Climb a Tree – Move of the Day

Climb a Tree is a wonderful move done on the Reformer Long Box as well as the Ladder Barrel, but I also love replicating it on the mat. It gives a great stretch to the hamstring as well as beautiful abdominal control when walking up and down the leg. Pelvic stability and precise core flow are also players here. This may feel challenging, especially if you are tight in the hamstring, but stick with it. You will feel rewarded and rejuvenated!

How to do this exercise:

From a chest lift position, grab the back of one leg. Stretch that leg straight up to the ceiling. Your hands will begin at the thigh. Exhale as you walk your hands up the leg and bring yourself to a seated position. Inhale at the top. Exhale to walk back down placing your spine down on the floor. Stop just where your shoulders are about to touch the floor. Do 5-8 reps on one side then switch to the other leg.

Some things to think about:

If your hamstrings are tight, work with a bent leg at first. Try to get to a point where you can feel a slight stretch through the back of the leg and take it a little more each time. Never go past your end range. I love moves that also work in dynamic stretching, of which this is one, as opposed to just holding a static stretch.

Just one new move a day builds your toolbox immensely. Figure out what your body likes and where it can be challenged. Most importantly, keep on moving!

Single Leg Stretch – Move of the Day

Happy Monday! Today’s move is the Single Leg Stretch. With this exercise, you will learn how to stabilize from your center while allowing the legs to move from a supported position. This is a great way to work the lower abs which are often hard to find in exercises.

How to do this exercise:

The setup: Lie on your back and draw the knees in to your chest. With one hand on each knee, curl yourself up into a chest lift position with the legs in tabletop.

To move: From this start position, inhale and feel the support throughout your body. Shoulders should be down your back (out of the ears). Neck is long. Direct your gaze right to the top of your knees. Exhale extend one leg and place your hands on the knee of the opposite leg. Use this hold to keep your shoulders out of the ears and to dig deeper through the isometric hold of the abdominals. Inhale to switch. Keep the legs reaching for 8-10 reps.

Some things to think about:

Try to keep the backs of the shoulders off the floor. When breathing, think about sending your breath into the sides and back of your ribs. This will help to maintain the abdominal hold. This breathing, called lateral breathing, takes practice!

Give it a try and see how much stronger and more comfortable you begin to feel in this position!

Teaser Prep – Move of the Day

Get ready! This week’s moves will all focus primarily on the abdominal muscles and deep core connection.

Today is the Teaser Prep. Teaser is the signature Pilates move and there are many ways to prep for it. This prep move takes momentum out of the equation. It requires deep mind body connection. While moving, the mind and body will have to speak to each other. Where do we have to connect and where do we have to let go to allow this movement to happen?

This move will ask some questions of you. How much can you keep your legs still in the tabletop position? How much can you articulate your spine when going down and up? How far are you able to roll down without losing connection?

How to do this exercise:

The setup: Sit on your bottom and bring your legs to a tabletop position. Grab the backs of your thighs with one hand on each. Bring the legs together and keep them glued together the whole time. Keep shoulders down your back out of your ears.

To move: Inhale to sit tall through your spine. Exhale begin to scoop in through your abdominals, tilt your pelvis slightly and roll your spine down to the floor. Find your spot where you can hold before losing it. Maybe for you that is just a little tilt back at first and that is okay! Take an inhale in your holding spot. Exhale to draw in through your abdominals deeper and roll yourself back over your hips. Inhale to sit tall and start again.

Some things to think about:

Use your arms. They are there to help and provide a deeper connection to your core allowing for more control. Begin with practicing the initial scoop and tilt back of the pelvis without rolling down just yet. Then work on getting your lower back down to the floor. You can reach your arms out if you want more challenge.

Breath is key on this one. Each exhale will allow you to feel that deep abdominal engagement. Find it, feel it and move with it. If you fall back just keep trying!

Basic Swan – Move of the Day

Today’s move, the Basic Swan, is the ultimate posture corrector. I am sure you have seen those infomercials or heard a friend talking about one of the many posture correcting braces out there. They wrap around the front of your shoulders and connect to a brace that sits against your upper back which forces your shoulders back and chest forward. The Basic Swan does that and more by building the brace directly into your own muscles.

It is a great starting move for building the Thoracic (upper spine) extensors, opening the chest and shoulders, training the sub-scapular muscles, and strengthening the cervical (neck) extensors for better head placement. Rounded shoulders and forward head are a common posture in today’s age. This move, done every day, trains your body out of that fatiguing and sometimes painful position.

How to do this exercise:

Lie on your stomach with hands directly under your shoulders and elbows up to the sky. The legs are extended straight and can be together or hip-distance apart. This will depend on your lower back. If you feel tightness through your lower back, separate the legs a bit to take pressure off the sacroiliac joint. Pelvic will be tucked towards the floor (imagine the tailbone lengthening downwards) to give more space to your lower back.

To move: Inhale to reach through the crown of your head, keep the back of your neck long, and begin to lift pulling your chest away from the floor and opening it forward. Exhale to return back to the start position.

Some things to think about:

Before moving, feel your hands in the floor. Think of pulling them back towards your feet so that your triceps engage. Keep the feeling of pulling back through your hands to engage the muscles under your scapula (the shoulder blade). Continue this feeling as you begin to lift and deepen it the more that you lift. This will keep your shoulders pulling back and out of your ears.

Avoid pulling just your head back to get as much lift as possible. This can be a very small movement, even micro, until you begin building up more strength through the extensors. This is one exercise that if done well and regularly can reap many rewards in body health for you.

Give it a try!

Spine Twist – Move of the Day

Wring it out! Today’s move is the Spine Twist. This is a great exercise to get some wonderful connection through the oblique muscles as well as length through the spine. It is a foundation exercise for teaching the body how to stabilize through the pelvis and hips while achieving deep torso rotation.

I also love this move for it’s ability to give feedback in head placement. Oftentimes, we have no idea where our head is or where it is supposed to go when we exercise. Basically, the head is the top of the spine so it should move along with the spine. In this case, your head will stay atop the spine and rotate right along with it. No need to move your head in anyway. The torso rotation will do the work.

How to do this exercise:

Sit with legs straight in front of you and feet flexed. If your hamstrings are too tight for this position (as most will be), you can bend your knees or sit on a physic ball. Reach your arms out to the sides with palms facing down. Sit tall with your head, ribs and pelvis stacked on top of each other.

To move: Inhale to sit taller – from the waist, avoid the desire to thrust your ribs forward. Exhale twist to one side, then exhale again and twist a bit farther. Inhale return to center. Repeat to the other side. 

Some things to think about:

Quality is more important than quantity on all of these deep connecting moves. If fully connected, 3-5 to each side should be enough.

This is one of those moves that can feel awful at first. Sitting in this position is no fun when you are not used to it. Make it a part of your daily practice and notice how that might change over time. I may always be difficult, but there is much room for growth to be had here. Give it a try!

Clam – Move of the Day

Today’s move is Clam! I have so much love for foundational exercises, especially this one. The foundation exercises are like framework. Set your framework, then build your beautiful structure from there. This move will fire up your glute muscles while also getting some hip opening and pelvic-core stability

How to do this exercise:

Setup for this exercise is important (it’s important for ALL exercises, but this one especially because with one angle being off will make it harder to activate through the glutes). Lie on your side with your legs together, hips stacked, and head resting down on your arm, which can either be extended or bent underneath supporting your head. You can set up like I do in the picture for more challenge to your side and upper body stability. Knees are bent at about a 45-degree angle from the hips and feet are back in line with your bottom.

To move: Inhale to prepare. Exhale to open the top knee into the clam position. Inhale to close. Continue for 8-10 reps then switch sides.

Some things to think about:

I like to keep the top hand on the hip to make sure it is staying stacked over the bottom hip. The hand there also allows you to guide the external rotation and palpate the inner glute muscles to make sure they are firing.

This is an excellent move to do on the daily for all of you sitters especially. Give it a try!