In this issue
Bust Stress...in Five Minutes or Less!
Between home and work obligations, it’s no wonder that you feel the pressure rising. You know that unwinding at a spa or having the day to yourself will do wonders, but you simply don’t have the time. The solution? Blow off steam throughout the day with these quick de-stressing moves. Ready, set, ahhhh.
1. Brew a mug of tea. That warm cuppa Earl Grey really can help you relax. According to researchers from Britain’s University College of London, people who sipped a mug of black tea before a stressful event recovered more quickly than those who got a similar-tasting placebo drink. The researchers say that tea’s antioxidants, such as polyphenols and flavonoids, may help buffer against the stress response. More of a green tea fan? Go ahead: Another Japanese study showed that regular green tea drinkers were 20 percent less anxious than those who didn’t have the beverage.
2. Reach out and hug someone. Touch stimulates pressure receptors beneath the skin, which can slow the release of stress hormones like cortisol, explains Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. That may explain why studies have shown that hugging can ease stress and blood pressure levels.
3. Chew a piece of peppermint gum. Snap to it! Chewing gum during a stressful situation can reduce your anxiety levels by up to 17 percent, reveals research from Australia’s Swinburne University. It can also help to sharpen your cognitive abilities. (Bubble-blowing optional.)
4. Watch a funny YouTube video. Even anticipating a good chuckle can decrease your body’s production of stress hormones, finds a study from Loma Linda University in California. So feel free to take a quick break to click on that kitten or puppy video.
5. Take a deep breath. A deep inhalation stimulates the brain’s vagal nerve, which encourages the relaxation response. For a few minutes, try exhaling for twice as long as you inhale: Breathe in for a count of four, then exhale for a count of eight.
6. Watch some nature. Gazing mindlessly out of the window can do your body some good: Scientists at the University of Washington found that stressed-out people who looked out of an office window to a nature-filled scene had a calmer heart rate than those who didn’t have a view or looked at the same picture on a digital screen. No trees around? Pick up some fresh flowers, which have been shown to boost moods.
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Now that the weather’s warming up, chances are you want to get outside! Why not bring your Pilates practice into the great outdoors? These instructors, who teach classes on the beach, in the park and on a patio, share how they step out of the studio.
Jana Sanford, owner of Core Fitness by Jana (www.corefitnessbyjana.com)
Teaches in: Central Park, New York City. Sanford was teaching private clients and contemplating getting a studio space when she happened to take a boot camp class in New York City’s Central Park. “I struck up a conversation with the instructor, and thought that I should try doing the same thing with Pilates,” she said. After doing research on the proper permits and regulations for hosting a class, she scouted out a secluded location and sent out a message to her clients. Now in her third year of Pilates in the Park, Bryant teaches about six classes a week from mid-May to October, weather permitting. “I keep the class size small, around four to 12 students,” she says. “My students love it, because they get to attend a class while enjoying outdoor time and nature.”
Outsider tip: Consider logistics. Sanford hosts her class near a public restroom, where her students can get dressed. She also rents a locker there to store mats and other props. “Also factor in the foot traffic and sun positioning,” she adds. “You don’t want a lot of interruptions or a harsh glare during class.”
Chauna Bryant, owner of Pilates on the Patio (www.chaunabryant.com)
Teaches in: A large outdoor patio of Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington, D.C. While Bryant was earning her Pilates certification, she tended the bar at the Hotel Monaco’s restaurant. “It has a huge, gorgeous patio—perfect for teaching Pilates,” she says. After becoming a full-fledged instructor, Bryant came up with the idea of offering a Pilates on the Patio package: a 45-minute all-levels class, followed by a glass of sparkling wine. “The weather’s fickle in D.C., so we run it for four weeks starting the in the middle of May, and then in the fall,” says Bryant. Now gearing up for its third year, Pilates on the Patio hosts up to 25 students per class.
Outsider tip: Because of the hard patio surface, Bryant invested in beach towels and thick Pilates mats for students to put beneath their regular mats. “Otherwise, the surface was too hard to do Roll-Ups.”
Kelly Roberts, owner of Pilates on the Beach (above) (www.pilatesonthebeachocmd.com)
Teaches in: Public beaches in Bethany Beach, DE, and Ocean City, MD. “After having my second child, I wanted to work more with private clients,” says Roberts, who decided to host classes at her local beach. “It’s a resort area,” she says. “A lot of people come from New York and Washington, D.C., and they want to take classes but still enjoy the fresh air and sound of the waves.” Roberts teaches a 50-minute class in the morning, about five days a week, during the summer season.
Outsider tip: “Because I’m often catering to people on vacation, I provide mats so they don’t have to bring them,” she says. Roberts also notes that doing Pilates on the sand offers a challenge. “You have to work a little harder to keep that stability.”
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& A with Constance Holder
Q: Do you get the same benefits in an aerobic Pilates fusion class as you would from a traditional Pilates session??
A: There are a number of music-filled, high-impact fusion practices that remind me of “ab blast" routines of the past: box-ilates, yoga-lates, kick-lates and ice cream-lates (that’s where you eat ice cream and do Pilates…just kidding!). As a Pilates practitioner of many years, I must admit that I had never taken one of these classes before. So I did some research: I viewed a number of examples online and even tried out a few.
Honestly, I enjoyed them all, but they didn’t look or feel much like Pilates. Of course, there were many movements that I recognized as Pilates-inspired, but I wouldn’t consider any of these classes truly Pilates.
Now, to answer the question about their benefits: It’s difficult to compare Pilates and fusion classes, because they simply aren’t the same. A well-structured Pilates private session offers the most detail, goal-driven results over any group setting. Coupled with the advantages of personal correction through each movement, it’s completely opposite of the one-size-fits-all setting on an aerobic class environment. But, in many ways, this is the point: Getting lost in the music and just moving (without the benefits of the principles of awareness, balance, concentration or focus) may hit the spot once in a while.
The bottom line: You can’t really compare the benefits of fusion classes to a Pilates session, just as you wouldn’t measure a Ford Fusion against a Mercedes Benz. It’s like with apples and oranges—I love both, but would never confuse the two.
BASI Director of Education Constance Holder is a principal faculty member and the leading educator for the Pilates academy. Constance works alongside Rael Isacowitz in workshops, conferences, symposiums and teacher-training courses each year.
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Close Up: Neck Stretcher Squat and Lunge
by Chris Robinson; photography by Rod Foster
In the March/April issue, Pilates pro Chris Robinson shares moves that help ramp up your athletic performance. No matter your sport of choice, the following two exercises can strengthen your legs while elongating your neck and spine. (Robinson notes that you should do these exercises only after you’ve mastered controlling your shoulders in less advanced exercises like the Neck Pull or Centering with the Pedi-Pull.)
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Neck Stretcher Squat (Click below to enlarge)
Setup: Start with Neck Stretcher attached to 2 arm springs. Place the Neck Stretcher band on your head while facing the springs. Grab the band at your forehead with both of your hands and elbows pointed out. Keep your heels together and toes apart.
1. With your shoulders down, press your head back into band to elongate your neck.
2. Lift your heels as high as possible while wrapping your legs together.
3. Keeping your heels lifted, bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can while keeping your neck and spine elongated. Do 3-5 reps.
Neck Stretcher Lunge (Click below to enlarge)
Setup: Start with Neck Stretcher attached to 2 arm springs. Place the Neck Stretcher band on your head while facing away from the springs. While in a upright deep lunge position, grab the band at the back of your head with both of your hands, elbows pointed out.
1. With your shoulders down, bend your torso forward like in the Spine Stretch Forward exercise.
2. Return to the starting position.
3. Do 3-5 reps. Switch legs and repeat.
Tip: For both exercises, remember to press your head into the band and keep your shoulders down away from your ears throughout.
As a lifelong athlete and with 15 years of professional experience under his belt, Chris Robinson is constantly in pursuit of peak performance. With great passion and energy, the Houston native has been bringing that drive to the service of his clients, including Oprah Winfrey, for whom he acted as personal core coach. The certified-Pilates instructor—he studied under the tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska and continues his education with Jay Grimes—is the author of The Core Connection (Gallery Books, 2008). Chris is also a two-time Muay Thai kickboxing champion trained by Saekson Janjira and was a collegiate track-and-field athlete at San Diego State University, where he earned a degree in kinesiology. Chris’s clients range from world-renowned celebrities to top athletes on both coasts. His SSC Gym is located in San Diego, CA (www.sscgym.com).
Now that spring’s on its way, your famer’s market is finally starting to fill up. While chances are you’re excited to stock up on fresh leafy greens, tomatoes and berries, why not consider expanding your produce horizons? The following picks are in season, and they can add a whole new dimension to your meals, says Sam Mogannam, author of Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food ($23; www.amazon.com). Use his tips and recipes to get cooking!
This crunchy vegetable has a versatile anise-like flavor that’s delicious raw or cooked. Look for bulbs with a pale or light green color without any bruising.
Use it: After peeling off the outer layer and rinsing the bulb thoroughly, you can shave or dice the vegetable and toss it into a salad. Or add fennel to any recipe that calls for carrots, celery or onions. The fronds are also edible; chop them and use them in place of dill.
2. Green Garlic
These green stalks are the same plant as regular garlic, just harvested young. They have a more mellow flavor than regular garlic; Mogannam compares them to a robust scallion. Choose bunches with bright, firm leaves.
Use it: The entire stalk, from the leaves to white root, is edible. Grill the entire stalk as a side or dice and add to a pesto or potato dish.
Thanks to its sweet cranberry-like flavor, this pink vegetable is often thought of as a fruit. Scout out a bunch with brightly colored, firm stalks.
Use it: Cook rhubarb down and add it to your favorite chutney or compote recipe. Or simply cook it with a little sugar and lemon zest, and use the puree as a topping for ice cream, yogurt or cake.
English Pea and Green Garlic Dip
Makes about 1 2/3 cups
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped green garlic (from 2 stalks)
1½ cup English peas
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (more as needed)
6 large mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, a pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft but now browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the green garlic and cook until the garlic is wilted and fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. Bring a small pan of well-salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until just tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.
3. Put the peas in the bowl of a food processor along with the onion mixture, Pecorino, lemon juice, mint and ¼ teaspoon salt. Pulse a few times to blend, and with the motor running, pour in the remaining 1/3 cup oil, blending just until combined. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed. Serve with crostini or with fresh spring veggies as a dip.
Fennel, Blood Orange and Avocado Salad
4 medium blood oranges
1 large or 2 small heads fennel, with fronds
1 small shallot, minced
Juice from ½ medium lemon
1½ tablespoons champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium avocados
1. Slice the tops and bottoms off the oranges to expose the flesh. Using a paring knife, cut off the remaining peel and pith. Slice the oranges crosswise into ¼-inch slices and arrange on 4 salad plates, leaving room in the center of each for the fennel salad. Set aside.
2. Trim off all but about ½ inch of the fennel stalks, reserving the bulb and fronds. Remove the first outer layer of fennel and discard or save for vegetable stock. Rinse the remaining bulb and set aside.
3. Chop 1 tablespoon of the fennel fronds and put them in a small bowl along with the shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk to blend, then drizzle in the olive oil as you continue to whisk. Add salt to taste.
4. Halve the fennel bulb, cutting lengthwise through the narrow side of the bulb (this will make it easier to shave thinly). Using a sharp knife (or a mandoline or food processor), slice the fennel crosswise as thinly as possible—about ¼ inch is ideal. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with half the dressing. Toss, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Divide the fennel among the 4 plates, in the center of the orange slices.
5. Halve the avocado lengthwise, remove the pit, and cut ¼-inch slices into the flesh. Using a large spoon, scoop the slices out and nestle them on and around the mounds of fennel. Sprinkle a little salt over the avocado, then drizzle the remaining vinaigrette all over the salad. Finish with a bit of pepper.
Reprinted with permission from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: France Ruffenach © 2011.
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