Tag Archives: yoga

Yoga or Pilates? What’s the difference? Which one is best for me?

Many of my clients, looking for a way to stretch and keep their muscles pain free ask me whether yoga or Pilates is a good option for them and which is best. The reality is that both are great ways to keep moving but are good for our bodies in different ways.

Pilates was developed in the early 20th Century by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer. He developed his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called “Contrology” through the study of yoga and the movements of animals combined with his knowledge as a gymnast, bodybuilder and boxer.

Reformer Pilates

Pilates is great for movement of joints and focused strengthening of the muscles. It can help strengthen areas that may be weakened by a sedentary lifestyle, injury or misuse of the area. It can help correct posture and motor skills through use of body weight exercises performed on the floor or with equipment such as the reformer or therabands, foam rollers and exercise balls.

Pilates equipment

Originating in India, yoga has been practised for centuries as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline. Various styles of yoga are popular today for developing greater strength, flexibility, relaxation and meditation. Popular styles throughout the world include hatha, iyengar and ashtunga yoga. Yoga can be used for improving the flexibility of the muscles and it will also increase the flexibility of the joints. Specific poses are said to massage organs, lengthen and strengthen muscles and tendons and promote inner wellbeing.

Yoga

While it’s impossible to tell how many people regularly practise both disciplines, it’s often said that yoga, with its countless offshoots and different styles is the most widely practised exercise system in the world. While Pilates estimate more than 25 million people worldwide as devotees, largely in western countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK.

Some experts say practising Pilates can help build strength to improve yoga performance. While stretching of yoga, will help relieve muscles sore from Pilates strengthening. As yoga and Pilates have different aims, it’s unlikely that combining the two would cause overuse. However, if muscles and joints are sore, give them time to rest and recover.

So which is best to incorporate into your routine?

Stretching

There is little scientific evidence to say which is best for what. Although I would say that if you are currently injured or not exercising that some stretching and prescribed or clinical Pilates instruction from a qualified physiotherapist or remedial massage therapist might be best. Starting yoga with an existing injury or little fitness could lead to further injury.

That said, gentle styles of yoga such as hatha and iyengar with a good instructor can be beneficial to all, especially for those looking for relaxation and guided meditation techniques.

Devotees to both disciplines will say that theirs is the better option. However, the thing to remember is that all movement is good movement, and the best exercise is always the one that you prefer – as this helps motivation and consistency, with improved and long-term results.

The best strategy? Try them for yourself and see what you like best.

Muscle in Review: Sternocleidomstoid

Sternocleidomastoid muscle highlighted in red

Sternocleidomastoid, regularly abbreviated to SCM is located superficially, either side of the neck.

It originates at the sternum (sterno) and inserts at the clavicle (cleido) and mastoid process of the skull. It’s main function is head rotation and flexion of the neck.

How does SCM become injured?
SCM can be easily injured with sudden movement or jerks of the head, mostly commonly with whiplash.

 

Muscles in Upper Cross Syndrome

 

It is also often innervated in ‘upper cross syndrome’ where the upper neck and lower shoulder muscles are weak, while the upper shoulder and chest muscles are tight. This is largely due to poor posture as we hunch to use the mouse/keyboards or crane our necks over to look at our laptops or mobiles, or while driving.

What are the symptoms of an injured SCM?
A strained SCM can produce swelling and redness along the muscle, at the site of the injury. In severe cases, you also may see bruising along the path of the injury. If the strain results in a muscle spasm, you may notice a twitching or fluttering beneath the surface of the skin along the side of your neck. Stiffness, muscle fatigue and difficulty holding your head upright may occur, along with dull pain along the path of the injury, accompanied by sharp pain when turning or tilting your head.

Trigger points in SCM can cause headache pain in the back of the head, behind the ear, in the forehead but it can also cause a list of other symptoms that some may not normally attribute to muscles.

SCM trigger points

Primary Symptoms include;
Back of Head Pain
Cheek Pain (like Sinusitis)
Dizziness When Turning Head or Changing Field of View
Double/Blurry/Jumpy Print Vision
Dry Cough
Ear Pain
Earaches/Tinnitus (Ringing)/Itch
Feeling Continued Movement in Car After Stopping
Feeling Tilted When Cornering in Car
Front of Chest Pain
Frontal Headache
Headaches or Migraines
Post Nasal Drip
Runny Nose
Sore throat
Tearing/Reddening of Eye, Drooping of Eyelid
Temple and Eyebrow Pain
Temporal Headache (Temples)
Temporomandibular Joint (jaw) Pain
Throat & Front of Neck Pain
Travelling Nocturnal Sinus Stuffiness
Vertex Pain
Visual Perception Problems

How is SCM treated?
Applying ice for 10 minutes several times daily may relieve swelling and redness. Wearing a neck brace supports the weight of your head, temporarily relieving the stress on SCM although may only recommended temporarily and only in severe cases. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Neurofen) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) and analgesic rubs can relieve some of the pain associated with the strain.

SCM is very responsive to massage and other soft tissue techniques such as gentle cupping, dry needling, and stretching.

  • Rotate your head to look over your shoulder, as far as is comfortable, not to strain.
  • Then gently tilt the head to the same side, as if trying to reach the ear to the shoulder.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest and stretch the other side.

 

 

If you are a yogi, some basic yoga poses that can help lateral and anterior neck tension include;

Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjariasana (Cat Pose)

Cow-Cat pose is a gentle up-and-down flowing posture that brings flexibility to the entire spine. It stretches and lengthens the back torso and neck. It’s a wonderful and easy movement to open and create space through the entire neck.
To begin with cow pose, kneel on your hands and knees in a neutral, tabletop position. Be sure to align the hands below the shoulders and knees directly beneath the hips. Looking straight ahead, inhale, and slowly extend through your spine as you look up and forward, softly arching through the back and neck. Take care to expand through your chest and lower your shoulders down and back.

Move into cat pose by reversing the movement as you exhale and bring your chin towards your chest while gently hunching and rounding your back. Repeat this sequence for 7 to 10 cycles, softly flowing with your breath.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist Pose)

The seated twist is a wonderful pose to bring flexibility to the entire spinal column. It provides an inner massage to the abdominal organs and encourages side-to-side flexibility of the neck.

Begin seated on the floor with both legs extended in front of you and hands at your sides. Bend the right knee and draw the right foot to the outside of the outstretched left leg. Sit up tall, inhale, and extend your left arm out to your left. As you exhale, draw your left arm across your body so the elbow joint gently wraps around your right knee. Take your right hand and place it palm down on the floor near your tailbone, fingers pointing away from you. Draw your chin toward your right shoulder, making sure to keep your spine tall, and the crown of your head reaching toward the sky. Bend the right elbow slightly to allow the right shoulder to sink down.

Breathe deeply in this pose for 5 to 7 breaths, making sure to twist (not crank) your spine comfortably. Repeat on the left side to maintain the balance in your body and spinal column.

Ear to Shoulder Pose

This is an easy pose that can be done just about anywhere. The pose facilitates the lateral movement of the neck as well as stretches down into the shoulder and trapezius muscles. This pose can be performed standing or sitting, provided the spine is straight.

Begin by looking straight ahead with your arms down at your sides. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, bring your right ear down toward your right shoulder. Try to avoid leaning your head forward or back so that your head remains in the same plane as your shoulders. Inhale as you draw your head back to center and exhale as you repeat the movement to the left.

To deepen the stretch, place your right hand on the left side of your head as it drops over towards the right shoulder. Don’t pull your head over; just allow the weight of your hand to softly guide it down. Perform this cycle 7 to 10 times per side before returning to centre. (1)