Focusing on the Hip Sockets for Better Hip Disassociation Movements

Hip disassociation is a common theme across many Pilates exercises.  We as instructors can often be heard asking clients to “isolate the movement to the hip joint” or to “reach out of the hip socket.”  How many clients are really absorbing from that directive what we really mean?  How many clients even know what that hip joint feels like in isolation?  Hopefully more than a few, but to really illustrate this for your clients, especially those with less body awareness, try out this simple movement before you get them started on hip disassociation exercises.

With the client lying in a prone position, forehead on mat, arms long by the sides and legs straight and long on the floor, ask the client to prepare for the exercise by engaging through the abdominals and feeling the tripod of the hip and pubic bones pressing firmly into the mat.  Begin the exercise by lifting one leg, keeping it as straight and as long as possible, until it is separated from the

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mat from toe to upper thigh.  Next, ask the client to begin rotating the leg in the hip socket, journeying from internal rotation to external rotation and back again, as if turning a key in a lock.  Continue this movement for a count of 5 or 10 seconds before returning to a neutral leg position and returning it to the floor.  Repeat on the other leg.  Remind the client that through this movement, the goal is still length through the leg – always reaching for the wall beyond.

For added challenge, you can ask the client to float both legs off the mat and rotate them simultaneously.  Another option is to add thoracic extension to this exercise by maintaining moderate height through the chest (to the base of the sternum) and lifting the arms off the floor while executing the rotation.  And finally, create a coordination challenge to the last variation by adding internal and external rotation of the shoulder to match the hips.  Again, always reaching long through the extremities.

Surf’s Up – Focusing on Thoracic Extension

After the month-long Pilates-exercise-per-day intensive that was March MATness, we’re going to chill out, hang ten and talk surfing.

I just got back from holiday and while away, I tried surfing for the first time.  I was amazedat how much I referenced my Pilates knowledge to help me learn this new skill.

Photo by AquaChara on Unsplash

Actually, forget the surfing, let’s talk about the paddling.  Oh, the paddling.  It turns out you are meant to catch waves rather far away from the shore.  This was by far the most unexpectedly difficult part of the whole endeavor for me!

What would have helped? – more prone exercises on the mat and definitely pulling straps on the reformer, among other things.  The key was being able to sustain thoracic extension, while paddling with the arms for an extended period of time, without falling into the lower back or cranking the cervical spine out of fatigue. There’s actually a spinal condition specifically related to this called Surfer’s Myelopathy.  It might be named for surfers, but it can be caused by any activity where hyperextension in the back is reached (read: Pilates and yoga).

So, what’s my point? Well, there’s the age-old criticism that Pilates has too much flexion, but the extension work has been there all along.  Sustainably building stability and strength during thoracic extension has always been a cornerstone of Pilates work.  So get your clients to work in extension and help them envision the correct position by cueing them to mimic the Surfer’s Paddle.  Maybe you’ll even save someone from developing Surfer’s Myelopathy (not that it’s all that common…).

 

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March MATness Day 29: Rocking

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Hang in there – just 3 more days of March MATness!  But also, Hang On.  Our cue today is all about letting the legs to the work and take the thoracic spine for a ride.

We’ve all had that stretch or pose in yoga that we really just need a partner to help us get into and deepen.  For Rocking, think of your Legs as that partner.  Your Spine is getting a boost from your powerful Legs.  Help your client get into position to begin the Rocking exercise with each hand holding firmly to the foot or ankle.

Now cue the client to move only his or her legs – attempting to straighten them.  Just as a partner in yoga can help you get into a position without overtly increasing effort on your part, your legs, as they attempt to straighten, will pull the shoulders back and the spine into extension without extraordinary effort from the trunk muscles.  This exercise should really make your quads burn!

To add the rocking movement, stay with the legs.  A quick flick of the legs away from the body and then release should get the rocking going and avoid the “head bobbing” that is so common.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign upfor our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

March MATness Day 23: Swimming


X Marks the Spot.  And the oblique slings are the treasure.  Swimming is such an amazing exercise to hone in on cross-body movement and the oblique slings.  To illustrate these benefits to your client and to create awareness of the muscles working together, refer to the letter X.

Imagine an X drawn on the posterior side of the body with each line stretching from the tips of the fingers to the tips of the toes of the opposite foot.  As each line takes a turn lifting during the movement, imagine stretching that line to make the biggest X possible.  Remind your client that the aim of the exercise is not to shorten the lines while lifting the limbs, but to lengthen them.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign up for our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

March MATness Day 14: Double Leg Kick

Source: pixabay.com

Remember that cue from earlier this month where the legs were arrows shooting out of bows?  Well today,  we are the bow.  Double Leg Kick is all about maintaining the length of a smooth arc along the anterior and posterior  sides of the body the arms act as the bow’s string – pulling the body into a tighter arc.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign up for our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

March MATness Day 13: One Leg Kick

Photo by Adam Kontor from Pexels

One Leg Kick can be a deceiving exercise.  Done improperly, clients are likely to think it’s pointless (or reminiscent of sunbathing – see image to the right).  Done properly, it is not only effective at enhancing thoracic extension and toning the legs, but it also brings awareness to the space in the hip joints that is not felt in many movements.

But to eek out all that space, it’s all about the prep.  The prep is simple, but it goes a loooong way in making the client aware of the goal.  Help the client find the proper trunk and arm positioning first.  Then tell them they are a statue from the waist up.  This isolates the movement to the lower extremities – and is a lot of trunk work to do so!  Next, have the client lift one leg up – just an inch –  keeping it straight, pointing the toe.  Ask her to place the leg back down on the mat an inch further towards the mat’s end than it was to begin with.  Repeat with the other leg.

As the client moves into the exercise’s movement, remind them to find that extra inch each time the leg straightens.  Et voilà!

A note or two about tactile cueing.  During the prep, it can be really helpful to grasp the client’s foot when it is in the air and give a slight tug so they can really feel the hip reaching out of the joint.  Another helpful tip for clients is to scoot down so that the feet are at the edge of the mat.  This enables them to have some self-tactile feedback on the top of the foot when it is placed back down on the mat.

It’s a simple exercise – some see it as a rest, but you can change that.  Just remember, it’s all about the prep.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign upfor our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

 

March MATness Day 12: The Swan-Dive

For many, the Swan-Dive is the most challenging of the original repertoire.  Maybe people tend to be weary of their lower backs, maybe they are envisioning a bloody nose as they rock too far forward and smack their face on the floor (for the record, I have never seen this happen!), or maybe it’s just that this movement is REALLY REALLY difficult.  Whatever the reason is, Swan Dive poses a unique challenge.

Photo by Jan Traid on Unsplash

There is a split second before you release the hands and allow the body to rock forward, when everyone thinks “maybe I”ll just stick with the prep.”  But then people just go.  If you’ve ever been cliff jumping, the feeling is similar to that moment when your toes hang over the edge of the rock and have a split-second second thought.  But then you just jump.

That feeling has a name – Leap of Faith.  Next time your client comes to the top of Swan Prep, avoid the rhythm-squashing hesitation by encouraging him to just Leap.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign upfor our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Maximizing Thoracic Extension

Rest easy that this one will be worth the read.  It comes straight from Dawnna Wayburne, head of Polestar Pilates Asia.  If you’ve never met her, she’s brilliant, the quiet brilliant type.  Dawnna has the kind of Pilates genius that you just feel when you walk in the room with her and you know you need to scribble down every word she utters.  Forgive me, but I was in the middle of my Certification Exam when I met her so I wasn’t able to write down all of her nuggets, but this one has been on my mind ever since.

So here it is.  When you have a client that struggles to get thoracic extension, this can be a game changer.  Many of us have heard or used the “roll the marble away from you with your nose” cue to initiate movement in prone exercises, but what if that’s just not getting the isolated thoracic extension you or your client need?

Here’s your fix:  Have the client come partially into a prone press up position, just to the base of the sternum.  Place a ball – lacrosse ball, tennis ball, half-pumped soft Pilates ball, other small-ish mobility ball, ideally 3-5 inches in diameter – so that it is lodged between the sternum and the floor.  As the client tractions the palms of the hands on the floor with energy pulling towards the body, ask him/her to attempt to roll or push the ball away.  That’s it.  Seriously.  If you don’t believe me, try it on yourself – with a mirror available for side-on view.  The immediate effect is so clear.

The increased and isolated thoracic extension you get when you attempt to roll the ball away with the sternum is nothing short of awesome.  Repeat the exercise a few times with the ball and then try to recreate the feeling and posture without the ball.  Once this muscle memory is in place, you can call on it during all of your thoracic extension movements and enjoy greater mobility and awareness through the thoracic spine.

This cue can be particularly effective for kyphotic clients who struggle to get any thoracic extension at all, but the gains to be made for any practitioner make this cue great for everyone.

And for a little comic relief: I give you a giant pig giving this cue his all 😉

Source: mashable via giphy.com

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Squashed Blueberries – Engaging the Abdominals During Prone Exercises

For some clients, being in the prone position means rest time for the abdominals.  This couldn’t be further from the reality. Engaging the core during prone exercises helps keep the spine in optimal neutral alignment and it helps the body more efficiently use the muscles that the exercise is meant to work. Perhaps most importantly, though, it prevents us from “falling” into our lower backs.

Relying on the low back muscles during prone exercises is a common mistake even from really strong clients.  It can cause unnecessary tightness, strain and even injury in the low back.

While clients’ natural inclination is to “let it all go” through the tummy during this type of exercise, they are also keenly aware of the difference they feel from an efficiency and a comfort standpoint when they do engage their abdominals.  As soon as they tighten across the core and lift the abdominals away from the mat, they can feel a change to their spine position, which in turn changes the entire output of the exercise!

To initiate this engagement and to remind them throughout the repetitions, try having them imagine a blueberry (or other soft, messy item) under their belly button.  Challenge them not to squish it!!

 

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