Exercises to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Our hands and wrists are incredible pieces of engineering. Nearly every daily task we complete involves our hands in some way. As a result they can become overworked, tired, and sore. In this technological age, lets face it, most of my clients’ hands are their money makers. So they cannot afford to have them out of commission. Yet Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is now a common ailment.

Everyone has heard of carpal tunnel. The symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the hand and wrist. The cause is an impingement of the median nerve that runs from your forearm to your hand through a small space called the carpal tunnel (think Caldecott Tunnel at rush hour). The median nerve is super important because it controls movement and feeling in the thumb and first three fingers.

Carpal tunnel is difficult to cure and very painful so lets talk prevention.

Have your clients check out their posture when they’re typing, driving, riding a bike or gardening. They should ask themselves, “Is there tension in my hands and forearms?” “Am I clenching my hands?” “Are my wrists in one stagnant position for a long time?” If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” they should do some self massage.


Here’s what I tell my clients:

Start at the top of your forearm where you bend your elbow and with gentle force find any “spots” that seem to be achy and hold constant pressure on them for 10-15 seconds. You should hopefully feel a release in the muscle. Keep moving down the arm and into the hand this way.

Lastly, do more Pilates! Your shoulder girdle and upper body should be helping your forearms and hands to complete tasks. Often carpal tunnel can be traced back to the muscles in the neck and shoulder blades. STOTT PILATES® focuses strongly on shoulder girdle stabilization and strength. Pilates exercises will help keep your wrists, forearms, and shoulders work together in healthier, happy harmony!



Meeting Our Heros

Moria Merrithew, Melissa Kennedy, Holly Furgason, & John Garey
Moria Merrithew, Melissa Kennedy, Holly Furgason, & John Garey

Moria Merrithew, Melissa Kennedy, Holly Furgason, & John Garey

A few weekends ago Melissa and I headed down to Los Angeles for the Merrithew Health & Fitness Mindful Movement Conference to learn some new skills. Two weeks have passed since the conference and we’re still brimming with new ideas!


We were both super impressed with the level of teaching in all of the workshops that we took. It was really inspiring to learn from the STOTT PILATES® Master Instructor Trainers: PJ O’Clair, John Garey, Kim Kraushar, and Wayne Seeto. They each have tremendous experience, knowledge, and passion for what they teach. We couldn’t help but be energized by the experience!

I attended all of the CORE™ workshops offered with John Garey. CORE™ and John are BIG energy and serious work! I was like a sponge and learned every awesome-minute of my time with John. If you haven’t tried CORE™, you will be amazed at how fun a 45-minute killer workout can be!

Melissa focused her time on the new Total Barre™ program that the experts at Merrithew Health & Fitness™ have been cooking up! Melissa was delighted to find that Moira (co-founder of STOTT PILATES® and Merrithew Health & Fitness™) was teaching all of her Total Barre™ workshops – a gift to learn from Moira!

At lunch I met up with Melissa to see how her workshops had been going. She beamed, “They put tons of thought and research into creating a barre program that incorporated such sound biomechanics and all of the principles of STOTT PILATES®. The result is a barre class that’s very effective, safe and SOOOO much fun!”  Melissa and I plan to return to L.A. this summer to complete the Total Barre™ and bring it home to Blue Sparrow Pilates. Look for Total Barre™ at Blue Sparrow Pilates in Fall 2013!

We both came back from our long weekend sore, yet refreshed.  And as you can tell, we’re bursting with new ideas and excited about sharing this information with Blue Sparrow.

The Salad Hater

Kale Salad

Sitting down to dinner at my house the other night, my good friend suddenly interrupted our conversation: “You made salad for me?  You know I’m a Salad Hater!”  She was smiling and sort of laughing, but I could tell she wasn’t excited about the carnival of vegetables and kale I’d prepared for her.  Truth be told, I’d forgotten that she hated salad…I mean how can anyone hate salad?  Beets I understand, but that’s a different story.

She was just being polite as we took our first bites, but I almost choked from surprise when she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! I can’t believe it! I like this salad!”  Trying my best to hide an ‘I knew you would’ smile, I brought us back to our conversation.  Before I’d finished my plate, my friend finished her’s and was asking for seconds.

Check out my kale salad recipe that converted a Salad Hater as well as some other favorites!

Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing


This salad is inspired by Rip Esselstyn from the Engine 2 and Forks Over Knives.

Prep time: 5-minute
Ingredients: Bunch kale, lemon, Avocado

Destem kale and cut the kale into ¼ inch ribbons. Place kale in a bowl. Squeeze ½-1 lemon over. Add salt to taste. Cut an avocado in half and pit. Squeeze the avocado onto the bowl. Massage with clean hands the kale, working the avocado into a dressing. The kale should become less tough. Viola!

Esalen-esque Kale Salad


This salad is a variation from the Esalen Salad in the Esalen Cookbook. It’s a little easier and has less ingredients.

Prep time: 15-minutes
¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos (don’t add too much or gets salty)
1 lemon
⅓ extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 Bunch fresh kale
1 cup mixed sprouts (pea, alfalfa, sunflower, etc)
1 avocado diced

Toast the sunflower seeds over medium. The toast the sesame seeds over medium. Do not walk away, they burn quickly.

Destem kale and cut the kale into ¼  inch ribbons. Combine the Bragg and lemon juice. Whisk in the oil as you whisk vigorously. Pour over the kale. Massage into the kale until tender. Add diced avocado. Add toasted seeds. Add the sprouts.


Taming the Psoas

Active Psoas Stretch

Constructive RestThe psoas is very susceptible to being tight because of our daily activities. Sitting for long periods of a the time at the computer, driving, running and even exercise. Pilates can help bring the psoas back to a relaxed, responsive and supportive position so that it can do it’s job properly.

Last week we explored where the psoas was and it’s function.

What exercises can you have your clients do to lengthen and release the psoas? Well, all Pilates exercises utilize the psoas since it is a powerhouse core muscle but the below exercises will enable the psoas to release and relax enabling you to dive into harder exercise’s safely like the hundred or side kick.

If the Psoas feels tight begin with a position called constructive rest. The constructive rest position allows tension in the hips, pelvis and lower back to be released by using gravity to lengthen the psoas muscle.

Here is what I have my clients to do:

Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, your knees bent, your heels 12 to 16 inches from your butt and your feet about hip-width apart. Maintain this position for 10-20 minutes. Simply allow your body to come into a place of rest and balance.

The psoas stretch is a Pilates exercise that will help lengthen the psoas. To begin, lie on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor, and gently press your shoulder blades into the floor to anchor them. Pull one knee up into your chest and slide the opposite leg straight onto the floor. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch legs.

The psoas is the meat of our midline body and needs to remain supple and relaxed in order to perform properly. Allowing ourselves to take the time for constructive rest and PIlates class will enable this great muscle the freedom to work as best as it can.

The Mysterious Psoas



Do your clients have trouble understanding what you mean when you talk to them about their psoas? Everyone has heard the word Psoas used when referring to core muscles or hip flexors but what, really, is the Psoas?

The Psoas muscle is an incredible muscle that helps us move, walk, dance and live. The Psoas can be considered the core muscle of the human body. It is the only muscle to attach the spine to the leg, thus allowing for the movement of walking. The Psoas major is a large muscle that attaches at T12, the bottom of the thoracic spine continuing along the lumbar spine to L4. It then runs through the pelvic bowl and over the front of the hip, finally attaching to the top of the femur.

The Psoas is traditionally thought of as a hip flexor, which means it is a muscle that brings the trunk and leg closer closer together or closes the joint. There are new Psoas experts that want to change our interpretation of the psoas. They believe this important muscle should not classified as a flexor because in doing so we then want to stretch or strenghten it like we would any flexor, but the Psoas is different.

Liz Koch, psoas expert believes that the psoas becomes exhausted instead of tight and we must learn how to relax and release the psoas as opposed to stretching and strengthening. Focusing on proper alignment, stabilizing, and good posture supports the psoas, giving this mysterious muscle the chance to be the responsive, flexible connection between the spine and the lower body.

Stay tuned for Pilates exercises that you can have clients do to assist the Psoas in strengthening and lengthening.