Get Your Powerhouse On!

April 26, 2011

by the BuddhaBabes

In keeping with the theme of our previous post, let’s discuss you and your fabulous core, and how to shed those pesky winter pounds. Our solution: It’s time to kick up the cardio—and core concentration!

The Pilates Powerhouse never stops, whether you’re riding a bike, hiking the trails or even on vacation. Here are some tips for keeping it even more active while enjoying your favorite activities:

  • Cycling: Find that deep Pilates curl and resist the urge to unfurl your abs. Keep them tucked in as you draft behind the dude in front of you, then pass him because you’ve efficiently used your energy from the inside out!
  • Running: When you’re going the distance, it’s easy to think about your tired legs or labored breathing. So, flip the switch—when you’re chasing down that last mile, engage your abs to make your legs feel lighter and your breath more powerful, and you’ll cross the finish line in no time.
  • Swimming: Feel like you’re sinking? Think about tightening a virtual belt around your waistline as you complete your laps. When you fully engage your Powerhouse, your strokes will become streamlined and your laps will be a breeze.
  • Surfing: Popping up (to stand) is simple if you energize your lowest and deepest abs.

Chair Pose
We’ve taken our two favorite topics, posture and Powerhouse, and put them together in this easy, take-it-anywhere, total-body toner, which will enhance the performance of your Pilates practice and other sports. For best results, do it three times a week.

    Setup: From a standing posture (either toes touching or feet fist-distance apart), inhale as you tuck your tailbone and lift your arms overhead.

  1. Exhale as you lower your body into a squat. Hold for 8 breaths, inhaling in through your nose and exhaling out through your mouth.
  2. As you’re holding, focus on:

lower body Keeping your weight in your heels, try to sit a little deeper, feeling your quads engage.
upper body Are your arms as straight as possible? Are your shoulder blades reaching long down your back? Is your head resting on your neck in proper alignment, or are you looking down?
core Are your abs engaged? Are you popping your ribs? Is your tailbone tucked slightly?
breath Are you breathing, or are you holding your breath?

  1. Inhale, and rise to the standing position. Take a few deep breaths, shaking out your arms and legs.
  2. Do 3 repetitions of steps 1–3.
  3. Advanced: On your 4th repetition, hinge at the waist with your arms outstretched and parallel to the floor into Half-Chair pose. Hold for 5 breaths, return to full Chair for 3 more breaths, then rise up to standing.


It Won’t Be Winter Forever

March 1, 2011

by Tracy Campoli and Jennifer Farthing (a.k.a. The BuddhaBabes)

Here in the Northeast and in many other parts of the country, this winter has been brutal—with a capital B. Be-ruuuu-taaaal! Snow, rain, cold and more snow, rain, cold! This can easily lead even those with the best intentions straight to the couch to watch Netflix and eat bowls of spaghetti carbonara. (We BuddhaBabes are Italian, so maybe the carbonara is just us; replace with your carb-laden food of choice.)

It’s time to put your fork down and repeat after us, “It won’t be winter forever!” You can cover your body with warm clothing (turtlenecks, cords and thick down coats) for now but, very soon, spring will arrive and you’ll be ready to shed not just those layers of clothing, but perhaps a layer of winter 2011 as well. What to do? Well, what you shouldn’t do is freak out or drastically cut meals or be harsh on yourself. It is what it is, but now it’s time to move! Start your shedding right with our foolproof plan:

Cardio, Cardio, Cardio
We love Pilates for all that it does for us but, when you’re trying to lose a layer or two, you have to get up and sweat! But don’t bore yourself to tears on the treadmill! Find a fun way to work out or, even better, many fun ways to work it out. You might try a Zumba class and shake those pounds off, or take a swimming class, or try that hybrid Spinning/yoga class that you’ve been wanting to try. Make it interesting, but also make sure that you are exerting energy, and feeling your cold winter heart warming and working.

Clean it up (your diet that is!)
You are smart and savvy and know that eating junk makes you feel like junk. Avoid processed, sugary and chemical-ridden foods and even those seemingly healthy choices like energy bars and drinks. Keep it real, keep it clean and keep it green (veggies that is!). Eating loads of veggies, drinking tons of water and eating only real food (not things that come from boxes and bags) will make a huge difference. Really, when it comes down to it, being healthy is a lifestyle choice—pay attention to what makes your body feel and look its best. We’ll bet it isn’t rocky road ice cream!

Move of the month
When you are feeling a little muffin top seeping over your waistband, try this simple oblique exercise to target the waist and help you feel better fast. Will one move give you your dream body? Heck no! We wish! But incorporate this move three times per week into your cardio and Pilates routine, and it will help wake up those obliques and leave you feeling ready—and excited—for spring. You can thank us later.

Muffin Top Buster
Setup: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and your pelvis neutral. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and place your left hand behind your head, elbow wide open. Wrap your right hand around the right side of your waist, fingers pointing toward your belly.
1. Inhale to prepare.
2. Exhale and contract your abs. Lift your head and twist above your waist, rotating your left shoulder toward your right knee. Contract your obliques on your right side.
3. Inhale and lower to the starting position.
4. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
advanced: On the 10th repetition, stay lifted and pulse your torso up 10 times, deeply contracting your abdominals.


We Can Work It Out (Or Can We?): The Pros and Cons of Working Out Through an Injury

August 27, 2009

By Jennifer Farthing of the BuddhaBabes

It’s been a busy summer for both of us BuddhaBabes, but especially for me. My finance and I eloped in Provence in July, had a reception with the family in August, and have a party with friends in NYC coming up in September–so it’s hardly the time to skip working out! That said, I battled a hamstring pull earlier in the summer, and because I didn’t take time to rest it, I ended up with a nasty case of sciatica. Once the worst of it was over, I got back to working out, but I was far from back to normal.

That was hard. Not the painful injury so much, but the taking a step back from my usual level of activity at a fairly advanced level. My regimen (or was it my vanity?) dictated that I maintain my visits to the gym and studio no matter how I felt. The teacher in me knew that I should rest and/or modify like crazy or risk even greater downtime. My inner yogi backed that up and told me to fight the ego-urge to muscle through it. But still, I overextended myself. And predictably, I hurt myself even more.

Then I came to my senses. I modified. I slowed down. And guess what? When I did my Hundred with bent knees, I curled higher–and I felt it more, right in my core. When I made my Leg Circles smaller, I worked my transverse abs and extended through my psoas, feeling that long, lean line. My Cobra was smaller, but my lowest belly was decidedly uplifted—feeling that deep ab work where it counts. Since I couldn’t run, my hips relaxed and I felt greater flexibility on my Side-Lying exercises. My posture in the exercises improved, my face was not tense. My bad habits, like holding my breath in Teaser (yes, even teachers have their moments), melted as I calmly maintained my bent-leg version longer and better than ever. I ignored the perfect straight legs next to me and focused on the right posture for me, right now, in the summer 2009. (Noting that it, too, would pass.)

The take-away: When you are hurt, it never hurts to check in on your form. Take a break from the full or advanced pose. Straight legs and the highest curl are fantastic goals, but when it’s not right for you, listen to your body and grant yourself permission to take it down a notch.

If your lower body has a twinge, an ache or a pull, focus on your neck, shoulders and collar bones–eliminate the tension from your face, drop your shoulders away from your ears, relax and re-engage those back muscles–and concentrate on the top part of your body when the lower part is sore.

If you have pain in your neck, rotator or along the back, be even more careful. Favoring one side can make matters worse. Consider a break from the machines and the mat, and if the weather outside is fine, get out there and walk, if it feels right. There’s plenty of time to get back to your exercise regimen. If you’ve been doing Pilates for a while, you won’t lose your strength while you recover. Harness that strength, be well, and come back better than ever. You’ll thank yourself later for the break, trust us.


Lose 5 Pounds in 5 Seconds!

August 14, 2009

By Jennifer Farthing and Tracy Campoli

“Sit up straight!” Do you remember that constant reminder that you got every time you were caught slouching as a teen? It turns out your mother was right; improved posture impacts the way you walk through the world, both the way others see you and the way you feel about yourself. Consistent Pilates training (as you all know) gives fantastic core strength and supports the development of a balanced body, but get this: When your posture is in alignment, you really can look up to five pounds slimmer. In just seconds, you can look and feel your best. Here’s how:

TIP-TO-TOE POSTURE CHECK

This is a simple and easy scan that you can do literally anywhere. This quick visualization practice has the added benefit of helping you let go of stress as you realign your body, and who doesn’t need that? Let’s mix it up and start from the top:

HEAD: Imagine balloons attached to the tips of your ears, assisting you as you lift and balance your head equally around the neck.

NECK: Visualize tiny air pockets making room and creating extra length between each of the bones of your spine helping you to greet the world at your full height.

COLLAR BONES: Shrug your shoulders and come to rest with the collar bones wide open. Imagine writing your full name across those collarbones. Be sure everyone can read who you are from across the room.

CHEST: Now that you’ve announced yourself, shine that proud chest and open heart for the world to see. Take a deep inhale and exhale.

(You’re nearly halfway there: Don’t sink or cave in to your ribs!)

SHOULDER BLADES: Feel the shoulders gently gliding and sliding down your back, toward your pelvis and away from the ears.

SPINE: As you breathe evenly and deeply, lengthen the spine and imagine creating more of those extra cushions of space between each of the vertebra.

RIB CAGE: Feel the ribs separate from the pelvis creating space at your sides and torso. Absorb that great feeling of length.

ABS: Lengthen up and in. The only time those abdominals should be fully released is when you are sleeping, so take care not to lead with your belly.

GLUTES: Release your booty into the lower body. There’s no need for squeezing or tucking here. Tensing means contracting, the opposite of length.

LEGS: Imagine you can peel away the layers of skin and muscle to reveal your bones. See them stack in an organized and solid manner. Feel your sitz bones (at the bottom of your pelvis) lengthening down to the heels. Create a grounding sense of weight in the legs, and feel those heavy bones making a firm foundation for you to walk through the world.

FEET: Spread the bones of your toes and feel the feet like roots of a tree going down to the earth. Become aware of each toe, the ball of the feet, and the heels firmly and evenly on the ground.

Finally, from that deep, grounded feeling, draw an imaginary line from the base of your spine to the top of your head. You are simultaneously grounded and lengthened. Feel those oppositional forces, and just like that, a willowy, winnowy, winsome you!

For a quick(er) posture check: in your car, on the bus, at your desk, focus on the top half of the scan, down to your seat, and notice how much taller you’ll be sitting in no time! Think posture scan as you greet each day for a taller, slimmer more confident you!