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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.

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.

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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