Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Seal

Purpose: To massage the spinal muscles, work the powerhouse; test balance and coordination. It is often done at or near the end of a mat routine.

  1. Sit at the front of your mat with knees bent to your chest and heels together. Open your knees to shoulder width. Reach your hands through your legs to hold outside of your ankles.
  2. Tip back and balance on your tailbone. Bring your feet just above the mat. Keep your knees within your frame; scoop your navel deeper in toward your spine.
  3. Inhale and roll back while pulling your feet with you. Balance on the base of your shoulder blades. Allow your legs to extend slightly until your feet are over your head- (head stays on mat carefully). Clap your heels 3 times (like a seal clapping its’ flippers).
  4. Exhale as you roll forward to the starting position, tucking your chin into your chest. Balance and clap the heels together 3 times. Your toes should not touch the mat.
  5. Repeat 5-8 times; feeling the massage up and down the muscles of your back.

Checklist:

  • Maintain a constant C curve of the spine
  • Never roll onto your head, neck or shoulders…only the base of the shoulder blade.
  • Initiate rolling back from the powerhouse not from the head.
  • Don’t use momentum when rolling up. Roll up slightly slower than you rolled back to challenge the abs.

Note: Omit this exercise if you have an acute back or neck injury.

Modification: You can begin without the claps and successively add 1,2, then 3 claps as balance improves.

Visualization: Imagine you are on a rocker, balancing on the edges of both the front and back, trying not to tip over in either direction.

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