I am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the Hundred

I am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the Hundred

In my weekly lessons (mostly on the Reformer because I am obsessed), Karen Frischmann has been encouraging me to reach my legs/thighs long and away from my center.

At first I admit I had no idea what she was talking about.

It was not until months later in the midst of the Overhead on the Reformer that I understood.

I am my own Spine Corrector.

Over time, using the entire Pilates system, the gifts we receive from each of the various apparatus get built right into our bodies.

How nice.

It's no secret that the firm support of all the apparatus act as a template for the shape of our backs: lying down on the Mat, Cadillac and Reformer; upright and tall along the Electric Chair and Arm Chair.

But what about the round apparatus? Surely they are our teachers too.

31 Days of the Hundred

March MATness 2016 coaxed me to get up close and personal with my Pilates Mat exercises.

In the Hundred, figuring out how to maintain the length and strength of my back despite my legs reaching lower became one of my pet projects for March (and beyond, evidently).

A noble pursuit.

I begin my Hundred lying down and lift everything into position.

Wherever I park my legs I can get the job done, but are they really connected to my center?

Perhaps not.

Enter the Spine Corrector.

I am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the Hundred

The Spine Corrector is an amazing apparatus that truly lives up to its name. With the opening and ‘correcting' of the spine, this apparatus also promotes an opening of the hips, thighs and shoulders.

Over time, the muscular action we cultivate in the Spine Corrector exercises will infiltrate the body.

And elsewhere in the system we've got numerous occasions to be our own Spine Corrector:

  • High Scissors and High Bicycle on the Mat
  • Other inverted exercises: The Overhead, Corkscrew, Control Balance
  • The Hundred and the Ab 5 on the Mat: Yes you are working your stomach, but there's a lot of hip opening and seat action to complement your abs of steel.

One clear example is the High Scissors and High Bicycle on the Mat.

We do the identical exercises on the Spine Corrector.

I am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the HundredI am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the Hundred

Now you see the Spine Corrector…and now you don't!

Or do you?

Now let's take that same idea and apply it to another inverted exercise, the Overhead:

I am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the Hundred

S-t-r-e-t-c-h those legs up and over the imaginary Spine Corrector behind you.

Now to the Hundred to look for length in the back by being our own Spine Corrector.

Perhaps the hardest of all…

I am my own Spine Corrector: How to Lower your Legs in the Hundred

I can use the same feeling in each of these examples: the same scoop of my stomach and I can imagine reaching my thighs and legs over the apparatus which is now imaginary.

An integral facet of our minds, imagination is a fantastic tool to control our muscles.

Romana Kryzanowska spoke about the 5 parts of the mind inherent in our Pilates workout:

Pilates is “Intelligence guided by the will using memory and imagination assisted by intuition.

You know how I feel about control.

The mind in charge of the body.

My favorite.

It is called ‘Spine Corrector

Remember the Spine Corrector is best at doing just what its name suggests. As it lengthens and balances our various curvatures, our lower body learns a new way of moving along the Spine Corrector.

And over time…you are your own Spine Corrector!

Give these tips a try in your next workout.

Questions? Leave me a comment and let's have a chat.

March MATness 2016: The Recap

March MATness 2016: The RecapFirst off, let me offer a hearty congratulations for every single one of you who took up the challenge of March MATness this year.

We all deserve a few minutes each day to care for our bodies with the Pilates Mat exercises. What a treat!

Yes, there are days when for whatever reason you must keep your workout quite short. A couple days I managed to sneak in only the Hundred. Other days I did my full Mat workout perhaps even with an ending on the Spine Corrector. Most of my March workouts were somewhere between 1 exercise and all of them.

Now for Romana's famous question:

What did you learn today in March?

1. Day 2 – already feeling fabulous

Not surprisingly, even on March 2 – only 2 days into the MATness – I could feel the effects of my efforts in my body. I felt great. Lots of energy and just more comfortable in my own body and brain. Several of my colleagues on Facebook reported they felt awesome too.

A few days into March, my husband began using a mantra: “abs glistening in the sun.”

I decided it deserved to be a hashtag.

#MM2016

#absglisteninginthesun

2. ‘Me time' is FUN!

Given my druthers and a clear schedule, I truly love my Pilates workout. Working on the Mat exercises each day helped me to appreciate my time for self-care. It almost functions as a form of meditation – a focused “quiet time” for the body and spirit.

Although I am hardly quiet in some of the exercises… Lots of grunting during the Side Kicks Kneeling…

3. Structure and Creativity

The framework of the 34 Mat exercises in Return to Life is a perfect backdrop for the kind of a workout you'll plan for each day. I know what exercises I need to get in and if I'm short on time I still make sure to include my ‘favorites' and my ‘necessaries.'

How about a brief day of only rolling exercises? Why not?

And I tried to make sure my workout included the exercise for that specific day, as a little celebration and thanks for Joe Pilates.

How did he know I need that Swimming exercise SO MUCH?

4. The daily check in with your body

As an unbalanced person (take this as you will) I've been working on not overusing my strong side.

My daily Mat workout helped me to pinpoint the exercises in which I like to overwork.

I got better and better at finding them as I worked diligently each day. Lots of Pilates detective work helped me to learn more nuances about my body.

5. A workout REALLY doesn't take that long at all

Even with the inclusion of every Mat exercise in Joe's original system, my maximum time spent on the Mat was under 30 minutes.

And I was wiped.

I've certainly got more than enough time in my day to fit in my workout. Even if I've only got 25 minutes.

#noexcuses

6. OMG the Hundred got better!

Wonders. Never. Cease.

I have been steadily working to create more length in my back and have my legs at a lower level.

Sure I can just park my legs low and hang them off my pelvis, but how will I live with myself??!

I could still continue to pump on and on, but what am I really “warming up” then? My arms??

A daily dose of the Hundred helped to efficiently warm up my center by working fiercely to keep the back long.

7. The Order of the Universe

Finally it dawned on me that March MATness is not only a celebration of Joe Pilates original system, it's also a gateway drug to the order of the exercises as well.

O frabjous day!

It made my heart warm to see so many lovely Pilates friends on Social Media beginning with the Hundred on March 1 and proceeding each day to the next exercise. What a lovely way to celebrate and learn the order of the exercises.

Now we need a month beginning with ‘R' for the Reformer.

Oh and that month has to be like 80 days long…

Rocktober anyone?

How was your March MATness experience this year? 

Share your successes in a comment below.

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Mat Transitions 10

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 10

Welcome to Episode 10 – the final installment – of Transitions on the Mat!

In this episode we'll look at some options for the Push Up series.

Know where you are and know where you're going.

In Pilates, the Push Up series is as much about the getting to the position for Push Ups as it is about the Push Ups themselves. Use your control and walk your hands out to a perfect position in 4 steps only.

Depending on who you are, you can vary the amount and style of Push Ups that you do. If getting into the series is challenging you can focus more on that part and just hold the plank position for imaginary Push Ups (shall we say).

Push Up options you may enjoy:

  • 1 set of 3 Push Ups – and done!
  • 3 sets of Push Ups – 1 Push Up per set.
  • 3 sets of Push Ups – 1, then 2, then 3 Push Ups (adding 1 more each time)
  • 5 sets of Push Ups – 1, then 2, then 3, etc… until in the last set you do 5
  • Clapping Hands Push Ups – 1 each set or if you can do more, by all means…
  • Clapping Feet Push Ups – these are not for the faint of heart…
  • Clapping Hands and Feet Push Ups – for those that have great hops (not me) and get enough air to get it all done.

Enjoy this short vlog!

Late to the party? No prob.

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 9

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 9

Welcome to Episode 9 of Transitions on the Mat!

In this episode we'll pick up with Rocking – the 3rd and final time you'll transition to your stomach in the workout.

Post Rolling Extravaganza and into Rocking

Perfecting the transition to Rocking is another obsession project of mine.

Often we reach for our feet – especially if the Rocking position is a big stretch – by shifting side to side, grabbing one foot and then the other.

It can be a challenge to keep the initial set up as symmetrical as possible.

To that end, I begin on my stomach with my legs long on the mat and my arms long by my side, palms up. Now I can use all the length and reach in my body to my best advantage.

Once I have reached my toes long behind me I will start to bend my legs. Next I'll lift my chest and reach both arms back with the intent of placing both feet into my hands AT THE SAME TIME.

Give it a try.

You'll get some good intel on your body whether you're successful or not. It took me a while to be able to take both feet together. For a while I stayed symmetrical as long as possible and then wiggled a bit to get hold of my feet.

These things take time.

  • Finish your Crab.
  • In one swift maneuver turn onto your stomach, arms and legs long on the mat.
  • Reach and lift into your Rocking position and begin!

Post Rocking and into Control Balance

A word about arriving into position for Control Balance

My preference is to keep the arms down by the sides and lift the lower body overhead as you do in the Jackknife.

Once you are balanced in this position reach your arms out to the sides and then overhead. At the same time you'll bring one leg down to hold your ankle.

Focus on the lifting leg in this exercise. Try not to park your lower foot on the floor.

Balance, yes?

Worst case scenario, you'll roll down onto the mat.

Boy, this exercise really earns its name!

  • Finish your Rocking.
  • Sit back into our beloved counter stretch. Really milk it after this one:)
  • Efficiently turn onto your back for the Control Balance.
  • Lift yourself into the Control Balance and go!
  • Finish and roll down onto the mat and up to a standing position.

Options for Standing Up

I enjoy playing with different options for getting up and down to the mat.

1. Traditionally you'll stand with one foot crossed over the other. You can cross over either way, and of course we like to encourage you to choose whichever is most challenging. Your heels can be lifted which will test your balance further. You can also keep the heels down increasing the lift you'll need in your back to descend to the mat.

2. You can stand with both feet together for a deep aboriginal squat to the mat (my favorite).

3. If you've got a stronger/weaker side and you're up for a challenge you can descend in a 1 leg pistol squat and rise up on your other leg (also my favorite). It becomes a good test of your memory to remember which leg you used way back at the beginning of your workout.

4. Also, if your knees bother you – you may leave it out. It's still a great workout if you begin lying down.

Take care of yourselves. Don't be a hero… 🙂

Enjoy this short vlog!

Missed an episode? No prob.

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 8

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 8

Welcome to Episode 8 of Transitions on the Mat!

In this episode we'll pick up with our 3 rolling exercises: Boomerang, Seal and Crab.

Yay! What fun 🙂

Post Side Bend and into the Boomerang

  • Finish your Side Bend.
  • Bring your feet to the front of the mat and get into position.
  • Use your scoop just like your start of the Open Leg Rocker to begin your Boomerang.

Seal

  • Finish your Boomerang.
  • Assume the position of the Seal and go!

A word about our Seal to Crab transition

The positions of Seal and Crab are relatively similar. You'll simply change the hold on your legs and keep rolling along.

To begin your Crab you have 2 options:

  1. Change while upright (in the front), or
  2. Change to while upside down (in the back)

To change from Seal to Crab in the back, begin an additional Seal. Change when you are upside down. It's my preference to perfect my lift while upside-down and rearrange the leg position to Crab in the air.

It's a challenge to get the Crab action of the leg switch yet still not lose your lift.

You've had time to perfect your lift while upside down in the two preceding exercises. By the time you get to the Crab you'll be a pro.

To change from Seal to Crab in the front, keep your balance post Seal and change your position to the Crab. Begin your Crab by rolling up and forward over your feet first.

Crab

  • Finish your Seal either in the front or in the back.
  • Change your shape to the position for Crab and go!

Part of the beauty and challenge of this rolling series is that our rolling shape continues to get ever smaller.

Pay attention as your shape changes from Boomerang to Seal and finally to Crab. Investigate fully how to make your body roll as smoothly as possible.

Cultivate as much length and opening in the back as you can…

Rocking is coming…

Enjoy this short vlog!

Missed an episode? No prob.