Pilates and Massage
Faye and Erik Krippner are licensed massage therapists in SE Portland. They have their own practice, Aqua Terra Massage, and specialize in massage for two people. They also do tandem massage (two therapists working simultaneously on one client). With a Swedish base and a deep tissue and Thai flair, Erik and Faye do deeply relaxing yet extremely therapeutic work.
Pilates and massage are wonderful complements. The practice of pilates reveals the imbalances that lie at the core of our structure. Massage can enhance the effects of pilates by assisting in the re-balancing of our bodies, while decreasing recovery time between workouts. Imbalances develop naturally as we use our bodies in daily living. In our society, we are required to sit for hours (even as small children), wear clothes that inhibit our circulation, and walk on hard pavement in restrictive shoes. Our bodies are quite adaptable, and adjust to these unnatural conditions by strengthening some muscles while weakening others. For example, we adapt to prolonged sitting by developing short, strong hip flexors, and weak, lengthened hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings). As we stand, our torsos are pulled forward by our short hip flexors and our low back muscles must tighten to keep our torsos from slipping forward off of our pelvic base. Pilates strengthens muscles ignored through years of living in modern society. Strengthening our abdominals supports our low backs. Strengthening individual, delicate foot muscles allows our feet to move more fluidly, and tightening weakened neck muscles allows our heads to slide into a natural position. But what about those other muscles that have become tight while their counterparts have weakened? Through focused exercise and stretching, these muscles will loosen over time. Another way to kickstart the process is to receive massage from a therapist adept in structural integration and balance.
Strengthening one muscle allows, its antagonist (the muscle that performs the opposite action) to relax. Likewise, loosening a muscle, permits strengthening of its antagonist. Receiving a massage between pilates sessions can loosen tightened muscles, increase workout effectiveness, and encourage structural balance. Let's look at some common pilates exercises & see how massage can help.
TEASER: Many of us have a hard time lifting ourselves into the teaser with control. The teaser requires us to stretch our spines around our abdominals as we contract them. Tight low back muscles prevent us from fully contracting our abdominal muscles. Massage can effectively stretch these low back muscle fibers.
FOOTWORK: Our feet are designed to walk barefoot on springy soil, contouring to the earth with each step. Modern feet can become so stiff that they cannot curl over the foot bar during footwork. This prevents us from accessing the intricate muscles and movements of our feet. Massage can break up adhesions in the soles of our feet, stretch the plantar fascia, and loosen our ankles. When our feet become flexible, we start to feel the micro-movements that make footwork so fascinating. A flexible, yet strong, foot can work more like a hand, supporting and balancing our structure with grace and fluidity.
PULL STRAPS: We do virtually everything with our arms in front of us (cooking, reading, typing and driving) and this causes our chest muscles to become contracted and over-tone, actually pulling our shoulders forward into a stooped position. Pull straps is a great balancing movement for our arms and chests. It strengthens shoulder muscles while stretching the chest. As our shoulder girdle becomes balanced, our shoulders rest back more naturally, our necks become looser, and we can breathe more easily. Many of us experience tightness in our chests, making it difficult to find the right arm position. A massage focused on compression and stretching of our pec muscles can be very influential.
STOMACH SERIES: Some of us experience neck discomfort as we practice pilates. But pilates can be one of the best therapies for neck imbalances, as long as we do the exercises correctly. It is essential to tuck our chins to chests, looking at the navel, as we extend the back of the neck, creating space like you are holding an apple on your collarbone. Because of all the desk work and driving we do, our necks sit forward for sustained periods of time. This forces the suboccipital muscles at the back of our heads to become ultra-contracted, forcing the anterior-superior neck muscles to become weak. Stomach series helps us reverse this painful imbalance by strengthening our anterior neck muscles. It may be difficult to keep your neck in the correct position during this exercises (evidenced by discomfort in the neck during or after the exercise). If this is the case, a massage can stretch the suboccipital muscles to help restore balance to the neck.
People who have done pilates for a while tend to release muscle tension easily during massage. They come to each massage session with different issues, demonstrating that our bodies are malleable & ever-changing when we continually work with them. Achieving balance in our bodies is a process. It is important to simultaneously stretch and strengthen during this process. By continuing to strengthen weak, overstretched muscles as we loosen tight, overused muscles, this balance comes more gracefully.
Faye & Erik Krippner
Aqua Terra Massage
Find out more about Aqua Terra Massage.