A seasonal visual today…I’m going to harken back to a previous post and update it for Halloween…because I’m sure your clients are begging for some Pilates images to go with their Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
Remember that beach ball? We were diving up and over it to maintain space in our vertebra as we isolate flexion in the thoracic spine. Embrace the season and imagine instead a big, fat jack-o-lantern. Check back to the beach ball post for all the juicy details, but for quick reference, use this one for Rollup, Standing Rolldown, and Spine Stretch.
Here’s another one for Mermaid. Mermaid is a great exercise for lateral flexion as I mentioned in this week’s earlier post, but tagged on to the end of your lateral reps, is the rotational piece. Like lateral flexion, only a handful of the Pilates repertoire addresses multiple planes and in particular the transverse. And also like lateral flexion, very few of them can be geared towards all levels of clients. Mermaid is your go-to for this work.
Adding the rotational piece can be challenging for beginners to get right because it requires changes across many components – thoracic spine, shoulder, eye line – while at the same time maintaining key aspects of positioning – sit bones in contact with the floor, space through the lumbar vertebra.
Once you’ve used the Teapot Cue to set up the lateral part of Mermaid, ask the client to pause on the side towards the front leg with their bottom hand engaged with the floor. Take a moment here to perfect their positioning before asking them to add in the rotation. When ready, layer it in.
Ask the client to turn their top hand palm-up like they’re balancing a tray and then “pass the tray” through the arch created by the bottom arm and the side of the body. Remind the client to follow the movement of the tray with their eyes (although once the hand passes under, be sure the eye line goes over the shoulder to catch a glimpse of the tray on the other side) to be sure the tray hasn’t tipped.
This cue puts the client’s focus on maintaining position during the rotation. It hones the attention to the full body and helps the client stay steady and aware of all aspects of the exercise just like when you’re carrying a tray, you are aware of not only the tray, but the items on it and anything in the vicinity that could cause you to trip or tip tray.
A note about breath here. Have the client inhale at the top of the rotation and exhale all the way through to the end. At the bottom, hold the exhale and squeeze that last, teeny, tiny bit of air out of the lungs and pass the tray just a bit further. Mermaid is a fabulous way to really challenge the diaphragm and expel all the stale air from the depths of the lungs.
Mermaid is one of those go-to exercises we tuck into an hour-long class to transition from one section of work to another and to give students a refresh and a reset. And it feels SO good!
But it is so much more than a transitional stretch. Lateral flexion is only addressed in a handful of Pilates exercises, mermaid is one of them. But, it can also be a struggle to get right and to maximize the benefits. Done correctly, Mermaid has few parallels in lateral flexion category.
Maximum lateral flexion is achieved when the client can maintain length and height through the lumbar spine and isolate flexion to the thoracic vertebra. The hard part of that equation is maintaining the height through the lumbar. The easy way to perform Mermaid is to hinge and lean at the waist to achieve that lateral movement. A cue to isolate the movement to the thoracic is essential to maximize the benefits on offer with Mermaid.
Try this: imagine your body is a teapot, chock-full of hot, steeped tea. As you tip to the side, you must imagine the spout of the pot (your grounded hand) must clear the edge of the tea cup in order to pour the tea without spilling.
Creating an image of height that must be achieved (the edge of the cup) as the client moves laterally, sets the client up for success and maximum benefits from Mermaid.