Hi everyone. Welcome to the fourth installation of my Frail to Fit Series. Today's class is focusing on the senior who has difficulty getting down to the floor and back up again or anyone that has weakness enough so that they are not able to get down to the floor and back up again without some kind of assistance, either a person or objects to climb onto. This class was originally designed for a community center or a hospital setting where you're working with a group of seniors in a large space. So they were actually socially distance by default because every chair should be set up with enough space so that they can reach their arms out, walk around the chairs without running into each other or stepping on each other's accoutrements or their equipments.
The other thing is when there's a lot of space around, it's really good because if they were to fall, which I did have one time in a community center class where someone fell and they hit their neighbor's chair they hit their head on their neighbor's chair. Luckily, no fractures occurred no injuries except for a big bruise on the head, but very scary. So very important that whether you're doing this class at home or in a group that you set up the environment for safety and for success. We're gonna start with kind of organizing the space for someone that's at home since COVID and the pandemic, we are focusing on seniors who are at home who are really in need of movement. They're not going out, they're not doing their shopping, their children are shopping for them and delivering groceries and getting their needs met, they're not going to church, they're not going to their social gatherings.
So it's very important that they get some more movement in their body. The problem with this is getting seniors to get online is so challenging. So what I have done in the past is called them, help to talk them through setting up Zoom applications or their online applications, I'm using Zoom for my classes and helping them understand how to get online. And often I have to call before and after class to see if they had trouble and make sure that we set them up for success because the technology is gonna be your biggest barrier to working with this population. So I'm hoping you grabbed your mama or grabbed your daddy and are exercising with them today and helping them get everything set up or at least being that resource for them if you're distant to them and getting them going.
Now, next (indistinct) is you're gonna get some resources on the PA the Pilates Anytime website. This is my little cheat sheet for this class. We might not get through the whole thing today because I'm helping you get everything set up but we'll definitely get through the whole thing next week. So we'll do it with a full flow and sequencing next week which will be the last class in this Frail to Fit series. So there's that and then there's also some large print cheat sheets that I actually have those in front of me, so that I make sure that I cover the exercises that are on the cheat sheets and you can follow all along.
So the first thing you'll need is a sturdy chair to sit in. So I have my chair on, it has some of these slider things that keep the floors from getting damaged. So I have it on a yoga mat and it's also nice to stand on the yoga mat and have that little bit of a cushion for people that have tenderness in their feet. That's often what happens with aging is the ball of the foot gets very tender so it's nice to have a little (indistinct) surface for them to stand on. You might even have to double the yoga mat or stack up mats for them to stand on but making sure that that mat sticks to the floor and doesn't slide.
They don't wanna stand on a rug they will slip, very important that they have a surface that they can stand on that's not slippery. And then I have my little box, I love these boxes and all of my students, even in the community center had these boxes with all of their supplies. It has a dog leash for my strap exercise that we'll be doing. It has a TheraBand and I usually have different colors of TheraBands for different things. I use red, green, and blue in the TheraBand brand so that I have a light, medium and heavy tension.
The yellows don't last long enough, they break so fast so I stopped using those. And then I have a fletcher towel in here and I have an eight inch ball. I'm gonna show you two tensions of the ball at one is very full and one is very squishy. You're gonna start with the squishy one today that's more nice and forgiving to the spine for somebody that's not used to doing pressure on their thoracic spine. And then I have two tennis balls and that's where we're actually gonna start with.
So you want two small balls it could be a pinky ball or any kind of small ball that you have at home and I'm gonna place this back under the chair. And I have the chair oriented like this as well because when the person comes into standing they're gonna be over here and working on standing work. So that being said, I'm gonna turn the chair back around so you can see what I'll be doing next. However, in the home environment, the chair stays put. So when you're working with someone either on Zoom or on your video application or tele-health or even in person, you don't have them move their chair around you keep it steady and stay put with it.
I'm gonna move it around quite a bit during the class because I want you to see what I'm doing. So that being said I want you to just set up the chair, keep it there, if you're exercising at home and you have balance disorder or weakness, just keep your chair exactly as it is. But you wanna have the chair to hold on to the back of the chair and something else that's sturdy like a cabinet countertop, bed post, foot board of a bed, something that you don't have to bend over to get to and hold we'll also be using the dowels in just a moment as well. So that being said, let's go on to massage the feet. So you wanna be in bare feet, no socks.
I'm a big... I hate socks. I think socks are fall causers and the only kind of socks I like are the ones with grip on the bottom and separate toes. So putting those toe socks on in the morning is such a great thing to do because you're putting your hands in between every toe. So if in the winter you wanna wear toe socks, that's great cause you'll actually be doing something therapeutic for your feet as you put them on.
So getting those toes to spread apart helps with (indistinct) and then now we're just rolling back and forth and then while you're waiting for class to start, this is what I expect that you do. You sit up tall in your chair and then you roll out your feet and you can do both of them at the same time. If you wanna get more pressure you scoot to the front of the chair and then start to roll out the feet and there's more pressure on the ball of your foot and the arch of your foot. And you don't wanna go like in circles haphazardly the fascial lines through the foot are more longitudinal so you wanna get in between the first and second toe. Now, if you notice my first and second toe is like crazy apart, crazy wide.
There's a lot of space between my first and second toe. So you don't wanna feet like this, this is a problem, actually, it's too mobile. So this is not something I need to be doing, I need to be doing strengthening for my feet I don't need to be doing this massage things cause my feet are very floppy and weak. So I have to do lots of strengthening. And so you wanna separate the big toe from the second toe at the ball of the foot and then roll and then go from the second and third toe rolling in and out and then the third and fourth toe rolling in and out and then fourth and fifth toe rolling in and out.
And just kind of search for sore spots and let's change sides. Separate the ball of the first and second toe and then roll to the arch of your foot and again, roll to the arch of the foot. And then the second and third toe, do that a couple of times and then separate the third and fourth toes and then go to the fourth and fifth. And basically I want you to kind of find spots that need work and you can certainly focus on those spots instead of doing exactly throughout the whole foot. Just find those sore spots and work on those.
And then while you're sitting at your computer, while you're watching television, you can just roll your feet if you have tightness in your feet I know some people have plantar fasciitis that is painful and it responds really well to massage. So you can do these self massage techniques and help your feet. Now we're gonna start to look at hammertoes and wrapping the toes around the ball so that you're really visualizing all five knuckles and then I'm gonna turn to the side a little bit so you can see what I'm doing there. I'm wrapping my toes around the ball and then lifting up and wrapping around and lifting up. So really focusing on getting the flexibility of the metatarsal phalangeal joint, that's the big word MTP joint, it's just the ball of your foot and everyone should be able to have toes that wrap around and that these joints flex otherwise you'll start getting hammertoes which look kind of like that.
And it's when your knuckles of your toes start to rub against your shoes and you get a lot of tension there and then the ball of the foot gets pressure on it so it makes it very painful when you stand and when you walk. So getting those toes to be more flexible is so helpful. And then all of this let's do it on the other side. And this is more for a weak arch, this is great for my foot. So wrapping the toes around and getting the arch to be a little stronger.
And some of you who are Pilate teachers might know this is a lot like the toe corrector no the foot corrector not the toe corrector but the foot corrector and wrapping around and strengthening the arch of the foot. You can start it at home on the tennis ball and then progress to the springs under the foot corrector which is nice. So wrapping around and then you can press in if you like. And then of course, I always love people to do this in standing instead of sitting and doing one foot at a time actually makes you stand on one leg and works on your balance. But when we're getting started here it's fine to start this in sitting.
So now that we've stimulated our feet such a great exercise to do, we're gonna put the balls back in our little box so they don't roll around and trip you. So you wanna always have everything neatly stacked in your box so that you don't trip on anything. So now we're gonna play inchworm with our feet. So we gonna roll, open feet, stretch the toes apart put the ball of your foot down and then crawl forward. And I'll show you this from the side so that you're really working the arches of your feet, getting your feet to be more active.
Now we're gonna go backwards, curl the toes under, roll through the foot, curl the toes under, make that arch lift doming of the foot is what we call this. And then again, doming the foot, go up on your tip toes and then roll through your foot. Now from the side, looks like this. Crawl forward, make a small foot, make a big foot, spread it out, crawl forward, again, really inching forward. And then let's inch back and again, you're doing this with both feet cause you don't have to be going to the side.
I can't see you right now anyway. It's just really hard for me I like to give people feedback. So I'm gonna trust that you're doing everything in the correct alignment. All right, from here now we're gonna put the ball behind our back and work on thoracic extension. So you don't have to change the orientation of your chair, just keep facing the camera.
I'm gonna move the chair just so you can see what I'm doing. So I watch my mechanics as I do that. I'm gonna hinge at my hips and I'm gonna put the ball as high as possible on the chair which I love this high back chair cause I can get way up high. So the higher back your chair is the better. And then you put the ball right at the, what I call the dowager's hump.
Now, if your chair's really low back, you're not gonna be able to get up as high. And then notice how just putting the ball back there makes you sit up taller. So I love for people that work at desks to use a ball behind their back. And you can't sit all the way back in the chair cause it's gonna push you forward. So you're gonna have to scoot your hips forward so that they're right underneath your shoulders.
And then we're gonna put the hands behind the head and then arch over the ball. So your ball, if it's high enough is right at what I call the dowager spot, which is T1 area, the first thoracic vertebrae that has a rib attached to it. And so it's not this that's happening. You're not moving your neck. That's what tends to happen when we get more forward head and our posture declines.
So we lengthen up and stretch the crown of the head toward the sky and then think of wrapping the neck around the ball. So I look at maybe the top of the doorframe here, maybe at the crown molding, if you have an eight foot ceiling. And have your elbows forward so that you're not stretching your chest so much. It's a nice thing to do to stretch the chest but if your elbows are forward you'll be able to move your neck a little bit more or your upper thoracic a little bit more. So we're really trying to use that ball to help direct the focus on getting that first thoracic vertebrae to go this way instead of back behind this.
All right, now maybe we'll let the ball come down just a little bit and let's go again. Arching back and again, notice that my neck is not moving. I could put on what I call a litigation brace, a soft cervical collar. It's one of those braces you wear to court when you want more money from your settlement and do this exercise. So wrapping, around eyes and elbows toward the ceiling or toward the wall in front of you depending on how mobile you are.
All right, and then let's go down another notch. We're just working our way down the spine. And then notice that you're gonna have more mobility in the mid thoracic to the lower thoracic area. Inhale to take it back, keep the length, keep pulling up on the back of your neck and feel that lovely traction. So you're keeping your thumbs right under your skull and feeling that space stays open.
All right, now we're gonna go down another notch and here we go lengthening back and sit tall and stretch it back wrapping around the ball. Breastbone being kind of like a seesaw on the ball as your seesaw is parallel to the door in front of you. Wrapping around, think of your spine and your breastbone being made of rubber. All right, and then we're gonna take it down another notch. So we should be about just below the shoulder blades and then you're getting more and more mobility as you go down usually.
And even if you've had a compression fracture in your thoracic spine or you've had a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty surgery, these are still safe and what they do is they decompress the spine. I'm gonna get the spine model in just a moment and show you what this looks like so that you feel safe doing it. Inhale, if you have any sharp pain or any pain doing it please refrain from doing it or make the movement smaller. Breath in, a softer ball sometimes helps with that too. Breathe in as you go back, exhale just to vertical, inhale to take it back exhale, return to vertical.
Now this is gonna be the last place that we're gonna work on. So you don't wanna go below your waist or at your waist you don't wanna put the ball in your lumbar to do this particular exercise. Taking it back, breathe in and breathe out to sit tall and then breathe in and breathe out to sit tall. Now we're gonna change the movement a little bit. So we're gonna put the ball in the lumbar spine and then what we're gonna do now is activate the abdominals.
So pressing into the ball. So our pelvis is rotating like a wheel rolling back and then forward and then a wheel rolling back, pressing into the ball and forward. I'm hoping you can see this pretty well. It's a small movement but very good for getting the pelvic floor and the deep abdominals working a little bit. So you're scooping the belly a little bit and pressing into the ball, trying to smash the ball behind your back without letting your head come forward.
So you try to keep your posture vertical. I like my arms straight on my legs so that I don't bend forward to do it. So you're gonna keep your chest upright by keeping your arms straight and just placing the hands on the front of the knees here. And let's do two more like that. Breathe in, breathe out.
And one more time, breathe in and breathe out to press back. Now I'm gonna get rid of the ball in just a moment and we're not gonna use it anymore at the end of class, but you could do something like squeeze the ball, lift the arms. And do a few adductor squeezes there and maybe do a slight curl and release, squeeze the ball, slights curl and release. So just to do some more variations using the ball. So just to get it out of the way, I'm gonna roll it out of the way and I'm gonna get the dog leash, yoga strap, whatever it is that you have available to you and we're gonna do the next movement.
So one of the things that often happens with older adults is they get really stiff. So if you feel like you've had a lot of stiffness in your thoracic spine, breathing techniques, the Pilates kind of costal breathing techniques are so helpful for that. If you've been collapsed downward you might be primarily what we call a diaphragmatic breather so that the belly is kind of protruding with each breath and when we're actively working and breathing in class, what we wanna do is not really allow that belly to just sag and protrude, we wanna get the expansion of the rib cage three-dimensionally. So I'm gonna place my strap around my rib cage and if you're a woman and you wear a bra then it's gonna be right at your bra line, if you're a man, it's your bro line. Now taking the strap tightly around, do not cross it.
So it's not like that. I want you to take the strap tightly around and as if you're measuring the bodice. So I'm gonna take my thumbs and try to get them together and really feel that strap tight around my back. So I'm gonna stand a little closer here and you can see that I'm really tightening that strap down. And now what I'm gonna try to do is take a deep breath and expand the strap.
Did the strap actually expand when you breathe? What should happen in optimal breathing is a two inch expansion and a two inch contraction. So your thumb should actually cross over each other breathe in and breathe out. And usually people are dominant one way or the other, people with COPD a lot of times are really good at inhale but not really good at exhale. So find out which one you need to work on.
So if you don't inhale very well, you don't open up very much you can use a tape measure and measure this. So breathing in, if you start out at say 32 inches breathe in go to 34 inches, breathe out and breathe in and breathe out. So what should happen if you're at neutral 32 inches, you should open to 34 inches and when you exhale you close the ribs down a little bit or funnel the ribs down. I like to say close the ribs but funnel the ribs down a little bit, going to 30 inches. So your expansion is from 30 on exhale to 34 on the inhale would be your goal, if that's the case.
And then you kinda see, if I only had one inch of inhale, I might wanna work on inhale. If I only had one inch of exhale, then that might make me wanna work on exhale. So figure out which one you're good at and work on the other one to get you back into balance. So sometimes when people are not very strong in their core, they won't be able to exhale the air out and funnel those ribs down very well, so they'll have a smaller contraction of the rib cage when they try to exhale. I want you to really work on that because that is gonna help you so much if you do contract COVID-19 or you want to prevent getting it.
So the stronger your lungs are the better they function, the better results you'll have if you ever or trying to recover from any lung disorders or prevent yourself from getting lung disorders. So those deep breathing techniques are actually what doctors are suggesting for people who have been exposed to the virus or have the virus. It's a very important concept there. So I'm gonna take that off now and then we're gonna make our way to standing. Now, when we stand up, I'm gonna turn the chair again to the side but again, you're keeping your chair facing straight ahead.
There's gonna be a lot of flip flopping around just so I can show you what to do. Now I'm going to take my dowel, everyone knows me knows I can't teach a class without the dowel. And so these are just... You get these at Lowe's, Home Depot, ACE Hardware. They're just popular dowels that are one inch in thickness and 48 inches long.
And then I just go over into the (indistinct) department in the hardware store. I don't buy them in the medical place, but you know the hardware store and then just get these on here. So you have rubber stoppers on each end so you don't... You never wanna put a a dowel without a rubber stopper on a floor because it will slide right out from under you. So please be sure you have the rubber stoppers on the end of your dowel.
So here we go. We're gonna put the dowel behind the back, which is great as long as you have good posture. So if a hard time getting your head mid back and sacrum to touch the dowel, what you want is to put your thumb in between the stick and your low back right in the curve of your low back, right behind your belly button, that's your L3 vertebrae should be the apex of your lumbar curve. And holding that thumb in there to make sure that that space does not get compressed. So I'm gonna show you closeup so you can see if I compress my back and then my tailbone comes away from the stick or my stick comes away from the tailbone then I've rounded in my upper back.
So I wanna make sure that when I hinge that I know how to do this really well. This is one of the most functional, most important. I'm just gonna star, star, star this. This is the most important activity that you need to master if you have low bone density to protect your spine. So here's the problem.
If you don't have good thoracic extension and you're stuck kind of in this rounded shape and then when you try to get your head to the stick you end up looking at the ceiling, this is not really gonna work for you very well. The other thing is, if you have difficulty getting to the stick, you can't reach it up above, so we have to figure out a way to be able to do that without trying to force ourselves into reaching up above if we don't have enough mobility to get there. So say you're in a rounded upper back and you're just gonna put the stick behind your back and use the shoulder that's not as painful to put the stick behind your back and maybe your head is forward and you could do something like this, put your fist there and then you press the fist into the stick and then that gives you a little bit of feedback. It's a little tricky to do but if you do that, maybe you could practice like that trying to keep your head on the stick. So very, very, very important that you have some feedback so that you can do this properly and not bend like this.
Cause this is what happens a lot of times in bending like this and that's what promotes fractures when we lift things and load the spine in that position. So another thing you can do is put the stick in your back behind your back and then you don't have to hold it at all. So you put it into your shirt and maybe into the waistband of your pants, and then you don't have to hold it at all. So a shorter stick might be better for that and you can also take a brain stick, but again the broomstick does not have the rubber stoppers on each end. So you wanna be very careful not to put the stick on the floor and let it slide.
That being said, let's practice this a few times. This is our hip hinge. What happens when you start to be not as confident about your balance is most people like to get up like this, and they don't wanna get their head way over their feet. So one of the things is getting the nose over the toes, that's very important. And getting to the front of the chair and getting your feet right under your knees and then bring your nose over your toes.
So sometimes that's scary if you've fallen or if you don't feel like your balance is as good as it used to be. So leaning forward nose over toes and stand up. Now, if we have our dowel with us, we can stand up practicing with the dowel and we can have one hand on the arm rest of the chair keeping the back of your knees against the chair to practice. So hip width apart and then we sit and stand. I want you to notice several things.
The first thing is, do you round your back to get up? That's gonna put your low back at risk for possible injuries and then your mid-back or your vertebrae at risk for fractures. So being here, sitting to standing, practicing the spine alignment first and then the next thing is notice if you're using your hands to get out of chairs and it's very sneaky. So if you press your hands into the chair to get up, then that's a sign of leg weakness. And then also thinking of leg alignment as we get up so now I'm gonna take the chair and put it the other way, again, you're keeping your chair just the same, just keep the chair facing the camera the whole time.
So from here, here's what also I see with people that have weakness, knees bump together and press against each other to get up. So it's a compensatory way to help yourself if your legs are getting weak. So what we know about leg strength is that we lose about 1% of our leg strength every year after age 50, like, "Oh, gosh." If we work on it and we continue to strengthen, we'll be fine. So this is not a healthy strategy, we wanna avoid this strategy if at all possible and it's kind of a tough one to fix if you've gotten into the habit of doing it. So I want you to think of keeping the knees apart and then you can still use your hand to press up and I want you to really focus on your knees.
So if you're looking at the camera you might be able to actually see yourself doing this. What's so great about the videos that when we're doing the video classes is that you get this really good feedback on your performance, it's like being in front of a mirror the whole time. So keeping the knees apart. Now that was hard for you, you can lift your toes. So if you lift your big toes, it's really hard to roll in.
So let's lift the big toes and then stand up and try it that way, that usually keeps the knees apart. I'm still seeing people be able to get up push those knees together with their toes up. And then to progress, put the feet together. So this is gonna be a little more tricky with balance. You might be putting your knees together, but at least they won't be into a compromising position to the medial meniscus and the medial collateral ligaments.
So if you can put your feet together and still keep your knees apart, that would be great because usually the abductors on the outside of the hips are what get compromised. As we progress, notice I'm using my hand every time, but I'd love for you to do is take your hands out in front of you and stand up. And reach out, take the nose over the toes. So take a look, make sure your nose is over your toes then look straight ahead, get your dowel vertical. So you feel strong and supported and then see if you can stand up.
Now another thing put one foot in front of the other I don't care which one. So just put one foot in front of the other and try to stand up it's like, "Whoa, yeah." One leg has to work a little harder than the other and you'll notice that your weak leg will go forward. Your stronger leg will be put behind you. Now switch sides, see if that one... I definitely am stronger this way than the other way.
So I feel like my left leg is a little stronger than my right. And so when you practice, you wanna put your weak leg behind you and you're gonna have to override that sort of tendency to let the strong leg do all the work and try to get that weak leg to work a little bit more. So now we're gonna come up to standing and I'm gonna turn the chair again because I want you to see what I'm doing. And I'm also going to use the chair as a assistance for standing. Okay, all right.
So I've got my dowel here or I can hold on to the countertop. So if it's your first class you're welcome to just use the hand on the whatever surface you're holding and the back of the chair. And then feet together is my favorite postural cue, so if you can stand with your feet together more often that's excellent for posture. And we're gonna rise up and down and up and down and up and down. So the tripod of your feet, I'm always inspired by the Fletcher Standing and Centering cues I think it's excellent for kinda doing a little check through the body, bringing the feet together, lift the toes what's left on the ground is the tripod of your feet.
So you have the metatarsal of the big toe, the metatarsal of the pinky toe and then the heel, the center of your heel left on the mat. What usually happens as we get older is the feet pronate the knees come together and then that compromises the knees it also turns off the muscles of the pelvis and diminishes our legs strength and balance in pelvic stability. So feet together, lift the toes, now put about 60% of the weight on the outside of the foot and 40% to the inside. And that's really helpful for getting the right balance and alignment. And if you have high arches you may not wanna do that but this is for like 90% of people that I see and so I'm giving general cues for most adults.
So now keeping that idea, then I want you to think of magnets between your shins and your inner thighs so that you're pulling your legs closer together. And again, if you have valgus knees, this might not work for you. So try to get your feet as close together as possible if you have valgus knees put a tennis ball between your heels. So that would be just great to do to kind of give you the feedback of connecting one foot to the other and making sure your legs are working together. Then the next cue is the pelvis.
So we wanna think of your pelvis having little bolts in the front and the back and the bolts are level. So the pubic bolt and the tailbone bolt are not tucked under like that. That's a lot of times what people like to do to get rid of back pain if they have stenosis. So that's not gonna be great for your hips or your knees and we don't wanna walk like this because that's gonna be compressive to your back. So we wanna try to get the pelvis so that the bolts of the front and back are level and then they're also level from side to side.
And then let's feel the muscles of the back and see how do the muscles of the back feel? Are they relaxed? Are they gripping? Are they contracting? So when you get your pelvis balanced, you get your weight a little bit too forward on your toes you're gonna feel your back muscles contract.
When you get your weight too far back on your heels, you'll also feel your back muscles contract and then find that happy medium if possible. If they're still really contracted it might be that your head is forward. So if your head is forward these muscles are gonna work a lot more. And the other thing about head forward is it turns off the abdominals. So bringing your body upright, so getting your rib cage over the pelvis is very important to get the core acting, acting as its supposed to be and not having to tighten your abdominal.
So I don't wanna ever tell you tighten up your abdominal, squeeze your butt, tuck under. You lengthen everything, you line everything up, you let the skeletal system line up and align as best it can. And then your nervous system will decide what muscles it needs to contract to do that. So if you're trying to get your back muscles to reduce their tension, then you wanna get the rib cage balanced over the pelvis as best you can. Think of the breastbone lifting up and bring the throat back stacking your head on your shoulders.
So you got your shoulder girdle aligned over your hips. So let's check something for a moment. Put your fingers in between the ribs and pelvis and then feel that there are either vertical fingers here. So you're gonna have either zero, one finger in between and you're right at the side seam of your waist. So you're sticking your fingers in and right under the armpit, straight in like that and you see how many fingers you can get in between there.
So I can get three fingers pretty much on either side length wise and normal would be two to four and abnormal will be one finger only if you run into the rib when you poke in. And then also I've seen the rib cage sitting in the pelvis, so don't be alarmed, it just means that you've had some collapse of the vertebrae and we're gonna practice that length and strength. So feeling the rib cage forward, swing forward and backward like a bell and really trying to get the alignment like the lid is on the jar, ribs over the pelvis. Collarbones and shoulder blades spread across your back so that your shoulders aren't rolling forward. You don't wanna squeeze your shoulders back like this that's not good posture.
So your shoulder muscles are not postural muscles they should be just resting on a well-aligned rib cage. So they're relaxed and open and you're not having to hold them back. So like our mother said stand up straight and hold your shoulders back. Well, she was almost right, but not quite right. So imagine that you have a light on your breastbone it's shining forward and then you pull your throat back.
And that's one of my favorite cues for getting the neck to align and the kind of the head to reach toward the sky. All right, now that all that's lined up, we wanna work it. So with or without the tennis ball it's up to you depending on your knee alignment, if you have valgus knees or knees that come into each other, then use the tennis ball as a spacer and let's rise up and down while holding onto our surfaces here. And then if you feel comfortable doing so, let go of one surface and then if you feel comfortable doing so let go of the other. And then the next progression would be maybe using a dowel and then maybe lifting the dowel.
So you progress from two stable surfaces to one stable surface to possibly the dowel and then no hands. But I always have a dowel in my hand just to be sure that if you're in the middle of a room and you're not using any stable surfaces, then you've got the dowel if you tend to lose your balance. Okay, now next move, my favorite move ever is standing on one leg. Now, when I have the dowel in my hand and that's the only thing I'm holding, I'm gonna have it on the side that I'm standing on. But right now I have the back of the chair and the dowel and I'm gonna rise up and down.
Now often, if the calf is weak, people will do this. So bend the knee to get the heel up because we're calling it a heel raise. So, hey, I'm doing what the teacher said I'm doing my heel raise. But you're really weak in the calf because you're not able to lift all the way up. So what you can do is you can put your foot up on a stool or a chair, and that takes some of the body weight off of your leg and then practice like that and see if that helps and you've got your stable surface, maybe the dowel is not enough for you and you need to press onto something to let your arms help you.
So that's perfectly fine to do that. And now we're gonna go the other side and lift up other leg and really working on that straight leg stretch the crown of the head toward the ceiling, lifting up and lift and lift and lift. So you might do several sets of these, you might progress as you go along to maybe three sets of 10, you can do one set of 15 or two sets of 15, it's your choice. But knowing that you need to get to fatigue within 10 repetitions in order to build strength. So if you're not tired at 10 repetitions then you can do more you actually need to increase the challenge of the exercise.
Even if you're afraid or even if you feel like you can't get down to the floor and back up again. So now we're gonna go into sitting and let our legs rest. So normally in the structure of the class, if people are not very strong, they need a little bit of rest between all the standing work. They're not used to it. So I always allow people to rest.
But we're not gonna rest and just sit there we're gonna rest and work something else in our body. So what I'd like to do is get a Fletcher towel and if you don't have a Fletcher towel you can use a scarf or a very strong TheraBand. So I'm gonna sit here, perched on the front of my chair and I'm gonna hold the towel like a little serving tray. And what I wanna do first is get my humeral heads in the right position. So if I were to turn to the side, you would see that I'm not here then I'm really opening the collarbones up and then I'm gonna pull gently on the towel.
And what that does is that pulls that humeral head back in the socket and it activates the back of the rotator cuff, your Terry's minor and infraspinatus to pull that humeral head back cause remember the rotator cuff's job is to hold the head of that humerus in the socket so it spins in a healthy biomechanical way in the socket cause when we let it kind of go astray that's when the trouble starts. Now we're gonna go a little wider with the position and then pull. And everybody's gonna have a little bit different range of motion here. Some people have tighter shoulders, some people have more mobile shoulders. And so you wanna work in your range of motion.
So holding here and then opening up, this is my range of motion. So that's about as far as I can go with my external rotation. If I go any further I'm gonna cheat or arch or compensate to get more motion. So that's all I've got in my shoulders. So I have fairly strong and stable shoulders which has served me well in my lifetime.
And then some of you may have super mobile shoulders which that's really tough because the shoulder mobility is too much sometimes and you don't have as good a control as you should have. And so we're gonna pull, exhale, inhale, exhale inhale. Notice that I'm sitting with my feet together, that's gonna facilitate more core muscle work and balance. And then I'm gonna take my arms out in front of me and then bend the elbows ever so slightly. So there's a lot going on here cause I've got the shoulder girdle, the elbows and the wrists to think about.
And usually what happens is people will lock their elbows which I want you to try that. Lock your elbows and then pull the towel and you're gonna notice there's a lot of stress on your elbows and maybe in your neck. So holding the towel with your elbows straight for a moment, reach out for your thumbs, now pull you gonna feel a little bit different pull there. Now, if you bend your elbow slightly notice how this eases the neck and drops the shoulders. I don't even have to tell you to lower your shoulders.
You slightly bend the elbows and you create what I call a parenthesis shape and pull apart and release, and pull you don't wanna twain the towel. You don't wanna pull so hard that you pop it you wanna pull gently and expand. And so if you've got a band, a strong band or a scarf that you're using same idea, you don't wanna twain it and pull. I didn't mention the way to hold the towel so you wanna fold the towel and then place it across your shoulder girdle from the folded end to the open end and you hold it at double the distance of your shoulder girdle. So that way you're consistent where you hold it every time and then you can really know if you're progressing.
So from here, we're gonna take it up and overhead and then see if that works for you and then we're gonna shrug your shoulders up and down and up and down and up and down. Now pull gently on the towel, again not locking your elbows and letting your wrist go what I call wonky. And I love that British term and then link them the thumbs outward and then bend the elbow slightly and feel how that eases your neck. And you wanna use the back of the armpit, the armpit is the shoulders best friend and the neck your cervical spine's best friend and then pulling like that. Now let's widen the feet and then side bend up just a slight side bend, lengthening up trying to get our thoracic spine a little more mobile one more like that, breath in and then breathe out to come to center.
All right, take the arms down and then take the towel all the way down. Then we're gonna put the towel down and we're gonna stand up and do another sequence. So again, we're trying to think feet close together, nose over toes, arms reaching forward, and then see if we can stand. And please use the dowel if you need to. So one of my other favorites is...
Again, I'm changing everything around because of your being able to see me. So please don't move your chair you just keep your chair the same. And then I'm gonna place my hand on the back of the chair, hand on the dowel here then I'm gonna step forward. So what I don't wanna do is have my arm behind me cause that's gonna be really tricky on your shoulder. So you wanna step way back at the back of your mat, so your toes are on it and then step forward and then we wanna make sure that that chair is in front of us not behind.
That's gonna be very helpful. All right, now I'm gonna step three foot stride if possible. So this is very important for walking speed and hip mobility as well as calf mobility and strength. So we're gonna place that foot on the ground, arms out in front, can you get your torso vertical pulling the pelvis underneath. You're gonna feel that hip get a little stretch there and then rise up.
I always say that the fountain of youth is thoracic extension, hip extension, balance and leg strength. So really keeping those in your focus and awareness for the rest of your life. Maintaining your strength of your legs, maintaining your balance, your hip mobility so you're not sitting too much or standing at least four hours a day and you're getting out and walking as much as possible. Breathing out to lift up, breathe in to go down. Now you don't wanna have your leg turned out you wanna have it parallel behind you and that way you'll get that hip stretch.
Let's do one more like that. And we're gonna step together and switch sides. Stretching that heel down and back and up and forward, breathe in and breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out to lift. Your calf is your second heart so if you have foot swelling and weakness it actually diminishes the blood returning to your heart.
So very important to have good (indistinct), working your calves every day to get the blood to return to your heart. You have congestive heart failure or any kind of heart condition very important to have good (indistinct) cause it actually helps your heart do its job bringing the blood from your feet to your heart. One more time and then one step together. So we've gotten through about half the class today and we'll be resuming or I'm actually gonna start at the beginning and go through the entire class with a little bit more speed next time. Not that we're gonna rush through the exercises, but with a little bit less of the preparatory kind of information.
And I'll just refer people back to this class to get everything set up. So I'll just kinda jump right into it next week and we'll finish up the rest of the class. So please feel free to put your questions in the Q&A and then the Pilates Anytime folks, Julie and Nicole, they're so great with their support will send me those questions if you have any and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. So thanks for joining me and I'll see you next week for our fifth class in the series.