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Illium Center of Light, Jerome Andrews, Refined Pilates

FOURTH SPINAL SUCCESSION. THE MERMAID.

I have shared with you that Jerome Andrews said that Joseph Pilates spoke about 4 spinal positions or successions. I have written blogs on the first 2. See my blog on the First Spinal succession here http://jennycolebourne.com/jerome-andrews-pilates-the-first-spinal-succession/(opens in a new tab), about the Second Spinal Succession http://jennycolebourne.com/second-spinal-succession-and-position-for-refined-pilates-and-yoga/(opens in a new tab) Here is the 4th.

The fourth spinal succession has to do with lateral bending.

The Mermaid is the perfect exercise to explore this.

MERMAID.

RECOMMENDED.

This exercise is good for everyone. The starting position may sometimes bother those with knee problems but you do have more than one starting position to choose from. Hopefully one will suit the student.

PREGNANCY 🙂

Pregnant women can do this exercise throughout their pregnancy.  At a certain point when the belly gets larger it is better to sit cross legged or in the second starting position.

LEVEL.

Intermediate.

REPETITIONS.

 3 – 5 on each side.

NOTES.

This exercise is performed  in smooth, continuous way, with flow. The breath is always just as important as the movement.

Jenny with Pilates student and dancer Ariadne Kitsou

STARTING POSITION.

Sit on the left hip with both legs bent. The knees are pointing forward and form a zig zag. Relax in the right hip and lower it to the floor. Have the spine long and proud. The pelvis is square to the front. The arms are at the sides of the body, gently rounded as if framing the body.

There is an alternative starting position which is called 4th position in contemporary dance. This is the position shown in the picture. Sit on the left hip. Both knees are bent but this time the front leg is bent at a  45% angle and the shin bone is parallel to the front of the mat. The right knee is bent inwards and goes behind the body. Once again relax in the right hip and has far as possible lower it to the mat. The pelvis is square to the front. The arms are at the sides of the body, gently rounded as if framing the body.

Your focus is in the *middle body.

The arm can come a little closer to the ear.

BREATHE IN.
Being careful not to hyper extend the elbow, feeling the support of the left lung and shoulder blade, raise the left arm to the side and above the head in a wide, graceful arc. Keep the shoulder soft, slide the shoulder blade downwards without strain and bring the arm as close as possible to the ear. Make sure the hand and fingers have shape but that they are not tense. Once there is tension in the hand and fingers there will be tension in the shoulder. Feel the fingers extending out into space.
Feel the sit bones rooted and the crown of the head lengthening to the sky.

The arm could come closer to the ear.

BREATHE OUT.
Lengthen the spine, keep the left hip rooted to the floor and lifting up and over, bent the spine to the right. Keep the body on one plane, this is just a lateral movement which means  both shoulders will be flat to the front. The head moves as a continuation of the spine. Think of the crown of the head as being the last vertebra. At the same time the right elbow comes to the mat directly under the shoulder joint. The forearm  and the palm of the hand are parallel to the front of the mat. Make sure the underneath arm does not block your stretch. Slide it further out if you need to. Feel as though the fingertips and the crown of the head are being drawn out into space. The side of the body facing the mat should soften and condense in order to allow the the stretch in the side of the body facing the ceiling.

BREATHE IN.
Stay in the stretch. Feel of the side of the ribs, facing the ceiling, filling with your breath.

BREATHE OUT.
Deepen into the stretch by relaxing where you feel a resistance or pulling and surrendering the torso and arm to gravity. Remember to keep the opposite hip grounded. Imagine the side of the spine facing the ceiling and how the spaces in between each the vertebrae will be open like a fan.

BREATHE IN.
Roll back up vertebra by vertebra, starting, truly, from the very base of the spine, the tip of the coccyx. You place one vertebra on the other as you move up. This is the fourth spinal succession. As you come up have a picture in your head of where you will return to. You will return to your axis feeling the sit bones like they have roots going deep into the earth and the crown of the head lengthening up into space.

BREATHE OUT

Open the arm to the side and bring it down beside you.

*Middle Body. Imagine your body as if it were in 3 slices. Front body, back body and between those is the middle body.

Illium Center of Light, Refined Pilates

PRECISION AND THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.

THE SIDE LUNGE ON THE WUNDA CHAIR.

When I first did the lunges and some similar exercises on the Wunda Chair I was very impressed by how it automatically engaged me with the pelvic floor and my axis..

ALIGN THE BONES

Precisely align the bones. Geometry is sacred. Aligning the bones makes the movement effortless. The muscles and fascia follow the bones effortlessly and naturally. You will never injure yourself this way.

 I have found it very effective to explore, moving, as if I were just made up of bones. It can put you better in touch with the skeletal system. 

ALLOW THIS MIRACLE, THAT IS YOUR BODY, TO INFORM YOU. 

Rather than acting like a dictator, open yourself up to listen to your body.

Experience sensation fully.

LINES OF ENERGY.

Imagining lines of energy helps the body understand where it should move to. Using your imagination is a powerful tool. 

GIVE YOURSELF SPACE.

Personally I find that when people imagine they have a huge amount of space, their spine lengthens. Movements have more generosity and freedom.

EXPLORING IS FUN.

Being curious about how far the body will go is joyful.

BREATHE

Let the breath take you like a piece of music moves you. Practice breathing just a little ahead of the movement and then allow the breath to colour all of the movement.

There are many ways of breathing, all valid, and all serving a different purpose.

HAVE FUN FLOAT UP. 

The springs are there to give you support. The equipment is designed to be your best friend. Go with it, play with the support and see what it will do for you.

EQUIPMENT SET UP.

One spring up and one down.

REPETITIONS

3-5 on each side. 

Always do the same repetitions on each side. If you do three on the right do three on the left, even if you you feel the one side is stronger. It is a matter of balance.

SET YOUR INTENTION.

What is it you would like to learn about your body in this exercise today. It may be something as simple as, “Today I will not tense my shoulders” or “Today, my legs are perfectly aligned throughout. Or “Today I will feel plenty of space around me.”

Themis Andreaoulaki. Dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher Training Graduate.

STARTING POSITION.

Stand sideways to the chair. Take the bar down with the foot, let’s say this is the right foot, that is nearest to the chair. Mount the chair. Have the inside foot on the wooden part and the align the left (outside) foot along the bar towards the back corner. Place the right (inside) foot on the top of the chair at 45’ angle, the toes towards the front, furthest corner. The exact positioning of the feet will depend on the flexibility of your hips. Bring your axis, your spine (on the line of gravity) between your legs. Bring the triangle of your pelvis ( the front of the two iliac crests and the pubic bone) so that it is on one plane and facing directly front. You may need to release in your hips to achieve this.

The alignment of the knee on the seat is super important. The knee cap is focused directly over the space between the first and second toe. See my previous blog on leg alignment. http://jennycolebourne.com/good-leg-alignment-is-essential-for-everyone/

BREATHE IN.

Draw air into the back of the lungs.

BREATHE OUT.

Slowly and smoothly. Empty the lungs completely.

Feel energy rising from the toes, up through the pelvic floor, up through the spine and out through the top of the head. This energy draws you upwards. You are subtly aware of the left foot on the bar. It never leaves the bar. There is a contact with the bar that lightens as you go up.l

The right foot imprints down powerfully and the leg engages strongly. The pelvis remains facing front. 

Themis Andreaoulaki. Dancer and Refined PIlates Teacher Training Graduate.

BREATHE IN

Smoothly, descend with a sense that the crown of the head continues to be drawn out into space.

NOTES.

It is nice to come to a balance, with the leg extended to the side, on the top of the chair at the end of each set. Make sure you straighten the knee.

ENJOY!!

Illium Center of Light

FRONT LUNGE ON THE WUNDA CHAIR

PRECISION    BODY    TONE    GRACE    BALANCE    CONTROL  

Open space in your body.

LEVEL

INTERMEDIATE EXERCISE. 

For people who have mastered the basics of Refined Pilates and, especially, leg alignment. Please look at my blog http://jennycolebourne.com/good-leg-alignment-is-essential-for-everyone/

SPRING AND EQUIPMENT SETTINGS.

Medium Support. On my Wunda Chair, one spring up and one down is good.

The exercise can be done with, as shown in the photos, or without the poles.

The poles afford a very light and subtle support. They are not meant to be leant on!

Themis Andreaoulaki, Dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher Training Graduate. Starting Position.

STARTING POSITION.

Stand facing the bar. Place the hands on the handles for a modicum of support. Press the bar down with the toes of the left foot. Mount the bar. Place the right foot, in parallel, on the back edge of the seat of the chair. Softly spread and lengthen the toes. The knee is bent and the knees cap is in a straight line with the space between the first and second toe. The left leg is straight, the toes are spread and are on the bar. The heel is soft. It is in, what dancers call, “demi relevé”. The front of ankle is soft. The foot stays in this position throughout the exercise. The left leg is in parallel.

Think of the bones that form your pelvis and bring your pelvis so that it is centered between the legs. Bring the iliac crests in a line. This will probably involve softening in the hip joints. Make sure the triangle of the pelvis ( the two iliac crests and the front of the pubic bone are in one line. This will usually mean an enlivening of the pelvic floor, the engagement of the deep abdominals and an allowing of the coccyx to be free and hang. The spine in in the second position (see my blog) http://jennycolebourne.com/second-spinal-succession-and-position-for-refined-pilates-and-yoga/ or naturally straight, with the curves present.

The palms of the hands are placed on the top of the handles. They very softly push down for support. Use the support, soften your shoulders and gently widen between the elbows. The collar bone is open.

If you do the exercise without the help of the poles you can extend the arms to the side, or have the left arm forward and the right to the side.

Having the left arm forward reminds you to keep the left hip forward.

It is important to sense the extremities, to feel the toes at all points of the exercise, and their contact with the bar, and the crown of the head actively lengthening upwards.

BREATH IN

Feel the air traveling into the back of the lungs. Lengthen the ribs away from the hips to create more space.

BREATH OUT

Feel the toes on the bar, it is as if an energy rises from there, connect the pelvic floor, in your mind’s eye feel the that energy rising up through your axis and out of the crown of the head. It is as if the crown of the head is being drawn out up to the sky. It almost feels as if you are being pulled upwards and out into space. 

Feel the right foot very firmly on the seat of the chair. Feel gravity and press into it (be extremely vigilant about the foot alignment).

Allow the springs to lighten. They help draw you upwards.

Themis Andreaoulaki, dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher Training graduate at the top of the movement.

BREATH OUT

Leave the crown of the head where it is and gently and smoothly lower the bar.

NOTES

Keep the two iliac crests facing front throughout.

You can come up into a balance on one leg (arabesque), on the seat of the chair, either each time, or on the last repetition.

REPETITIONS

3-5

Illium Center of Light

WUNDA CHAIR “THE PIKE”

SPRING POSITION

On my hand made (before commercial machines) Wunda Chair, the best setting is to have one spring up and one down.

Look for medium support on your Wunda Chair.

 STARTING POSITION

Face the the seat of the chair.

Place the palms of the hands on the back corners of the seat. The fingers are facing outwards. Keep all your fingers together. There is a little bit more weight on the little finger and the outside edge of the arm.

The elbows are very slightly bent. It is important to avoid hyper extending the elbows. You should feel the connection between the arms and the upper back.

Spread your toes, particularly between the big toe and the second toe, and place the toes of one foot on the bar and press it down. Mount the bar with the other foot, spreading these toes as described. Have the  feet and legs closed, straight and in parallel. Be careful not to hyperextend the legs. The legs should feel like 2 columns of energy. An alternative is the “V’ position, with the legs moderately turned out. I am choosing this position because it is easier to be sure of the leg alignment. See my blog  GOOD LEG ALIGNMENT IS ESSENTIAL FOR EVERYONE

It is a position which makes it easier to release the lower spine.

Shift your body weight and bring the shoulders directly over your wrists.

Make sure the shoulders are relaxed and down away from the ears.

Bring the back into the FIRST POSITION (or rounded) of the spine. See my blog about all the details of this position. Jerome Andrews’ Pilates. THE FIRST SPINAL SUCCESSION.

Check that your hip joints are fully relaxed.

The weight of the head is surrendered completely to gravity and is in a position where you can look at the legs through the exercise “spot” the leg alignment.

Themis Andreoulaki. Dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher Training Graduate. The highest point of “The Pike”

BREATH OUT.

Feel the toes, especially the big and second toes if you are working in parallel. Sense an energy passing up through the inside of the legs and engages the pelvic floor This energy passes through the back of the spine, spinous process by spinous process, starting at the coccyx and arriving at the atlas, and out the top of the head in a long arch, as you move.

The weight of your body transfers more and more onto the arms and you feel the support of the shoulder blades.

Allow the springs to lighten and help you, allow yourself to be carried up. Without losing the First Position of the spine, think of sending your sit bones high to the ceiling.

BREATH IN

Feel as if you fill the back of the lungs with air. Breathing in this way will deepen the position of your spine.

Reverse the spinal succession, following the back of the spine from the atlas to the coccyx. 

Lower the bar with moderate speed.

Themis Andreoulaki. Dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher Training graduate. The starting position of “The Pike”.

REPETITIONS

3-5

Breakdown of repetitions.

  1. How does my body feel, today, right now, as I do the exercise. Notice using the knowledge that I have, what can I do better?
  2. I apply my knowledge and refine what I am doing.
  3. According to my teacher, Jerome Andrews, number 3 is perfect!
  4. I hone my concentration and see if I can do the exercise better than my previous best.
  5. All the above applies. What can I do even better.

NOTES

I have chosen an out breath to go up. As we breath out the diaphragm travels up internally leaving more space for the engagement of the pelvic floor and the hollowing of the abdomen as our spine deepens it’s position.

Breathing in on the way down gives a sense of suspension.

It can, of course be done the other way round, just as effectively, and slightly adjusting the focus. 

The “Washer Woman”, see my video is a great preparation for The Pike. https://youtu.be/mgWWTfijmP0

Refined Pilates

WUNDA CHAIR

FOOT WORK 

VARIATION WITH THE LEGS IN PARALLEL IN “HIGH RELEVÉ” 

(ON THE TOES WITH VERY HIGH HEELS)

SPRINGS.

On my Wunda Chair, which is hand made, I use the combination of one spring up and one down. I have three positions to choose from. Look for a moderate amount of resistance on your Wundq chair. A resistance that gives you the support that you need but is not so strong that you cannot take care of the finer details of the movement.

LEVEL

The Wunda Chair Foot Work is more challenging than the Foot Work on the Reformer because you need to maintain the axis of the spine without the support of the carriage. For this reason I would class it as an intermediate level of exercise. I recommend you first try the exercise under the guidance of a good and experienced teacher.

REPETITIONS.

10 times in each position.

SUITABILITY.

The exercise is suitable for most students of all ages, including those with scoliosis, kyphosis and lordosis. It is a great way to do “Leg Work” when you are pregnant. You may need to open the feet, hip width apart, in the later stages of pregnancy. And, of course, the exercises are great for after you have given birth. Many people who have hip, knee and ankle problems can successfully do these exercises if they take good care of their leg alignment. Please refer to my blog…

BREATH IN.

Breath in feeling as if you fill the whole of the back of the lungs with air, every cell. Imagine that the air is expanding all of the area from the to of the shoulders down to the last ribs. If you think about how large the lungs are it gives you a great sense of support.

Start the in breath slightly before the movement, as if the breath initiates the movement and then have the breath accompany the movement, lasting as long as the movement.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TOES AND THE FEET AS SITES OF SUPPORT.

Spread and lengthen the toes and place them on the bar. Emphasise the opening of the space between the first and second toe. The feet are together. Lift the heels very high, relax the back of the ankle to allow the heel to lift and make sure that you keep the heels together. Sense all the toes against the bar. Press with all of the toes but press more with the big and the second toes This is your site of support. At the same time engage the muscles of the pelvic floor press the bar down. Take it down only as far as the spine remains in a state of balance, on it’s axis. Be careful you don’t move forward, at all towards the legs. It does not matter if the bar goes all the way down or not.

As you press the bar down, in this way, you will feel the spine lengthen automatically even more. Feel as though the crown of the head moves up in the opposite direction to the movement of the legs, to the ceiling.

BREATH OUT.

When you breath out, empty the air completely for the lungs. (There is no need to push as you do this.) During the out breath the abdomen naturally moves inward, take advantage of this natural impulse and relax the abdomen into the inside edge of the spine. If you are too tense it does not happen and you loose this support and a lot of energy unnecessarily. Match the speed of the out breath with the movement. The movement is slightly slower than the pushing down.

Let the the springs bring the bar up. In the meantime focus on softening very deeply infant of the hip joints and maintain the length in the spine. Make sure the ankles remain in the same position. 

THE THORAX AND THE DIAPHRAGM ARE RELAXED THROUGHOUT.

The thorax simply floats directly above the bowl of the pelvis. A very common correction is to put the ribs in but this simply creates tension in the diaphragm which in turn blocks the effortless, deep breathing which is such an essential part of each exercise. Looking from above you would see the head floating directly above the shoulder girdle, the shoulder girdle directly above the thorax and the thorax above the pelvis. One on top of the other. It is a state of balance.

The diaphragm is free to move fully creating free, full breathing and a beautiful massage for all the organs of the body and the spine.

WITH EACH REPETITION YOU GET TALLER. THIS IS SOMETHING CLEARLY VISIBLE AND NOT IMAGINED.

STARTING POSITION.

Themis Andreaoulaki: Dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher. I am proud to say one of my graduates!

Sit on the chair facing towards the bar. The spine is on it’s axis.  Sit in the middle of the seat. The closer you sit to the front edge of the chair the more challenging the exercise. You can try this as you get more advanced. 

PLEASE CONSULT THE NOTES ON THE FOOT AND LEG ALIGNMENT in my blog http://jennycolebourne.com/good-leg-alignment-is-essential-for-everyone/

The arms can be in the following positions:

1. Straight with soft elbows on either side of the body, forming a frame for the body.

2. Cossack arms.

3. Holding a stick, magic circle or ball in front of the chest.

The last two variations can be useful, in that your teacher can have a clearer view of what happens to the spine during the exercise. Or you can check yourself in a mirror.

“COSSACK ARMS” DETAILS

I have chosen “Cossack Arms” for the photographs. Here are some details of how to maintain this position with grace and ease.

Imagine that your collarbone is twice as wide as what you see. Very subtly send the shoulder joints slightly back of the collarbones. You may feel your shoulders blades glide a little closer. The arms are parallel to the floor, imagine they are supported by water and this should help you not to gather tension in the shoulders. The middle fingers hold on to the skin just above the opposite elbow.

Make sure that you feel the breast bone is wide. There is a sense of subtle opening between the breast bone and the ribs. At no point does the breast bone drop or close.

FINDING YOUR AXIS AND A LONG SPINE

Make sure you are sitting directly on your pelvic floor. If you find this hard you may wish to put a firm cushion under your sit bones. 

Imagine the pelvis from underneath, the pubic bone, the sit bones and the tip of the coccyx. Sit directly on top of this space. 

Imagine a line extending from they center of the pelvic floor down into the earth. This line also travels up and leaves out of the crown of the head. This is your axis. It is an imagined line of energy. The spine maintains it’s natural curves which touch this line at different points. The spine feels light and long almost as if it were hanging from the crown of the head.

SECOND POSITION OF THE SPINE

According to Jerome Andrews, Pilates referred to the straight spine as the second position of the spine. See my blog on the Second Position of the Spine.

Focus into the center of the spine.

If you think of the body as having three “slices”, front, middle and back.  Be in touch with the middle body.

THE PELVIC FLOOR AND THE INTERNAL ABDOMINAL MUSCLES.

Support your elongated spine by energising the pelvic floor. This is not a tightening but rather an almost archetypal energy which moves up through the body and which engages and connects with the internal abdominal muscles through a fascial connection. The abdomen is pulled into the inside edge of the spine. Each out breath helps us increase this sensation.

BREATH IN.

Breath in feeling as if you fill the whole of the back of the lungs with air, every cell. Imagine that the air is expanding all of the area from the to of the shoulders down to the last ribs. If you think about how large the lungs are it gives you a great sense of support.

Start the in breath slightly before the movement, as if the breath initiates the movement and then have the breath accompany the movement, lasting as long as the movement.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TOES AND THE FEET AS SITES OF SUPPORT.

Spread and lengthen the toes and place them on the bar. Emphasise the opening of the space between the first and second toe. The feet are together. Lift the heels very high, relax the back of the ankle to allow the heel to lift and make sure that you keep the heels together. Sense all the toes against the bar. Press with all of the toes but press more with the big and the second toes This is your site of support. At the same time engage the muscles of the pelvic floor press the bar down. Take it down only as far as the spine remains in a state of balance, on it’s axis. Be careful you don’t move forward, at all towards the legs. It does not matter if the bar goes all the way down or not.

As you press the bar down, in this way, you will feel the spine lengthen automatically even more. Feel as though the crown of the head moves up in the opposite direction to the movement of the legs, to the ceiling.

BREATH OUT.

When you breath out, empty the air completely for the lungs. (There is no need to push as you do this.) During the out breath the abdomen naturally moves inward, take advantage of this natural impulse and relax the abdomen into the inside edge of the spine. If you are too tense it does not happen and you loose this support and a lot of energy unnecessarily. Match the speed of the out breath with the movement. The movement is slightly slower than the pushing down.

Let the the springs bring the bar up. In the meantime focus on softening very deeply infant of the hip joints and maintain the length in the spine. Make sure the ankles remain in the same position. 

THE THORAX AND THE DIAPHRAGM ARE RELAXED THROUGHOUT.

The thorax simply floats directly above the bowl of the pelvis. A very common correction is to put the ribs in but this simply creates tension in the diaphragm which in turn blocks the effortless, deep breathing which is such an essential part of each exercise. Looking from above you would see the head floating directly above the shoulder girdle, the shoulder girdle directly above the thorax and the thorax above the pelvis. One on top of the other. It is a state of balance.

The diaphragm is free to move fully creating free, full breathing and a beautiful massage for all the organs of the body and the spine.

WITH EACH REPETITION YOU GET TALLER. THIS IS SOMETHING CLEARLY VISIBLE AND NOT IMAGINED.

VARIATIONS.

  1. Toes, heels and knees together with the ankles in a soft relieve 9 the heels slightly lifted.

2. The feet apart in parallel with the heels in a line with the sit bones. (In this version it is easier to maintain the spinal axis.) Small balls or cushions can be placed between the ankles or between both the ankles and the knees. These aids should be used with care. Make sure they do not, in any way, interfere with the alignment of the legs but help bring an awareness of  leg alignment, the inner edge of the leg and the connection with the pelvic floor. The purpose is not to squeeze them, just enough pressure should be used to not loose them.

meditation, Refined Pilates, Yoga

“THE BREATH OF LIFE”

A SERIES OF BLOGS ON BREATHING

A DIAPHRAGM RELEASE EXERCISE

The breathing diaphragm has the the largest concentration of fascia in the body. When you think that it is in the middle of the body, it is easy to see how any kind of tension or stress in the diaphragm, has a knock on effect on the rest of the body.

Fascia is now being seen as the largest organ in the body. At it’s best it has a movement that is free and a steady, fairly slow, rhythm. It does react and contract with physical or psychological injury and sometimes it stays that way causing physical pain or discomfort. 

Tension patterns in the fascia can sometimes be chronic and have been there for a very long time, since the time of birth, for example. 

Tension patterns in the fascia can cause chronic and sometimes quite strong pain. Tension patterns in the breathing diaphragm affect our breathing, so ultimately how much oxygen we take into each cell in the body.

The diaphragm moves up and down about 11 centermeters creating a natural massage and stimulus for all the organs of the body, causing a positive response in the digestive system. If the diaphragm is restricted we miss out on this “treat” that nature intended. What an amazing, complicated, moving, flowing system our body is!

Here is a very effective exercise, that was taught to me by my beloved mentor, the late Lena Trifonopoulou.

The exercise is helpful for a fuller Refined Pilates or Yoga practice and for any other movement practice that you enjoy and for life.

It is particularly important for those with back pain, scoliosis, tension in the shoulders, kyphosis and digestive problems.

Lie on your back with the legs a little apart and the arms beside you with the palms of the hands facing to the ceiling.

Make sure that you are warm. Cover yourself with a blanket if necessary.

Place a blanket under your knees if you know that your lower back tends to get painful in this position.

Take as long as you need to go into your calm, peaceful place and relax.

This is fascia release exercise. It should be done gently. The “holds” go very deep.

It is important to continually surrender the weight of the upper back to gravity, the legs hang down and the intestines are relaxed.

Bring your finger tips to the tip of the end of the breast bone. You are going to use this bone like a handle. Observe the breath for a moment and you will notice that on the in breath the breast bone naturally travels up towards the crown of the head and on the out breath it naturally descends. For the next three breaths, follow with your fingers (gently, there is no need to be harsh because these techniques go very deep) the upward moment of the in breath and the breast bone, and then block the downward movement of the breast bone.

Move your second, third and fourth fingers out to the side and access the underneath of the last rib. Once again observe the breath and you will notice that on the in breath the thorax naturally travels up towards the crown of the head and on the out breath it naturally descends. As before during the next three breaths, follow with your fingers the upward moment of the thorax with the in breath and then prevent the downward movement of the thorax. Be gentle. You may find with each in breath there is a small increase in the upward movement. Follow this closely.

When you touch yourself do so with love and respect.

Move your second, third and fourth fingers further out to the side of the thorax, accessing the underneath of the last rib. Once again observe the breath, follow the upward movement of the in breath and block the downward movement. Repeat for three breaths.

Move your hands around to the back of you. It is a little harder to feel but access the last rib at the back of the body (you will be partially lying on your hands) with your thumbs and repeat the process for three breaths.

The whole time that you are doing this keep the space between the two sides of the thorax completely relaxed. Give a chance to the fascia of the diaphragm to release.

To finish lace your finger right down to the roots and place your hands on the back of the occiput ( this wonderful bone at the back of the skull). Feel a gentle pull between the elbows and soften the shoulders. Have the elbows open. 

Take a breath in and breath out, skimming along the floor make a side bend to the right. Breath out and come back to your beginning position.

Repeat this to the left.

Repeat the side bending three times. Bring the arms back beside your body in the original starting position, relax and observe how you feel.

Illium Center of Light, Refined Pilates, Yoga

SECOND SPINAL POSITION AND SUCCESSION FOR REFINED PILATES AND YOGA

Joseph Pilates referred to 4 different positions of the spine. 

Second position of the spine is when the spine is “straight”. Second spinal succession is when the spine moves from another position to straight in sequence.

THE NATURAL CURVES OF THE SPINE PROTECT US FROM INJURY

The vertebral column retains it’s natural curves, when we are in second position of the spine, as these curves work like shock absorbers.

Joseph Pilates knew that many people often place a lot of strain on the lower back especially the area of the 5th lumbar and sacrum. He would therefore ask people to subtly lengthen the tail to the coccyx. This results in an equally subtle engagement of the pelvic floor and in sequence the deep abdominal muscles. It is a very subtle adjustment. Doing it too much would result in a slight tucking of the tail bone. Over time that would lead to the lumber curve being reduced, which in turn would cause imbalance and injury.

RELEASING YOUR TAIL

See the video, “Bouncing on a Pole”. https://youtu.be/yaw_1VdT4N8 An exercise  which teaches not just the importance of the suppleness of the feet but, the bouncing motion gently encourages the release of the hip joints and an allowing of the coccyx or tail bone to hang and lengthen. It is sometimes useful to imagine that we actually do have a tail.

When we are in the second position of the spine or when we are moving into it our focus is on the centre of the spine, or the spinal cord.

POWERFULLY IMAGINING AN EXTENDED AXIS

Imagining the axis is a very powerful addition to focusing into the center of the spine. It serves as a guide for the spine. Imagine a line of light that starts directly above the crown of the head ( the part of the head which is soft when we are babies). This line of light is like a plumb line, if we are upright,  which travels down through the body exits through the pelvic floor and goes deep into the earth between our feet.

I have found it very effective for people to imagine their axis as being longer than their physical body. I have noticed that spines get longer, when people visualise the axis in this way. This freeing and creating space in the spine is important for us all, in particular for people with conditions like scoliosis.

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS.

A longer spine makes people feel taller and more self confident. It has a positive psychological effect.

This axis can be imagined in any position, standing, sitting, on all fours, on a diagonal like the position we take when we do Front Support.

THE TRIANGLE OF THE PELVIS

When we are in the Second Position of the spine the pelvis is in a neutral position. It is neither tilted forward or back. How can we check this? When we lie on our back, we can place our hands over the lower part of the belly. Our fingertips are on our pubic bone and part of our arms end up resting on the front of our iliac crests. We can imagine these 3 points are like a triangle. The three points of the triangle are all on the same level parallel to the floor. The same principles apply in the upright position, the three bones of the triangle of the pelvis are on one plane. 

A HAPPY SPINE IS ONE THAT IS FREE TO MOVE

In finding the second position of the spine it is essential to remember that the spine and the segments of the spine need to be free, free is move effortlessly. We often mistakenly gather tension at the base of the spine and at the top. Check yourself out. Do you feel as if there is a hand wrapped around the bottom of the spine squeezing it? If so let it go. The same goes for the cervical spine which is like a tail at the other end. Remember the top vertebra is just behind the nose. Explore releasing it. In the cranial sacral work, the bones of the head are often viewed as the last vertebrae. I have found this to be a useful view in achieving a continuation of the energy beyond the top of the head without tension.

CONNECTING WITH YOUR ROOTS AND YOUR SENSE OF LIGHTNESS

When moving into the second position, spinal succession, it is possible to start at either the top or bottom according to the type of movement. I have found that moving from the tail up gives a better sense of grounding and moving from the cervical spine down, a lightness. Think about the movement you are doing and choose, consciously, according to what you may wish to achieve and the movement.

USEFUL VIDEOS

There are two videos on You Tube which are about Footwork on the Reformer. https://youtu.be/Vnfw4wkG35k The exercises are done in the Second position of the spine and we I do focus a great deal on creating space in the spine even though the exercises are with the resistance of the springs. https://youtu.be/zvWamobo9FI You may find them interesting.

Enjoy your practice!

Copyright: Jenny Colebourne.

Refined Pilates

LEG OPENINGS ARE IMPORTANT FOR IMPROVING SCOLIOSIS KYPHOSIS AND BACK ACHE

Important Information for both Pilates and Yoga Instructors and Practitioners.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEG ALIGNMENT

There are many exercises and asanas which involve opening the legs with large and small equipment and without equipment. It is vitally important that good leg alignment is continuously maintained. You will never injure yourself if you are patient and respect this. You can find details in my blog on this site http://jennycolebourne.com/good-leg-alignment-is-essential-for-everyone/

TREAT YOUR BODY WITH LOVING KINDNESS

It is a golden rule that you should NEVER push, force or strain when you are exercising. Respect and love your body with kindness. The truth is if you co operate with your body and gently relax and surrender into a stretch your body will open like a flower. Moving or stretching, with harshness, will only lead to more body resistance and injury. Do you like to be pushed around? Probably not. Your body is the same.

THE BREATHING DIAPHRAGM HAS THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF FASCIA

When we think of diaphragms of the body, the first one we think of, is the breathing diaphragm. The breathing diaphragm is obviously, vitally, important. It plays a crucial role as to how much oxygen reaches the millions of cells of our body. It has the highest concentration of fascia in the body. Fascia can store psychological and physical trauma which can lead to postural dysfunction, strain and pain.

THE BODY’S DIAPHRAGMS

The breathing diaphragm is just one of a series of diaphragms in our body. The one diaphragm is balanced on top of the other. The one affects the other. 

The pelvic diaphragm is positively opened when we do leg openings and than in turn had helps the breathing diaphragm to release. You will notice that your own breath, and the breathing of your students, becomes deeper as you do leg openings. In turn, the thoracic inlet softens. Necks release. The positive wave of release continues up through the crown of the head, resulting in a longer spine and a happier human.

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I remember many years ago, long before we had the knowledge of fascia that we do today, I was suffering from quite severe and debilitating back pain. In those days I had a shiatsu therapist at Illium Center. I asked her to give me a treatment. I remember I had intense pain as she applied pressure to points around my should blade. It was very painful. All of a sudden it was as if the the top of my head blew off or popped open. AND there it was, MAGIC, my back pain was gone!

LEG OPENINGS HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON SCOLIOSIS, KYPHOSIS AND BACK ACHE.

SOME EXAMPLES OF LEG OPENS IN THE PILATES TECHNIQUE AND YOGA.

(This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but just some examples.)

PILATES

Mat Work.

Spine Stretch

Saw

Open Leg Rocker.

Reformer

Second position using the full opening in the leg work series.

(See my video on You Tube.) https://youtu.be/zvWamobo9FI

Leg Openings with Assistance. (I will be releasing a new video on this shortly and teaching a special class about it.)

Leg springs. (These can also be done on the Cadillac.)

Standing Splits

Wunda Chair

Spine Stretch

Front and Side Lunges.

Baby Barrel and Spine Corrector.

Circles

Splits 

Helicopter

(This series can be done during mat work with a small soft ball under the sacrum.)

YOGA

Deep Forward Bends standing and seated.

Hanuman.

Enjoy exercising consciously. Enjoy your observations and the deep changes in your body.

Illium Center of Light

GOOD LEG ALIGNMENT IS ESSENTIAL FOR EVERYONE

Leg alignment is one of the most important things that you can learn in terms of injury prevention and in helping those who already have knee and back injuries.

Good leg alignment is essential for everyone. It is super important for dancers, athletes, those with knee problems and back problems.

 PRACTICING THE EXERCISE ALONE 

You can do this exercise by yourself with good results. It is nice to practice with a teacher or a friend. Follow the instructions as if you are both student and teacher. You will need to use your imagination (which is a powerful tool) and observe your body carefully. You will not be able to reach to touch all the places mentioned. Define your kneecap with one hand and place the other hand on your sit bone to help yourself have a sense of the architectural lines.

PRACTICING AS A TEACHER/HELPER

When teaching this, presence and a good sense of touch is essential you also need to really take as much time as it needs. This time is never wasted as the body remembers what is good for it. The next time you come back to it will be better. As you develop as a teacher or student you will get better and better at teaching this.

STARTING POSITION. 

The student sits on a mat with her back supported on a cushion placed against a wall. Her knees are bent, the heels in a straight line with the sit bones. 

☆ Sit directly in front of your student with your legs comfortably open. (You may need to move back as the exercise progresses.) Explain to the client that you will be working on aligning the bones. The flesh, the muscles and the fascia need to be as relaxed as possible in order for them to follow the new alignment of the bones. They should feel like a bone person. Tell them to imagine three straight lines of energy.

THREE LINES OF ENERGY

  1. THE FIRST LINE CONNECTS THE SIT BONE TO THE HEEL I imagine a string that connects the sit bone to the heel.
  1. THE SECOND STRAIGHT LINE IS DRAWN BETWEEN THE CENTER OF THE KNEECAP AND THE SPACE BETWEEN THE BIG TOE AND THE SECOND TOE. Be very careful that you define the actual kneecap (patella) and find the center of it. You need to let the leg slide down on some people to find it. Do not look at the general shape of the knee. Work only with the bones. If there is miss-alignment some muscles may be overdeveloped. 
  1. THE THIRD LINE IS AN IMAGINED PLUMB LINE THAT BEGINS ABOVE THE KNEE, RUNS THROUGH THE CENTER OF THE KNEE TO THE GROUND (TO GRAVITY).  Imagine there it like a string with a weight at the end. The client will slowly straighten the leg keeping this image in mind.

The teacher/helper holds (and therefore defines) the kneecap between the thumb and the second finger of one hand and keeps the heel in alignment with the other. Be careful that your touch is firm but not harsh.

Ask the student to begin sliding her foot along the mat moving towards straightening the leg. Both of you make sure that the architectural lines are adhered to.

The client leaves the weight of the heel well into the floor (without pushing). This helps her to keep the hip joint soft and relaxed. The toes are relaxed.

FOCUS AND BREATH

Problems with miss alignment usually occur about half way down. The second there starts to be a miss alignment stop. Ask your client to close her eyes and to focus gently and non-judgmentally into her own body and notice where she might have tension, holding or even pain. Once she identifies this area ask her to keep her focus there. Remind her that energy follows thought. Just by focusing 100% on an area of her body in a loving non-judgmental way she has already started a process of change, of healing. Tell her to take a deep breath in and as she breaths out to soften in that specific area. Take your time. The process may take two or three breaths or there may be more than one area of tension. ONLY when you have both completed this process start continuing the exercise. It may be that you must stop more than once before the leg is finally straight.

Another moment in time, which is very important in this process, is just before the knee finally straightens. Many people grip the knee as they do this. In order to prevent this happening ask your client to imagine the floor coming up to the knee rather than thinking of the knee straightening. This often helps to avoid old patterns.

DEFINING THE SHIN BONE

Now that the leg is straight, define the shinbone both for yourself and your client by, starting at the top of the shinbone and gently walking your fingers down the length of it. Noticing where the top of the shin bone is in relation to the Patella will give you an idea as to whether the connecting ligament is misaligned and therefore under strain.

Ask the client to lengthen the shinbone. You can do this by initially defining a small distance between two of your fingers on the upper surface of the bone. Make sure that you are touching gently but the client can feel your fingers. 

One finger will always be at the head of the shinbone the other further down. It is possible to feel if the client is lengthening the bone or not. Increase the distance until you are accessing the whole length of the shinbone. Continue the process of lengthening by placing the fingers at the point between the end of the first and second toe and getting the client to lengthen towards your finger. Keep microscopically moving your fingers away all the time encouraging the client to lengthen.

LIFTING THE LEG WITHOUT GRIPPING

When you are satisfied that the lengthening is enough for this moment in time ask the client to continue the lengthening process. Define a spot on the thigh bone one third down from the highest point ask the client to send that point straight down to the mat. The lines of energy should be exact and specific.

Continue the process of lengthening (place your finger once again at the point between the big toe and second toe) until the leg lifts. The minute you might feel that the client shortens the leg in an effort to lift make her stop and start again changing the habit of shortening and griping the muscles to lift.

TURNING OUT THE ALIGNED LEG

Once you have achieved this either with the leg in the air or on the mat continue the process of lengthening and get the client to rotate ONLY IN THE HIP JOINT. 

EXPLORATION

I love  the Anatomy Coloring Book. Colour the page or pages of the bones of the leg and put it up somewhere that you can see it often.

Practice the leg alignment exercise alone or with help make a note in your journal how these exercises help you personally.

OBSERVE HOW THE PLACEMENT OF THE FEET AFFECTS LEG ALIGNMENT AND HOW LEG ALIGNMENT AFFECTS THE BACK.

Continue to observe how people use their feet but now also the alignment of the whole leg especially the relationship of the foot and the knee.

Notice if people with back problems or knee problems have good leg alignment or not. 

Make notes on what improves in your own exercise with better leg alignment.

My deepest thanks and gratitude to the late Don Farnworth , a wonderful ballet teacher and Reiki master who passed on this very essential work to me.

Copyright Jenny Colebourne.

Illium Center of Light

Jerome Andrews’ Pilates. THE FIRST SPINAL SUCCESSION.

PILATES USED FOUR POSITIONS OF THE SPINE

Jerome Andrews’ explained that Joseph Pilates referred to four positions of the spine.
The first position of the spine was a rounded back, or what is sometimes referred to as the “C” curve.
The easiest way to explore the first position of the spine is on all fours. it is important that the thigh bone and the arm bones are perpendicular to the floor. Imagine that you have roots extending from the knees going deep into the earth. The knees are in a straight line with the hip joints. The arms are straight. It is important that we avoid hyper extending or tensing the elbows. The palm of the hand is fully in touch with the floor and the fingers are are spread wide. The middle finger points directly forward. Make sure the whole length of the finger is in touch with the floor, especially the roots of the fingers. Making sure that we distribute the weight of the body through the whole hand out into the fingertips helps us to avoid pressure or tension in the wrists. Imagine that you have roots extending from the palms deep into the earth and that he wrist is directly in a line with the shoulder joints.

CONCENTRATION AND ACCURACY IS IMPORTANT

The palms of the hands and the knees are sites of support. Accuracy is important. If we have our knee, for example, just 1 cm more back of the hip joint, we will not have the as much support and as a result our attempts to articulate the spine will be less effective. We allow gravity to affect our sites of support because the more we feel our roots the more easy the exercise will be and the more subtle our movements can be.

The spine is in second position (straight and parallel to the floor) to start.

The student focuses on moving from the bones of the body, the skeleton, and leaves the muscles and fascia relaxed so that they follow the direction of the bones.

First spinal succession can start either at the top or the bottom of the spine depending on what is more appropriate for the movement.

The focus is extremely specific. The student concentrates on accessing the back edge of the spine, when moving into the first spinal succession . The spinal processes form the back edge of the spine and have a completely different quality to the front part of the spine. Let us say that the student is starting the movement from the tip of the coccyx. The student focuses on the back edge of each vertebra, moving one vertebra at a time into the rounded position. It is important to truly follow the spine one vertebra at a time, paying attention to each one until you reach the very last vertebra in the neck which is just behind the nose.

 It is important not to skip over a vertebra that might be a little more difficult to move individually. Those vertebrae are often the more important ones that we need to mobilise! When we are exploring and being curious about this process we can spend more time with a “stubborn” vertebra, soften and relax around it, and with our out breath achieve a movement.

MOVE THE SPINOUS PROCESSES ONE BY ONE.

You can think about the spinous processes like they are the quills of a porcupine that pop out of the skin one by one. An image that worked for me was to think about how a mother cat picks up her kittens. It is as if you delicately lift up the vertebra and it pops out of the skin.

It is important not to grip around any area of the spine. In order to mobilise the coccyx and the sacrum (the tail) the back of the pelvis needs to be soft and it is very important to avoid tension in the hip joints.

When we move into the neck area the shoulders need to be completely relaxed.

To achieve full articulation make sure the front of the body is totally relaxed. Soften the last rib and allow the breast bone to move gently inwards.

There is no need to think of engaging the pelvic floor or pulling the abdomen in. If we can articulate the spine our pelvic floor muscle will engage just enough and we will access the deep abdominals. This happens in a much more essential way, if we truly move from the bones of the spine, and allow the muscles and fascia to follow.

USE YOUR BREATH.

Use as many breaths as you need. Take as much time as you need to explore and be curious about this process. The body remembers deep work and will reward you. Just use your out breath to relax any holding patterns or pain.

Being able to move the spine bone by bone with such sensitivity is healing. It will relieve pain and sites of tension. As we learn to apply the spinal succession to all forms of movement and even advanced exercises we will never injure ourselves.

It is a process which is good for everyone.

Copyright: Jenny Colebourne

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