Class #3738

Reformer Release

35 min - Class


You will wake up your entire body with this quick and effective Reformer workout with Niedra Gabriel. She teaches a hybrid class, playing with the position of certain movements to stimulate different parts of your body. She also helps you find connections to your powerhouse with creative variations to exercises like Single Straight Leg Stretch, Stomach Massage, and much more.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box, Pilates Pole, Magic Circle

About This Video

Mar 27, 2019
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Hi everyone this is just a fun hybrid reformer I sometimes like to do to give myself an effective workout, work a little bit of everything, not too much of everything, I hope you enjoy it. This, by the way, is a Gratz Reformer. I will say the springs, if your working on a Balanced Body, the variations of springs will be different. Just see if you can find something that works for you. I have it on three springs for footwork because I'm a lightweight.

So starting out, first of all, before I start out, I check that I have all five toes on the bar. So I can't have too much of a V, because I want all five toes working and clawed, and then, before I press out, I actually lengthen my body against the shoulder rest as though I'm pushing against something up. Then when I get to the top, I lengthen my body even more. So I'm pushing against the resistance of the spring to create length, and then I try not to lose that on the way back. 'Cause it's so easy to just give into the springs.

Pilates Stance

So the whole time I'm focusing on keeping the spring tension being in opposition, my body's creating opposition to the springs in a very long manner. Moving onto Bird on a Perch, I play with a variety of places. Right now I'm placing them just below the balls of the feet, so I really attempt to claw the bar, trying to get this whole low part of my foot very activated, and then I'll go out an in again, checking, do I have this maximum length in my body? Is my neck really long? And then I go for the warming up of my legs, getting them moving.


Keeping, every time I come back, I attempt not to lose the length out of my body. Moving onto the heels, I spread my feet, footwork, I'm attempting to spread the foot, and widen every toe separated apart, and keep the foot very active. Again, checking my length, so from my feet to my head, I'm creating length and openness, and then working the length of the, movement to create warmth, and wake up my body. Now moving out to the corners, I get on the balls of my feet. So I'm now moving out, looking to get the heels quite lifted.


Again, getting that length, and then pressing out and in here. Starting to work a little more into my calves. Almost like thinking of what would it be like if I was jumping, pressing into my feet to create this length through my head, elongating every time. Coming back to the middle, a slight Pilates V again, all five toes, I'm trying to be very aware of the sensation in my toes on this bar, and moving through the tendon stretch. So maybe pausing here, checking, so two ways, if I bend my knees, I can get deeper into my ankles, if I lengthen into the knees, it works higher up on my calves.

Second Position Toes

I like to play with both places, just because I'm looking to just stimulate my body, wake it up, make it strong, keeping this length and traction, with the resistance that the springs are giving me. And then coming back in, now, Magic Circle. So my feet are on the bar, middle of the foot, and I start out with the inner thighs. So I'm checking that both hips are even, my sacrum and my tail are nicely grounded into the mat, and now I start bringing the knees together. So as I do this, and the muscles are waking up, I'm beginning to start to find the inner thighs, and then the outer thighs, and then I start bringing my glutes into it.

Tendon Stretch

So I'm creating this contraction from the base. Now it's real easy to get it from the knees, and you can still have slaggy muscles in the adductor area very often, they're kinda secondary. So now with my mind, I'm attempting to make the inner thighs, outer thighs, and glutes the dominant muscle that's initiating the move, not the knees. And now adding the bridging to this, so I'm activating that area, and then using the lift, and I'm actually pressing away. So what that does, is it creates a firing in the hamstrings and the glutes, and this whole back line of the body tends to turn off for us in this modern world because we sit so much.

Magic Circle Adduction

So the front of the body is activated, the quads are strong, but the back of the body is often not as quick to respond and doesn't tend to take it's fare share of loading in the physiology of the body, really. So here I am, I'm working into my glutes, inner and outer thighs, and you can actually pause and check, are these muscles really firing, because you want them to. Now I check, can I get even higher? So I'm starting to release them more, this can contract the more the hip flexors will let go, and then I start the pulsing, just staying up here. Again, can I get my glutes to be the initiators, my stomach to be the stabilizers, and then the links in the front of the thigh opening, and the back of the leg and the inner thighs creating the contraction.


Rolling all the way down, just for a minute, I'll take my feet, give them a nice hamstring stretch. If I bend my knees, I can get deeper into the ankles, and then I try to keep that as I press up, pressing my tail down and my heels up. Now, going into the opposition muscle group, so the heels on the bar, Magic Circle is just below the knees on the outside. My sacrum is down, and now I start widening the legs, and it's the opposite muscle group I'm working. So from the hips to the knees, I'm looking for this connection, and activation of my leg, 'cause I want all my muscle groups kind of awake and working.

Bridge with Adduction

And at some point, I can start to feel my whole pelvis widening, very important to create space in the bones, and at the same time, part of the glutes are contracting. So now pressing out, I hold this position, dig into the heels, and start the bridging movement. So up and down, and even though I'm staying very conscious of this widening of the hips, I'm actually activating and firing my glutes at the same time. So a lot of work is starting to happen in the legs. And now staying up, I'm still pressing out, I'm still activating, I'm starting the whole pulsing movement, getting the legs even further, and then rolling back down.

Hamstring Stretch

One more time, I'm giving myself a hamstring stretch. So the heels go to the ceiling, the backs of the legs lengthen up, most important is the tail and sacrum down, so opposition of stretch happening here. And now taking this a little bit to the next level, the Magic Circle is between the knees again, and again, I lift up, anchoring in, getting my glutes to work. Now I start to go out and in. So very important when you do this, it's not important to go all the way.

Magic Circle Abduction

What's important is to keep the activation of all these muscles and get the kind of joints to still be active. So I'm creating stability and support in my legs as I'm moving. Rolling down, the same thing with the Magic Circle on the outside. So I'm pressing out, widening the pelvis, lengthening the spine, pressing into the heels to get that activation of the back of the legs, keeping the thighs wide, and going out and in, making sure the whole center of my glutes is active, and the legs are held wide to create some lovely stability, and base for the legs to get very strong, and stable. Rolling back down, one last hamstring stretch here, lengthening everything out, checking that my spine is long, so the legs are nicely fired.


Now moving onto one leg. I was on three springs, I'm now releasing to two springs on the Gratz machine, probably yellow and blue if you're on Balanced Body, it really depends on the type of equipment you're in. And here I am on one, with my legs, hip width apart, and now I'll start working with one leg. So one leg's in the air, now very important to keep the pelvis very steady, and I'm starting to push out and in with the one leg. More important than getting out is the activation of my glute first.

Bridge with Abduction

So I'm getting my hamstring and glutes connected up. So the back of the leg is firing, and the stability all around the socket is nicely set up. I'm changing legs, I'll do the same with the other side, again, activating the glute into the hamstring. So I am setting up a foundation for the working leg to do really, do it's job, and support the socket. And now, shifting, lifting the hip up and down.

Hamstring Stretch

This is where the rubber hits the road, because usually the hips can start to destabilize all over the place, and start to compensate, so the stabilizers have to kick in, in order to create this movement without the trunk starting to twist and turn. Changing legs, the same thing, I anchor and ground the pelvis first. I find my stability, and then I go up and down, hopefully without flopping all over the place. One side is always a little bit different from the other, that's why I love finding all my weak spots, what I can't do well, and working on them, just raises the bar on my potential and client's potential. We love finding our weaknesses.

Pelvic Lift with Adduction

Making sure it's really working, I can feel this whole band working, coming down, now adding a little bit more intensity to this, lifting up, now I press out and in. So again, it's not important to go all the way out, because very often, if you go all the way out, you jump out of the muscle into the joint, and you want to really get that back bend of the body working. And rolling down, and other side, I stabilize my pelvis, find my glutes and my hamstrings, and then lift up, very stable in these two hips, and again, out and in, making sure that everything's connected up nicely. And then rolling down, and now, because my hips and my legs have done such a nice job. Come into a Figure Four stretch.

Pelvic Lift with Abduction

First of all, just pulling in. For those of you who have a really stiff pelvis, so stiff hips, wonderful way to get into is press out, one leg in, and then slowly come on in. It's just a great way to stretch if you're stiffer. And then a real fun variation, put the legs down, keep your hands down, drop the knee to the side, and then take the hip that's in the air, see if you can anchor it and press the other knee down, away from you. It will get into aspects of your hip sockets that you may have not visited in a long time, you may even feel the whole connection, the other side, the knee, you have a nice square position, you drop the knee and the hip, you take the opposite hip towards the mat, and then you extend the knee away from you to the best that it can do, massive connection into something deep, and hopefully profound for you.

Hamstring Stretch

People are like, oh my God! This is great and horrible at the same time, love stuff like that. Bring your knees in, rock side to side, just release everything. Moving onto arm work, and connecting into the lats. I've kind of activated my lower body, now I want my upper body connected up. I have two springs, I like to let the foot bar down, and I will hold onto the handles.

Single Leg

Diamond shape, very important, the more you can get your elbows to the side, the more you'll get into your triceps. And I lift the legs to Tabletop. From here, I'm pulling my armpits to my waist, not down to the mat, that's a different set of muscles, to the waist to find the lat. Ladies, this is it for you, us ladies very often have weak lats, we don't know how to work 'em, and then we end up with lots of shoulder and neck problems. So this is where you really start to find that connection of armpits to waist, so you engage, and then you pull.

Single Leg Bridge

Now once you've really found this connection, you will probably find your stomach muscles engaging and holding the trunk steady. So the full power house is connected, can you lift your head as well? So now the full truck is established, and connected up, and now can you take your legs back and forth, riding the legs out from the stomach, and the glutes and the lower back stabilizing the position, the lats holding you steady, so everything is nice and even. Coming back, lifting the legs straight, pulling in and lifting again, and now let's do scissors here. And the whole point is not the flexibility, but connecting the legs into the glutes, so there's this long connection, glutes moving the legs, the stomach creating stability, the lats creating support for the upper body, and bending in.

Single Leg Lift

So it's basically the modern version of the powerhouse, 'cause you're taking your trunk, making it function, and then you've got everything else moving as a result. Last one would be lower lift, so again, elbows are lifted, Tabletop for the lower body, lift into the powerhouse with the upper body, so I've got my lats connected, and now I'm lowering and lifting the legs, moving them from the stomach and the buttocks, and my lats are firing like crazy, and bending in. Now adding on with the arms long. I like to have the arms pulling down to the mat a few times. Ideally, if you notice I'm pulling my armpits to my waist first, so my truck is connected, can feel my shoulder blades going down my back, and then that's what I use to lower and lift the arms.

Figure Four Stretch

So I'm making sure I'm moving from my center out, rather than from my periphery in. Once you really get this, it changes everything about how you work. Now I'm adding my head lift. And my whole front is firing, and now I add leg extensions for extra weight into the front trunk, and now I'll add my hundreds into here. So I'm deepening into my stomach, I'm moving from my lats, my legs are being supported from the stomach and the back, and I'm extending as far as I can out, I don't count 100, I'm just doing some to make sure I'm working hard, and then I'm coming back.

Arms w/Diagonal Reach

So that kind of got my body waking up and moving, I'm now going into a little bit of Long Back variation. So I will put the Long Box on, I'm moving, on this machine, I'm going into one spring, so it's a lighter weight. And I'll be doing the same focus points here, the difference being that now I'm pressing my pelvis into the mat to create this anchoring of the pelvis, and I'm slightly activating into my glutes and my hamstrings. So my lower body's anchored, and from my tail to my head, I want this beautiful length, and as I pull, lats down, I want this sense of lengthening to the front, through the crown of my head. So my whole back body now is firing and supporting my body weight.

Double Leg Stretch

And as I feel that I'm warming up, I start to lift a little bit higher. And one more time, even higher, and coming back down. From here, again, I'm going to step, I'm going to get rid of this so it doesn't get me in trouble. I'll be sitting facing the back. So when I'm sitting, I want this sense of very square position, and I'm reaching across the body, so the free hand, I'm holding the front of the box to create a sense of what my square front is, and I'm reaching this hand as far as I can forward.


And the first thing I'll do is pull the armpit down, slightly back, and from my shoulder blade and rib cage, I pull back. So I'm lengthening back, so I'm activating this whole side of the ribs. Again, my lats, so that my upper trunk will be stable. Once I have that clearly and functionally in my body, I start to add rotation. So I'm rotating from my rib cage, and from my, I would say shoulder, armpit, rib cage.

Lower Lift

Shoulder blade, arm pit, rib cage. So I'm getting this whole trunk initiation going into the arm movement. Going into the other side, first I just want the anchoring of the lats, so I make sure that I'm really moving from the trunk into the periphery. And now I'm starting to add the rotation. Always checking that I have a lot of height in the trunk at the same time, and I'm not really pulling from my hand, but it's all coming from the center and moving out.

Arms Reaching Forward

From here, coming into a fun variation of a stomach massage, I'm bringing the box to the middle. I'm putting myself back onto three springs, and I'm popping myself up, so I place my feet first, make sure all five toes are on, and then I slide my bottom down. Now when you're here, there's gonna be all this space. So the first thing I do is press out, and get as good a corner. And my goal is to get this 90 degree angle if I possibly can, some people can't, you do the best you can.

Arms Reaching Forward w/Forward Flexion

Sometimes the box can dig in, then you put a pad here. Now the beauty with this setup, is I have a back support that I can lift the whole waist area up, and then get my scoop. And I'm actually using the box to kinda press back into, and it grounds this base for me, and creates a support that I can do the high part of my abdomen, and make it work, so I get that lifting up and over support. Now, I'm releasing a spring, you can stay strong with the spring tension, it's your choice. You can go sideways, or behind.

Hundred Preparation

If you've got more flexibility in the shoulders, this is a wonderful place to create this openness of the chest, but your still getting that lower back pressing into the box, so you have a very organized structure in the whole lift. So as I'm doing the work now, I can get this massive length and openness, and take advantage of the box to spiral my body upwards. Now moving out and in, no hands, the support of the base is giving me a lovely lift, and moving into rotation. Rotation only in the ribs, the box is giving me feedback of where I stay square, and where I rotate from. And now my favorite part, the little stretch, pressing out, giving a lovely stretch to the back and the hamstrings, lowering down, just enjoying this for a minute, coming back, and coming in.


Nice place to grab and open up the hips a little bit more. Sitting up, I'm going into Short Box. And again, a nice, fun variation I enjoy doing, and have shared with many clients, is a way to roll back when you feel unsteady, so, here we are. So we're sitting back. Very often, the lower back can build up a lot of tension, or tightness, clients feel unsure of going too far back, sometimes I get a stiffness in there.

Pulling Straps

So of course, you can just got back the normal way as far as your body's ready to on that day. But if you place your hands, and you go back, you get your sacrum nicely stabilized on the box, you can use your hands to traction, I'm hoping you can see that I'm taking my whole rib cage and lengthening it away from my pelvis. So as I open out, I create this beautiful length, and then on the way up, I push. So it creates a little support, and a way you can get into your own body, and feel very safe, that you're always in control, and you're never gonna kind of scrunch down into the lower back. Of course it's, you could say it's a prop, it's not the real Round Back exercise, it's fine, I don't do it all the time, but at times, I love to do this, 'cause it just feels wonderful on my skeleton.

Single Arm Pulling Straps w/Oppositional Arm Extension

Stretching down, flat back, nice and long. So I gradually go into this, and just again, this is just a nice warmup, or nice workout just to keep me going. Get as much length as I can get out of my back, and do my Side Bends, opening up, now, if I take the ankle forward, I'm working into my obliques. If I go vertical, I'm working into opening my side ribs. So no right or wrong, just whatever your body feels like doing today, wanted my side ribs to work.

Stomach Massage w/Short Box

Nicely lifted long back, rotation, twist and reach. First variation, now another variation is when I start to go onto the hip, and onto the hip. So now it's taking into play all the different skills that we just did, I'm dealing with extension, Side Bends into my obliques, and a lot of stomach support, and of course balance. Bending over, getting into just loosening up my legs for Tree. I'm flexing and pointing, lengthening the hamstring a lot, and climbing down, opening.

Round Back

I love to go to the foot, give it a good stretch, lengthen my back. If I'm combining range of movement, and length, and stretch in this workout I'm doing today. Love this, trying to get as much length out of my back as I can, with as openness in the leg. Figure Four stretch, hip stretch, other side. Checking that my hips are square.

Flat Back

The leg is as far in as I can have it today. And flex and point, lifting up my trunk, and then leaning back, anchoring my pelvis, opening my spine, and trying to give myself a little stretch. Climbing down, opening, deepening into the position, and not forgetting this lovely stretch, I got this from Romana, she used to give this to us years ago, and we loved it, and I kept it in my repertoire bags of tricks that I like to enjoy and share. And then Figure Four stretch, bending over, loosening everything up. Moving into just elephant, I want to open up my back a little bit further, and working the backs of my legs, just for a little bit of stimulation.

Side Bend

So headrest is back up, I'm on two springs now, and heel and heel. Now the big thing here for me is getting this lumbar spine very long, this is where we take a lot of tightness. So how much can I pull the lower ribs back, and my stomach up, and then narrow into the hips. I'm also taking my armpits and wrapping them around to widen my back, and pulling my armpits to my waist. So I'm connecting my whole trunk up, and then I'm working the legs in and out, attempting to feel that they're actually being pressed from my stomach, and as the legs go out and in, I'm lifting the navel up as much as I can, and then going down to knee stretch.

Twist and Reach

I like to think of this exercise like a cat or an animal preparing to jump. So I am getting ready. Look at your cat next time they jump, they get into these positions. I anchor into the center of my body, and then I'm working the legs to get them ready for that leap, I'm actually leaping. Then I know where I want to go, so again, I'm opening my chest, I'm getting the legs ready, and I'm pressing out again.


So my trunk is stable, but then I'm using the power of the legs to propel them back, so I'm waking them up. And knees off, is very much inspired off of a very old photo I saw of Joseph Pilates, where he was down, but way back here, so it anchored the whole body into the back space, and then he was going back and forth. And I love this variation because it keeps the back very open, and keeps me in my trunk, and powers my legs. So I like to use the exercises in a lot of different ways in order to find qualities, and now I'm ready for my cool down. I've got all four springs on, so full positioned, I'm going to do the running.


I'm making sure that my body's even on the reformer. Nice long position, I'm pressing into those springs, and as I start the prances, I want to remember that I'm pushing up into the shoulder rests, lengthening the legs down, so always working all of this opposition of energy to create length, openness, and power in my own body. And coming back in, and that's a little fun, fast workout! Hope you enjoyed it.


2 people like this.
Thank you, Niedra. Loved this dynamic totally body workout in just 32 minutes. Fun variations that make each exercise accessible for all. Thanks for this!
2 people like this.
This was a great, fast paced class! The “engaging your lats” instruction was particularly helpful for me and I definitely felt it differently. Thanks very much!
2 people like this.
Also, my hamstrings say “HELLO!!!!” this morning. Ouch! Great workout! It is in my once a week folder. Thanks again!
Niedra Gabriel
Thank you Lori, for your comments. always happy to read about how the workout is creating an impact.
2 people like this.
Thankyou! Love all the insight and descriptions in the footwork opposition, length , etc. 💚knees off!
2 people like this.
Sweaty and fast! Thanks for maximizing the time you had and putting a true full body workout together!
2 people like this.
Thank you Niedra, I liked everything a lot, especially the stomach massage variation with the box. The only thing I would like to mention critically is that it was a bit hasty. Pace is fine, but as a viewer, doing it with you for the first time, it was too fast. whenever I found myself in the right place you already moved on.. It is then difficult to really feel into it.
It’s always great to have variations of the core exercises! The short box for stomach massage really helped me stay lengthened in spine! Always a challenge to stay lifted. I appreciate your directions and identifying the areas of focus for each exercise. Thanks Niedra
1 person likes this.
Beautiful class Niedra! Loved it all! Greetings from Costa Rica!
Awesome class
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