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my pet peeve: are you committing it?

I know we all have one or (two 🙂 ). Mine happens every day, in all sorts of places. The coffee queue, as I’m waiting to be served. Travelling on the tube. Out for a bike ride with my boy (aka the pilot of our tandem). Walking down the street minding my own business. Listening to a speaker at a conference or event. Out to dinner with friends. Seriously annoying.

And the worst thing is the people doing it don’t even know or if they do, they just don’t care. So why do I?

Because I am a Pilates Teacher on a mission to improve your posture.

I say no to rounded shoulders. No to chin juts. No to flat backs. No to slouching. No to pot bellies and tailbones in the air.


The first thing I do with any new client is to ask them to stand up as if they were waiting for a bus or lift. This gives me my first impression of their posture. We then work together to bring their body into “standing neutral” in Pilates terms or as you might say perfect posture. Their first reactions are always “Wow, this feels weird”.


It does feel weird, as your body has gotten used to its habitual way of standing, which has developed from years of use, lifestyle and workplace norms. Did you know reading your smartphone or tablet, combined with hours bent over a keyboard or eating off your lap can all add up to poor shoulder posture? Or that end of the catwalk model pose with your weight on one leg, hip thrown out to the side can give you back issues?

Ok, it’s time for you to stop committing my pet peeve and sort your posture out.

  • Start at your feet – they should be hip joint width apart. That’s approximately the width of your fist with your thumb knuckle sticking out.
  • Knees are soft and slightly bent – this lets them act as shock absorbers as you move.
  • Moving on up to your pelvis. Place your hands on your lower tummy in a diamond shape, heels of your hand on your hipbones, finger tips pointing down to your public bone and thumbs to your belly button. Roll your pelvis forwards and backwards until you find the position where your thumbs are directly above your finger tips making a vertical plane with your hands.
  • Make sure your ribs are directly on top of your hips and you’re drawing in your chest – no popping your boobs/pecs in our faces. Save that for special occasions.
  • Draw your shoulder blades gently together to open up the collarbone area
  • Your arms and hands should now hang loosely by the side of your body with your palms facing the seams of your trousers.
  • Place your first finger on your chin and pull your chin away from it a fraction.

To hold it all in place, you will need to engage your core (ha ha you’ve never heard me say that before!) – lightly squeeze your lower abs under your hand diamond and nip in your waist like putting on a fresh pair of favourite jeans.

Oh I feel better already. You know my pet peeve and how to avoid committing it in front of me.

That said, I’ve got two questions for you:

1) Do you struggle with your posture? If yes, book into a class with me. Either at Physio in the City (near Bank and Monument tube stations), Cadence Performance (Crystal Palace) or treat your team and book a corporate class via Stretching the City.

2) What’s your pet peeve and how can we avoid committing it? Tell us in the comments and brownie guide promise to stop doing it!

  • Daniela

    What is a brownie guide promise? haha…this foreigner has no idea. But I do know that attending your pilates class at Physio in the City has DRAMATICALLY improved by posture. My doc just told me last week that she can see a difference.

    But I still have a long way to go. So I pinky promise, brownie guide promise and cross my heart promise that I will be mindful of my posture.

  • Sarae

    I love it – I accept your pinky brownie colourful heartfelt promise 😀

    And that folks, is why I am so passionate about Pilates: it makes a REAL difference

  • Robert

    I love the fact that reading your post got me sitting up properly in my chair 🙂

  • Sarae

    Happy to help – should also get you standing a bit taller on your stage and a bit more air in your lungs to get your voice to the back of the room!

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smart repetition achieves better results

I’ve been hooked into my own 2014 planning and goals over the last few weeks as you know, but I’ve had these two sayings running around my head:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”

Now, you also know I like a gooooooood stretch and that I’m one for working hard until you crack something. Both sayings suggest getting stuck in a loop, doing the same thing on repeat, getting identical outcomes, unable to move towards your goal. These sayings seem to contradict my mantra of “stretch your life”, which is about moving towards your goals through doing new things AND being persistence in your efforts. Aaaahhh, that’s why they’re bothering me.

I want to propose an alternative interpretation. To achieve the life, career, business or health you want, often there is no “do it once” fix all solution. Rather your achievement is a series of steps. You will need to work hard at each step until you achieve your better results. This could be through simple, identical repetition or by trying the step in different ways, seeking out the approach that works for you.

For example if you’re a career changer, you might send your CV off to numerous job adverts. That’s one method to getting a new job and it can work. This is where the sayings come into play. You might get different results from different applications – “come to interview” vs. “no thank you” responses – but would you use just this one approach over and over again until you land your dream job?

No. More than likely you might also use online tools like LinkedIn or about.me to promote your skills and experiences to the market. Perhaps you’d attend networking events through your professional body or meetup.com to get known by people doing what you want to do. Or join a class to build or refresh your capabilities. Similarly, life, health or business changers need to blend their approaches and be diligence in their efforts to maximise their results.

In summary, added stretch and change to your life is a combination of knowing what you want, recognising when to do the same thing again or when to do something different to improve the results you’re getting AND a passionate dedication to achieving your goals.

I’m starting 2014 practicing what I preach by changing up my knee rehab. The turbo trainer sessions require more repeats to perfect my muscles (can’t tell you how good being back on a bike feels!) and I’ve switch to dry needling with the lovely Hayden at Physio in the City, from soft tissue massage on my leg. As a complete “pass out at the sight of a needle”-phobic, this is really big for me! Session one went well, even if I did do some funny breathing! The results? 4 tiny fingerprint bruises and zero pain! Wahooo!

How are you doing the same things and the different things to achieve your goals, ambitions and dreams? Inspire us in the comments or over on Facebook.

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back to work tension – keep that summer feeling!

Boooo the end of the summer is round the corner and most of us will be back into the office, until our next break. Can you feel the work tension rising? From your lower back, between your shoulders, up your neck until your head is being squished. Not great. Terrible, in fact. Let’s stop it now.

Are you sitting properly? Both feet on the floor? Bum back in the seat pad? Hands and wrists supported on your desk or chair arms? These 3 things can help you protect your lower back and neck from tension, stiffness and that horrid tightness. I’ll ask again, are you sitting properly? Move it buster.

Take regular breaks – get up, move around, trot up and down the stairs, make a brew for your colleagues, look out a window, breath deeply. Just don’t be that annoying person who interrupts me cos they’re on a break 🙂

Frame your desk with memories of good times. A snapshot or postcard, a stone off your beach, theatre tickets, menu of a fab meal. No office is so uptight, you can’t keep these somewhere to look at to boost your mood and energy (desk drawer, inside your note book, screensaver, scanned document, be creative!)

And with my Pilates hat on, try these simple neck stretches:

1)   D-shape cycles: Look straight ahead, turn your head to the left, roll your gaze down in an arc to look at your knees/toes, keep rolling up until you’re looking to the right. Turn to the front and go again. Repeat in both directions. You’re effectively drawing a D on its tummy, a horizontal straight line and a semi-circle.

2)   Neck side stretch: put your finger on your chin, this is the unmovable, absolute centre of a circle. Then rotate about this point with your nose drawing an arc, as you lower your ear to your shoulder. You’ll get a lovely stretch from the opposite ear to the point of your opposite shoulder. Hold for a few breaths and come back up to the start. Repeat both sides.

Keep going, recognise when you’re getting stressed, the earlier you tackle it, the less likely you’re gonna get it bad.  Our next holidays will be here before we know it!

If you’d like to change your reaction – physical or emotional – to tension and stress, I’d be delighted to help. I’ve successfully worked with clients to change their reactions to triggers and develop new practices, so get in touch.

How do you stop tension in its tracks? Do tell me below how you are going to prolong your summer feeling.


improve your PB with Pilates!

Andy Murray Facebook timeline post image

Murray’s Facebook photo celebrating his Wimbledon win!

How amazing has the last 12 months been for GB sports? We had Wiggo and now Froome in the Tour de France, some cracking Olympic feats and not to mention my world record breaking Big Blue Kick (ok me and 800+ others doing a synchronised Taekwondo routine in aid of Barnardos). Did you know Andy Murray includes it in his training programme? Should you?

Cyclists can forget saddle sores and increase their stamina and power, by building a stronger powerhouse of core muscles. They stop you wobbling left to right over your saddle and help you channel all that wasted effort onto the road.

Golfers can smoooooooth out their swing with a solid, yet rotationally flexible core as well as hit with greater accuracy through improved shoulder stability.

And what about runners? Tight hamstrings, IT bands and quads? Yep, Pilates builds your core for power transmission to the road and gives you easy to remember warm up and cool down stretches to protect your muscles and ease away any tightness.

And not forgetting accelerating your serve and strengthening your backhand return. It works for Andy – it can work for you too!

So for the mega fit – does your fitness activity include training on body control and awareness? If not, add Pilates – in 6 or so sessions, you can learn how to tune into your core and achieve more from your favourite sports, gym or fitness routine.

And for those of you who enjoy perhaps a few too many hours of watching sports on TV, Pilates is a gentle way to begin your new fitness programme. You’ll build flexibility and strength, as well as growing your body awareness, co-ordination and your confidence.

Ready to raise your bar? Book now for an assessment or arrange a technique Where are you looking for better results? Hit them into court below in the comments and I’ll do my best to cheer you on!class and shave a few seconds off your record, whilst increasing your lifespan!

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Pilates – not all it seems…

Joseph Pilates exercising with his students

Joseph Pilates exercising with his students

Pilates isn’t just for pop stars and dancers: in fact, the first students were soldiers and security guards. The common factor is that they all want to feel confident in themselves and proud of their bodies.

Yes Pilates does improve your posture, flexibility and core strength, but here’s 3 body issues that you might not expect Pilates to deliver quick fixes to.

So invest a little time each day and you too can step out with your head held a bit higher.

1)   the chin jut – you know it, a long day staring at your screen…..gradually your chin is getting nearer and nearer to the screen. Tension grips your head, neck and shoulders. Here’s a “do it at your desk” fix: sit up tall, look to your left and then roll your head down to look at your toes and around until you’re looking to your right. Look straight ahead and you’re back to the beginning. Repeat a few times to the left and the reverse to the right.

UPDATE April 2014: Focus on keeping your shoulders still to avoid the stretch slipping to your waist.

2)   the bingo wings – the summer is coming (I hope!) and your arms want to be out of long sleeves. Stop the wobble fast: arms out to the side, like you’re a giant T. Draw 6 tiny little circles with the finger tips, with the movement coming from the shoulder and keeping the arms straight. Repeat in the other direction and add in more sets (clockwise and anticlockwise – no skipping!) as your arms get strong. Oh yeah, it’s meant to burn!

UPDATE April 2014: you should be getting better at this now, add a water bottle in each hand.

3)   the nipped in waist – apple, pear or bean pole body shape, we all want that nipped in waist (Guys, you know it better as swimmer’s lines down your sides). Fold your arms in front of you like a Cossack dancer and focus on your top wrist (wearing a watch, hair band or cuff helps here). Breath out to rotate through your waist like you’re a pepper grinder to twist the top half of your body to the side and breath in to come back to facing forward. Repeat in the other direction, trying to keep your wrists, nose and breastbone (or cleavage, if you’ve got one) in one vertical line. Repeat the same number of times each side or risk ending up wonky!

UPDATE April 2014: you want it harder? Ok. Tie a know in a belt, ribbon or dynoband. Hold it taut between your hands. Raise them up to shoulder height in a wider V shape. Keep the knot central to the move as you twist.

These quick and easy exercises are adaptations of matwork and standing Pilates exercises: if you want a body overhaul, book in for an assessment now or class and in the meanwhile, get going with these.

What are you looking to fix? Tell me in the comments and I’ll see what I can suggest!

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