Combining Yoga and Pilates/the Power of an Inter-Disciplinary Approach

My interest and relationship to Pilates and Yoga started from activities in my childhood that resulted in serious trauma to my body. I started dancing at age 6 and by age 13 experienced symptoms of chondromalacia patella, in which the cartilage on the undersurface of the knee deteriorates and softens. This condition often arises from activities that require a lot of deep knee bending (like ballet) and is often linked to an imbalance in certain muscles, particularly the Quadriceps. Typically, the lateral Quads are tight and strong while the medial quad, called the VMO, is weak. This pattern can result in the kneecap getting pulled laterally off of its groove, wherein it rubs against bone and can damage the cartilage underneath. Experiencing knee issues at such a young age drew me to Pilates and in particular the Pilates Reformer, where I learned to develop more balanced muscular strength, even muscular recruitment patterns, and better awareness related to alignment and movement throughout my body. I continued to study Pilates as an adjunct to dance training throughout college and added yoga training to give me a more well-rounded approach to dealing with health and wellness

I dealt with a lot of anxiety and self-esteem issues in college and found yoga to offer a form of ‘moving meditation’ that supported states of wellbeing on multiple levels—physical, emotional, and mental. The discipline helped me move through years of challenging anxiety issues with more self- love and care.

My interests in yoga have broadened into work not only just with Asana (yoga postures), but also Pranayama (breathing practices), anatomy, and meditation. My journey as a yoga student has taken a circuitous path—from Hatha to Ashtanga, Ashtanga to Vinyasa, Vinyasa to Anusara, and Anusara to Iyengar—which, in addition to my self-practice, is where I find myself now.

Even though I deeply love practicing yoga, I have to be careful doing so, as I have injured myself by going too far. As someone with hypermobile joints, I experienced sacro-iliac instability, a partial shoulder dislocation, and knee and foot issues. While doing asana feels amazing to me, it can also be a double-edged sword for someone with hypermobility. I can stretch my body into all kinds of crazy positions, but should I? Is it good for me? I have to be hyper-conscious not to flop into poses and rely solely on joint mobility, but to keep my muscles actively engaged as I stretch. Through these personal trials, I have come to understand the importance of emphasizing support and strength way more than range of motion in my personal asana practice and in my teaching as well.

As someone who loves to keep learning about ways to keep the body strong, supple and aligned properly, I continue to study Iyengar Yoga. I also understand the merits in studying movement modalities other than yoga to expand my knowledge and skill base. Last June I began the rigorous Pilates equipment and mat certification at the Kane School. The studio focuses on Pilates as a therapeutic tool with an emphasis in anatomy, biomechanics, and touch. The studio has close relationships with the medical community and works in tandem with physical therapists, gyrotonic practitioners, and is characterized by a knowledgeable, supportive staff. It provides the ideal training and resource for learning how to help people find better alignment, move out of maladaptive movement patterns, and strengthen deep core muscles.

Since getting back into Pilates in my personal routines, I have experienced a profound change in my body, which has been greatly beneficial for my yoga practice. I have a newfound sense of stability in my body that I haven’t felt since college, when dancing and Pilates went hand in hand. I can now feel my core better able to support me in a position as simple as Sukhasana (seated cross legs). When in standing poses, arm balances, and inversions, I now find sufficient length and support in my trunk. I attribute this to the development of a stronger core. While I love to explore range of motion and expansion in asana, the feeling of being connected and supported from specific Pilates exercises adds immeasurably to my practice.

I am starting to incorporate Pilates core-strengthening and alignment principles into my private yoga sessions, and will broaden this emphasis through work on Pilates Apparatus as these resources become available through my Pilates certification. My private sessions will incorporate both Pilates equipment work and yoga, as I have found the two modalities to be much aligned. I have come to understand the power in combining the wisdom and knowledge from multi-disciplines and look forward to sharing those benefits with my clients.