Tag: flexibility

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.

Pilates Exercise of the 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 for Golfers

Have you experienced the elusive “perfect shot” moment? Your intention is clear, your swing is fluid, and your body and mind are synchronized. Your swing tempo, your movements, and firing of the muscles are working together. As a golfer, I love it when everything comes together. Would you like to have those moments consistently?

Both Golf and Pilates are mind-body activities and share some of the same basic principles. Golf and Pilates principles include precision, centering, power, control, and concentration.

Pilates is a great tool for conditioning both sides of your body and preventing injuries that plague golfers. Golfers are repeatedly bending over the ball, twisting their body in one direction and exerting the same muscles over and over. Pilates restores balance and realigns the body to bring back the natural, normal movement pattern.

Specific Pilates exercises build balance, strength and flexibility, while teaching the body to move in an efficient way. This program is designed to help golfers’ finesse their game, improve their swing and drive the ball further.

For more information contact Jocelyn or 206-441-1111, ext. 216.

Top three reasons you should hop into the pool. . .

  1. Endurance- swimming longer and longer each time you get into the pool will build your endurance greatly. Swimming is usually able to be done for longer periods of time then running is which as a result a swimmer can train for longer time periods and burn more calories.
  2. Core- swimming use’s all of the body’s muscles together, but is stabilized and predominately balanced by your core strength. You are holding that long floating position in the water while being able to hold your body up and rotate your hips. The rotation process is in the hips, but takes a strong core to be able to do it well; therefore swimming will increase core strength.
  3. Flexibility- swimming relaxes your muscles (if the pool is heated or once you are warmed up), which increases the flexibility of your muscles. Lengthening your stroke and glide stretches the muscles and can increase your flexibility, the longer you swim.

If you would like to learn more about swimming please contact Personal Fitness Trainer/Swim Instructor Amber Gruger.


Hypermobility is when a joint moves easily beyond the normal range. It is sometimes referred to as loose joints or being double jointed. The joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments are formed more lax. There are simple mobility screenings your doctor can do to diagnose hypermobility; however it is usually benign. Hypermobility Syndrome can be diagnosed if it causes pain in the joints, particularly knees, fingers, hips and elbows.

There are a couple of theories behind what causes one to be hypermobile; one being the heritable gene polymorphisms that effect the development of collagen, elastin, and fibrillins. It is also hypothesized to be a genetic connective tissue disease. It can be a feature of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, causes a higher risk for dislocation, sprains, scoliosis, osteoarthritis and is commonly seen in people with Down syndrome.

As one gets older, you may become less flexible and thus decrease your tendency to being hypermobile. A positive benefit of hypermobility is greater agility to perform certain physical activities. If you are someone with an increased range of motion within some joints (usually females) you may want to change how you exercise and move. Your whole body should aid in the movement (bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons); you should not allow your joints and bones to take the brunt of all the forces. Exercises should be tailored to avoid injury to joints and work on stabilizing and strengthening.

  • Proprioception – This can be addressed by working in multiple planes of motion and applying resistance coming from different directions.
  • Balance – Postural control and balance activate stabilizers to help strengthen around the joints. Try implementing a type of stability device into more standard exercises.
  • Strength – Working on the overall strength of large muscles will shorten the muscles and tendons surrounding the joints and add the majority of external support to the joint, so this is just one more reason to lift weights.

Hypermobility is not anything that is threatening to your body, but you should be aware of whether your body has an increased range of motion. If you do then just be aware of your movements and make sure that you keep the musculature and supporting connective tissue around the joint tight. Try working on proprioception, balance and strength to increase this joint awareness and thus safety and you can enjoy safer joints for longer. If you have any questions about how and what exercises to perform to help alleviate hypermobility, contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz.

Develop your core with Yoga

Do you want a strong core? Check out this twist…

A lot is said about the Yoga Practice for “flexibility” and it’s true, “Range of Motion-use it or loose it”…but did you ever think about the other half of that? Strength.

Healthy low back needs flexibility around the hip flexors, adductors, hammies and lats….but all those stabilizer muscles need to be strong too, on a deep level.

Lunge “hands free” Twist is an excellent way to develop Core strength and practice what I call “stealth” yoga, when you are doing more than one pose at a time with out even knowing it. Lunges of course strengthen the whole leg, and stretch quads/adductors, and with the addition of a Core stabilizing twist, Ba BAM!!! Ballistic power and flexibility under pressure.

Let’s do this:
First, step onto your yoga mat in lunge position, heel of back foot up, equal weight on both feet. As you breathe in, place your hands in “prayer pose”, keep your hands to your chest and gently start the twist toward the bent knee direction. Keep lengthening your spine, and drop your shoulders. But here’s the key “no touchy” your knee with your elbows, this is all about developing core strength and flexibility with JUST your core, not “yanking” with your hands…Each time you inhale, pause at the top of the breath, actively pull your belly button to your spine ( what ‘s really happening is the central tendon in your diaphragm is pulling that muscle down, giving you space and strength to twist) then exhale and deepen thee twist…take your time, 5 breaths or so on each side.

You will definitely create internal heat from working this pose, and you’ll be amazed at how sore you feel from this simple but very effective way to add a strong “hands free ” twist to your yoga practice. Excellent for golfer’s, footballers, squash players and anyone who goes from a relaxed state to requiring ballistic strength and energy as soon as the alarm goes off.

Yoga is Hard Core!

Most people associate yoga with flexibility and mental relaxation training, but rarely make the connection that Yoga Asana (poses) are great abdominal strength training too! If you need a break from “crunches”, take a little journey with me as I explore two powerful “hard core” poses from the yoga asana sequence.

Plank Pose and Dolphin Plank are two very powerful strengtheners for both the abdominal core and hip flexors. Plank has the added benefit of strengthening the chest, arms, back and triceps, which traditional sit up don’t do. Keeping your torso strong will help prevent a sore back, and helps you move your limbs with more grace and awareness away from the spinal medium.

The strength training from Plank will also help for more challenging yoga poses like Head and Handstand for the advanced practitioner, and if you are an athlete, a strong core translates in to explosive power and injury prevention and quicker recovery.


To begin, find Down Dog on your mat, and make sure your fingers are spread wide and you have a strong connection between the floor and the power moving up your arms, lifting the shoulder blades up your back.

Plank is, moving the shoulders forward from Down Dog, so your shoulders and elbows are in a direct line above your wrists, and your body is straight out behind you like a board.

To prevent “sagging” in the hips, tighten your kneecaps, activate your inner thighs and push “away” from the floor with your feet and hands. Your hips should be about level to shoulders.
Since the breath (prana) in yoga is so very important, as you hold this pose for 5-10 breath cycles, fill out your rib cage with new oxygen like a balloon. This newly oxygenated blood with give you energy and focus to hold the pose, and train you to breath deeply while under stress.

Dolphin Plank:

Dolphin Plank is similar to Plank with your forearms on the floor instead of hands. This is great if you have wrist issues or shoulder injury.

Start on hands and knees, in Cat/Cow, and lay your forearms on the floor, palms facing down, fingers wide, and elbows and wrists as wide as your shoulders. From there push back off the floor to either a Down Dog Dolphin or walk your feet back behind you so you are straight like a board, same as Plank.

For more intensity in both poses, join feet together and lift one foot at a time off the floor and hold up for the 5-breath cycle. Then switch. To strengthen Glute Medias, lift the foot, keep the toes pointing down, and open the leg out an inch or two. SLOWLY!!

To modify, set knees on floor and press belly button actively up toward spine so you won’t sag in belly.

As always, all Yoga Asana and other similar movement disciplines are best under the guidance of a certified instructor or coach. Come try one of my classes at Seattle Athletic Club Downtown, and I’ll show you this and a whole lot more! Monday/Wednesday from 6:00 – 7:00pm.

PS…. in case you didn’t realize, Tonja is one of the senior yoga instructors at Seattle Athletic Club, conducts classes for the Seattle Sounders, FC and has conducted classes for the Seattle Seahawks, Rat City Roller Girls, and members of the Luna Cycling Teams. She is also a Lululemon Ambassador, and has taught yoga internationally in Thailand, Vietnam and Croatia. She is looking forward to her up coming trip to Oaxaca, Mex. to teach and practice her Spanish skills. She is a certified Thai Yoga practitioner and mixes a wonderful blend of Thai Yoga and passive yoga stretching for a total body feel good tune up, in her private practice. She is ever grateful for the lessons her students teach her , and always curious about way to make yoga accessible for all.

Flexibility 101

Flexibility refers to the degree to which a joint moves throughout a normal, pain-free range of motion. Since most physical activities and sports consist of many multijoint movements, flexibility is essential to your weekly workout routine. Flexibility training includes stretching exercises that work to increase range of motion.

Stretching can be performed at the start, middle, or end of a workout. Studies have shown that an active warm-up reduces the resistance to stretch, by increasing the temperature of the muscle you are increasing the elastic properties or the ability to stretch. Some typical warm-ups include walking, jogging, stationary cycling, and/or elliptical and rowing machine work.

Proper breathing is important when performing all exercises there is no exception when it comes to flexibility training. Using correct breathing techniques can help reduce stress and allow you to move into a position that is more comfortable. As a general rule of thumb, you should exhale slowly as you move to the end point of the stretch and inhale as you return to the starting position.

Posture is crucial when it comes to performing a stretch to ensure that you are targeting the current muscle groups. So when stretching here are a few things to remember, maintain a neutral position of the spine, try to keep shoulders back and away from ears, and hips should stay in a neutral and level position.

Here are a few basic stretches that you can perform at home…

Standing hip flexor stretch: Stand up straight with a neutral spine and keep hands of hips. Step forward with left foot into a lung position; right heel maybe elevated to facilitate this movement. Then, shift hips forward and maintain this position, feeling tension not PAIN in hips, quadriceps, and buttocks. Repeat with the opposite side.

Seated hamstring stretch: Sit upright on the floor with both legs extended and hands resting on top of quadriceps. Slowly walk the hands forward toward the feet, keeping the chest lifted.

Triceps Stretch: Facing forward, bring right arm up, bend from the elbow, and drop the hand behind the head. Try to reach left shoulder with right hand. Bring right hand to left shoulder and gently pull left elbow rightward to increase tension on arm. Repeat on opposite arm.

Chest Stretch: Place extended arms against an open doorway and lean forward, feeling gentle tension develop across the chest. Repeat on opposite side.

Yoga Pose of the Month: Ardha Chandrasana/Half Moon Pose

Ardha Chandrasana/Half Moon Pose
What is one of the most common Spring sports injury? The ANKLE joint. Now that the sun is beginning to peak it’s head out more often, it’s time to amp up your Spring training and use yoga balance poses to strengthen ankles, calves, inner thighs and core. Spring sports like Soccer and hiking depend on the quick response, strength and flexibility of your ankle joint.

Half Moon pose is an important pose in the yoga sequence, because it teaches both the front/back (anterior/posterior) of the body to stabilize and balance, by in large because the core has to fire both front and back. This pose also requires mind, breath, body coordination and stretching of the side waist and chest.

Break it Down
Do at least 10 minutes of warm up before starting standing balance poses like Half Moon. Set a block down by the front of your mat to use as an extension of your hand if it doesn’t easily touch the floor.

Starting in Warrior II (Virahbdrasana II) with your right foot forward, and your knee bent in a direct line over your foot. Ease your right hand down to the block as help to propel you forward, so you can lift your left leg off the floor with the front body open. The point is to pretend there is an imaginary wall on either side of you, front and back, so move slowly enough you stay open like a star shape and feel your core and inner thighs engage. Try not to fling your body parts into an awkward shape, move slow, with your breath, and “feel” your way into the pose.

Start by holding the pose for 5 breaths and then come down slowly back into Warrior II. Over time, you won’t need the block, and you’ll develop the strength and finesse to lightly touch the floor with your balance hand.
The focus should be keeping your front and back body open, strengthening the standing leg and ankle and stretching the side waist and chest.

Meditation and Pranayama – The Root of Yoga

This month, I want to talk a little about Meditation and Pranayama. These are not Yoga Poses, but the root of the practice. The juice and foundation. Meditation is a practice of stilling the constant chatter and pounding in the mind, and Pranayama are the breath control practices of yoga that help with the stilling of the mind.

Notice I say “practice”, as Meditation certainly doesn’t come to me or most of us naturally! A few years ago, a friend said, “Tonja, you got the poses down. Now, what you need to do is stop moving and sit your butt down and listen to your intuition.”

For me, sitting still for even 5 minutes is a wrestling match, but when I finally set my butt down and settle into stillness, it is truly an amazing practice of transforming my crazy busy mind into, clear, focused, sharpness.

Meditation for beginners. First start by doing 10 minutes yoga warm up or light stretches. Then prop your sit bones up on pillows or yoga blocks until you feel comfortable to sit for at least 10 minutes. Here’s the thing. Silence, no music, no waterfalls, just you and your wonderful breath. It’s hard…you can do this. Focus first on just the act of breathing, feel the richness of breath, the physicality of the miracle of the respiratory system. Sit tall, but not rigid, and drop your chin half way toward your chest. Once you begin to settle, start with a Mantra (repetitive words or sound, who’s purpose is to calm the mind) The mantra I work with right now is “YES” on the inhale, and “Thank you” on the exhale…over and over again repeating this simple gratitude practice. It doesn’t matter what you are “YESSING” and THANKING…. It is signaling the sub conscious mind in the Alpha state, to imprint Gratitude on your cellular level. A practice of daily Gratitude will change your life, guaranteed.

The Pranayama practice I love to begin with is Ujjaii Pranayama. In your “seat” press the tongue behind the front teeth, which drops and lengthens your palette and creates space around the nasal and throat passages. Slightly close the glottal muscles, back of throat, to sound like a soft snore. If you like to deepen this, count to 4-6 on the inhale, HOLD the breath in as you lift your belly up 2 counts, relax all muscle effort, and exhale slowly.

Pretty soon, a fidgety 5 minutes of Meditation/Pranayama has turned into 20 minutes that you don’t want to end.

There are many techniques for quieting the mind; I’m sharing some that work for me. All the Greats use Meditation to tap into their inspiration. Russel Simmons, of Def Jam Recordings and Rush Management, has just written “Supper Rich” where he explains how yoga and meditation has helped him become not only a tremendously successful business man, but more open and loving in his life. It’s an excellent book.

As always, ask your teacher about any yoga technique, and they can point you in a direction that they’ve gone. Try it, and with practice, you’ll go in the right direction and style that’s right for you.