Tag Archives: exercises

Core Strength & Your Jaw

Core Strength & Your Jaw

Sit ups, planks and push ups- all favoured as core exercises, and core strength is supposed to be enhanced by practicing them for many reps or keeping the position held for a few minutes, I used to go to a Pilates class where they insisted you Core & Your Jaw wern’t strong if you didn’t hold your plank position for more than 5 minutes, in fact they wanted you to do it for 8 minutes…


A little bit smarter and wiser , I wish I could go back to that class with the knowledge I now have to see what was being used as compensation – a tight jaw, held breath, tight shoulders, tightness in the back of the neck. All of these are used as compensations, cheats by the body when its searching for strength because its failed elsewhere, usually in the core.

The jaw is a common one. With todays anxieties, worries and fears, tension in the jaw is commonplace when the brain seeks stability, especially if it isn’t getting it from the core muscles.

So next time you are doing your core exercises, check what is happening and where you are compensating.

  1. Breathe out through the mouth to avoid jaw clenching.
  2. Keep the back of the neck long to avoid using this area for strength.
  3. Watch you aren’t breath holding, the diaphragm can become facilitated for a weaker core.
  4. Ensure the upper shoulders are away from the ears
  5. Watch your toe position and that they aren’t clawing at the ground, a classic compensation for a weaker core.

If you’ve been doing these for a while, your compensations may also be present in everyday life, you may find you hold your breathe often, your toes might already prefer the clawed position, your upper shoulders may find they like it near your ears and are always tight..

What can you do about it?

Awareness is a great start, you might not like it, but regressing your reps and take it slow. Record yourself with a camera/mobile and see whats happening when you play it back, are your shoulders in a good position, when does that begin to falter? Do you hold your breath, at what point is that?

That is where your neural edge is, the brain compensates, thats when you stop and rest until you are ready to go again.

You can also practice your breathing as this can improve a  load of issues, if the brain is happy with the oxygen amount, its happy giving you extra strength to a certain degree.

Stabilising from the centre out is always a good place to start.

Melanie Collie




Mel Collie | Fancy A Core Challenge?

Mel Collie | Fancy A Core Challenge?


I had a core workout yesterday…Sunday…a day of rest?!


I was awake at 4am! Didn’t have to be up though, but I had some anatomical studies I wanted to do before going to Chester for an anatomical therapy study group session.

As we drove to Chester, yep, my lovely other half wanted to come too, we heard on the radio that Sir Terry Wogan has died …I loved that bloke, his chat was always fun to listen to, my personal faves were his Janet & John episodes, some of them were very risqué. If you haven’t heard any of them, check them out, you can probably find them on Google somewhere. Be prepared to laugh your socks off!

So, when I got to Chester, my bloke went off in the car to have a look around, whilst I spent 3 hours talking and testing muscle patterns.

My idea of total joy I can tell you.

Yep, Im a geek! Uh Oh!

I will try not to bore you…


Turns out my core 5 muscles were totally off…that includes my 6 pack (ha!) and my T.A (Transverses Abs)…oh, and my Psoas, which is a primary hip flexor, so pretty important…

I was wondering how the hell I managed to stay upright…without pain.

Turns out many of us have no core, and many of us have disc issues, we just don’t feel them. There are many studies on this, some of them I have read, some of them heavy going, but fascinating. One of the leaders in this field is Dr Stuart McGill. His book on back pain was the first book I bought when I started my Pilates career. I want to learn from the top bods, those who get results, and he is top of the list. His science lab and testing equipment is fascinating, would love to spend a week or so playing around there.

The other few people I listen to are:


Thomas Myers – Anatomy Trains. Brillaint You Tube fascia videos and an awesome Anatomy Trains book.

Lorimar Mosely – www.bodyinmind.org and a publisher of a few books and studies.

David Weinstock – www.neurokinetictherapy.com Great videos on You Tube, and book to run alongside the NKT course – it truly is the missing link.


So, if your core isn’t working…what is?

For me, it was my Scalenes. (might not be for you though, one of the other attendees had a pec major issue)

What are your Scalenes? They neck muscles.

(see pic at the bottom of the post)

Mine were both overworked. This can lead to tingling in the hands and fingers.

One side of the neck was “tighter” than the other, the specific testing was to find out which one that was, and so my homework would be specifically to release that one and strengthen the other.

But you have to do some detective work first, or you could be stretching the wrong one, this would cause a bit of an issue…so ..if you are currently stretching your neck muscles because the feel tight, yet they keep on feeling tight and nothing changes, consider an NKT detective to test the “why”.

You don’t keep on eating donuts every day and expect to be healthy…you know that in order to change things you cant expect to do the same things..especially if they DONT work.

I know you aren’t that stupid.

Want to change? Get assessed, its that simple.

Let me tell you though., as soon as my Scalenes were sorted, my diaphragm felt like it was fired up for a full breath, my abs were rocking and my Pilates teaser was holding like a beauty!

No shaking

No neck tension

No hamstring tightness.


A fast tracked way, but effective and how it should be way,  to get the most from my Pilates sessions, why would I want to keep on working my neck each time, rather than my core, eventually my neck would have been so tired and pissed off for doing the work of many other muscles it would have complained very loudly indeed. I had been working my neck all this time.

I had a posture assessment a few years ago and was told to stop carrying my bag on my left shoulder…had my Scalenes been doing work for my core all that time? Maybe..

Thats sent me on a mission

To get the nations cores switched on…for life. You just may find that it takes more than one session of therapy to get this to stick, and yes you have home exercises to do, for about 15 mins a day. It also can uncover other compensations , a possible leg or foot tightness, glutes not firing well in relation to hamstrings or hip flexors, rhomboids and quadrates lumborum issues.

Who knows? The fun is finding out!


Mel Collie

Pattern Detective!

Did you know that you are a firework at an atomic level, like a little firework display going off…how amazing are you?!


Mel Collie | Scalenes

Mel Collie | 2 Reasons to Stop doing Crunches (and what to do instead)

Mel Collie | 2 Reasons to Stop doing Crunches (and what to do instead)

Ok, my last post was on adrenal fatigue…and one of the things that makes us tired is over training at the gym, usually because we’ve bought into the marketing idea that flat abs will make you happy, more desirable and sexy…

So, if you believe that to be true (it isn’t by the way) I would love to share some facts with you about crunches..

1. You can do loads of them , many about 22,000 of them, which burns a pound of fat, thats all. How long does it take to do that many crunches? You tell me…I can’t be bothered to even work it out. However, a point of your lovely fat contains 3,500 calories. Still doing crunches?

2. Ok..you’ve got a LOT of time on your hands. But, heres the thing, this is time you could spend doing other stuff that actually makes you happier which = improved self esteem, and when your self esteem bank account gets a boost, it tends to mean that the next time it gets a knock back, you won’t feel it as much because you’ve got some reserve in the bank account, hugely powerful stuff when you are worried about what other people think of you and your body.

3. Sit ups can give you neck ache and back ache, when done badly. I recently had a couple of friends staying for a couple of days and one of them had a baby recently, 3 years ago in fact. Her line alba hadn’t yet knitted back well (Google: diastis recti, it will tell you all you need to know)  and she was doing a well intentioned Pilates class twice a week, but at a big brand name gym in a class with lots of people, it hadn’t really helped her out, she’s now considering surgery. . I spent 2 years going to similar classes in a gym. You won’t get individualised attention. It isn’t geared towards that. She wasn’t to know, not her fault at all. I know physics and chiropractors recommend Pilates, but also know that they have clients coming to them with pain from going to Pilates sessions at gyms because of the amount of people in each class who have certain things going on that a one size fits all class won’t be covering. Crunches will not help a post pregnancy belly at all, it will create more problems for the muscles and pelvic floor, find someone who has been on a specific course on the issues that need to be addressed. Check out Hypopressives, a brilliant way to get the body back to alignment

So what can you do instead if you are a lover of sit ups?

Theres so many exercises, my top favourite is to learn how to breathe from your lower belly first to reduce cortisol levels , which when elevated, sit in the belly tissue, so you can exercise harder for longer, but if you are stressed, and have a continual high stress lifestyle , you may just find that belly fat sits around you for a lot longer than you originally intended. Breathing and doing less, working out smarter, not harder, is the key, which means a change in mindset, and that isn’t easy.

It may be easy to accept it, realise it, but then to actually implement it and stick to it is the hardest bit. You need to check yourself every now and then, make sure you haven’t slipped back into old patterns.

Exercises that you can do instead of loads of crunches are (and remember , always, with each repetition, to be in the moment and fully focused , as when you do that, you are sending signals to your brain about alignment to help each rep be very effective. Reps done without focus, when the mind wanders to other things because you are bored, then your alignment suffers and your results will reduce. True story!) :

Side Planks

Push ups


Mountain climbers


Cartwheels and many variations of them

Kettlebell swings (or use a dumbell)


Go for a walk everyday, get outside and breathe, get some sunlight on your skin and get some laughter and love in your life

That doesn’t mean, if you don’t have one right now, that you should look for the perfect partner, but look inside yourself for your own self acceptance, do the exercise that you love to do, not whats trendy or what others are doing, it might not work for you.

Find your own blueprint, then you may find that you choose what foods and what exercises make you feel awesome, you choose to nourish yourself, rather than beat yourself up.



Helping women be themselves and love who they are in her 1:1 studio in Llanberis, North Wales, UK. By appointment only.