Class #4487

Freeing the Spine

55 min - Class


In his sixth class, James Crader will guide you through a movement exploration to help free your head and spine. You'll tap into your seaweed spine and find your fascial Swan to find new strategies for relaxation. Let's meet on the Mat and find release through Pilates!
What You'll Need: Mat

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Hello, everybody, welcome. Another Pilates Anytime Live. I'm James Crader and this is Curious Movement. We're on week six. I can't even believe it.

Today, we are going to have a spine to head exploration. You know, for me personally, I don't really have a lot of back problems, but during the pandemic I sure did. And I know I'm not alone. I have talked to so many clients, so many teachers who have also had rib and spine and neck and head problems. Why?

Because that's where we hold stress. Sometimes I think when we're working with the spine and the trunk of the body, we are not really considering it for what it is. So, before we even start, I want you to just close your eyes or kind of center in your own body and have a moment where you appreciate what the spine, the neck and the head, and the sacrum and the tailbone, what all of that actually is. So for a moment, just kind of be with the trunk of your body and think, well, the spine itself, that's some super smart cells. That's my spinal cord.

That's my central nervous system, surrounded by all of these little joints. That's where proprioception or how I know myself in space is. On the outside of that I got the vital organs, and I've got my ribs that protect my breathing organs. Of course when I'm stressed, that is what contracts, that's what holds because that's what's important. So, as we move through today, I want to invite a little reverence for what the trunk actually is.

That's the important stuff. In osteopathic language, the whole trunk, your nerves, your blood vessels, your organs, that is what is core, not abs. Your core is all the stuff that is important, blood vessels, nerves, organs. So, have that in your mind, have that in your thought process today. And I want to start us with a breathing exercise that has all to do with that.

Take your right hand, place it where you believe your heart is. Take your left hand and just kind of cup it over that. Your left hand represents your lung right now. So my left lung, my heart right in the middle here. As I inhale, my lung opens up and my heart gets kind of pushed forward.

As I exhale, my heart shrinks and my lung gives my heart a hug. Inhale, I unfold. I kind of blossom and unfold open, heart gets big. Exhale, heart gets small, lungs give it a hug. I can switch hands and that's what's happening over here.

Right lung. Big inhale. (deeply inhaling) Exhale. (deeply exhaling) Inhale. (deeply inhaling) Exhale, pick your favorite hand, let that hand be your heart, other hand is the lung.

And I want you to just be with that sensation for a moment. Inhale, everything gets big inside of me. (deeply inhaling) (James sighs) Then there's an internal hug. Inhale. (deeply inhaling) Exhale. (deeply exhaling)

Now, as you breathe, think about how you want to be hugged. Is it a big bear, strong hug? Is it a soft, warm hug? Is it sort of like a pat on the back kinda flimsy handed hug? Like what kind of hug do you want to give yourself inside and do three more breaths however you want to do your breath.

Inhale. (deeply inhaling) Exhale, internal hug. (deeply exhaling) Inhale. Internal hug. (deeply exhaling) And then inhale.

Hug. (deeply exhaling) Have that in your head as we're moving today. When you get kind of worked up, know that you can always do that internal hug to sort of bring you down, calm you down a bit. In the meantime, let's get into some of our neck warmups. Rub your hands together, get 'em warmed.

We're gonna put them on the front of the throat. We have so much to cover today. This is gonna be a quick, well, a quickish moving class. Not super hard, but definitely is gonna have some moments in there and it's gonna move at speed. So this might be a class you wanna revisit in the future.

From there, right hand, left side of your throat, dragging towards the middle as I twist my face to the left. Hand here, other side, twist. There's gonna be a lot of little nuggets of information, wisdom, explorations in here. One more over here. (deeply exhaling) Good.

Rub your hands, get 'em warm again. Then we're gonna take the fingertips. They're gonna kind of touch each other on the back. So, if my fingertips are touching the spine right at the base of the skull, right at the top of the neck. Base of the skull, top of the neck, fingers.

And you're just gonna do like a little massage in there. That is around the AO joint, the atlas-occipital joint, which we are gonna go into next. That AO joint, you can continue to do the massage, I'm gonna do a little talking while you do that. That AO joint is the first joint to freeze, to hold tension when we're stressed. It is the last joint to let go when we reregulate ourselves.

Why? Because we are prey. We're mammals that are eaten by bigger apex predators. So if you think about when dogs fight, where do they go after? They go after the neck.

So, of course that is where we hold tension when we experience stress in the body. So, here's what we're gonna do. You can continue to massage if that's working for you. I'm actually gonna kinda turn to the side so you can see here. I want you to think of your spine lengthening upwards.

Doesn't have to be too much. You don't need to squeeze. It's just kind of upright. Now, right at the base of the skull, top of the neck, I want you to just do a little nod and then up. I'm just gonna look down and up.

I'm not squeezing anything. In fact, I want you to think about greasing up a door hinge and you're just sort of exploring. (deeply exhaling) Can I relax there? Why? Because that joint freezes up and that joint is some of the smartest muscle in the body.

There's a lot of nerve endings there. In fact that's also where your optic, your eye nerves go into. So, maybe your eyes look up and your eyes look down, and your eyes look up, and your eyes take your head down. Now, that might help to bring a little wisdom, a little smarts to that portion of your neck. I like to go into an exercise I call on off.

So on off is when I'm up, everything is on. I'm gonna turn my neck off and I'm just gonna let it hang. Then I'm gonna let my spine relax. I'm gonna restack all the way up to shoulder spine, and then choose to lift the head. I'm gonna let the head relax. (deeply exhaling)

Then let that take the spine. I'm gonna let the spine restack all the way up to shoulder spine, neck spine, all the way up. Head spine, relax, off. (deeply exhaling) All the way back on. It's like a dissociation exercise.

Where is my neck spine? Boop, it turns off. The rest turns off. The rest of the spine turns on. And then I have to choose how and when to pick my head up.

If you are still working on that, stay there with that. If not, you can take your hands, put 'em on the front of your legs. We'll go into one of my favorite things of just reaching forward in the direction of your toes and back up. I, again, like to imagine my hands are made of paint and I'm just painting my legs towards my toes. Back into that leg day stuff.

Now, you can do it like that, but here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna sit up, I'm gonna have my hands rested. I'm gonna turn my head and neck off, and I'm just gonna allow that head and neck to take my hands towards my toes. On the way up I restack my spine, and then I choose to lift my head. My head relaxes. (deeply exhaling)

Then I go forward. And I come back up and I'm all the way up. One more, head relaxes. (deeply exhaling) All the way. Now, here's a tip because I'm spending so much time on this because this is highly important.

I know it's like, oh, it's not sexy, it's not Instagramable, but this concept is so important for spinal health. We're gonna add a little thought process, a little visualization in that. So I want you to look forward and I want you either to keep your eyes open or closed. It's your choice, but be in the brain, and be in the brain as if you're looking forward at your backside of your forehead, like the curtains of the forehead. Can you release and relax and yield and let go of tension in the forehead?

With that, can that allow the eyes to rest down into their sockets? As if the brain rests down into the cranium. You might notice that that brings some attention to the sinuses and the front teeth. Can you relax that? Imagine you are in your right inner ear looking outward.

Can you let that tunnel dilate open? We covered that in the senses class. Let that ear dilate open as if you're looking out of the ear and it gets brighter and wider. Then look out the left side. That side gets brighter and wider as if you're in your brain looking out of your ears.

Be in the shape of the jaw. Notice that the jaw is horseshoe shaped. Can you just allow that jaw to relax down? Notice the width, the circumference, the depth of the neck, and let the whole head rest down on the neck. Notice what you're sitting on.

Be supported by what you're sitting on. Now, whatever that felt important to notice. I know that was very, very quick, but just be in that space and then allow the head to turn off, and then allow the spine to turn off. Can you let your eyes be heavy? As you come back up can you let your brain and eyes be heavy even as you restack?

And just notice if that feels any different at all for you. Head lets go. Spine lets go. We're gonna do just one more. (deeply exhaling) Head lets go. (deeply exhaling)

Spine lets go. And then we're gonna come back up. I spent so much time on that because we hold so much tension there. And I think sometimes in movement, we want to fix the problem before understanding what's even going on. So, spending a little time within those experiences might be really beneficial; breathing from the inside, doing all of those things in order to help you understand and be in better relationship with your spine.

Having said that, I want you to just sit however you're comfortable and twist to the right, and then twist to the left. And just notice what that feels like. Where do you initiate the twist from? There isn't a right or a wrong answer there. There's plenty of options and at the end of class, we'll kinda play with that.

But for now I just want you to notice. Then, since we're still up in the head and the neck, can you let your eyes look left? Let your eyes twist your head, twist your spine. That takes your shoulders and your eyes keep going. On the way back I want your eyes to be the very last thing to come back today.

Let your eyes look over to the right. Let your eyes take you for the twist. Maybe you do an inhale. Your eyes will be the very last thing to come back. If that feels good for you, stay there.

I'm gonna extend my legs. I'm gonna move, let's go left. I'm gonna move my left hand behind me onto the floor. I'm gonna make my eyes look for my hand. There's a twist, but I'm gonna let my hips lift.

I'm gonna do a great big inhale. (deeply inhaling) Exhale, I recenter, I sit down, my eyes are the last thing to come back and I'm forward again. Right hand goes back. I take a look at that. I do an inhale.

I'm working nervous system, (deeply exhaling) all the way back, and the muscles of emotion. My psoas, my pelvic floor, my thoracic diaphragm. I'm gonna move over, take an inhale. (deeply inhaling) (deeply exhaling) And come back, we have just one more. Over here.

(deeply exhaling) And come back, sit, and then I want you to just kinda bounce. You can use your legs. It's like you're sitting on a trampoline kinda bouncing, getting that spine to sort of compress and jiggle on top of itself. Can you get the head to jiggle and the body to kind of jiggle? I know it feels and looks kinda ridiculous, but you're doing a good thing for your spine.

You're doing a good thing for the disks. We've just twisted, which helps to open up all of the ligaments and tendons around that. And now we're getting some compression. (James sighs) Fully relax. From there, get yourself situated on your mat in a proper way.

And we're gonna bring our knees towards our chest, and we're just gonna roll back and forth. Now, sometimes this is when your inner critic comes in and it's like, well, I can't do rolling like a ball or I don't roll very well. No one cares. Just do what you need to do. If that's small, make it that.

If it's big, make it that. I don't even like rolling like a ball. Like sometimes I just allow my legs to bend. Sometimes I just kinda play with that. Sometimes I grab different places.

Sometimes it's back here. What we're doing is a massage on the spine. (deeply exhaling) One more. End down. From there, we're gonna roll to the left and to the right.

Just a massage. So, for me right now, I'm massaging out my low back, but I can lift my tail and massage some ribs and kidney, and I'm giving myself my hug breath. (deeply exhaling) (James sighs) Come back to center, rocking forward and back. (deeply exhaling) Two, and one. Go ahead and sit all the way up.

Now, choice. You can have your legs straight, you can have your knees bent. It is up for you to decide. Let's have a little understanding moment. Sitting up tall and remember tall is subjective.

That is for you to decide. How I cue tall at the studio is, "How tall are you?" For me, I'm six one. Can you sit like you're six one? Can you sit comfortably like you're six one? Your answer might be five three.

Your answer might be four foot 10. I don't know how tall you are, but as you're sitting there, can you sit as tall as you know you are? From there, get your feet comfortably positioned, acknowledge that sitting tall your spine is relatively in the shape of letter I. Then, as I curl backwards, can my spine take on the shape of letter C? When I come back up I'm letter I, and then I'm (deeply exhaling) letter C.

I'm letter I and I'm letter C. Now, there is nothing wrong with keeping your eyes forward. However, if I keep my head and my eyes forward and I round, this is the letter J, up tall swooping. Totally fine, it's just not what we're gonna practice today. We're gonna practice allowing the head to let go, again, we're right back in that on and off exercise, and let it round. (deeply exhaling)

On the way back up my spine comes up, which takes my head up. If this is enough work for you, understanding again, we're not in the muscle system. The muscles just kinda do the movement for the bones. We're in a moment of understanding, a moment of clarity to add into and restore self-trust into the practice. So, I'm up tall, letter I.

Maybe I don't want to use my arms. Maybe my arms will reach forward. And then I go into letter C. We had a trick last week, a tip on how to get more abdominal engagement through your arms. So, I'm gonna actively reach my arms forward, letter C.

Reach, reach, reach, reach, reach. Now, my arms have abs and I come back up. If I want some back, I can pull my shoulders back a bit. And now I have my arms have a back. Arms have an ab. (deeply exhaling)

And I'm up. I can still be here. Just kind of moving in and out. If that is enough work for you, stay there. Practice that thing.

I'm gonna to take us (sighs) to a little bit deeper of a experience. So, sitting tall, letter I, letter C. Stay in letter C. Let your C roll backwards. Roll backwards, roll backwards, roll backwards.

Come back up, letter I. (deeply exhaling) Reach your arms, letter C. Letter C rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls. Can you keep your feet on the floor? Come back up, letter I.

If you get down to the floor, awesome. See if you can stay and letter C. Letter C might become letter U where your tail lifts off the floor. (deeply exhaling) Come back up. Two more of whatever you wanna do there.

(deeply exhaling) (James sighs) This time let's take it all the way down to the floor. (deeply exhaling) Once you're there, let your spine lay down. (James sighs) And just be there. Now, get yourself situated whatever feels comfortable for you. Back, class one or two we used a pillow, and I did some pillow breathing.

If you want a pillow underneath you, you can put a pillow behind you. You can put rolled up blanket. You can put something soft and squishy. It just gives you something to feel and sense. I'm gonna trust you've been practicing that, and I'm gonna guide you forward from there.

As I lie here, I'm just highly aware that the floor is behind me. My spine is touching the floor. Some of it isn't, I'm not judging. It's just sort of that's what is. My ribs are hitting the floor in a way.

And I'm just gonna breathe into the floor. I'm gonna open up my arms wide and I want my breath to be wide and behind me. (James sighs) Then, I'm gonna gently push the right foot into the floor, which rocks me over to the left hip and the left ribs. Now whatever's touching the floor, that's where the breath goes. So, I'm gonna breathe into my left lung, my left hip, my left body.

Exhale. (deeply exhaling) Allow myself to come back to center. Left foot pushes down, I rock over to the right. I do an inhale. (deeply inhaling) Exhale. (deeply exhaling)

Coming back, right foot pushes down, rocks me over to the left. What I'm doing is just increasing, do a breath over there, just increasing my body map. My internal understanding and coming back, of how wide, how big, what does the backside of my body feel like? Where is it? Big inhale over here.

(deeply exhaling) For me, a movement practice at its best is all about learning how to resource your body and improving embodiment. Where am I? Other side. (deeply exhaling) And one more over here. (deeply exhaling) Bring your knees totally together.

Now, if that felt good for you, stay there. I'm gonna drop my knees over to the left. You choose your side. Right arm is gonna come over. It's gonna try to touch my left hand, and it's gonna go beyond my left hand.

Now, here's the kicker. I'm gonna see if I can keep this right arm reaching as my legs come back. And I should feel a stretch across the backside. Then, I'm gonna open up. Knees go to the right.

Then, my left arm, which side am I on? Then, my left arm is gonna reach over. Now, from there, I'm gonna bring my knees back. My hips come back. My arm is still reaching and then I'm gonna come back.

(deeply exhaling) One more to each side. Knees go first, then arms. Then I'm gonna come back. (deeply exhaling) All the way back. Other side, knees, reach.

Knees come back and then I come back. I'm just gonna be here for a moment. I'm gonna go into a pelvic rock. Forward, backwards, forward, backwards. I'm gonna see if it can move my neck.

I'm gonna see if it can move my ribs. I'm just allowing this motion to be in charge of moving my bones. (James sighs) Now, we have been practicing a lot of movement; twists and undulations and bouncing compressions, and Cs and Is. Now, let's go into an understanding of staticness. The reason why things like plank and what we're about to go into, the hundred, is so difficult is because it's not stillness.

When we get static stuff, stabilized, still looking stuff, it means you're doing flection, extension, side bending, rotations, all at the same time. Everything is squeezing. So, as we go through this we have some tools. I'd like you to start with your feet like so, knees bent. Here we go.

Arms are gonna reach. I pick my head up and I'm gonna take on more of a U shape. So, my tail lifts and here I am. And then I can come back and relax. Again, I reach, I gotta figure out how to lift my head.

(deeply exhaling) And I come up and I'm back down. Now, if that's difficult enough for you to do that, be there. If you wanna build up some endurance there, you can come up, do that thing and just breathe. Can I do an internal hug as I stay here? If I can do that, can I stretch one leg out and the other leg out?

Maybe lift one leg and lay it down. Lift the other. (deeply exhaling) Lift the other. (deeply exhaling) Lift the other and lay down. (James sighs) Now, if you recall, there is a Cardinal rule that I follow; in order for something to go up, something has to go down.

Something has to be grounded to lift something else. So, if I wanna lift a leg, that means maybe something in my bone system needs to go down. So, in order to lift my right leg, I'm gonna think my low spine has to gracefully, elegantly, softly, touch the floor. And then back down. Other side.

Other side I don't want you to think scoop your abs. I don't want you to think squeeze your abs. They will. Undoubtedly, there will be some version of an abdominal contraction, but if you're thinking squeeze a muscle, often we inhibit movement 'cause you're already giving a directive to the thing that moves you. So, instead, maybe think bone.

Where do I want my bones to go? I want my leg bones to go up, so my backbones have to go down. See where that takes you. Now you can play there or both legs. (deeply exhaling) (James sighs) One more.

How about the head thing at the same time? My arms have abs. (deeply exhaling) I lift and I lift. (James sighs) Again. (deeply exhaling) And relax.

Now, if you want to go into the hundred from there, do that. I'm gonna go into what created the hundred, the predecessor, the ancestor of the hundred. I'm going to interlink my two thumbs, I'm gonna reach my arms over my head, I'm gonna bring my legs closer together, and I'm gonna lift my ears to live in between my biceps. (deeply exhaling) I'm gonna lift my legs. And back down.

Again. (deeply exhaling) Again. (deeply exhaling) Now, you can just do that or you can follow me into a gymnastic style hollow body rocker. I'm gonna lift. (deeply exhaling) My legs go up, so my arms go down and vice versa.

(deeply exhaling) I can point my feet. I can flex them. (deeply exhaling) Three, two, how tall are you? Can you be that tall? One more. (deeply exhaling)

Rest, just be there. Let it wiggle. (James sighs) Let it relax. Let everything soften. From there, bend your right knee.

Take your left arm out to the side. Let your right hand rest on your chest somewhere. From that very classic exercise, we're gonna go into a very James exploration. I call this sequential rolling. So, in order to do this, right hand chest, left arm out, right knee bent, left leg straight.

I'm going to push down on my right foot, which rolls me to my left hip. You'll notice my right knee does not go over. It does not go out. It stays exactly where it is. And then I come back. (deeply exhaling)

Right foot pushes, I roll through my hip and my low back. And I come right back. I call it sequential rolling because we're rolling from the low spine, sacrum, lumbar, through the thoracic, through the ribs, and my head is the last thing to come over. But on the way back, my head goes back, my ribs go back, my lumbar, my sacrum, my pelvis. I am learning to sequentially segment out rotation from down below, all the way through the middle, taking me over to my side.

On the way back, I start at the top, through the middle, to the lower and I'm back. One more on this side, I sequentially roll. We're gonna end (deeply exhaling) over on the side. You can stack however you'd like here. I don't think we exercise our neck enough, and in particular, our side neck.

So, you can lie with your arm here or out straight, it's for you to decide, but I want your head to hang. So you gotta get that shoulder kind of stacked underneath you. It's that uncomfortable side hang. From there, we're going to lift the head to be in what you believe to be alignment with the rest of the spine. So, I go from this kind of crooked askew shape, to a lying on its side letter I.

Now, with that, how tall are you? Can you be that tall even as you lie down? What would for James, a six foot one person, six foot one spine look like as you lie here? Then relax. Again, lift and relax.

Now, you can keep doing that or you can lift, keep it aligned and look up at the ceiling. Forward and down. Lift, long spine, rotate, six foot one, forward, down. Now, I'm gonna look and then lift. Look for the floor and down.

Look for the ceiling, lift. Look for the floor, down. One more. Up, down. (deeply exhaling) Now keep looking down, come up, look for the ceiling, to go down.

Look for the floor, up. Look for the ceiling and down. And rest. From there, let's go ahead and do the other side. Grab some water if you need it.

I know I do. And just turn over to the other side. From there, we are gonna start with sequential rolling. So, I'm gonna lie down. I'm gonna straighten out my right leg, open my right arm to the side, left arm goes on my chest.

It's a foot push to get that left hip up. And back. (deeply exhaling) Foot push and back. Foot push, ribs, neck, head, head goes back and I'm back. I push down, (deeply exhaling) all the way over.

Again, we're just acknowledging, head goes back, the constitution of the spine. It's super smart and highly segmented. So, I think sometimes we quote unquote work the spine in these big, gross, hard movements. And sometimes what it's asking for as you sequentially roll is soft, supple, intelligent movement, so that it knows it's safe to move. That will give you access to some of the more powerful, showy, big moves.

You know, un-Instagramable moments is often where it's at. If it's big and sexy, great, but sometimes soft, small is what the body is actually asking for. (deeply exhaling) And I roll over. Now, stack yourself up, get yourself there, shoulder, kind of uncomfy neck and lifting it up. How tall are you?

Be that long and head goes down. Again. (deeply exhaling) Head goes back down. Again. (deeply exhaling) Back down.

Two. One more. Look up at the ceiling, look forward, down. Up, look, forward, down. Hold down, look up, go up, look down, come down.

Look up, go up, look down, go down. Look up, go up, down, down. Stay down, look down, go up, twist to look up, lay down, look at the floor. Coming up, twist to look up at the ceiling. One more of those things.

(deeply exhaling) Twist and relax. Roll over onto your stomach. Give yourself a moment to appreciate and allow the spine to rest down into the floor and just kinda be there. (James sighs) From there, we're gonna approach some extensions, some shapes of the swan. In order to get there I want you to lift your eyes to lift your head.

And back down. Lift your eyes to lift your head. I think sometimes we worry too much about a neutral neck. When if we think about how the back of the neck organizes the rest of the spine and it's connected into the eyes, maybe if I let my eyes look for the wall in front of me and my eyes look up for the ceiling, and my eyes continue to look as I come back down. Maybe that helps me find a different portion of my spine that maybe would not be intuitive.

Give it a shot. Now, we played last week with the idea that your arms have a back. So, today, we're gonna play with the idea that your back has arms. So as I come up, if I want to come up higher, I just organize my arms, I reach my elbows towards my hips, and my arms help me up. Now, in order to go up, something's gotta go down.

So, I'm pushing down. My pelvis is down and if you can look, you can see my legs have organically naturally lifted. It's just what happens. And I come back down. I don't need to squeeze, I don't need to do, I just need to know where my bones are.

As I come up, my eyes are guiding the intention. It's a sensory experience and I'm just really aware (deeply exhaling) of where I'm at. Now, that's how I get into the swan. I wanna introduce you to what I call fascial swan. The lats are notoriously sticky and don't glide very well.

They get kind of pulled down, especially when we do things like shoulder blades back and down. Just, you don't need to do that anymore. But if you find that cue shows up somewhere, maybe some of the back and ribs stuff, the breathing stuff, the pelvic floor stuff has just stuck lats. So let's create a process or a playground to unstick them. I like to move my arms out to the side of the mat, then I push my right arm down to kinda yaw left and then right.

And I'm just kind of pushing myself side to side. It can be as simple as that. We've already done this on our back, right? Pillow exercise. I'm over here, so I breathe here.

I'm over here, so I breathe here. I'm just kind of playing with that. Then I can turn that into a swan. I come up and I'm just sort of pushing through that. And I come back down.

My eyes can take me somewhere else. Maybe my eyes look up and to the left. (deeply exhaling) And back down. Maybe it's up and to the right. And I'm breathing, (deeply exhaling) and I'm back down.

Maybe it's halfway up and I need some extra movement through those ribs and that spine. (James sighs) And all the way back down. I want you to remember this exercise 'cause here in a few we're gonna go into what I call baby parachute. And if that's unaccessible to you, this might be a good thing to revisit to help open the door to that exercise. And then relax. (deeply exhaling)

Hands go underneath my armpits, I push myself up. From there, we're gonna have a cat cow moment. First things first, do your cat and your cow how you know them. I do a cat and I do a cow. I do a cat and I do a cow.

Now, where do you start your cat and your cow? And what are you thinking about as you do your cat and cow? None of them are right. There isn't a wrong answer. It's just, how do I do that?

Where do I start? Is it from the head? Is it from the middle? Is it from my tail? And then, let's have a moment, a Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen moment, body-mind centering.

We are going to take clasp the hands together, lay the hands down and you're gonna put your forehead down somewhere. From there, I'm gonna round up like a cat, and it takes me to the top of my head. I'm gonna go back down to rest. Cat, top of the head, and back down. (deeply exhaling) Forward and back.

Keep going. It's easier for me to talk when I'm not doing it. So, keep going. You'll notice that as you round forward to being toward the head, you're very aware of the head, the shoulders and the arms. And as you come back, you're more aware of your lower body.

Forward, upper body. Backwards, low body. I feel it in my system as fluid. So as I move forward, the fluids of my body go forward. And as I come backwards, they go backwards.

Fluid of the body goes into my head, my shoulders, my neck, and my hands, into my hips, my low back. The channel with which it moves has got to go through the trunk and the spine. So think of it as this oceanic movement forward, and this oceanic movement backwards. There's a fluid movement forward and there's a fluid movement backwards. That's how I experience it, doesn't mean that that's necessarily how you experience it.

Now, go back to your hands and knees. How does that experience inform? Cat and cow. (deeply exhaling) For me as I do cat, I'm sort of lifting the fluid of my body up into middle spine. And then as I come back, it's sort of a head and tail moment.

And I'm moving fluid. (deeply exhaling) And I moving fluid, maybe it's even spinal fluid. (deeply exhaling) Maybe it's breath. Now, how does that work? If I round and come backwards and extend and come forward.

Round and come backwards, (deeply exhaling) extend and come forward. (deeply exhaling) Three. (deeply exhaling) Two. (deeply exhaling) One, now, if you find that super interesting, maybe keep doing that. I'm gonna take us elsewhere.

I think sometimes we value flection and extension above all of the other really interesting spinal movements. So, if flection and extension is your jam, do that. I'm gonna go from a cat and a cow to a snake. So, how long is my spine? Well, how tall am I?

From there, I'm gonna let my head go to the side and then the other side. And I'm just imagining that my spine has now become a snake. How would I move if I were a snake? That's gonna dictate the movement of the spine. Make sure that you're getting your head and your neck, your sacrum and your tailbone involved, all of which is your spine.

(deeply exhaling) And I can just sort of move. I can take it lower by bending my elbows. I can take it higher. I can move where my hands are and that changes it, and move where my hands are. And instead of getting overly valued in my flection and extension, I'm creating options and going, "Yeah, but my spine can also do this." And then, just be still.

Take a moment. (James sighs) If that was hard for you, maybe practice that, maybe go into some of the previous exercises to help open up access to that. Sometimes when I say do that people are like, "Yeah, yeah, I hear it, but I wanna do the hard thing." The hard thing may not be the best option right now. I'm gonna go into the next level. Doesn't mean you have to do that.

We're gonna go into a plank and then do the snake spine. Some tools to help you out here might be favorite exercise. Might be my arms have abs, previous exercises we've done. So, I'm gonna take the shape of the plank, and then I'm going to go into my snake spine. And I can take a portion of me lower or higher.

(deeply exhaling) I can bend. And I can just sort of allow my spine to have some movement supported by the rest of my body. (deeply exhaling) And rest. (James sighs) Just be there. Enjoy that for a moment.

Now, some people that's their jam, they wanna do that. I'm gonna take us into an exploration I came up with a while ago. It's like possibly one of my favorite things ever. And I call it baby parachute. So, we gotta learn baby and we gotta learn parachute in order to get there.

Lie on your back. Old familiar positioning. Reach your arms up. (deeply exhaling) Go back into some of the hand explorations from that week. Look at that, kaleidoscope hands.

I've got hands, they can reach, they can come together, they can touch. Now, I've got legs, like leg week. Look at that, my legs can move. They can come together. These are my arms and legs.

I want you to think of a baby in a crib, just sort of going, "Oh, I don't have to make my feet and my arms move. Those belong to me. That is an expression of me reaching, of me pushing and playing." I can lift my head and suddenly I'm like a little baby playing in the crib and I'm just rolling side to side playing. (deeply exhaling) I can be a big shape, I can be a little shape, they can touch and then I can relax. Baby.

If you need to play with that, keep playing with that. Turn over onto your stomach, parachute. I want you to open up your legs, open up your arms wider than your mat, relative letter X. And you've now decided to skydive with the world's safest parachute. It will open.

So in order to lift off the floor, something's gotta go down. Pelvis, low spine goes down to lift me up, and back down. If I have a hard time with this, fascial swan. I can lift and back down. Now, rather than squeezing up, imagine you were in a parachute and wind is rushing, lifting you up.

Your fingers become bird wings. You can look over, you can rustle wind through the fingers. Other side, and you'll notice you start to rock. I can explore and play here. (deeply exhaling) (James sighs) Rocking side to side and then I can choose to rest.

So, from there, we've got the parachute, we've got the baby. If one of those is super difficult for you, maybe go there. And if you need some help liberating the spine maybe go back to fascial swan or one of the previous exercises. I'm gonna take us forward into a really fun experience. This is baby parachute.

So, we're gonna be down, you're gonna be in your baby. You're just moving, exploring, playing. And this baby's getting so curious that the baby wants to roll over, land in parachute. And you can make it small or you can be really big in your parachute. And maybe at some point you roll back and you're a baby.

You're making big shapes and little shapes. And you can roll over on your side and you can be here or you can come all the way over and be in your parachute there. You can roll all the way back over, and you can just keep playing, (deeply exhaling) having some fun. Coming back, being that baby, and then just quiet it all down. (James sighs) Be there, just enjoy it.

Let the ground hold you. You've landed, you're safe, you're back in your adult body. (James sighs) And be there. Sequentially roll over to one side, bring your knees into your chest and just be there in a little fetal position. Bartenieff side sit-ups.

We're gonna take the leg, top leg, we're gonna reach it so much that my leg guides me up. In order to come back down, my arm takes me down and I'm here. To repeat, my leg pulls me up. (deeply exhaling) And then back down. My leg. (deeply exhaling)

We are now allowing the spine and the trunk of the body to be moved instead of, "what do I gotta squeeze and do?" It's now, how do I relax it and let it be moved? (deeply exhaling) And back down. Other side. Rolling over, sequentially roll over there, reach and come down. (deeply exhaling) Again, reach.

And come down. My leg reaches, (deeply exhaling) and comes down. Rolling to the other side, leg and down. (deeply exhaling) Roll and down. (deeply exhaling) Roll, up.

And down. Last one over here. Up and just sit for a moment. (deeply exhaling) As you sit there for a moment, I want you to just breathe. Maybe it's into your heart, maybe you're relaxing your eyes, just taking a little inventory.

And then, when you're ready, join me in a standing up position. Once you're up, just take a little walk around the room. Let all of that process for a moment. You just moved your central nervous system, the fluid body, the organs. There's a lot going on for your body to understand right now with that.

I'm gonna now take us into a culminating experience. For me, the twists are how we reorganize everything. Our body is built on rotations. So, open up your feet wide. (James sighs) Just be there.

How do you know your spine is in good alignment? Be as tall as you wanna be. Then put the effort out of that. I don't need to squeeze myself tall. I just am six foot tall.

From their, be there. Twist and twist. Twist and twist. Twist and twist. Now, as you twist, see if you can twist from your feet as if your feet and your ankles do the twist.

See if that can happen from your knees. It's like my knees are doing the twist. I don't need to change anything. It's just, who's leading the orchestra? Right now it's knees.

Then my hips. (deeply exhaling) Then maybe it's my low spine doing a twist. (deeply exhaling) Maybe it's my rib spine doing the twist. Maybe it's my shoulders and collarbone doing the twist. Maybe it's my eyes guiding that.

And maybe it's my whole body. (deeply exhaling) I'm just sensing that. Then finding your center. Adding on to that, which one of those was hard for you to do? Maybe that's the one to practice from where do I twist.

In order to twist right, I'm gonna weight bear over to the right and twist. Left, twist. Right, twist. Left, twist. (deeply exhaling) Now, keep doing that thing and pick something in front of you to stare at.

Soften your gaze and keep twisting. Now, next time you twist to the right, look left and vice versa. (deeply exhaling) Organizing the spine and the eyes differently. Four, three, two, one. Find your center.

Maybe just start bouncing. Let the spine jiggle. Let the guts and the lungs just kinda jiggle. Right side, left side. (deeply exhaling) (James sighs) We're gonna end with my favorite, favorite exercise that I usually will give after a big spine day, this is what I give to people.

I want you to imagine a beautiful hula hoop and get outta your head. You probably can't hula hoop, it's fine. This is invisible. So, invisible hula hoop is around you, and I want you to just start to hula hoop. Maybe you're not very good at it.

No one cares. How would you imagine it feels to hula hoop? Then can you take it up through the ribs? Can you take it up through the neck and the head? Can you reverse it downwards?

And down through the spine, down through the hips, down through the legs, back up through the body, whichever way felt intuitive, whichever way felt good to twist, go back to that. Now, here's the thing. I want you to imagine that that invisible hula hoop gets so small that it's inside of your body. It's just around your spine. And it's like, well how small can I keep my hula hoop going?

Can I take it down? Can I take it up? Just kind of like the circular, circular small action. Can that hula hoop action be so small that I and anyone else in the room with you can't see it? But you can kinda feel that hula hoop around the tailbone, sacrum, spine, head, neck, shoulders.

Even as you stand still looking, can you create, harness, feel, notice the sensation of hula hoop spine up through the body? Ending today with how tall are you, can you let your eyes rest down? Subtle sense of movement throughout the entire body, and extreme awareness of the world opening up as you put your hands on your heart. And you tell yourself, "thank you for showing up today." You did a really good thing for yourself. You had some educational moments, some meditation moments, some action packed, big moments.

You did a good thing. Take a look around your room. You could not have done today's class without your floor, without your room. Tell your space thank you. We are a part of our world.

Tell it thank you. And thank you, thank your community. Anyone in the room with you, anyone on screen with you, anyone you're gonna cross paths with today including dogs, cats, small reptiles and birds. We thank you. We could not do this without you.

I appreciate you. Again, I'm James Crader, Pilates Anytime Live. This is Curious Movement. This week all about the spine. I hope you join me next week for play.

It's gonna be a good one. We're nearing the end. Join me then. Thank you so much for coming today. We appreciate it. (James chuckling)

Mindful Movement: Curious Movement

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2 people like this.
Really love your ideas... reducing stress through mindful movement is such an effective method, really works well especially teaching online.
2 people like this.
Love this!!!!! so funny and relaxing, Love the snake stuff 
What a gem of a class, a complete treat for the mind, body and soul. Love your creative cues, such a wealth of information inviting the body into healthy, supple and carefree movement. One feels lusciously bathed and lubricated in the tissue and joints, and moved in three dimensions! Hope to see more of these classes, thank you James for sharing your knowledge, expertise and curious, colorful movement!
2 people like this.
Really ingenious neck exercises x thank you
Jo N Thank you so much! Feel free to use the ideas within your own work ... it'd be an honor to inspire your creativity to blossom. 
Sylvana M Thank you!
1 person likes this.
Catherine M I can't thank you enough for your kind words! I hope you find the whole series as valuable. I appreciate your time. 
1 person likes this.
Debra H Thank you! I'm glad you liked them!
Claudia C
1 person likes this.
Love you and your proposals!
Linda W
1 person likes this.
Wonderful class! Thank you so much! My body feels lighter and more free now! 
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