Class #5127

Mat for Balance & Feet

35 min - Class


The feet are our foundation and they play a huge role in the way we stand and walk. In this Mat workout, Ilaria Cavagna focuses on finding the connections between the feet and the rest of the body by using standing exercises to challenge balance and the Magic Circle to build strength. She also uses the spiral tension along the leg to the body above to reaffirm that Pilates is always a full-body workout.
What You'll Need: Mat, Pilates Pole, Magic Circle

About This Video


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In today's mat, we'll work on the feet, the foundations, and balance. We'll work on many different aspects. The foot release, the spiral up the legs, the reinforcement of the glute medius, and a lot of standing stuff. Again, many different exercise done at different level. So do the exercise and the level of exercise that fits you most.

So we'll start with this long pole. Actually, if you have the chance now to grab a long pole if you have, and a magic circle, that will be great. If you don't have a long pole, you can use the short one of the short box, or any dowel that you have at home. And then you can also use the broom or the wall for balancing purpose. So the very first movement that I want you to do is a little massage of the foot.

I want you to roll the foot from the ball of the foot to the heel very lightly. Why, because at the bottom of the foot, we have many different layers of fascia, so we don't wanna hurt those layers. We don't wanna compress them. We want to massage and move that water that is in the fascia. So you do a very light front and back, very light release.

And then we switch, we go to the other foot. And just, it's not the most important thing yet, but start thinking at your balancing leg, okay? The purpose of this is releasing the bottom of the foot, in this case, on your right foot if you're mirroring me, but this is the one keeping us up, right? So start thinking about it, okay, a little bit. Now, we go back to the first foot, and I want you on purpose to massage more in the medial aspect of the foot, where the arch is the highest.

Again, not too strong, very light, is just moving the water, moving the liquid around. And then we go on the outer foot, be attention on the outer foot, because there is a little bit of a bone protruding out, so be very delicate as your roll. And then we almost do like a circle, we go medial and lateral. We go in the inside of the foot and on the outside. Inside, outside one more time, and then reverse.

And of course, as you feel what your foot needs the most and what makes you feel better. Just go ahead and repeat that movement as many time as you wish. Now, other side, we go medial first, moving the water, massaging, not too much pressure, and now even lighter on the outer. Okay, nice and easy, Breathe. Also, don't look down all the time.

Look up, stay tall, look at the screen. And then we go in a circle inside and outside, inside and outside. Breathe, reverse, other side, relax the neck, relax the shoulders, and perfect. Now, let's go back make sure it's even, let's go back to the first foot. And if you're familiar with the foot corrector, I want you to think about it.

So we're gonna place our foot just behind the ball of the foot. And now I want you to lunge into it a little bit. So let's lift up the posture, we stand tall, and we bend a little bit and up. So now we are putting some more pressure. And I want you to pay attention to go gradual in it.

If it doesn't feel good, put way less weight on this lunge. Be ready to react with your quad, and pull back if it's too much. And also, make sure that when you lunge your knee follows the second toe, right, you don't wanna buckle in and out. You want to start aligning the legs the proper way to have a better balance. Now, let's go to the arch, and you do the same thing.

You lunge and pull back. And again, you put a little more pressure and back. You come forward and back. And now, just in front of the heel, same thing, little lunge and back, little lunge and back. One more time, and back, and now switch, other foot, same thing, lift toe, just behind the ball of the foot.

And also, as many other foot exercise, this is a little bit of an assessment, right? We see and we feel if the two feet are exactly the same, let's switch to the arch. Or if one is tighter than the other, the one might be more sensitive. So this is a good time for us to make notes, right? Take notes and check what we should be working on.

And also, it's nice to track. Let's go just in front of the heel. It's nice to track if this is always the same, or it changes according to what we did the day before, or what time of the day it is. A lot of times our body reacts in different ways, so it's interesting to know and learn how we can help the body. Now, from here, I want you to go right in the middle of the foot.

The pole is right in the middle. I want you to lift the toes and release them down. Lift the toes and release them down. If you have very tight calf muscles, this might be too much. So just wait it out a little bit, or hold onto something for balance.

And now, the next position I want you to go is almost use the dowel as a high heel shoe, right? Or you want to put the weight just in front of the heel where the fascia inserts, and then you go with easy squats. Just bending nice and easy, is actually really good for the knees as well, because the knees really need this flexion and extension. And with the feet a little closer together, a little circle action, okay. This is a nice way to move the lubricant inside the joint.

Very, very important to get them ready for any workout, not just Pilates. Even if you go for a day skiing, or stuff like this, this is really good, and safe, and preventative for your knee joint, and ankles, and hips as well. Perfect, so now our foot is pretty well released, is ready to go. And I want you to move the dowel, the pole away. Don't keep it close, otherwise there is sometimes risk to step on it and fall down.

And now we get into the magic circle. Here we're gonna explore an interesting concept that I want you to keep in the back of your mind throughout the whole class. Either we have the magic circle, or we don't. So from here, I want you to think about your legs being in tension through a spiral. So I want you to think about your thighs almost turning in, and your shins turning out.

So let's engage the circle a little bit, and to help that process, I want you to think about the thighs turning in as you bend your knees. Let's do a few times, bend the knees. And you think about that spiral, turning your thighs in. That doesn't mean that my knees going to go in, okay. My knees follow the track, follow the second toe, but I have an intention of my muscle turning in.

Now, let's go up on the toes. And now I want you to think about the shins turning out. Okay, at the same time the thighs are turning in. It's just creating more tension. And I don't know if you feel it already, but we'll bring it up again later when we do other things.

This makes me feel more stable. Makes me feel more grounded, right? And it's even more powerful after you release the feet in any way you like, either like we did before or in different ways, because you are free to ground your feet down as you lift up. Let's alternate for a few times, you bend and you lift. And again, you bend and you lift.

And again, bend and lift. Very good, now let's keep this with us. And we go lying down for the hundred. So we squat down, we place the magic circle back in between the ankles. Stretch the legs out at working level.

And then from here, you have that spiral going on the whole time. And here you go, in a five, and exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale, air out. Engage the circle, keep it like an oval, and maintain that energy and that spiral along your legs. From the feet, from the angles, all the way up to the hips. Reach along with the arms, and you go inhale, and exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale.

And again, in, and exhale out, reach, reach, reach, reach, reach, reach. Let's do two more deep and long breaths. And again, in, and now long exhale. I never count until five, I go way longer than five, really empty the lungs. And again, in, and the last one, count until 10 or 12 if you can.

Exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale, and reach out. Keep the circle there, you roll up and over, pull and back. Force the the ovaries very small, up and over. Engage the circle, feel that spiral, and back. And again, up and over, pull, pull, pull, pull, and back.

Let's do one more, up and over. And now we roll back, and we going to short spine. You go up, bend your knees to the blocks, lengthen and roll down, and bend. And again, reach out, scoop up, bend your knees. Exhale meltdown, reach, long, long, long, and bend.

And again, out, lift up, bend your knees. This is the last one, really lengthen and melt. Reach, reach, reach, reach, and in. Now from here, let's go right foot inside the circle, legs at 90 degrees or wherever it can be. And from here, I want you to point and flex, point and flex, point and flex.

Now, hold with your opposite hand, arm down to the floor. Now, push your hip up, push the foot up to the ceiling, and down, we'll do this standing later on. So really see how it feels, perfect, one more time. Push, push, push, and down. Now, cross over for little IT band stretch.

Open out to the side, back up. And now I want you to focus on the hip movement, and do tiny circles inside the magic circle. Three times, and then you reverse. You go open and across, focus on the hip, massage the joint. And then you go, nice stretch to you, and you change.

We go to the other side, so we square the hips off, leg long, and we go point and flex, point and flex. One more time, now hold with the opposite hand with the circle, and you go push the hip up the floor and down, off the floor and down, up the hip, down, cross it over. And then you go open, out to the side, back to the front. Now we hold the circle, and here you go across, and two, and three, and reverse. One, two, and beautiful.

Now, really, actually let's stretch like the other side. We keep it everything the same. Now, we come up, and for the rolling like a ball, we push out. We start getting into this outer hip, the glute medius, which is so important when it comes to balance. Now, from here, pull back, rock, come up, hold, push out.

And again, back, back, and up, ooh. And again, back, you rock, up, you hold. Now, let's hold it with the hands. And now we start getting ready to stand up. So we don't come up all the way, just a little bit, and cross your ankles first.

So you rock, cross the ankles, up a little. Now cross the other way, up a little. Now, if you can, you keep the feet parallel, and you come up a little, and on the next one you rock, and you come up all the way. Now, let's test out our balance since we did so well on the floor. I'm going to a diagonal so you can see better what I do.

And now I want us to try the preparation for the circles again. So you're gonna hook the circle and lift. My standing leg is doing a spiral, and here I'm doing point, flex, point, flex, point, flex. Now you go push, back, push, back, push, back, and release. Now do the other side, standing leg is very challenging, right?

Let's think about that spiral, let's ground the foot down. And now here, you go point, flex, point, flex, point, flex. Now, push it forward, pull it back, push it forward, pull it back, push, and pull, and release. You can lower the circle down onto the floor, and we continue standing up, right? So we keep working on the feet, on the legs, and we going to our abdominals here.

So here, standing tall, you go up, down, lift, down. Let's try to keep the body up, and we try to have the leg come up to us, okay? And up, up, now faster and no pull, just up. Try to hit your forearms, if you hit, bring them higher. Perfect, now double leg stretch.

Don't squat all the way down, go as close as you can. You open and you curl down, lengthen and down. And reach and bend, lengthen and in. Feel the connection between the heel, the ball of the foot, and the ground, one more, and in. Open the arms and we go up, up, up, kick, kick, kick.

Last set, and then crisscross, exhale, exhale. If it's too hard to pick it up, I'm totally fine with bending a little bit. The bottom leg is actually a very good war exercise to release the spine, right? So you exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale. Now, spine stretch forward, I want you to stay standing, separate your legs a little bit wider than the hips, and think about the spiral once again.

Now from here, the first one we keep it very, very small. From here, you inhale, exhale, keep the naval back, reach forward with the fingertips, and then roll back up. Now, we go farther in a exhale, reach forward. Your fingertips are pulling forward, reach, reach, reach, try to get horizontal to the floor. Now, hands down towards the floor, drop your head, roll, roll back up, stretch your arms forward.

From your lower spine, from your lower abs, pull up, and standing, Let's repeat, inhale, exhale, reach to a table top position. Let's repeat, one down towards the floor, roll back up, stretch your back, and then you scoop and lift. And now before the saw, I want you to face forward, because I want us to try not to cheat. I want us to try to keep the pelvis squared, and to move only the upper body. So here, we're gonna twist and center, twist and center, twist, exhale, and center.

And again, exhale and center. Now, the whole thing, you twist exhale just the shoulders, not the hips. And then you go down like in the reformer, stretch, roll up, look back if you like it, and center. Twist, exhale, reach down, down, down, down, scoop, lift and center. One more time, reach, and down.

Pretend to have a magic circle in between your legs. Pretend you are doing that deep spiral with your thighs, with your shins, and so the legs are not just there, but they're active in their purpose. And now release, now today we'll do double side kicks. And the first time we do the side kicks is going to be standing up. I turn to the side and a diagonal a little bit so you can see everything better.

Again, If you don't have a long pole, you can use the wall, no problem. So from here, front and back. Don't worry about the leg swinging too much. Yes, it's good to swing it. But the most important thing is the standing leg, that's the real work that we're doing in the front and back, right?

You can keep the arm out. You can put it on the hip, or even back here. Now, let's stop with the legs one next to the other. And from here, I want you to go up parallel, down, up, down, up, down, let's try not to fall with the hip, right? We keep it two more up, now up and hold.

Small five, four, three, two, one. And now circle around one. Stay lifted on the supporting hip. Three, two more, four, and five. And now reverse, back, circle around to the front.

And again, back, circle around, I move too much, stay here. I think two more, and perfect. I don't know you guys, but personally, this is the sore hip. That was the hip that was working, the standing one, working more. Now from here, hold it, again, choose the arm position that you like better.

And you go swing front and back. And front, back Breathe, we have two, and one. Now parallel, you can soften the knees here a little bit. You go up, up, up. If you like to do the reformer and the tendon stretch with the leg out to the side, this is very useful.

Keep it, and you go up, two, three, four, five. And now here you go circle around one, circle two, three, four, and now we reverse. And good news, we're gonna repeat some side kicks soon. Down onto the floor with the magic circle, some variations. Two, and one, perfect, let's put the pole down again.

We exchange it for the circle, and we go lying on the side. And I want you to put the feet in the inside of the circle. Now, from here, side lying, we go into glued medius again, we open the circle, and now we go lift. And now twist the knees to you, lengthen out, and release. Lift, twist, lengthen, release.

Up, twist, lengthen, release, up, twist, and release. Now, lower the head down, top leg goes on top. Now, here you go, kick it up, press the leg down, lift the shoulders up. And again, kick, and up, and kick, and up. Last one, up with the leg, up with the shoulder.

Now, let's do that little rocking so that we can go outside with the bottom leg. And from here, you're gonna go lift, twist it in, and down. It's the same thing we did, but this time we work the inner thighs as we twist and as we lift. And again, up, in, and down. One more, lift, bring it in, stretch it out, and down.

Now, lengthen your arm, and we go squeeze, two, three. Let's go stomach on the floor, and we go three, two, one. We need this for later when we go standing up again. Two, three, and again, three, two, one. On the side, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.

On the stomach, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Now, lift your legs, go on your stomach. Forehead on your hands, and here you go up, two, squeeze the circle with the ankles. Lift up, try not to arch the lumber spine too much. And engage the glutes.

Now, stretch your legs, roll onto the side. And now we reverse the sequence a little bit. So we stay down long, and we go three, two, one on the stomach, three, two, one. Inner thighs, two, three, and pull, two, three. One more, one, two, three, our best, two, three.

Now here, hold your head up, and you go lift, twist it in, and down, lift up, twist it in, and down. Up, up, up, bring it in nice and tight. Last one, lift, in and down. Now, we're gonna bring the bottom leg inside the circle. Top leg up on top, head down, we go kick, and lift.

And kick, and lift, kick it up, and lift. Let's do one more, up high, and up. Now, both legs inside, lift the circle up, bring it in, lengthen down. We finish again with the glute medius that we started with. And again, up, bring it in, and down.

Lift, bring it in, and down. Well done, let's put the magic circle down, and now we go on our backs. Feet in line with the sit bones, arms down by the sides, and we're gonna curl and lift. Now, let's support the pelvis with the glutes. And here, you lengthen out, and we go kick and reach, and kick and reach, up and down, two more, kick.

Last one, up and down, and in. Opposite side, reach, kick it up, and down, and up, and down. Let's try to keep the pelvis strong and stable. They need to be ready for our next standing position. Now, lengthen up.

Remember how small were the circles before? Now, let's go and pretend to have the circle there. We go around the magic circle. And again, around the magic circle. My standing hip is working hard.

And now reverse, open, across, and up. Open, across, and up. Last one, and now reach down and slide it in. Roll down for a second, roll back up, lengthen out, and now up, up, up with the leg, and we go across, and up, circle around the circle, up. Circle three, reverse, open around and up, open around and up, last one, hold, reach down with the leg, and slowly melt down.

For our teaser, we pick this variation with the straight leg. So I want you to lift only one leg up, hands on your thigh, reach up, lift, and then open and sink. And again, hands to the thigh, stretch. If the leg moves, the arms are moving. One more time, touch, everything moves and unfold.

Let's go to the other side, so other leg comes up. Reach and open, and again, touch your thigh, reach up, and open. One more time, reach, reach, reach, and open. Now, you can repeat the same, or we get into our back stroke position, we do the same thing, lift and open out. From this position, where everything is already engaged, you come up and open.

Last one, reach, reach, reach, reach, reach. Bring the arms inside, squeeze the knees in, and we can clap this time. You go clap, clap, clap, go back, and clap to the back. Come up, clap three as you balance, and you clap back there. Try not to get into your neck too much, stay on your shoulders.

Back, and up, on the next one we cross or we squat, and we come all the way up. Now, let's go to a higher level of intensity. Now, before we did everything on two legs, most of the things, at least with the magic circle. Now, we are playing with balancing on one leg at a time. So here I want you, I'm gonna mirroring you.

So I want you to shift to your right leg, and you squeeze the left, left, left to keep the magic circle in tension. Switch the balance leg. Now you're balancing on the left, and you squeeze your right, two and three. Now, let's try to bring the right leg in front, and you go pull, three, two, one. Now go shift onto the front leg, and with the back leg, exactly like we did lying down on the floor.

You go engage, engage, engage. Shift back on your left to open the right leg out. We repeat, one, two, three, pull everything in and up. Maintain the circle, shift to your right leg, and you go pull, two, three. Bring the left in front, you go one, almost there.

Very easy to lose a circle here, go to the back, two, three. And then one more to the side, one, two, and three. Beautiful, now let's put this circle down. And if you have that long pole, I want you to get it again, because we're gonna play with real life situation now. What are we doing in real life?

We walk, we jump, we reach, and sometimes we fall, right? So it's a lot harder to catch the balance back after a fall, or after a step. So let's keep it here, it can be helpful. And I want you, I'm gonna go diagonal so you can see all the directions that I'm moving into, but you can stay facing the camera. Now, from this position, I want you to fall forward, and then you come back and need catch your balance.

Then you go out to the side, and you need to catch it up again. Ooh, you go back, and catch. Let's repeat one time this one with a pull down onto the floor. You go front, and pull, inner thighs, glutes, abs. Go open, and now pull in, glute medius, inner thighs, pelvic floor.

Back, and again, catch. Let's do the same thing on the other side, this level one challenge. You go front, and freeze, you go side, and freeze. You go back, and freeze, again, front, and hold. Ooh, side, and hold, and again, back, and hold.

Now we go a little harder because we're gonna keep the pole like this. So we have no help with the ground, but it does help for a balance perspective, right? So here, you're gonna go shift and hold, shift and hold, back and hold. Now, if you really feel good, bring the bar up. You see how I did, just over head.

It's a little more challenging. So you go front, and pull, out to the side, and catch, bring it back, and hold. And now other side at chest level first. You're gonna go fall, and catch the balance. Out, and catch, back, and catch.

Arms up, and you go fall, and back to center. Out, and back to center, and back, and center. Very nice, now don't be afraid of shaking out a little bit. That's actually good work because that means that the proper section in your body is working to catch the balance again. Now, let's go for a nice walk, just four big steps, okay?

So from here, I want you to lift, and now we recreate that forward fall. We catch the balance, and we bring it in. Stretch, fall, and catch, one more step, fall and catch. Let's reverse, toes, ball of the foot, lift up a lot harder. And again, actually the backward walk is very, very good to fix the gate, the gate pattern.

And up, let's repeat one time. Forward, and you go forward, and you go forward. And then you go back, and you go back, and you go back. Now, we come back to center. We still use the pole for little balance.

I can show you this way so you see exactly the movement. Feet pretty close together. And now here, I want you to bend, and up. And lift, and lower. Remember that concept of the spiral, right?

We have been using that spiral as we were standing, as we were balancing, as we were squeezing the circle. And now we put all together, and you're gonna go bend, lift up, stretch the legs, lower down. Two more times, bend, lift, relax the shoulders, lengthen the neck, and down. One more time, as you know, these exercise also really good. Execute it on top of a wedge, that allows us to go below level as we stretch down.

Now reverse, you go up, keep the top of the head high, bend your knees, lower down the heels, and stretch. And again, lift, bend, lower down, and stretch. One more time, up, bend, lower down, and release. So as you can see, we can still do a nice, fun, and hard mat. Standing up most of the time, instead of lying down all the time is really functional.

And if you want to experience something even more advanced in a way for balancing and for the feet, join me on the chair.


1 person likes this.
This was a well-designed class, Ilaria! Definitely challenging where it needed to be too. My feet have definitely needed a bit of rehab from all the barre I’ve been doing, and that’s what drew me to this class! I especially loved the use of the magic circle!
Colleen Great! Thank you for the feedback Colleen and happy that this class was helpful to ground and release the tension at the feet. 👍🏻
Cynthia G
1 person likes this.
You said it, fun and functional.  Glad you couldn't see me  because I didn't come close to your level but I enjoyed using the principles you explain so well. Thanks
1 person likes this.
Wonderful class! I can't wait to integrate some of these into my Zoom class. Thank you.
Patty S 🙏🏼
Cynthia G You are welcome! 😉 
1 person likes this.
I loved the simple and fresh approach to a challenging mat class. I can't wait to add a few into my classes.  Thanks ilaria.
Mary C Thank you Mary 😉 Let me know how it goes!
1 person likes this.
This is just a plain great workout.  I did this with a 5 pound weighted bar and found it helpful and just the right amount of weight for the multi-planar lunges.  This class has good reminders for some daily exercises to add to your day.
Allison O Thank you Allison! Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, the weighted bar is a great choice! 🙌🏻

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