Class #3990

Reformer Exploration

40 min - Class


Learn how you can use the Reformer as a sophisticated proprioception tool with this exploratory workout by James Crader. He shares how he uses this piece of apparatus and invites you to use his movements as inspiration for what your body is feeling today. He encourages you to make yourself open and available to receive the lessons that the Reformer and your movements will teach you.

If you are returning to try this class again, James starts moving at about 2:33.
What You'll Need: Reformer (No Box), Overball

About This Video

Jan 24, 2020
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Welcome back everybody. Uh, I'm your guide for this adventure James crater, and we're here with the reformer. I know that the reformer is the most beloved of all [inaudible] equipment and I like it too. I use it really specifically at my studio, and so when I was asked to come and do a reformer class, I thought, well, I'm going to show how I use it and what I do with it. There's not going to be a lot of tricks here. What we're going to utilize this for is as a very sophisticated body sensation. Proprioception tool. I see spring tension is artificial gravity.

So here we can have gravity coming this way or this way. We always have gravity coming this way, so we're going to play today on the reformer. My advice to you is as you watch me process through these exercises, these explorations don't use your brain to try and copy me use, and this is really cool. Use your heart to try and copy me. I just read it. I'm like so excited about this information that we have mirror neurons in our hearts. Mirror neurons are the parts of what I always believed our brain to be that uh, allow us to copy and mimic and explore things that we see other people exploring movement wise.

We have mirror neurons in our hearts for compassion and empathy and I personally think we probably also have mirror neurons in our hearts to know what feels good to us. So rather than doing what I do, use what I do as inspiration to do what you do, we're going to start off, I'm starting off on two reds in a blue. I'm on a balanced body reformer here and we're going to start off with some footwork. My goal for today is to weave you in and out of some standard looking [inaudible] exercises and then give you some inspiration on how to kind of play with this. My recommendation, if you have not yet, is to go back and watch the meditation video that I did on sitz bones meditation and primal streak stuff. We're going to be using some language from that that you're going to need to know. This is installment number two of that three part series. And coming up, we've got a mat class for you where we take all the stuff from lessons one, two and make it into a lesson three for you about human movement. So this is the cultivation stage of, of the exploration.

We had the emerging stage with the meditation cultivation stage where we're going to let the reformer reformer teach us something about ourselves. So again, two reds, one blue. We're just going to start off with uh, some footwork. So I'm going to lie down and I'm going to get started. So I'm just going to be here and are already like, I want my head up a little bit to start off with. So instead of doing the usual like squeeze here, push here, do that thing. I'm going to access my meditation. Can I allow my sits bones to be wide? Can I allow my to be wide?

Can I sense where the midline spaces and how much to the left and to the right, am I aware of? And that's going to be my opening. And then I'm just going to breathe for a moment and then I'm just going to start to push in and out. I'm not going to give myself a lot of cues here. Instead what I'm trying to do is make myself available for the lessons that the reformer and the movement itself is going to teach me. So as I move, I'm just going to talk you through my experience as I move automatically and if you go back to the meditation, my left side feels weird. My right side feels open, I'm aware it got the beautiful ocean and clouds back their left side, so I'm going to concentrate on just allowing my left sit bone to open up a little bit and automatically. That kind of helps me, so I'm just going to be here moving.

Then I'm going to go to balls of the feet and I'm just gonna first access some ankle movement. I'm going to decide on a good height for myself and then I'm going to move from there. Now you may have decided a different height for yourself. Sometimes I really like a really high heel here. Often. I'll just allow my heels to sink and can I keep them under to the best of my ability as I come in, I'm going to lift lower and go under few more times here. Then maybe I'll bring my heels together. Oh, for me, that just automatically brought my sits bones together, so because I'm aware of that, I'm going to just allow that to open up a bit. Check in with yours.

When you bring your heels together, does that squeeze your sitz bones together and can you just not, there's nothing right or wrong with it. It's just what can I create some options and then I'm going to come in and I'm gonna open up here. Do a few here. Just kind of checking in. It's a really neutral, easy wait, good. So all of that super familiar looking. Now here I've got a pile of these mini balls. When I use the ball, I typically will deflate it a good half to three quarters of the way. It doesn't matter. The size, doesn't matter the brand. Use it however you're going to use it. If you want it really big, if you want it really small in the studio too, I'll often use like a little Franklin balls or something to place right on the sacrum.

I'm using this today cause we're gonna use this a lot in our mat class and it's just good to have a cohesive experience. So I'm going to take this and I'm going to put it underneath my sacrum more or less. It's really big and I'm going to open up wide here. I'm going to go a little bit of, if you wanted to get anatomical with it, the end of the lumbar L five S one more so than the coccsyx or tailbone, just so that my sits bones can be wide here and I'm just going to be here for a bit and then I'm going to push out. My goal for myself is to kind of open up the front of my body and a little thing I like to do in my workouts and something that I encourage my students to do too, is can I relax my abs as I do that? There's nothing really great about or better about relaxed abs.

I think we just typically tend to squeeze too much, which blocks that emerging process that we covered. If as I push out my abs decide to contract themselves as they are, that's a whole other story. Can I just relax and allow my body to intuitively do what it needs to do? From there, I'm just going to get a little spiraling in. I'm going to lower my left hip down and push out.

Come back in right hip. Now I can stay there just doing this or, and here's where the cultivation phase comes in. Meaning I'm going to allow the reformer to teach me some lessons here as I go in and out. Can I allow my body to do what is called positive compensation? Meaning I'm going to allow my body to really begin to move here in ways that feel intuitive to move.

So again, if you're watching this and mirroring with your brain, this may not work for you. If you're watching this and mirroring with your heart, this is going to work for you. Can I just begin to move in ways that feel interesting to my own body. [inaudible] at some point I'm even going to do a little tuck and an untuck accessing some movement down in the pelvis and then coming in from there. We're going to take the ball and just set it to the side for a moment and kind of continue with this. From here, I'm going to go to the balls of my feet.

I'm going to put my hands here works. I'm going to block my face for a moment, but you know what that looks like. So I'm going to go here and just kind of reach through this. I'm going to do an extra push through my arms, extra push and back. Then I'm going to decide to kind of come over onto my side and do an push and a look and then come back.

I'm going to do a push and a look and a come back rolling over to my hip and come back. As I go through that, I'm just accessing, well, are my sits bones allowed to be relaxed? Can I sense the space between the pelvis? And the head and can I get everything to move one more? Oh, all the way back in. Then just allow the knees to drop over to your right space and over to your left space.

Check back in which side do they drop more too. For me it's the right, the left little harder, which I can expect because I've already meditated around which space do I move better? Torwards then just bring yourself back to center. From there I'm going to drop my head rest back down and I'm going to go through a little bit of bridging here, so I'm going to come up and I'm going to go back down for your bridging. Do it the way that you know bridging to be done. Sometimes we come up planked sometimes it's articulated follow.

Follow your own school of thought. Here on the way down though, can I come down through each and every disc of the spine and just notice how that makes you feel. Then we're going to come back up. However it is. You come up and instead we're going to go, well, can I come down through my lungs, my kidneys, my stomach, intestines sits bones wide. From there we're going to come up and I'm going to change my mind. I'm going to go down my right lung, my right kidney, all the way down to my right, sit bone and allow myself to just find center.

I'm going to come up, rotate, left lung, left kidney, all the way down. Last one of this, we're going to come up. I'm going to access my meditation, allow the Headspace to be wide and come down through that spinal channel. Ah, if I get stuck, I just pause. Do an inhale. [inaudible] [inaudible] I'm gonna just kind of be there for a moment and then we're gonna move on. Okay. From here, let's go ahead and just put on a red and a blue.

Uh, my body is telling me it would like to do some mermaid stuff, so we're going to have a little bit of a mermaid, right hand left hand out. We're going to press out and you're going to do your mermaid, whatever your mermaid looks like. If you're new to [inaudible], just have your leg kinda to the side. One in front, I'm on a red and a blue. Do a weight that makes sense to your body. Right hand is going to push out and I'm going to stretch over and then I'm going to come back up. Mermaid is one of my favorite exercises to play with and here's my thought process behind it. Someone invented this.

Someone said in order to do this thing called mermaid, you're going to put your hand here, you're going to reach and then you're going to do some specific stuff. That's great. That's a very precise way of doing something. It doesn't mean that it's the right way to do it. It doesn't mean that it's the right way to do it for your body. So this is me giving you permission to sort of play with that.

I'm going to guide you through a little bit. Here's what I think as I push out the first exploration is can I just allow my sits bones to be wide and stay where they're at and then come back up? How does that limit or influence what it is that I'm doing? So as I push out my sits bones are wide and they are where they are, whatever happens with this arm, great. Then I'm going to change my mind and instead I'm going to go, that's my right space over there.

So sitz bones can do whatever they want to do and I'm going to reach over to my right space and then I'm going to come back up. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just a choice. Then from there, I'm going to just watch my left hand and what if my left hand became a paper airplane and it just got to go wherever it wanted to go and my eyes just began to watch wherever my hand wanted to go. One more of those cause that feels good to me today. Good. Now from there, what if we just made the decision to put both hands on the foot bar and I'm going to push out and I'm going to come back in. I'm going to push out and then I'm going to make a decision.

I'm going to keep my arms straight. I'm going to keep pushing and I'm just going to bring my sits bones in, pushing out and back in. I'm going to make another decision and just let my head look somewhere else. As I do that and I'm spotting for me, I see a light up there. I'm just going to keep watching the light. Then I'm going to look over here. I'm going to look at that cloud over there and just keep moving in and out.

Simple enough, right? Let's do the other side, so again with this, it's just a generic layout. I put my hand here and here. Each school of thought has its own reasoning why it does mermaid the way it does mermaid. I'm just allowing for some positive compensation. What does my body wants to do? Does it want to reach [inaudible] or watch [inaudible] or is it my body's preference today to have sits bones down to the best of their ability and let that be where I moved from. Then go ahead and just put both hands on the foot bar there, pressing in and out at first. Just get used to it.

Then make some decisions for me, keep my arm straight and allow the sitz bones to come in. Then make some decisions with the eyes looking for clouds or the waves looking over at a light or looking for my own leg. The decision is yours to make. Okay? From there feeling the need to do some sort of split thing. So we're just going to go here and just kind of push out a little bit.

Maybe I even go here for a bit, something decently standard [inaudible] and then I'm just going to make some different decisions. I'm going to look up [inaudible], I'm going to look over to my right and I'm going to let my body get really interested and what's over to the right, maybe even behind me, maybe down to the left [inaudible] and then come back in. Same thing. Other side. What we're doing with these explorations is just beginning to self-discover. Well, what can my body do [inaudible] and then just making some choices to do what is called cellular deformation. Meaning the way that I move decides how my cells look, how they relate to one another, what choices they have, where I'm tight, where I'm strong, where I'm not, and by choosing different routes of movement, what I'm doing is just creating more options in the body. My guiding light here is what can I just still allow my sits bones to be wide and can I become really aware of the space between my sits bones in my head.

From there, let's go into a nice stretch I have on a red and a blue. I'm going to do the easy version of knee stretch. I'm just going to sit back and I'm going to do my meditation, sitz bones wide Headspace, and I'm just going to push in and out. What I'm gonna do at first is just allow the Springs to inform me what the information or the information that I'm looking for right now is as I push out, can I relax my abs and a certain space out? I no longer can and I'm just interested to know where is that space for me it's right about here any further and I feel my abs have to pull up so I'm going to go out.

I'm going to be in that space and I'm going to see if I can relax and widen as my abs do their job. [inaudible] [inaudible] one more of those now I have some old videos on is anytime in the mat class I talk about big shapes, long shapes, little shapes. Go back and watch that one cause we're going to reference that right now. Here, can I be the littlest shape I can be and then as I push out, can I be the biggest shape? Come back in. Can I go little? Can I go big, little, big, little, big, bigger, bigger, bigger.

Stay big. [inaudible] stay big and then go little from there. Knee stretches. One of my favorites. So I'm just going to decide to put my hands here and see as I go big and little and just change where my eyes go. What movements are available to me here? [inaudible] if I decide to put a hand somewhere else, what movements are available to me there?

[inaudible] changing my mind [inaudible] and then I'm going to come back and I'm going to go right back into just my standard knee stretch and go, Oh look at that. I can be more relaxed in a bigger shape. I understand better where I am in space and so I can even go out and make this decision [inaudible] to lift and lower my knees. I may even just want to lift one knee or the other knee. So after a few times of pushing in and out like that, I'm just going to make the decision to bring my hands together and as I push out, left arm moves to left space and back in how far it goes and then right arm, how far it goes and whether you choose to watch it or not, your decision at some point that hand is going to become a paper airplane and how I move [inaudible] it's just dependent on where the airplane wants to fly.

[inaudible] bringing it all the way back in and being there. Okay. From there. I'm going to choose a red, we're going to go into some more and more pure. So I'm going to stay down and I'm just going to do some pooling and back in [inaudible] I'm going to make the decision to have my arms go straight. Elbows are going to come in right back out. I'm now more confident and coming up, getting my feet adjusted and I can do some version of serve the tray of an arm push.

I can even open up [inaudible] I'm doing some hugged the tree. I can do it low. I can do it hi and bring it back in. I'm going to go back down and I'm going to make some different decisions. Now what if my right arm went forward but my left arm went out to the side and I had to have tension in both and I'm just sort of exploring how my arms relate to one another as I make different decisions. They could come in and they can change and what if I made the decision to let my ribs go with it? [inaudible] or if my eyes just chose to follow my left hand, no matter where it went or the right hand can I still allow my sits bones to be wide, my spine to be flexible as I reach lift both open up reach, lift up, eyes are watching both open up.

So from there I'm just going to get my toes set up. Now with a tuck, my cue when my toes talk is I have five toes on each side. I've got 10 toes. Can I feel 10 toes as I press I have 10 toes that inform 10 fingers to lift. My eyes are going to watch open. Come back down. We're mirroring here what we did with the big shape, little shapes in knees, stretch, push through my legs. I can choose to watch a hand, let it go where it wants to go.

[inaudible] one more lifting and coming back in so you can take the framework of the things you know to be true from your [inaudible] practice. And then once you understand yourself a little bit better, you can begin to open up and make some different decisions. From there. I'm putting a blue back on. I'm going to go feet into straps. So I'm going to lie down [inaudible] and they're in sits bones wide. Here I am and I'm going to pull down and back up standard stuff.

If you do a flex and appoint, do that here. If you go heels together. Great. And then what if just my left leg got to go out to the side a bit. What am I right [inaudible] or both or if both wanted to go in the middle [inaudible] or if one wanted to rotate open [inaudible] where are the checking in with how I'm receiving this information? What's going on in the rest of the body?

Do I feel safe and secure as I do this or do I get a little anxious? If I get anxious, just go back into my meditation. I can bend one leg, can even push it out. Let's do one more of those on each side cause I like it [inaudible] and then I can go into my circles. They can be small, they can be bigger, they can be asymmetrical. They could even lift my sits bones a bit open for me.

I like to find my sits bones Lyft. Let it kind of round me a bit open up. And this next one I'd love to say I invented this, but this was actually from one of my students. I said, let's do leg circles. And she said, all right. And so she just did this and I liked it. Now go ahead and place your hands onto your shoulder blocks or um, the strapped poles. Whatever works best for you.

And as you take your legs to the right, can you let your ribs and everything go same over to the left. And can you give yourself permission to let your head go with it? Maybe even looking around the room [inaudible] after so many in one direction, reverse your direction. [inaudible] just big size. Help that spinal channel open up from here.

I'm going to get myself adjusted a bit so that it's not a peep show. We're going to lift up, open up and come back down. I can try different placements for my arms. [inaudible] my body prefers this for today. Once I'm up, I'm just going to allow my body to move side to side as I come down. Right? Lung, left lung, right lung, left, one going up, left lung, right lung, left lung, right lung. [inaudible].

Learning all the little spaces to open. One more this time I'm going to do that, but I'm going to open up wide, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot all the way. I'm going to come up. I'm going to bend my knees. I'm going to make the decision to go parallel as I come down and I'm going to reach and then I'm just going to hang out here for a moment and just take some breath. Bring it all together. Hands are going to go here.

Make a decision with your legs that works for you. I'm just going to go some tabletop version right now. It was my arms lift and lower and then I can go, well, what happens if one leg reaches maybe even a foot flex? Can I wiggle my toes? [inaudible] other side. Can I wiggle both feet? Head up, lower legs, higher legs, make some choices.

Asymmetrical arms, bent legs. We're just playing here. Maybe one leg reaches out and the other leg reaches out. Maybe I even get to roll to that side and roll to that side. [inaudible] maybe there's a circular thing that goes on [inaudible] and bring it all the way back in.

Okay. We're about to get into some more body weight exercises. We've got some long stretch coming up, some side work and then we're going to end in standing here in just a moment. So again, I'm going to go red and blue and I'm going to come here. Now again, lateral work super hard. I'm going to make the decision here to have this leg, my left leg up against the front shoulder block and my back leg up against this one right side. Easy for me. I know that from my meditation.

When you get to the left side, I don't know what's going to happen. So here we go. We're going to go here and we're just going to push out and then come back in. Right arm on back knee. Never leaves the mat pressing in and out. Then as I get more confident, I'm going to push out and I'm just going to keep going and back in [inaudible] make some decisions with my eyes to kind of look or look back in other hand becomes a paper airplane.

I'm just tracking with my eyes where this hand wants to go. Other side, left hand is down. Let's do a little finger cross. Left hand is down, left foot is back, right foot is in front. Testing the waters, opening up, tracking where this wants to go. Bring it back in. Now that cues me into what's going on the left, what's going on the right.

So when I get here, I now know left side is doing. This right side is doing this totally fine. There's siblings left side and right side. Just need two different things so I'm going to go here. For me, I bring my right hand in a little closer.

My left hand goes a little wider, just works and I push in and out. It can be small or I could go big shape. I could come in and go. Little big, little big done. Last movement experience, standing side splits. So I'm going to choose, I'm going to go red into yellow, make your decision, drop your foot bar down however you'd like and then we're going to go up to standing here. One foot goes on, the other foot goes on again. Each school of thought has their own idea of what side splits is.

Do you, I'm just kind of testing the waters to begin with. Do I like this? Do I want to go out a little more? This feels good to me. So once you've made your base decision, kind of just play with it for me here. I can feel that I'm still not quite weighted over on the left, so I'm just going to allow the sip on to get wide. That feels better.

Okay. Want to start off with some rotations rotating in open. I can make some decisions with my head to kind of look around the room or paper airplane. I can go here following where that is. I can change the paper airplane.

Well, I could have two paper airplanes that I track peripherally meaning out the side of my eyes. Both of them could go on the same direction. They could split apart. I can bring myself back in. I'm just exploring space. How comfortable am I in the space? Let's do the other side and see what's there, so I'm going to come off, walk around, see what goes on over here.

Baseline. This view just never gets old. [inaudible] this is your time to just settle in sits bones wide [inaudible] rather than performing your side split. Can you just allow it to inform you about something? Little rotation I decisions paper, airplane, double paper, airplane, periphery tracking the right. No matter where it goes, even though the left one is moving. Yeah, bringing it in, making some decisions as to how wide I want my feet.

Can I allow my sits bones to be there for me? It's really interesting for me right now I have this thought urge to keep the card in. Why? I'm just going to let it open up a bit. Allow my sits bones to be opened up a bit. Take a couple of breaths. Think about what you just learned about your body, and then make a decision as to how to dismount coming all the way in, all the way off. So that's how, that's how I use the reformer as a really sophisticated informational tool to collect some data about how I feel today. Possibly warm up the body, learn to make some choices, create a safe and secure environment so that I can do some mat work, which is coming up next. So thank you for joining me for the mat class.

I really appreciate your time. Do the meditation. Do this. Join me for the mat class. It's coming up and I think it's pretty great. Thank you guys for joining us. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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4 people like this.
Believe it or not, this was quite the topic discussed one week ago in a workshop here in Piacenza, Italy with James Earls...exploring the walking pattern, the focus was, in short, just explore, see what happens, don't always move in a straight line but try and experience rotations and imbalances, obviously with very good anatomical knowledge he says, the rule is there are no, long story short, I do love this class. That's it.

1 person likes this.
Filippo Thank you! I appreciate that ... and I love hearing that more and more intelligent conversation is happening (being shared and explored) around the idea of movement as a process of experiential wisdom ... just try it and let it unfold. 
1 person likes this.
loving everything about this class :)) I love playing around and exploring. thank you James! You're always a breath of fresh air :) 
1 person likes this.
James, thanks for opening the door to self awareness. This is pretty much what I have been doing, although not quite as exploratory as your workout. This now gives me more ways to think about my own exploration. Love all of this.....keep going !!!
1 person likes this.
Really enjoyed this class. Loved your side planks! Nice to meet you!
3 people like this.
Beautiful, fun class! Thanks James! I love when someone gets playful and shakes up the old standards a bit! 😍
2 people like this.
This class is amazing! So fluid and delightful.
3 people like this.
James hello
Just a terrific all round class! Thank you

I especially enjoyed your concept of exploring intuitive movement which is oh so valuable a tool for our members/ clients! 
1 person likes this.
Firuze I really appreciate that! Thank you!
1 person likes this.
Lynn Thank you, friend! Yes, this one is exploration to the next degree ... I wanted people to visually SEE possibility. 
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