Pilates! You’ve heard it’s amazing and it’s the “cure all” of all physical ailments. Having been a Pilates instructor for over 14 years now, I can tell you it’s a and amazing gift that I love to give people. The mind body awareness, the muscle activation, the targeted flexibility training; these all contribute to a perfect batch of feel good movement principles and also get people coming back for more.
However, as you may or may not know, I am extremely passionate about not doing “excessive crunches” in any exercise routine. I explain why and you can read more here.
When Joseph Pilates was around ( he died in 1967 at the age of 83), the posture problems we have today didn’t exist. His repertoire included a lot of “crunch” type exercises that would now place excessive strain on necks that are already compromised from technology lifestyles. So it’s really important to modify and adapt to our changing culture, environment and bodies.
So today, I will present a few exercise that come from the Pilates method, but that I’ve adapted to be performed with the head down. It’s simple to make this change in order to take pressure off a misaligned cervical spine. Even with the adaptations, these exercises are still difficult but valuable exercises to perform. Let’s take a look at 2 exercises in the “series of 5” from the original Pilates repertoire.
Single Leg Stretch:
This exercise challenges the core and hip flexors. Not all teachers cue it this way, but I prefer it when the knees stay directly above the hip joint and don’t come in towards the chest. I find this to be more challenging for the core and helps to build strength while maintaining a neutral pelvis (bringing the leg in close will push the pelvis into a tuck position). In my variation, the head is down and the focus is on the leg extension, the knee position, and the breathing:
Double Leg Stretch:
This one is harder than the single leg stretch because extending both legs out can be very challenging for the core. The biggest mistake here is to lower the legs too far down when the legs extend, which makes it very difficult and often cause the lower back to arch. The goal is to extend the legs straight and find a position where it’s challenging on the core and also maintain the neutral pelvis position. The knees should also begin and end in the tabletop position (where the knees are directly above the hips). When they come in to the chest, it gives the abdominals a break and again, creates a “tucked” pelvis.
These exercises are an example of true “posture pilates” at it’s finest! It’s a variation that maximizes the benefits and minimizes the possible injuries. Let me know how they feel. Are you able to feel your core?