When you walk into Erika Bloom's airy Upper East Side pilates studio, you can't help but notice that it is almost impossibly serene, nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the city below. But beyond the placid environment for a pilates session, Erika Bloom offers much more than a training session for your muscles—sure, you can workout at Erika Bloom Pilates, but you should really consider it a holistic healing center that offers movement, manual, and mindfulness therapies.
First and foremost, Bloom and her instructors are incredibly knowledgable on muscular structure. When you start a one-on-one session, the first step is an in-depth physical assessment; where you are tight, which muscles are weak—and which are overly strong. They take the time to suss out where you have structural imbalances.
When I was approached about some complimentary sessions, I had no idea what I was really in for. Within thirty seconds of meeting me, Bloom was able to see that I was tight on the right side of my body, extending from my shoulder and shortening my right leg, so that my gait was slightly off. Within a couple more minutes, Bloom had also identified that overly built up pectoral muscles, thanks to weakened shoulder and back musculature were not just causing me to be protracted (shoulders curled forward) and exacerbating the fascial adhesion behind my right shoulder, but also tightening the connective tissue that extends from the chest to my neck, up to the base of my head. Her assessment: this was probably making my chronic tension headaches worse.
From there, the pilates lesson was tailored to strengthening the specific areas of my body that were lacking in muscle tone, leading to secondary issues elsewhere in my body. If there was one thing I walked away from my sessions with Erika knowing for certain, it's that if there's something off in one area in your body, it can affect everything else in ways you may not even be aware of.
But learning how to strengthen my areas of muscular deficiency wasn't the only way I was able to learn more about, and thus address, my back pain. Erika Bloom Pilates also offers clients customized methods to address imbalanced posture and movement patterns based on their individual needs. For some that may be a combination of yoga, pilates, and holistic heath counseling—even acupuncture is offered—but for me it was the addition of some bodywork, particularly rolfing, a method of alternative structural integration that is based on physical manipulation of the muscle and more importantly, the myofascial connective tissue.
Following my private lesson, I returned to the studio again for a session with Michael Shapiro, who much like Erika, thoroughly assessed what was causing my pain. From there, he used the method to unwind the considerable tension at the front of my body, to help me process and decompress the pain in my back body.
He explained that these therapies individually could be helpful to my personal pain, but it in tandem they could help facilitate strengthening of my body, and according to Shapiro, create greater physical resiliency, thanks to the deep touch and guided movement of rolfing.
He explains, "This body work involves the whole self, which leads to changes not only in the muscles and connective tissues a.k.a. fascia, but in the mind-body connection itself. Rolfing is a direct way to help with the process of embodiment—it helps us take ownership of ourselves through the exploration of inner relationships. I often explain in sessions that the hands-on work is about revealing the possibilities and opportunities the body stores." With this in mind, the practice of pilates then becomes taking action with the changes made and putting the lessons into practice.
My prescribed plan also ideally included acupuncture, a healing modality that I have utilized for many years, but unfortunately my schedule precluded me having the time to come by again for a treatment. However, by a twist of wellness fate, Dr. Julie Von, healer and licensed acupuncture practitioner, who provides the treatment for Erika Bloom Pilates, just so happened to be the very first practitioner to perform the treatment on me a few years back, so I was familiar with her very capable hands and extensive knowledge of the Traditional Chinese Medicine practice.
However, I was curious how adding needling to the treatment plan could enhance the benefits of pilates, given that acupuncture on its own can be effective at addressing a whole laundry list of bodily issues from PMS and mood swings, to stomach issues, and even pain.
Dr. Von explained that acupuncture is similar to getting a tune up for your car. "It's mysterious, and you can keep driving your vehicle as is, but with a tune up everything runs better, smoother, and is more responsive," she explains. So why add acupuncture to the menu of one's pilates routine? Because the best of holistic medicine looks for the root cause of symptoms and never solely treats what seems obvious, according to Dr. Von. "Acupuncture at Erika Bloom Pilates is about finding the cracks in a client's system and tracing them back to the core injury or wound. Once we identify that, true healing takes place," she says.
Nearly two months later, I'm nowhere near completely back pain free, but the lessons I learned about my individual body and muscular structure through both pilates and the other health practices offered at Erika Bloom Pilates were invaluable in making more progress in treating my chronic headaches and back pain than I have in years.
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