So, I got a special request from the Vice President of Productions at Pilates Anytime, for a basic chair class. And how could I possibly refuse that request? And that's what's happening. Basic chair class coming up. Jeff, this one's for you! So, I have a chair.
This is a Wunda Chair and I have a spring setup, one spring on the top, one on three, or zero three. And what I want us to remember when working with the chair, when working it with Pilates at all, is how can we use each exercise to bring awareness, or focus, or experience the work from the center of the body, each exercise we can experience the work from the center of the body. So, here we go. Standing in front of the chair, facing the chair, standing with your feet just parallel to one another, finding your alignment. So, what does that mean?
We've got the knees just slightly in front of the ankles, the pelvis in an upright position, just over the top of the knees. The shoulders soft, just over the top of the pelvis, the top and back of the head stacked with all those other bony structures. The arms, just at the sides of the body, not in front or behind, and elongating and reaching. As the arms are reaching down, we can feel a sense of opposition in the upper lift of the spine. So, just to start us off there's a lot of things to think about.
Let's inhale. (deep breath) And exhales, draw the chin in towards the chest and begin rolling down towards the chair. I'm just gonna let my arms hang down from my shoulder joints, head hangs down. And working, here, to stay just over the tops of my feet. As we roll down, we focus on supporting, contracting, creating a sense of lifting up through the center of the body.
Inhale. And exhale, begin to roll back up, again. So, noticing again, that the knees are just over the ankles, the pelvis tucks under, comes into an upright position, and then, the spine stacks upright over that. Inhale; two more. (deep breath) Exhale, rolling the spine down, dropping the chin towards the chest, lifting up through the center of the body, (deep breaths) rounding the spine, just allowing the body to move easily through space.
Pause to inhale, and exhale. (deep breath) Lift through the center of the body, round the lower spine, stack the pelvis just over the knees, and then, think about the individual bones of the spine, coming up one at a time until the last thing to lift is the head and the eyes. And one more. Inhale, and exhale. (deep breaths) Chin to the chest, ribs lift upper, front ribs lift up into the back ribs, we round down, think about the arms just hanging, the shoulders staying away from the ears.
Pause to inhale at the bottom. (deep breaths) And exhale to a roll back up. I'm just using this as an opportunity to connect, to bring yourself into your awareness, into your connection with your body. Step just a little forward. Bring your hands out in front of you, palms of the hands face down, inhale and exhale. (deep breath)
Now, again, chin comes into the chest and as we round down, just allow the flats of the hands the heels of your hands to find the pedal. Now, inhaling again, we'll press the pedal down towards the floor. Don't worry about how low it goes, maybe it'll go all the way down, maybe it won't. And then, push the pedal away as you curl and lift through the center of your body, so a standing pike. Inhale, top of the head reaches down, abdominals lift up, belly button presses up against the spine.
Exhale, push the pedal away, round, feel that the roundness is starting at the very base of the spine. And inhale, reach down. (clanking) And exhale, curl. (deep breath) So, maybe we'll get a stretch in the spine, maybe not, but we'll at least get some rounding. And let's do two more.
Inhale, press the pedal down. (clanking) Exhale, curl the spine up. (deep breaths) Last time, inhale, press the pedal down. (clanging) Exhale, curl up all the way. So, this time, we'll come up, we'll allow the springs to come back to the original place, and then we'll keep the pelvis right over the feet as we roll all the way up to standing.
(deep breaths) And then, from there, let's start coming down onto the mat. So, position yourself on the mat, or on the floor, in such a way that you, when the pedal is pressed down, are in a comfortable position for a pelvic curl. So, I can't tell you exactly where that is for you, I just want you to find a comfortable position for a pelvic curl. Bring the heels towards the front edge of the pedal. Press the pedal to the floor and let the feet wrap over the top in a prehensile-like shape.
Breath in. (deep breaths) Hold the pedal on the floor, flatten the lower back against the floor and begin to peel the spine up. For those of you who know me, you know that I love the fundamentals. They're my very favorite. I love to go back and work simply and on any piece of equipment, really.
Inhale and exhale. (deep breaths) It's the simplicity of movement, the simplicity of movement that is inherent in the fundamental movements of this method, where we can really dig deeply, or really look inwards. Pause and inhale at the bottom, tailbone touches the mat. Exhale, flatten the spine, (deep breaths) press down into the feet. Notice that pedal still hasn't changed, we're just holding it to the floor.
Send the knees out towards the chair, and the heels back towards the fingertips to accentuate the contraction through the back of the leg. And exhale, chest drops, (deep breaths) ribs fold, top of the head reaches back behind you, we work the space between the bottom of the ribs, work to round the space between the bottoms of the ribs and the very top of the pelvis, and drop the tailbone all the way down. For two more, inhale, (deep breaths) and exhale. Oh, don't let the pedal up, Meredith. Roll, rolling back up, that's where it's hard, is at the bottom, or as the spine moves from a neutral position into a flexed position.
Inhale to hold. (deep breaths) And to exhale, to roll the spine down, so just manipulating the spine, working the front of the body to move the back of the body through space. (deep breaths) No movement of the pedal, Meredith, this time, we keep that pedal down, drop the tailbone all the way down. Last time, inhale and exhale. (deep breaths) Lift up.
Good holding at the top, (deep breaths) inhale, standing on the right, so we're gonna lift the left leg up, and place the left leg down. Now, without any shifting in the pelvis, replace the left foot, lift the right leg, and place it down. And left the left leg. So, there's that moment of transition, where we try to really stabilize in our body as we change legs. And down. (deep breaths)
Lift, and down. (deep breaths) And lift, and down, one more. (deep breaths) Lift, and down, inhale, (deep breaths) and exhale. (deep breaths) Peeling the body down. (deep breaths) So, let the pedal come up, control.
Bring your arms up to your sides, palms face up. Lift the feet up off the pedals, knees together, feet together, spine twist supine, I want us to draw the abdominals back towards the spine as we tip the knees over to one side. Inhale, and then exhale. (deep breaths) Pull back through to center. Inhale as you lift the one side of the pelvis to keep the knees aligned and reach over to the opposite side.
And exhale to come back through center. And inhale to reach over, (deep breaths) and exhale to full center. And inhale, working in opposition all the time, stabilizing the shoulder blades, keep the shoulder blades broad, and wide, and flat. And inhaling over, and exhaling, pulling back, again, bringing your awareness all the time, into the musculature of the trunk, (deep breaths) using the rest of the body as gravitational resistance. Last time, inhaling over, (deep breaths) and exhaling back. (deep breaths)
And inhaling over, (deep breaths) and exhaling back. And then, once you get into the center, place your heels on the chair, bring your hands behind your head, press the pedal down about halfway. Take an inhale. Holding the pedal still, there, we're gonna curl the head and chest up into a chest lift. Pause and inhale.
And then, exhale, work your way back down. Again, inhale, exhale, curl the head and chest up, (deep breaths) drawing in deep, trying to keep the pedal pressed down, keep the tailbone down, and inhale, release. (deep breaths) And then, again, exhale. (deep breaths) Curl the head and chest up, the ribs slide down the front of the body, the head is heavy in the hand. Pause and inhale, and exhale to lower.
Last two, inhale, (deep breaths) and exhale, head and chest up, wide scapula, heavy skull, and down. And now, last one. Head and chest up, hold it there, press the pedal all the way down. Reach your arms forward, just above the knees and little pulses up, for 10, nine, eight, seven, six, try not to go down too far. It's like you're trying to lift higher every time.
Two, one. Take one hand on top of the other. Inhale as you bring your arms over one knee, keeping the pelvis still. Exhale to come back to center. Inhale as you reach over to the other side.
Exhale as you come back to center. Two more. Inhale, life to go over, exhale as you come back to center. Inhale as you reach up and across, exhale to come back to center. Last time inhaling, over, exhaling back, (deep breaths) inhaling over, (deep breaths) exhaling back.
Now, bring your hands back behind your head and lift the pedal halfway and inhale. Now, exhale to rotate, oh it's so much harder. And center, holding the pedal still. Exhale, rotate. And center.
And rotate, keeping the height of the trunk consistent throughout, and rotate, and center, last time, exhale, lift and rotate, and center, and lift and rotate, (deep breaths) and center, and then, bring the body down, carefully allow the pedal to lift, take one leg through the center of the chair, the other leg through the center of the chair, pull up your pants, that happens for everyone, that's a direct cue. Arms come up overhead. Breathe in as you lift your head and chest, press your feet down into the inside of the chair as you curl through your spine. Round over, bring your hands to the pedal. Press the pedal down, lift the chest, round the spine, let the pedal come up, reach forward, exhale, roll down, sliding the pelvis underneath, flattening through the lower spine, lowering the body, lowering the head, reaching the arms overhead.
Inhale, head, chest, arms up. Exhale, roll up. (deep breaths) Find the pedal with your hands, press it down, I've got my elbows bent, and bring the back up tall, inhale, exhale. (deep breaths) Round the spine as the springs release. Reach forward and roll down.
As the lower back touches, the arms start to come up, the head and chest come down, the arms reach over head. Inhale, head, chest, arms. Exhale, curl. (deep breaths) Hands to the pedal, press the pedal down, lift the spine, round the spine, let the pedal come up, reach forward, and roll down. Reach back, inhale, head, chest, arms, exhale, curl up. (deep breaths)
Reach forward. Press the pedal down. Round the spine. Reach through the chair and come down. This is our last one.
So, we bring the head and chest up, and curl the spine up, (deep breaths) and press the pedal down, lift the spine. Just pause there, feeling the energy, the power of being in that upright position. And then, let the pedal come up. Come up to standing, we're gonna change our springs. I've got this little sticky mat on the chair so that it will hold me still, or else I will slide right off.
I'm gonna put another spring on, so now, I have one spring on four, and one spring on three. If you only have three spring choices, do one spring on three and one spring on two, or, choose the springs that make you feel happy. We're sitting down on the chair, lifting up tall through the spine, sitting, perching, right at the edge. Take one hand on top of the other hand, push the bottom hand into the top hand, the top hand into the bottom hand, and remember, that as we move through our footwork, the most important thing is the stability of the spine. So press the pedal down, grow tall, feel the front and the back of the body working together to keep it still, and pull the knees and lift.
And press. (clanging) And lift the knees back up. Feel the seat, the back of the legs engage, just prior to pushing on the pedal. Press, lift, the top of the head reaches up, the ears and the back of the head reach back, so that the head stays right over the top of the spine. And press, pull in.
Two more times. Press, pull in. And last time. Press, pull in. And move to the toes.
Change the cross of the arms. The heels are lifted and again, here, pressing (deep breaths) down, and up. So, I just caught myself trying to lean forward a little bit, as I pressed the pedal down, and that's cheating. So, what we're really trying to do is stay right upright, right over the top of the pelvis, right over the sitting bones. The shoulders are soft, down the back, there's energy, upward energy in the spine as the pedal, the legs, produce down energy.
Last two times. And lift. One more time. And lift. I'm gonna bring the heels together, keeping the toes apart.
Take the hands behind the head, now, and feel what it feels like to press the head back into the hands, and wrap the scapula around the front of the body walls, keeping the elbows wide. Inhale, press the pedal down on exhale, finding a good position for my feet, and then lift. The heels are pressed together, the seat is strong, the glutes are strong. Look straight ahead of you so that we keep the spine in alignment, head being the top of the spine. (deep breaths) Squeeze the heels together to access the inner thigh muscles.
And three. It's quite a challenging spring for me. You could very easily probably work with a little bit of lighter spring. And one. I'm gonna take the heels to the outside of the pedal, now, So that the inner thighs are pulling towards one another.
So, what you could do is try to slide your feet inwards on the pedal without actually moving anything. And then, from there, we press, and lift. Press, again, checking in, making sure that you're not shifting forward or back. As the pedal presses down, every time, press the back of the head into the hands. And lift.
Pull the abdominals back towards the spine. And five, (deep breaths) four, growing taller, feeling the work that the trunk has to do to support the stillness in the body. Last time, lift up, come to the toes, take the arms out to the sides. And last set, here we press down, lifting up, and up, and press, and lift, abdominals to spine, back extensions strong. (deep breaths) Sorry that I'm not looking at the camera, today.
I just feel that the side view is the more important view if you're just watching, just to see how the body is being held still, which you couldn't see as well from the front. So, last two, I also, made a promise, today, that now I'm over 40, I'm no longer showing my face to the camera. So, there's that. (clanging) I don't want anyone to see all my wrinkles. Bringing the arms down.
Just kidding. So, turn and face the chair, now, both hands on the front of the chair, place one foot onto the chair, and put the, just a little divot below the patella, the kneecap, and the tibia, there's a little space in there, (mumbles) that against the edge of the chair, the other heel reaches back, find a long, straight body, and press the pedal down. And pull it up. Press the pedal down, and pull it up. So, we do articulation of the foot, here, (deep breaths) length through the body.
Last three. Two, for me it's harder to control the up than it is to push down, and down. Take the knee off. Step that foot back. Place the other foot on. (clanging)
So, the foot that's on the mat is find that that calve is finding stretch, the spine is long, the pelvis is square, and we press. Can you feel a sense, here, as you push down onto the pedal, of trying to find that movement of the foot from the backside of the leg, from all the way up where the hamstring connects to the glutes? (deep breaths) You feel the sense of it having to support the spine, even here, drawing the navel back towards the spine. So, we'll go four, and three, I don't know if you can hear the trembling in my foot, but it's real, two, and one. Step down.
I'm gonna change the spring again. So, I have four springs, or four options, I have one, the cactus, and I'm gonna do zero, three, meaning I have one spring on the third cactus only. Coming down, now, to sit in front of the chair, I'm gonna do a little spine articulation where, I guess it's more trunk flexion work, and we're gonna try to make it into an abdominal exercise. So, I'd like for you to straddle the chair and then decide if you need to bend your knees to be able to feel that the body's in an upright position. Imagine, if you will, that there's a wall behind your back, and then, as you exhale, squeeze your seat, lift up, bend your elbows in, use your abdominals to press the pedal down, abdominals and arms, and then, grow the spine back up, arms come straight.
Exhale, bend the elbows, like you're trying to pull the chair towards you as you go into trunk flexion, and lift up. So, I'm not actually backing up, or going into a C-curve, I'm trying to mimic the feeling of just a chest lift, where just the head and chest lift up, or go forward, in this situation. We'll do three more. Curling and pressing. I'm attempting to keep my pelvis in an upright place, so I'm not rounding the lower spine, I'm rounding the upper spine, the middle spine.
And reaching forward. Last time, exhaling (deep breaths) to curl, and then reaching back up. We're gonna take that into a, more of an oblique focused movement. So, I'd like you to keep the pelvis squared towards the chair, but rotate the upper body so that both hands come towards the same side of the pedal. And then, inhale, and then exhale, the ribs that you're turning towards slide towards the spine as you bend and press, you should feel the work on that same side body.
And then, stack back up. Again, exhale, lift up, curl forward, bending through the center of the spine, and lift back up. And exhale, lift up, (deep breaths) and press, and release, last two times. So, yeah, there is some arm movement, but I'm really not focusing on my arms at all. The only thing I'm focusing on my arms, in terms of, is as I'm putting pressure on the springs with my trunk, with my abdominal muscles, I'm just working to keep the shoulders down away from the ears.
Other than that, we're trying to bring most of the awareness in and around the abdominal muscles, so, again, as we go to the other side, the pelvis is squared forward. We're gonna rotate the shoulders, breathe in, and breathe out to (deep breaths) press and rotate, and lift. As you lift, you're still in upper spinal rotation. Exhale, press down and rotate. (deep breaths) And lift.
And again, press down, and rotate, (deep breaths) and lift. Last two times. (deep breaths) And lift. And last time. (deep breaths) And lift.
We're gonna keep that same spring for the rest of the workout. We're gonna stand all the way up. So, come and stand so that you're in front of the chair, not super close, and then, bring one foot on. So, as that foot that's on the chair, I've got about, I don't know, what would you call that? Like a 45 angle, at the knee?
No, 90 degree angle at the knee? Anyway, about halfway between tabletop and straight. Arms come out to the sides. Now, as you press the pedal down, what I want you to think about is trying to drag the chair towards you. You should feel it in the back of the pushing leg and the standing leg.
Resist the temptation to lean forward, even at all, because then it doesn't feel like an exercise. Okay, so stay on it, right over that back leg and pull the chair towards you. And resist, release. You might want to check your pelvis to make sure the hips are supported and aligned. Press down.
And lift. We're not really changing the angle of my knee that much, I'm pressing right from the back of the leg. Last time. Press it down, pulling back. If the chair weren't so heavy, I might demonstrate how to literally pulling it forwards, or towards me.
So, switch sides. Little bit of a bend in the knee, standing over the back leg. If you don't feel your standing leg working, you may not be standing over that leg enough. And then, we pull the pedal down, oh my, this is a whole different body on this side. And pull the pedal down, side long, arms reaching.
And lift. Abdominals in, right? So we have to support the stillness of the spine, the stability of the spine. Last two. And last time.
And then, step down. So, walk around to sit on the chair. Look, my face. See, told you I was only joking. Lean over and place the hand on the, on the pedal.
The other arm's gonna come behind the head, so watch that you don't squeeze that elbow back. That's gonna push the head forward. So, do keep the elbow wide, but it's mostly a scapular shape that I'm looking for, wide scapula on the outsides of the body. And now, keep that foot down on the floor. And inhale, press the pedal towards the ground.
And now, right where you feel the stretch, that's what engages, that's what pulls us back up, create length. And inhale, it's not the arm that pushes, it's the lower, the undercarriage of the body, the bottom obliques, stretching the top obliques. And then we lift from the top obliques, coming just to a straight line. Let's inhale to press the pedal away. And exhale to bring the body up.
You just have to manage the stability of that bottom scapula. Don't let that bottom should blade lift. Here's last two. And reaching out. And last time.
Oh, going a little further each time. And reaching out. So, now, lean on the pedal, lean onto the outside of that hip, so you've created a straight line with your body. And now, just lifting that free leg, that straight leg out into the air, we're going to drop it into space, so just let it drop, and bring it back up. Notice there's a relationship between those same upper oblique muscles and the moving of the leg.
We can bring our energy into that part of our body, even here. And lift. And down, the pedal is still, the spine is still. Last time. Lift, hold it.
Intensify that upper position. Place the foot down. Take the arm overhead and reach all the way over and find that gorgeous stretch, there. I'm just imagining that I have someone to help me, to help me push. And then, come all the way back up.
Let that foot stand flat. Take the arm down. The side of the body, lift the opposite arm up and side-bend to the opposite side. And then come all the way, and turn around. So, I'm sitting, not in a totally upright position, but more towards the outside of my hip.
The hand comes down on the pedal, opposite, so here's a different view of the squeezing scapula. Keep it wide. And inhale as you reach over. Exhale to lift. Just bear with me while I get that mic out of my way.
Here we go. And reach over. And there's nothing like side-bending into a mic pack that makes a girl feel really happy. And reach over, over, over, trying to accentuate the stretch, make a deeper stretch each time. Last two.
Head pressing into the hands. Head in line with the spine. Using that upper waistline to bring in the body back to the top. One more time. We go down.
And we reach up. And then, we tip over, lifting the leg off the floor. Find a straight line with your body, keep the head in the hand and then, just let the leg drop, and then, pick it up, against gravity. And drop, keeping the pedal still. And as it lifts, it reaches out away from us.
And down. And reaches out away from us. And down again, bringing the efforting into the trunk, not just the leg. Here's our last one, down, and reaching out, lifting, lifting, and bringing it down. And taking the arm overhead, and stretch.
And the weight of the upper arm to take the body further, further, further. And then, come all the way back up. Sit up. So, now I'm in a more upright position. Now, I'm not sitting on the side of my hips so much.
That arm that was just on the pedal comes up and we side bend in the opposite direction, just reaching the arm down the side of the leg. And then, coming all the way back up. Okay, so we're gonna come up to standing. Turn to face the chair. We're gonna do two different versions of a back extension.
Firstly, what I'd like for us to do is lay down with your trunk. So, my hip crease is just about at the back edge of the chair and I'm gonna bend my knees so that, actually, the chair is accentuating my hip crease. The feet are not too, too active, they're just resting on the floor. My arms are on the pedal and I'm gonna take my body down so that I'm on a parallel, parallel to the top of the chair. From there, I want us to press backward with the scapula, reach the back of the head backwards, the ears and the back of the head backwards, and come up just a little bit.
So, I'm not lifting off my ribs, I'm trying to just move my upper spine without actually taking my ribs off the chair, and then release down. So, scapula slides backward, top of the head reaches forward, ears reach back, cervical spine, or the neck, finds extension first. And you just find that little baby back extension, and then, reach back down. We'll do that three more times. So, using the chair to support the trunk, so it's not floating in space, and really trying to maximize or accentuate the extension, or movement, through the upper portion of the spine.
So, last two. Doesn't look like much, but it feels like a lot, to me. And down. And then, last one. Reaching up, and then, hold there.
Shift the weight of your body into your left arm, lift your right arm off the chair, and stretch your left leg out. And then, come back. And switch. So, again, working from a place where, as we change, from side to side, there has to be that moment of control, that thoughtful moment of do I have all my pieces connected so that my pedal doesn't move, my spine doesn't move. Just do one more to each side.
Reaching out. And back. And reaching out. And back. And then let the body round over.
Press the pedal all the way down. And then, come back up. So, now, reorganize so that your pelvis is now on top of the chair and your spine is floating in space. So, here, we don't want to let the belly hang out towards the floor, we're gonna keep the belly engaged. We're gonna lift the legs, not off the chair, but just as they feel like they're as high as the chair, or floating up with the chair.
And then, that same idea of pressing the upper arms and the shoulder blades back, finding, first, the movement in the upper spine, and then we can take it a little further. Then, we can take it a little further, finding a full spinal extension. And then, draw the abdominals in and bring the pedal back down. Again, press back into the pedal, reach the top of the head out, reach the ears back, keep the chin low, meaning, don't lift the face, and release down. And again, three more.
So, working through the upper spine, that's why I like to do it without the trunk having to be quite as freely moving, I like to keep the trunk stable at first, so we get the sense of where does the movement from the upper spine come, before we start using other parts of the body, above the back, really. And down. And last time. Reaching out, reaching out, reaching out. And down. (clattering)
So, hold the pedal still as you get down. And then, let it come up. And just standing behind the chair, now, taking a breath in. This is similar to was we did when we started. We're reaching the heels of the hands forward, inhale.
As we exhale, we're gonna roll down, (deep breaths) so, keeping the thighs where they are, meaning don't lean forward or back, reach down to find the pedal. From there, we're gonna reach the spine out and down, creating a long back, a long, flat back. And then, again, push the pedal away. Push the pedal away as you curl back into your rounded spine. And inhale, tailbone reaches up.
It's the movement of the spine that's moving the pedal, it's not the arms. The arms aren't doing anything. Once I found the pedal with my hands, basically, my upper arms are plugged into my shoulders, and they're just coming along for the spinal ride. Spine makes the pedal move. Reach out and down.
Looking for a flat back, navel to spine. Not resting on the chair, I'm just touching it at the bottom, just finding it. We'll do two more, and since all chairs are slightly different, we might not look exactly the same, but just know that what you're looking for is that long, flat line, and a curved line. On a straight line, and a curved. And then, once you're there, this is the hardest part, can you not back up, not lean forward, but let the hands come off the pedal so you build your spine back into an upright position.
Let's bring the arms up with us, bring the arms up with us. And then, open. Open. Go slow, here. Just give yourself a chance to feel the expansion in your body, to create expansion in your body so that that will stay with you as you walk away from the chair.