Pilates Therapeutics: The Pelvic Core

Suzanne Martin
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength , Special Health Conditions

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Note: Suzanne also calls this the Pelvic Ring Core, and the DVD bears a Vol. 2 designation, although I think thatís in reference to the Vol. 1 designation on the Upper Core disc rather than an indication that this is the second volume Suzanne has put out related to the pelvis.

Iím reviewing this workout after working with it once.

General workout breakdown: This video is part lecture, part tutorial, part demonstration, and part follow-along. The purpose is to discuss how to bring the pelvic region back into balance and stack the hips and vertebrae correctly to keep the pelvis, spine, and lower body healthy.
The video begins with Suzanne talking for about 10.5 min., including an Introduction, Opening Words, a discussion of the anatomy of the Pelvic Ring Core, including a nice tidbit about how to align the skull in relation to oneís natural center of gravity, and the Equipment used in the workout, with suggestions for substitutions.
The exercise portion spans about 93.5 min. and includes some initial breathwork, supine stretches (reclined leg stretch variations), lower body toner-pelvic floor exercise, stroke the cat, pelvic press-dog tail concept, neutral spine, 1st position leg setting, sidelying sacral balancing (variations on side-lying leg kicks), sidelying seated bends, sidelying star (a side plank variation), sitting (with a series of movements that test your ability to keep your spine stable), quadruped exercisers (both over the block and on your hands and knees), kneeling, spinal roll to vertical, and gait (where you practice walking). Suzanne begins each segment discussing the purpose of each exercise as well as how to execute it, both talking you through the exercise as well as providing a short demo. Youíre then invited to follow along. The exercises vary in difficulty. Some are very subtle; some you can just barely perceive that somethingís going on, while others can be surprisingly challenging once you pay proper attention to every last little detail. Others are quite strong, like the side plank variation.
The video ends with tips on how to reduce pain in the pelvis and low back while standing, sitting, and walking, after which Suzanne includes some closing words (3.5 min. total).
As Suzanne herself states, the pace is slow and controlled on purpose, with an emphasis on quality and focus over quantity and just doing it to do it. Exercises are only done with as few as 2 to as many as 5-6 reps. Suzanne tries to do things evenly, but she often does the demo on one side without adding in an additional rep for the other side.

Level: Iíd recommend this to exercisers with some previous experience with Pilates, other bodywork, and/or mind-body forms of fitness. This program is designed to be accessible, and all but the most absolute beginners and/or those in the most acute pain may find it useful. One canít really rate something like this as ďbeginnerĒ or whatever because as a therapeutic program itís outside the realm of the normal Pilates progression.
I consider myself at the int. / adv. level of Pilates, but recently I had medical issues affecting my abdomen. I purchased this to help with the recovery but embarrassingly only pulled it out once I was almost fully recovered, and while I regret that I didnít look at it sooner Iím glad I have spent some time with it because it has some useful information. This will be one Iíll pull out occasionally as reference and perhaps to practice a few things, like proper engagement of the pelvic floor; it wonít be one Iíll use regularly or turn to when I want a ďworkout.Ē

Class: Suzanne instructs live while Autumn demonstrates the exercises, although Suzanne does a number of them, too. More often than not Suzanne mentions modifications, but Autumn performs the full exercise.

Music: bland upbeat instrumentals play during the title sequences, but there is no music while Suzanne talks and Autumn demos.

Set: an unexciting dance studio, with a barre and images of dancers on the back wall and a floor that has seen many a dance shoe.

Production: clear picture and sound. The camera angles are helpful, with the close-ups attempting to reinforce Suzanneís points. This is not a big budget production, so donít expect any bells or whistles.

Equipment: As shown, Suzanne and Autumn use a chair, a flex band, a large box, a small box, and a mat. She offers the suggestion of sitting on any piece of furniture, using any sort of resistance band / yoga strap / belt / tie, lying over a piano bench / stack of firm bolsters (although I think a Fanny Lifter or high step would be a great alternative many VFers would be likely to have), sitting on yoga blocks / stacks of phone books / small firm cushion, and laying down a towel or blanket. You can get away with just something to sit on and lie over like a Fanny Lifter, a strap or band, maybe that yoga block or equivalent (in a pinch you could sit on that FL or whatever), and a mat.

Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended and then move them around.

DVD Notes: The main menu choices are Play Entire Program or Choose Individual Scenes. The DVD is meticulously chaptered by topic and exercise (or groups of exercises).

Comments: As Suzanne mentions, if you have an injury or issue itís best to clear this with your physical therapist or other medical care provider; in fact, she stresses that you should work with professional help in evaluating which exercises are for you and in which variation. This video is really meant more to give you options for exercises to incorporate into your routines rather than something thatís meant to be done exactly as is. Suzanne reminds you regularly to listen to your body and to modify, prop, or even skip as needed; I like that she stresses itís not a ďmoral failingĒ if you canít complete an exercise right now. Suzanne doesnít say that sheís targeting any specific condition, although the cover says the video should be useful in treating and preventing pelvic pain, low back issues, and knee problems; the cover also recommends this after pregnancy (although itís worth noting Pilates Therapeutics offers a video specifically targeted at Post-Natal Restoration).
I was surprised that there was very little discussion of the curvature of the spine, but then I realized that Pilates Therapeutics has devoted two videos to Scoliosis, where I suspect Suzanne covers that issue in detail.

Instructor Comments:
Suzanne, who is actually listed as Dr. Suzanne Martin, is both a physical therapist and a certified Pilates instructor.
Suzanne speaks fairly clearly, using approachable medical terms as well as metaphors to keep things understandable. (She has a funny fixation with pet metaphors here, telling you to treat your body like a beloved pet, describing the pelvis in relation to a cocker spanielís head, imagining you have a dog tail extending from your tailbone, talking about the dog tilt position, and then doing the cat exercise.) I found her description imprecise in some spots, especially when discussing things that are so subtle you canít really see them when demonstrated by a live model, even one as terrific as Autumn, but I got at least the gist, if not all the details.
Suzanneís delivery reminds me more of the clinical presentation of Gary Kraftsow rather than, say, the lively Jill Miller. Still, I had no problems listening to her for almost two hours. You can tell sheís taught these exercises many, many times plus worked with dancers; I feel almost like Iím back in dance class with her cuing style, where she almost sings the more rhythmic cues and counts (ďa-one, two, three, four, and up, two, three, fourĒ). Suzanne cues for her and Autumnís right and left rather than the viewerís, which is more for purpose of being clearer about which side is doing what than saying you have to start on one side or the other.