Class #3190

Reformer Connections

55 min - Class


Work on making connections in this Reformer workout with Karen Sanzo. She continues with her Reformer Series, focusing on nice and clean exercises to help you refine your movements. She includes wonderful variations that will allow you to feel your body working correctly.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box

About This Video


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Hi I'm Karen Sanzo and this is Reformer workout. I encourage you to go back and check some of the other Reformer programs I did. I have a four series Reformer that kind of takes you through from beginning fundamental stuff on the Reformer to some beginning fundamental exercises. I'm gonna continue that on in this workout. Now this workout is a little lengthy and it's a little challenging.

You could actually break it down into two parts if you want, nothing is really complex, but it's keeping the different connections. And so in my style of teaching, I understand that I do a little lecturing and a little teaching as I teach the exercises. So anyway, join me, I hope you like it. Oh, I am on a Balance Body Reformer and I have four springs on. On this Reformer, there's three reds and a green.

I kinda want it to be heavy to start with. I'm gonna have my headrest up, it helps my back ribs kinda nestle down a little bit. I'm gonna start this bridging exercise and parallel feet with the balls of the feet on the bar. I'm gonna check in with my back body via my arms. Okay so, the back body, the chest lifting is kinda from the arms pressing down.

So let's just review that here a little bit. So, as my upper arms press down, I'm gonna open and close my forearms. This is external rotation of the shoulders, and the reason why that I'm doing this is because we have to develop external rotation in our shoulder prior to being able to lift the arm all the way over the head. So I'm just doing this as a little reminder to the back part of my arm right where my arm bone kind of meets back crease there. And now let's turn the palms in like supination, out and in a little bit.

I'm pressing down on my feet, I am getting ready to do something with my legs but I just wanna get this shoulder blade to arm connection so that shoulder blade stability as my rotators work to externally rotate my arms. Now watch, I'm gonna turn my palms down, this is a pronated position, do the same thing. So, the tightness or the movement that you feel might be different in each position of your arms. And then I'm gonna take my arms down, karate chop, feel the back of my arms and then turn my palms down. Pressing into the balls of my feet, I'm gonna tip my pelvis just a little bit and then roll it back down, tilt my pelvis just a little bit and hold.

Now with my headrest up, I'm not gonna lift my pelvis any higher than this for this exercise. Watch my shoulders, I do not want them to do this as I lift up any higher. Okay, that'sa no-no, so what we want to do is keep the upper back engaged. The headrest is just allowing my chin to nod to kind of heavy my ribs down, and then roll myself back down. I'm gonna do that one more time.

It's kinda like a little mini bottom lift if you will, I'm not curling up any more than this. I'm finding the connection right where my buttocks meets my thigh, and I'm gonna take this into a toe tap with my pelvis in this little curled position. So now I'm really feeling the back of my bottom, the connection through my belly and my ribs. One more time and then everything comes back and lowers down. Now I'll take my headrest and put it down because I'm going to come into a little bit higher bridge.

I'm gonna switch to my heels on the bar, pressing my feet down and a little bit away, not moving the carriage, rolling up, and then dripping down. When I drip down, I'm gonna start to lengthen this front of my hip crease, bringing it all the way down, again tip, not a huge tip. If you tip too much too hard it'll create a grip. You may have heard me say that before in another class, too much tip equals a grip. We don't want that, we just want the connection to come from the front belly to the back buttocks.

And then drip yourself all the way down. Now, two legs reach out long on the bar. Keeping the length through the front of my hips here, my thighs are squeezing together, my chest is open from my back body engaged and then flex and point my feet a couple times just so that I can get some mobility through my ankles. Now I'm gonna flex, excuse me, point my feet and lift my bottom up long legged bridge like breathing on the Cadillac, and then drip the chest down, dropping the buttocks down, all the way down. Flexing the feet, lift up, belly scoops, and then rolling down, one more time.

Point the feet to lift up this time, and flex the feet to lower down, and then I'm gonna call this last time instead of just one more. Now, I hold, I lift and lower, and lift and lower. Press right as you lift left and lower, yes I'm pressing my arms, yes I'm lifting my back body, one more time trying not to move the carriage, and then dripping all the way down. Getting ready for footwork now, I'm gonna raise my headrest back up. Coming to Pilates V, heels are together, toes are on the bar.

I'm gonna take my two hands, press them inside my thighs and attract my thighs together, and then I'm gonna take my hands and put 'em on the outside of my thighs and press my legs apart as my heels squeeze together. Making that nice connection all the way behind my bottom as I lengthen to go out and then return in. Reaching away and then bringing yourself back in. As you do this exercise, try not to grip in your feet but try to push your thighs away so that the work comes way up from your thighs. Heels are squeezing, knees are pressing out.

'Member when you put your hands there, you could even keep your hands here just for a second so that you feel that rapping underneath your bottom, two more and then last time. Switching now to your bird feet I'm gonna have you roll your toes really far over the bar, lift your heels and then drop your heels, ooh, really under the bar. Lift your toes and then find some happy place in there. Pressing your feet down to the floor, press yourself out, juice up those legs and then bring yourself in. So press yourself, your feet down as you move yourself both out and in.

And we'll get five more of these, and four more, and three and two, and then one, and then bring yourself all the way in. Switching to your heels now, so be on the cup of your heel, kinda like that little piece right there so you're not at the back tip but you're more like right in that little cup part. Now, as you press your carriage out, push your feet up to the ceiling. And as you bring yourself back in, pull your feet to the floor so as you go out you'll feel kind of like the front of your thighs, as you come in you'll feel the back of your thighs. So, they get this co-contraction really in both directions so that you feel it.

And we'll do this three more, and two more, and last time. Now we're gonna go back to the very first position which is Pilates V, and we're gonna change this up a little bit. We're gonna go out quick and in slow. So we're gonna do this, it's like a good e-centric load on the way in. So it's quick, slow, slow, slow, squeeze, return, return, return.

And quick, slow, slow, slow, quick, slow. Ooh, that's a good one, last two. Quick and slow, slow, slow, last one and slow, slow, slow. Bird feet, same thing, quick and slow. (breathing deeply) Just five each, it just works the leg muscles in a different way.

Two more, and then last one, going to your heels. Right on that little heel cup, pulling your ankles back. Quick, slow (breathing deeply), push to the ceiling as you go out, push to the floor as you come in, two more, last one. Tendon stretch, onto the balls of the feet. Press yourself out, lower the heels down.

Now, as you lower the heels down, see if you can lower them further. We're not changing any arching in our back so all this is staying nice and long. So from here, don't make a thigh bulge, okay? So don't just squeeze your butt and let all that bulge out. Let that stay long and work through the back of your legs.

Raise and lower (breathing deeply), breathe in and then blow out, two more. Never bypass this great exercise. And then lower and then now quick, slow, quick, slow, quick. You have to do enough of these, it's more than just your calf, it's really connecting the front line here and the back line through your buttocks all the way to your thigh. Pilates V, bend the knees, come in.

Same thing, tendon stretch in the V, down, quick lift, down slow, two, three. Quick lift, squeeze your heels, two, three. Be patient with the exercise, working through how low can you take your heels and then quick, and then lower, lower, lower, that's a quick stretch and then lift and then lower, lower, lower. Last time, and then lower, lower, lower. Bend the knees, lift the heels, come to parallel.

Last one, all variations on the footwork. Footwork's so important because it makes connections to your hip. So, with your heels kind of starting down even though your knees are bent, I want you to push your carriage out, see if you can get your heels way under the bar. I gotta move my feet just a little bit, the pad's a little slippery and then we're gonna raise the heels. As I bend my knees I'm gonna lift my heels higher, and I'm gonna roll through my feet, press out keeping my legs under the bar.

Lift up, bend my knees in lifting the heels higher as I bring myself back in. Last one, heels will drop down, I'll lift and then bend the knees all the way back in lifting the heels higher. Bring yourself on up to sitting using a nice roll up. I'm gonna switch to two red springs. Lying down, like I really needed to say that, right?

Anyway, take your arms to the ceiling. So your arms are gathering some tension in the strap, just right here at the very beginning. They're gonna hold this load as your knees come into this tabletop position. From here you're just gonna do some leg sways side to side. So the arms really wanna pull the straps but you're not gonna let the straps be pulled, you're just going to hold them and then come back to center, rest your legs, pause right there.

Now go back of this arm business, with your arms here and my feet up off the bar and my arms are just holding the load here. So, if you need to stop and change your straps so that you get this load, if your straps were too long they'd be way down here. So you'll either have to change your gear or shorten your straps, so we're just gonna hold this right here. I want you to recognize this position as upside down quadruped, can you kinda see that? Now watch my arms, I'm gonna protract my shoulders up to the ceiling and then bring them down.

I'm not pulling 'em down like this yet, I'm lifting them up, and down. One more time up, one more time down, now they hold. Now they pull down and then they come up. I'm reaching through these fingertips. It's kinda like footwork, right?

So I'm reaching through the fingers, but I'm working proximally way up behind my arm and the upper part of my back. I'm gonna do two more of these, and then last time and then arms come out like a T. If you get tired in your arms or your legs, you stop and then you come back and join me. And we'll do two more like this, and then last one, and then arms come out, feet come down to the bar, rest right there, arms come back to the ceiling. Now leave your feet here, don't move your feet off of the bar but they will come off of the bar when you pull your arms down.

So your feet are just staying constant as I pull my arms down, they just stay right here. As my arms come up, my feet should barely touch the bar. We'll do this one more time. Not fancy exercises, but connected exercises. Next exercise says I take my elbows down to the mat, as my feet come off of the bar.

Now I hafta kinda connect myself here into my arms so my back ribs can snuggle down, so that as I press my triceps down it's not just like, oh this is a great tricep exercise, let me get rid of that jiggly skin exercise, this is how much can I keep my front body long and challenge that body by moving my arms. It's a very integrative exercise and now we challenge it, watch, we go straight down, lift up, straight down, bend in, push, and raise, and lower, and bend. Last time, push, and raise, and lower, and bend, lower the legs. Now legs go long, arms go long. So now we know that it's our arms and the back body meaning the lat area, upper chest area that pulls these two arms down to the ground as my two legs lift up.

So I do it on an inhale (breathing deeply). If this is too hard or it hurts your back, then you come back into the bent knee which is just your shorter lever arm. So at some point, you will find where that exercise comes alive for you. We'll do three more with the straight leg. Inhale, exhale, you know that after this then we're getting to the hundred beats.

We haven't even curled our trunk yet, we feel the legs engaged, we feel the arms engaged and here we go. (breathing deeply) Just doing some variations to kind of feel the connections through your legs as it relates to your trunk and then lower the legs all the way down, the arms come down. Very good, so hanging up your straps, oh no, let's not hang up the straps, let's put the straps in our feet, goodness. Oh, I'm gonna do that a little bit differently. So, as you get a little bit better, sometimes I even get in a hurry to do that.

Let's see if you can get these straps, pulling those arms that we worked so hard to do, and then get your feet in your straps like that. You can play with it, so bringing yourself out, let's make a little V with our feet, external rotation of the thighs and then internal rotation of the thighs, external and internal. Check in with your head position, your ribs and your pelvis. So as I move my legs I'm constantly reaching long and I'm doing this here in my feet, just to kinda get the action way up in my hips. I'm gonna do it with my forefoot flexed.

I'm gonna do it with my toes extended back, and then I'm gonna come into this 90/90 position. Thighs over pelvis, neutral, take my both hands again and put 'em on the outside of my thighs and press my legs apart. Right away as I press my legs apart and my heels together, I feel that same rapping down here in my hips, I go out and in. Now, two red springs here, this is not super duper heavy but I can make that work come alive in my legs. I have to create that relationship.

I don't wanna fight with the spring, I wanna use the spring to help me get a feeling. Two more and then last time and pause. Now with your legs here, can you open your legs and close your legs just a smidge, without moving the carriage? So this tells me if you can do this without moving the carriage that you're keeping equal force and equal pressure on the straps. Now I'm gonna internally rotate my thighs, come in, touch my toes a couple times.

And that's gonna feel a little different with hip internal rotation and then I'm gonna take in on a little journey. I'm gonna go external to internal, external to internal. Now I'm gonna come external here and go out and then in. There's no right or wrong way here, I'm just tryin' to see how my hips work both in internal and external rotation. Coming back to this 90/90 position here, I'm not gonna collapse in yet, not that it's a collapse but I don't wanna flex my spine yet, reengage these legs pushing out, okay, so that you feel your legs pushing out, and then we're gonna go one leg out, it comes in, it squeezes the heel.

The other leg goes out, comes in, squeezes the heel. Both legs go out, come in, squeeze the heel. Come back into that 90/90, I got ahead of myself. Out and in, squeeze the heels, out and in, squeeze the heels, two legs out, come in, squeeze the heels. One more time, right and in, squeeze, left and in, squeeze, and then two and in and now allow the knees to come into your chest for a little rest.

But don't collapse your chest, but allow your buttocks to kinda be curled by the springs just a little bit. So get a little lengthening in your low back. And then bring your thighs back down to 90/90 here and level right there. Leaving your hands in front of your thighs, you're going to scoop your belly, kinda tilt your pelvis without moving the thighs and then release. So I don't want my chest to collapse down as I move my pelvis, see my voice even changes.

I want my pelvis to scoop up from the strength as I then lengthen it back down. Let's do that two more times, pelvis moves not the thighs, and then last one, and then legs come out long and now they come straight-ish to the ceiling. This almost feels like a rest here now. So now, you're gonna open your thighs, external rotation and then internal rotation. Now they're a little bit more vertical, so here the muscle length tension is a little bit different in this position, just getting external and internal rotation.

Now we do circles, up open, and down close. Just a little small circle, just three times in each direction, this is something a little bit more familiar but we're really getting the legs kind of a little more invited into this workout here. So juice up your legs so that you feel the legs participating, that you're not just flailing your legs around in a circle. Last time, and then bend the knees in and rest right there. Kay last one, legs come out straight, legs go to the vertical straight.

We're not doing the exercise called short spine but what we're going to do is push the legs to the ceiling as I curl and come back down. So my legs are not going over my head but I'm doing that pelvic curl without bringing my legs closer to my chest. So I really get the lift of the abdomen as I lower and raise my bottom. This is so important to get this articulation as we progress on. Bend the knees in, feet come out of the straps, and then lower yourself down, hang up your straps.

Moving along, the exercise is called long stretch, it's still on two red springs. My headrest will be up and put the balls of my feet right here. I'm gonna come on to this exercise here and I'm gonna put myself in this plank position. I'm activating through my arms, I'm connecting from the crown of my head through my feet, I push out an inch, I hold. I push out an inch, I hold and I push out a little bit more, I hold, and I bring myself back in.

Slow, slow, slow, out, quicker in-ish. Slow, slow, slow and then quicker in. Now I reverse it, quick out, woo! Slow in, this one's harder for me. Quick out, slow in, last one, quick out, and then slow in and drop down on my knees. That was long stretch, now we're gonna go to down stretch.

In down stretch today, gonna have your toes curled way underneath you. I'm actually gonna raise this foot bar. It's gonna give me a little bit more of a platform to press my arms down. So, as I do this exercise now I'm gonna take my hip crease forward, I'm gonna place my body in this extended position-ish, it'll get more extended in a second, I'm gonna press my legs out leaving my head in the position it is and then as I come forward I still press down on my hands as I lift my chest. Pressing out with my feet and my arms, as I come in I still press back actually with my feet so that I create this lengthening through my chest, almost feeling a stretch in my belly button, and bringing myself all the way back.

Sit back and rest, well it's not really a rest, it's change your position to prepare for up stretch. Now, I don't particularly feel up stretch is a beginning exercise, I'm going to add a blue spring on here because my body weight, it tells me that I need a little more support. But the important thing I want you to get in the up stretch exercise is how your body rounds up, okay? So from this position, we just finished down stretch, I nod my head, I lift my abdomen and I actually push up simultaneously to bring myself up, I hold the carriage in. Now, I press back my carriage, come to a plank-ish, it may not be a perfect plank but it's an engaged plank.

You see my body coming forward, I have to get those active arms I created on the mat, active arms. Now I don't just pike my butt back, but I curl my front ribs into my back ribs to come back. So, it goes out to plank, when I come forward I have to press my arms, I have to push my arms down, I'm just overemphasizing it 'cause I don't see that enough. Now, I don't just stick my butt out, right? I drop my head to curl up my ribs.

One more time, inhaling, exhaling. Come forward, strong legs, strong arms, feel that strength pulling yourself up. And then we go to elephant, so typically, I find that people just kinda get through elephant. What I really want you to find is that same connection. So take your body weight from here more forward, activate those arms, lift the chest into that hight flexed position, lift the toes, push, pull. (deeply breathing) Now, I'm clanking that carriage because I probably could have my carriage closer in into the shortest gear because I'm not that tall.

But I'm connected in through my tummy. Five more, four, three, two, and one, and then I drop myself down. So typically we learn elephant kind of first, but I like to get that up stretch started because it really gets you into that higher flexion in your body. Okay, so now moving right along, I am still on two reds and a blue, just for your information, you may be just on two reds. I'm switching now to knee stretches, and that same idea of flexion.

My hands are on the bar, I sit myself back. Now, because I'm sitting back, my tailbone automatically curls. I don't have to like hyper tuck it, okay? So, my tailbone is curled, I nod my head. I'm kind of looking at my knees.

So look how far back my bottom is, usually about a fist distance, you know, whatever but I'm rounded and I'm staying here. So now, my journey is hold that spine shape, press those legs back, and pull 'em underneath me as I sit back down. The exercise is knee stretch, so here's the stretch right here as I come home. (breathing deeply) What happens in this exercise is people get all navigated forward like this. So let's just keep it in the back phase.

I have to press my arms, I have to tie my arms and connect them up into my upper back, I'm pushing, so let's do ten. (deeply breathing) Push, pull, five, four, oh three, and two and one. Yes, now I come back to a lengthen position. I love knee stretches, wait til we get to stomach massage, okay. So now still, nothing complex, just a little more explanation to what's happening as you progress in your own workouts here.

So now I'm gonna come into a more lengthened position. I'm gonna take my hand so that I know my sacrum now is going a little bit flatter, so I'm approaching a more neutral, or actually a little more extended position in this knee stretches and arched position here. So now in this position, I still don't change my spine as I just move through the ball and socket of my hip joint. I'm raising my fingers to give emphasis to the fact that I'm pushing my arms. And so as my knees come in, I get the stretch really over those knees.

Three more, two more and then last one. Now we're gonna add a little oomph to this one. I'm gonna come down to one red spring, it looks like this. My left hand is coming behind my back to remind my sacrum to stay. As I push my legs back I'm gonna twist open my trunk, right arm active, everything comes back. (deeply breathing) This is hard, active right arm, challenging trunk, switch, left arm active, right hand behind the back, rotate.

We did this in quadruped on the mat in some previous workout where we really feel that left arm being put into the work from the pressing. Woo, okay back now to two red springs, knees off, right? So now, we're gonna do a modified version where I lift up my left knee, I'm on the ball of this toe by creasing, I press down into my hands, I am active in my shoulders. It's a no discussion exercise. How low can you go in your buttocks?

Three more, elbows straight, two more, last one, rest. Thank goodness I just have two legs. Here we go, non discussion, arms press, belly lifts, head in line with the spine. Gotta get those toes really curled under there, lift and push, pull, get low, three more, two more, last one, oh my goodness, that's a tough exercise. Okay, one red spring, we've talked about the buttocks, we've talked about the thighs, about the trunk.

Now, nice up tall position, kneeling arms front. So, reaching back, grabbing your straps. So what I'm gonna do here is I'm actually gonna take the straps in my hand, I'm gonna put 'em right here on my pelvis. Really wanna get those toes curled, okay there's a reason for that, it's really important. In this kneeling arm front position here, I want you to almost feel like you're pulling your elbows away from each other like that but your hands are gonna stay right here on your waist.

And the belly pulls in, the knees press down. It's kind of a resting position, actually feels kinda good to feel yourself really grounded through your knees through the back of your thighs. Now watch, I'm gonna take my palms out, my shoulders are in internal rotation, I'm gonna take my arms in front, they're gonna go into external rotation. Internal rotation, they touch, they turn into external rotation. It's imperfect y'all with your hands in your straps but just work with me here as we get that feeling of external rotation to internal rotation.

Now, take your arms into external rotation with your palms up and we kinda did this at the very beginning and now the carriage is gonna move. External rotation come to internal. Look at my upper shoulders, my collarbones are growing wide to the side, not moving as I take turns with my external rotation, and then returning. Serving a tray, reach out the tray, share what's on the tray, bring it back in, elbows return. Inhale, push, open, close, come in.

Now, I want you to imagine that your feet are pushing the carriage back. There's no way they can because your arms are in the strap but that's how active I want you to feel through your thighs and your buttocks, okay? Open and then close and then down. Now hug a tree, hugging the tree, elbows are high, belly pulls in. Activate those shoulder blades, now don't move your blades, just open and close the arms.

Inhale open, exhale close, inhale open, exhale close. Pause, now get acquainted with your front ribs to your back ribs. So lifting tall doesn't mean arch the back. Arms come out, salute, arms go up, and then down, they reach away. If this is too precarious for you, then you could sit on a little box or something or just sit cross legged.

But I like this kneeling position because it really gets you into your thighs roll to help you stabilize in this upright position. Last time out, circle those arms up and around, big, big, big, open up the chest as the arms come all the way down. Hang up the straps and we'll turn around. We're still on one red spring. Turning around, preparing for chest expansion, also known as open chest, right?

So expand the chest, so you're using your latissimus muscle and your tricep muscle to stabilize your trunk while you turn your head. So grab the straps where you can hang on, I'm gonna grab a little bit closer, maybe down to this tape and I'm gonna pull my arms back to my thighs. Now, where have we seen this? We saw this lying on the mat, you see this starting on the Reformer. So right here, I am engaged front body and back body.

So from here, inhale, exhale, the wrists stay long and strong and then exhale. Inhale hold, now turn my head to the left, don't move my right shoulder, turn my head to the right, don't move my left shoulder, come back center, release. Inhale, quick pull, look left, exhale, center, release slow. Inhale pull quick, look right, exhale center, release slow. One more time (deeply breathing).

And then release the straps all the way down. So keeping front arms to back arms, now we're gonna take this to stable arms. Again, not a Pilates exercise right here, but I want you to get to weight bearing again with nice, straight wrists. So bend your knees if you have to, be in a quasi-neutral position, but basically weight bear into your arms. Okay so, weight bearing into the arms, my right arm comes out to the side, it looks like this.

Now, watch my left arm, it's not like this, it's pressing down to hug that shoulder into the ribs. The ribs are the house for the shoulder blades. Arm goes over the head, arm comes down by your side, arm comes over your head, arm comes down by your side. One more time, arm comes over your head, this will become swimming, arm moves all the way down by your side, bring that arm in, pause. Left arm out over your head, now if you can't bring your arm over your head, you just bring it here but you still work on this right side, that's the stabilizing part.

Sometimes it's these little, I call 'em little connector exercises, that I think are so crucial to getting good connections through the other parts of our body during the exercises. One more time out, one more time down, or through the movements or through the workout. I mean, however we want to call it, right? But movement is the power, right? The movement is the power, so now, hands on the bar, heels together, toes apart.

We're going to do a pike-ish tendon stretch, so it looks like this. I'm gonna lift up my ribs but connect through my lower, so I'm not just humping my back, but I'm curling my spine as I lift my heels up and then I drop down. My shoulder blades are not changing, they're not doing this, they're pushing down. Lifting up and down, now listen carefully, I'm gonna lift up and stay up, I'm gonna bend my knees til my shins touch the edge of the Reformer, what shape am in? Stomach massage, that's gonna come next, and then I straighten my knees, I drop down.

Active arms, lift heels, active arms, bend knees, hug those ribs up and then come back and lower down. Last one, lift heels, bend knee, shins into the edge of the carriage, push those arms, lift the heels, and then lower down and then unwind yourself up. Next exercise, stomach massage. I love it, some people don't, but let's see if we can bring it to a little life. So I'm gonna put three red springs and a green one, pretty heavy, if you need to change it, of course that's okay.

A lot of times when you do the work, you've gotta feel the weight, you've gotta feel the pressure to kinda get everything to be engaged and sometimes you take those away and you look for the stability in the exercise. So in this exercise, stomach massage, put my bottom on that little sticky pad, swing my legs around, take my feet up to this foot bar, take the other one up. Now, hang on here for just a second because this feels kinda good just to hang on. But we don't wanna just hang on. Watch, we're gonna pull the belly in and we're gonna take this flexion and we're gonna get higher.

So the arms come here so I'm not sitting back like this. My sacrum, if you will, is coming this way. If you needed to put your feet here, some people might yell at me but go ahead and leave your feet here. See if you can keep the sacrum lifted, and just press and then come in. But you have to be careful here because you don't wanna come in and be like this, okay?

So, let's take the feet back up here, but if you need to keep 'em down there to start with, that's okay but let's see how long you can make your flexion. So it's out and in, let's not worry about the feet just yet, lower and raising. Let's just keep this scoop as I bring myself in, my thighs are gonna try to hug my stomach, hence stomach massage, just sayin', and then out and then come in. Now, quick out, lower raise, exhale. (deeply breathing) I hope you can see, or I can feel, that the flexion is actually gotten deeper as I got through a couple more repetitions.

Two more (breathing deeply), lower the feet down, I gotta rest just a second. I'm gonna take the green spring off, gonna put my feet back up here. I coulda done that by keeping them on, but I needed to rest just a second. Now watch, my hands are gonna come behind me, I'm actually gonna keep my fingers facing down. This is like leg pull face up on the mat, right?

We gotta find all those exercises on the mat, bring 'em alive on the mat by getting exercises on other pieces of equipment. I'm gonna press down to lift my back chest up. Now, go out, stay out here, as I bend my knees to come in I wanna keep pressing my arm which way? Backwards to engage that upper back. So I'm not resting on the shoulder rest, but as I come in I'm kinda pressing back with the arms.

(breathing deeply) I'm kind of exaggerating the breath 'cause I really want you to feel how you have to tie it in to the exercise. (breathing deeply) Two more, last one, now I'm gonna reach around, take one spring off, now I'm down to two red springs. Reaching, can I take the whole torso, reach it forward to the top of where the wall meets the ceiling? (breathing deeply) I'm gonna add rotation, inhale, rotate, exhale center, two twists with a sniff. (breathing deeply) Keep those heels lifted, last one.

(breathing deeply) Legs come down, turn your feet around, and bring yourself off of there. Short box, I hope it doesn't feel like it's been two hours because we've really just been doing nice, clean exercises. I hope you see some of the connections, this is done in real time to give you time to get your stuff as well. Just me and my Reformer, no props, no springs, no weighted bars. All the springs are on this exercise to keep the carriage stable during short box.

Take my little pad there or my little foot strap. Mkay now, woo my legs are shakin'. Okay so now, let's take, hoo, goodness. Okay, I'm gonna hug my hand around my ribs, I'm gonna tilt my pelvis and go back, and that low part of my spine is gonna tilt on the way back but when I come up, my legs are actually gonna be lighter and I'm gonna curl my upper spine over. Stack up, the strap'll take my feet, tip the lower spine, I'm gonna say that again to make sure it makes sense.

So it's not that it's my upper spine, but it's my upperest low spine. So it's curling up at that curve now that's coming like right underneath your shoulder blades so that you feel that flexion. And that's that same flexion in knee stretches, that's that same flexion in stomach massage, that it's not just about the tip. Even here, you're gonna hold that when you come up like your hands are gonna pull into your ribs, your legs actually soften so that you get that curl of your trunk up and over. Let's do that one more time. (breathing deeply) Now, if your body understands that exercise and you're ready to go back a little bit further, I'm not gonna take you all the way, whoa, I'm not gonna take you all the way back into the well but I do want you to engage that neck at some point.

So watch, you're gonna come to level, nod the chin, curl up. Notice I didn't just let my head fall back 'cause it's just as important, or it's actually more important to hold the head and here I am holding the flexion, then I let that flexion force go, but I'm still holding it so I'm not going into extension, I'm still holding it. That could be a little more advanced, but that's where that's headed, then it will go all the way back into the well. So coming off of the short box here, we're gonna turn it into, oh goodness. Okay, real time, I can't do short box round without doing short box lengthened.

Okay, I gave you a little extra break there. Okay so, coming back into the curl, sitting up from the curl, now my hands are gonna go up and to the ceiling and I'm gonna lean back. Keeping my front ribs towards my back ribs, I'm not gonna go into extension and then I pull myself up and lean back. My legs are quivering and then I bring myself up. We're gonna do that one more time.

Gonna go back and hold that right there one more big inhale, exhale brings myself all the way up, arms come down. I'm gonna take my feet out of the strap now, take my toes to the edge of the carriage. Side bending, now I want you to stay tall, but I don't want you to stay so tall that you're actually in extension. So I'm gonna have you pull your belly, I'm gonna have you pitch forward so that your head is still in line with the spine, you follow? But we're just pitched forward.

Then we're gonna do a side bending in that pitched forward position. I want this arm to stay behind your back because I want you to feel the lengthening happening on that left side of your body and then bring yourself up. And then do that again, side bend. Inhaling deep into these left ribs, exhale, bring yourself up, let's go to the other side. So again, you're pitched forward at your hip crease but you're not in flexion, your head is still in line with your spine.

Side bend, hand shaves down the side of the box, right arm behind your back, side bend left, breathing into those right ribs. And then bringing yourself up, shortening the right side. One more time, side bend left, lengthening right, exhale, return. Arms coming out in front, you do a rotation. So, we're gonna take both the arms, you're looking right between your hands so that your head is following right in between your hands so you're not changing.

Now, take this hand and try to reach it longer. Can you see how that makes that rotation? And then come back to center, I'm gonna go to the other side. So don't worry so much about your knees, okay? Because, let me tell you somethin' about the low back, there's not a lot of rotation in your lumbar spine, okay, actually not very much at all.

So it's actually okay if your knees move apart or come back and forth just a little bit. I like you to keep your head in line, I want you to twist that thorax and then come back. That's often times where we're missing that rotation because our thorax, meaning our rib packets, our rib cage, those pieces, and I'm tighter on this side and bring the self all the way back. Very good for short box, tiny little variations but all the concepts are there. Switching now to long box.

I'm gonna put in on one red spring. Coming to lie on your belly, have your arms just come down on the wood to start with, and kinda reach your legs long, kinda taking any wrinkles out of the front of your thighs and come to attract your thighs together. So it's not a big ol' butt squeeze, it's just a thigh squeeze and it engages the back of your legs. From here, take your arms out to like this cactus position and just hold this. Now, I want you to recognize level.

So what level means is I actually have to drop down a little bit so that this is actually almost harder than just holding that up face, so we're gonna hold this here. Now, the whole package is gonna lift up like my hands have a face on it and they're gonna smile to somebody out that window. So that's external rotation of the shoulders, upper back extension, and then return. External rotation of the shoulder, upper back extension. One more time, inhaling, and then exhaling.

Now I'm gonna grab my straps, grab up kinda high, head looks down, arms are down by the side. I'm gonna pull my arms all the way back, I'm gonna turn my palms face down as I externally rotate my shoulders, lift my chest up, arms out to the side, lower down. We're just combining here, arms pull straight down and back, inhale lift, exhale arms come out to the side, lower down. Level, inhale, arms pull back, chest lifts, hold, hold that extension while I return my arms, everything comes back down. One more time, inhale pull, and then reach your arms out, come all the way down.

Now, hang up your straps, do that same thing again with the arms, lift up and now can you push your hands over your head? Now, as soon as you raise your arms over your head, your upper body weight changes, and then come down and then lower down. That's gonna be swimming, that's so hard to do. Let's do that again, cactus arms, lift up the chest. That's one thing, that's hard enough.

Now, as I reach my arms over my head, I have to hold that, reaching, reaching, reaching, arms bend, lower yourself back down. Let's go ahead and do swimming. Here we go, reach, lift, alternate. (breathing deeply) One more time, everything comes back down. Bring yourself up to your knees on the box, whoa, sliding box, that's okay.

Now, separate your knees almost as wide as the box, sit your bottom down. Take your hands on the box and push the box forward, mkay and what that will do is that will actually pull your belly back. You put your hairline down first, your hands come to grab the backs of your heels. As I pull my hands into my heels, and press my shins into the mat, I can kind of lift up that back rib area. I'm gonna wiggle around a little bit.

I'm getting a deep hundred beat connection here. Watch my head, I'm going to the crown, now I'm gonna lift up my bottom, crown of the head, kinda like crab on the mat. Don't worry, I'm not gonna go into a head stand, although it would be fun, and then come down. One more time, back of the neck stretching, front of the neck working, releasing, bringing yourself all the way back and all the way up. I think that's a take, I'm sweating.

Thanks for joining me, have fun.

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Valya Karcher
I love the discussion Karen. It expands our clarity and purpose. Thank you for a great workout!
1 person likes this.
Thank you! I love the rotator cuff connections and the work on the side of the reformer!
1 person likes this.
Yap! - felt the connections!!!
great workout, - I love the precise cues and the little challenges created by attention to where I should feel the work and by rhythm-changes! Thank you Karen!
1 person likes this.
Just love all of your little connecting exercises. So many great cues and right now I can't think of them all. One that I absolutely loved was when we were doing short box and on the way up, in flexion when you mentioned going lighter into the legs, that was so huge. Definitely felt my abs deepening! And by the way, my legs were shaking too. Going to definitely watch this again to write down all your fabulous cues. Thank you Karen you have taught me so much!
1 person likes this.
One word: smart!
1 person likes this.
I love how easy this is to follow by myself in my studio trying to think of small new ideas I can remember - straightforward but creative - thanks Karen!
1 person likes this.
Absolutely fantastic! Great variety, modifications, and nuances!
1 person likes this.
Such great work- thank you Karen
1 person likes this.
Thank you! I now know, understand and FEEL the connections in the movements. Basics that are anything but basics. Also adore the way you describe what the body should be doing and feeling. I'm 68, fairly new to being consistent with pilates. Your 4-video series has been really helpful. I did this one twice to be sure I got it!
1 person likes this.
Love it... love you!
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