Massage Therapy and Pilates, A
spas offer classes in Pilates - and since
massage therapy is the number-one service
provided at spas, it's only natural that these
two practices are crossing paths. Today, many
clients are experiencing the benefits that come
from combining massage with Pilates training. A
number of massage therapists are training in
Pilates - and some have even become certified
Pilates instructors, allowing them to integrate
the two techniques for their clients.
According to Linda Burquez, a massage therapist
and certified Pilates trainer for Synergy
Pilates and Massage Center in the Nevada City,
California, "Integrating Pilates and massage can
have a profound effect in helping clients
achieve a stronger, relaxed and balanced body."
studios, like Synergy, offer massage therapy to
complement their Pilates training programs, and
others regularly refer clients to massage
therapists. At the same time, massage therapists
have realized the benefits of Pilates training
both for their clients and for maintaining
balance within their own bodies.
Pilates, a complete mind-body
method of physical conditioning developed by and
named for Joseph Pilates, helps build strength
and flexibility, reduce stress, improve posture
and relieve chronic pain. Pilates focuses on the
core, or "powerhouse," of the body - the
abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks
- and incorporates deep-breathing techniques
that help improve concentration and control
while reducing stress and anxiety.
not only contributes to one’s physical
well-being; it also helps to connect the mind to
the body. Through proper breathing and
concentrating on the movements, the practitioner
becomes more aware of how his body feels, where
it is in space, and how to control his
movements. With Pilates, practitioners gain
strength in the body, as well as in the mind.
exercises can be performed in two ways: on
specially designed Pilates equipment, or on a
mat. Students can take private instruction, or
attend group sessions in a Pilates studio.
Therapy and Pilates
Pilates and massage offer
similar benefits to clients. Both promote better
circulation; feeding muscles, bones and internal
organs with the oxygen and nutrients they need
to function properly. Like massage, Pilates
promotes greater flexibility and range of
motion, and reduces muscle tension and
stiffness. Having stronger, more flexible
muscles also improves balance and helps put the
body in its proper alignment.
Integrating Pilates training with massage
therapy can help eliminate chronic pain or
tension points. Angela Crowley, a massage
therapist and certified Pilates instructor who
owns the Phoenix Center in Denver, Colorado,
found that her massage clients would return week
after week with tension in the same areas she
had released in previous sessions. She said she
realized if her clients didn’t learn to change
how they were using their bodies, they would
continue to hold tension in the same muscles.
She began teaching Pilates to augment her
massage practice. Today her clients often have
back-to-back Pilates and massage sessions.
massage and Pilates systems really work well
hand-in-hand to strengthen muscles and release
tension," Crowley said. "For example, a lot of
people have very tight neck and shoulder
muscles. Those people typically have weak upper
back muscles that support the shoulder blades.
Pilates training strengthens the upper back
muscles, creating a counter balance that allows
the neck and shoulder muscles to relax."
agrees that mixing Pilates and massage
techniques creates balance in opposing muscle
groups. "When assessing a client, I pay close
attention to the opposing muscle groups. One may
be tight, while the other is weak. Pilates
strengthens the weak muscles, and massage
releases tension in the areas that are tight, "
other hand, massage can make Pilates work more
effective. Tom Bowthorpe, a certified massage
therapist and certified Pilates trainer, directs
the Pilates practice for Body Concepts, Inc., in
El Dorado Hills, California. He uses massage to
increase his clients’ range of motion. If a
client’s shoulder is stiff, for example,
Bowthorpe might begin the session with massage
to loosen the muscles and then use Pilates
exercises to further improve the range of
Bowthorpe often splits client sessions by
incorporating 30 to 45 minutes of Pilates
training, followed by massage to end the
session. "My clients love the combination,"
Bowthorpe said. "They really like the aspects of
getting a full workout session and then ending
it with a massage to relax the muscles they just
worked. They leave feeling really good. "
crossover of the Pilates and massage disciplines
also benefits practitioners. Getting to know
Pilates trainers and working closely with them
creates a new source for referrals. Burquez
regularly refers her Pilates clients to massage
therapists to conduct more passive forms of
muscle release. Whenever possible, she works
closely with the massage therapist and suggests
muscles she sees that need the most work.
"Partnering with my client’s massage therapist
helps the client attain a strong and balanced
body, " Burquez said.
addition to the business aspects, massage
therapists who practice Pilates themselves
realize a number of benefits. Many massage
therapists overuse the muscles in their
shoulders when giving a massage, creating the
kind of tension and stress they try to work out
of their clients.
teaches therapists to use the core muscle
groups, making their movements more efficient.
Burquez, a former full-time massage therapist,
said learning Pilates changed the way she
practiced massage therapy. "I found that
implementing Pilates techniques made giving a
massage more effortless, and I didn’t feel as
tense at the end of the day, " she said.
Massage Therapists As
It’s not uncommon to find Pilates instructors
with a background in massage therapy. Massage
therapists already understand the value of
enhancing the mind-body connection and
increasing body awareness. Their knowledge of
anatomy and kinesiology also enhances a client’s
Pilates workout. A Pilates instructor with
massage experience is trained to spot muscle
imbalances and can use that knowledge to tailor
a workout to better meet the client’s needs. In
addition, the instructor can integrate massage
techniques, such as muscle-energy release, into
the training session to relieve muscle spasms or
they implement Pilates training in their massage
practices or form an alliance with a Pilates
trainer, massage therapists who integrate these
two important healing approaches provide
powerful benefits for themselves and their
Endelman has been involved with the Pilates
industry for more than two decades. His company,
Balanced Body, is the largest manufacturer of
Pilates and Gyrotonic® equipment.