I’ve been dancing since the age of four which led to me pursuing a career in the field as an educator. What draws me to dance is that it can never be fully perfected – you are always working harder and always becoming stronger, but you never reach perfection. Some of the best ballerinas in the world attend technique classes daily as they always look to improve their technique further.
I find myself drawn to Pilates the same sort of way. my dance background has given me body awareness and sensitivity, however, no matter how much I practice at an exercise, I always find something new to improve on. I am still at the Beginner level series moving on into the Intermediate series but I still find every exercise which I’ve practiced since Day 1 equally challenging today. I kind of love this about pilates… It has re-educated my body to be more sensitive to movement, to change, to articulation and most importantly taught me to be more sensitive to breath. I enjoy the challenge it presents to me.
I see myself in the practice of pilates for a long long time… I enjoy the challenge that it presents my body, although closely related to dance, it feels like movement in unchartered territory.
The roll up and roll down
Lie back on the floor in a neutral pelvic position.
Keep both your knees bent with your feet planted on the floor
Your arms sit beside your body with your palms facing down to the floor.
With an inhale, gentle nod your head off the floor and raise your arms up
with fingertips pointing to the ceiling.
Bring your eye focus to your belly button.
(*Check that your rectus abdominals do not bunch up engage from the transverse abdominals)
On your exhale, with a strong engagement of your core, start rolling up through your
spine vertebrae by vertebrae. This articulates your spine from your upper back, middle
back to lower back.
(*Check to ensure your shoulder do not round forward and your scapula is kept depressed)
On the completion of your roll up, inhale and stack up the spine seating upright.
Hands are held in the front of you.
Exhale and scoop the belly in and stretch forward. Maintain your C-curve of your spine
(*Ensure a strong engaged abdominal core)
Inhale and stack up the spine seating upright again
Exhale, scoop in the belly, forming a C-curve, bring the eye focus to the belly button and roll down
one vertebrae at a time in a controlled manner till you return to your starting position.
(*Ensure this is a controlled movement, try your best not to jerk down through the position)
Today I will discuss the Pilates mat exercise: The Single Leg Stretch.
The single leg stretch exercise is done in supine position and is an exercise suitable for beginners. This exercise targets the abdominal muscles and helps to improve co-ordination of movement of the body.
This exercise is first in a series of five that belong to the Stomach Series. As such it is important to begin this exercise with the pelvis/lower back in an imprint position.
Preparing in chair position
In an imprint position, an active contraction of the muscles in the abdominal wall, namely the transverse abdominals along with the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles both help produce the posterior pelvic tilt needed for imprinting. The imprint position is done with an exhalation.
The legs are then taken into the chair position, which is a flexion at the hip joint and the knee joint. The muscles that assist in the flexion of the hip & knee are the iliopsoas, the muscles of the quadriceps, the rectus femoris, the sartorius, pectineus, the tensor fascia latae and gracilis. The illipsoas is responsible for the flexion at the hip.
Movement of the upper body
Thereafter, the upper body raises off the floor with an inhalation. In this position it is important that the scapula is stabilised (depressed) with the simultaneous contraction of the lower trapezius and the lower serratus anterior muscles.
The neck is kept long and the chin is slightly tucked, contracting bilaterally, the longus colli flexes the head and straightens the cervical spine assisting in the flexion of the head. The head is kept fixed in its position and the sternocleidomastoid helps elevate the sternum and clavicle assisting in the inspiration necessary for this exercise.
Movement and co-ordination of the legs
The flexion of the spine is assisted by the flexing of the spine is assisted by the muscles of the abdominal region, rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, however the primary focus should be on the transversus abdominis which also acts as an anterior spinal stabiliser.
The arms are held in flexion by the side of the legs through the use of the active contraction of the anterior deltoid and the pectoralis major.
As the movement of the exercise begins, one leg stretches out to the front of the body with the foot in plantar flexion and is kept off the floor. This is an extension of both the knee and the hip joint with the muscles working in opposition to the flexion. The hip extensors are the gluteus maximus and the hamstring group, the knee extensors is the biceps femoris. As the foot is in plantarflexion, the gastrocnemius and soleus are contracted to produce the movement of the ankle joint forward.
The other leg is drawn in to the body bringing the knee in towards the chest with further flexion at the hip joint. The arms hold on to this leg drawn in and the arms aid in maintaining the proper alignment of the leg. With the use of the arms, the biceps brachii, teres major and the latissimus dorsi are engaged.
As the movement is done with a switch of sides the active muscle groups take an interchange on each side.
Prepared By: S.G.