Here’s a brain teaser for Day 11: today’s exercise is the Saw, yesterday’s exercise was the Corkscrew and today’s cue is a corkscrew!
Picture a classic T-pull style corkscrew that never actually helps you get the cork out without an inordinate struggle. What it does do is spiral around with it’s center with the T of the handle outstretched.
This cue addresses only the first movement piece of the Saw. As you begin to twist the body around the spine, imagine that the trunk of the body is the corkscrew and the arms are the T-pull. Maintain the spine perpendicular to the floor and the arms parallel to the floor until the twist is complete. Only then should the body fold and the arms reach towards the outside of the foot.
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One of the most pertinent reference points for Pilates students is Pilates itself. So many of the exercises build on each other and it is a great tool to be able to refer back to some of the movements achieved in an exercise the client knows well, in order to set the stage for a new or more challenging sequence.
Let’s start the discussion today with a gimme. Bridging. It’s one of the first exercises we learn and a staple in class planning. I’ve mentioned the escalator cue for bridging in an earlier article, so let’s build on that. As a client becomes more familiar with the segmental spine movement inherent to bridging, it is an easy one to refer back to when we introduce a new exercise or help the client improve upon an exercise that they find more challenging.
Any time we want the client to move bone by bone through the spine, we can always refer back to bridging. The examples are diverse and plentiful. To start with, this referral cue translates for Roll Down and Roll Up. It’s great for seated exercises such as Spine Stretch, Saw. It’s great for exercises that require movement from seated to lying down: Assisted Roll Up, Teaser. It’s even key to getting the most out of the descent of inversion exercises: Roll Over, Corkscrew, Jack Knife.
I could probably go on and list most exercises in the whole of the Pilates repertoire, but you get the point. Use the Bridge.
So, rotation. Exercises that utilize rotation in a seated position – Mermaid, Spine Twist, Saw – are great exercises to engage not only the waistline, but the entire oblique chain while at the same time increasing spinal mobility and improving posture. With such desirable and beneficial potential, it’d be nice to know we’re getting the most out of it.
This breathing cue is the KEY to getting maximum rotation. Begin by having the client take a deep inhale in the starting position. As they move into the rotation, the client should exhale fully, ending the breath as they reach the furthest rotated state they can manage. Ask him or her to take a very shallow inhale here and forcefully exhale the air – expelling every last teensy bit of air from the lungs. This will create the space for just a smidge more rotation. Then inhale to unwind back to the starting position.
Once the client has nailed the breathing, reinforce the movement with this visual: imagine that the spine, and the entire trunk, is a wet towel. Now, as you rotate, you are wringing out the last bit of water from the towel. That last breath out is the last drop of water from the towel.