses are things like the lymphocytes, the neutrophils, the basophils that are in our body to detect problems.
We also have natural killer cells, I know them as the Quentin Tarantino cells, natural born killer cells. Now these cells come in to actually help check problems that are happening in our cellular system. I know some people's eyes are truly glazing over at this stage but just think about it this way, our body is constantly reproducing cells. Every time it reproduces a cell, there might be a fault. Natural killer cells are your quality control.
They see something, they go, uh-uh, kick it out. They go through a process of identifying it, tagging it, bagging it, and shipping it out. This process is called phagocytosis. Tagging it, the cell comes in, goes, yes, I see this is the deadly cell, this is the faulty one. It bags it a bit like a Pac-Man and then it ship it out through your lymphatic system.
But sometimes this can go wrong. And one factor that can cause problems for this is stress. Yeah, stress because stress produces something called glucocorticoids. They come in and they tell the body to do certain things and it's called an inflammatory response. And some people are going well, Carla, steroids are given to people as an anti-inflammatory.
And I'm going to say, very good observation. We're going to talk about that a little bit later but understand that the steroids at the early stages of our immune system response are actually inflammatory. Now as a result, they're good for short periods of time. Our bodies should be in this inflammatory response as part of the way of dealing with the crisis. But the problem becomes when we are in long-term stress, when our body keeps pumping out these steroids.
And this problem occurs because that interferes with our natural born killer cells. Steroids kill them off or make them less effective. And what happens then is instead of having our quality control team, steroids have made them redundant. They sent them off, told them we don't need you anymore and it makes us more vulnerable to getting mutations in our cells. These mutations in the cells lead to cancers, tumors, and other such naughty little things that make us kind of sick.
So we will do a whole section later on about stress and stress response. But understand that in our innate immune system, we have physical and cellular responses. Now we've just covered the innate immune system. Now we're going to look at its cousin, the adaptive immune system. Now, when we talk about the immune system, a lot of people go well, the innate immune system is very scattered, it just defends against everything, it's just there.
The adaptive immune system is much more targeted. It's dealing with the problems that haven't been picked up with the innate immune system and it comes into play to deal with these problems in a very targeted, memory-specific way. So let's start with understanding T cells and B cells. B and T cells are developed in our bone marrow. Now what happens is these cells have our adaptive immune system responses in.
And this is where we develop antigens or antibodies. Each of the B and T cells have ways of working against disease. It's been identified that there's a problem and these cells start to develop memory cells on how to fight a particular disease. The body goes, ah, okay, that's the one we're going to destroy and when we see it next time, these T cells know what to do. Coming back to that funny thing, the coronavirus one that we were talking about before, one of the reasons why it's a bit of a problem for many people is that we don't have any memories.
We have no memory cells in our body to know what to do with this thing so the body's running around going, oh my gosh, what do we do? What do we do? The innate immune system's running around producing too much phlegm, too much mucus. The rest of the body's going, oh, what do I do? And this sort of happens too with the flu, the influenza.
Influenza is reproduced and changes and mutates all the time. Our body can develop memory cells of them but what happens is our body really doesn't hold onto those memory cells for long periods of time. You've heard of having the seasonal flu injection. One of the things about the seasonal flu injection is it normally is delivered to you just about the beginning of winter, late autumn or fall. And it's done that way because it's probably only about three to six months that our body has an effective immune response to that disease, that particular influenza, because it doesn't really keep those memories as much.
So there's many factors in why our adaptive immune system may not be working as well against new or usual viruses or infections.
Also think about osteoporosis. The wasting of your bone means the wasting of some of that bone marrow as well. And it makes people with osteoporosis much more vulnerable to certain diseases because they're not producing enough B and T cells. If in your studio, if you have a client with osteoporosis, you might start to notice they're probably the people always getting sick. So you might need to take those extra precautions about keeping your studio clean and safe.
Hopefully you are. But I do say there are certain clients that you know can't be in with other clients who are sniffling or snuffling. So we've got the bone marrow, the spleen, very important organ in our body. A lot of people don't think about it but the spleen is essential part of what's producing part of our immune system responses. And finally, we have lymph nodes.
Now, some people don't really consider lymph nodes as an organ. But I'd like you to think of the lymphatic system as one of the most important organs or structures in our body when we're talking about the immune system.
And every time I hear the word interstitial space, I think of ice cream. Basically, I have a 10-year-old son and every time it comes to dinner being finished, he's full, he's full, he's full. But after dinner, he goes, oh, I'll have a ice cream and we'll say, you're full and he goes, interstitial space, mommy. It fills up all of the space between. And in a way, that's how I kind of see the lymphatic system.
You'll remember, we talked about phagocytosis before, you know, the tag it, bag it, ship it out. Well, that stuff ends up in your interstitial space. And that stuff has to be moved out of the interstitial space, back into the bloodstream, back into the body, and shipped out, processed, and dealt with. How it gets out is the tricky bit because it's not like our blood. If you think of it, our blood comes through arteries and these little veins and all of that and the heart's pumping it around.
The lymphatic system doesn't have the heart there working to ship it out. It requires muscles to contract and move that fluid. So the first thing is to think about, well, how does it get out of the body? But also to understand that there are lymphatic nodes. These nodes are little areas in the body.
I like to think of them as crossroads or major terminal points that take information and pass it on. Now, these nodes can be ways in which infections can be passed through as well. So if you think about cancer, a metastasis, when the cancer cell goes wrong, it breaks out of its base cell, it gets into a lymphatic system through the lymph node and passes on. So it's one of the reasons why, when you hear about breast cancer, they so commonly come in and take out a lymphatic node. Problem is that when these nodes removed, it damages your lymphatic system.
It's almost like a blockage is going in and therefore it's harder for the fluid to be taken out of the body. Now, one more thing that I want you to understand about the lymphatic system before we look at ways of working with it is that it's not equal. It's not that we have the same amount of nodes each side of the body and the body's working left and right equally. That left side is actually dealing with the lymphatic system for the left arm, the left and right leg, and a fair bit of the head and shoulders. The right stuff is only dealing with that one little segment.
What you find is that the left system is often overworked and it's one of the suspected reasons why breast cancer is far more common in the left breast because that lymphatic system is just working so much harder to get through. So what happens is the fluids in our body, they're building up, they've gotta get out, and it's passed through a place called the Cisterna chyli. It's a major lymphatic node just underneath the diaphragm and then it's passed out of the body or sort of filtered through. So let's have a think about how the lymphatic system works in conjunction with our thoracic cavity. We're going to use a French press or plunger here to try and explain to you high- and low-pressure systems and fluid.
Pressure goes from a high-pressure system to a low-pressure system. A low-pressure system is where we have more space. So I like to think of it this way, here I have, oops, here I have my coffee plunger. Down here is all my fluid in my lower lake. Up here, I have my lungs and things like that.
Now at the moment, there's equal pressure here. But as I compress down, I'm creating a high pressure system here, making the space above my press, bigger and bigger and bigger. Can you see that this is one way we can bring fluid from the lower part of our body, up into our chest cavity, and coming out through the nodes, through the Cisterna chyli. Wow, that's a lot of information but there's so much more we need to understand. So first of all, let's remember the lymphatic system, different left and right.
Next, the lymphatic system requires muscle contraction for us to pass the lymphatic and all of the cell debris that we developed or accumulated from that process of phagocytosis. So muscle contraction. Pilates is pretty good at getting muscle contractions. And then finally, the lymphatic system major cells or nodes are based underneath the diaphragm. The diaphragm is pretty important for breath.
I hear Pilates is pretty good at breathing as well. So we're already getting an idea that there's some good ways to work the lymphatic system just by doing Pilates. We can do it more thoughtfully but understand that movement is very important when we talk about the lymphatic system.
And essentially an autoimmune disease is when our body's immune system turns on us. It starts to misunderstand certain responses and results in attacks on tissues or systems within our body. To understand autoimmune conditions, we need to understand a couple of concepts. First of all, no one really understands why certain conditions occur. Some have a genetic predisposition, some have an environmental factor.
Some can occur because of an exposure to a virus or a bacteria will make you more likely to develop this autoimmune condition. But the thing I always say to people when they talk about autoimmunity, no judgment. It's not your fault. Your immune system's just overworking, it's too helpful. What we have to do is understand what systems are involved and what we can do as movement teachers to help people overcome the pain, the consequences of that immune system, and also modulate the stress response because again, stress impacts on the immune system.
So let's start with the idea of the Th1 and Th2. So the thing about Th1 is they're the cell response that deal with individual tissues or aspects in the body. So when you see a Th1 problem, where the immune system's going a bit too crazy and too many antigens are being developed or produced by the body, you're going to see attacks of individual systems. So multiple sclerosis is an example where Th1 cells are activated to destroy the myelin sheath. You'll see rheumatoid arthritis, where the synovial membrane is damaged.
There's a whole list of conditions that are associated with Th1 problems. And it's also why when you see somebody with a Th1 autoimmune condition, they're most likely to have a bundle of them. So for example, I have Hashimoto's disease, in which the thyroid is attacked and destroyed. But those people with Hashimoto's disease are 25% more likely to also have Celiac's disease, which is a disease of the intestines, where the body misunderstands or mis-responds to the protein known as gluten. So your Th1 or T-helper cells one, are individual systems.
Th2 are the more systemic diseases. Diseases like systemic lupus, scleroderma, asthma. So many of these diseases are really kind of confusing and they impact on many parts of the body. Just understand that some of those diseases do have some genetic links but nobody understands why.
But let's just cover what it is and what it means. Stress is considered our body's response to a stimulus or an event. So that could be running down the street and seeing a car accident, that would be a stimulus event. 2020 could be considered a stimulus event. But just because you've experienced the event, doesn't mean your body's going to have a problem.
Some events are more significant and different people respond differently. But what happens is that when we have this event, our autonomic nervous system comes into play. So let's remember that our body has a somatic nervous system. That's that stuff that helps us turn our muscles on and off. And then we have something called the autonomic nervous system and it has two arms.
It has your sympathetic and your parasympathetic nervous system. This system is designed for us to deal with a stress event, make certain physical and biochemical changes, so that we can deal with that event. And then our parasympathetic nervous system ideally turns on and calms everything down. Now, all of this is an ideal concept. Our autonomic nervous system is designed to respond to one-off small events.
So you see the accident, you see a lion coming, it happens, you run, you get away. So your body to deal with that, will change the way the blood flows in your body. It pumps it away from your core to your periphery so that you can run faster. You can throw that sphere or whatever you wanna do to kill that lion. Sorry, I don't why we always pick on lions but I guess that's what we use.
Our body stops digesting. We really don't need to have digesting fluid in a body if we're not gonna be living in five minutes time so it just stops that digestive system. Our eyesight narrows, it becomes much more focused. I don't have to see the dirt in the corner if I'm trying to get away from that lion, so my eye is going to be very focused. My hearing becomes much more focused and much more specific.
My breath changes and my body starts producing adrenaline. All of this is designed to get me moving faster, to get me away from danger, and to get me to focus on survival. It's called the fight or flight response. Researchers in more recent years have started to identify another term and that's called friend and bend. Fight and flight is more associated with a male response.
Okay, yes, you might have females with this response as well, but it's more of a, I see the danger, I run, I kill you beast. The friend, and bend is a very female response, isn't it? It's like I see a danger, let me work out what we have to do. I'm going to friend it. I'm gonna mold and bend and work my way around this sort of stuff.
Again, this is just general terms, it can apply to either gender. But when I friend and bend, it means that I can sometimes have this stress event happening for longer periods of time. And this is where we start to come to the issue of chronic stress. And some people live with chronic stress for long periods of time. And in those cases, these people dealing with chronic stress are living on adrenaline and all of those icky steroids.
Those steroids are now starting to work against your body. They're keeping your body in an inflammatory response, therefore you're starting to see problems with your natural killer cells, which put people at greater risk of developing cancers and other diseases. The idea is how do we get people out of chronic stress? And then there's been a whole heap of huge studies done about the role of stress on the body. And one of those big studies was known as the Whitehall Study.
This study showed the more in control of your situation or your life events you are, the less poor health responses you have. And it was the first time researchers really started to identify that chronic stress leaded to poor health outcomes. Now, it's fantastic if you are in control of your life and you haven't had to friend and bend all the time. But let's face it, we all have situations where we just have to negotiate and compromise. So remember the autonomic nervous system, in an ideal world.
The sympathetic nervous system was about what happened when we were under stress. Our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to mop up the physiological changes that occurred when we were under stress and bring us back to a nice, happy state, homeostasis. But how do we encourage somebody to activate the parasympathetic nervous system? Well, we've got a few little hints already. It involves breath, it involves us working through our sensory system, and it involves us helping somebody feel safe and calm.
So when we work through some of the movement strategies, a little bit later, we're going to look at ways to help somebody engage their sensory system a little bit better. And for those of you who may have studied Gyrotonic or Feldenkrais, you will remember that a lot of those systems of movement involve an awakening of the senses to encourage somebody to be engaged in their class and their movement.
And I know that there's a view that we should start every Pilates session with hundreds. Radically, I believe that we're in the 21st century and there's a few things that have changed and that is the way people live and constantly need to calm themselves down from a very stressful work environment. So often instead of starting my clients doing hundreds, where they're going to be doing valsavic breathing and afterwards they're going to be doing that holding breath pattern, raising their blood pressure, working more and more into that sympathetic nervous system. I'm going to start a lot of my clients on this sort of work, maybe for 10 or 15 minutes as part of their warmup. But during lockdown in Australia, I did this with a lot of clients during their Zoom or online sessions as a way of helping them to calm down, focus, and then we still had time at the end of the session to do some more strengthening work.
So don't dismiss it, try it. And it is a really nice thing to do with an online client. It involves a towel. Most people who can afford Pilates have a towel and a floor. So Josh, this is Josh.
Josh is going to lift his tush up and we're just going to put that underneath there. Lovely. Might just move it a little bit, Josh, so that you have just on the edge of your sacrum. Our starting point is that we're going to have Josh just allowing his back just to hang a little bit and he's going to roll his legs in just a little bit. So here, all we're doing is allowing Josh to stretch out the soleus muscle.
Giving him a chance to stretch it out and get a little bit of release in his diaphragm. So remember our diaphragm and soleus attached through the crura of the muscle. Our diaphragm is an important breath muscle and is part of our parasympathetic response, where we bring our body down into a calmer state through breath. Feeling calm there, Josh? Good.
Now, sadly, we're going to have to move. So what you're going to do now is I'm going to allow you to roll the legs in a little bit and then roll them out. So we're just doing a little pelvic curl, back and forward. Now why I like to move the legs back and forward, like this, is as he rolls his legs in, he starts to put his soleus on a little bit of a stretch. So it helps us open out a little bit.
Remember our soleus muscle attaches to our sacrum and the inside of each of our lumbar vertebra. So we want it to be moving a little bit as we achieve spinal segmentation. How's that feel, Josh? Nice. So now you can roll up just a little bit more.
Up? Yep, all the way there. Good. And then just roll back. Starting from here, roll the legs in, allow that little bit of segmentation.
So I would get you to do maybe two or three of these, as you're going through this process, allowing the legs to move, allowing yourself to lengthen through the soleus. So Josh, what I'm going to do next is I'm going to take the towel and I'm moving that across. And you might need to just put that towel just in the center of the butt cheek. Allow this butt cheek to drop down on the ground. So you just use the towel as a little bit of a prop.
Now, what Josh is going to do here is he started with this leg so that the soleus muscle is on a different position, getting a bit of length. So this leg, or this femur, will slide up and you're going to lift this hip up. Nice and down. Good work. Feel that?
So you can see from his right leg is going to have an impact on the left lobe of his diaphragm. Back and forward. Nice. And this time you're going to stay up. Just keep that hip there for a moment and just allow the hamstrings to work, hips working just a bit too, and then roll back down.
Next, Josh is going to just straighten out those legs. All right. Just this one. Now what I would like Josh to start with is to have his knee just bent just a little bit. You're just going to dig that heel into the mat.
Good. Make that hamstring work. Now what I'd like you to do, Josh is press your leg out, lengthen the leg out. Lovely. I hope that's your foot. (both laughing)
And you're taking the leg out and lift. So the idea is that we're truly trying to get him to strengthen and lengthen the leg out and working on opening out the soleus as he takes the leg up and down. Don't let the leg go all the way down. We're not here for tea and biscuits. Stretch.
Let the heel go all the way to the ceiling and down and up. Yeah, nice. And again, you might do five to 10 of these. Now, Josh, you can just bend this knee, bring that back in. Yep.
And let this heel lift up and no, sorry, let this hip come back up. Lovely. And down just, three more times like that. So again, we've worked in the soleus in a lengthened state, allowing it to get that nice opening. And we're also working a little bit through the obliques here.
Remember the oblique muscles are important in breath. And a lot of the work we are doing here is about helping him breathe better. Stop. Let me slip this out. Feel any difference? Yeah, it's a lot.
I kind of wanna go this way. You may put this underneath your tush on that side. So I'm just going to repeat this and we'll go over a few things. So you can see, sliding this femur up, getting this nice sense of length up and out. Now what Josh is doing here is he is tending to lift this hip up a little bit higher than the other.
I prefer him to try and think that he brings it so that the ASIS is on an equal plane. So in some ways, this is a really nice way to prepare somebody for an exercise like shoulder bridge later on in the session. Nice. And there. And one.
Good. Now, Josh, you can just straighten that leg out. And again, I'd like to have the leg a little bit bent so that the femur can drop into the hip socket a little bit more. The activation of the heel onto the mat here allows an, let's just slide out, drag it down, and gets the hamstring working. Dorsiflex, that's it, point and down.
About four or five like this. Now, with a strong client or a client with shorter legs, you can have them doing this in the shoulder bridge position. But given that the purpose of this class is really to try and relax and lengthen out the body, it's kind of nice to allow them to stay in this position. Good, nice. And then just do a few more just of the lift and lower.
So for some clients, this is all you might need to do at the beginning of the session. But I like to give them the full catastrophe, if they're really stressed. Now you can just take this out, Josh. Lovely. Yeah, that's better.
A bit better? Yeah. It's funny when I ask people to come and model for me, everyone's happy to do this session or the Dance of the Soleus. But if I get them to do- Abdomen. The abdominal series, they're not so happy.
Lift it, you lift yourself up and I'm just going to put this. Now, this is going to be in the thoracic spine. With most clients, they know the anatomical position is the bra clip. Even Josh understands the bra clip concept. So what we're going to do, first of all, is take his legs a little bit wider.
And just allow one knee just to drop over to the other. Now don't let somebody just go straight across. Let them just sense opening from side-to-side, each time, allowing the spine to move that little bit more. And you can see that what Josh is doing as he does this is he lengthens this leg out, just a little bit, to get more opening through the hip flexor and back. Nice.
How's that feel? Nice. Now what I like clients to do is have their hands on the floor. Oh, so Josh you'll have to hold your hands up here. So what you're going to do is, as he rolls his legs to one side, the palm is going to roll to the ceiling.
And then he's going to allow the legs to roll to one side and the palm to move to the other. Nice. How's that feel? Um-hmm. So we're starting to allow the spine to get this lovely little spiral.
And again, we're working into the obliques, we're allowing the soleus to get a nice little stretch. Josh, now you can start to let your head roll from one to side. Now I say to clients, just allow themselves to capture. What happens is people start to think, oh, do I move my right or my left? Just give them the cue.
Let them roll one arm one way and the other and let them find what works for them. And the same with the hand. You'll find that they generally fall into a nice little balance. How's that feel, Josh? Nice.
Yeah, good. So now you can see that we're working through the oblique, we're opening through the ribs. We're opening through his pec muscle and getting a stretch through the scalene and the sternocleidomastoid. In other words, we're working through all of those accessory breath muscles so that we can better breathe into our diaphragm. How's that feel?
This time, roll your head and when your head's there, you're going to take your eyes to the opposite side. Yeah, that's it, good. And change. Now you might not give this to everyone, but remember, one of the factors for clients who are in immense stress is that they start to focus their eyes. They start to lose the periphery.
So by getting somebody to do an exercise like this, where they roll their head and they move their eyes, we can encourage them to start to use their sensors a little bit more effectively and bring them back into the parasympathetic nervous system. Simple little things you don't realize that you can do for a class. Just stop there for a moment. Let me just slip this out from underneath you. How's that feel?
Yeah, and you can see that Josh has already just become a little bit calmer in his breath and we're starting to see deeper diaphragmatic tummy work. Remember, good breath helps with good immune system response.
As you can see, Josh has got a really nice, tight shoulder here. So we've done all of this work. We've gotta get his shoulders released as well. Because then when we go to do some of our stronger work later on in our session, he's at least starting in a better state. So Josh, I like to use this, but not everyone has one of these at home, so we can always use those towels.
So Josh, we're going to lift the towel, put that there. Now what I've done is I've done exactly what I did before when I put the towel underneath Josh's pelvis. This time I've just lifted his shoulder up so that the towel is putting his pec muscle into a shortened state. Does that feel okay? Um-hmm.
So then we're going to work that pec muscle in that shortened state. You're just going to roll the arm up and down. If you like, you can roll your head a bit too to the side and just look at the camera, smile for them. And back. No, the smiling's too hard at this time of the day.
And there. And you can add an arm weight to that or whatever. But this is just a nice exercise to do, just allowing them to open the arms back and forward. And now Josh, I'm just going to slip this out from underneath you. Oh, look at that.
Now this was done in front of the camera and you can see how much his shoulder is sitting. I can see it from here. Well, yeah, it was pretty high there, Josh. Yes, okay, quick, quick. You can do the other side.
So remember alignment is a very important principle of Pilates, as is breath. And so we're just going to try and achieve this early on in our session, in our warmup, to actually help people get their body moving. And remember too, when we were talking about your nodes, your lymph nodes, so many of them are in this upper body that we have to get down into our diaphragm. We want to get them moving and we want to get the muscles pumping. Yeah, lovely.
How's that? And then just stay there and I'm just going to slip this out. Oh, that's much better. Feels nicer. Yeah.
Looks nicer too, actually. (both laughing)
We need to move and get these things moving out of our body. What I've done is Josh is very happy sitting here. I have put the waist loop. Some people, and I quite like this as well, use the Marie-Jose Blom sling. I just like using this because it just gives me a few more options.
So what I've done is I've put this around T8 level for Josh. T8 point is the point at which your diaphragm should ascend at its optimal point. Josh is just using this to bring the ribs into a slight extension pattern to facilitate and inhale and help unlock that diaphragm. Is that okay, Josh? Um-hmm.
So if you find somebody's particularly stuck on one side, so let's remember that with the lymphatic system, the left side works harder than the right. So you may find that on the left side, and this is where you're going to find how useless I am with right and left, this is the left side. So you may just take it to one of these side hooks and lift this side up just a little bit more. Is that okay, Josh? And I'm just going to get him to breathe for a little while.
Then what we are going to do is I'm going to put his feet in the trapeze. So Josh, just put that there. And you're going, well, wait a minute, how has she done this with two sliders? I had two sliders put on my Cadillac. It is possible to have that done.
If you don't have the two sliders, what I suggest you do is grab one of these trusty little straps and I just put them in and I hook them up at the top, folds them around, and there you've got another slider. Really simple. You don't have to go to the additional expense. Yeah, Josh, nice. You can see he gets this little happy smile.
Now what we're doing here is we're using gravity to assist with the flow from the lower legs. So he's just letting that flow down. And if you like you, Josh, you can dorsiflex and planter flex. Okay, nice. Now there's a whole heap of work that you can do, and it's another training course completely, just on working with lymphedema.
Lymphedema is a complication of the lymphatic system, often seen because of surgery, post-breast cancer, and there's also primary lymphedema. But for this level course, all we're doing is just looking at ways of moving the lymph. And so if you are wanting to work with clients with lymphedema, I say there's a whole level of other knowledge that you need to have. So Josh, how is that feeling? Delicious.
And so you can see we're doing what we know in Pilates. This time, Josh is just doing, and he's going to go in and he might just turn his legs into a frog. And we just can just go in and out that way. How delicious is that? So instead of putting him in feet and straps, I'm just using the trapeze.
Really lovely, getting the fluid moving, helping the immune system get rid of the waste.
We end up with all sorts of issues about fluid buildup. We see a lot of issues about depression and stress because of the way the posture is affecting the person. I really like to work with this series to help clients achieve postural corrections. So it's actually a nice one for clients who have Parkinson's disease as well, because it's not just a weakness, there's a neurological reason. But for just a lot of clients who are coming in, they're really stressed, I can't get them to breathe or stand correctly at first.
I'm going to do some work like this with the lumbar belt on the Wunda Chair and then we'll get them to do some more strength work. So what I've done, I am using the Fuse Ladder because I can, but you can do this at the end of the Cadillac. I just like the ability to change heights a little bit better on the Fuse Ladder. I've put the Wunda Chair in front and then I've got Josh sitting here on the Wunda Chair. Now the spring is just bringing him into a slight extension.
Remember, with an extension, we're going to have a better inhale. Remember when we have a better inhale, we have a greater capacity for the thoracic cavity to open and create that pool of lymph towards the thoracic cavity, especially in our lower limbs. So it's all about the breath, it's all about getting the fluids of the body moving. So Josh, what you're going to do is curl. Come into your C-curve.
Let the Wunda Chair come up just that little bit. Lovely, then exhale, that was an exhale. Now you're going to inhale and come up, lift your heart coming up. So we did this earlier on the Wunda Chair without the lumbar belt. Not everybody has Josh's strength and control.
This is one of the reasons why I like to give this as an option for those people who can't stay upright. Josh, what we might do though, is you can just, as you inhale, open your arms up, so you get that little bit more work through the pec. Smile and exhale, rolling back, curling. Allow the knees to come up to the chest so you're going to pump any of the lower lymph nodes. Yes, good.
Then inhale and up, remembering that there's a lot of nodes in the groin and in the lower abdomen and these nodes can get quite blocked and clogged, particularly for clients who have irritable bowel or any of those Crohn's types diseases as well. So it's kind of nice to help give that little bit of massage through this, gently. Listen to your client, it might be too much.
I'm just the facilitator, it's their health. So this little series that we do is called the Dance of the Soleus. Okay, now what we're going to do is put one yoga block, so we're going to require two yoga blocks for this. Sometimes a client might have a little stool or a wall. You can work it out.
I like to do this with a baby arc in the studio because it's really nice under the feet. Josh, I'm going to get you to put one foot on there. Okay? Um-hmm. So our first one again, is this idea of lifting one hip up.
So let this hip come up just again. Yeah, nice. And roll over? Just let yourself roll. That's nice.
And then go back down. Lovely. Just lifting it up. Lift the pelvis up and down. So we're just going to do two just to make sure.
Then you're going to stretch this leg out. Straighten this leg out completely. This time, you're going to press your foot onto there and you're going to just roll your hip up. Nice. Lovely.
How's that feel? Um-hmm. You're not old enough, but I remember a movie called "Flashdance" and there's this beautiful scene where she lifts her hips up and the water comes squirting down. Oh! Oh, it's all very, can you feel it? I think the music went to it as well.
Lovely. So good, just one more. Nice. Now stay there. Drop this knee down to the other knee.
Lovely. Okay, get that stretch. Feel it all through the front of the hip flexor. And you should also feel a little bit happening here at your QL. Yep.
Yeah, okay. And just one or two lifting up, this leg up. Yeah, just because we're doing a stretch doesn't mean you don't have to work hard. Treats are for those who work. One more time.
Nice. Is that okay? And now stay there. Keep this leg up and start to roll back here from this ribcage, Josh. Nice.
Roll down, articulate each segment of your spine. Lovely. Nice. That's tricky. Is it?
Oh, that's a shame. You get to do it on the other side now. So let's change legs and we're just going to put the block there. You did it very well, Josh. So start, first of all, ah, yeah, good.
Can you feel it already though? Your pelvis has changed. So what you're going to do is just let this hip come up. So again, we're just getting this pelvic movement, allowing yourself to open out through the sacrum and the soleus. But it's just nice to move the spine.
And can you see how we're sort of working that spine in that spiral position? We're trying to make him get his spine moving and get all of those muscles that pull on his diaphragm to be as open and loose as possible. Remember also, Josh, you're going to stretch that leg out and you're just going to roll. Yeah, good, nice work. Remember also that when we're in stress state and digestive system tightens, it stops working.
We end up with all sorts of icky sorts of problems going on. So it's really nice to try and encourage as much movement in our bowels. Sorry, I know, talking on film about bowels and intestinal movements. Sorry, you just keep working. Yeah, just there, nice, lovely.
And then you're going to roll back in. So again, helping people to calm the digestive system so we can get better nutrition, able to absorb food, can help you with a good immune system response as well. So Josh, let me just take this out from underneath you for a moment. Yeah, nice. Feeling better? Um-hmm.
So what we're going to do now is I'm going to take the other yoga block and just put it behind you, just there. Okay. Now what you can do is still keep one yoga block underneath the foot. And we will do that for today, but some people find that it's just too much. Is that okay? Yeah.
Now what I'm going to get you to do, Josh, is you're going to take this arm behind you, roll and just press your hand there, just on the edge. And I'm going to get you to push down onto there. And the first, we're just going to do what we did before, just the rolling and lifting of the hip. Nice. How's that feel?
It brings it into a more intense experience, doesn't it? Definitely. Okay. So can you feel how the quadratus lumborum, back here, gets a bit of work? Now what we might do is also work on just giving him some release in his pelvis and his gluts.
Now you don't need to use a little dome like this. So Josh, just lift your hip up, put that underneath there. But it's kind of nice. So Josh, can you bend this knee? Bring it in through here.
Yeah, so it's like, I call this a figure four, 'cause he's making a figure. Yeah, nice. So I've got the dome there, but you don't need it, because I'm trying to actually trigger in and get him to release for his piriformis and his hip rotators. Yeah, nice. Make sure you smile for the camera and then roll back down.
Push down with the hand and roll back. Lovely. Okay. So remember the piriformis muscle attaches to the sacrum. And it's the counterbalance to the soleus muscle that also attaches to the sacrum.
So sometimes what you can find is you end up with a really tight sacrum and lower back just from sitting down too much. So it's nice to get this released and moving. And why would you be sitting down too much? Because you're binge-watching Netflix or whatever your streaming television show of choice is rather than moving. Ooh, sorry about that, judgey.
And back down, lovely. Undo that, unfold. Yeah, nice. Take that out, Josh. Yeah, wow.
You feel that, hips just released. Yeah. Yeah, you've stop complaining now that you get the benefits. So we'll just put this one on here. So for some clients you may find that having the yoga block on the opposite hand will give them a better soleus response.
So I'm just gonna, yeah, just do a couple like that. So when it's on the same side, like this, you'll find that you're actually getting a better release through the quadratus lumborum. So that's kind of important for people with tight rib cage or people with scoliosis or some sort of hip pelvic height. Having it on the opposite side, so in Josh's case it would be here, helps him get a little bit more in the diaphragm release because you get a better stretch along the oblique and activation through the soleus. Nice.
I'm not obsessed with the soleus but it does seem to have a big role to play here when we're talking about getting the diaphragm moving. It does attach. Yeah, nice. How's that? Good.
Good. That's one more. And done. And once you've done this, you then go and do things like your single leg floats and things like that. With one, with the yoga block behind you, just with the hands down beside you.
You know leg floats. I don't need to take you through that.
So Josh is going to do one of my favorite exercises on the spine corrector. He kind of likes it too, don't you Josh? Um-hmm. Yeah. So basically we call this Wild Thing.
And you'll understand in a minute. So Josh, you're going to put one hand there and bring the other hand over here. Now this is really nice to do over the edge of the Cadillac so the leg on the edge of the spine here is dropping down so that you can get an even nicer stretch on your soleus. But it's also lovely on the mat. So Josh, what you are going to do is roll around.
Now you're going to feel like this hand is pushing forward. Yeah, so sort of almost feel like your fingers are coming forward into there. This hand is pulling back. So this, yeah, good. Feel that? Um-hmm.
Now this hand now is going to push in. So it's sort of a push and pull. So remember whenever we're pushing and pulling, we're working both the front and the back of the body. So Josh, you're just going to push and pull, hold it, hold it, hold it. And then on the count of three, you're going to let go.
Okay, one, two, three, whee. So you see why I call it Wild Thing. Nice. How's that feel? Good.
Do you wanna do another? Um-hmm. Yeah, so what Josh is doing is he's winding up his thoracolumbar fascia and it just allows him to then get that release in the ribcage and in the back of the diaphragm. Ready? Ready, go.
So that he can just breathe. You can see he's there. And there's another factor to it, it's fun. So sometimes I say to clients, I'm not going to have that F word in my studio. But when people are stressed or there's an immune system response, having a little bit of fun, throwing some laughter and some, what seems like silly little exercises, in can make all the difference.
Josh, do you want to go onto the other side and show them the way the back works from there? So just put that hand there, put that hand there. Again, one more time. Bring back and forward. Yeah.
Three, two, one. You almost got hit, boom. Good thing I have good reaction time. So Wild Thing, nice little exercise to help with breath but also just to make you feel good.
And part of what we want to do is find little sneaky ways to allow people to waken up their senses, make them more alert in their eyes and their hearing. So this little series I like to give to clients as part of their homework for them to work just before they go out to dinner. It makes your eyes look amazing but it also helps you sort of calm down a little bit and bring your focus. So Josh is very kindly doing this. So Josh, I'm going to get you to do just put the little, this little dome here.
You can do this with fingers, but a lot of my clients with autoimmune diseases have peripheral neuropathy. So using your fingers can sometimes be kind of difficult to actually manipulate. So Josh, what we're going to do is you're going to just come, we'll start just on the inside here, just in here. Okay. Um-hmm.
Now here's just on the edge of your sphenoid. So you're sort of working along the orbit. Now, Josh, what you're going to do is come up and just sort of lift up and press into just underneath the eyebrow. And you're just going to follow that along, All the way? All along the eyebrow.
And sort of just press up just a little bit. I know and I know you're going really, is this Pilates? Well, the course is about working your immune system. And I want you to remember that there are a lot of conditions, autoimmune conditions, that impact on people's vision, just as stress does, but also scarring from a lot of diseases, such as scleroderma impact on the way the face moves. And when that happens, you can start to see changes in people's tear drops and they can sort of cry a little bit all the time.
It looks like they're always crying. It's because their tear ducks are affected. How's that feel? Yeah. Yeah.
You don't sound so convinced. And then Josh, you're going to go along just underneath the cheek bones as well. I'm definitely convinced, it's just a little bit- Sore. Yeah. So now also remember there are people who have conditions where they end up losing, it's called Sjogren's syndrome, where they lose the moisture in their mouth and in their eyes.
And remember, those conditions puts people at more vulnerability of getting sick because remember those mucus points are part of our immune system, part of our innate immune system. So we're trying to keep these systems stimulated for as long as we can. How's that feel? It's easing. Easing, yeah.
Can you though see, can you feel the difference in your eye? I can see that. So it's like more open? Yeah. Yeah.
And it's this sort of stimulation that you want to do. Very simple. One of my clients says, does this mean I might avoid eye surgery, you know, my eye lifts? And I said, oh, I can't say that but if you would like to interpret that you can. And so she now does this every night.
And let's face it, we need to be upright and able to see what's going on if we are going to live in a calmer state. So while I have Josh on the Wunda Chair, you may use my pink glitter stick. Thank you. It's so nice. Josh made it for me a while ago for social distancing purposes.
So what we're going to do, now, you can do this while you're doing your legwork on the Wunda Chair, but we'll keep it simple for now. So what he's going to do is he's got his hands under here and he's just curling into his pinky finger. So you can see that nice opening of your pec. Okay, now inhale, roll into your pinky finger a bit more and use the stick to pull your chest up. Yeah, lovely.
Now, roll into your thumb and just curl and come into a lovely C-curve, Josh. Nice. And then come forward. Lovely. So just opening the chest, getting our pec muscles having a lovely stretch.
So then what we're going to do is just do some work on getting the ribs moving. So Josh, in my era, there was this thing called a typewriter. Um-hmm. I know, it's really radical. Weird. Weird.
And what these things did is they went across like this. Yep, the ribs went across and then across like that. Can you feel that? Yeah. So we're just taking the ribs from side to side to warm up the facets or your zygapophyseal joints in your thoracic spine.
So once he's achieved this little lateral rotation, lateral slide, we can then add a rotation. Oh, nice. How's that feel? Good. And then back, lateral, and then rotation round.
Now this is particularly nice when you have your split pedal on your Wunda Chair, because you can have one leg going down to facilitate the rotation. But I'm introducing a new concept to Josh so I'm going to keep it simple. Okay, nice. How's that feel? It's nice with the stick.
Yeah, the stick really helps open through the pec. And what's going to happen now, as he goes up, he's going to go around to the side and then you're going to curl. And then C-curve, beautiful. And then round, lovely. Some of you may have been lucky enough to work with Judith Aston.
Judith Aston did this beautiful work called Aston Technique. And she is a structural integration practitioner and has beautiful ideas around how you might move the fascia. Lovely. And this is a really nice way to keep the fascia moving, keep your body moving, and also just open out through the pec and get the breath work. All of which is really kind of important when we're talking about claiming your immunity.
You don't wanna finish now, do you, Josh? It's pretty intense. Good and then let me take that away from you. Yes, lovely open chest, feeling relaxed, but worked. Remember, we're not here for cuddles.
You're just going to do a C-curve. Curl, then inhale as you come up. Now I like adding this series because what we're doing is as he comes into that nice, deep C-curve, we're connecting the rectus abdominis, helping with the diaphragm being pulled up on the exhale and flattening out on the inhale as he comes into his lovely inhale and extension. So we're working on getting the breath working. We're helping getting the fluids moving, clearing the lymphatic system.
What we also, you're looking happy there, aren't you? Yeah, it's quite nice, actually. Very calming. What we then do is I've taken the stick out and Josh, you're going to hold the stick. So you're going to hold it and we call this Row, Row, Your Boat.
And basically you're going to press the arm down, curl, beautiful, Josh, then roll up and go to the other side. What I love about this is that it's a beautiful fluid moment. You can see Josh gets into the flow. You can't really have that many worries when you're concentrating like this. You can, if you hit the teacher.
And the other thing is his eyes are focusing. He's using his eyes to work all through the range as he's following the stick. He's encouraging that peripheral system to work. Becomes really important for working with people with balance. And the other thing is he's helping himself move through his vestibular system.
We've talked about how stress and the immune system work and it makes you hear less. It can make you feel a little bit icky in the ears, in the middle ear. These sorts of exercises are really nice ways to habituate the immune system, the vestibular system, so that people can minimize the likelihood of dizziness.
And again, there's always going to be those clients that find it very difficult to lie flat like this. And of course, you're going to put towels or a bolster underneath their hips to take them out of that load. But this is a great exercise to do both in the studio and home in some your online classes. So Josh, what I'm going to get you to do is just put your hands down. So on the floor, it's not on a raised mat, it's much easier in some ways.
So Josh, first of all, what you're going to do is just press your arm down into the dowel and lift your arm up. Give them all a smile, lovely, and then drop the shoulder back down. And coming up and roll that shoulder blade around. Lovely. Now the idea is here, he doesn't have to come all the way up.
At first, it may just be a few little from side to side. We're trying to stretch out through the thoracolumbar fascia, but we're also starting to get a little bit of stretch for the pec. Gaze upon my beauty. That's it, lovely. One more on each side.
Remembering our pec minor is an important accessory breath muscle. This time Josh, you're going to lift this leg up at the same time and you're just going to roll that leg across and over. So now we've brought the soleus muscle in as well. So round and down. Go back, lifting up, take it back and over.
You know all the precautions for people with extension problems, don't give them this. But for a lot of clients, this is a really nice way to get their spine moving, open up through those tight hip flexors and help get you out of your accessory breath muscles.
They may feel like they're diving too much. But try it. If not, we can into a mat version as well. But really this is a stand up version of Clawing Cat. So Josh, what you are going to do is just stand and roll down.
And that lovely sense of closing the chain, adding the comfort. Curl this time. Your starting point is we're going to go into a Cat and Cow. So lift your chest up, Josh. That's it inhale, exhale, get a beautiful curl and back.
Nice. So if you like that, if you're not as tall as Josh, you stand on the other side of the Wunda Chair. Now, then Josh, what you are going to do is take one arm down and one arm up. Give the camera a kiss. That's it.
And there and back. So it's a really nice way. Can you see how this kind of relates to our Twisted Angel that we did on the mat, where we're getting that beautiful thoracolumbar fascia movement, but we're not in such a long, long stretch on the lower back. Lovely.
We don't want them doing rigid sagittal plain work when we can, it'll make them more focused. We want them to focus and flow. Apparently concentration and control are principles of Pilates as well. So Josh, we're going to do a little dance. So you are going to be in stilettos this time, okay.
And we're just going to stand in the spine corrector. I like to stand in the well like this because he can get a nice little bit of contraction in his calf muscle, again, helping that fluid move. So Josh, you're going to take one step back and just use the apex of the spine corrector. Bend the knee back. Yeah, lovely.
Now start to roll down. Feel that lovely stretch through the spine. Lovely. Curling down, allow the arms to move. Come up, lift your heart, lift your heart.
And you can just put them on my little shoulders and we're just going to lift your shoulders up, roll, lift your heart. Now, if I liked, I can then get you to take your ribs to away from the camera. Get a little slide and a rotation. Nice. And lovely and then curl back up and flow.
I like to make them do this little dance, probably about three on each side, getting that spine moving, then, yeah, Josh quite likes it so I'll let him do one more. Okay, roll down, up. Lovely. Don't need the teacher, but it's kind of nice to get that sense. Allow the ribs to open, lift your heart, lift your heart, then curl, and then roll back.
It is nice to have the teacher though just for the balance sake when clients are first doing this as well.
Yep, lovely. And you're just going to lower your heels down, Josh. Good, so we're just doing your normal calf stretch. Now this time, Josh, as you inhale, lower your legs down, come into a nice expansion of the chest. Inhale then exhale and lift your heels up.
Inhale and exhale. Really a lot of this is stuff we know in our work. I'm just trying to take you a little bit deeper to understand why we would do certain things to facilitate immune function.
If you complete this workshop, you will earn:
1.0 credits from National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP)
The National Pilates Certification Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)
1.5 credits from Pilates Alliance Australasia (PAA)
The Pilates Alliance Australasia (PAA) is an independent and not-for-profit organization established by the Pilates industry as a regulatory body for control of quality instruction, member support, and integrity within all legitimate approaches to the Pilates Method.
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