1 Moment of Clarity with a Pilates Twist

1 Moment of Clarity with a Pilates TwistIn a race to the top of my Most Challenging list are the Pilates Side Bending exercises and the Pilates Twisting Exercises.

Naturally a part of me loathes them. A pretty big part of me until recently. They are difficult and therefore exactly what I need to be doing.

Even the nasty ones.

Twisting feels good to my already-twisted-a-bit back.

Me? Twisted?! Thanks for the feigned shock, I appreciate it.

As my understanding and execution improves I am (slowly) beginning to love them (a little bit). I almost enjoy the Criss Cross on the Mat. Ridiculous!

The secrets I am discovering? You'd better sit down for this one.

It's all about LENGTH.

Yup.

No more tricky twisty cranking around to get more “twist”. The power of posture is remarkable.

Lifting up and forward can solve the world's problems.

I am now sure of it.

1 Moment of Clarity with a Pilates Twist

On Saturday August 24, 2013 I am thrilled to present a mat class at Prana Pilates, home of the lovely Karen Ellis. Hope you can join me. Sign up here and click on the WORKSHOPS tab.

Check out Karen's new site Pilates Nerd that “aspires to shake things up and redefine what it means to be a nerd. A Pilates Nerd is a highly intelligent individual, does Pilates, gets really excited to learn, and is fascinated with most everything related to Pilates.”

2 Essential Pilates Moves at 30,000 Feet

2 Essential Pilates Moves at 30,000 FeetThe good news

I flew direct from San Diego to Baltimore.

The bad news

I flew direct from San Diego to Baltimore.

5 hours of sitting BADLY…

When I fly I have a great empathy for both the tall and the ample. At 5'2″ I have barely enough room for myself and an iPhone. The flight to Baltimore was an early one so I slept through nearly all of it. Later that afternoon during my Mat workout I realized just how long I'd been sleeping (read this as ‘slumping').

2 Essential Pilates Moves at 30,000 Feet

Jus' sayin'.

Stay classy, San Diego

My return flight was interminable as I was awake for all of it. Awake and fidgety. A fellow San Diegan, a young woman also in perpetual motion, sat to my right. She spent the flight playing an action game, steering her virtual motorcycle by moving her iPad wildly in the air in front of her. Her travel companion, a terrier sporting pink highlights and a ponytail, rustled inside a bag (also pink) at her feet. I did my best to remain calm despite a mild allergy to dogs and often full-on hypochondria on airplanes. Hold on, I just taught a Pilates workshop this weekend. I'm invincible…Nam myoho renge kyo…

I live in a city where it's just fine to paint your dog pink.

The woman to my left in the aisle seat explained that she took a Xanex and would be asleep throughout the flight. Should we need to use the lavatory we were just to give her a poke to get out into the aisle. Okay…

Slumping and reading Game of Thrones for 5 hours I fantasized about Pilates exercises I would do if I had opportunity. I stood awaiting the dog owner's return from the loo and eyed the darkened aisle.

The Hundred is definitely possible.

Couple things though:

  1. The ‘ick' factor
  2. The ‘freakshow' factor

Let's be reasonable, shall we?

1. In-seat Spine Stretch Forward

a.k.a.

“I'm not ill, I'm returning to life!”

You may be able to upgrade this one to an In-seat Roll Up if it's possible to extend your arms straight out in front of you. However, for myself, not so much.

Reaching down toward your carry-on bag is expected activity though so you may not even look weird, although the flight attendant may hand you an air-sickness bag…

  1. Pull your stomach in until you feel your back firmly into the back of the seat. Inhale.
  2. Plant your feet on the floor as wide as the space will allow. Mine got to be about hip-width apart. Push your heels into the floor and squeeze the bottom.
  3. Scoop in and reach toward your carry-on bag and keep your stomach and ribs as far away from your legs as you can. Exhale. Repeat 5x every hour or so.

Reach from way down in the low back as you stretch the back way over the stomach pulling in. You're trying to lengthen that slumpy part, which should feel good. Come back up with a book or some ear buds and no one will be the wiser.

 2. Water Closet Wall

Take a moment of quiet time for yourself in the most spacious place you'll find on the airplane. Seriously, you may be able to extend your arms in front of you, but I dare you to circle them. So for the Wall exercise, I didn't have room for the Circles. I thought about the Roll Down, but I'd already covered that with the Spine Stretch in my seat. Given the confined quarters and the proximity of your head to the plumbing, well I stuck with the most appropriate part of the Wall for the space, Skiing, or Squats.

  1. Use the lavatory door as the Wall. Walk the feet forward and hip-width apart until you can feel your entire back on the Wall.
  2. Reach the arms forward and up as you slide down the Wall. Keep your hips above your knees and pull your stomach deeply in and up as you reach toward  the ceiling with the fingertips.
  3. Push the wall away with your stomach as you slide up the Wall. Imagine you are pressing the air down as the arm press down and return to your sides.

It's really the same lengthening and lifting of your back that you were doing in Spine Stretch: stomach in and back stretching long.

And if it skeeves you out to slide up and down the door of an airplane lavatory you may want to rethink the whole flying thing in general…maybe I shouldn't have spelled it out like that.

At the very least you'll arrive home hungry for the Reformer. Your carriage awaits…

2 Essential Pilates Moves at 30,000 Feet

Serendipitous Bonus (for those of you who do speak yoga)

Share your travel survival tips in a comment below. Anyone manage to do the Teaser in-flight?

5 Transformative Power Poses in your Pilates Workout

It's no secret that Pilates makes us feel good. But it might be doing more than you think. Amy Cuddy offers us “A free no-tech life hack: change your posture for 2 minutes.”

Yes, our mothers were correct.

Standing up straight is good for you. Cuddy proposes that your posture, indeed great for your body, “could significantly change the way your life unfolds.”

The Pilates Workout: your very own ‘no-tech life hack'

By all reports Joe Pilates was an arrogant man. Consequently, the 2-minute power poses advocated by Cuddy proliferate in your Pilates workout. In each and every workout we have a chance to embrace our inner arrogance and strike a pose, a POWER pose that is. And our power poses MOVE! Change your posture, your mind, your LIFE in 1 hour 3x/week.

Back in the day I was a client of Excel Pilates in Washington, DC. They have a fabulous, powerful tagline:

Empower Your Body. Empower Your Mind.

1. The Teaser

Don't act like you're surprised by this one. Why does it feel so great to do the Teaser? Such a mixture of accomplishment and nausea? It's an infusion of power built right into your workout. Exhilarating and little scary all at the same time. SHOW OFF a little as you circle your arms when you do the Teaser on the Long Box.

Look what I can do!

It's even helpful. And it is certainly okay to have a good time while you workout…:)

2. Stomach Massage with Hands Back

How about the lift of the Stomach Massage Series with the hands back? Those hands back there are what Jay Grimes calls ‘attitude' and it's just the sheer will and lift of your chest and your back that holds you up. And your arrogance…don't forget that.

5 Transformative Power Poses in your Pilates Workout3. Swan on the Barrel

Sail right up into

the universal posture of victory

a lifted chest and both arms thrust triumphantly upward.

4. The Side Bend

In the animal kingdom, Cuddy explains, body language is all about power and dominance: “about expanding, stretching out, taking up space, opening up…humans do the same thing.” Joe watched the animals as well and saw the powerful, expanding, take-up-space positions. Just doing the work becomes an exercise in empowerment if you let it.

Kara Wily (of 5 Top Blogs Answer 1 Burning Question fame) always has top-notch material at the ready. I remember a cue in one of her online classes that kept resonating in my mind, my body and my teaching days later.

“Be GREEDY with space.”

5 Transformative Power Poses in your Pilates Workout

When I was training in dance, I loved to travel.  If I could take off in grande jete in the middle of the floor and land in the corner of the room, that was a good jump.  When dancing in a group piece, however, you also have to be aware and sensitive to the other dancers to keep the group in a bird-formation traveling together.  So I developed the idea that I could be greedy with my space as long as I kept it in my space. I think it has everything to do with what we teach in Pilates.  

Most people do not know the extent to which their bodies can fill in the space around them until they are encouraged to go further.

I like to build stability to build more potential for movement. The more aware I am of my center, the more willing I am to reach out from that center and ‘be greedy with space'.”  -Kara Wily

With this one you can almost see the cats stretching while Joe watched. It helps to feel like you are just waking up from your nap as you stretch your side all the way up to the sky. Take up some space and give yourself a nice treat. Much thanks to Robert Wernick for inspiring all of us to embrace our inner-animal.

5. The Star

Need I say more?

Perhaps we've all seen this footage (0:42 seconds in) of Romana Kryzanowska performing the Star. I love to channel my inner-Romana when working on the Star in my own workout. Her virtuosity is at once effortless and delicious. Will we see a better Star?

I don't think so.

“On my first lesson he gave me the exercise called the Star….and you know, many people never learn the Star at all. So I guess I was pretty much a star then! (laughs)

What Pilates exercise makes you feel powerful? Invigorated? Alive! Leave a comment below so we can all try it 🙂