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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tip of the Week: The Pilates Roll Up

The Pilates Roll Up is designed to engage your entire body and usually is performed near the beginning of any Pilates mat class. It strengthens your entire Powerhouse (trunk, from your shoulders to your hips) while increasing the flexibility of your spine and lengthening your legs. Perfecting the Pilates Roll-Up and performing it mindfully, with breath, can inform how well you manage every other Pilates move. Let's break it down:
START by lying on your back with your arms and legs stretched in opposite directions, toes pointed.

INHALE and bring your straight arms over your shoulders (hands to ceiling) until they are perpendicular to the floor, flex your feet.

Lift your head off the mat, bring your chin to your chest and EXHALE as you roll your spine up and off the mat, one vertebra at a time. Keep pulling in your powerhouse as you continue your Roll Up, with the eventual goal of placing your forehead on your legs and your hands on either side of your heels.
Continue pulling in your navel as you REVERSE the exercise. Point your toes as you INHALE and roll down, one vertebra at a time.
Begin to EXHALE when you are about halfway down. As you finish exhaling and rolling down, your arms extend overhead.
The Roll-Up is usually repeated five to eight times in sequence.
Additional Tips: Keep your legs together, thigh on the mat, as you roll up with control. This is a "sit up" without momentum. It helps to think of lifting through your neck and chest (as if you had a helium balloon lifting your sternum) as you peel your spine off the mat. You are welcome to bring ankle weights to class as these can help keep your heels on the floor.
Modification: If you have a hard time keeping the momentum out of The Roll Up, try it with bent knees, feet flat on the floor at hip distance apart. Sit tall and roll your spine down as far as you can control. You can walk your hands up and down your legs as you lower and lift your spine, progressively increasing your range of motion. 
I hope you'll join in one of the new Hot Pilates Express classes (M,W,F at 11:45 am, M, W 8:15 PM) to learn more about and perfect your Roll Up! Following class on Wednesday, June 21, I'll offer a 20-minute workshop on The Roll Up for those who'd like to know more -- we'll work with some props and fundamentals that can make your Roll Up experience more successful. See you then!

By Susan Rickman, Certified Pilates Instructor. Susan teaches the Monday and Wednesday 11:45 am and Wednesday 8:15 pm classes each week.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Tip of the Week: You Don't Have to Be Flexible to Do Yoga

                                                   Peter Cade/The Image Bank/Getty Images

It's a common misconception that you need to be flexible to do yoga. It's not hard to see how this myth came to be, especially in the Instagram age. Almost every picture that you see in a magazine or on social media of someone doing a yoga pose shows off amazing flexibility. But putting your foot behind your head or doubling your body over in a backbend are really not the norms for your average yogi.

Some People Are Naturally More Flexible, But it Can Also Be Developed

Some people are naturally more flexible than others. Some people work really hard at their asana practice and over time became very flexible. Some people were committed dancers or gymnasts as kids or young adults and are using that training to present a very acrobatic style of yoga. None of these scenarios apply to the majority of people in a typical yoga class.

If you've been putting off trying yoga or felt intimidated to go to a class because you "can't even touch your toes," please stop. Don't avoid yoga because you think you aren't flexible enough to do the poses you've seen in magazines. In fact, if you have tight muscles, yoga is just the thing you need to do to loosen them up. It's about a lot more than looking good in a difficult pose. Tightness can lead to back pain and a host of other mobility issues, especially as you age.

Stretching regularly and working more deeply into areas of tightness as they open up is the way to address the problem. This also applies to people who are in great shape in terms of strength and endurance. Improving flexibility is often the missing link and the key to avoiding injury and staying active.

Consistent Yoga Practice Will Increase Your Flexibility

You still may not be able to do the versions of the poses that end up on inspiration boards on Pinterest, but you will be amazed at what you can do with a consistent yoga practice.
The point of yoga is not to show off how flexible you are, but rather to become more flexible over time while enjoying yoga's other health benefits, like improved strength and reduced stress. Yoga is not like gymnastics, in which the most flexible person gets a medal. It is a personal practice, infinitely adaptable to fit each individual needs. It's non-competitive, which means not comparing yourself to the person on the mat next to you or to some earlier version of yourself. This acceptance of the primacy of the present moment is a big challenge for many people but ultimately one of yoga's biggest lessons. And, like touching your toes, it gets easier over time with regular practice.

Step into any beginning level class and you will see lots of students just like you.

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