The Pilates Magic Circle is one of the most requested "toys" in the studio. Clients love the added resistance and intense concentration needed to squeeze the circle while executing the movements. Mat classes are amped up because of the increase in muscle activation, the control challenge and body awareness.
This hip releasing, hamstring stretching, Reformer exercise provides relief for lower extremity stiffness. The limited range of motion, shortening of the muscles and sluggish energy resulting from extended periods of sitting or hip pain, can be improved by this expansive, yet gentle stretch.
You know your back is intact and your Powerhouse (aka, your core) is strong when you can extend and back bend with confidence and control. There are a multitude of causes of back issues. Strengthening the supportive musculature of the torso is the remedy.
This beautiful back extension exercise is best done when your body is sufficiently warmed up. A standing roll down followed by a standing backbend with the Roll Down Bar preceded this advanced move. The result?
"Wow! This feel great. Can I do another one?", Emily gleefully asked after she took her first dive.
That's why they're smiling.
Their bodies are opening up, circulation has increased, the heart rate has accelerated, they are breathing rhythmically and coordinating their movement with breath as they perform this exercise. Fluid movement is a beautiful thing and one of the seven principles governing the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning.
This chest-opening, shoulder-lifting, posture improving move is on my list of top ten favorites because, with great effectiveness, it counteracts the downward pull of gravity. After 2-3 sets of 12 repetitions, your shoulders are more mobile, your chest is lifted, you can breath more expansively, standing upright and walking gracefully become natural again.
I love working the sideline of the body. You can restore length, create space, re-educate your your body to stand tall with great ease. The objectives of the Standing Side Bend using the Roll Down Bar are to:
- Mindfully side bend while pressing the roll down bar. Maintain shoulder and wrist alignment. Do not bend the elbow.
- Firmly ground and lengthen downward the leg on the non-bending side as you lean to the side in the opposite direction
- Keep your abdominals engaged throughout the exercise
- Coordinate your movement with breath
Add side bending to your waist whittling arsenal and say good bye to muffin tops and love handles.
The Tower is the superlative spinal articulation and inversion exercise that touts a multitude of benefits: circulation of the synovial fluid up and down the spine, opening of the meridians to encourage the free flow of energy throughout the body, relief of back pain, immobility and stiffness, increased blood flow to the head and face (aka: an instant facelift!), creation of more back space in the body, encourages proper body alignment, strengthens the Pilates scoop and improves verticality. It's among the top five exercises that devotees of Pilates love.
The Tower is also the name of the Pilates apparatus that this exercise is performed on. Using a spring loaded push through bar, you lie on your back with your feet positioned hip distance apart. Extend your legs, push the bar upwards, continue the momentum until you reach the top of your shoulders. Without jamming your neck, gently lower the upper back, middle back, lower back, crest of the pelvis, sacrum and tailbone down to the mat while extending/lengthening your arms (as pictured here). The increased intervertebral space is felt immediately. The back release is unbelievable.
Sign up here for my class, Tower of Strength, to try this exercise and many more. Train the Pilates way while rehabbing your body.
And if you're perfecting your parts, follow twitter.com/PerfectParts.
#Pilates #PilatesinEastHarlem #Harlem #activeaging #agingwell #BabyBoomers
A muscle is stretched when its overlapping actin and myosin protein fibers slide past each other. Once this occurs, a lengthening of myofilaments past their current resting length occurs. We cannot make stretches happen; we allow them to.
Pictured here is the Pilates exercise called the Thigh Stretch. It can be performed on the Tower or Cadillac. Using the Roll Back bar, you kneel on the mat with your upper body perpendicular to the floor. After ensuring that your body placement is squared off and stabilized and you've engaged your abdominals, you shift backward approximately 45 degrees (or more if you're including a back bend), feel the lengthening of the quadriceps, then gently thrust the hips forward and return to the starting position. The spring resistance of the bar gently stretches your arms, shoulders and chest.
It's important to maintain muscle length and symmetry in the weight-bearing lower extremities. Optimal functioning of these muscles coupled with properly aligned ligaments and joints limit stress, strain and the gradual shortening of these structures.
The Pilates method employs eccentric contractions whereby muscles oppose a stronger force (the springs) which causes the muscles to lengthen as they contract. With the controlled movements that are essential when doing Pilates, muscles are strengthened too.
Scooping the abdomen in and up, spiral wrapping the thighs, tightening the tush, relaxing shoulders downward, staying centered in body, mind, as well as on the mat, breathing expansively AND listening to verbal cueing can trigger information overload, causing loss of focus on one thing at the expense of another; like scooping but forgetting about the correct placement of your shoulders or squeezing the inner thighs together but failing to breath.
“There’s so much to remember to do”, said one of my on-the-verge-of-exasperation Pilates students.
She’s just returned to Pilates after a four year hiatus and is gradually getting her rhythm back. I suggested one way to process all of the directives that will lead to mat class mastery is to perform an order of operations. Remember solving algebraic equations? You have to simplify what’s in the parenthesis or brackets first, then you tackle the exponents, followed by multiplication and division, finally working out the addition or subtraction to arrive at the correct answer.
I recommended that she first physically center and imprint herself on the mat, then try to quiet her mind, so she could concentrate and process all of the sensory feedback she will be experiencing. Next, I instructed her to start her breath work; which should be expansive and energizing. Once a workable breathing pattern has been established, she should focus on contracting her navel to her spine without drawing her shoulders upward. With concentration and correct body placement established, she's poised to flow through a sequence of movements with grace and control.
Honoring the integrity of each movement, incorporating the principles that govern the Pilates method, mat class mavens remake their bodies and calm their minds.
James Allen's treatise, As a Man Thinketh, regarding the effect of thought and health on the body, tells us that:
"The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed. At the bidding of unlawful thoughts the body sinks rapidly into disease and decay; at the command of glad and beautiful thoughts it becomes clothed with youthfulness and beauty. Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought. Sickly thoughts will express themselves through a sickly body. Thoughts of fear have been known to kill a man as speedily as a bullet, and they are continually killing thousands of people just as surely though less rapidly. The people who live in fear of disease are the people who get it. Anxiety quickly demoralizes the whole body, and lays it open to the entrance of disease; while impure thoughts, even if not physically indulged, will soon shatter the nervous system.
Strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up the body in vigor and grace. The body is a delicate and plastic instrument, which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is impressed, and habits of thought will produce their own effects, good or bad, upon it. Men will continue to have impure and poisoned blood so long as they propagate unclean thoughts. Out of a clean heart comes a clean life and a clean body. Out of a defiled mind proceeds a defiled life and corrupt body. Thought is the fount of action, life and manifestation; make the fountain pure, and all will be pure.
Change of diet will not help a man who will not change his thoughts. When a man makes his thoughts pure, he no longer desires impure food. If you would perfect your body, guard your mind. If you would renew your body, beautify your mind. Thoughts of malice, envy, disappointment, despondency, rob the body of its health and grace. A sour face does not come by chance; it is made by sour thoughts. "
Proper placement of the head is an important aspect of verticality and structural integrity. Tension- free neck muscles, a lifted ribcage, and an open chest result when the head is properly positioned. As above, so below. Everything falls into place.
When the muscles of head and neck are strong and fully functioning, it can easily support the weight of an adult's head, which averages between 8 and 11 pounds. Jutting the head forward or tilting it to the side may result in neck and shoulder strain, fatigued muscles and poor posture. Joseph Pilates' nifty neck stretcher, pictured here, is the perfect solution for muscle imbalances and mobility issues of the head and neck.
Why not stand head and shoulders about the rest? This is not just an expression for stellar performance. It bespeaks of elegant posture, structural integrity and graceful movement.