If your days are spent being mostly active, it’s likely that you’re forgetting to take a second to give your body some love. There’s hundreds of stretches, group classes and tutorials on giving your body the break it deserves, but nothing is as safe and credible as seeing a doc.
Dr. Lindsey Himmel, dubbed “The Pilates Doc,” is a South Florida doctor that’s taking a popular practice under a medical lens, using it to create preventative therapy regimens for leisurely and professional athletes alike. She’s incorporating Pilates-based exercises to safely strengthen and stretch core and extremity muscles to help others enjoy their daily activities with less harm. We took a visit to her vacation-like Fisher Island offices to take a closer look at how she blends the world of Pilates with physical therapy.
Dr. Himmel isn’t just another certified Pilates instructor, she earned her doctorate in physical therapy and B.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami – one of the top programs in the country. Through her experiences in college, working with athletes and being a dancer herself, she found her calling in the art of rehabilitation and athletic training.
“I loved being active,” says Dr. Himmel. “This is a field where you get to help someone feel better while they’re active, and it’s extremely rewarding.”
Also in graduate school, she found her way to Pilates. She went from casually teaching a couple of classes to supplement her education, to using it in her research. She was taking a deep look into Pilates as a form of physical therapy and found that it often beat traditional methods. And she wasn’t the only that agreed with this notion, many doctors have started prescribing Pilates-based physical therapy to patients who could benefit from the practice.
But what makes Pilates so special? By definition, Pilates is an exercise method used to strengthen the core while improving flexibility and joint mobility. The practice has a 100-year history with roots in military training; troops would incorporate spring techniques into their rehabilitation programs. Through a strengthening of the core section, moving the extremities becomes easier and safer. And, if you’re recovering from an injury these exercises can be adjusted to your new threshold.
Upon walking into the Pilates training room, it’s easy for newcomers to get intimidated by the excessive machinery and metal springs. It’s Dr. Himmel’s duty to make people feel comfortable here, and her bright personality does just that. As you look around, you’re surrounded by windows that look out onto the Fisher Island Club painted in palm trees and greenery that truly resembles paradise. It’s easy to see that this is truly a disconnected, special place.
Once we got comfortable on the machines, we started to get to work on stability. We ran through a couple of exercises to demonstrate how to build a neutral position for our spine, which helps with moving our limbs later. What was most interesting is how after aligning the core in all the right places, the smallest of movement feels like a total workout. These techniques are built for all levels of strength and stamina.
We started these techniques on the mat to make the new movement easier to understand. This was also very telling of our own personal posture problems, one that affects a huge chunk of the population. While everyone is constantly swimming through stress, it puts us in an excessively forward position, pressure on the shoulders and lower back. The exercises we tried helped create better posture and more stability in our stance.
Pilates is also lengthening. Dr. Lindsey Himmel mentions how certain injuries can benefit from this tremendously. One example is with spinal injuries; there are muscles around the spine that can be trained and lengthened to create space to help alleviate damage. Combine it with strengthening the core, and you’re creating a “corset-like” experience for the spine which helps stabilize it long-term.
“When you have a stable base and begin to move an extremity, you are much less likely to injure yourself,” says Dr. Himmel.
We moved on to a couple of springs techniques where we experienced different levels of exercise as the springs and movements were adjusted. This truly felt like a workout regimen for everyone, and one that was necessary to add in to our routine. By lying down, we also eliminated the pressures of gravity to focus on finding that inner stability.
Some of the most common injuries involve shoulders and back, but often times you won’t find the source of the problem in those sections. There’s a personal excitement Dr. Himmel described when she helps patients reach the “true source” of an injury and uses therapy to hit the right spots for recovery. The other top culprit for major body damage? Stress.
“You can tell when the body is stressed by looking at someone’s alignment,” says Dr. Himmel. “A confident person stands up, shoulders are back; while someone who’s stressed is usually slouched over while putting pressure on the neck.”
What comes next? The goal, Dr. Himmel mentioned, is not to see her patients forever; she wants them to train themselves to a place where they’ll enjoy activity and day to day life without pain or injuries. She tells us of “checks” she teaches her patients to help self-discipline into better posture.
After seeing the major role Pilates plays in Dr. Himmel’s physical therapy techniques, it goes without saying that this practice is incredibly beneficial to our overall wellbeing. Be it with a physical therapist, or a local Pilates center, it’s important to mix up your wellness routine while trying to incorporate these techniques. To get the most benefit, it’s recommended to seek someone like Dr. Lindsey Himmel – or a personal Pilates instructor you’ll trust – so that you are practicing safely. The big theme here is awareness of the body: learn your limits, learn to listen and find someone you trust to guide you through a preventative practice.
Dr. Himmel spends most of her days in paradise as the resident Physical Therapist at the Fisher Island Club. Here she works with the island’s residents, and some of Miami’s elite, through injuries and therapy programs to help those that are active live their day to day more comfortably. For those without access to the island, she is available at locations in Miami Beach and home visits by special request.
To make an appointment or get more information visit www.thepilatesdoc.com.