I want to talk about pain. Chances are, you have some chronic pain that pops up every now and then or has been sticking with you. And whether you have Scoliosis or not —
chances are, your chronic pain is due to imbalances in your joints, muscles, and connective tissues. My question to you is this: would you like to solve the root problem or just mask the problem?

Taking pain meds — that’s a slippery slope. Especially for chronic pain. While it may be useful for a (very) short-term, acute condition (like post-surgery) the risk of getting addicted to pain meds looms. We’ve got a crisis in the United States.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/opioid-crisis-epidemic.html. Plus — wouldn’t you know it — taking pain meds can make pain worse. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/why-taking-morphine-oxycodone-can-sometimes-make-pain-worse. And there are a litany of side-effects. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/the-problem-with-pain-pills/

I’d like to offer you a ray of hope: One-on-one Pilates lessons (and after that, very small classes like duets and trios) are very effective for addressing chronic pain. Because you’re changing the way you use your body: changing your posture and habitual movements; strengthening chronically weak muscles, and stretching chronically tight muscles. It is important to have that one-on-one, at least to start, in order to get that “eagle eye” attention on your alignment and movements. And with me, you change your Breath. I have to be honest here: my breathing style is very unlike typical Pilates breathing. My alignment “cues” are often different too, because my work is based in Osteopathic Sciences.

Breathing, you say?

back painWhat’s so important about breathing? Isn’t it something we do without needing any help? Breathe in, breathe out?

Ah — this is where I would like to say, that most of us have developed faulty breathing habits. And faulty breathing produces a body which is less flexible, less adaptable to the pressures of gravity, and more.

What starts changing our breathing habits? Posture, absolutely. Think of what affects your chronic posture: Sitting at a desk for hours upon days upon years comes to mind. Wearing high heels also does this (sad but true). Your sport of choice, especially if it’s one-sided like golf or tennis definitely affects your posture. Always wearing your handbag on one side affects your posture. This all affects your breathing.

And — sorry ladies — Wearing tight waistbands, corseted clothing, and keeping the tummy “sucked in” to look more slender affects breathing. This leads to a body which is less flexible, less adaptable to the pressures of gravity, and less able to take a deep breath. In our industrialized world, we have become conditioned to be shallow breathers. It’s time to change that.

Well, okay, that’s all great, but you live in Hawaii, Lahela. What now? Well, I’ll be working on some podcasts and webinars. For now, can I leave you with this exercise to develop?

Start breathing naturally again. Look at little kids. Notice how they fill their tummies when they breathe. We need to do this. Fill your tummy! Let your belly button pooch out! Why? Because when you breathe this way, you’re fully using your Diaphragm, which is the main muscle of breathing. Because when you do this, you are also allowing your internal organs to move around. Because when you do this, you’ll allow your lungs to fully fill. Because when you do this, you’re actually helping your spine. There’s a lot more WHY here. But I’ll save more for later.

Breathing differently affects my spine?

Yes. It does.

Try this exercise out. I can’t take credit for it, I’ve just been using it for a couple of decades. Take a clock or stopwatch. Time it for one minute. Count how many breaths you take in one minute. Now try it again and consciously slow it down. It may take a few tries — see if you can get yourself to take no more than 4 inhales and 4 exhales in one minute. Or as close to it as you can get. I’m betting that you notice a lot of great effects from this.

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Lahela Hekekia

I was diagnosed with Scoliosis at age 10 and started having chronic pain at age 19. During stressful times like exams, I was downing handfuls of Ibuprofen and getting massages, just to survive. And for years experienced very one-sided sports injuries. Right hip, right knee, right ankle, right foot. Left shoulder. It all makes sense now.
I found Pilates in my 30s. In about two years of daily practice, I changed my spine. Dr. Chip Abbadessa looked at the xray in 2009 and said, “Are you telling me that you used to have Scoliosis? Look at this…” Thanks, Dr. Chip! And yes, I got close to an inch “taller.”
I no longer have those constant headaches and pinching pain between the shoulder blades -- and no longer floored by spasms in the low back that would happen with seemingly no warning. My weight didn’t really change, but I feel much lighter on my feet, can reach higher, and haven’t been this flexible since middle school. (Keep in mind, I became a long distance runner in middle school, and running tends to decrease flexibility. I also got lazy about stretching at age 18). I felt “old” at 25 and feel “young” and bouncy now, at 47. OMG. I’m 47. Well my goal is to be bouncy at 97.
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