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The importance of balance

lw abelwellnessBy Katie Reeder • SMN Intern 

Whether it is teaching a Pilates or karate class or performing massage therapy, much of the work at Abel Wellness revolves around restoring balance to the body.

People tend to have the same routines that use the same muscles, which leads to an imbalance in the body in which the overworked muscles need to be stretched while the less commonly used muscles need to be strengthened, explained Patti Abel, one of the owners of Abel Wellness Center in Franklin. 

She owns the studio with her husband, Donnie Abel, and said many of their clients come looking for restorative care. The Abels help athletes with cross-training as well as people suffering from injuries or degenerative conditions, but Patti said most of their clients cluster in the 50 to 70 age bracket. 

Patti said the philosophy is that clients must work in before working out. This means beginning with the core structural muscles rather than the outer, “superficial” muscles. She said this helps people to age gracefully as they strengthen the muscles that will help them avoid later aches and pains. Outer muscles are more for show, she said. 

“They’re meant for fast movement,” she said. “They’re not meant to support you.” 

Many of the techniques and principles taught in the classes can be applied outside of Pilates and martial arts. Patti said this is what drew her to Pilates when she was first introduced to the technique. She said it was the first time she felt like she had discovered an exercise routine that worked so well for her body. 

“I found what I was learning in the studio I was taking out of the studio with me,” she said.   

She realized she was more aware of how she performed everyday tasks – whether that was sitting, breathing or bending over to pick up something. This enabled her to make adjustments where necessary, and it taught her simple coping mechanisms like counting and breathing to reduce stress. 

She said much of the work she does with her clients focuses on helping them become more aware of their bodies and how they move. Donnie said people are often misinformed about their bodies and miss the cues that could be alerting them to problems stemming from an imbalance in the body. 

“We don’t always feel,” he said. “We’re too busy about trying to accomplish the task at hand versus trying to understand what is going on in our body.”  

Patti said poor posture is another common problem she sees in her clients. Desk jobs and hunching over a computer often lead people to tilt their heads forward and have rounded shoulders. This has long-term effects such as back and neck pain, disc degeneration, compacted vertebrae, poor digestion and blood pressure issues. 

The Abels start small with their new clients. Whether clients are taking a martial arts or Pilates class, the Abels first teach them how the movements work and what muscles they should use. 

“Once you understand where everything starts from, then you can apply those concepts to any movement regardless of what it is,” Donnie said. 

He emphasized the importance of the mind-body connection in teaching these classes. In his martial arts classes, his strategy is to train the mind first. The physical aspect will follow, he said. 

“It’s not about physically defending yourself,” he said. “It’s about mentally defending yourself.”

Once a person begins to grasp the mental component, the effects can carry over outside of the studio. Donnie said martial arts helps people learn how to come up with strategies for whatever situations they may be in.

“Doing martial arts is like doing push-ups and playing chess at the same time,” he said. 

The same holds true for Pilates.

“Your mind doesn’t take a coffee break when you’re working out,” he said. 

For class schedules and more information, visit www.abel-wellness.com or call 828.342.6072.

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