“Man is not only what he thinks, but mostly what he feels.  The body tires easily, but the spirit is always free and will help us get out one day, from this infernal cycle of repeating the same mistakes every generation.  Although thoughts remain the same, there is something stronger, and this is called LOVE.  Because when we truly love, we know others and ourselves better.  We do not see words, documents, minutes, statements, accusations, or defenses.

So, I was running late to my tennis practice after having a full morning of teaching.  As I arrived, I realized I was pretty tired only having had my morning bullet coffee at 5am and a  green juice to sustain my energy and here it was already Noon.  I thought oh well!  I can get by for the next hour.  Being 10 minutes late, I missed our typical warm up of drills and easy rallies.  Not thinking too much about it I started swinging hard and giving my usual 100%.    Not 10 minutes into my practice I realized I had probably pulled/strained a muscle in my neck.  I am thinking to myself, “Brooke what are you doing!  Why didn’t you warm up, you know better!”  However, hoping my pain would just magically disappear, I continued on with my practice stretching whenever I had a chance in between shots. 

With my background rooted strongly in the practice of Pilates and Yoga, in addition to having an amazing physiatrist D.O. as a husband, I do feel very fortunate as I can usually pull myself up and out of discomfort quicker than I would say most people I know.  Usually, as soon as I feel better, I tend to overdo, and history repeats itself; however, these days, I am truly trying to  pay attention, give myself more time, and not allow my “stories” to repeat themselves! 

Today, I want to share with you some of my tricks for feeling better when I am experiencing pain.  I would also recommend coming to see my husband or another sports medicine doctor you trust and who also practices what they preach:).

  1. Get the blood flowing, yes you are experiencing pain, but as long as the movement is low impact and not causing more pain, MOVE.  Movement heals, lubricates joints, get the blood flowing and just makes you feel better.  I personally love to bounce on my rebounder(mini trampoline).  
  2. Pay attention to your posture and do some exercises that promote a TALL back to help integrate and work on all the small stabilizing muscles joints and ligaments that may have been strained or compressed. 
  3. When exercising stop putting all the focus on the part of your spine or body that is irritated.  Leave that area alone and focus instead on creating space in a different piece yourself.  That particular area that you work on creating space will translate to the other parts of your body where you may be experiencing pain.  (After all, Pilates is all about creating space and supporting space in your body with your muscles to integrate more as a whole).
  4. After moving, ICE and ibuprofen or turmeric capsules to reduce inflammation, lots of H2O and maybe consider applying some arnica cream or voltaren topical cream (sold over the counter in Canada…stock up if you go!)
  5. Try not to be hard on yourself!  Know that tomorrow is another day and nothing lasts forever.   Try to learn from your experience so history does not continue to repeat itself over and over again.  
  6. Dry Vodka martini with a twist and a hint of rose water:).

Now I would like to put a little more emphasis and detail on points 2 and 3, and how you can incorporate these ideas into your Pilates practice.

With regards to my point referring to encouraging a “TALL BACK”, please consider the following ideas…

Make sure your spine is in agreement.  In other words, do not confuse your spine/posture, by having one part of your spine round (or tucked under) while the other end is trying to extend and lengthen in opposition.   Therefore, as a general rule or principle, the spine should either be round or tall, not round and tall at the same time!  Yes, you can encourage length in a round back, but the spine should flow uniformly from the bottom to the top and vice versa.   That said in a round back, the whole spine should make the shape of a capital C and in a tall back the tail bone should be free (not tucked under) and the crown extending up with extension making more a vertical line, or soft S-curve, top to bottom.  

In a tall back, one should not constrict and block the base of their spine by drawing their tail bone under (tucking).  This action practiced in a tall back, will compress and tighten the base of the spine more than protect and strengthen that area, causing confusion and lack of flow and freedom in other parts of the spine.  Adding on to this, as you keep your tail bone free, it is also very important to integrate and feel the inner thighs pull up and into your center as if your tall back started down at your inner upper knee.  This requires a lot of hugging to your midline!

My point I am trying to make is to be aware and sense your spinal position.  Know whether the exercise requires a round or tall back as this will determine the action of your tailbone!  Lastly, remember that the dynamic of tucking in a tall back will confuse the spine.  The spine, should flow uniformly and there should not be any kinks and or breaks stopping the flow, as this works against the natural curve.

For my critics who may believe, tucking would support the back, especially when moving into extension (think swan/cobra/updog);  I would say, is it necessary to tuck in an effort to support your low back if you are integrated and pulling to your midline through your lower body (feet shins, inner an outer thighs, buttocks), as you should be?  Maybe you will find you do not really need to tuck if you instead pay more attention to how you integrate your lower body in your 2-way stretch? 

Lets say you are in a lunge (think going up in electric chair)…do  you feel you need to tuck if you are doing the following actions?:

1. ground and simultaneously pull up and out of the arches in your feet (I like to say short feet)

2. pull ankles and shins to your midline, as you draw your thigh bones back and apart to wake up inner thighs and create space in the low back and hips.  This action will definitely take any tucking out if you are doing this action properly.

3. PUSH the floor away, without tucking and maintaining the above actions!  Lastly, pull and tone your low belly in and up off your upper thighs.  This will support your low back and also encourage communication between your lower and upper spine to continue to build more and more space.  Feel the space and length run from your pelvic floor all the way up to the roof of your mouth sustaining your powerful reach down in opposition through your lower body.

I hope you Love yourself enough to pay attention to what you are feeling.  Listen to what your body is telling you.  I hope you will find more and more freedom and less pain in your body.  Don’t forget to warm up too!:)

Enjoy my newest video showing all TALL back exercises on the electric chair!



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