Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Break It Down: Short Spine Massage

One of the best spinal massages, Short Spine Massage is a favorite of most clients.  It helps to warm up the body and take pressure off the low back.  You strength and flexibility will improve quickly when you progress to this exercise.

Purpose- stretch the back, prep for more advanced moves such as the Roll Over, massage the spine, strengthen the low abs

Preps- Bridges, Frogs/Leg Circles, Leg Springs, Rolling like a Ball

Form- head rest is always down, no weight on the neck, begin and end in a Frog, sequence through spine on roll down of back at end, gaze at the ceiling, weight between shoulder blades, feet in short loops

*May not be appropriate for those with neck issues, hip replacements or low back injuries where flexion is not well tolerated.

Modifications- only roll part way up, break it down into smaller sections like Frog and hip lifts, spot client at feet to help them lift up easier

How to Advance- different variation such as lowering in a ball shape or keeping feet up while lowering spine only first, flow from one into the next

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pilates for Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a common ailment that leads many to discover Pilates and its many benefits.  But what really causes back pain?  Most of it is weak core muscles and poor posture habits.  Once these are corrected many of my clients notice half the amount of pain within a few months.

Much of Pilates is done lying down and low impact which is gentle to your spine.  This will help to decompress and elongate the vertebra.  The Method has many ways to modify each exercise if pain does occur.  Breathing deeply, as done in Pilates, will help to relieve stress, promote better circulation and relax tight muscles.

One factor to focus on with this client is their tight or weak hamstrings.  Clients with desk jobs will often have this problem.  Their quads and hip flexors are doing much of the work in daily habits such as walking.  To strengthen the hamstrings and inner thigh do exercises such as Leg Springs on the Cadillac, Leg Series on the small barrels, Standing Pumping on the chair or Breathing on the Cadillac.  Than add in more stretches such as Ballet stretches on the barrel, Hamstring stretch/leg circles with a band, Tree on reformer or ladder barrel, Roll Downs off the wall, and Washerwoman on the chair.

Articulation of the spine will help to decompress and create space in the spine.  Make sure to do some fundamentals such as Pelvic Clock (tailbone tucks and arch) or Knee Sways prior as a diagnosis of their range of movement.  Build in body awareness and pelvic stability for the client slowly each session.  Exercises such as Bridge, Roll Up, Roll Back on the Cadillac, Rolling like a Ball, and Short Spine Massage on the reformer will become smoother with practice.  Breathe deeply into the tight spots of the spine to help these movements flow better.

Lastly, posture work is essential to promote functional stability and strength.  It also makes great homework since they can do it anywhere and for several hours in between sessions.  Short Box Series or Standing work with the Magic Circle is best to teach body awareness.  Have your client show you their "normal" posture while seated and standing (let them be honest, you will be shocked at how daily posture has shaped their currently alignment issues).  Educate on the importance of correct alignment and the stress on the body when done wrong.  Good posture will allow your body to burn more calories, breathe better, strengthen your core muscles and protect your spine.  

*Check with your doctor that Pilates is safe and always work with a well certified instructor with experience.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Imagery Cues

 Sometimes we have to paint a picture for our clients to fully understand the Method.  An image is powerful and playful.  It makes the exercise come to life and demands a higher quality of precision.  Use these cues once your client has become more autonomous in their practice.  This will improve your class flow as well as promote creative minds in your students. 

  • Tall Spine/Flat Back:
    • Fit yourself into a toaster slot
    • Lengthen like a skinny pencil/banana
    • Sandwich yourself in between two sheets of glass
    • Fit yourself in a plaster cast
    • Wear a corset...lace your corset together
  • Pulling Straps/Extension/Long Stretch
    • Feel like a torpedo shooting through the water
    • Glide on the surfboard through the water
    • Feel like an archer's bow...rise up
    • Visualize a fountain of water starting at the sternum and shooting up the crown of the head
  • Side Bending/Mermaid
    • Paint a rainbow/arc with your bar/head
    • Trace a large barrel
    • Move like windshield wipers
  • Rolling
    • Rock like a wheel
    • Feel like someone is punching you in the gut
    • Massage the spine into the mat
  • Standing Roll Down
    • Try not to impale yourself on the picket fence/post
    • Peel off like wallpaper/tape
    • Pull yourself up by a golden cord through the crown of the head
  • C-curve/Spine Stretch Forward:
    • Round over the hot beach ball
    • Roll out the dough in the middle of your spine
    • Feel like someone is hugging you from behind
  • Articulation/Roll Up/Bridge:
    • Move like a strand of pearls/bike chain 
    • Place each bone of the mat like railroad tracks
    • Melt like warm chocolate into the mat