I’m excited to announce that Heather Massie is joining the teaching team at Spiral Spine Pilates. As a private client of mine, over the last 10 years, I have witnessed Heather transform from a fearful woman living in physical pain with scoli, to an empowered, strong, pain-free woman charged up to advocate for the scoli community. Not only is she a comprehensively training Balanced Body Pilates instructor, she has been living with scoli from age 13 and knows first hand how to proactively live a successful life with the diagnoses. It hasn’t been an easy journey for Heather, but through her perseverance and dedication, she has gained first-hand knowledge that few in the scoliosis world acquire. She is a truly unique gem that I feel very blessed to have on the team at Spiral. Keep reading to read Heather’s scoli story and her 3 favorite scoliosis exercises.
I lived with scoliosis for almost 20 years with no real issues until I gave birth to my first child. Postpartum, I ended up with a painful disc injury from doing too many different exercise techniques and not knowing how to fully care for my scoli body. During the years when my children were young, I tried many different modalities to help my body, including regenerative medicine, Schroth therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, bracing, and massage to name a few. While my body responded well to some of the therapies, I was still having pain. During this journey a friend recommended I see Erin Myers for a lesson. I was hooked after only a few lessons. Not only did the fear and shame about my scoliosis (that I’d been avoiding for decades) start to melt away, but also so did my pain. Most importantly, I felt more self-confident and capable of caring for my young and active family.
I initially started Pilates teacher training to learn more about caring for my own body, because I knew Pilates would always be a huge part of my life. Over time, my intentions changed and my motivation shifted towards helping others who have scoliosis fall in love with movement. The key for me has been learning to enjoy and embrace the body and life I’ve been given. Pilates has helped me find more joy in the present and have hope for the future, and I’m excited, and consider it an honor, to help others in their own journey.
Here are some of my favorite scoli exercises.
Mermaid seated on the Chair
I love doing this exercise at the beginning and end of a workout. It helps to practice good alignment in the saggital plane while you lengthen the side body and open fascial lines that tend to get tight in the concave sides of scoli.
With one 3 spring on the Chair, put one foot on the ground with the other facing forward like you’re siting in a chair. It provides nice proprioceptive feedback to encourage length between the ribs and hips as the bottom arm presses the peddle down and the top arm reaches overhead. While holding this lateral bend, keep equal weight on the sit bones and breathe deeply into the concave area of the side body pointed towards the ceiling. Be sure to do both sides and see if they feel different. You can also do this exercise at home seated on a chair or stool by placing the bottom forearm on the thigh instead of your hand on the pedal and reach the other arm overhead to get a similar side stretch. You’re likely to catch me mermaid stretching on a bleacher at my son’s baseball game.
Side Lying Legs on the Trapeze Table/Cadillac
This is hands down my favorite series for stability, mobility, and core exercise while simultaneously lying in a corrective position and encouraging sleepy concave muscles to fire. Side Lying Legs are a great way to analyze stability of the pelvis and see if the lower body can disassociate from the hips. The purple spring provides resistance and assistance during movement which is wonderful for mobilizing and firing pelvic muscles and massaging hip joints. When we challenge stability it helps to remind smaller stability muscles to fire and do their job.
While lying on your side, place a pad or small rolled mat under the convex side of a curve. Thread the top foot through the strap of a purple spring, engage the core and keep the hip bones stacked. Maintain length between the ribs and hip bones while going through a series of lifting the top leg up and down, front and back kicks, leg circles, and bicycles. Reward yourself at the end of the series by allowing the knee to bend, leg to reach behind you in a hip flexor stretch, and hip to fall backwards in an abdominal fascial stretch. See if you notice a different between sides!
Hanging Pull Ups on Trapeze Table/Cadillac
I love to end every workout with a whole body challenge, whether it be planks and pikes or some version of push ups/pull ups. It leaves people feeling super strong and proud of what the body can do. I was hooked the first time I tried this advanced exercise. It may look intimidating but it’s actually quite safe and attainable.
Once your feet are hooked in the trapeze, start by dropping the hips and enjoying a delicious traction for the lower lumbar region. When you’re ready, engage the core and squeeze the glutes to lift the hips in line with the rest of the body. This alone is a great whole body challenge or you can do a few pull ups and thoracic extensions before dropping back into a traction. As you get stronger you can play around in the hanging plank by lifting one leg and taking it across the mid-line for some rotation and cross-body stretching.
I look forward to teaching you these exercises and many more!