Today’s cue is “wring it out.” Spine twist is exactly that – a wringing out of the torso, led by the spine. But how do we get that extra effort out of clients – how do we get them to twist as far as they can?
Try prompting clients to wring out their trunk like they would a wet towel. This visual gives clients an idea of how vigorous the exercise should feel – how much work it actually, is when done properly.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not losing your marbles. We included this imagery cue along with a breathing cue in an August 2017 post. Check it out to help your clients really nail Spine Twist.
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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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At the end of a class, many Pilates instructors tout the line “feel that you’ve grown an inch taller today.” What’s more accurate, probably, would be to say “feel that you’ve found and extra inch in your height today.” And that might actually be possible for some.
Consider for a moment, sitting up straight, as tall as you can. Could you possibly sit up any taller? Most likely, you could. If you were told to hug into your midline, lift your pelvic floor and create space between your vertebra. All fine and good, but what about your clients? Would that granular instruction work for them? Where is the midline? And how on Earth do we find the pelvic floor (more on that here)?
Today’s cue has the purpose of giving the client a goal when it comes to axial elongation; something they can reach for, quite literally. Ask the client to imagine a witch’s black, pointy-tipped hat (still going with the season here, but a top hat works just as well) hovering just above his or her head when she’s seated. Ask the client to sit up straight and reach the spine into length in order to fit the hat onto her head.
I find this is most effective at the end of a movement. For instance, as the client comes to the top of Assisted Rollup and is meant to find a neutral spine and pause, give the cue as she is reaching for axial elongation and neutral spine. You’ll find that the client will give you a little extra reach, possibly that elusive extra inch, if you give her a something to reach for!
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.
Joseph Pilates said, “Good posture can be successfully acquired when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control. Graceful carriage follows as a matter of course.” In other words, when axial elongation is achieved, the body’s alignment allows for greater freedom and efficiency of movement. The problem is, how do we get our clients to that point? How do you explain that perfect posture isn’t just unhunching your shoulders?
Try this: Imagine someone holding a bunch of balloons on a string that is attached to the crown of your head. Now imagine that the person lets go. As the balloons float upwards, the string pulls your crown with it and forces you to sit up very straight – inches taller than you were. You call upon your cervical, trunk and pelvic floor musculature in order to eek a bit more height out of your spine and pelvic skeletal structures. This lengthening creates more space between your vertebra, also known as axial elongation, allowing for that increased freedom and efficiency of movement, or “graceful carriage.”
This cue can be used to correct positioning during specific exercises (spine twist, mermaid, standing balance, etc.) where the posture is meant to be maintained throughout, or we can use this to properly set up for other exercises that begin in or pass through this position (rollup, standing roll down, spine stretch, saw, and so many more!).
See if this cue doesn’t help your clients feel just a tad bit taller when they leave class!