Exercise of the Week: The Pilates Mermaid

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I have always had an obsession with Mermaids, ever since I was a kid. I decided to celebrate the one year anniversary of the studio being open by redesigning my logo. I wanted to use the Mermaid a year ago, when I opened, but went in a different direction.

As I was redesigning the logo, I thought about the Pilates Mermaid. This is one of the few classic Pilates exercises that is actually done on all of the apparatus: the Reformer, Tower/Cadillac, Wunda Chair and the mat.

The Pilates Mermaid has many benefits including being a delicious stretch for the side body. Enjoy the video below on the Pilates Mermaid! Bust out your mat and give it a go!

 

Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week – Shoulder Bridge

 

This weeks “Pilates Exercise of the Week” is The Shoulder Bridge. This is an amazing strengthening and stretching exercise for the whole body. It challenges the abdominals and the hamstrings to work together to keep the pelvis stable. The exercise works to strengthen the back of the body including the glutes, hamstrings and back while also giving a nice stretch and openness to the front of the body.

In this exercise really be mindful about keeping the knees in line with the shoulders and the pelvis still. Focus on the articulation of the spine as you roll up and down through the exercise. I like do the first Shoulder Bridge variation at the start of my practice to help warm up the spine and back and then later in the order I will do the Intermediate Shoulder Bridge version where you add the kicks of the legs (as seen as the end of the video).

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Shoulder Bridge

Goal of the Exercise:

The Shoulder Bridge works posterior muscles to maintain the lift of the hip, as well as focuses on spinal articulation.

Benefits:

  • works articulation of the spine
  • strengthens glutes and hamstrings
  • stretches front of body including hips

 

Execution:

  • Lie on back with feet flat on the floor and knees bent
  • Place hands by the side and firmly press palms and forearm into the floor
    Keep the knees, feet and legs parallel and in line with the hips and shoulders
  • Inhale as you lift up the hips, then the lower back, middle back lifting up into a straight line from the knees to the shoulders
  • Focus on lifting up through the spine bone by bone, focusing on the articulation of the spine. Keep the sides of the body long and work to create length in the spine.
  • Exhale as you roll down the spine, again focusing on the articulation of the spine
  • Watch that your knees don’t turn in or out as you roll. If you see this happening place a yoga block or small ball between the thighs/knees to maintain the leg alignment
  • 5 Reps

Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week: Criss Cross

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Criss Cross

Goal of the Exercise:

Criss Cross is the final exercise in what is known as the “Abdominal Five” Series or what I call the “Fab Five”. Criss Cross is more popularly known in the fitness world as “bicycles”. It’s main focus is on proper twisting of the trunk of the body using the Powerhouse and specifically working the obliques.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the abdominals specifically the obliques
  • Challenges and works rotation of the spine.
  • Develops pelvic stability

Execution:

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest
  • Curl your head and shoulders off of the mat and bring your chin to your chest
  • Place your hands behind your head, letting your hands support your head. Use your abdominal strength to keep the head and shoulders lifted not by pulling forward with the hands.
  • Inhale as you bring your right knee into your chest and extend your left leg out at eye level, similar to Single Leg Stretch.
  • Exhale and twist the upper body to the right, bringing your left shoulder towards your right knee.
  • Inhale through center as you switch the legs and exhale twist towards the left bringing the right shoulder towards the left knee..
  • Stay high and lifted through the center as you switch from side to side, keeping both shoulders off the mat.
  • Keep the legs hugging into the centerline of your body as you reach the legs long away from you.
  • Maintain the hips anchored to the mat as you twist the ribs from side to side and work the powerhouse.
  • 6  –  8 Reps each side

Modifications:

  • For lower back sensitivity, keep low back connected to the mat and aim legs higher towards ceiling instead of out at eye level.
  • Legs can also be bent with feet flat on the floor and work the abdominal curl and twist by bringing the elbows toward the bent knees.
  • For neck issues you can rest the head down from side to side. Inhale to prepare, exhale curl up and over. Lay the head back down and then move on to the other side.

Worcester Pilates: Pilates Exercise of the Week – The Hundred

 

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The Pilates Exercise, The Hundred. Extra puppy weight optional

If you have ever taken a Pilates class, most likely you have done The Hundred, and like most people you probably have a love/hate relationship with this exercise. The Hundred is the first exercise in the Classical Pilates repertoire and is a great abdominal exercise that warms up the body and prepares it to perform the rest of the exercises in the mat repertoire.

Benefits:

  • Challenges Core Strength and Stability
  • Targets and Strengthens Spinal Flexors
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Centers the mind and body
  • Connects to the Powerhouse

How To Do:

  • Lay on your mat in a supine position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Bring your knees into your chest and lift your head, looking into your abdominals
  • Stretch your hands and arms along your side, with palms down and hands a few inches above your abs.
  • Pull your belly button down into your spine, engaging your abdominals
  • Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts, while pumping your arms 6-8 inches. That’s one full breath or 10 pumps. Do ten reps to finish for the full Hundred
  • To advance this and challenge your core more you can extend the legs straight up to the ceiling, or out to a 45 degree angle, or as low as you can hold the legs without the back arching.

Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week: The Teaser

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Pilates Teaser

Introduction to the Pilates Teaser:

The Pilates exercise known as the Teaser is the shining star of the Pilates series of exercises. The Teaser is one of the definitive Pilates exercises and utilizes all of the Pilates principles: Breathing, Centering, Control, Concentration, Precision and Flow.

It requires a strong and deep connection to the powerhouse (core) to move into and stabilize the position. Utilizing a few of the previous mat exercises such as Roll up and Open Leg Rocker as far as how the body moves from the centerline, and alignment helps to successfully perform Teaser. The goal of the Teaser is to use your core, hip flexors, and spinal flexors to come up into the position as you balance on or just behind the sit bones.

The Teaser is one of the few exercises that we see everywhere in the method: on the mat, Reformer, Tower/Cadillac and the Wunda Chair

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Pilates Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Objectives and Benefits of the Pilates Teaser:

  • Strengthen abdominal and back extensors
  • Develop balance
  • Engages and strengthens the hip flexors
  • Stretches hamstrings
  • Lengthens spine
  • Works the obliques more than traditional crunches
  • Improves spinal articulation and strength

 

Muscles Used in the Pilates Teaser:

  • Abdominal muscles including Transverse Abdominus, external and internal obliques
  • Back extensors
  • Hip flexors including the illoposas
  • Hip adductors

 

How to Execute the Pilates Teaser:

  • Lie in a supine position with your legs extended to a 45 degree angle
  • Bring the arms overhead, being mindful to not let the low back arch away from the floor/mat
  • Anchor your back into the mat and engage the abdominals by scooping them up and in
  • Inhale and roll up bone by bone, reaching towards your toes and keeping your arms parallel to your legs
  • Use the abdominals to roll up and do not use momentum or come up by throwing yourself up
  • Balance as you reach towards the toes
  • Roll back down bone by bone with control, keeping the legs still as you roll down.

 

Tips on the Pilates Teaser:

People often struggle with the Teaser not because of core strength, but because of poor hip strength/flexibility or tightness in the back and hamstrings. As you work up towards the Teaser, the goal is to start with and keep the legs in one position (typically out at a 45 degree angles as seen in the picture above) as you articulate up and down through the spine. Having tightness in the hamstrings or hips makes it hard to maintain the position of the leg. You can work up towards this by keeping the legs in a position you can hold, or start with a slightly bent knee.

There are many variations of Teaser that you can try. Start with One Leg Teaser (also known as Teaser Prep) as a modification until you feel strong and flexible enough to move into Teaser 1 (or Full Teaser).

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Worcester Pilates is boutique Pilates Studio in Worcester, MA offering Pilates training and classes.