Pilates: The Inner Lane

In our last few blogs, we focused on movement in the hip joint.  As a bonus to increasing our range of motion, we also increased the tone in our abdomen and in our gluteal muscles.  In addition, we did it all without gripping or squeezing our muscles, and by coordinating the movement with our breath.

Now, to balance out our legs and relate the abdominal tone to our inner thighs and pelvic floor, we will do a new set of exercises lying on our back.

To begin, lie on your back, preferably on a firm surface.  If possible, lay on a mat or towel on the floor and put a pillow under your head.  If you use a towel, place your feet on the floor, to prevent any possible sliding.

Next, place a small pillow or ball between your knees.  Preferably, the object should be soft to discourage any tension in your legs.

As usual, we will begin the movement by focusing on our breath.  Place your hands on your abdomen and breathe naturally.  In your mind’s eye, see your diaphragm floating up and down in your abdominal cavity, like a parachute blowing in the wind.  When I do this exercise, I always think about when we used to play with a large parachute in my elementary school gym class.

On your next inhale, feel your abdomen expand in your hands as you envision your diaphragm floating down into your pelvis. As you exhale, feel your abdominals contract as you envision your diaphragm floating up into your ribcage.

This breath coordination can be difficult to envision at first, but keep practicing.  The diaphragm moves this way naturally in relation to the abdominals.  If you attempt this exercise by envisioning what is happening, rather than forcing the movement, your body will fall into its natural rhythm.

When you feel you have mastered this concept, begin to add a light squeeze to the pillow, or object between your knees.  This slight contraction will add to the tone of your pelvic floor muscles and abdominals, as well as increase the length of your breath.  As you inhale, see your diaphragm descend and release the squeeze of the ball.  As you exhale, squeeze the ball as your contract your abdominals and float your diaphragm into your ribcage.

Repeat this exercise five to ten times.  If you are feeling any discomfort, stop the exercise.  Remember to contact your doctor or PT before continue with any painful movement.
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