Class #1923

Stretching your Spine

35 min - Class


Joseph Pilates said, "If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young." Anthony Lett shares movements to keep you young by increasing the range of movement in your spine. You will work on flexion, extension, rotation and side-bending in this Reformer Stretch class.
What You'll Need: Reformer (No Box), Knee Pad

About This Video


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Welcome everybody. We're going to do a class now called, well, we're going to actually focus on the movements of the spine. So we're going to move our spine in flection, which is forward bending extension or back-bending rotation and side bending. So all the ranges of movement of the spine, um, Joseph politeness, one of his well-known quotes is if your spine is stiff at 30, you are old. If it's flexible at 60, you are young. And I think it's pretty important. We all acknowledged that the spine is mobile and flexible.

So we're going to do some work on that today. I'm Amy. Sorry Emily and Meredith. I think for this first one we might use a red spring and this is like a variation of the down stretch. Okay. Maybe I'll, I'll, um, demonstrate it to you first. And then it's a little similar to the down stretch and it's also a bit similar to the Cobra pose in Yoga.

So I'll demonstrate it and then I'll talk you through it. Okay. So we're gonna start off here with the knees on the knees. If you want to, we can use a bit more padding. We're going to push the carriage out. So push the knees back and then see if you can align the knee, the hip and the shoulder. So this is going to be our starting position. And then as we bring the carriage in, we're going to try and relax everything and let our hips sink down towards the springs this way. Okay. So you'll see that that's mostly my lower back that's going into an extended position. Okay.

And the muscles that we're stretching are mostly at the front, so our abdominal muscles and so on. So that's what it looks like. Um, if you hop up and then I'll talk you through it. Okay, maybe I'll come around here so I'm not in the way. So tell me if the springs are too, too strong. Let's push the knees out. Lower the hips. Let's just hold it there. So if you're doing this at home, you're trying to line up shoulder, hip ne, and just bear in mind, not everybody who's got, not everyone's lower back with like this.

So if it's really uncomfortable for you, I'd suggest that you stop. So bring the carriage in. And it's very slowly when your shoulder is almost directly above your hand, let your hips relax and dropped down. There are various ways of teaching this. Let's try today to do it with the least amount of muscle tension as possible.

So because we're just emphasizing stretching the abdominals and art in the lower back. So relax your bottom and just shift your hips a bit from side to side, just to help relax the bottom and the lower back muscles. Good. And then just just hold yourself in the middle again. Now if you want, or you can also let your shoulders come up a bit and just sink down a little further. Is that okay?

Let's try some deep breaths in. See if you can expand your belly and because you two are so strong in the abdominals, you probably feel some abdominal, particularly the lower reps stretch there. You feeling that? Good? So let's do three or four more breaths. Try and be conscious of your glute muscles or your bottom muscles that you don't change them up. Keep them relaxed going at we're gonna, we're just gonna give our low back a bit of a wrist. So let's try this.

Just tighten your bottom and slowly lift your hips back slightly back up. Just back up to a stripe plank. Yeah. So just today. Yep. Slowly push out all that. There was this whole that from moment because what you find in this position is that you're doing quite a bit of work.

You're working on all the muscles of the Scapula, the chest, the arms, the abdominals, the hips. So that's more of a strength part of the exercise. Now as we bring the carriage in, let's bring any in again. So yeah, bring it in so the shoulders are almost over the hands and then slowly let the hips drop. Relax your bottom. Good.

Now before we let the shoulders move, let's try adding a bit of a stretch for the front of the neck. So as long as you're comfortable with this, just slowly tilt your head backwards and you might start to feel a stretch down through here. Are you getting there? [inaudible] yeah. Now, let's try just tilting your head a bit towards one side, so keep it back and then just turn it slightly to one side. And that why you feel the stretch through some of these muscle fear. The skyline muscles, let's very slowly go to the other side.

Oh, eyes move very slowly during these changes from one position to the next. So you can play around with it, mate. You've got your head back, you've got your face turned slightly to one side. And in that position you can play around with it a bit. As long as you do it slowly, there's lots of muscles in and not all of them may be tight. So you've got to try and find that tight position.

Let's come back to the middle. Let the shoulders relax. Now just slowly move the carriage out. Just a tiny bit. Just an inch, not so much, because you'll find that as you move out, if you think about a plumb line, it's going gonna move depending on where you are. So if you move out, the stretch might move a little. Yeah, come back in a little. Now exaggerate that breathing. And then slowly without moving the carers, just lift your hips back up.

Tighten the glutes. Just back up to there, Emily. Yeah, pull that abdominal muscles in. Yeah. Now let's bring your hips back this way. Bring in a forward and sit back on your heels. And let's just go into that relaxed pose for a minute. So if you can, if you can, put your feet through the shoulder rest, sit back onto them. Let your arms hang by your sides for moment.

Just hold there for four or five breaths. Remember, it wasn't just muscles that we were stretching or was the spine and the discs of your spine as well. So they need time to settle back in and get comfortable. Okay. So when you're ready, just use your arms to lift yourself up out of it. Good. Are you both okay? Yep. All right, so that was a stretch mostly for the lower back. Well actually for the lower abdominals, but allow a back extension.

Now we're going to do an upper back extension. I'll just get you to put the bar back up to here too. So let's all, I might just top on there for a minute, Meredith and I'll demonstrate. So this time we're going to have, let's put on the three red springs because essentially we just want to keep the carriage locked. Okay. So I'm going to put on three red springs and then I'm going to put my knees back here. My feet between the shoulder risks. So your hips are directly above your knees. Okay.

Put your arms onto the bar and lower your chest. Okay. This way if you find that that's difficult on your shoulders, cause some people will feel impingement in the shoulders. Well we can do is turn the arms outwards. So externally rotate them by doing this.

Just you might like to move up a day, put your elbows on there and low itself this way. Okay. So let's go into there and then I'll talk you through the rest. When you positioning yourself, just read back enough so that your hips are above you. Nays so that you've got the maximum high up that end. Good. And then just put your arms on the bar. That's nice. Good.

And then just let your chest drop down towards the the uh, carriage. Okay. So, so it's obviously we're stretching the anterior muscles of the chest, but also we're extending the upper back. How does that feel? Good, Emily. Okay. They're good. So let's do a little contractions. I push both arms without actually lifting your chest. Just push your arms down into the bar. So one, two, three, four, five. Breathe in, relax low. You chase to be more, I can see Emily that you've externally rotated a bit more.

Is that because you are feeling it up here? You are okay with your arms straight or do you want to try the other position? You're okay. You come forward? Yep. Good. And just low. How does that feel? Yeah. Meredith's probably obviously got slightly different structured shoulder joint to yours, Emily. Now do either of you want me to push down on your bed?

Hmm. Yeah, a little. Okay. I'll just push it a little. You tell me when, remember the spine as processes of your upper back. A different in all of you too. So some of you will be able to bend Australian or arch the upper back more so than others. Is that okay? Tell me when on just applying a bit of force directly.

Damn, I'm coming over. Good. Emily, did you want me to push? You do know? Okay, I'll leave you there. Try and lower your chest a little more. That's it. Okay. So coming out of the stretch, just tighten your abdominals a little and then lift yourself up.

Go ahead, Joel does. Okay, good. So as I said, it's quite strong on the shoulders but it's a good stretch with the shoulder joint and nice to extend the upper back. Okay, let's move on to a rotation for the spine. So we were going to sit on my to sit on there again Meredith. Thanks. And I'll show you. So this one was sitting on an angle and your legs are against the bar here.

You might want to use 'em. I'll just show you so, so that your legs more comfortable. You might want to Papa Pat in there. Sit up tall. This is, this bar here is going to prevent your pelvis from moving. And then we're going to turn, put one hand here, the other one here, lift the chest and then use your arms. So this, I'm going to pull this one, push and twist our spine around this way. Okay. So let's give that a go. And then from there I'll talk you through the rest.

Do you want to come on the marriage? Good. So yeah, it doesn't matter too much, but just sit back a little bit more. That's it. So I lift the chest. Good. So I put the hand onto the bar and remember that this hand is not pulling the bar towards you. It's pulling that way. So to assist you to turn. So pull with that hand, rotate your shoulders and see if you can get the other one on the shell.

The rest could. You might need to sit back a bit more, Meredith, so that you're not having to lean. Yeah, just sit about, see one about that, but on, on more of an angle. I mean just in the middle of the character's more here. Yeah. Okay. Move. Move over there. Okay. I just want you to be able to let it touch the shoulder, wrist without leaning backward. All right. Yeah, so you want just fine, elongated and rotated. Good. So just Emily, lift the chest a bit.

That's the way and turn. Okay. Go ahead and that. Draw the shoulders back and let's try a little contraction, which is we're going to try and twist back towards the starting position on a whole g so that you don't move. Try and turn back towards the star. So one, engage the abdominal muscles. Two, three, four, five, stop in all the shoulders back, lift the chest and then turn a bit more. Good. So I can say that your pushing a bit with this hand and pulling a bit with the other one and keep the chest up.

You'll find with this stretch that because your abdominal muscles are being pulled quite strongly around the trunk, that it's a bit hard to breathe. But the more deeply that you brave, the better the stretch effect. So normally hold this for 10 to 15 breaths. Let's just rotate out of it slowly and we'll try the other side. Some of you might feel this in the oblique abdominal muscles and some of you might feel it just as a twist of the joints in the upper back.

That looks good. So Meredith, you're going to turn the other way? Yeah, that's right. So lift the chest first. Good. So think of lifting the sternum. That's nice. Keeping the lower back neutral, and then using your arms to pull you around. Good. So we want to try, if you can, just to hold those shoulder blades back.

That'll assist you to open the chest. Okay, let's try contraction. So slowly, see if you can twist back towards your starting position. You don't actually move, just make the effort of moving. Now take a breath in, lift the chest again and then see if you can rotate a bit more and it's going to help you this time. Emily. So you tell me why that's enough. Yeah, deep breaths in.

Good. I can see, I can see and feel your abdominals and your chest expanding there. So you should be getting a good stretch through the intercostal muscles as well. If you push this hand in that way, it'll assist you to turn more. Okay, good. So while you're sitting there, just make sure that your pelvis hasn't slumped backward.

Just keep it up in neutral and keep the chest high. Okay. When you're ready, just come out of the stretch slowly. Good. But I thought, okay, great. Okay. Okay. Now let's do, let's do a stretch for the left. The big muscles that run under the arms and down the spine.

I'll just demonstrate it this time. I think probably a blue spring is enough and I'll show you how to get into position. So as sitting on the side of the carriage this way, both hands here. Essentially what we're going to do is push the carriage out so that your arms are overhead like this. Then we're going to move the rib cage to one side and that'll stretch the let's running down here. So I'll show you, cause I push out like this.

Lower your chest. You can say my bottoms lifted a bit. It doesn't matter that much for this one pusha. Then lean away from the middle of the carriage seeing. I'm leaning out to the side. Okay. That'll be the first part. And then we'll go from there. Okay.

Okay. Could set both hands on the [inaudible]. Yep. Push the carriage out. Have this hand slightly more in the middle. Sorry. This one Emily? Yeah. Okay. So push out and lower your chest as much as you can. Good.

So your arms are almost or above your head. Now lean both shoulders away from the center of the carriage. So Emily, you have to go. Yeah, that's it that way. Good. Are you, are either of you feeling a stretch?

Good cause you both look quite flexible there. But if you're feeling stretch, that's good. So we'll be mostly here and down the side here you can see Emily's got quite strong. Let's say serves Meredith. So let's do a contraction. So with this arm, the one that is to the outside of the foot bar, pull this arm, pull on the bars. If you pulling the bar towards you as if you're doing a lat pull down. Okay, so one, two, three, four, five, take a breath. In as you breathe out, see if he can lean a bit more and then the hand that's on the middle of the foot pop.

Push that one into the bar. Good. And now let's try while we're there, one more variation, which is keep leaning, but say if he can raise the outside shoulder and lower the other one. Otherwise, Emily, the lift, the outside, the right one, that's it. And keep leaning out to the side. So that's it. So Lane, oh, keep leaning away, but lift this shoulder. Good. That should change the how you, how you experienced the stretch a little. Does it feel any different? [inaudible] good. I'm glad you say that shit.

Usually when you lift the shoulder, the stretch moves down here a bit more and maybe into the oblique muscles as well. Okay. Okay. Let's just slowly roll back and in. Good. And let's try the other side.

Good. If you're doing this the time you probably, I wouldn't expect you to get as far crosses as you two did. You both got a lot of good range of movement there. So push out, lower your chest and then remember you're leaning good. You both looking good, they're leaning away from the middle of the carriage and then the hand that is in the center of the foot bar, push that into the foot bar.

Good. So take some deep breaths. The more that you breathe, the deeper that you're brave. The more that you're going to expand all these muscles that run down the side of your trunk. So lets do a contraction. So I pull on the bar with the outside hand. Yep. Remember you don't need to use too much force. Just pull one, two, three, four, five. Take a breath in and then see if you can lean across a bit more.

Now let's try and lift that outside solver. Good. And when you do that, remember to to keep leaning outwards away from the center. So Meredith, stay there. I'll just correct you. You've, you're lifted this all down but now you're not leaning outwards. That's it. Good deep breathing again, Emily. Just tried pushing the carriage out a bit further and see how that feels.

You can feel free to explore these stretches. It's not always black and white as to how you feel and what's right and wrong. As long as you're getting a stretch in the general area, it'll differ for of you. Okay, let's bring the carry genes slowly. Good. All right. Let's do a side bend.

That was kind of a side bend, but let's, that was more focused on the muscles up here. This one is going to be more around the waist itself, so I'll just demonstrate to you again. Uh, I think we might use walls. We'll stay with the blue. You've got a blue there. Yeah. So to get into this stretch, push the carriage out first. Actually that won't be enough. Spring tension. Let's try a red. So what you need to do, it's very hard to get into position with the carriage here.

Move the carriage out, then you've got some space. You can straighten the legs, roll your top hip forward. So we're trying to line up your feet, your hip and knees hand. Okay. Then slowly bring the carriage in. Doesn't matter if the shoulder lifts and at some point, hopefully you'll feel a stretch down here.

Okay. We can vary it by rolling forward and back, but we'll try that once you're in position. Okay. I think for you just to read, it's just because I'm bigger. I need a bit more spring tension. Try, try a read and if it doesn't feel like the is being pulled in, then we'll have to add another spring. Yeah, you can. Let's see. Okay, so pop your hand in the middle there. Move the carriage out. Yup.

Once you've got, now you've got some space that's good. So you're aligning the feet, the hip and the hand that looks good. Now slowly bring the carriage in and then you just stop with the point where you start to feel a nice stretch. If you do, you feeling that? If you think about it, this is actually the same as the first stretch we did where we were facing this way. We just, as the carriage came in, in the first one, you are bent backwards in this one, you being bent sideways.

Now if you want to try contraction, you can just push your legs down into the carriage. So let's do that. So one, two [inaudible]. Do you understand? Yep. Three, four, five. Breathe in. Now, if you want to restrict, just bring the carriage interview. Well good. Remember to breathe deeply and you might feel the stretch right around through here. You can all this. He fought a vis. You might feel that more in the front of your abdominals. When you do that, you can roll back a little that often. Well, for me, that takes the stretch away, but you can play around with it. It depends where you tied us to.

Okay. Now you can come out of the stretch, however is comfortable. Just like you did was probably the best. Rolling the hips back. Bending the knees. Okay, so push the carriage out. Yep. Good. Now Roll. Then he'd forward. That's good. It makes all your legs straight. Good. Now bring the carriage in slowly and as your shoulder rises up and hips move in, you'll start to feel the stretch there.

Good. Sorry, you feeling it? Mostly ranting. Yeah. Good. Okay, so let's do a contraction. So I push, push your legs or your fade down, one, two, three, four, five raving, and then bring the carriage in a bit more to raise stretch. If you're not getting a stretch and the carriage is all the way in, you'll just have to watch one of my other classes. Are you both getting a stretch? Okay, Emily, let's try a bit of variation. So roll the hits for the page or back.

Keep breathing deeply. See if you can expand the the breath into the area. That's the tightest. Let's bring the carriage in. Let's just do two more stretches.

One we're going to do, which is a combination of twisting and flexing. So this one you should feel mostly between the shoulder blades. So I'll show you what it looks like. Let's have for this, let's take off all of the springs. The reason I'm taking all the springs off is that I want you to keep the carriage where it is and if it starts moving, it'll indicate that you're not leaning in the right direction. So we're going to see it again on an angle. Let's put the bar on the second.

Second one. I'm gonna sit like this on an angle. Then I'm going to roll my pelvis back like this. Then turn and hold the one arm on the side. The other one here, slum turn, lean back and then start pushing and pulling. I think we did this once before. Maroon. Okay, now you can see why I've taken the springs off cause I want you to roll back and keep the there. If it's moving that way, it means that you're leaning in the wrong direction. Okay?

Oops. Okay, that's right. So sit on the angle. Good. So slight turn and roll your pelvis back. But keep the carriage in. Good. Now lean backwards and then the arm on the side is pulling. You don't have to pull too strongly, but push strongly with the other one and lean towards the other end of the reformer. That'll be really important. Not that way. Stay there, Emily. Not to the side, but towards the back end so you can see this, your spine as processes. We want them going towards the other end. How does that feel? Nice. You don't like it, Emily?

She went. So the stretch mostly should be red here. Okay, let's just pray. We want to a contraction. Let's just brave and you can vary it or you by leaning away from the middle and maybe the other way. Just play around with it a bit. As long as you go slowly. Okay, so coming out of it. Careful.

Just relax the arms and then roll up to neutral and lift the chest. Good. That's a nice one to relieve that tension between the soul of life. Is that where you felt it? Yeah. Okay, let's try the other side. Cool.

Good. So keep the carriage in. Yeah, sit on a more of an angle. So you kind of see that corner of the carriage. You're parallel with that. Good. Roll the hips back slump. Take the head down. Remember the arm that's on the foot par. This one's pushing, the other one is pulling the one that's on the side.

And you can see here with Emily how her shoulder blade is moved right off the ribcage and these muscles running across wise like that are being stretched. Now stay there. Let's just try one more variation. Just take your chin towards your chest and then turn your ear towards that shoulder. That might stretch some of those long muscles running up here from your neck to your scapula. The main one is called the Luvata Scapula because it elevates the scapula.

Okay. When you've had enough, just bend your arms, roll back to neutral. Sit up carefully. So what we've done, just to recap, we did some lower back, straight Jean, some upper back. Then we did some, what did we do? Some rotation. We did your lats and we did some side bending, and then we did that combination at the end. So we've moved your spine around through various ranges of movement and I think that's enough. Alright. Thanks for your help.


9 people like this.
Too long in "cobra" position. Too many people have traps raising into ears, shouldn't "relax shoulders" into ears. We should be strengthening the musculature that keeps the shoulders out of the ears. The upper spine extension exercise is actually just a shoulder extension exercise. I never give negative comments, but this was too much wrong.
12 people like this.
Lisa there are many assumptions I would like to explore about your comments. Some would include which movements you allow a person to be exposed to and what principles your rules are based upon.
2 people like this.
Anthony thank you. My clients are going to really enjoy some of these "stretches"
Thank you. Glad to hear :)
2 people like this.
The reformer is a unique apparatus for stretching. Thank you for presenting your innovations.
4 people like this.
I really loved these stretches Anthony. I got a few adjustments in my craniumn and jaw after doing them! I will be very keen to participate in more of your work. You have a very calming presence which facilitates the deep release most of us require. Thank you so much.
Thanks Clare. I'm surprised to hear about your cranium but it goes to demonstrate the interconnectedness of you and your physical body.
thank you for the stretches although I agree with Lisa about the first 7 or so minutes of the class 5 of which were holding shoulders and in extension. that was an extremely long time to hold in down stretch/cobra, a lot of pressure on the lumbar spine and no cue to draw in the abdominals. I suppose this could be considered a class but thought of it more as a tutorial for stretching.
Fantastic stretchy reformer session - perfect for New Year's Day! Thank you
1 person likes this.
Delighted to hear Jennifer. Don't leave until the 1/1/16 to do it again though!
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