Pilates with Kierstin! Scissor Kicks

Kierstin Elliott

Exercise: Scissor Kicks

Set Up: Lying supine on the mat, press your back into the mat, legs in table top with hands behind the head.

Execution: Inhale to prep, exhale to curl head to your chest, neck and shoulders off the mat driving your naval closer to spine. Inhale to extend your right leg out 45 degrees and left leg straight up to the ceiling. Switch legs, with continuous emphasis on length and control from the psoas. Inhale for two kicks and exhale for two kicks.

Focus: Focus on stabilizing your pelvis and lumbar spine with your core while lengthening through energized legs. Your neck and shoulders should not be holding any tension.

Importance: Stability and strength! While this is primarily a core exercise, the psoas gets the opportunity to strengthen and lengthen with each kick as well.

Modifications: For extra assistance, bend the knees slightly to lessen the load for the core. You could also keep head on mat and place hands under pelvis for greater lower back support.

Pilates with Kierstin! Standing Side Splits

StandingSideSplits

Kierstin Elliot

Exercise: Standing Side Splits

Set Up: Stand with one foot on the carriage and one foot on the platform with weight distributed evenly between both legs. Slightly turn out your legs to help engage outer rotators and glutes. Lighter spring setting will focus on adductors (insides of legs) while a heavier spring setting focuses on abductors (outsides of legs).

Execution: The breath for this exercise changes based on adductor or abductor focus. For adductors- inhale to push carriage away from the platform and exhale to pull carriage back in. For abductors- exhale to push carriage away and inhale to control the carriage back in. Move the carriage out only as far as you can go while maintaining good form, as soon as neutral pelvis shifts to a tilt or a tuck, you’ve gone too far.

Focus: Be sure to keep the integrity of your form throughout the entire exercise. Keep a tall, stacked spine with ribcage over hips, neutral pelvis, and lifted arches. Think of a string lifting you up from the crown of your head. It’s common for the arches of your feet to drop, causing pronation. Keep that pinky toe connected to the machine. This will also keep the knees in correct alignment.

Importance: Great postural exercise. It’s meant to focus on either adductor or abductor strengthening depending on desired resistance. As a whole, it draws attention to weight placement and how that affects your alignment while standing.

Modifications: If you are apprehensive about balance, grab a pole or a long dowel and place that on the floor right in front of you while standing on the machine. If this exercise bothers your knees, keep a slight bend in them the whole time.

Pilates Tip: Supine Toe Taps

Kierstin Elliot, Pilates Instructor, BBPT

STT5toe tap

Exercise: Supine Toe Taps

Set up: Lying on back, imprint spine, legs in table top, arms resting by sides.

Execution: Inhale to start, exhale to hinge right leg down towards floor (about 45 degrees from hip) and then return back to table top. Repeat on left side, alternating for 8-10 reps. Start with minimal range of motion and then increase once you feel more confident with the exercise.

Focus: Lower abs. It’s imperative to go slowly with this exercise to ensure isolation of the abdomen. Focus on turning off the quads and hip flexors ( the muscles in the front of the legs) as they will want to take over. In addition, be careful that your pelvis doesn’t tip sideways or your back doesn’t arch. Initiate from the lowers abs.

Importance: One of the best exercises for lower abdominal strengthening. This exercise also enhances your ability to stabilize the pelvis and lower back, isolate lower abs, and hone in on the mind/body connection.

Modifications: For a challenge, try keeping legs together. Allow yourself to hinge downward for 4 seconds and then back up to table top for 4 seconds. To make it more accessible, try placing an inflatable cushion or disk under your sacrum. This prop will add increased awareness to lower back/pelvis region as well as adding support.

Pilates Blog: Balanced Muscle Development

Denise Small  PT, DPT

In today’s Pilates’s blog, we will discuss another of the eight movement principles, Balanced Muscle Development. Using the example of the Pilates swan, we can see how both the front and back of the body are benefitting from the movement.  As we inhale and move our spines into extension, the back of the body, including the spinal muscles, glutes, and hamstrings are lengthening down toward the feet, while the abdominal muscles are lifting in and up towards the breast bone.  Both the back and the front of the body work in opposition to create balance in the body.  We give this exercise often in our practice at Beyond Basics to counter the shortening of the abdominal muscles that occurs with prolonged sitting. When the abdominal muscles shorten, they pull on the fascia of the external genitalia and pelvic floor muscles, contributing to their tightness. Have your PT take you through this exercise on your next visit to feel the full effects of the exercise. Or make an appointment with me for a one-on-one Pilates session.  Your body will thank you!

 

Swan
Jessica Babich PT, DPT demonstrating the swan

Pilates Blog – Concentration

DeniseDenise Small, DPT

Every Wednesday the PTs at Beyond Basics are fortunate enough to listen to lectures from medical professionals who specialize in pelvic pain.  One of my favorite lectures was given by Melissa Farmer, PhD,  a clinical psychologist who specializes in how the brain changes overtime in response to chronic pain.  Melissa spoke about a lot of wonderful things that are being found through research; however the thing that was most interesting to me, was not only that the brain can change in response to persistent pain, but, that the brain can change back to its pre-pain functional self! One of the ways that this can be done is through focused movement.  That is, thoughtful, pain- free movement focused around the area that normally causes pain.  This revelation was very meaningful to me, as one of the basic Pilates movement principles is Concentration.  Pilates believed that if your mind was fully focused on performing the given exercise, you would only need to perform a few repetitions to feel the benefit.  This is very important for patients suffering from chronic pain, as they do not need to exercise to the point of pain to see the benefits. One of the exercises that exemplifies this belief is the Pelvic Clock. The pelvic clock both mobilizes and lengthens the pelvic floor muscles while simultaneously bringing tone to the abdomen. In addition, the movement is very small and specific and requires one’s full concentration. So, it is a great way to directly address the potential causes of pelvic pain, without causing pain in the process!

To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent. See, in your mind’s eye, the pelvis as the face of a clock with the top of your sacrum being 12 o’clock and your tailbone being 6 o’clock. Slowly move from each number as smoothly as possible, while seeing your sitz bones widen as your tailbone drops to 6 o’clock and your sitz bones narrow as you move to 12 o’clock. You can also combine the movement and breath as we have in our other Pilates blogs by inhaling as you move to 6 o’clock and exhaling as you move to 12 o’clock.  If you have any questions, have your PT take you through this exercise on your next visit, or come see me for a private Pilates session. Your Body and Brain will thank you.

Pilates Blog: Centering

Denise Small, PT, DPT

In today’s Pilates blog, we are going to discuss the basic principle of Centering.  Pilates used the word centering to refer to the “core” musculature.  He believed that all movements should radiate out of the core for maximum stability.  There is a lot of use of the word “core” in exercise literature. However, no one ever discusses what that actual means. In the Pilates method, the “core” refers to the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the deep spinal muscles, and the transverse abdominus.  The transverse abdominus is a deep abdominal muscle that is attached to our pelvic bones in a horizontal fashion, from one hip bone to the other. One way to find these muscles is by breathing, as all the core muscles are attached to the diaphragm and ribs via fascial connections.

Try this exercise to find your “core.”  Lie on your back with your knees bent. If you need, you can have a small pillow under your head for support.  Now, imagine that you have a small, helium filled balloon in your abdomen behind your navel.  As you inhale see the balloon expand. As you exhale, imagine the balloon being hugged by your navel and your spine, simultaneously.  On your next exhale keep that image of hugging the balloon as it floats up into your ribcage.   This image incorporates the three dimensions of our torso, aka the “core” of our body.

ballon

There is no need to think of contracting individual muscles. Just keep this vision in mind and you will have a wonderfully functional core.  Go over this exercise with your PT in your next session, or come see me for a private session at Beyond Basics. Your body, and your core, will thank you!

Pilates Blog- Rhythm- Coordination of Breath and Movement

PilatesDenise Small, PT, DPT

Today’s Pilates blog will focus on another basic movement principle of the Pilates method, Whole Body Movement.

In the last blog, I wrote about the importance of breathing three dimensionally, both expanding and contracting your abdomen and ribcage when breathing. Joseph Pilates wanted to help exaggerate these physiologic functions with movement, to help bring better awareness of these functions to one’s consciousness. He did that by coordinating both whole body movement and breathing. For example, when one inhales, the ribs and sternum move up and out, like a water pump or the handle on a bucket. You can feel this action by placing your hands on the outside of your ribcage, or on your sternum, as you inhale. When the ribs move up and out or the sternum lifts, the spine also extends because of the physical connection of the ribs into the spine. So, when Pilates gave a movement that involved spinal extension, like cow pose, he encouraged his students to inhale.

Conversely, when one exhales the opposite happens, and the ribs move in and down. When the ribs move in and down, this helps facilitate spinal flexion, because of the ribs physical connection to the spine. So, when Pilates gave a movement involving spinal flexion, he encouraged his students to exhale.

The result is inhalation with ribcage expansion and spinal extension, and exhalation with ribcage compression and spinal flexion. By coordinating the ribcage and spinal movement with the breath, you can maximize your air intake and expulsion. In addition, by coordinating your breath and movement, your body can more easily access its natural rhythms, calming the nervous system and promoting relaxation and healing.

Give it a try in your seat at work. Or come to Beyond Basics and visit me for a Pilates private!