Struggling with symptoms of menopause? Here’s how Pilates and holistic lifestyle changes can help
Whether you’re having symptoms peri to post menopause Organic Pilates & Holistic Health will work with you to understand how to heal and live in harmony with your body.
Menopause is still considered by many to be a taboo subject, with many of us not talking about what we’re going through. But all of us ladies experience menopause, so why should we suffer in silence?
This is where Organic Pilates & Holistic Health comes to our rescue. Owner Jill Robinson is on a mission to empower women to get back into fitness and to make sure we understand what’s going on in our bodies before, during and after menopause, whilst making sure that it doesn’t stop us from having fun.
Sounds just what we need, right? That’s why we caught up with Jill, who is based in Durham, to find out how Pilates and holistic lifestyle changes could be the answer to managing our menopause symptoms and have us all living in harmony with our bodies again.
What drives Organic Pilates & Holistic Health?
I’m driven by the complete lack of education and a society that still feels that menopause is a ‘women’s thing’ and shouldn’t be talked about. We are the ‘sandwich generation’ – we have children still dependent upon us, older parents increasingly reliant on us, and we still work full-time. Plus, we’re the generation who are more likely to be school governors, charity workers and do the most non-paid housework. We’re at a time in our lives when our body is changing and we’ve got loads going on. It’s no wonder we have menopausal symptoms.
I want women to know that menopause is a transformative time. It’s a time when women should be stepping into their power. Yes, it can be a painful time, with women having to endure many symptoms and yet still be expected to carry on regardless. Still, ultimately, it’s a time of empowerment and many things get blamed on menopause or something that natural lifestyle methods can help improve. I believe that we should be living in harmony with our bodies, reducing the chemical load and taking care of ourselves and the planet upon which we live, (hence the name Organic – which means ‘to grow as nature intended’).
What makes your Pilates studio unique?
I combine all the aspects of wellness. We have four bodies that we need to look after – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. Each of those bodies requires equal attention, and none are more important than the other. I use Pilates, holistic therapies, breathwork and strength work to ensure that I enable each of the four bodies to ‘work out’. My studio has a lovely, friendly vibe, we have a great community. Once a year I organise a retreat to Slaley Hall, and it’s always a fab time to connect and relax.
You say you ‘reclaimed and healed your own body’ through Pilates. Tell us more…
I was born with hip dysplasia, which means my hip doesn’t properly fit into its socket. I started to develop constant hip pain and my leg used to give way randomly – I was always falling over (non-alcohol induced). It was getting worse and more frequent. It got to a point where I had to crawl up the stairs. I started to practice Pilates and, after a few weeks, it was like magic – the symptoms began to disappear.
My hip became much more robust and I felt like my whole body just straightened up and changed shape. I can now still feel that my left hip is weaker than my right, but it never causes me any pain and I don’t even think about it anymore.
Now I’m heading towards my 50’s I’ve got a vested interest in keeping myself healthy, I’ve spent many years working with the human body, so I want to keep my own in optimal health as my hormonal landscape changes. I know that the hormonal hounds of hell are there breathing down my neck, and whenever I step off the healthy path they bite me. That’s how I know that my methods work.
How do Pilates and holistic therapies help with women’s health problems?
One of the main problems I see with women hitting the peri- to post-menopausal years, are pelvic floor problems. It’s not normal for any woman to pee themselves when they cough, sneeze or laugh, (contrary to what certain adverts might tell you). The hormonal changes can make the tendons holding everything in place more relaxed – this then causes the problems of prolapse or stress incontinence. Strengthening the muscles, integrating them into the whole body and ensuring good nutrition can play a significant role and help improve the situation, or stop it from getting any worse.
I’m a big believer in simple things which have the biggest impact, things such as getting enough water, making sure you get enough sleep, reducing stress, it’s little habits that when done over a long term can make big differences. It’s no use saying to a mid-life woman you need to do an hour a day of intense exercise and only eat celery, it’s just not feasible, sustainable or safe.
I run an online program called ‘Pilates for Menopause’: four weeks of healthy habit building, education, support and motivation. We look at things like pelvic health, menopausal symptoms and how to improve them naturally, knee strengthening, neck and should releasing, plus nutrition, stress-relieving and how to improve your sleep. This program has had fabulous feedback and has it helped and empowered many women to make better lifestyle choices, which have reduced their menobelly, improved their symptoms and allowed them to ‘see their feet again’ (their words!).
You say that Pilates is ‘more than just exercise’. How is this?
Pilates is a lifestyle and, once you start to practice Pilates, it’s like something magical happens. It’s the combination of breathing, moving and just bringing your awareness into your body, just for an hour. It’s so good to allow your mind and body to reconnect. Pilates is also great for balance, coordination, mobility and stability. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Pilates is an easy option, it can be deceptively difficult, and you should never underestimate how much work you’re doing on the mat. The best thing about it is anyone can do it as all the exercises can be modified to suit all abilities.
You don’t just teach Pilates. What other classes do you run?
I also teach Barre class – one of my favourite classes, which focuses on posture and standing strength work. Plus, it’s got a great vibe with the music pumping. If there’s one thing menopausal women should be doing, it’s lifting weights. We start to lose muscle mass more quickly post-menopause, so doing resistance training within my kettlebell class helps to harmonise the hormones and increase muscle strength, improving posture, hormonal health and quality of life.
I’ve also just released a brand new program in my studio called ‘Find Your Flow’ which is a 5/6 week program which combines flowing movements, deep stretching and breathing with a lovely meditation at the end. It’s designed to be a gentle program for beginners and advanced alike, to enable relaxation and an hour to switch off. It’s just a beautiful thing to do, especially with everything that’s going on in the world.
One of the biggest things that I’ve introduced to the studio this year has been ‘Breathwork Sessions’ – which use specific breathing techniques to calm the mind, connect to your higher self and feel a sense of deep peace. Our breathwork sessions include a 15/20 minute meditation, with a 30 minute Conscious Connected Breathe, plus a sharing circle.
Tell us more about what Conscious Connected Breathwork is?
Conscious Connected Breathwork is a method of using the breath to create an altered state of consciousness, where deep healing, release, spiritual insights and states of bliss can occur. It’s a powerful process, but the breather always remains in control of their journey and rate of breathing. There are so many benefits that come with CBB, such as detoxing, calming the nervous system and reducing anxiety, releasing muscle tension and improving digestion.
Menopausal women should all be practicing breathwork as it can help calm the central nervous system thus reducing anxiety.
What does the future look like for Organic Pilates & Holistic Health?
The future looks good. I’ve just released my new clothing line. I’m obsessed with (and live in) leggings, but the ones I require which are squat-proof are costly. So, I’ve sourced some affordable, sweat-wicking leggings which look good and can take the squats, without showing your underwear to the gym. Also, my tops are all organic cotton and feel lovely.
And, watch this space for my new book ‘Unlock the Power of Your Breath’, coming soon.