Class #5028

Finding your Diaphragm

40 min - Class


Iron out the imbalances in your pelvis with this gentle Mat workout by Claire Sparrow. She teaches a restorative class, using subtle movements to create awareness of your pelvic diaphragm. This is the perfect practice to release unwanted tension and improve mobility in your body.
What You'll Need: Mat, Towel, Overball


Read Full Transcript

Hi everyone, I'm Claire Sparrow, and I'm here at my studio, Chapel Allerton Pilates, which is in the north of England. We're gonna do a ball class for pelvic health today, and you need your ball to be like this. Soft and floppy, not full of air. You may also need a towel for your head. We're gonna begin by sitting on your ball.

So you place the ball underneath your pelvis, and you're gonna have your legs crossed, if that's available to you. If sitting down on the floor isn't available, sit on a chair, that's absolutely fine. Go ahead and close your eyes now. Bringing your attention and your awareness to your breath. Allowing your breath to gently settle.

Letting go of everything that's gone before in the day, and allow yourself to arrive into mind, body, and breath. Feel the gentle feedback of the ball beneath you, and encourage your breath very gently towards the ball, as you breathe in. And as you breathe out, like a fountain rising from your pelvis, all the way up out through the crown of your head, your breath leaves you. Breathing into the ball and breathing out, letting your breath rise all the way out like a fountain, making you taller and longer through the center of your body. And then we're going to slowly and gently now let the light come in through your eyelids, blinking your eyes open.

And then you're gonna take the ball out from underneath you and sit for a moment to notice how it feels when the ball is gone. Maybe close your eyes again so that you can feel that distinct difference here. That increased awareness of your pelvic diaphragm. And we're gonna keep coming back to that awareness, so go ahead and open your eyes now. We're gonna lie down on your front.

You're going to place the ball underneath the front of your body, just below or slightly under your sternum, and rest your head down. Your legs are long out behind you and your head is resting on your hands. If the ball feels a bit yucky, move it up a bit higher. It can feel a bit weird, weird we're gonna go with. Painful or yucky, we're gonna move the ball, okay?

And then we just literally lay here and breathe. And each time you breathe out, you allow your body to yield a little more to the ball. And then we're gonna start to move from side to side around the ball. It's a small movement where one side of your rib sinks down, and then the other side of your rib sinks down. Your shoulders are quiet, your pelvis is quiet, so if you find yourself jigging about elsewhere in your body, make your movement even smaller, so it's much more isolated to where the ball is.

Now make the movement more of a figure of eight, like a helix movement. Gently massaging your diaphragm, encouraging you to have more freedom and movement of your diaphragm, so that it can talk to your pelvic diaphragm. Reverse that helix now. I know that's asking a lot, it was enough to figure out how to helix one way. The more you practice the movement, and we're gonna do it lots of times, the more fluid it becomes.

Go ahead, let that settle, and then slowly take the ball out and lie without it for a moment. Isn't that amazing? Do you feel that big breath that you had? Put the ball under your pelvis now. So it's between your hip bones, your pubic bone, and your belly button, and you're gonna rest your head down again.

Just like we did when you had the ball underneath your diaphragm, you're gonna pause there, breathe, let your body yield to the ball. 'Cause at first it feels a bit strange, bit unusual, and then your body goes, oh actually, this is quite nice, I could get used to this, and then it yields to it. Then like we did with your diaphragm, we're gonna rock side to side. Almost as if you are moving the air from one side to the other. I like to imagine that it's filled with fluid, and I'm just moving the fluid to one side, and then to the other.

One side and then to the other. And, as promised, we're gonna helix here too. So as you're doing that helix, that figure of eight on its side, you might start to feel that your legs, or your toes even, sliding forwards and back on your mat, and that's absolutely fine. We want to have that freedom of movement coming all the way from your pelvis down to your feet. So that's great.

And then reverse your helix. Allowing your head, neck and shoulders to be free and relaxed as you're concentrating on that coordination. I know, sometimes we get tense and we just need a little reminder to let that go. Okay. Let your pelvis settle, scoop your ball out, and lay for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and then we're actually going to do the same kind of movements now over on your back.

So this is where you need a little cushion towel, something like that, underneath your head. Place your ball underneath the back of your body, about bra strap height, and then when you lie down you'll know if that feels the right sort of position for you. If it feels quite strained, move it a little bit lower. Or you might need to release some of the air from the ball. Arms by your side, palms facing the ceiling.

I like to close my eyes here. It's quite meditative. We're releasing all the tension in our body that's preventing our pelvic diaphragm from being responsive and available for us. Once you feel like we did when you were on your front, that your body's gone, okay, I can relax here, you can then gently move from side to side, really small, so we're not shoulder shimmying. We're quiet through our shoulders.

So you might even just need to think the movement to start with, and the more you do it, the more your movement will come. And then, you guessed it, we're doing a helix here too. And it might be a tiny movement to begin with. And it isn't the pelvis, I know. Our body does that thing where it tries to help us out and move from all the other places that it can, until we are strict enough to find the movement in the place that we want it.

Reverse your helix. Who knew you could move your body in this way? The ball gives such positive feedback. And because your diaphragm attaches at the front of your ribs here, and then it's right up there at the back of your ribs, we're getting all the way round with these movements we're doing today. And then come to settle.

Scoop the ball out and feel the three dimensional-ness of your breath as you take that away. And then we put it underneath your pelvis. Let your pelvis go. Give your pelvis to the ball. So with the ball underneath our pelvis, we're gonna do exactly the same thing.

So you're gonna find that rise and fall with your pelvis. One hip rises, the other one falls. And I like to use that same image that the ball is filled with fluid, and I'm just moving the fluid. It helps me to get into the ball more. So allow yourself to move the ball, the fluid inside, side to side.

And of course your thigh bones are rising and falling, but they're not swaying side to side, like a flag in the breeze. So be aware of that, I know I just spoiled your fun. But we need to do it in that way, so your thigh bones are getting a little bit of mobility in your hip socket. Now, as you can imagine, we're also gonna do the helix here. So you're figure of eight-ing on its side, whatever that feels like, looks like, for you.

So we're just making that figure of eight. Again, you're up and down with your thigh bones, relax your shoulders. I know, I'm saying that to myself as much as I am to you. Now reverse, around. And then let that come to settle.

So everything just settles and calms. Extend your left leg along the mat, so your right leg stays bent and the ball is there. If you've had enough of the ball, you can do this without the ball. Rock on your heel from side to side. So you let your leg just flop in, flop out, flop in, flop out.

Then with that same floppy quality, you're gonna start to twist and circle your foot, and allow that twisting and circling to travel all the way up your leg into your hip. So your knee is gonna bend as you're twisting and circling your foot. Your heel stays in the same spot, it's just that when you're flexing your foot up, your knee bends. This is called unwinding. So we're unwinding the tension from our foot, all the way up into your hip and beyond.

Change direction, twist your foot, and let that twisting spiraling movement of your foot move your shin bones, move through your knee, move all the layers through your thigh, into your hip and pelvis. Let's make this your last one, and let it flop. Now straighten your right leg out to join it so you can compare. Feel how much more open your left hip is, and knee closer to the floor. Bend your left leg, rock side to side.

So get your floppy rock from side to side on your right leg now. This is free and easy. And then start to do the twisting and the circling. And in that moment, in your mind, as you're comparing your left to your right, do it kindly to yourself. So I always say, when we observe things being different, one side to the other, that's you just learning more about yourself.

It's learning the interesting story in your body. And then we're gonna change direction of that twist and circle. And it means when we learn about ourselves, it means that we can do something to help ourselves. So with this one, we're unwinding the tension. And it's a bit like when you find a necklace, a silver necklace in the bottom of a jewelry box, and you know it's all knotted and messy.

If you pull the ends, you're just gonna make those knots tighter. If you wiggle the ends, you're gonna loosen those knots. And this is us loosening knots you didn't even know you had. And rest there, straighten both legs out. Hopefully you've got an even pair.

Now, bend your knees, scoop the ball out. Feel that newfound awareness of your pelvis. Throw your ball down, put your feet on top. You're gonna flex and point here, toes to the floor, heels to the floor. Remember that idea, the image of the fluid filled ball.

So you're just moving the fluid. And then find the balance point. Find the point where your knees are together, your feet are horizontal, your arms are by your side. We're gonna do bent knee openings, is what it says. You're gonna open both knees and you're gonna close both knees.

And that newfound awareness of the back of your pelvis on the mat underneath you, you're just balancing there, that's your sacrum, that round curved bone, you can feel that there. You're just balancing there. And we're gonna be using a breath pattern. So inhale out, exhale close. Inhale, open out.

Exhale, close. You can even place your hands on your pelvis as a guide, because as you're opening your knees out and in, our goal is to do that without the pelvis tipping. So your pelvis is not gonna be tipping forwards and back. One last one like this. And if your hands are not on your pelvis, they're gonna want to be there now, 'cause we're doing singles.

Open and close. Open and close. Can you inhale open, exhale close? Inhale, open, exhale, closed. And here again, we're working on maintaining your pelvis in that position, and it not getting dragged with your leg.

So here we need to open and lengthen from your pelvic diaphragm, or as I like to think about, your pelvic butterfly. So the butterfly wings open on one side and then fold back in. And then on the other side. Let's go ahead and do two more. And then you're gonna take your feet off the ball.

Grab the ball now, place it between your thighs. So it's between your thighs, not your knees, quite close to your pelvis. And go ahead and take your feet wide. So about shoulder width apart with your feet, hands are on your pelvis. So the heel of your hand goes on your hip bones, fingertips just fall down towards your pubic bone, but above it, okay?

Now your inner thighs are going to very lightly hug the ball towards your pelvis, and then slowly release. This is not a squeeze, I can't emphasize that enough. It's not a squeeze, it's a hug. You're embracing that ball towards your pelvis. It's like the skin of your inner thighs draws it in towards you.

And then under your fingertips, as you're hugging the ball, what you're looking to feel is just a very light firming or firmness coming in underneath your hands. So it's not a clenching squeezing, it really is a lightness. So the hugging in. And then we're gonna do it quickly, so we're gonna pulse here. So instead of the slow ones, you're hug, hug, hug, hug, hugging as rapidly as you can, without your bottom clenching.

I know, I keep spoiling your fun, but sometimes other muscles try and take over, and we want to make sure we're getting in the right region. Okay, rest there, that's plenty. So what we're going to do now, we'll keep the ball there, take your feet so that they're as wide as they were before. Definitely take your cushion out, arms by your side. We're gonna do the bridging movement with the ball here.

For bridging, you're gonna bring your attention to your tailbone at the very end of your spine, and your sacrum just above it. So instead of clenching your bottom, you're gonna allow your bottom to melt into the mat and talk to your tailbone. Your tailbone's gonna invisibly curl into your pelvis, and then the inside of your sacrum is gonna lift up like a hovercraft lifting. And then you breathe in, and then on your exhale, let your sacrum, let your tailbone go, and come all the way down. I know, that was a lot to think of.

Let's go again, so we give ourselves another chance. Your tailbone and then the inside surface of your sacrum. So you delay your bottom, and it doesn't really need to be clenching here. And then you slowly let it relax, so it's heavy, and the weight brings you down. Okay, next time we stay up.

So we go tailbone, invisible curling movement, I shouldn't see anything if I was with you, and then the inside of your sacrum levitates up. Reach the ball forward. Now we're gonna stay here in this position, and you're gonna do the hugging that we did before. Start slow. Slow hugging, slow hugging, slow hugging.

Remember it was just here above your pubic bone that you could feel that. And then we're gonna do the quick one. So you rapidly, rapidly do it. Pulses without clenching your bottom. I know, just keep checking.

I always just tap mine, you can tap your bottom to check. And then you're gonna come down from your bridge till you're almost touching the mat. Not quite, just hovering. So you can slot your hand underneath, and then you're gonna do the same thing. Slow hug, and release.

Remember it's a hug, not a squeeze. You're embracing that ball like you're drawing it in towards your pelvis. And then we'll do the rapid, the pulses. Has your bottom lifted or is it still there? So we're doing those rapid pulses.

Two more and rest there. Take the ball out. Let your legs jiggle. Shake them out. Okay.

So we're gonna be moving over onto our side now. So place the ball underneath your ribs, clasp your hands behind your head, and just lay and breathe for a moment. We've just covered quite a lot, so let's take a moment and breathe. As we're breathing, I want to bring our awareness to the direction of our breath through our ribs. So your upper ribs are gonna be opening up towards your head, and your lower ribs are gonna be opening down towards your pelvis.

Bit like a fan opening in two directions at the same time. So as you're breathing in, can you think of your ribs moving in those two directions. And as you're breathing out, they just relax back towards each other. A bit like a spring. You're opening the spring, and then slowly letting the spring relax.

One more time. Great, whip your ball out, pop it between your thighs again. And this helps you to then stack yourself up and feel like you're in alignment here. Ideally, you're kinda lined up with the back edge of your mat, or if you're using a towel, on the floor. Just line yourself up so your heels, your bottom, your shoulders and your head.

I always say if there's a pair, they should be stacked. So eyes, hips, the works, okay? And then what we're gonna do with the top knee on the ball is you're literally just gonna lift your foot up and then put it down. Lift it up and put it down. And of course there's a little more to it than that.

Take your hands, put it on your bottom. As your foot lifts up, you're gonna inflate your bottom into your hand. Like you're inflating a balloon. Yeah. And if you've had any pelvic injury during childbirth, for example, you may feel that there's some tension from the scar tissue that prevents your leg moving this way freely.

And when we come to this movement, it's a great way just to tease gently out that tissue in there. So you can even think about your perineum here. You can think about between your middle passage and your sit bone, just lengthening. And that might give you a little bit more movement. So this time leave your foot up.

Doesn't matter whether your foot's pointed or flexed, we're not gonna be too pernickety about that. You're gonna straighten and bend. So you're still heel up, and then you straighten. Definitely thinking about what's happening here, that you're not slumping forward, back, or any direction. You just keep inflating into your hand.

Keep smiling. I always think that helps too. All right. And breathing in and out will be fine, just make sure you are. That's it, twice more.

This is definitely more of the warming variety. Okay. And then we're gonna rest there. Wow, okay. All of that on the other side.

So we begin, ball underneath your ribs, hands clasped behind your head. I like your hands to be really interlaced, right to the root of your fingers. And breathing. We're thinking about the fan breathing, into your armpits and down to your waist. So when we're breathing in, it's occurring in both directions.

And you've got ribs right up to where your collar bones are, so you can even bring your attention there as well. Okay, go ahead, take the ball out, put it between your knees. Check again that everything's stacked up. Hand on your hip to begin with. Then we go ahead and we do the knee in and foot up.

So your knee is coming down towards, you can have the ball under your thigh or between your knee. Either way, your thigh's turning in and your knee is going down. Put your hand on your bottom now, and really inflate into your hand. So open your hand like a starfish. Pop it on there.

That's it. And inflate into your hand. And you might find, like we said on the other side, if you've had an injury, the range of movement, the balance of your pelvis is going to be different. And just observe it, be interested, get to know yourself, so you can perhaps do a few more of these sorts of movements to work on that. And then you're gonna come up and stay up, and then take it down and up.

That's it. So you're continuing to inflate into your hand, and if you feel like, yeah, I've got the coordination now that we're on the second side, you could add a breath pattern, inhale, and then exhale. So inhale as you straighten. And there's no right or wrong, this is just a variation of the breathing that you can explore. Let's go with one more.

Shall we do another one just for good measure, I think so. One more. I know I'm the worst. And then you're gonna put your foot down and have a rest there. Great, ready for some things on your front.

You're gonna put the ball underneath your sternum. It's quite high up, higher than we did at the beginning. And rest your head on your left forearm, and bring your right arm down by your side. From here, you're gonna imagine in your right hand you're holding a doorknob, and you're gonna start to turn that doorknob so that it turns your whole arm and opens your shoulder away from the mat, and then it comes all the way down. We're gonna do it again, just like that.

Now you're gonna turn your head to the left and keep doing the same thing. So your head is looking to the left and your hand is turning outwards to the right, opening up across your chest, lifting your armpit off the floor, and twisting. Let's go ahead and do that one more time on that side. This is called the half dart. And then we're gonna rest, swap, so you then put your forehead on your right arm, and you've got your left arm down by your side.

And you twist that doorknob. And then you turn your head, so it looks to the right, and you keep going. And each time we're doing that movement, we're opening up across your chest, lengthening 'cause your head is turned, lengthening all of the muscles through the front of your neck. So we don't always appreciate how much the tension and tightness through our neck and upper chest is actually impacting on the efficiency and responsiveness of our pelvic diaphragm. So this is really useful to do, you can do this lots, you can do it without the ball, you can do it sitting, you can do it standing.

Just that movement will be really helpful. That's your last one. And then we're coming up to sitting. So take the ball. Place the ball so it's kind of wedged under your bottom.

You're not sitting on it, it's not under you under you. It's just wedged. And then have your feet and knees together, hands at the back of your thighs. And you get yourself as upright as you can. Imagine you're meeting the queen, so you really sit up, best posture.

You're meeting the queen. And then you're gonna aim to keep that regal posture as you press your sacrum back into the ball. So can we do that without losing height? I know we will, but just minimize it. So you press through your feet.

You're taking your pelvis back, your sacrum back into the ball, and then release. So you really meet the ball. Let's do that with a breath pattern. So you're gonna breathe out to send your sacrum into the ball. Remember you're meeting the queen, look forward, and then up.

So you're pressing back, pressing back, pressing back, and then sit up. Let's go one more time here, press through your feet, press through your sacrum, and then release there. Great. Straighten your left leg out along the mat. Same thing.

Now you're holding your hands around the back of your right thigh. Press through your foot, press through your sacrum. Remember to keep your height, I didn't keep mind then. So you're gonna keep your height. Remember, that's it.

Now what you will feel is that there's gonna be some kind of twisting happening, and your aim is to go straight back, even although you've got this difference with the straight leg. Press back and then sit tall. One more time with this leg, and then we're gonna switch. Interlace your hands, remember I like the roots of the fingers together so we're nice and secure. Press through your left foot and your sacrum back.

So this is my wonky side, maybe you're discovering yours as well. We're looking for, with a curious mind, what are the differences? What do I need to do differently? This side receives the message differently. And you're just gonna help your sacrum to go back in the middle, yeah?

And your leg comes with you as you do it. With the out breath, remember, so you're breathing out. Let's go one more on this leg. Okay. Then take the ball out, place it between your thighs.

Like we did earlier, you're gently hugging it. This time you're gonna have your feet together. So even although your knees might be slightly apart because the ball is there close to your pelvis, you've got your hands at the back of your thighs and you are hugging the ball towards you as you roll back. That's it, and then coming up to sitting tall. And because we've done it with the ball behind and the single leg, we've hopefully ironed out any little imbalance that might have been there.

And the more you do it, the more you iron that out. Breathing out, roll back. breathing in, sit up. Breathing out, roll back. Breathing in, come up, one more time.

Hug, hug, hug the ball, don't forget that. Okay. We've got one more thing to do here. You're gonna go back and you're gonna pause there, and I think you've probably already guessed it. We're gonna pulse.

So you're pulsing your hugs, hug, hug, hug towards you. Hug towards you, it's not a squeeze. It's that hug, hug, hug pulsing towards you. I think that's gonna be enough. And then sit tall, well done.

Take your feet shoulder width and take your hands back. Spread your hands like starfish on the mat. And you're hugging the ball. We're doing bridging except here. So it's table, this is where you're hugging the ball.

Tailbone, sacrum, oh, before you know it, you've lifted. And then you're coming back down. Standing into your feet like you did for bridging, meeting your tailbone. So your tailbone internally, in this like invisible movement, it just wakes up, then the inside of your sacrum, closest to your organs, lifts you up and then you come down. So you get all of this power from the back of your body.

Let's go a little bit more fluidly now, hug the ball, tailbone, sacrum, lift. One more, hug the ball, tailbone, sacrum, lift, and then come down. Very well done. And we're gonna go up to standing now. Bring your ball with you.

Come up however it suits you. You're gonna place the ball between your thighs. Again, that's the place for the ball for this class. And you're gonna have one hand at the front of your pelvis, one hand at the back, at your sacrum. And we're gonna be doing a small squat.

So I'm gonna turn so you can see sideways, the view that I want you to look for is more like a functional squat. Like you're gonna sit down, and you're just feeling gently what's happening with your pelvis as you do this. So it's not a big movement out with your pelvis. So it's just a gradual, tiny little tip into your heel of hand as you go down. Your tailbone rises, your pelvic diaphragm widens beautifully, and we're hugging the ball to come up, of course.

Once more. Okay, drop the ball. Put your heels on it. Find your balance on the ball. Make sure you're not on your stopper, like I was.

And you really get to balance that fluid, that imaginary fluid. This time, hands on your hips. And this time, back upright. And you're just gonna go down and up. Down and up.

So your heels have just got to oscillate and find balance all the time, which is also good for the responsiveness, which I'm sure you can feel now, from everything we've done, of your pelvic diaphragm. Let's do one more. Breathing in, breathing out. And then step off your ball and come to standing, arms free by the side of your body and close your eyes. And I want you to take this last moment to check in with yourself in mind, body and breath.

How are you in this moment, compared to when we began our class today? What do you notice? What are you aware of? What did you learn about yourself in class today? And then you can open your eyes.

Well done, and thank you for joining me in class today. I'll see you very soon.


1 person likes this.
Thank you Claire for this informative and detailed class on Finding Your Diaphragm.  After a couple hours of playing pickleball, this class was a just what my body needed.
Danielle A
Super Claire. Well done, as always skilfully helping people to feel the potential space in their bodies so that they can access the really ‘juiciness’ of human movement.  Congratulations on your first Pilates Anytime class. 
Great to see you bring the North of England to Pilates Anytime Claire. Loved the content-the cueing and the awareness/sensations. I think we all need a bit more of this work-look forward to some more soon.Thankyou.
Ruth S
Great to see you on Pilates Anytime Claire. I love slowing things down and becoming aware of my body. It is so important to take the time to do this. Thank you. 
Thank you! Very much looking forward to the whole series.

Thank you! Love the subtle movements bringing awareness into my pelvic floor I tend to grip too much so this class was very helpful. I hope to experience more of your classes.
Dear Claire, Great video with great moves and you are doing it for the North of the UK x
wonderful, for all levels. thank you for such a lovely and informative class
Lucy P
1 person likes this.
I love your approach! Feels very progressive, functional, interesting, restorative and kind on my body thank you  
Lucy P
1 person likes this.
^ and hello from the south of England! Where I'm also a Pilates teacher working in a similar style :D  
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