Pilates is a discipline that has a strong foundation in core strength and pelvic floor conditioning. This blog is the second part of an interview of Catherine Byron, Pilates trainer and owner of CB Performance Pilates (www.CBPerformancePilates.com). This material is excerpted from my forthcoming book: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health. (now available in ebook format on Amazon; soon to be available on iBooks, Nook, and paperback)
Dr. Siegel: Can you elaborate on the mind-body connection?
Catherine Byron: Integrating “awareness” and the “mind-body” connection are key components to reaching your potential. The art of being in the moment, of involving the intellect with movement is the key to reaching one’s goals. Often, we are not living in the moment but are simply going through the motions, a condition known as “mindlessness.” Pilates is rooted in “mindfulness”—staying alert and aware in the present moment. Not only does Pilates educate a person about his anatomy, but also how to use it more efficiently.
Dr. Siegel: But doesn’t too much thinking interfere with our ability to do a physical task in a natural and fluid fashion?
Catherine Byron: During the rehabilitative/reconditioning phase of training, mindfulness is key. Over time, these patterns become natural and intuitive and the need to “think” about it will diminish. Initial “heightened” focus is part of the overall process
Dr. Siegel: In your opinion, what constitutes fitness in general and pelvic fitness in specific?
Catherine Byron: Being physically fit has its roots in the foundations of stability, flexibility, strength and aerobic conditioning. Pilates adds spinal alignment, muscle balance and core strength. Throughout your book, you have emphasized the importance of blood flow to the pelvis, linking it to cardiovascular and penile health and function. Cardiovascular fitness is a foundational pillar of good health and should be a lifestyle habit that is incorporated into one’s existence. In terms of pelvic fitness, a simple formula is improve blood flow, improve function.
Dr. Siegel: What differences have you observed in working with men vs. women?
Catherine Byron: One of the main differences between men and women is range of motion. Most males do not have the degree of joint flexibility as do females, particularly around the hip region. Movement is directly related to this range of motion or flexibility. The more flexible a person is, the more they can “articulate,” meaning move the body with greater detail. For example, think of a ballerina in terms of how she moves. She has the ability to move her ribs and hips with petite, incremental articulations and singular, ratcheted movements as opposed to the chunky, massive movements of many men. The good news is that through stretching and Pilates, men can greatly improve their range of motion and muscle function and begin to perform pelvic movements with greater articulation. The resulting improved range of motion ultimately translates into awareness and improved control of your core, pelvic floor and all-importantorgan, the penis.
Dr. Siegel: How will your 10-step Pilates program improve male pelvic health?
Catherine Byron: The Pilates exercises will develop the deep stabilizers of the spine and improve pelvic movement. These muscle groups work to “hold” or “stabilize” the hips and spine in place. They greatly contribute to the strength and endurance requirements of pelvic movements. There are two types of muscles—movers and stabilizers. For example, your biceps muscle allows you to move your arm but does not work to stabilize any part of your body. Stabilizer muscles are located throughout the body and, in essence, hold you together so that you don’t collapse. In terms of pelvic fitness, Pilates focuses on the pelvic stabilizers. The pelvic floor muscles lift, support and stabilize our pelvic organs. Without the pelvic stabilizer muscles, we would all be wearing diapers. Unfortunately, over time, these lose elasticity and tend to collapse to some extent, which is why strengthening them is so vital.
Dr. Siegel: How does pelvic stabilization help sexual function?
Catherine Byron: Pelvic stabilization builds endurance of the pelvic floor muscles and surrounding core region. This directly equates to improved function, stamina and the length of time that the pelvic muscles can contract before they fatigue. An improved pelvic floor coupled with active pelvic floor muscle contractions will enhance sexual function by allowing a man greater control over his erections.
Dr. Siegel: What about breathing?
Catherine Byron: Breathing is literally the “lifeline” of the entire body. Inhalation brings a surge of oxygen to every cell of the body, fueling and providing energy. Exhalation is a necessary release not only of waste gases but also of physical tension. Holding one’s breath or a lack of coordinated and full breathing diminishes this fuel connection and can result in tense and rigid movements. Breathing is part of that mind-body connection and can help to maximize the integration of body, mind and spirit.
Dr. Siegel: What is the relationship between stability and flexibility?
Catherine Byron: Stability and flexibility can be likened to a tree’s roots and branches. The roots represent stability and the branches, flexibility. If either function is in greater measure than the other, an imbalance occurs. Pilates creates a body that is stable and flexible in equal measure. Over-development or under-development of one or both of these can lead to injury and dysfunction. Pilates exercises produce both length (flexibility) and strength in the muscles, creating a harmonious balance.
Dr. Siegel: What is a Pilates ring?
Catherine Byron: The Pilates ring, also called a Pilates “circle,” is a device used to activate the inner and outer muscles of the pelvis and pelvic floor. The ring is excellent at directly targeting and allowing one to develop the core muscles addressed in this book. For this reason, the 10-step program will require one. The ring is positioned inside or outside the hips, activating hard-to-reach stabilizers required for spinal, urinary and sexual health. Using this device will ignite the “hidden” muscle groups, rarely targeted in traditional gym style exercises.
In addition to strengthening the pelvic stabilizers, the 10-step program involves movement patterns so that muscle development will occur not only statically, but also dynamically during motion. While using the ring, movement in several planes of motion will function to develop the pelvic region in a balanced fashion. Creating balance in this region results in greater performance. Strengthening the front, back and sides of the hips is of vital importance because all are connected. Mastering movement withstabilization is our primary goal in order to enhance core strength and pelvic floor function to the maximum!
Dr. Siegel: What does Pilates offer men if they already know how to exercise their pelvic floor muscles including the bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus, and pubococcygeus muscles?
Catherine Byron: The 10-step Pilates exercises will maximize the strength and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles. This program will target and ignite the pelvic floor and will allow one to work the pelvic floor more deeply, effectively and efficiently.
Dr. Siegel: How is the 10-step exercise program geared towards men?
Catherine Byron: To reiterate, one of the main differences between men and women is the way in which they move. Women move with greater and more focused detail. It is easier for a woman to move her pelvis and tilt it one vertebra at a time as compared to a man whose pelvis is typically “thicker” and moves more in “chunks.” In addition, men tend to choose sports, exercises and hobbies that further exacerbate this bulky, heavy movement style. The result is a serious restriction of motion that can lead to diminished performance and potential injury. For the 10-step program, along with step-by-step photos of the technique, please refer to Dr. Siegel’s book.
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Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and now available in e-book on Amazon:
Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com
Author of Finding Your Own Fountain of Youth: The Essential Guide For Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness & Longevity (free electronic download) www.findyourfountainofyouth.com
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Tags: aerobic conditioning, alignment, Andrew Siegel MD, balance, breathing, Catherine Byron, core strength, flexibility, lifestyle, male pelvic fitness, male pelvic health, mind-body connection, movement, movers, muscle balance, pelvic floor conditioning, Pilates, posture, range of motion, spinal alignment, stability, stabilizers, strength conditioning