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Jenny

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Illium Center of Light

I LOVE “THE CRAB” BECAUSE………..

REFINED PILATES “THE CRAB”

MY ORIGINAL SOURCES.

America and, most importantly, I learnt a lot of the fine details from Jerome Andrews.

RECOMMENDED.

This exercise is good everyone.

PREGNANCY 🙂

Pregnant women who are well exercised can do this exercise until the belly is too big.

LEVEL.

Advanced.

REPETITIONS.

 3 – 5.

NOTES.

This exercise is performed  in smooth, continuous way. It may be too extreme for those with knee problems. I love this exercise. It is one of my favourites! I love the fact that the whole spine is stimulated. Touching the crown of the head down has a knock on effect throughout all the body’s diaphragms. Keep as round a shape as possible, like a continuous circle and as close a shape as possible.

Themis Andreoulaki. Dancer and Graduate of Refined Pilates Teacher Training.

STARTING POSITION.


Sit in a crossed leg position. In yoga this is sometimes referred to as “Easy Pose”. Take a hold of the big toe by sliding your second and third fingers in between the first and second toes, right down to the root. Bend the fingers around the big toe so that they are holding firmly and are curled towards and meet the thumbs. This encourages the opening of the space between the first and second metatarsal where there are nerve endings that ultimately connect to the sciatic nerve. This is, by itself, therapeutic for the back.

Mostly I see it taught with the right hand holding the left foot and the left the right. The arms are not crossed and the elbows are gently open.

Jerome Andrews taught us to have the arms crossed. This deepens the curl of the upper back even more. You do have to be careful not to lift the shoulders. In a very deep 1st position of the spine or “C” curve, place the crown of the head on the floor in front of you.

BREATHE IN


Feel as though the crown of the head has roots and maintain a feeling of it being pulled down into the earth. At the same time, feel as though the tail bone is being pulled down into the earth in the opposite direction. Think of your tail as being like a sensitive feeler. The front of the body is very soft. Begin sending your awareness along the spinous processes at the back of the spine. Think of each one as being sensitive alive, fluid and sensing. Start at the end of the spine and move up vertebra by vertebra until you arrive at the top vertebra which is behind your nose. Move up in your awareness two steps more, to the centre of the brain and then to the crown of the head ( the part which was soft when you were a baby) which is touching the floor. Allow the curve of the back to deepen. The opening in the back of the lungs on the in breath encourages a even deeper curve.

See my blog on the “First Spinal Succession” http://jennycolebourne.com/jerome-andrews-pilates-the-first-spinal-succession/

BREATHE OUT


Continue to have the feeling that the crown of the head to pulled down to gravity, to the earth. Begin, at the same time focusing in the very tip of the base of the spine (remember it is sensory) and let it travel towards the floor. This may seem like a long journey to you! Don’t be temped to hurry. It is worth the wait. Very simply the energy of the tip of the tail surrendering to gravity is so great it rolls you back vertebra by vertebra, traveling along and sensing the spinous processes. You will feel a powerful opening, energising and sensitising of the spine. If you have a tendency to be stiff in the lower back and you are careful to take this two way energy as far as you can you will be rewarded with a good opening there. It is vitally important for any tension in the hip joints to be absent. Roll all the way back onto the back of your neck. The knees come to the floor. The feet stay close to the buttocks.

BREATHE IN

Stay up in the stretch and lightly change the legs. This movement is like quick silver and tests if you are relaxed in the hip joints.

BREATH OUT

Roll starting back from the the very first vertebra of the cervical spine. This time feel as though you do not wish the knees to leave the floor to increase the stretch. Roll back vertebra by vertebra, spinous process by spinous process, until crown of the head touches the floor.

©Jenny Colebourne.

Illium Center of Light

A FASCIA RELEASE DIAPHRAGM EXERCISE.

FASCIA RELEASE DIAPHRAGM EXERCISE.

The diaphragm has the largest concentration of fascia in the body. Releasing the natural movement of the diaphragm allows us to breath deeply and easily, with the many positive consequences that breathing well brings. Breathing is a natural massage and stimulation for all the organs of the body. 

Releasing the full movement of the diaphragm is good for all of us, but it can dramatically change, for the better, conditions such as kyphosis, scoliosis and  common neck and upper back tension.

RECOMMENDED.

This exercise is really important for everyone and highly recommended for those who have a problem breathing deeply, kyphosis, scoliosis and neck and upper back tension.

I have noticed that many people have not had the experience of how the body feels, internally, as they breath. This exercise helps them to become aware of the action of the diaphragm and to be more in touch with the internal mechanism of breathing. I find people breath much more effortlessly once they understand this missing piece of the puzzle.

REPETITIONS.

1 set.

STARTING POSITION

Themis Andreoulaki. Dancer and Refined Pilates Teacher. Graduate of my Refined Pilates Teacher Training.

Lie on your back with the knees bent and hip width apart. The leg alignment is really important throughout this exercise. Please refer to my previous blog on leg alignment. http://jennycolebourne.com/good-leg-alignment-is-essential-for-everyone/

Bring the arms above the head and bend the elbows. The right middle finger accesses the fascia through the skin just below the left elbow. The left middle finger touches the skin just below the right elbow. The arms are on the floor. Remember to really surrender the weight of the upper back into the floor. It helps to imagine you are floating on your back in the sea or falling backward onto a comfortable feather bed. Imagination is powerful ia a powerful tool. Use it.

PART 1

BREATHE IN

BREATHE OUT

Keeping the left hip still, it is your anchor, lengthen, or stretch, between the left hip and the left elbow. We need to be gentle if we wish the body to respond. The reason why the middle finger is used is to access the fascia The amount of pressure we use is about the weight of a leaf falling to the earth. No more. Ask yourself if you respond well if someone pushes you! It’s the same with your body, it doesn’t like you to push it around.  Use enough pressure so the body will cooperate you, otherwise it’s resistance kicks in. 

Be careful that you do not go into a side bend. You maintain your sense of axis. It is as if you wish to un-stick your last rib.

STRETCHING EFFECTIVELY.

When we want to stretch an area of the body there is a still and stable point. In this case it is the hip joint. Then there is a post that we pull from. In the exercise this is the middle finger accessing the skin below the elbow. Whatever is in between, muscle tissue, bone is as relaxed and passive as possible AND surrendered to gravity. We allow an opening a stretch to happen and each time we repeat it it will be different because the body has already opened up.

Repeat on the other side.

Repeat the whole thing 3-5 times.

PART 2

Flex the left foot. 

BREATH OUT

Slide the heel down so that the leg straightens. Make sure that you keep strictly to the leg alignment. Continue to surrender the weight of the back body to gravity. You should feel a gentle pleasurable “opening” in the Psoas and the front of the hip and thigh.

Leave the left leg straight and stretch the right leg down in the same way.

PART 3

Stay in this position with the arms above the head and the legs straight down.

Take a deep breath in, filling the back of the lungs. The breath should be full but without strain. As you breath in visualize the diaphragm traveling down towards the pelvic floor like a lift in a lift shaft. It does not go front or back, neither does it go side to side, it just travels straight down. Remember the diaphragm is centered in the body at the level of the base of the rib cage.

On the out breath, which is long, slow and complete simply stretch the head up in one direction. You can imagine a golden thread extending from the crown of the head and being pulled back. Imagine the three points of the heels being pulled down in the opposite direction.

Repeat 3-5 times.

Relax the arms down, beside you, allowing the palms of the hands to go towards the ceiling and notice how you feel.

NOTE

Try doing the abdominal exercises after the diaphragm exercise. I think you will find them more effective.

Illium Center of Light

MY PERSONAL HISTORY WITH THE ARMCHAIR

I first was introduced to the Armchair as a dance student, in the basement Pilates studio at The Place in London. The home of the London School of Contemporary Dance.

I was sent down, by Jane Dudley, to study Pilates, after injuring my back. The studio became a safe haven. A quiet, friendly place, run by Alan Herdman who was assisted by Frances Rider. I was lucky to be able to attend classes every day and to observe and help (eventually) initially in exchange for cleaning the studio. I wasn’t very good at cleaning so very quickly the arrangement was changed to, classes in exchange for assisting. It was very competitive at the school and naturally as young dancers we were very concerned about honing our technique.

I remember my first impressions when I first walked into the studio. I was taken aback. It was not at all what I expected. The equipment, especially the Cadillac, looked like torture instruments. I was very shy, but Alan was charming, with a wonderful sense of humour, and I felt welcome. 

Talking of Alan’s sense of humour. I remember him teaching me how to teach the supported Jackknife on the Reformer. He was the student! I remember that he made so many deliberate mistakes (many I had already witnessed) and that we ended collapsed on the floor in fits of laughter. Thank you Alan. You were amazing, and so kind.

The Arm Chair was on one side in the studio and I remember teaching the non dancers the exercises. I did them too but without thinking about them too much.

Fast forward to when I had my own studio in Athens, Greece. Frances (yes the same Frances Rider) was in and practicing on my Armchair. She said “Oh these exercises are so wonderful.” 

Inside myself, I thought, “Really?”. I taught them, often, and I knew they were good for strengthening the upper back and the arms, for scoliosis, for kyphosis, for people with neck problems but they did not excite me.

I reckon it took my 10 years to fully appreciate these exercises. 10 years to realise how the slope backwards helps you to really connect with the muscles in the upper back. 10 years to realise how to use the support of the springs to free the true length of the arms. And even later how much the breath can be utilised. Finally I understood Frances’ comment. I am so happy. Now I LOVE my Armchair.

In 2013 I had to have a mastectomy, due to breast cancer. This resulted in my left shoulder being stiffer. Afterwards 2 years of treatments, I had plastic surgery which involved removing part of my back muscle on the left. I am very happy and grateful that I had the surgery. It had a positive psychological effect. It did leave a physical imbalance. My left shoulder is stiffer and it it is harder for me to raise my left arm. I take anti cancer medication which causes weight gain and, in my case, numbness, stiffness and has negatively affected my joints. Of course this had a knock on effect and my neck gets stiff and, sometimes, painful especially as with the pandemic I spend much more time at the computer!

I am not telling you all these things to make you unhappy or to complain, but to tell you Pilates has helped me generally with these challenges. I can say with confidence I do feel better after exercising.

The exercises on “The Armchair” afford me the support from the springs that aid me in increasing my range of shoulder and arm movement. The design of the chair with it’s backward slope helps me get more in touch with my back body, the back of the lungs and breath as support for the arms, as well as the shoulder blades.

I can no longer do the exercises perfectly, but that is not the point. The point is to go through the process, in a relaxed way, focusing on the details of how you do the movement and utilise the support. Each repetition will be and should be different, and it will be better than the one before. The body opens up, becomes pain free and moves with ease.

This is true for me just as it is true for those who have greater physical challenges than me as well as those who rely on there bodies being very finely tuned, dancers, athletes…..“The Armchair” exercises are good for all of us. They really help people that have scoliosis and kyphosis.

I will be sharing some of the details of how to get the most out of these exercises in future, blogs, posts and videos.

Have a look at this video https://youtu.be/ckaX_3X6oco

Enjoy “The Armchair.”

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.

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