Category: Pilates

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SIDE BODY TWIST on Pilates Chair

October 2014 _ 2
October 2014





Purpose: Side Body Twist will strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles, especially the obliques, and increase core strength. Timing is important in this exercise, so don’t give up on the first try! Be sure a trained Pilates professional spots you throughout.


1. Side-lying on Chair, on diagonal with head toward back of pedal, feet forward. Pelvis and spine neutral- one long line from feet to head. Legs straight, together, toes gently pointed. Supporting arm straight, hand on back corner of pedal directly under shoulder. Pedal hovers just above base. Top arm reaches toward ceiling.


2. Inhale to prepare, Exhale, keeppelvis and legs still and rotate spine toward pedal, reaching top arm under supporting arm (arm on pedal).


3. Inhale, return spine to face forward (starting position) and reach top arm to ceiling.


4. , flex hips and spine to come up into a V position. Rotate torso to face legs and allow pedal to lift, keeping hand on pedal, reaching top arm toward feet. Rest just back of sit-bones.


5. Inhale, reach legs away from torso, press pedal down and rotate spine to face side, returning to starting position.


6. Repeat 3-5 repetitions each side.



Modifications: Just preform steps 1-3; rotating toward the pedal, return facing side.


Head to Toe Checklist:

Make sure your starting position starts and ends on a diagonal

Keep weight back of sit-bones when balancing in V position

Use abdominals to maintain lumbar flexion coming into V position

Maintain a stable scapular especially when rotate toward pedal

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SPINE TWIST


Purpose: To work the muscles of your waistline (olbique abdominals) and wring the stale air from your lungs as you stretch the muscles of your back.


1. Sit very tall with your arms stretched to either side of the room; palms down, fingers long. Legs are straight and held tightly together; toes point up to the ceiling.


2. Inhale deeply, pull your navel into your spine; as if you were being cinched at the waist.


3. Exhale, for 3 counts, twist your torso to the right. Lengthen and increase the rotation with the next 2 breaths. Release slightly between breaths. You can sustain one long exhalation, or a gradual exhale on each count.


4. Look toward your back arm as you turn. Stay perched on top of your hips, lifting taller and straighter; squeezing your buttocks and legs.


5. Inhale deeply, return to center with your chest high. Keep your arms in your peripheral vision, shoulders down.


6. Repeat to the left side, lifting even taller and longer through the waist; returning to center.


7. Repeat 3-5 sets on each side.


Visualization: Imagine you are wringing the air out of your body as you would wring water from a wet towel.


Modifications: Sit on a foam custion, edge of mat or cross-legged if you have tightness in lower back, hamstrings or hip flexors.


Head to Toe Checklist:

Don’t let the back shoulder hunch up when turning.

Legs should stay aligned when twisting.

Use your breath to increase the stretch.

Don’t sink into your back as you twist. Lift tall out of your waist.

Squeeze buttocks and upper thighs tightly together during the exercise.

Note: Omit the exercise if you have a recent back injury. If you have a bad shoulder, reach back only within a pain free range

Better Movement for a Better Life Feldenkrais Method® changes how you live in your body

By Peggy Protz, Feldenkrais® Method of Somatic Education

Developed by Israeli physicist and judo black belt Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), the Method was first introduced in the United States in the early 1970s. Using principles of physics, biomechanics, experiential learning, and human development, it’s purpose is to awaken the body’s natural ability to move with efficiency, grace, and comfort. The exercises, though incredibly simple, have a profound effect on the way a person experiences their movement and their body. Through these experiences comes a clearer understanding of what a better way of moving actually feels like. This allows positive changes to take place on deeper and more permanent levels. Familiar muscle aches and body pains become less of a problem as the person discovers a way of moving that is more free and less stressing to their whole system. Since this better way of being in one’s body is foundational, it can be applied to virtually any activity; various sports and fitness routines, yard work, sitting at a desk, walking, running, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or any movement required for basic everyday life.


Most anyone who would like to move better will benefit from participating in Feldenkrais. Professional or recreational athletes, anyone who has been injured or suffers from chronic pain, office workers who would like to sit or stand more comfortably, and people with movement challenges such as MS, stroke, or Parkinson’s.


Peggy Protz, Feldenkrais practitioner, will be offering a series of three workshops this fall at the SAC. Peggy has worked with many types of clients, from teenagers to senior citizens, to golfers, cyclists, and kayakers, to people with injuries. “It’s great for people who are struggling with injuries. They may have stopped doing things because of the injury,” she says. “I’ve worked in a lot of fitness environments, and many people simply deal with neck or back pain, and just kind of assume that’s part of working out. But what if they could actually do their fitness routine without having discomfort both during it and afterward?”

In a Feldenkrais class or workshop, Peggy verbally leads students through movements in various positions, coaching everyone to work at their own pace and making modifications when needed. “You get so much more out of your body when you’re in tune with it,” says Peggy.


For more information about the Feldenkrais Method, watch this introductory video on YouTube:


Mythbuster #3: Pilates and yoga are the same.

Joseph Pilates had a diverse background in physical activity. Being  sick as a child motivated him as an adult to become an accomplished boxer, diver, and skier who also studied ancient Greek and Roman exercise regimens.  He developed his own system of exercise by culling from a variety of sources, including fencing, acrobatics, and yoga, etc.


It is clear that he was influenced by the goals of yogic practice, bringing the mind and body together for holistic health. He called his method “Contrology,” the study of control, because he believed that connecting the mind to the work of the body would bring strength and fortitude to everyday life. Yoga comes from the mindset of a spiritual practice, however, and the idea of “yolking” with ultimate reality. Pilates was very much reacting to the industrialization of the early 1900’s. He saw that the burgeoning technology of mass production was causing people to move mindlessly and sought to bring mindfulness into the mechanical precision of the new age.


There are two components to Pilates: matwork and apparatus work.  The matwork is the most similar to a yoga class. Both are performed on a mat while your teacher leads you through a specific order of exercises that use gravity as resistance. In Pilates matwork your main focus will be moving from your center, called the “powerhouse,” to execute movements that focus on control and precision, while in yoga you will use your breath to place your body into alignment.


The pace of the class can be a major difference, as well. In Pilates matwork there is a seamless and rhythmic flow between exercises, so that you are always moving and never still. This is a way of stretching your body dynamically—making you limber while maintaining and improving explosive muscle power. Yoga generally employs a different kind of stretching that is muscularly active but much more static, holding poses for a certain length of time in order to deepen into poses. The use of eccentric contraction in Pilates matwork, (actively contracting the muscle while it’s on the stretch) is what gives Pilates practitioners the “long, lean” look.


The apparatus invented by Joseph Pilates include the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Electric Chair, and Ladder Barrel. They are incredibly versatile pieces that use spring resistance to develop the powerhouse, articulate the spine, and increase strength, flexibility, and balance in the body. You will always use apparatus with the guidance of a Pilates instructor who can modify your workout and the exercises to either assist or challenge you in your workout goals. The genius of Pilates’ designs is that there are almost limitless variations of exercises that allow your instructor to cater directly to you, whether you are an elite athlete, just beginning a workout regimen, or recovering from injury.

Pilates Ex of Month: ROCKING


To strengthen the back and hip extensors; to improve hip flexor flexibility and to stretch the chest.


1.  Lie on your stomach.  Inhale, bend the knees and reach back with the arms, taking hold of the ankles and lifting the trunk and legs into an arch.


2.  Exhale rock forward.


3.  Inhale and rock backward, lifting your chest and pulling back from your ankles.  Keep your navel pressed into your spine.


4.  Rock back and forth 5 times.


5.  End by releasing your ankles and sitting back to your heels, with your arms stretched long in front of you.  Place forehead on the mat. This position is similar to child’s pose in Yoga.  Comfort is key.



Imagine yourself as a rocking horse. Another image is that of a boat rocking forward and backward as it sails through the waves.



Keep the head still and in line with the spine.

Maintain scapular stability throughout; keep arms straight.

Create a comfortable rhythm of breath and motion as you rock.

Do not toss head forward and backward to initiate the rocking movements.



This is an advance Pilates exercise.  If you’ve had a knee, shoulder or rotator cuff injury, we suggest a Certified Pilates Instructor guide you through the movement or omit the exercise from your routine.


Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Benefit: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle.  This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform.  A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.

Starting Position: Face the pedal and place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off.  Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on.  Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.

    1.  Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the truExnk in a Pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.


    1. Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift  into hands.  For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.


    1. Inhale; lower pedal down with control.  Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.


  1. Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders
  • Keep head aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor
  • Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control
  • Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side


Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.


Omit the 3 count pulses.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SWIMMING


Benefit: Swimming stretches and strengthens the muscles along your spine.
Starting Position: Lie on your stomach, arms extend overhead, palms down. Squeeze the backs of legs together, slightly turn feet outward (Pilates stance, laterally rotated).
1. Inhale, pull navel up into your spine, lift your head; then your right arm and left leg off the mat.
2. Switch arms and legs by lifting your left arm and right leg. Without shifting your body weight; flutter the arms and legs in a swimming motion.
3. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Feel that you are stretching in opposition, fingers and toes reaching for opposite ends of the room.
4. Complete 3-5 sets of 5 inhalations/exhalations each. To end and stretch your lower back, sit back on your heels in child’s pose.
Head to Toe Checklist
1. Work the arms directly in front of you and in line with your shoulders.
2. The legs should flutter close to each other and in line with your torso.
3. Swim briskly; avoid rocking from side to side.
4. Keep arms and legs as straight as possible without letting them touch the mat.
Move rapidly and keep your head up as though you were actually in water.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Teaser 1



Purpose:  Humorously referred to as “the mother of all sit-ups”, the Teaser tests your powerhouse control to the fullest.  At the peak of the exercise, momentarily hold the position, “teasing” the balance.


1. Lie on your back with legs extended at a 45 degree angle.  Heels are together and toes turned out slightly.  Stretch your arms overhead by your ears.  Don’t allow your back to arch or your ribs to pop out.


2.  Maintain the scoop; inhale; raise your arms, head and shoulders in sequence, peeling the upper body up off the mat vertebra by vertebra.  The chin is toward the chest.  The fingers reach for the toes.


3.  Hold the “V” position, balancing on your tailbone. Exhale; begin rolling your spine back down to the mat.


4. When your head has touched the mat, stretch arms overhead to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times; inhaling as you float up; exhaling as you peel down.



Visualization:  As you roll down, imagine each vertebra touching the mat the way your fingers travel on the keys of a piano.



Breathe during the exercise or you will not be using your muscles efficiently.

Don’t lower legs past the point of control. If you feel back discomfort, raise legs up to the ceiling.

Take your time, relax your mind and find your rhythm as you go.


Note: If you suffer from a stiff spine, perform the exercise with your feet against a wall.


Modified Leg Position:  If you have difficulty sitting up all the way, slightly bend the knees, keeping the toes higher than the knees, as you lift and lower the body.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Scissors in the Air

: Strengthens the abdominals, increases spine flexibility, stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors.


Starting Position: Lie down on mat and bring your legs up to a 90 degree angle, toes pointed.  Arms long by sides, palms down.


1.   Inhale; prepare the body and scoop abdominals inward.  Exhale; continue to lift your legs up to ceiling (toes to ceiling).  Inhale; bring the hands underneath the hips with finger tips pointed outward and the wrists supporting the back and hips.


1.   Exhale; scissor the legs; one leg moves over the head as the other leg moves toward the mat in the opposite direction. Switch legs and continue to scissor.  Keep the  hips and pelvis still as you move legs.


1.  Inhale; bring the legs back up over the hips (toes reach to ceiling).  Exhale; allow your back to roll down to the mat, slowly and carefully, one vertebra at a time.


4.  Complete 3-5 sets


Head to Toe Checklist:

Do not roll onto the neck

Keep the elbows parallel to each other (or as close as possible) & cradle the pelvis with the hands

Keep torso rock solid as you scissor

Breath fully and deeply to facilitate the scissor motion



Imagine the legs opening wide like a handheld fan, then closing and opening to the other side.

Improving Balance – Not Just Standing on One Leg

Peggy Protz, Feldenkrais® Practitioner

What comes to mind when you think of balance? Perhaps it’s your ability to stand on one leg for a length of time, or the fact you don’t trip or fall when stepping off a curb or running to catch the bus. Actually, the simple fact you don’t fall over when just standing still is testament to the fact that the balance system in your body is working. It’s when you ask your body to do more intensive activities – various sports, dance, or yoga – that your balance is challenged. By taking the time to enhance your body’s balance system, even in the simplest of activities, you’ll be able to perform the more intensive ones with a lot more ease and skill, and a whole lot less effort.

The Feldenkrais approach to balance is unique in that it takes what you do when you are upright and moving around and works with it while you are lying down. In this situation there is no danger of falling over (you’re already lying down so there is no where to fall to) and habitual tensions that help you stand upright, many of which you aren’t even aware of, have a better chance of letting go. From here we can introduce and explore various innovative movements designed to stimulate your balance system. When you stand up afterward your body’s in a different place and you have a different experience of how to balance yourself. Often, this new experience, in itself, is all it takes for your balance to improve. As we consciously apply the new experience to simple activities, however, like walking and yes, even the feat of standing on one leg, the learning is further enhanced. Then, the next time you go to play your favorite sport, or go dancing, or run to catch the bus, your balance system will be working well in the background, so YOU can be paying attention to other things.