5 Tips for Better Balance

Want better balance this year? Good balance makes you unstoppable, no matter your age. Just ask my 85 year old mum who is more stable now than when she was 60. As we age our balance can deteriorate for a number of reasons. This can reduce our body confidence and stop us maintaining and building strength. There are many factors that contribute to the balance system and lots of things to consider when wanting to improve your balance. This article will outline the systems in the body that contribute to good balance and then give you 5 tips for better balance!

What makes good balance?

Having good balance relies on three senses in the body operating well and interacting together, these are:

Visual – what we can see

Proprioception – our perception of where each part of our body is in space

Vestibular – how our head is sitting in space and our head righting response in relation to gravity

When one of these senses is not functioning well or is compromised the others tend to compensate. The sense that tends to suffer most as people age is proprioception. As we move less and take on less physical activity the brain has less input as to where each of joints are in space. The more time we spend sitting, the less we activate the pathways to the brain from each of our joints moving through space.

We begin to rely more and more on the visual system which is intimately linked to the vestibular system via the vestibular ocular reflex or the ability of our eyes to focus as we move our head. The trouble is that our visual system can also deteriorate as we age.

It is easier to stimulate the proprioception system than to repair the visual system. For this reason it is important not to rely too much on the visual system for balance. And that is where targeted movement and exercise can develop proprioception and muscle strength to improve balance. Strength on its’ own is not enough to improve balance, improving proprioception is essential.

How to improve your balance – 4 tips

If we take what we know about the senses of the body that contribute to good balance and combine this with an understanding of body mechanics there are a number of things you can do to improve your balance. Many of these can be done at home and some will require specific equipment and guidance in a Pilates studio.

Tip 1 – Make your feet more pliable

Our feet are our foundation and when you want to improve your balance this is the place to start. We love to overlook our feet (literally!) because they are right under our noses and it is so obvious they are important for our movement. But our feet are often not what we want them to be. Usually our feet spend most of their time in shoes, they lose their agility to cope with different surfaces.

The very act of wearing shoes, makes our feet, weaker. So, to build balance, we start from the foundation. Yes, I want you to kick off your shoes and spend more time barefoot. If this causes you pain you may need to seek some advice and support for this. But generally, spending a little more time each day, bare feet will bring you great benefits for your balance.

This is a great exercise for our feet, that helps bring back some of the suppleness, articulation of the many joints in the feet, and pliability to your feet.

Pilates for balance

Fingers through toes

Bring one foot to the opposite knee and thread your fingers through your toes. This may be quite difficult and painful, so go gently. You can then lift and drop your toes.

Tip 2 – Hip strength

Hip strength is directly related to our feet, when our feet are weak or not able to respond to the terrain, our hips immediately compensate to find and create stability for our body. This results in tight and immobile hips. This is why we started with the feet, the exercises in the feet will then support connection to your hips.

Every step we take is a balance on one foot for a moment. Many of us don’t have the strength to manage this moment very well and so we compensate with all sorts of movements that do no good for your knees and your back.

So this tip strips it all back to a simple movement that will have your standing hip burning (in a good way) to build strength exactly where you need it. This exercise will help you have less pain when walking and make you more stable on different surfaces and will help you prevent falling.

What’s more it’s a super simple way to get really strong in your hips. Try it out below:

Tip 3 – Core muscles

Core muscles strength and coordination is a key part of balance. It is the part that a lot of people focus on to the exclusion of all else. In my approach to balance core strength is just one key part of improving your balance.

When I talk about core muscle strength for balance. I don’t mean a great six pack. What I mean is, being able to activate the very deepest abdominal muscles to stabilise your bones (your skeleton).

Practicing this very deep, stability, doesn’t come from doing a lots and lots of sit ups or ab crunches or exercises that are in a typical gym workout. These smaller stabilising muscles need exactly the right load, and to be in the right position to be activated.

Here is an exercise that will teach you core coordination or how to coordinate your core muscles with your breath. We use the breath, initially to teach the sensation of the core muscles firing. And then as you get more comfortable with that you can do the core firing independently of the breath which is ultimately where you want to be.

This exercises may feel very easy although there is a lot to think about. They’re not the sort of muscles that will give you a deep burn straightaway. This is a more subtle sensation than that. And it is the subtlety that allows you to develop better control of your deep muscles to stabilise your skeleton and improve your balance.

Knee drop

Lying on your back, soles of the feet to the floor, knees bent, neck and head relaxed. Drop on knee out to the side, do not let it drop all the way to the floor. You want to keep your pelvis still while you move the knee. If you feel your pelvis tip as you drop your knee, make the movement smaller until your pelvis can sty still while you drop your knee. Repeat on both sides 15 -20. Go slowly and move with intention and control.

Tip 4 – Neck strength and head alignment

In our current lifestyle we spend a lot of time in front of screens or driving cars. It is very common for people to develop forward head posture, this is where your chin, and head starts to slide forward of your body, and the back of your neck needs to become very strong and often quite tight to stabilize your head.

When people take this into an exercise setting, often they continue to hold this forward head posture. Sometimes they’ll get a sore neck from that, but often they are trying to strengthen their neck. To reverse forward head posture we need to strengthen the front of the neck, the deep cervical flexors, in the front of the neck, rather than the sternocleidomastoids that attach the back of the skull to the sternum and collarbones at the front.

Strengthening the front of the neck will re-align your head over your spine, it will take some of the pressure off your upper back and shoulders. This will mean you won’t have the weight of your head pulling you forward and making it more difficult to balance.

Here is an exercise to strengthen the cervical flexors at the front of your neck and some cues or ways to remember about how you are holding your head throughout the day.

Pilates for balance

The head hover

Lie on your back, soles of the feet on the floor and knees bent, head and neck relaxed. Bring one hand to the top pf the back of your head and grab your hair (if you have it!). Pull the top of your head gently with your hand as you tuck your chin, tuck it as deeply as you can. Begin to gently hover your head only about an inch off the floor on each exhale, keep tucking your chin as deeply as you can. The back of your neck should feel relaxed, the front of your neck should feel like it is working. If you get tight and sore in the back of the neck STOP. Do about 8-10.

Now challenge your balance!

Once you have explored some of the exercises from each of the steps above, you can challenge your balance. Start by standing on one leg, if this is easy close your eyes. If this is easy come into a deep squat and come on to one leg and close your eyes! Let me know how you go!

Having a work out designed for you is the best way to improve your balance quickly. If you have tried other things and you are ready to try an approach tailored to you, sign up below or call me on the number at the bottom of the page.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

4 Moves for daytime tiredness

Daytime tiredness

Is daytime tiredness a regular part of your day? No matter how much sleep you get you still have moments in your day when you just feel like you could keel over into a nap! It’s something my clients tell me about and I have developed some moves that help them to get energised when daytime tiredness strikes.

When the energy in your body gets very low, attending to your breath is the best way to jumpstart your energy levels. Shallow breathing can leave you in a heightened state (focused on deadlines anyone?) and drain your system quickly. Or if your ribcage is locked up and not moving much this can clamp down on your lungs. The less air in, the less oxygen gets carried around your body, the less energy you will have.

My 4 moves to solve daytime tiredness are all about your rib cage mobility, freeing up your lungs and finding some joy in your body too!

Elbow Breathing

This short series feels so good on the rib cage, neck and shoulders! Restoring movement in these areas, especially after hours of sitting at a computer. You will feel relaxed and energised after this movement flow.

Pilates Lennox Head

Cat stretch including legs

Getting your whole body moving is a great way to get energised. Gentle, breath-ful, moves like this will release any tension around your spine, freeing you to move through your day with more ease.

Rib mobility and back breathing

Rib mobility and back breathing is such a great series to know. You can do this in bed in the morning to maintain your deep breathing pattern and set you up for an energetic day.

Full squat breathing

This move is great to do if you feel your breathing becoming shallow (shoulders rise on the inhale, don’t feel you can take a deep breath). Also great for ankles, hips and pelvic floor.

Nip tiredness with these moves

By moving to nurture yourself, you can nip daytime tiredness before it takes hold. Choose one of these moves each day and notice how much energy you can regain with these targeted exercises.

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a Diploma certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

What to do when your body feels sore

Why does your body feel sore?

If your body feels sore most days, you are where a lot of my clients begin. As we get older there are a lot of different reasons why we experience pain in our bodies. Injuries, arthritis and inflammation can all play a part in regular aches and pain.

The way you move (or not) every day is a huge factor when dealing with daily pain. In this blog I will explore common daily aches and pains and give you some quick movement fixes for these. Being in relationship with our bodies is a big shift when dealing with pain. Responding with just the right stretch, pressure or exercise can dissolve pain or make it more bearable.

We often have very similar aches and pains and so there a few ‘go to’ moves that will be effective for most people. Let me know how you go with these in the comments below.

Regular aches and pain

Many of us sit down for hours and hours every day, and wonder why our body feels sore! A common pain complaint is deep butt pain or tail bone pain. The cause of this originates in too much sitting but also is found in posture that is commonly called ‘mum posture’, think of a tired mum standing at the park slumped in her shoulders hanging forward with her butt tucked under. The truth is that it’s not just mums that suffer from this posture. Men and women of all ages have it from hours and hours of sitting.

Butt and tailbone pain

A quick fix for the deep butt ache can be found in the humble tennis ball. Now you might have a super hard ball with spikes and special prongs on it (??) but the humble tennis ball in my opinion is the best. It’s not too hard and not too soft and it’s about the right size.

To relieve deep butt and tailbone pain, I suggest three exercises:

  • 1) Place the tennis ball between your tail bone (bottom of your spine) and your sits bone (bones you sit on). Never on a bone, in the squishy bit between these bones. This will bring pressure into the back of your pelvic floor. Now lie down on the ball, let your legs be long and breathe, for as long as you can entertain yourself down there. Then change sides.
  • 2)Lying flat on your back, knees up , feet flat on the floor, place the ball under one buttock to the outside of the bony bits, then drop the same leg out to the side. This will bring pressure into your deep hip rotators. you can then lift your opposite hip off the floor to get more pressure into the side you are working on. Then change sides.
  • 3) Now we need to lengthen the muscles so we do a glute stretch. I like the classic floor based glute stretch (see below) because it gives you lots of support for your lower back. Lying flat on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, bring one ankle to your opposite knee, then draw the bottom leg to your chest as you push your inside knee away from you. Keep the back of your hips on the floor.

Back pain and tightness

Back pain and tightness is often caused by lack of core connection and strength. Your core muscles are responsible for keeping your spine safe, when the core is weak or not responding the para-spinals (muscles along the sides of your spine) take over. If this pattern goes on for many years it can result in degeneration of the vertebrae and damage to the spinal discs causing nerve damage and pain.

To encourage your core to function better and give your para-spinals a break try Hands and knees breathing outlined below. Don’t be fooled by the small movement into thinking this is easy. It’s one of the best toners of the low abdominals you will find.

Releasing your psoas is a wonderful gift to sore tight back. Check out my blog post “What you need to know about your Psoas” for more information on the benefits of this. This relaxation exercise is so good for relieving back pain! Allow your ribs to relax into the space provided, this can take 5 or 10 minutes to get the most out of this position. You will feel greater ease and pain relief after doing this.

Neck pain

Neck pain is so common! The habit of sitting for hours looking at screens sets a pattern of forward head posture that the body just gets used to. In terms of a quick fix for the pain I love this neck relaxation (see below). Supporting the cervical curve (natural curve of your neck) and bringing your focus to relaxing your neck into the towel is so effective for tight, sore neck muscles.

Finding the roots of your neck – this exercise is good for strengthening your neck and improving your resting neck posture. I call it ‘ finding the roots of your neck’ because it should wake you up to the area between your shoulder blades that is so important for a happy neck.

These are common complaints when my body feels sore, and for my clients as well. These moves help me (and my clients) on a regular basis to avoid and reduce pain. Knowing what your body needs when it is giving you pain signals is so empowering!

Try out these moves when your body feels sore, whether it be a tight, sore neck, back pain or deep butt pain, move to nurture yourself and see what happens!

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a Diploma certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

4 tips for your summer routine

Why love a summer routine?

Summer routine is something we can learn from the flowers. In fact all living things respond subtly to the seasons and that’s what a summer routine supports you to do. I teach movement and Pilates in Lennox Head, Ballina and Byron Bay, helping women connect with and love the bodies they have.

We are more like flowers than kettles. As women, we respond to hours of daylight, temperature and hydration, just like the flowers, we are intimately linked to our environment. Part of being healthy is acknowledging this. We are not machines (hooray)!

How summer changes us

Summer changes us every year. Shifting our sleep patterns and affecting our energy levels. Understanding how the season affects you helps you know what your summer routine needs to be.

More daylight hours

Earlier sunrise and later sunsets is a feature of Summer. If you have daylight savings time this will give you more daylight at the end of the day. Making the best use of this extra daylight is at the heart of a good summer routine.

The heat is on

Summer is when the heat is on! This can make getting out in the middle of the day more difficult, so the longer mornings and afternoons become even more important.

If you live in sub-tropical or tropical places Summer comes with humidity. Increased sweat and fluid loss means hydration becomes more important.

Later nights

Winding down after later evening activities can be a challenge during summer. This shift to later bedtimes can result in an accumulated tiredness towards the end of the season.

What is your routine?

My what? Yes I’m asking you. Everybody has a routine, even if you don’t think you do. You do. Your routine is the things you do each day without thinking. Get up, toilet, make tea etc.

To make a new routine you need to know what your current routine is and how you want to change it. So, write down the things you do automatically every morning and every evening.

Have a look at your list, are there any changes you want to make for Summer?

Insert your new Summer habits into your routine and get the most out of the season.

My suggestions for new Summer habits

Earlier to bed

This is an important one for me. I live in NSW so daylight savings means I need to go to bed an hour earlier to not want to wake up an hour later! Getting out into the daylight in the early morning helps me make the most of Summer. I feel alive and well rested with this adjustment to my routine.

Hydration, hydration, hydration

Whether your summer is wet or dry, staying hydrated is more important in the heat. Reduce stress on your body simply by drinking plenty of H20 every day. Carry a water bottle with you. Refill it or your glass as soon as they are empty.

Move a little every day

Well, this one isn’t really just for Summer, but the challenges are different in Summer. Heat can be a real deterrent to exercise and movement. Getting out in the early morning and the late afternoon is the best solution for this.

Commit to something new

With the change of season it’s fun to try something new. New experiences keep life feeling fresh! If you are regular at Pilates and movement try a new activity that your movement practice will support you into such as Stand up paddle boarding or Dragon boat racing. If you don’t have a movement practice now is a great time to start!

4 Tips for changing your routine

  1. Keep your shifts to your routine small – the suggestions in this blog are a great way to start
  2. Integrate one change at a time – get one thing happening before starting the next
  3. Have an accountability partner – grab a friend and work out your changes together, then support each other.
  4. Choose changes that make you smile – we all know what we ‘should’ do but if you choose a change that you are genuinely curious or excited about it’s more likely to stick.

As we move into Summer remember, you are just like a flower and flowers respond to the environment around them. Treating yourself like an organism not a machine is a great reason to reset your routine for summer.

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a Diploma certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

Why do an annual reflection?

An annual reflection is …

when you take some time to look back on the decisions and choices you have made over the last year and reflect on whether or not they are taking you towards what you truly want.

Does life ever feel like it’s dragging you through a bush backwards? The demands of everyday take up so much time, it’s the best you can do to get through to the end of the week to your well earned glass of chilled bubbly!

Imagine if you knew what your priorities are

Imagine, you said ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to things based on YOUR priorities. The coming of the new year is a great opportunity to take some time to get some clarity on your own priorities. One of the best ways to do this is to look back.

If you are stuck in overwhelm, it can be hard to see what your true priorities are. If you are not feeling inspired by life and like everything is a chore you may not know where to start. That is why looking back is so valuable, your past experiences are a gold mine of information for you.

That’s why you need to do an annual reflection.

What is an annual reflection

An annual reflection

An annual reflection is taking time to take stock of where you are compared to twelve months ago. Acknowledging what has gone well and what hasn’t. What you want more of and what you want less of. This process of pausing to reflect has a lot fo power in it because:

  • It takes the focus off ‘doing” so you can think
  • Remembering where you were at 12 months ago will bring back the actions you took
  • Reflecting on what went well and what didn’t helps make the path ahead clearer
  • You acknowledge the good in life so it can expand!

Looking backwards to look forwards

If you haven’t done an annual reflection before you may it may feel odd to make time to look back. If you are chasing big dreams you want to be looking forward right? But looking back can give us so much information on what we love and what we don’t. Looking back allows us to really celebrate our wins and acknowledge how far we have come. Looking back reminds us that we are in charge of the choices we make and it gives us a chance to make different choices in the future.

Consider your body an equal player in your reflection

Reflecting is a mental exercise but it can also involve you body! Considering your body an equal player in the your reflection will give you more information. Make sure you set up for your reflection in a comfortable space where you can be present with your body. It’s important to be able to move your body as you work through your reflection so you can notice different feelings in your body as you reflect on different aspects of your life.

Reflect on different areas of your life

I forget what movie it is but I remember a story about a mid-life woman moving to a falling down Italian villa and setting about restoring it on her own, with the help of some hunky neighbours of course! Her lesson through the movie is to “Live spherically”, to not focus just one part of life but to tend to all the aspects of life that make it worth living. Work but not just work, family but not just family, health but not just health.

What about goals?

It helps to have an understanding of your goals to help clarify your reflection, although sometimes your reflection can clarify your goals.

For example: I had a goal to have X face to face clients by a certain date. In my quarterly reflection I noticed that I had loved the online teaching I had done. So I shifted my goals to accomodate more of what I was enjoying!

Regular reflection helps you to shift your goals rather than feel bad about not meeting an arbitrary goal that doesn’t really fit what you want anymore.

If goals are a stretch try values

Believe it or not goal setting doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes the pressure of a goal can feel too much and end up pushing us into overwhelm rather than empowerment. If this feels like you, try zeroing in on values instead.

Articulating what you VALUE in your life is a great ‘North Star’ so you know where you are heading. You can articulate values in lots of different ways. To simplify this process I like to focus on what I value in life and let that be my guide.

I value time with my family, financial independence, connecting with nature, my body wisdom.

These values have underpinned the life I have created with my movement business. Values can provide that high level guidance around where to put your time and energy, what choices are right for you.

It’s good to narrow your values down to 3-5 for now.

Tips for a great annual reflection

Make a special time and place:

To do an annual reflection set aside time when you won’t be disturbed for 40-60 minutes, choose a place that is free from distraction where you can get comfortable. Remember your body is an equal player in your reflection so she needs to be comfortable. Equip yourself with some pens and paper and get writing.

Look back to look forwards:

Begin by remembering your aspirations for 2022. What were your hopes? Your goals? Maybe you wrote them down. If not cast your mind back to recall what was on your mind this time last year, what were you hoping the new year would bring? Get as specific as you can.

November is a great time to reflect:

November really is a great time to reflect on the year. Before the silly season gets in full swing. Making time in November means that come January I already know what I need to be choosing in the new year to take me towards my values and my goals.

Be sure to celebrate the past:

Acknowledging your achievements is one of the most important parts of an annual reflection. Even if what you achieved wasn’t part of your plan. You may have dealt with an unforeseen adversity, you may have suffered a loss. Give yourself credit for what you have weathered as well as what has gone well.

Step through a series of questions:

Ask yourself a series of questions. For example ask; What do I want more of in my life, what do I want less of? Or ask; What makes me genuinely happy? How can I spend more time doing that?

Get some specific actions steps:

Once you worked through your questions be sure to narrow down a few practical steps or actions in a list to guide you into the new year. These actions should focus on the very next steps you need to take to move towards your goals or values.

Schedule in your next reflection:

If you enjoyed the process schedule in a monthly or quarterly reflection to check in on your progress and let that give you more information on what you want more of and what you want less of.

If you are in the Northern Rivers area I am leading an event for Sourdough Business Women on 23 November incorporating movement, guided reflection, healthy food and connection with other local women. Tickets available now.

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a Diploma certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

Stiff every morning? Try these moves

Waking up feeling stiff every morning is not a great way to start the day. It can make you apprehensive about getting out of bed and no matter how old you are can make you feel one hundred years old!

In Lennox Head in the northern rivers of New South Whales I teach people of all ages Pilates to help them do life better. A common complaint of my clients is waking up feeling stiff in the morning. A regular movement practice like Pilates, Tai Chi, Yoga or Chi Kung is great as a long term solution for feeling stiff, sore and a hundred years old when you wake up in the morning.

However all of us need a quick fix every now and then! The series of movements in this article are moves you can do before you get out of bed to warm up your joints and stimulate circulation and return your blood to your heart for oxygenation before you bounce out of bed.

You may be surprised at how gentle these moves are. That’s deliberate. This series is intended for just after you wake up, we are coaxing the body awake. Don’t underestimate the power of these movement to set you up for a great day of moving just because they are gentle.

Lift your feet

Our blood circulation and lymph slow down during our long overnight sleep.This is why lifting your feet is a great movement to do first thing. I have demonstrated these movements on a roller because it is nice to do these moves with your hips slightly lifted. You could use a pillow or two under the back of your hips for the same effect or you could lift your feet without lifting your hips.

Ankle rotations

Once your feet are raised, legs reaching to the ceiling, it’s time to get your ankles moving. Start by pointing and flexing your feet luxuriously. Then start to circle your feet one way and then the other. You want most of the movement to be in the ankles with activation in the calf muscles. This activation of your ankles and calfs helps to return your blood to your heart and loosen up your ankle joints so they ready for weight bearing when you stand up.

Ankle rotations

Lymph Drainage

Gentle lymph drainage is great when you feel stiff every morning. With your hips raised and legs and feet in the air begin gently brushing your skin from your ankle to just above your knee, one leg then the other. The lighter the touch to your skin the better. Tickling your lymph just under your skin to get it moving.

Joseph Pilates was very interested in internal cleansing of the body by flushing the lymph “discharging through your bloodstream the accumulation of fatigue products created by muscular and mental activities”. Clearing the lymph in this way can reenergise your body from the inside out.

Breathing deeply with a ling controlled exhale, making sure you breathe all your air out before your next inhale helps with this ‘internal cleansing’ oxygenating the blood as you move the lymph.

Do each leg a fee times before moving on the other one and repeat both legs a couple of times. You might even feel your cheeks flush a bit as a result of this exercise!

Bicycles both ways

Borrowing now from the Pilates repertoire, hips raised legs and feet in the air, let’s get your legs moving! Bicycles continue this movement of the blood and the lymph as well as mobilising your knees and hips. Begin cycling the legs forward, see if you can touch your foot on the bed as you slide it back towards your bottom, this will activate both the front and back of your hip as you move through hip flexion and gentle hip extension.

Cycle forward for at least 25 circles on both sides.

Then reverse the direction and again as you push your foot away from you see if you can touch the bed with your foot before lifting it into the air. Enjoy the range of movement you are getting in your hips, and take this at your own pace. A brisk pace is nice but you can also slow this down to really articulate through your legs. Listen to what your body wants to do. Do this backward direction at least 25 circles on both sides.

Book openings

We are moving up the body now to attend to the mid-spine and rib cage. This area can become a bit locked up during sleeping. We want to move any tightness between the facet joints of the spine and between the spine itself and the back of the rib cage.

Lie on your side and make sure your neck is line with your spine, not higher or lower. You can support your head on your arm as shown or have a low pillow beneath your head. Bend your knees and bring your top hand behind your head elbow bent in front. Take a breath in before you move, exhale as you reach your top elbow back, twisting through your waist. Support your head and neck in your hands and allow your eyes to follow your elbow.

Move gently and notice any tightness. You don’t have to force any tightness out, just move gently through it, filling any tighter parts with breath as you move through the twist. After a few rotations this should start to feel delicious! Give yourself at least 6 repetitions of this each side.

As your spine and rib cage begin to glide more easily begin to focus on your breath, inflating your ribs on your inhale and letting them deflate on your exhale. This will set you up with a deep breathing pattern before you get out of bed.

The cost of waking up stiff every morning

Waking up feeling stiff every morning can make you feel older than you are! This affects what you think you are capable of, what you believe is possible and how confident you feel. Age is not just a state of mind, it’s a state of body too. By giving yourself these moments before rising you are tending to your body, when you do get up after this series of movements take time to let your brain register how you feel.

Notice the little spring you have in your ankles, a little more ease in your knees, hips swinging a little freer, breath coming more easily. Noticing these tiny changes allow them to be registered by your nervous system, your brain gets the message that all is well. We can move out of survival mode and into living.

Enjoy your day!

If you are interested in how Pilates can help you live better just get in touch on the details below.

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a Diploma certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

Reasons to love your roller

Reasons to love your roller! Do you have a roller that you bought during lockdown for classes and now you never use it? I want to give you some ideas for home practice so you can benefit from having such a fantastic piece of equipment at home.

Now, to be honest, rollers are not all my clients favourite prop for class, they can be a bit painful to press tight muscles onto. If your skin is sensitive, pressure into the roller can be very unpleasant. However knowing the moves that give good release without discomfort is what this article is all about.

The roller also offers us some great ways to challenge our balance. This can be frustrating, but as long as you are working safely the benefits of the challenge usually win any doubter over. Again knowing the right moves and how to get the right level of challenge for you makes all the difference.

In this blog I have selected a few of my true favourite exercises on the roller. These exercises do not put pressure on sensitive body parts and they challenge balance in the safest ways.

As a Pilates and movement teacher, the roller is one of my favourite class props and here is why:

Reason 1 – Muscle release

As mentioned above, the roller is often used as a muscle release tool. In my view (and evidence supports this) this can often be extremely painful and sometimes increase tightness (think rolling the side of your body with all your body weight on the roller).

I like to use the roller to gently coax tension out of specific muscles. I focus on the Glutes, shoulders, calfs and pelvic floor. These are all areas where people tend to have gripping habits. The moves I recommend below give you full control of pressure into your muscles so you are not bruising your muscles.


First up are our glutes, notoriously used for tucking and gripping to support upright posture. To work towards a better movement pattern sit on the roller and roll over it, try this sequence below to release and lengthen your glutes.

Pilates in Lennox Head


Our shoulders hold tension, here is a cheeky shoulder release on your roller. You’ll know when you are in the right spot cos you’ll FEEL it!! after this exercise you should feel freer in your shoulders.


Calfs do a lot of work through the day. We often rely on them more than we should. Roll them out to achieve more mobility in your ankles, resulting in a deeper squat and a longer stride. Remember to relax your feet as you roll, relax your feet, relax your feet, relax your feet.

Pilates Lennox Head
Calfs on roller

Pelvic Floor release

This one is subtle but strong. Using the roller to contact your pelvic floor is quite easy if you can manage this position. You may prefer a towel over the roller if it feels a bit hard. This position allows for some micro hip movement and release of pelvic floor muscles attaching to the pelvic outlet.

Reason 2 – Alignment

I hear a lot of people struggle with a sore neck from Pilates. Achieving the right position of the shoulders and neck is the only way to avoid this. If you don’t have the upper abdominal strength this can be very difficult. That’s where the roller comes in.

Neck support

Below is an example of the ‘series of 5’ abdominal exercises in the Pilates mat repertoire. Demonstrated here with head and shoulders supported by the roller. This support takes pressure of the head and neck and supports the upper abdominals to engage.

Support your neck and upper abdominals

As you get stronger you can position the roller under the shoulder blades for more of a challenge. Be sure to keep the head lifted and the back of your neck long to avoid neck pain. Keep pulling the base of your ribs back towards the roller for strong abdominals.

Lower back support

Reason 3 – Balance challenge

There are so many ways to challenge your balance on the roller. Lying long ways on a roller gives you loads of opportunities to work your deep abdominals and make it as hard or easy as you like.

Supine on Long Roller

This position has you supported from your tail bone, right to the top of your head. With your hands out to the side you can steady yourself on the ground or you can just use your finger tips to challenge your self more. Play with different leg and arm movements to load your abdominals and challenge your stability.

Reason 4 – Glide

Shoulder Glide

The roller is a great place to do a shoulder glide. The curve of the roller provides a lovely guide for the scapula (shoulder blades) to glide across the ribs and ‘hug’ the sides of the roller. This small movement maintains healthy scapula movement which supports healthy function of the shoulder joint and range of movement of the arms.

I hope this gives you some ideas to get back on your roller. It is a great prop. I always encourage you to start with these moves and then follow your body and try things out. Have fun moving to nurture yourself. X

What you need to know about your Psoas

Your Psoas muscles are the keys to good posture and pain free movement. Read that again. Your Psoas muscles are the keys to good posture and pain free movement.

In the movement world whole books have been written about the Psoas ( and I have read them so you don’t have to!). This muscle is so influential on the way we move that it is worth getting to know it a little better.

We get our Psoas from our evolutionary history as a quadraped (four legged mover). Other quadrapeds have Psoas muscles, dogs, cows and horses for example all share this muscle arrangement with humans.

We are obviously not quadrapeds anymore and our Psoas muscles have adapted to support us to stand upright and to be bi-pedal (two legged mover). However if you suffer from sway back, weak core, tight mid back, rib thrust forward and forward head posture, chances are your Psoas is the key you are looking for to restore your posture and make moving feel good again.

This article will cover some basic anatomy about where and what your Psoas muscles are and what they do. I’ll also cover how your Psoas influences your posture and movement in a positive or negative way. I’ll explore common symptom from a tight Psoas and give you range of ways to move to nurture your Psoas to restore healthy function to these muscles.

I’m excited to share this with you! Enjoy X

Your Psoas and why you need to know it

Your Psoas muscles are the muscles that join your upper body to your lower body. In a quadraped animal, in this case a dog, the Illiopsoas looks like the image below.

Pilates Lennox head
Canine – image thanks to Canineworks

In a human, a bi-pedal animal, it looks like the Illiopsoas muscle group looks like this:

Pilates Lennox Head
Illiopsoas muscle group – Thanks to yoganatomy for image

Your Iliopsoas muscle group is made up of three muscles, Psoas Minor, Psoas Major and the Iliacus, these occur on the left and right sides of the spine attaching the spine to the pelvis and the legs.

As you can see from the image above the length and health of the Psoas muscles (Minor and Major) will have a big influence on the position of your pelvis and your spine.

As the tenderloin, or “filet mignon,” of the human body, a healthy psoas is a juicy, supple, dynamic tissue that supports full body expression and responsiveness.

Liz Koch

The Psoas muscles are deep tissue muscles. They do not respond well to ‘muscular’ ways of toning, strengthening or stretching. Psoas muscles need to be well hydrated and free from tension. This unique muscle tissue is located deep within your central axis, growing out from your spine, intimately connected to your nervous system governing your felt sense of the world and how easily you move through it.

Your Psoas and your posture

The condition of your Psoas affects your underlying sense of your body. If your psoas is tight, your whole sense of your body will be tight. If your Psoas is long and unstable this will be your experience of your centre. In this way your Psoas influences your life.

In practical terms the image below shows what a shortened, tight Psoas can do to your pelvic and and spinal position. Over time this arrangement can lead to sway back (lumbar lordosis) with compensations occurring up and down the body.

Pilates Lennox Head
Image thanks to Elements Centre

With this sort of structural force working against you, it is easy to see why good posture becomes hard to achieve. If your exercise regime makes your psoas tighter then this becomes a pattern you are reenforcing in your body, making good posture and ease of movement harder and harder to achieve.

When your Psoas is tight and short it becomes harder to properly activate your lower abdominals to stabilise your lower back. Your body then begins to rely on your Psoas for spinal stability. This has major implication for walking.

Your Psoas and walking

Your Psoas muscles are essentially a hip flexor, they are responsible for helping to lift your leg forward from your hip, something we do with each step we take. Being such a deep core muscle it has other functions as well, the Psoas major connects to the vertebrae of the spine, so it has a role to play in spinal mobility and stability also important for the micro movements of walking.

When the Psoas muscles are out of balance for example, one side is shorter than the other, this can result in a twisted pelvis. This will impact on the ability of the pelvis to ‘balance’ on top of the thigh bones with each step, requiring other muscles such as the deep hip rotators to grip down for stability and the mobility required for walking gets pushed up into the spine causing a lot of wear and tear on the lumbar vertebrae.

If the Psoas is tight and shortened this can result in Lumber Lordosis (as in the image above). In this position the upper body begins to ‘hang off’ the Psoas, leaving the abdominals to lengthen and let go. When the Psoas is under this strain all the time it’s function as a hip flexor is compromised, it pulls the femur (top of the thigh bone) forward in the hip socket and puts pressure on the front of the hip.

Walking with these patterns puts pressures on different parts of the body to compensate for these structural imbalances. Walking sets off a tight back or pinching at the front of the hips or knee pain. But really these issues are coming from the pelvic position set by your Psoas.

Healthy Psoas, healthy breath

Not only does our Psoas influence every step we take but it is also intimately connected to the diaphragm under our rib cage, so our Psoas also influences each breath we take.

Pilates Lennox Head
Psoas and Diaphragm

If our upper body is hanging off our Psoas, as described above, this tension pulls down on the back of our diaphragm flattening it. So to get all the air out of your lungs you now don’t have the full function of your diaphragm. And when you can’t get all the air out of your lungs you can’t get a full deep breath in.

Rib mobility is also impacted from the pull of a tight Psoas, making it harder for the lungs to fill and expand the rib cage.

All this does sound very depressing! And the impact on your life and movement can be! So let’s get to the move that will keep your Psoas supple and juicy.

Treat your Psoas, treat yourself

Self Assessment

To check your Psoas condition, lie flat on the floor and hug one knee up to your chest. If the back of your other thigh lifts off the mat you have a tight Psoas.

Pilates Lennox Head
Psoas test

Psoas – relax and lengthen

To begin to release Psoas tension, gently is the only way to go. This requires no effort or force, rather this is a letting go of all doing, of all tension, to let your deep tissues relax and let go. Lie flat on the floor with a bolster or couch pillow under your shoulders and neck with nothing underneath your ribs, legs out straight. If that is too uncomfortable you put a roller or another pillow under your knees, so you can relax. Your job is to let go of all tension in your torso. I like to breath consciously into the back of my ribs. Eventually you want your ribs to drop down into the space that was under them, but this happens through surrender not through pushing them down.

Make this one a regular relaxing position and your Psoas will love you for it. Find excuses to get into this position, if your kids want you near them while they fall asleep this is a great position to get yourself in, if you have a projector and like to watch movies on the ceiling this is a great time to relax your Psoas, or make this part of your meditation practice.

Can you see my ribs drop down?

Psoas massage

If you have a soft ball at home, this one is great especially for digestive issues associated with a tight Psoas. The ball needs to be very light and soft, placed to the side of your belly on top of your straight leg.

Psoas – lengthen and soften

Retest again

To be really clever we should do the Psoas test again to check in on tightness after we have completed these moves. So do that at least once or twice a week. To make progress and release Psoas tightness you will need a gentle approach and a fair bit of patience, think of it as a meditation practice rather than an ‘exercise’ or ‘workout’. This is about restoring function to deep muscles in your body. Reach out with any questions!

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

What to do when you have shoulder pain

Do you have shoulder pain? You may have a diagnosed injury such as a rotator cuff injury or frozen shoulder. Or you may feel pinching or strain around your shoulders affecting the range of movement of your arm. You may experience tightness in your shoulders contributing to neck pain.

In my Pilates studio in Lennox Head I work with clients with shoulder issues to improve the way they move and reduce pain and the likelihood of injuries recurring.

High intensity exercise can exacerbate an underlying condition so my approach is to work gently to learn correct technique before levelling up.

Signs your shoulders need care:

  • Tight neck and shoulders
  • Pinching or clunking of the shoulder as your arm moves
  • Rotator Cuff injury
  • Reduced range of movement of your arm

Why are you getting pain

Our shoulders are designed to move in a certain way. When we have movement habits that wear and tear one muscle or tendon over others this results in pain in the shoulder complex.

Pilates Lennox Head

There is a lot going on in a shoulder. There is one thing that will always help your shoulder complex. The position of your arm. With exception of bone spurs, all shoulder issues are improved by proper humeral head (top of the arm) position. You will avoid developing bone spurs by improving your arm position while resting and during movement.

When the humeral head (top of your arm) is being pulled up by tight Trapezius muscles that join up into your neck this puts strain on the rotator cuff muscles. Or if your pec muscles at the front of your chest are pulling your humeral head (top of your arm) forward this will strain the rotator cuff muscles.

Rotator cuff injuries

The job of your rotator cuff muscles is to rotate the top of your arm bone and lift it away from your body. If the position of the head of your arm bone is ‘off centre’ this will wear one or more of your rotator cuff muscles more than the others.

Shoulder bursitis

Bursitis is another common shoulder complaint. You can see in the image above if the arm bone is pressing up and the bursa between the arm bone and the clavicle is getting squashed, over a long period of times, this leads to inflammation of the bursa or shoulder bursitis.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder also known as adhesive capsulitis is characterised by stiffness and pain in the shoulder. Starting gradually and progressing to limit virtually all movement of the arm. If you think you may have frozen shoulder definitely consult a manual therapist as well as trying the moves below.

Simple moves to improve your arm position

While standing

How you stand can make a difference to the position of your arms in your shoulder joints. If you habitually stand with rounded shoulders this can impinge on the bursa in the shoulder, lengthen and weaken the rotator muscles that attach to your scapula at the back. A good tick is to roll your palms out when standing. This helps to roll your humeral head (top of your arm) and place it back into your shoulder joint.

Pec stretch against the wall

Most of us have shoulders that are rounded forward. You can blame sitting a computer, driving, watching TV, most of what we do involves this rounded forward posture. As a result the muscles at the front of the chest that join to the top of your arms known as the “pec” muscles tend to get tight and short. In order to get the top of your arm back into your shoulder joint you may have to stretch these pec muscles. Try this stretch below.

Band rotations

Pilates Lennox Head

Arm lifts with bar

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While driving

Pinkies lead the way

Pilates Lennox Head

While sleeping

Your position while sleeping can negatively impact your shoulder. If you side sleep on a flat pillow your shoulder can get squashed underneath you as in the image below on the left. Try a higher pillow that keeps your neck in line with your spine and takes this weight off your shoulder as in the image below right.

While lifting

I can never let an article go by without mentioning the hip hinge! Hip hinging is a great way to approach lifting in everyday life and this really applies to shoulder position as well. We want the arms to be supported by the back when lifting. If your back is over arched then the arms won’t get the support they need from the back muscles. A quick trick is to tuck the chin when you hip hinge to lift something (see images below). The image on the left shows me popping my chin forward and my back arching as a result. In the image on the right I am tucking my chin and my spine is neutral to allow the full strength of my back to support my arms – a better position for lifting.

A little every day

The important thing for shoulder care , and really any new movement pattern you want to learn, is to practice a little everyday. Try these moves above everyday for at least 2 weeks to see if your shoulders start to feel better. Or better yet get in touch to schedule a session that is tailored for you.

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

5 reasons to look after your pelvic health (at any age)

Pelvic health is usually not your top priority, I get that, but pelvic health actually gets you closer to your health goals than you think!

At my Pilates studio in Lennox Head I work with clients to improve movement, reduce pain and build strength and flexibility. The goals that my clients have range from “improve my core strength” to “being able to walk the coastal walk without pain”. Pelvic health play a role in achieving both these goals plus a few other like:

  • reducing lower back pain
  • having better posture
  • treating incontinence
  • improve leg strength

If you are interested in improving these things read on to find out why good pelvic health will help you with these things and how to get it!

1 Your pelvic position determines your posture and your pain

Your pelvis attaches to your spine at the top and to your legs (femurs) at the bottom. It is wrapped in layers of muscles. The length of these muscles determine to position of your pelvis, whether it tilts forward or back, or whether it is twisted.

The image below shows how tight leg muscles at the front pull the pelvis forward and tight leg muscles at the back pull the pelvis back. This image also shows how the pelvic position affects the position of the spine. If your pelvic position is too far forward or pulling too far back this can cause chronic back and hip pain.

Knowing your resting pelvic position and how this influences the alignment of your spine (your posture) is the first step in understanding how your pelvic health is affecting the rest of your body.

You can assess this yourself by standing side on to a mirror and observing if your pelvis is tipping forward (belly hangs forward) or tipping back (bottom tucks under).

Pilates and pelvic health
Leg muscle length and pelvic position

2 Know the difference between pelvic strength vs pelvic tension

Clients will often come to me wanting to improve their core strength. When I dig a bit deeper to understand why they will often tell me they think they have a weak pelvic floor and they need to “tighten things up”. It is important to understand that tight muscles are weak muscles. It is often (but not always) that when people say they have weak pelvic floor they may have symptoms such as incontinence (leaking) or prolapse. These conditions often (but not always) indicate tightness in the pelvic floor muscles that cause pelvic floor dysfunction (including leaking or prolapse).

In order to strengthen your pelvic floor you need to be able to relax it. WAIT WHAT? Yes. Simply focusing on tightening your pelvic floor will usually make your symptoms worse over time!

To relax your pelvic floor it can be helpful to sit on a rolled up towel to bring your attention to the area. On your inhale focus on letting your pelvic floor muscles drop into the towel. Or try this. The more they drop the better they will lift on the exhale, this flexibility and movement of the pelvic floor muscles builds strength over time. If your pelvic floor muscles are unable to relax and move they are not able to get stronger.

3 Pelvic movement for pain free walking

Understanding your pelvic health is essential for pain free walking. We have already discussed how the pelvic is wrapped in muscles and depending on which muscles are tight and which ones are weak influences the position of your pelvis. Similar to the movement needed in your pelvic floor to build strength, the same can be said for your hips. The muscles in your hips each attach to different parts of your pelvis and your legs, as the bones move the muscles support them. There is an interplay between the muscles and bones. If the bones of the pelvis are fixed and don’t move then the surrounding muscles get weak.

Pelvic health

Check out this video showing the movement of the pelvis and legs during walking and what happen if one part of the pelvic girdle gets stuck.

4 Pelvic balance for strong legs

Your legs start where they join to your pelvis. The top of your thigh bone (femur) sits in the bottom of the pelvis. If the position of your pelvis is being tugged by tight leg muscles, then the muscles on the other side are going to be weak and long. This is why the position of your pelvis is important for building leg strength. If you do a lot of leg work without paying attention to the position of your pelvis your progress will non existent at worst, slow at best.

Achieving pelvic balance is about balancing core (abdominal) strength with leg strength to support good pelvic position. This often involves glute stretching and hip flexor stretches to get the balance right for each person.

5 Relaxing pelvic floor for breathing

Your pelvic floor functions as a diaphragm, that means it mirrors the activity of your thoracic diaphragm (under your ribcage). Your pelvic diaphragm moves up and down with your breath just as your thoracic diaphragm does. If your pelvic diaphragm is tight from excessive training or holding on then it will not move with your thoracic diaphragm and this will limit the capacity of your breathing which will, in time, result in a less mobile ribcage.

We all know that breathing is important to supply our bodies with oxygen. It is also important to keep the muscles around our ribcage strong and supple. If they move less because the lungs take in less air these muscles get weaker. They are then less able to support our arms and neck for standing and walking.

In summary…

Your pelvic floor is right in the middle of your body. Every movement you do requires coordination and support from your pelvic floor with other muscles in your body.

Your pelvic floor is the foundation of your core strength. To build core strength without a healthy, functioning pelvic floor is like building a heavy building on the sand. It won’t hold.

For long term independence, continence and mobility, work with a movement professional who understands pelvic floor health to get the most out of your movement efforts and your body.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online.

Pilates near Ballina