I'm a great believer that regular exercise and movement will mean fewer visits to the osteopath. Not only will you suffer fewer injuries but they are likely to resolve more easily.
One of my favourite ways of achieving this is Pilates. What I especially like about Pilates is that a good class will see you stretching most parts of your body and conditioning many of the smaller postural muscles as well as the abdominal core. It is also very adaptable with classes available at all levels and your teacher can also give you variations on exercises to suit your own abilities and stage of development. I also enjoy the classes
The Pilates method was developed by a German, Joseph Pilates, during the first half of the 20th century, initially whilst interred at Knockaloe internment camp during the first world war, where he practiced his ideas with his fellow internees. As well as mat work, often using small apparatus such as rings, balls, bands and rollers Joseph Pilates also developed a range of apparatus designed to accelerate the process of stretching and strenghtening. The most popular of these is the Reformer...but there are a range of others, including the Cadilllac...which really does look like an instrument of torture!
Pilates's father was a gymnast and I think this shows in the practice that now bears his name. There is more similarity than difference with yoga...but the emphasis is more directed to core strength and there is no spiritual element....although it can be quite meditative. Pilates wanted his method to feel like a workout and I have been to some classes that burned like leg day with an evil PT at the gym...but not all classes are the same. The accepted description for Pilates is "a mind-body exercise that requires core stability, strength and flexibility, and attention to muscle control, posture and breathing", that's quite a remit and different classes and instructors will have different areas of emphasis.
I thought it might be useful to talk about the different classes I have attended, so that you can get an idea about what is on offer and what might be suitable for you. I am lucky in that my Vauxhall practice is situated in Embody Wellness and I can organise my patients so that I can attend a couple of classes a week, sometimes three. All of the classes at Embody Wellness are mat based, although they do have a reformer available for 1-1 sessions.
I started out with bodycare pilates, which is taught by John Hobbs and fits nicely with the days I work at Embody Wellness, being Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 (he also does level 1-2 pilates on other days which is similar). This class is aimed at anyone and has attendees in their 70s and 80s as well as beginners and those who just want a class that is about maintaining movement and flexibility and is perhaps less focused on strength. There is not a great deal of standing work in this class although there is usually a balance, most of the work is lying down either on the mat or using the equipment to enhance the stretch or provide a balance challenge during strength work. John likes to use all of the small equipment and we usually start with quite a pile of bits and bobs beside us. If you haven't done pilates before I would suggest something like this or some 1-1 sessions before joining a more advanced class. Just because I have said it is lying down doesn't make this a rest. I struggled to start with but picked it up pretty quickly.
Suzie Lovelock teaches at Saturday lunchtime and I have challenged myself by attending her 'dynamic pilates' class on a number of occassions. This is of a completely different order of difficulty. This is where I really feel the burn, usually in my legs and glutes. Lots more standing work, poses held for longer, more demands on core strength. This class makes me sweat, and stumble, and exposes my weaknesses both in terms of coordination and strength. Just because I could leg press half a metric ton didn't mean I could hold a lunge whilst rotating and moving my arms! This class has changed title to 'strength and flexibility', when I get the chance I look forward to seeing what's changed.
Kelly Balmer also teaches strength and flexibility and I have started swapping my Tuesday class to this. The level is pitched somewhere between the other two. Kelly's class possibly focuses on core strength most of the three and Kelly is all about form. I'll be honest here. I can't do a proper roll-up or roll-down yet (like a situp but a controlled movement spinal segment by spinal segment) but I'm enjoying gradually getting better.
If this reads like an advert for Embody Wellness please know I get a staff discount of 20% but do pay for classes and am not paid commission or to promote them. I am writing this because I genuinely think Pilates is an excellent adjunct to osteopathy in maintaining body function. That said I going to give them one last plug because they do offer a discount rate of £45 for your first 5 classes, click here. I hope to see you there.
Damian is the principal osteopath at Vauxhall Village Osteopathy and Oval Osteopathy