Tag: pilates classes

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Saw

Purpose: To improve flexibility in your hamstrings, develop strength in the low back and work your waistline.

  1. Sit tall, with your legs extended. Open them slightly wider than your hips; feet flexed. Reach your arms out to the side (T position). Imagine you are reaching to touch both sides of the room.
  2. Inhale, pull your navel up and into your spine. Twist from your waist to the left carrying your arms with you. Keep your pelvis anchored to the mat.
  3. Exhale and round forward toward your left leg. Aim your baby finger (right hand) to the outside of your baby toe. Your back arm (left arm) reaches back; turning the palm in. Feel the oppositional pull of the arms.
  4. Inhale; continue to reach forward to accentuate the hamstring stretch. Keep the opposite hip pressed down into the mat. Then, exhale, and continue to reach forward, bringing the top of your head toward the baby toe.
  5. Inhale, bring your body up, sit tall as you return to the starting position. Begin the exercise on the other side.
  6. Alternate sides, completing 3-5 sets.

Checklist:

  • Keep your hips very still as you stretch past your baby toe. Buttocks must not lift off mat.
  • Keep your legs straight, don’t let them roll in. Knees and toes should point to the ceiling.
  • Back arm stays lifted.
  • Roll up through the spine to sit tall before going to the other side.
  • Don’t come up with a flat back.

Note: If hamstrings are too tight, sit on a cushion or phonebook. You can bend your knees slightly if the stretch is difficult at first. Flexibility will improve.

Visualization: Imagine you are sitting in a block of cement. Your lower body can’t move as you reach toward the baby toe.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Criss-Cross or Obliques

Purpose: The last of the Stomach Series, this works the external obliques, waistline and powerhouse.

  1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; elbows wide and your knees bent into your chest.
  2. Extend your right leg out long; hovering above the mat. Twist your upper body until the right elbow touches left knee. Open the back (left) elbow behind you. Inhale as you lift to twist and hold for 3 counts.
  3. Exhale and switch sides, bringing your left elbow to your right knee while extending the opposite (left) leg out in front of you. Hold for 3 counts. Keep your upper back and shoulders off the mat as you twist from side to side.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

Checklist: Lift and twist from your waist, not from your neck and shoulders. The back elbow never touches the mat. Look at your back elbow as you twist.

Anchor your center to the mat so you don’t roll from side to side. Lower your extended leg about 45 degrees or more… back should not arch off mat.

Note: Avoid twisting exercises such as this if you have suffered a recent back injury.

Visualization: Imagine you have an X on your stomach and you are crossing to each end of the X.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Straight Leg Stretch or Scissors

Purpose: The third exercise in the Stomach Series is also known as Scissors. It provides additional stretch in the back of legs while working the abdominals. This exercise requires you to move quickly and with control.

  1. Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest, head and shoulders curled off the
    mat, elbows lifted.
  2. Extend your right leg straight up to the ceiling and grab your ankle with both hands. Stretch
    the left leg long in front of you so it hovers slightly above the mat.
  3. Inhale, keeping the right leg straight and use your hands to lightly pulse the leg twice. Sink
    the navel deeper into the mat beneath you as the leg nears the body.
  4. Exhale and quickly switch the straight legs by “scissoring” them past each other. Grab the
    ankle of your left leg and repeat the motion, inhaling for one set and exhaling for one set.

Complete 8-10 sets; alternating legs. To end, bring both legs together at a 90 degrees.

Goal: Remain perfectly still in your torso as you stretch and scissor your legs. Keep eyes focused on belly, making sure it’s scooped. Avoid hunching your shoulders.

Note: If you can’t hold your ankle, simply adjust your hand placement; try your calf first or move your hands to the back of your thigh. Don’t hold behind your knee. If you develop neck pain while holding your head up, rest it on the mat.

Visualization: As you begin switching legs, imagine pulsing your legs in rhythm with your heartbeat.

How Pilates May Be Able to Help in Pregnancy

Amy B. is no stranger to Pilates, but was still amazed at how her Pilates sessions helped her through pregnancy, delivery, and being a busy, working mom of 2 lively kids. In San Francisco and Seattle, Amy took Pilates Mat classes for 7 years before the birth of her first child. After Amy’s baby was born, she felt strained in her back and shoulders due to lugging around a car seat with a growing baby. She wanted an efficient workout; something that combined strength and flexibility, because with a new baby she no longer had time to separately do strength conditioning and yoga — she needed to cram it all into an hour if possible. Lastly, she wanted her pre-pregnancy body back and to fit into her clothes again. She contacted Jocelyn and decided to start private sessions once a week.

Fast-forward two years; Amy is expecting her second baby. Amy says, “I felt very strong this pregnancy, which I attribute to consistently running and doing Pilates for the two years prior. For the first several months, I kept with the same exercises, but as my belly started to grow there were obviously some exercises we had to cut out or adjust to not lay on my belly or put unnecessary strain on my back”.

Amy was elated to learn that she could be tired during the day, but a Pilates session with Jocelyn after work would energize her and she’d feel great! She did Pilates right up until the end of her pregnancy, 10 days before she gave birth to Emilia.

According to Amy, delivery was “easy”! It took 5 minutes for her daughter to join the world with no medical interventions. Recovery was much easier this time too. She was pushing a stroller around Green Lake a week later, and resumed Pilates sessions with Jocelyn about a month later.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Jack Knife

Purpose: This is an advanced mat exercise. It builds strength in your abdominal muscles and stretches the muscles of your back and shoulders.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms long by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat, keep a slight turn out in your legs.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle, arms continue to reach long, shoulders pinned down. Use your abdominals to roll over- bring your legs over your head and peel your spine off the mat. Your legs remain together and go no lower than parallel to the floor. The weight is on your shoulders, not neck.
  3. Exhale, raise your straight legs upward toward the ceiling, using the strength of your buttocks to support your position. At the peak of the exercise, your feet should be over your eyes. Neck is long; arms continue to press firmly into the mat.
  4. Inhale, start to roll down vertebra by vertebra, slowly resisting gravity. Exhale, to finish, bring the body down to 90 degrees and return legs to starting position. Repeat 3 times.

Checklist:

  • Anchor the back of the head, shoulders, and palms solidly into the mat.
  • Distribute your weight between the shoulders – not on the neck.
  • During Step 2, aim the toes for the wall behind you and don’t allow your legs to separate throughout.
  • Keep squeezing the back of the upper inner thighs and buttocks to support your lower back.
  • On the decent, keep the feet over eyes.

Note: Omit this exercise if you have a bad neck, shoulder, or back.

Visualization: In Step 3, raise your legs to the ceiling, as if opening a Swiss Army knife and snapping it into place.