Updated: Apr 10
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MM Day EIGHT
Today we are covering some of my favs, SPINE STRETCH FORWARD and OPEN LEG ROCKER…
*Spine Stretch Forward:
You have just finished your AB series (WOO-HOO, but what a joke, am I right?! Like the whole freakin thing isn’t an “ab series”, but I digress…) so stretch your body out on the mat, then give me one clean roll up to sit.
Open your legs the width of your silhouette, feet flexed, legs super active, lifting from your pelvic floor through the crown of your head. Arms stretch out in front of you and stay parallel to the mat throughout the exercise. INHALE to sit taller, EXHALE to round forward through your upper spine, keeping your lower spine basically vertical, stretching as far forward as you can without losing the anchor of your sitting bones or the scoop of your abdominals. Inhale to stack back to vertical and repeat.
3-5x each side
For tight hip flexors and hamstrings,1st BEND KNEES. If you need more verticality in the pelvis, sit on a block, box, roller or bolster to lift your hips up and alleviate some pressure from legs/low back.
Osteoporosis- leave it out. No forward flexion.
Pretend you are sitting with your back against the wall, or better yet, sit back to back with a buddy!
As you peel away from the wall or your partner’s spine, pull your belly button BACK against theirs or the wall, trying to knock them over with your navel!!
EMPTY ALL THE AIR from your gut as you stretch forward!
When you go to stack back up the wall or re-articulate spines, the lungs will automatically re-inflate. Keep riding the wave of the breath and the articulation of your spine, growing TALLER with each repetition!
Don’t forget to “hug your horse” with your legs and seat.
PS- you should break a sweat doing this one you are creating SO MUCH OPPOSITION!!! This is a SCOOP, not a “stretch”.
*Open Leg Rocker:
From your Spine Stretch Forward, rock back onto your sacrum and use your CORE to bring your legs up to meet your hands. Yup. That is the goal. So take the shape you were in and tilt it onto its rump. Now, rock back to the tips of the shoulder blades and roll up to balance in that same teaser-like position. Inhale to rock back, exhale to return.
Please leave it out if you should not be rolling on your spine or don’t care to! You may modify by holding the backs of your thighs/hamstrings and have bent knees. However, please try to keep arms straight and working from your back!
Picture the shape of a rocking chair- that is you!! Your spine is the rounded rocker, your arms and legs the spindles of the chair.
I like to tell folks, “You have big balloon boobs (yes, even you, Steve) and oh no, there are pins and needles on your thighs and knees! As you rock back, don’t impale your balloons with the pins!!! Press your legs AWAY from your chest to keep your boobs in tact.”
Arms must be “on your back” to correctly perform this one. Turn your upper back muscles ON and work the opposition by keeping your balloons busty.
Again, it’s a sniff sniff, blow blow breath.
MM Day NINE
CORKSCREW & TICK-TOCK…
To transition from Open Leg Rocker, balance at the top, zip your legs tight and visit your “Teaser” shape. Melt down into the mat leaving legs extended to sky. Press arms long by your sides, head down, neck long and relaxed.
Draw legs into your powerhouse first, reach them evenly to the right, circle down around to the left and back IN to your powerhouse. Reverse the direction of your circle and repeat. Try to draw an even circle!
Beginners may keep hips down.
To advance to Corkscrew 2, lift legs over head, rolling up one side of the spine and down the other, similar to the Roll Over (and later on the Jackknife) whilst tracing a large circle.
3-5x each direction
Knee “sways” or “drops” or a modified version of Tick-Tock with smaller ROM and possibly softly bent knees.
Can frame tailbone with hands or press arms wide to the side.
Can sub in Single Leg Circle as a one legged Corkscrew.
Neck/back injuries, osteo and prenatal, decrease ROM and do NOT roll overhead.
Keep your toes/ankles/bunions— whatever you got goin on down there— zipped up and perfectly EVEN to one another throughout the exercise! You don’t want to shorten one side or the other.
You have only ONE LEG, like a mermaid tail—- trace a funnel with your tail as you roll up and down the spine.
Weight stays between shoulder blades, never the neck! Stand in your upper back and upper arms keeping neck long and easy. PRESS YOUR ARMS LIKE CRAZY!
Lay flat on your back, arms wide to the sides. Keeping feet evenly connected, inhale to reach both legs as far to the right as you can without your upper body coming off the mat, taking your gaze in the opposite direction. Use your EXHALE to draw the ribcage, powerhouse, pelvis and head back to the center.
This is a DEEP spinal twist that engages obliques and transverse abdominous (AKA :your “internal corset”).
Repeat 3x each direction
Same as Corkscrew—-smaller ROM, bent knees.
Same as Corkscrew. REALLY use the breath to reconnect your back body to the mat. Remember, the EXHALATION brings you back home. Keep sternum soft and ribcage WIDE.
MM Day 10
Love me some Saw!!! Give it one clean rock or roll up to sit from Corkscrew.
Sit TALL on your mat, legs slightly wider than the width of your mat (if possible), arms reaching out East to West. Inhale as you lift and TWIST your ribcage to the right without moving your pelvis/legs. Exhale to round up and over your leg, gazing towards the abdominals (which are obviously scooping in back and up like crazy), reaching your left pinky finger toward your right pinky toe. “Pulse” 3x to reach toward the opposite foot while your seat and heels stay anchored to the mat. Inhale to lift back to center, exhale as you twist left reaching with the right side.
3-5x each side
Bend knees and/or sit on a rolled up mat/box/block to get out of hip flexors and hamstrings. Limit ROM.
Those who should not engage in forward flexion (osteo/spine issues) may omit the “saw” and simply twist.
I have a lot to say bout this one… Let’s be clear here: no one is sawing anything off… the “pulse” is a simply deepening- you are actively reaching a little further with each “saw”, pulling deeper into your waist, anchoring your seat and feet.
No one cares how far forward you can stretch… that was the physical fitness test in elementary school. This is Pilates. Pilates is about finding STRENGTH through two points of OPPOSITION. Work your CENTER. Get your foundation.
PS- you should be sweating!
Keep your lower back basically vertical as you round forward. Remember that Ant Farm I’m always yacking about in Spine Stretch Forward…? Well, you’re still IN the any farm… it’s just a little shorter and you’re reaching over the SIDE this time “Anchor heel to hip, heel to hip and wing tip to wing tip.” Press the leg you are twisting towards slightly forward to maintain squareness in hips.
MM Day ELEVEN
From Saw, flip over onto your powerhouse. Place hands under your armpits, elbows bent by your ribs. LIFT your abdominals, trying to create a pocket of air between your belly button and the mat! Lengthen the head away from the hips finding the longest line of energy possible throughout any version of the exercise.
Beginners stick with Swan PREP: Keeping pelvis and feet anchored down, hover head, hands and heart off the mat. Press hands into mat dragging heart forward to lift up higher. Start to lower down and take your hands off the mat as soon as possible to challenge yourself and work your upper back muscles. Lower all the way back down with control and repeat. Stay OUT of your lower back.
To advance it, you can move to a “drop catch” where you press up into your prep/extension then shoot your arms out east to west as you rock forward lifting legs up. Hands go back down to “catch” your upper body as your legs return to the mat. It’s like a see-saw but you catch your upper 1/2!
Ultimately, you want to progress to the Swan Dive which is a full on teeter-totter… press up into extension and dive, but don’t “catch” this time! Rock forward legs lift up behind you. Rock back arms either reach out wide to your sides or out in front of you, like you are tossing a beach ball over your head. Find a rhythm!
*Give yourself a GOOD STRETCH after this one- “active rest” which is like the Pilates version of “child’s pose”… hips toward heels, round low back, scoop belly away from thighs.
Swan prep only. Prenatal clients may perform prep standing or kneeling on 2 legs or quadruped. No diving for low back injuries.
Work upper back and “thass” region, NOT your lower back muscles!!
Arms work from back- keep shoulders out of ears!
Spin your inner thighs UP to the sky to keep your sacrum/low back wide and easy.
Hug outter hips in to keep lower body connected and midline zipped.
Press your feet into the mat “all 10 toenails should be on the mat!”
Focus on the LENGTH not the HIEGHT of the extension.
MM Day TWELVE
Today is all about that Thass!!!
The SINGLE LEG KICKS and the DOUBLE LEG KICKS
*Single Leg Kicks:
You just finished your gorgeous Swan prep or Dive and then had a delicious active rest! Now it’s time to kick some thASS ;) Prop yourself up onto your forearms as if you are going to go into a plank. Loose fists, arms parallel to one another, like a sphinx. Hug your legs tightly together being sure to spin your inner thighs UP toward the sky so as not to put pressure in your low back/SI joints. Keeping your pubic bone and hip points attached, LIFT your abdominals OFF of the mat and drag your chest forward through your arm bones. Neck is long and extended from the spine. Kick-kick one heel at a time towards your bottom as you actively press the other foot into the mat. If you want to get fancy, point/flex your foot with each kick.
*Reps: 5-8x each side
Perform leg kicks with chest/head down (forehead on back of stacked hands).
If your knees say NO WAY BRO, just go back to your swan prep or even swimming! It’s about lifting your abs and finding your glute/hamstring connection whilst staying LONG. *Amanda's Tips:
Lengthen your tailbone back toward your feet to keep low back LONG and abs LIFTED.
As you do this hamstring curl action, you should feel a limited ROM in the leg because your abs are SO lifted. If you are easily able to kick your bottom, you are NOT lifted enough in your center! Imagine you are slung from the ceiling (the sling is around your ribcage and abdomen, btw) and your legs are tied together just above the knees.
*Double Leg Kicks:
From Single Leg Kicks, lay your right face cheek on the mat. Bring hands together behind you and place them as high up your back as possible, relaxing your elbows down to the mat (feels like your slouching!). Zip your legs tightly together as if you have just one leg! Be sure to spin your inner thighs UP toward the sky and stay long in lumbar spine. Keeping your pubic bone and hip points anchored to the floor, kick both feet towards your seat 3x. As you press your legs back into the mat, lift your chest up and out, reaching your arms back toward your feet in spinal extension. Place left face cheek on mat and repeat! If you want to get fancy with this one, give your ankles/feet a point/flex/point with each of the 3 kicks.
*Reps: 3 sets each side
Same as Single Leg Kicks!
Imagine you are a mermaid. Now, slap your bottom 3x with your tail and then stretch to like your hands are connected to your tail so when you press it away from you your arms follow! Your body should NOT undulate on the mat… in other words, PRESS your pubic bone and hug your outer hips IN to anchor your pelvis and keep from rocking back and forth.
Biggest tip I have here—- I don’t want to see any daylight between your pelvis and the mat!
MM Day THIRTEEN
Speaking of your backside… the “Thigh Stretch” might be more aptly named something like“The Thass Blaster” because it is an incredibly effective way to fire up your posterior chain!! Also, its literally the same exercise you just did in Double Leg Kicks, you’re just bringing it to a standing-kneel, challenging your full powerhouse against gravity.
So after Double Leg Kicks and a good quality active rest stretch, roll up to ‘stand’ on your knees/shins, lifting your arms from your back up to the sky. If you have a weighted pole, grab that (a swiffer works, too! Even a yoga strap pulled TAUGHT). Stack shoulders over hips, hips over knees. Hinge at the knees, leaning your body back on the diagonal like “a piece of steel” in one long line from knees to neck while lowering your arms parallel to floor in front of you. Keep your head on your spine and the crease out of your hips as you lift everything back up to start again. Open up and elongate your front body as you contract through the center and backside.
Omit the hinging and just do a chest expansion either kneeling or standing on your feet if you are unable to kneel. Perform Shoulder Bridge instead or continue with Double Leg Kicks.
Be sure you are working with your legs connected to your seat and arms on your back! Actively press the feet/shins into the mat as you hug an imaginary basketball tightly between your thighs to help fire up your backside and connect deeper to your center.
Try hugging and actual ball or yoga block between your knees to find your midline. Lengthen your side bodies.
Draw your front ribs through to the back.
Keep the crease out of the front of your hips… “Pull your hip points up towards your low ribs as if they are wearing little suspenders.” Heehee.
Don’t allow your hips to sit on your heels if there is a break at the hips.
Your hammies/thass should be on fire and your powerhouse working like crazy.
MM Day FOURTEEN
From Thigh Stretch, flip over on your bum and slip your feet under a strap or in a magic circle. You may also go strapless, it’s just a little harder, but it is the goal to eventually go without! Sitting up, place hands overlapping at base of your skull, legs are hip socket-distance apart, feet flexed pressing OUT against strap or circle. LIFT your powerhouse to round up and over your thighs allowing your elbows to reach towards the floor while still pressing head into hands and hands into head. Stack your spine TALL!
Hinge back with a flat spine as far as you can maintain the press into the mat with your lower body, then curl the tail under and round down into the mat with control. From the bottom, peel off the mat, diving forward like you are ducking under a low ceiling! Get the supported stretch, stack up, hinge back, roll down, repeat!
Feet under strap/couch/small child or place magic circle around OR in between ankles to help ANCHOR lower body and create length and opposition. Work with bent knees if needed. Can climb up backs of legs with hands. Sub 1/2 roll back or elbow slip.
Resist the urge to fling your body forward… go slow and build the strength, even if it means you are working with bent knees!
Be sure you are working with your legs connected to your seat and your upper back is “ON”.
Head into hands/hands into head!!!
Don’t ever collapse over your legs in the stretch and don’t lose control and flop back down on the mat.