Class #5054

Defy Gravity

30 min - Class


Release your shoulders, strengthen your trunk and arms, and free your neck from tension. This Pilates-inspired workout by Joy Puleo is designed to reverse and reduce the tension and stresses of our technologically advanced lifestyle on our heads, necks, and shoulders.
What You'll Need: Mat

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Okay, I am here today with Kristen Briody and Tiffany DeMartin, both of whom who came in from New York to join us today. The only prop we will be using today is something called a Togu ball. Will you guys hold up that ball? You will notice it is a very deflated ball. You can use any deflated ball.

Now, why deflated? You're gonna find out in a second, but you want any ball. It could even be a beach ball, believe it or not. Okay. So I'm gonna ask these guys if they wouldn't mind lying on their backs and taking that ball and putting it right behind their head, and this is the reason why that ball is deflated.

Because when they put that ball behind their head, you can see that the ball actually cradles the whole of their head. And this gives them something really lovely to work into. Now, I'm talking to you for a minute on purpose because I really just want them to lie here, and to relax, and to breathe, to feel the mat underneath them. So one of our goals here today is to learn how to release tension in the neck. In our technological world, we know that forward head is really becoming problematic and it affects overall posture, and a cascading effect through the whole upper body, rounded shoulders, and it could lead to shoulder pain as well as neck discomfort, and, believe it or not, back pain.

This is one lovely way to just start counteracting that. What I want you guys to do here while you're lying here and breathing is actually to just nod your head. It's as if you're saying, "Yes, Joy, this feels terrific." Okay? And that little nod is not coming from you pulling on anything, but if you can imagine your ears are like a wheel and you're just turning that wheel ever so slightly so that your head is buoyant and balanced over the top of your spine. Good, now, as your chin comes towards your throat, can I just ask you gently to press into the ball and then release that as you then allow your eye gaze to look up at the ceiling and then look a little behind you?

So now we're getting a little more range out of that and you're gonna get a nice little stretch. Right, and then you're gonna go into a little bit of what's called extension. Now, listen, what's lovely about this is they started softly. They had the ball. the ball gave them a little feedback into their neck and their head.

Their neck is comfortable with this and it says, "Okay, I'm gonna release into this." Great. Super. Now find a nice, comfortable space or place for your head to relax on the ball. And what I would like to do here now is I'd like to start to add a little arm movement. So could you take your right arm up to the ceiling? And then as you look back overhead, can you let that arm go over, over, over, over, over?

And then exhale and start to nod and bring your chin towards your throat, and lower the arm. And just follow along with the breath. Let the arm ride the breath. Let the head follow the motion of the arm and the breath. So again, not forcing anything, not pulling on anything.

The reason for that is the neck is a structure. A lot of very small muscles there, and the bones are itty bitty, and we're just trying to now free the head as it floats on top of the neck. Good. All right, so I'd like to do the other side and the other arm if you don't mind. So the left arm is gonna come up.

We're gonna do the same thing. And just do that for a couple of repetitions. This time, can you focus on your eye gaze? Let your eye gaze lead your head. You'll notice the head will naturally go and move with the eye gaze.

And let the eye gaze now come towards your knees. Good. What you should be feeling is a real sense of releasing and relaxing. Nice. All right. Last version of this is a alternating arms.

It's always really helpful to alternate the arms. So one arm is overhead, one arm comes down alongside your body. Alternate for two repetitions, you guys. And you can play with the speed of the head moving and the arm moving. That is totally up to you.

Now bring both arms up to the ceiling. Take your right arm on a diagonal and turn your head toward it. Bring that arm back. Now we are adding rotation. Left arm goes out, look at it, and then come back.

Right arm goes out. Take a look at it. Think of your nose being pulled by your fingertips, and then come on back, and then to the left, and then come on back. Beautiful. While you're here with your fingertips up to the ceiling, can you just gimme some motion of your scapula.

Reach up to the ceiling, widen your backs, and then let your scapula drop back into the mat. Reach the ceiling, widen your back, let the scapula drop towards your mat. And then one more time, reach, and then drop. Super. Arms can come down alongside your body.

Now just, if you wouldn't mind, make some circles and let me know how does that feel. So it's really important here that you are comfortable with how this feels. This is a sensation in your body. Don't put any judgment on it. You may have a small amount of motion.

You may have a large amount of motion. You may feel like there's a little tension happening. So you choose the amount of movement that is right for you. All right guys, so now we integrated the arms, right? We integrated the shoulder blades with the neck, and we got that head floating on top of your spine.

Let's move to mobilizing the thorax. Can you take that ball now? And what I would like for you to do is literally put it behind your shoulder blades. Take your hands, clasp them together. Put your hands behind your head with your elbows coming forward.

So I want your elbows to come forward. Don't push those elbows out to the side. That's gonna jut your head forward. It will undo all the good work you just did, okay? So now here too.

You've got this ball. Now I'm gonna come over here by Kristen. You've got this ball. The ball is really giving you some nice feedback into the rib cage. We're gonna take this into a little extension, going over the ball.

I don't want your head to drop back. Instead, I want you to feel your head in your hands and just gently go over the ball. Feel the curve of the ball. You're following the contours of the ball. As you come up, you're gonna feel some abdominal work, but I want you to imagine pushing your bottom rib into that ball.

It's like you're trying to kick that ball out from underneath you. You're gonna feel a lot happening here. That's all really groovy, but we're looking at the mobility of the spine. You're gonna go over. And I like to think of the elbows reaching back and it's like your elbows are trying to touch Tiffany's knees.

And as you curl up, imagine you're pulling your shirt off the back of your body. Yeah. Good. I'm gonna come over here to Tiffany. All right, Tiffany, give me that bottom rib, and I really want you to push that bottom rib into the ball.

Push, push, push, push, push, push, push, push, push, push, push, Good. And then go back and over. Okay, guys, our progression, once we get that, is to add an arm. Take one arm up to the ceiling. Keep your head cradled with the other arm.

Do not let your neck dangle here. I want you to curl up. As you curl up, I want you to make a fist, Put a lot of energy in that, and reach. And then you're gonna come back, open your hand, and go overhead. Good.

Exhale as you come up. You are going to make your fist. You are gonna reach, and then you're gonna come back, and you're gonna go over. Right? So that energy, look at that energy that comes into her hand that drives her forward, right?

She's gonna pull that energy back and take it overhead. Now we're going to add a diagonal. You're gonna come up, make a fist diagonal across the body, go out on the diagonal and reach. Bring that arm back, make a fist. Right, right, right, right, right.

Come on, come on, come on. Hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me. Good, now go over and reach. Yeah, two more. This is a lovely way to get a little bit of core work in there, but we're really also focusing on the thorax and the breath.

The neck is gonna just sort of come along for the ride. Great. All right. We're gonna switch sides. First, you're gonna go over. Then as you come back up, I want you to make a fist and reach, Right, you're gonna go over.

Come on up, make a fist. Lot of energy. Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. You're gonna do two more. Now this is beyond exciting because you're adding...

Beyond exciting, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But you're really adding that lengthening through the whole thorax as you go over into the extension and that energy as you come up into the curl diagonal, and this time I wanna add something. You're gonna add a spiral of the arm. So you're gonna be thumb down to the floor. Right?

And then thumb down as you come across the body. So now we're adding a little bit of internal and external rotation or rotation in the shoulder joint itself. Really another also wonderful way of moving, releasing, and working at the same time. Super. Both hands behind your head. Good.

Curl up, feel like you're kicking that ball out from underneath you. Good, go over the ball, straighten your legs, and we're gonna just come up to rolling up to conclude. Arms overhead, big opening if you're comfortable letting your head go. If not, feel free to keep your hands behind your head. Roll up, reach for your toes.

You can bend your knees. And then just come to sitting. All right, so now we are going to move onto our bellies. So this is called prone position. And when you're lying prone, sometimes people are uncomfortable because they feel like, well, maybe their low back is compromised in some way.

But this is also a really lovely place for us to start working on the neck. So if you are uncomfortable, feel free to put some kind of a roller or a towel under your belly button or the top of your hip bone, and that will usually work to release any discomfort you have on your low back. Feel free to widen your legs as well. Okay. Now listen, guys, we're just gonna start very simply with a head float.

So I'm gonna come down here with them. And what I want you to do is if you can imagine your crowns of your heads are connected to each other. And just lift up a little bit off of that mat, and then lower back down. Now you're gonna float out and then lower back down. Great.

So now we're working against gravity to work on some of these little neck muscles, and you're gonna float up, you're gonna hold it. Now with your hands, press down and feel like you're pulling your thumbs, if you can, toward your sternum. It'll give you a nice tripod of support here with your arms. Now again, remember the wheels around your ears. Start to trace the floor and start to look at each other, neck flexion, or extension, sorry.

And then drop your chin. Now we're gonna go into flexion, and I want you to bring your nose underneath you. Good. And then keep your head up. And then you're gonna draw a line.

You're gonna look, look, look, look, look, look, look. Look up, look up. Let your eye gaze look up. Full extension. And then come on down.

Nose down, and good. One more time, and I want you to let your eye gaze lead you up. So that's gonna take you into full extension of that neck. Yeah. And now with your arms, can you gimme a little more extension through your thorax?

Great. And then you're gonna look down and let your chin come towards your throat, your nose towards your sternum, and feel how that rounds your upper back a little bit. Great. And then lengthen out and lower back down. Okay.

This is just a really lovely way to get gravity working on these small little muscles and supporting them. So I do wanna take you just to the head float one more time, and then let you just take your head and go side to side as if you're telling me no way I don't wanna do this. And again, you're feeling just a little bit of gravity in there, and a little support in there, and a nice, gentle way to strengthen these muscles that we just stretched when I had you on your back. Okay. Super. And then come on down.

Now I'm gonna ask them both to come onto what's called all fours, right? So hands and knees, and the same thing for you. So we're gonna take you onto your hands and knees. I wanna start the process of working on strengthening that upper back, right? And strengthening into the little muscles now deeper into the back of the rib cage, the thorax.

So again, just one more time, look at each other, full extension. Let your eye gaze go up. And all of you, I want you to imagine that their head is being gently pulled as if they were like a little puppet, right? From here in the middle of the thorax. Now bring your chin to your chest.

And I want you to round just the thorax a little bit. Notice the shoulder blades widen, yeah. Lengthen out. Look at each other. I know I said one more time.

This is the hallmark of a Pilates instructor. We really don't know how to count. And then nose down. Feel that, again, that widening through the thorax and the rib cage. This is gonna set us up perfectly for strengthening in plank.

Okay, so now let's have all of you put your hands a little bit forward, and see if you can rock forward on your knees. So it's a little bit of a modified plank, not too big, and I wanna get a little rotation in the thorax. Everyone, bend your elbows and bring right arm to the floor. Right arm to the floor. and then left arm, forearm.

Right forearm straightens. Left forearm straightens. Let's do the same side two more time. Right. Left.

Right. Left. One more time. Right. Left.

Right and left. Okay, what am I looking for here? They're gonna do the other side, right? We're gonna go left and then right. Left and then right.

So we're gonna get a rotation. Back to neutral, rotation to left. So now we're getting some movement in the thorax. Last time. Great.

Now come forward into a modified plank, full modified plank. Widen away from the floor, round your back a little bit, and bring your nose in. Lengthen out. And if you are feeling it today, come into a little bit of extension. Don't drop your belly, and then chin to your chest.

Round through your back, and then lengthen, and out. Okay, ready? Now we're gonna go into our full plank. Let's toes under and lift. If full plank is not available to you today, that is fine.

Keep your knees down. What I am looking for is a nice widening across your upper back, lengthening through the crown of your head. And here again, we're going to look. They're gonna look at each other. Eye gaze goes up, and you'll notice they'll go into a little bit of extension.

Now chin to the chest, nose down and into the thorax. Beautiful. Come into neutral and hold that knee. Come down. We will reset.

Please, with plank, here's the deal. Don't listen to anybody who's telling you to do it for two minutes or longer. Get in there for 20 or 30 seconds and back out. You get too fatigued and then the muscles you need to work are not doing the job they need to do. All right, that was your rest.

So you're gonna come back into plank. Whatever plank works for you today, there's... Now here, rock yourself forward and back. If you're on your knees, you can rock forward and back. If you're on your feet, rock onto your toes and back onto your heels, forward and back.

Give it a little rhythm, forward and back. Forward. I'm getting you to rock now over, in your shoulder and over your humorous. Two and one. Bend your knees. Come on down.

Good, and then sit back into child's pose. Child's pose is one of my favorite rest positions. And I understand it's not available to everyone all the time. It could be because of knees, hips, or low back. So if this is not available to you the way you are seeing it here, if I put a bolster underneath your bum and lifted you up, that would be totally appropriate, or you don't even need a bolster.

Come on up there a second, Tiffany. No, back in child's pose, but lift your bum. Right. This is totally fine. We're looking for this nice fold and this openness through the back, and look at where the arms are, The openness in the shoulder, and the length of the neck.

All great. Do not judge it based on what you see here. Okay. All right, now we are gonna lift them up from this child's pose, toes tuck under, and I want you just to go butt to the ceiling, right? So lift your butt up to the ceiling, and then bend your knees and come on down.

Now, you're gonna notice Kristen's gonna wanna keep her knees bent. Totally fine. You're gonna lift your butt up to the ceiling, and then you're gonna lower down. Great, you're gonna lift your butt up to the ceiling And then lower back down, and then sit back into whatever child's pose is available to you today. When you're in that position, can you also rock a little right and left?

It's a lovely way to get into all of those muscles in the spine and the rib cage that we just spent some time releasing and activating. Okay, from here, let's have you come out of that. They're gonna be kneeling. If, again, kneeling is not really where you live today, it's okay. Just sit back and turn yourself around so that you could be sitting up nice and tall with your legs out in front of you.

Knees bent is optimal for where we're going, 'cause it'll also allow you to really be able to sit up on top of your pelvis. First thing we wanna do is we wanna work a little bit on the shoulders and the shoulders in relationship to the chest. Get a little stretching through the chest, and also activating the scapula. So what I'd like to ask you to do is take your hands and your fingertips are down. Now turn your thumbs behind you and bring your arms into shoulder extension.

Then bring your arms in front, and the thumbs are down. So notice we are turning the arms as they go behind you. Right? And we're rotating as they come in front of you. They're rotating and they go behind you, and they're rotating in front of you.

Now, I want you to watch these guys 'cause naturally what's happening as the arms go behind them, they wanna go into a little extension, opening through the chest. And then as the arms come in front of 'em, they wanna sort of release into that a little. Totally great. You find what's working for you today. You'll notice Tiffany is starting to go a little bit wider.

All that works here as well. Good. Now let's take it into even a little more of the thoracic movement. As the arms come behind you and you open through the chest, let your eye gaze go up again. Now let your eye gaze come down.

Bring your chin towards your throat, soften through the front of the thorax, a little bit of flexion. Now go into extension and then into the flexion. This puts us perfectly in line with the next thing, which is taking the arms behind you, placing them on the floor behind you. Now comfort-wise, your fingertips can be pointed away from you, your fingertips can be pointed out alongside you, your fingertips can be pointing in towards you. You guys can decide what works for your shoulders right now.

We're gonna lift you into a little bit of a reverse plank. I do want the knees to be bent. Lift the pelvis and hover. Again, don't do this for two minutes, right? Just get in the position and then lower back down.

come on up into the position and then lower back down. Now how high up you come is totally up to you and what you're comfortable with. Good. Now come on up, hold it. I want you to feel the shoulder blades coming closer together. Feel the neck nice and long.

And again, you're gonna gimme a nod, and then you're gonna turn your head left and right. Good. Hold it there. Come down. We're going into it one more time. You're gonna come up.

Now I will ask you to challenge yourself. Imagine you're pressing your feet into the floor and you're pulling your feet toward your hands, and see if that doesn't lift you a little higher, and you'll notice now when you keep your eyes on the horizon... Eyes on the horizon toward each other. Do you see how their neck is a little stretched? Good.

Can you drop your chin a little bit more and then let your eye gaze go up just a little bit? Not into full extension. Just a little bit. Drop your chin. And then look up. Now look at each other on the horizon.

At this point, you should be feeling the backs of your arms, your triceps between your shoulder blades, and then lower back down. And you might also get a little bit in through the pelvis and the legs. Yeah. And that's our back plank. We wanna do some side planking as well.

So Tiffany's gonna turn around. Kristen, you're gonna turn facing forward. Now you'll notice the bottom leg is underneath them and it's bent. It's actually gonna be a lever that you use to do this movement. Top leg is in front, right?

In this position. Now it seems like a really nice casual position, but we are actually gonna work in this position. I'm going to ask you to use your bottom leg. Use it as a lever and push up into a side plank, and then come back down. Now you will notice that the arms wanna just start naturally going.

Go for it. Ready? Go up. Let that arm come over and then come back down. Yeah. And then go up, right? And you're using that leg as a lever to lift the pelvis up and then come back down.

Now with your eye gaze, follow that arm up. Make a nice arc, and let the rib cage lift up to the ceiling as much as you can, and then lower down with control. Couple more, ready? Inhale. Go up. And exhale, come on down.

And then last one, come on up. Now I'm gonna add a rotation. Can you take your top arm and bring it down to meet the mat? And then open out and up. Take that top arm, come on back down.

Reach the mat, and then open up. Yeah, and then come on down. And open up. Make sure that lever of that bottom leg is working, and then come on down, and into child's pose. Okay, we are gonna do the other side.

So releasing to child's pose, that little rock left and righ.t Again, find what works for you. Now, we're going to turn and work your other side. Okay. So again, this bottom leg, that's your lever. That's gonna pop up the pelvis, right?

That's gonna give you the leverage by which you can move your spine. So let's just start by working that bottom leg, and you're gonna pop up, and then come on down. So you'll notice what's happening with the arm that's underneath you, literally, you're using it, right, as another lever that's gonna allow the thorax, and the head, and the neck to ride on. So it's really lovely. So not only have we worked the shoulders forward and back.

Now we've worked them side. Good. Couple more. Now use the bottom leg as the lever. Lift up the pelvis. Give me a little more thorax and then come on down.

I'm gonna ask for three with flow. Ready, go. Up and down, and up, and down, and up, and down. Nice. We'll add rotation.

You're gonna come up, rotate, find the floor, and open out. Don't lose your bottom leg. And find the floor, and open out. Let your eye gaze lead you down. Let your eye gaze lead you up.

And then last one. And guess where we're gonna go. Back to child's pose. Super. Now they just did a lot of work.

I'm gonna ask everybody here to come into a seated position. So you two come into a seated position, however you wanna do that. Now in your seated position, your legs could be out in front of you with your knees bent. You could be sitting cross-legged. You could be sitting side-facing.

And now here, let's find the balance of your pelvis on the ground. Where are your sit bones? Are you forward of your sit bones? Are you back of your sit bones? Are you balanced right on top of your sit bones?

And then find your rib cage. Now your rib cage should be floating directly over your pelvis, right? Wherever that pelvis is, wherever that pelvis is, you wanna find that rib cage and it should be floating on top. Once you find that rib cage, now find your head and see if you can bring it back up. Imagine the ball is behind you.

The throat is open. The chin is horizontal to the floor, and you've got a lot of length. Shoulders then should just drape. Scapula, like as if you had a scarf over your shoulders, also just flowing down your back. But your sternum is lifted.

And even if you feel like you wanna sway in that position, go for it. And then close your eyes. Slowly find your center. Turn your head to the right. Turn your head to the left.

Come back to center. First, let's look down. Nose to your sternum. And then find your balance in your center again, and let your eye gaze look up. Go up, go up, go up, go up, go up, turn.

Turn the wheel, and then back upright. And there you go.


Great exercises for tension relief of shoulder blades and neck ;thank you so much
Great class, thanks Joy for sharing the exercises! Wonderful gems of information and encouraging cues! One really feels the sense of float, lift and levitation. A great platform from which to invite the strengthening and lengthening components of the neck, shoulders and thorax!
This felt amazing! I will definately be using with my mat classes! Thank you.
Joy is  great role model and certainly lives up to her name! I had a broken neck (and surgery) 27 years ago. I am cautious about following instructions that focus on the cervical spine.  This class was cued  perfectly. I actually felt the difference in my range of movement at the end of the session. Thank you.

Lina S
Nice class! I've appreciate the exercices linking the arms with the neck, playing with angles and inner/outer rotation. Thank you. Very well explained!
Thank you so much! I feel the relief and strength at the same time. I will definitely add some of the excersises to my repertoire! Joy, you are an inspiring teacher!!! 🙏
I needed this class so desperately after editing film for hours and hours!!
Loved this work. A nice add on to finish a class 
Great class with wonderful cues/visuals. Thank you for sharing your passionate energy!
This felt so good. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my students. Thank you!
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