Tag Archives: yoga

Pilates, baby tossing and butt training? Alessandra Ambrosio has some explaining to do

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There is something likeable about Alessandra Ambrosio. She is Brazilian, a 33 year-old model and a Victoria’s Secret Angel. But that is not why I like her, honestly.

I like her because she is open and honest, and she loves Pilates. The picture above is of her during a workout last week in a Santa Monica gym. She is also honest about her training and lifestyle. She recently said that she never exercised until after her daughter was born. She said: ‘When I started with Victoria’s Secret at 21, I never worked out. Then when I got pregnant with my daughter, I gained about 60 pounds and had to walk the Victoria’s Secret show three months later. That was the first time I had to really fight to get my body back into shape.’

I am very happy to let celebrities help me to promote Pilates, health and fitness. But I have to say that sometimes their lack of knowledge about training astounds me, and the things they say certainly do not help the public to understand what is important. Clearly sometimes money does not buy good advice.

Alessandra says that she doesn’t “do much” for her arms as she doesn’t think people notice them as much as the rest of her body. ‘When you’re in a bikini, your abs are the most important. I like doing bridges, and I’ll also finish a workout with 100 bicycle crunches. I’ll do three sets of 25 “Superman’s” to tone my back. I don’t really do much for my arms; throwing my kids in the air helps already. Plus, as a Brazilian, I know the last thing a man is going to look at – even after your feet – is your arms! I Spin on Monday, go to Pilates on Wednesday and yoga on Sunday. You have all these other things to put in front of [workouts] that you say are more important, but they’re not. Your health is most important.’

Where to start with these comments…. First let’s start with the positive. Regular Pilates and yoga is of course great, as is a varied fitness regime that includes cardio as well. Also “your health is most important” is clearly a good message to be getting out there.

But in my opinion as a Pilates teacher, a holistic exercise regime is vital, so neglecting any body part is flawed and an inadequate approach to health (throwing children in the air is not a recognisable training method and is probably dangerous and maybe illegal? I am sure that one day someone will try to launch it as a mother and toddler fitness concept…)

The part of this interview that I find most disturbing is the concept of training the part of your body that you think people look at most. Whilst I am sure (and I really hope I am right) that she was saying this with her tongue firmly in her cheek, the idea of training your abs and butt only because that is what men look at is not on any level a good message.

I think I should let Alessandra have the final say on this post: ‘Having a perfect body isn’t everything. I want my daughter to be nice, have a good education and be disciplined. That’s what makes people like her. A perfect butt doesn’t make an amazing person. It’s about feeling confident.’

“A perfect butt does not make an amazing person”. Inspiring words indeed. 😉

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

 

Hot Pilates & yoga: Just a lot of hot air?

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Unlike some Pilates presenters, I am not against all new adaptations of our beloved Pilates system per se. The world is always changing, and to stay still is never such a good idea.  If I can see that a new idea brings something new and beneficial without compromising on the principles and qualities that we all know and love, then I am open to try it.

That brings me to the subject of the “hot exercise” craze. We have all heard of Hot Yoga, and many of us have had the pleasure of using a studio after a hot yoga session and having to open windows to disperse the heat and the smell. Pilates seems to be following with hot classes springing up, but is there any proven benefit in exercising in high temperatures that make the body sweat? We have moved on from running in bin bags, but is hot exercise just the same but trendy because they do it in Hollywood?

Having looked at recent research, I have to say that it does not look good for exercising in heat.  Some experts say that it only serves to raise heart rate and blood pressure which for some people will be a lethal cocktail. A study in 2013 conducted by the University of Wisconsin concluded that the effort required to do a Bikram-style yoga class was all but identical to that required to do a normal yoga class (the exercise intensity was on average around 56 to 57% of maximal heart rate, which would classify both as “light exercise not dissimilar to a light walk). Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise said that the benefits of heat are largely perceptual. “People think that the degree of sweat is the quality of the workout, but that is not the reality. It does not correlate to burning calories”.

So as Pete Bee makes the point in her Times article earlier this year, if it does not burn more calories then what exactly does it do? There is some anecdotal evidence that saunas have health and stress-relief benefits and can help in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (click to read my article about Pilates and RA). But the importance of sweating can be overplayed. After all it is the body’s heat control mechanism, a vital means of keeping the body cool. It’s the evaporation of sweat that actually cools the body, and as we will all know from our gym experience, no two people sweat the same, but this is not an indication of their fitness or health. There is also no evidence that sweat purifies the body. Sweat comprises mainly water with some electrolytes. It’s the liver and kidneys that filter out the toxins, not the sweat glands. Research by the University of California found sweating eliminates less than 1% of toxic metals expelled by the body, so clearly sweating is by no means the most important.  It’s safe to conclude that sweat is just that, sweat, and nothing else.

From the traditional side of the argument, I know many yoga masters who have a great dislike of hot yoga. They say it drains your adrenals and kidneys. This is one of three subtle energies called ‘Ojas’. In Chinese medicine it is called your ‘Jing’ energy. You are born with this energy, and when you burn it up it is very difficult to get it back. When you drain it you get more paranoia, impaired energy level and quality. Actual Yoga is said to build this energy very slowly over years and years.

They also argue that doing asanas in extreme heat mean that muscles, which would in normal temperatures protect the joint from overextending, become atrophied. The extreme heat makes the muscles flaccid and limp, and then the movement of the exercises hyperextend the joint beyond its normal range of motion. This stretches the tendons and ligaments, instead of lengthening the muscle. This creates instability and weakness in the joint. As a result the muscles have to over overcompensate to do the job that the tendons and ligaments would normally do. The body becomes bendy, but not truly open and flexible and strong. It is good to practice in a warm room, a reasonable temperature of up to about 30 degrees, but to practice yoga is temperatures up to 40 degrees they argue is harmful, and absurd.

When doing Yoga asanas the breath is essentially the thread that ties all the elements together. In the ancient text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, it is said, ‘the mind is the king of the body, and the breath is the king of the mind.’ So the breath is the master that controls everything – the body and the mind. This works as the nerves that run through the central nervous system are connected to the top of the nose, this point in Yoga is known as ‘trikut́i’. When you learn through your regular practice how to control the breath through the nose, the vital air will stimulate the nervous system so that it slows the rhythmic pulsation of the nerves and then the mind and the body will be at peace and calm. However, if you are doing postures in 40 degrees heat, then the density and atmosphere of the environment will make the breathing techniques used in Yoga asanas impossible. It is argued that the heated, humid and smelly atmosphere is a terrible environment to be in period, let alone do Yoga asanas in.

So which side of the argument are you on? Do you have personal experience of hot Pilates or yoga? Are hot classes just another way to get people into studios? Does it really matter as long as people are exercising? I’d love to hear your opinions.

In my Pilates EVO teacher training I tell my students that they must never switch off from their intuition and be influenced by marketing ploys. I tell them to listen to their body. Your nervous system and your body are telling you all you need to know if you just take the time to listen. You’ll feel the truth there.

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Uma Thurman: Pilates at 30,000 feet

 

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She is an actress and a former model. And Uma Thurman’s toned body shows no signs of any middle-age spread. So how does the mother-of-three do it? Thurman, 43, says she ‘fits in workouts when she can’ with plenty of walking, Pilates and yoga. She also stays active with regular snowboarding, skiing and horse riding so she has a nice range of activities to keep her fit and in shape.

She began her career as a model, yet, after so many years and childbirth, she is still one of the fittest, most beautiful women in showbiz.

Uma, the Kill Bill star, it seems, is a fervent believer in exercise anywhere, anytime, including  as a passenger on a flight from JFK to Salt Lake City. It’s reported that she started doing yoga and Pilates exercises in the aisle of the plane.

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Something money cannot buy

Even if you are not in the wellness industry, I hope that you will read this article. I organise conventions two or three times a year called Pilates Carnivals. They are very different to any other convention, in fact as far as I know they are unique in the health and fitness world. It’s not only Pilates, it also includes yoga, meditation, health, fitness, diet and functional training. But what makes them different?

It’s different because it is non-profit. All the profits that are made go to a local children’s charity. Everyone who participates (including me of course) does so free of charge, giving all their time and energy knowing that we are all creating something very special, a very positive energy. The aim is to teach, learn, socialise and break down barriers whilst sharing our passion and our ideas.

Pilates Carnival aims to promote and assist with the training of teachers all over the world. It does this by providing free places to training courses, conventions and workshops and through the conventions. I am creating a global community who are not motivated by money, but simply what to give something back to the fitness community that we love and rely on, whilst also helping charity at the same time. Of course the truth is that the more we give, we more we get back, it’s one of the Laws of the Universe.

My next goal is to arrange Fitness Carnivals based on the same principles, including all forms of exercise. That will be a lot of fun!

My conventions have been very popular, I’ve held them in several countries including the UK, Germany and Poland and this year will be Spain and Australia (I want many more in places all over the globe). But a few people have met my idea with bitterness and animosity. They say I am reducing the value of Pilates. This is of course nonsense, the truth is they are afraid that their commercial interests might be reduced. And some people will never get the fact that by giving, we are creating something money can never buy.

So if you “get it”, you can help. Please get involved. The more we spread the word, the more we can buck the trend of money-making commercialism, bring the Pilates and fitness communities together, improve standards and the more we can raise for very worthy charities. You do not have to be a Pilates teacher. If you have any interests in the area of wellness then you can get involved. You can help by sponsoring the events, donating products that can be sold at events (everything from clothing to drinks, equipment to retreats), donating places on your training courses, presenting at events, offering to work with me to organise an event in your City, giving time in promoting events or web development, and by simply sharing this blog or the Facebook Page.

Please join this community. We can make a difference. Never let anyone tell you that we can’t.

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