Inelia Garcia Advanced Contrology Program
hands making a heart shape

Open-heart surgery is a general term for surgical procedures performed to treat heart problems by directly accessing the heart through opening the chest. During open-heart surgery, the surgeon will cut through the breastbone (sternotomy) and spread the ribs to access the heart.

Open-heart surgery is a life-saving procedure. But it is also a major surgery. Recovery can be long. When possible, you should take steps to improve your health — like exercising, losing weight and quitting smoking — before surgery.

Initial Healing process:
The process of healing begins right after surgery with a medically supervised Cardiac rehab program while in the hospital.

This might involve initially just sitting up in bed, standing and testing your range of motion, before moving to short walks around the hospital wing.

4 weeks or so after you come home from the hospital you can begin PT in an outpatient setting. Your cardiac rehab exercise sessions will usually include cardiovascular exercise and, depending on your physical condition, you may also be advised to include some resistance training.

Your body and mind have been through a lot with this surgery. Your emotions also can be affected. Breathing is going to be an important “exercise” to start immediately after surgery.
Everything has to be done in a slow mindful manner

Post PT:
After about 4 to 6 months, you may be ready to return to physical activity and start a Pilates program.

Authentic Pilates is a great method for further recuperation and building the body back to its former strength, or even greater, because it works the whole body and mind together. Pilates is known as a core conditioning method, and that is certainly true, but the magic of authentic pilates lies in its ability to transform the body- any body at any level of health and fitness- to a well functioning, strong and flexible animal. Joe Pilates, the genius behind the method, titled his book “Return to Life” because that is what the authentic method mission is.

It is important to do One-on-one sessions when you start your Pilates program. If you had been practicing Pilates prior to your surgery, you should expect to have a very different session when you return. If you are new to Pilates, you will start working with your teacher, the same as someone who already knows the system, but you will also slowly learn the system as you progress.

The Authentic Pilates method is a hierarchical system of exercises that includes a plethora of exercises for bodies that have compromises and disabilities. It is a creative system that allows the experienced teacher to draw on a deep pool of pedagogic processes, modifications and individualized movements to find the right balance for each student. For an open heart post PT individual, the system will begin with mind/body connection exercises and breath work, move to mobility, then strength, and then overall balancing of the structure. It will take several months to a year to allow the body to rebuild itself in the system with a teacher working one-on-one with you.

When the body passes through a trauma, like a surgery, you will have not only the physical scars and sutures, but emotional and mental changes that will surface in different ways. For this reason, Authentic Pilates is a great system because it accounts for the emotional, mental and physical growth of the person. (At least in the way that I teach it).

You should include your cardio program even while doing Pilates. Keep up your walking in between classes.

What would we do:
At Authentic Method Pilates, we always start our clients with a full evaluation. This will include a discussion, a gentle physical test to see where your body is at, and a review of any records from your surgery or PT. Bringing any images to the evaluation session can help

In the first session we will start moving your body, working the breath, the mind and the muscles and tissues. We will be asking for your feedback often as we add systematic and gentle exercises. Your honest feedback is crucial to the success of your experience

The first exercises will be done in a comfortable position, usually lying on your back. We will work to the edges of your abilities in a calm and gentle manner each session and progress according to what your mind and body can handle. Usually within the first three sessions you will begin to feel changes. Or even after the first session!

And example of a first session at our studio would be:

This continues the waking up process and enhances circulation for healing, it also talks to the body and assures the body that it can move with ease

Then some ”power house” (what we call the lower core), toning and strengthening. We start building strength even at the first session. But we make sure that your body is ready for it.

We would then add some resistance for strength and body control – using the correct level of resistance for your body. These could include the reformer, or the cadillac apparatus or might use elastic bands, balls or the pilates magic circle.

The last part of the class usually involves some standing work that could include balance, strength or postural (or all three) exercises to finish with an uplifted and elevated spirit. We always have fun and you will leave with a smile.

We then add you to our app (Prospire) where we will assign you some homework videos that you can do between your classes. We recommend 2-3 times a week private sessions for best results.

Authentic Method Pilates is a great method for recovery from open heart surgery or any other surgery. It is important to work one on one and to dedicate some time between sessions to do the short homeworks. Keep to the eating plan suggested by your doctor and drink plenty of water. Adding in your walking or other light cardio every day will set you on the path to even better health than you had prior to the surgery.

Three Pilates exercises to strengthen your body against COVID-19

Since the beginning of our time, the human body has been constantly at war with bacteria and viruses. Keeping the immune system strong is something that we must work at every day of our lives. In this time of COVID-19, prevention is the most important thing we should be concerned with. Cleaning and keeping distance is, of course, paramount. But supporting our inner army is absolutely necessary. This is something we all need to be doing for COVID-19 and for all new, and old, viruses lurking in the world.

Pilates exercises can help to prevent getting sick from COVID-19 (and all viruses) or minimizing illness if you catch it. As a plus, Pilates will assist with good sleep, reduced stress and make you feel overall better. The four main recommendations for staying strong against viruses are to sleep well, eat healthy, reduce stress and exercise. By practicing Pilates, you are getting help with most of these categories.

Circulation and Muscle Tone

Good circulation in the body is necessary to maintain healthy blood and oxygen flow throughout the body. The lungs, heart and brain all need proper blood flow to function optimally. White blood cells need good transportation around the body to fight off potential disease. Efficient circulation helps eliminate waste created by the organs.

If the body has poor circulation and low muscle tone, the waste is not cleared out, the oxygen is not distributed and the white blood cells are not transported throughout the body to fight diseases. The muscular system also helps move fluids through the body. Muscles act a secondary pumps to pump blood back up to the heart. If there is low muscle tone, the veins lack assistance from the muscles in getting the blood up the body.

Poor circulation and low muscle tone are risk factors relating to getting sick from viruses.

Pilates is a whole body and mind conditioning system. All of the exercises in the system help with whole body conditioning for better function. However, we can pick and choose from the hundreds of exercises to find ones that focus on different aspects of conditioning. Here are three that will assist with circulation and muscle tone.

The 100

To get into position, lie on your back on a mat or bed with your knees bent, feet on the floor/mat, keep knees and feet together. Arms extended straight out by your sides, about 8 inches from the floor. Begin pumping your straight arms up and down using your triceps. Try to pump the arms vigorously, about two pumps per second. Inhale through the nose for five pumps and exhale for five pumps for a total 5 to 10 breath cycles.

Try not to let your body shake as you pump. Squeeze your stomach on the exhale to work the core and the diaphragm.

When you are finished, relax your arms by your sides and feel the circulation through your body. Also feel the muscles in your arms and stomach.

The Double Bent Leg Stretch

Lie on a mat or bed and bend your knees into your chest. Grasp your shins or ankles. Reach your arms over your head and extend your legs up as you inhale deeply. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your abs pulled in as you reach your arms and legs in opposite directions. Stretch your body, keep your toes pointed and squeeze your inner thighs. Open your arms a little to make a V shape, hold your breath. Sweep your arms out to the sides as you exhale, bend your knees back in, reaching around to grasp your shins. Deepen your abs and hug your knees in to your body as you empty your lungs. Repeat this 3-5 times. Rest with your feet on the floor, knees bent. (You can lift your head and keep it up during this exercise to deepen your stomach muscles, but be careful of your neck.)

Feel the muscles of your legs, arms and stomach. Feel your heightened heart rate and your blood flowing through your body.

Single Straight Leg Stretch

Lie on a mat or bed with your knees bent in to your chest. Hug your knees and take a nice deep breath. Straighten your legs up to the ceiling. Point your toes. Grasp your right leg/thigh wherever it is comfortable. Pull that straight leg in to your chest. Use your stomach to bring the leg closer in. Lower your left leg slightly towards the floor. Using your abdominals, switch legs like a scissors and grab the left leg and stretch it in to you. Keep both legs straight. Repeat for 5 sets. If you feel strong, lift your head up for some, or all, of the reps. Rest your head if it is tired.

When you are finished, rest your feet down with your knees bent, rest your head, arms by your sides. Feel the abdominal strength, the leg muscles, the arms and even the ankles and feet. Strengthening legs and abs, moving the blood through the body and increasing heart rate.

Do these exercises every day, it takes just a few minutes, and help support your inner army to protect you against the flu and other germs that are always around us. See Part two for exercises that will support the Lymphatic System.