An alkaline body is a healthy body.

Keeping your blood pH alkaline creates a healthy environment in which to live.

Do you find yourself feeling tired and getting sick way too much, and it’s confusing to you because you eat healthy foods?  The culprit could be that you are consuming too many acidic foods and beverages.  Many healthy foods can cause a pH imbalance.

Our bodies are meant to be alkaline environments, but we have changed their bodies from this natural state to one that is acidic. This is evidenced by the increase in illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and more. Basically, if your body is acidic, it will attract sickness.

There are many reasons why we have increased our acidity:

  • We consume mostly acidic foods – such as meat, carbohydrates and alcohol
  • Our stress levels have skyrocketed
  • We are on toxic overload – much of what we eat has toxins like junk and fast foods
  • We overuse pharmaceutical drugs

The pH scale ranges from 1.0 to 14.0, with 7.0 being neutral, 1.0 to 6.0 being acidic and 7.1 to 14.0 being alkaline. The ideal pH for humans is 7.365.  When your body is too acidic, it will move into overdrive trying to do anything it can to raise its pH level, but in doing so, it puts unneeded stress your body. This means it will neglect other vital functions in order to try to balance the pH.

A pH Imbalance Can Cause:

  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Numerous diseases since an acidic environment is one that is prime for diseases to grow and survive
  • Osteoporosis because it takes calcium from your bones
  • High cholesterol because the body creates cholesterol to aid in neutralizing the acids
  • Anemia because it pulls iron from your red blood cells
  • Muscle spasms because it pulls potassium from your muscle tissues

You Body’s pH Can Affect Your Risk of Cancer

There are theories floating around that an alkaline diet has not only the potential to reduce the risk of cancer, but that it also has the ability to cure it!   Michael Murray, author of Acid Alkaline Diet Simplified says, “At a pH of 8.5, cancer cells can no longer survive. Therefore, a high alkaline diet can potentially decrease one’s risk of cancer or even help fight the disease.”

Clues That Your Body May Be Too Acidic:

  • You are frequently lethargic, anxious or irritable
  • You catch several colds a year
  • You are constantly congested
  • You have gained weight
  • You have chronic pain and/or inflammation
  • You have consistent joint pain
  • You suffer from heartburn
  • You have poor digestion
  • You have had bone loss
  • You experience muscle weakness
  • You have urinary tract issues
  • You get kidney stones
  • You have receding gums
  • You suffer from acne and other skin problems
  • You have chronic yeast infections
  • You have experienced premature aging

How Alkaline Are You?

Even if you have some of these symptoms, you may still want to know your exact pH level, and fortunately it is easy  to test your pH level in your own home. You can buy testing strips from many pharmacies and health food stores or even online. The ones that test with saliva are often considered easier to use than the ones that test with urine. Be sure to test your pH either one hour before eating or two hours after eating.

Other pH Balancing Methods

In addition to food, there are other ways to balance your body’s acidity and alkalinity. Here are some tips as outlined in Michael Murray’s book, Acid Alkaline Diet Simplified:

  • Choose water as your usual beverage – To put this in perspective, Michael points out that pure water is neutral, non-herbal tea is 600-800 times more acidic, coffee is 700-1000 times more acidic and soda is 50,000 times more acidic! Now maybe you can see how much our diet affects our pH. Hopefully you understand why it is important to avoid coffee, tea and soda.
  • Breathe properly – Most people breathe from their chest instead of from their lower lungs, which is the wrong way to breathe because it doesn’t provide the body with the full amount of oxygen it needs. The body has an easier time ridding itself of acids when it gets a lot of oxygen, so breathing properly is important.
  • Be careful what foods you combine – Acid reflux comes from combining the wrong foods. Proteins can be combined with vegetables and sparingly with fats. Carbs can be combined with vegetables and sparingly with fats. Proteins and carbs should not be combined and fruits should not be combined with anything (with the exception of lemons, limes, tomatoes and avocados).
  • Manage your stress – Feelings like fear, anxiety and anger cause your body to create extra acids and at the same time, they make your digestive system shut down. That means your body is creating more toxins at the same time that it has stopped eliminating toxins. This is a big reason why stress causes so many health issues.

Now that you understand the important points relating to alkalizing your body, it’ll be much easier to make good decisions when it comes to your health. Most of us don’t realize how much one simple aspect of our health, like our pH level, can drastically affect us inside and out. But now that you know, what are you going to do with that knowledge?

Adapted from Faith M. Davis of Carpe Vita Inc. Oct 18 2012.

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Constructive use of the Body

Destructive use of the self versus constructive use of the self.  Neutral alignment affects not only the lumbar vertebrae but the entire spine.  Reformer exercises help us create equal balance between the head, neck and back so we can unlock the centre of power in the movement of the body.  This adds efficiency and grace in our motion, while maintaining minimal muscular tension.   This is how Alexander & Pilates techniques improves overall body strength.

Pilates for Athletes

When asked to write an article on Pilates for athletes I wasn’t at first sure what to focus on with the upcoming Olympics. After watching the London games the article became clear. Pilates can provide many things; better flexibility, core strength, deeper muscle endurance, spinal mobility, and alignment. It can deepen your awareness, mental clarity and focus. Beach volleyball has been dominated over the last decade by Walsh-Jennings and Misty-May Treanor, yet in 2009 they fell in their rankings mainly due to injury and motherhood.  Treanor missed most of the 2009 season due to an achilles tendon injury and Jennings went through two pregnancies.  The pair took hourlong Pilates sessions two to three days per week and Walsh-Jennings stated that not only did it improve her body, but also her performance – “It’s really given me an extra 20% in my performance on the sand”.  The team went on to win their third, yes third, gold Olympic medal.

Misty May Treanor & Kerry Walsh win 3rd Gold

Misty May Treanor & Kerry Walsh win 3rd Olympic Gold medal.

In a pain client Pilates helps to release held muscles when, if not released, will continue the cycle of pain. When in pain people have a pain response to hold themselves and guard against it. This often just makes things worse, making it harder and harder to get over the injury. Similarly in a client who is highly stressed from external factors such as work or family factors. The external stress causes their body to respond with certain muscle tensions, shoulder, upper back and chest tension being common.

Canadian Womens 2012 Olympic Basketball Team In explaining how Pilates works for athletes I’d like to focus on basketball players. Firstly, big kudos to our woman’s national basketball team in winning a spot at the Olympics. They did well considering it was their first appearance in 12 years. Beating Brazil was no small feat. Brazil has a highly competitive program with their top players being national sport celebrities.

Canadian basketball has been slugging away for a decade developing players only to have them scooped up by US colleges and club teams. Without scholarship programs and competitive club teams instilled in our Canadian system, it is unlikely we will field a truly ‘Canadian’ Olympic team. The 2012 national team roster was made up of players who compete and train in the States. Only the coaching staff takes permanent residency in Canada.

Looking at the consistently dominant US team, you see pure experience with the WMBA, strong US colleges and club teams abound and of course the sheer number of youth playing the game. Yet, in Canada we develop hardy athletes. The game of hoops is not an easy ride, taking athleticism, skill and development of experience to know how to react under pressure, close games, adapt to changes in defense, how to cover a high scorer, and running various offenses. The athlete must be mentally focused, motivated, able to communicate with and listen to teammates, be calm yet quick thinking and reacting to responding to a plethora of variables. A training program which develops all aspects of body, mind and spirit is important if not necessary.

I played competitive basketball from junior high school through university, also playing with the junior nation team and a club team, travelling to Portugal and Brazil, just missing a trip to Japan due to a knee injury. After graduating and specializing in biomechanics at U of T, I became a Pilate’s instructor. I am now the owner and operator of Pilate Body Mechanics, providing therapeutic Pilates in Toronto at Pro Care Rehabilitation and in my home town of Erin.

The position of playing defence and good offence, being a triple threat, requires one to hold a squat with shoulders over hips (as best as possible) with thighs close to if not parallel to the ground, pretty well throughout the entire game, other than the times you are running or jumping. The better you can get into this position the quicker you can react on defense or fake and beat your check, jump and rebound. Many sports share this same mechanic such as volleyball, tennis, hockey, squash, and skiing. Some occupations emphasize this mechanic like carpentry especially framing, insulation and drywall installation, electricians, mechanics and anything else where one must hold or perform a repetitive squat.

Try holding a squat; bend your ankles and knees till your thighs are parallel to the ground. Now check what your back is doing can you look up the court and see your check approaching? Where are your shoulders in relation to your hips? Try to keep shoulders over hips and your back straight, try not to round the lower back and stick your glutes out. If this is difficult, try putting your back against a wall and slide down keeping your hips and shoulders to the wall. Hold the squat for a while and you begin to get the picture, these athletes work. However, without adequate flexibility and muscle balancing this sport can leave players exhausted, with little energy as they are constantly fighting their own bodies to hold the position and chronic overuse injuries can prevail. Like any repetitive and prolonged activity, overuse injuries can occur, similar to tennis or golfer’s elbow or carpel tunnel syndrome.

I recall a tryout for the national team we had 2-3 practices a day. Between practices we would be exhausted. You would think that eventually a body would adapt, develop better endurance and be able to cope. Most of us went to our rooms to rest. However, I remember one player in particularly, Cynthia Johnston, who would go play tennis with the coach! I was envious of her natural grace, tall, lean, agile, and fierce, yet such a nice and calm individual. She seemed at peace with herself, didn’t seem fazed by the training sessions with boundless energy. If only I knew her secret then, but now I do – a balanced body. Pilates can help people achieve just that – equilibrium.

Basketball players can’t help but use and develop the quadriceps muscles, which happen to be one of the largest most powerful muscles in the body. It makes sense to use this muscle along with the glute max and medius muscles. No problem, the athlete has strong jumping and running muscles. As we play on over the years we continue to go to our strongest muscles and overly tight hip flexors result, causing the shutdown of the psoas, lower abdominals, and deep hip rotators. The player develops strong quads, legs and glutes, yet weak abs, deep hip rotators and core. This changes the mechanics of the hips, pelvis and lower back which can lead to back problems. Then mix in mal-alignment of the ankle and/or knee and the condition becomes compounded with possible patella-tendonitis, shin splints and taped ankles.

Ankle sprains, the number one injury in basketball so much so, that coaches and trainers in their wisdom decided to take a preventative step and have players taped for every game and practice. Tapping almost immobilizes the ankle changing the squat mechanics. It was intended to help the athlete, maybe even help them squat better by relying on the tape, but ultimately weakens the ankle and can translate injuries up the kinetic chain to the knee and hip even the back.

“The body is an intricate, dynamic, integrated system not a collection of parts that fail independently of the whole. Often conventional medicine attempts to repair or immobilize the injury without addressing the cause” Irwin Hoenig, Holistic Health and Wellness, 2012. Which would you prefer for your entrance; a door battered and dented, with squeaky hinges, where you must wiggle the handle just the right way, lift up and push as it grinds a groove in the floor opening partially or a perfectly installed door, plumb and level with hinges that glide, a handle which unlatches with a gentle turn, enabling the door to swing open with a simple touch of a finger tip? Installing a door properly takes having several factors correct; a level and square door and frame, the hinges at the right depth and way up, a level floor or a trimmed bottom door edge, the screws attaching the hinges must be drilled in the right spot, an accurately installed door handle, the point in the frame accepting the latch must be precisely lined up to make the whole thing work properly. Many factors must be addressed and done right for quality results.

Is there a source for blame? There really is no blame for a chronic repetitive injury. The coaches perhaps could do a better job of being better educated in the biomechanics of the game and how to include well rounded training into the program. Coaches, however, already have so much to pack into their practices; conditioning, learning and running an offense, defense, and special plays that often the individual conditioning of each player is overlooked or left to the sports med staff. Individual is an important word here, as players are different with various biomechanical nuances making their bodies respond differently to the same training. They must be looked at individually, yet coaches tend to treat each player the same, just placing them into their specific position on the court practicing drills for that position.

With the pride of the Olympics, national competition and pure athleticism players drive themselves on to work hard, continuing to push on to please the coach, most likely being unaware that damage is being done. Youth and being naturally gifted helps them overcome and develop as an athlete. Yet as athletes grow older it becomes harder to adapt and the game can take its toll. Accumulated stresses become more prevalent and we may seek alternative training and treatments. A though flexibility and core strengthening program never used to be the norm, nowadays almost every athlete has some core training and a yoga or flexibility program, which also develops better body awareness.

Near the end of my basketball career I decided to learn Pilates, mainly because it jived so well with my biomechanical studies. I was lucky enough to take my full Pilates training with a very talented, independent, group of instructors at Body Matrix. The name speaks for itself. Some of the trainers had worked for Stott Pilates, the more established corporate training facility, they brought the knowledge of Stott and classic Pilates training methods of Pilates elder Alan Herdman of London England. There is now a school of Pilate’s instructors who have the classical training with a gentle touch.

What amazed me once I began the training was that I realized I had little connection with my core and the deep abdominals were weak. I had very strong legs and arms and exterior abs, yet a very weak core. So it goes with most athletes I now see. We have to learn new muscle patterning, release tight and overused muscles and learn how to recruit alternative ones in harmony with those large, external, stronger muscles. Once this is achieved you have a new body. Let’s just say it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice, attention and good instruction.

It’s the core that protects the back, holds it in proper alignment, reducing wear and tear on the spine and discs. The core also translates the power from the lower body to the upper body to the basketball, the tennis racquet, . If your pelvis and lower back are pulled out of alignment that translation is not as effective, energy is dissipated, we struggle, we are not efficient. Pilates helps us use the proper amount of force for the activity, with less stress on the spinal segments and joints, increasing the overall power output. Now I know this sounds car-like but it is true. We drive more like a Mercedes and less like a muscle car.

Coming back to the Olympic volleyball team, May- Treanor commented that, “Pilates helped us to know how to take the foot off the gas when in park”. Instead of always being on overdrive or in a state of over recruitment, Pilates teaches us how to take a breath, calm the body and increase our ability to focus and respond appropriately. Furthermore, tight muscles become relaxed, weak muscles become stronger and the alignment of the ankles, knees and hips, as well as, the shoulder girdle change. In my case, my hips released, my femurs were no longer externally rotated and the forces acting through the ankle, knee and hip joints improved. My shoulders relaxed, my neck lengthened and I truly felt taller and more agile. Along the Pilates training path you will also increase flexibility, balance, precision, spinal and joint mobility, muscular strength and endurance, and develop better breathing mechanics.

After my Pilates training I truly did feel amazing, I had greater energy and vitality. My body was no longer struggling for alignment. To be free to move through full range of motion was absolutely liberating, empowering, leaving a sense of freedom and play. Many people never find this freedom in their body and remain bound in their habitual patterns. I went on to play competitive Ultimate for a few years, snowboarded for another 10, and took up beach volleyball. I chose to also work in construction, mainly because I was tired of sitting at a desk, but also I wanted to test my theory that we were essentially mechanically the same. With proper alignment, core strength and awareness we can do just about anything without injury.

Pilates can make you stronger, smarter and probably faster, appropriate training for competitive basketball and I’d like to think all Olympians. Now, I help others find their inner balance. A lack of connection is a common trait of a fast paced world, we sometimes find ourselves eating without tasting, listening without being truly present and exercising without experiencing the feeling that arises within us. We can come to our senses – and Pilateon!

Samantha T. Reed B.PHE. Specialist in Biomechanics
Certified Pilates Instructor
Pilates Body Mechanics

Yoga at Sunset

        Yoga at Sunset  

   End of Summer Salutation      Classes 8:15 am & 6:30 pm Tuesdays

        Starts Sept 25 in Erin                                8:00 pm Yin Yoga Wednesdays

. Private Pilates sessions . Yin Yoga . Aerial Yoga

. Therapeutic & Post Rehab Training . Pilates and Yoga for Athletes

Sometimes you have to unlearn the wrong way of doing something in order to learn the way it should have been done all along.  Try Pilates!

If exercise leaves you sore but you don’t see results it’s not working – Try Pilates – soreness is not necessary and results guaranteed.

info@pilateon.ca            also check out  www.pilateonbodymechanic.blogspot.ca