The One Leg Stretch, Single Leg Stretch. Doesn’t matter what you call it, the mechanics are the same. One thing that can make this movement really effective is energy. Up your game on this exercise and put a real emphasis on the leg switch.
Imagine a bow and arrow. Create the tension of the bow’s string with the push-pull energy between the arms and the bent leg, then imagine that leg SHOOTING into length like an arrow out of a bow as the arms release it and it straightens. Practice slowly a few times and then add tempo to get a bit more.
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The thing with the One Leg Circle, or Leg Circles, is that it’s not actually about the circle or the leg. It’s about the hip socket. When you change the focus from circling the leg around to reaching out of the hip socket, you get benefits all around.
Today’s cue is “strings attached.” Imagine a string tied to the big toe of the circling leg. Now imagine someone at the other end of that string pulling it taut. As you make your way around the circle, imagine you must reach with that big toe as far as possible into the string, towards the person pulling. Reach to the point of creating space in your hip socket as your leg travels around, lubricating the joint as it goes.
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One of the most common mistakes with beginning Pilates students is flaring or popping the ribcage during supine integration exercises. Flaring the ribs indicates a loss of control of the core abdominal muscles. For example, during bridging flaring the ribs can indicate that the student is using the lower back to maintain the bridge instead of the glutes, hamstrings and abdominal muscles. With an exercise incorporating arm arcs, ribcage flaring often means that the student is not maintaining awareness of the core during the exercise and he or she is not getting the true benefits associated with the cross body and muscular sling engagement that makes these exercises so beneficial. With a lower extremity, long-lever supine exercise, flared ribs indicate that the client should shorten the lever to regain control and remove undue stress and work from the lower back.
We can use many tactile cues to help clients be more aware of this common mistake, but in a larger class, it’s much harder to reach each student for tactile cueing without sacrificing class flow and momentum. In that setting, try asking the class to imagine that they have sandbags on their ribcage. This imagery can help a student to “feel” weight on his or her ribcage to remind them to use the abdominal muscles to keep the ribcage pulled tight and engaged.