Class #5359

Breath, Back Body, & Belly

35 min - Class


Give your back body extra attention in this Mat workout by Karen Sanzo. She uses breath to explore all aspects of your rib cage and chest. She focuses on creating good awareness of your backside to realign your spine and with respect to your ribs and belly.
What You'll Need: Mat

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This class today, it starts with a B. Like we have A for awareness. The class today is B, and it's all the B's, the breath, the belly, the back body, and the breath, how it enters the back body. And, you know, your back body's also your bum or your butt. And a butt is a very powerful mover for things like rotation, hip extension, getting up and down out of chairs, and things like that.

So I'm so glad you're joining me for our B class, which is breath and belly and back body and bum. We're gonna start this class in a little bit different way. We're gonna start in the hands and knees position. In Pilates, this position is a very popular position to get things moving, but what I'd like you to do first is bring awareness into your breath, into this back body. So as my hands are pressing down and I breathe in, I'm just gonna let my belly kind of hang out.

I know that sounds really silly, but let the breath go into the belly, and then let the belly pull up. And what I'd like you to try to be aware of here is your ability to actually lift the belly and let the belly drop. Right now, I am not doing cat cow. We'll do that in a little bit, but I want you to differentiate between your belly down and your belly up. Inhale.

Exhale. So it's okay to let that belly hang out sometimes. All the bellies hanging out are good. And then you pull the belly in. You inhale, and then you exhale.

And now keeping your abdominal wall a little toned, which is lifting your belly up, but still not rounding your spine, press your arms firmly down as if your arms are going into the basement. As your arms go down, feel your shoulder blades kind of come out to the sides of your ribs. Your ribs are a cage, they're a package, they're not a box. So those shoulder blades can actually come around to the side. We are still not rounding, we're still just holding in this position.

Now we will start to round by nodding your chin, looking down your shirt, pushing the floor away, lifting the ribs up, and then the final action will be the bottom under. So now this is the rounded position. And be careful here or be content here. Okay, to hold this position, hands are pressing down, feet are pressing down, and now come out of this the way you came. So the head will lift, the throat will lengthen, the chest will drop a little bit, the ribs will drop a little bit, and then your butt will lift out.

And now, we're going to round starting from the bottom first. So now the shins press down, the tailbone drops down, the belly pulls up, the torso rounds, and then at the very end, the head nods. The throat shortens, excuse me, the back body lengthens. And now, in this completely lengthened position in your back body, you start to add the breath forward and back. So you'll notice that my hands are very firmly down.

My elbow creases are facing each other, because when we press down with our hands, we want the weight bearing to be close to the thumb. That's the bone that you want pressing down. If you turn your hands out and they lift up like this, that does not give you a good base. So we want to press the hands down, elbow creases are facing each other. We're going to nod one more time.

Rounding your torso one more time, pressing the shins down one more time, and then rocking forward and back. Notice here that I'm not scrunching my neck. I'm not using my neck. Now I'm gonna swish both my shins to the left. I'm gonna turn my head and look to the left.

And then, I'm gonna turn to look at both of my feet. So I'm opening up the right side of my body and shortening this left side. Come back to center. Both shins spin to the right side. I turn my head first to rotate it, and then I turn my torso to lengthen on the left side and shorten on the right.

Then I come back to center. Now taking the toes and curling them really well underneath you. I'm gonna press down into my feet. Now be patient with yourself here, please. If your toes don't bend like this, you, of course, can have your toes down.

But what I encourage you to do is to go back and forth, and take your time, over time, to see if you can get sensation and feeling into your toes. Now, from here we're going to go to our most flat backed position, which means not arched or tucked. I'm going to tighten my tummy without rounding my spine, and I'm gonna hover my knees up off the ground. If your body doesn't feel like hovering, you, of course, keep your feet down, knees down, press into your feet, hover, we'll count to 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. we'll count to 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

we'll count to 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. we'll count to 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Lower down, rock back and forth. The rocking part here now, we're gonna start to build into rounding into the back body. Now coming back, you're going to hover the knees and keep the round shape of the body.

So now the body is rounded. I'm hovering. I'm pulling my ribs in, I'm pressing my arms down. And then release. Remember, the action of pressing the arms down will allow my ribs to lift up.

One more time, inhale big, arms pressed firmly down, the ribs start to lift, I'm rounding, and then lifting. Count to 5, 4, 3. Count to 5, 4, 3. Count to 5, 4, 3. It's okay to quiver, 2 and 1, It's okay to quiver, 2 and 1, and then everything comes down.

Now you're going to let your toes come down and separate your shins as wide as the mat. And now you're just gonna reach your hips back and crawl your arms forward. Reaching, reaching, reaching, and reaching. And what about that head position? It's real important that the head position is just looking down.

If you want to lift your head for a second in order to lengthen your chest, or like you're shining a necklace forward, then you, of course, can let that necklace shine forward, but then you go back to letting your neck lengthen. Now we're gonna add a reach and a reach, and we've done this in other classes. We really want that outside arm to reach, so that you get the opening of those ribs, and then we come back to center. And then we reach and we reach and we reach on the other side, and then we bring the body all the way back to center. And then the hands and knees come together.

So now, that we've lengthened the side ribs and we've added our breath, we're gonna start now in a seated position, we call this the mermaid position. Because on the reformer, we sit like this. I like this position in mat class, because it gives us a feeling that our hips can go into different positions. This doesn't have to look a certain way. You notice when you sit here, maybe your ankle's tight, maybe your knees are tight, maybe your hips are tight.

Those are all feelings, okay? So as we have those feelings in our hips, we just keep that feeling. We're just gonna go back and forth a little bit here, like so. And then we're gonna add a reach. So we're gonna take this left hand and we're going to reach it to the right, and then come back.

Inhale, sweep it around, fill in that breath, in that back left body, and then come up. At no time, am I shortening my neck, I'm not doing this. I'm sweeping this around and reaching. And now, we're gonna stay over here. Come down to your forearms, maybe yes, maybe no.

If this arm doesn't come all the way down, put a little something underneath it like a pillow, or a towel, or something. But know that eventually, you're going to reach that blade to help rotate those ribs. Staying right here, breathing into that back body. Because my belly is compressed, it's going to minimize me extending when I breathe and maximize me filling the back when I breathe. Now I'm gonna take this left hand and I'm gonna cross it underneath my right body to reach and rotate it even more.

And a modification is if you can't get that low, you, of course, bring it up a little bit higher. So as I reach and rotate, I'm using that shoulder blade traveling around the ribs as I reach and rotate. And I come back. And I swear my hips feel different. Anyway, I hope yours do too, just for a second.

But the thing that's important here is that we're not afraid of this position. One hip is in one direction, the other hip is in another. If this leg wasn't happy here, you could put it out like this, we'll do it like that. Now, sweep the arm, reach it, rotate it, and then dive it underneath that right arm. Inhale, exhale, rotate.

Now inhale, rotate more. So the rules on breathing, do I breathe in? Do I breathe out? When do I move on the effort, when do I not? As we go through this exploration, the most important thing is to just breathe, okay?

We can talk about when certain breaths are important for certain types of exercises, or weightlifting, or something like that, but for right now, we're inviting the breath. We're trying to not be shy with the breath, if you will, to help the ribs expand. I've switched my legs now, rotate, and reach. It doesn't have to look a certain way, it doesn't have to feel a certain way, it just has to be your way. If you're a person that uses your neck a whole lot, then just be aware of that and invite some breath into the twisting.

Let's keep the forearms down now, maybe yes, maybe no. On this one, it's harder for me to put that left elbow down, but I'm still gonna reach it. This becomes alive in some other Pilates classes that, excuse me, Pilates exercises we call the saw and twist. We'll get to those in a different class. We're gonna take this right arm.

I'm gonna reach it underneath my left and twist. Reach, rotate, reach, and rotate. Reach, rotate, reach, and rotate. And then come all the way back up. And notice if that feels a little bit different.

Again, we'll do it one time with the leg out. You can still accomplish same rotation with the leg out. We're gonna rotate and reach under. If you feel very, very tight in your hips, you can put a little pillow or something underneath your bum. It will lift you up a little bit.

But for the most part, this doesn't have to be a sit up tall exercise. So it's okay if you're leaned a little bit forward, okay? So let's take both the legs out in front now like this. Press into your back arms to kinda lift your chest, and we're gonna start to reach and rotate the pelvis here in this sitting position. Reach and rotate.

So the knee reaches first, then it invites the pelvis, then it invites the ribs. So there's a response that happens. Knee first, pelvis second, ribs next. Then when you come back, it's the ribs and then the pelvis, and then the knee, back and forth. Then we come back up to sitting here, legs out, arms out in front, spine stretch.

So we're gonna lengthen the breath, fill the breath. First one is exhale, round the spine forward. Inhale, stack up. I'll do it sideways now as well. So as you reach forward, it's okay to let those shoulders or the shoulder blades reach forward, because that allows your top ribs to draw back.

The name of this exercise is spine stretch. Now there's another exercise that we often do, and we do a forward fold where we lean at the hips and keep the chest lifted, that's called a forward fold, okay? We're doing here is we're doing neck flexion, rib flexion, spine flexion, reaching flexion forward if your body allows that, and then bring yourself up. And then one more time, inhale to go forward, to fill that back body. So when I teach these classes, it's really important to me that the class in and of itself is you learning about your body and you understanding what feels good and what feels appropriate, so we're gonna do three of these in a row, okay?

Inhaling as you go forward, exhaling as you come up. Very good, now from here, we're going to take you down to your forearms and explore the back body in a lengthened position. So now, the back body and lengthened position, we're going to come down to our forearms, our palms are down, my hands are parallel, elbows under the shoulders, okay? So from here, you'll see that my elbows pressing down from my shoulder blades. My head is neither hanging down, nor lifting up and folding in.

My arms are very active. My arms are very strong. My head position is maintained. From here, I'm going to add a hover, much like we did at the very beginning of class. And now, my hover pushes my elbows down and forward, so that I start to get this upper back body working.

You'll notice my head position doesn't really change, but my arms are working very, very strong. And then I come back and we'll do that one more time. If the hover wasn't good for you, you could do it down like this and you can even alternate. Most important thing here is that we're getting information into the shoulders. Also, we're on our breath and we're talking about our backside.

So now, we're gonna add this backside connection to the butt, and we're gonna take one of your legs, and lift it out and up as high as it can. As it lifts higher, I press my arms forward, not changing the shape of my upper back, and that comes from my arms. Then when I come back over, I lower the leg down, I push my arms forward to reach my leg up. I lower my leg down. One more time, reaching leg, pushing arms, and then return.

One more time, reaching leg, pushing arms, and then return. Switching legs, start first with the leg out, pushing arms, reaching that leg up. Again, head is neither flexed nor extended, and then I come forward. Inhale. Exhale.

The back body is strong, the butt is really working on this lifting leg, and we'll do this one more time, reaching up, up, up. reaching up, up, up. And then bring it all the way down. From here, take yourself back to your bottom, be rounded, and then unroll your spine as you take your torso up. So in this position here, what's really important is that when we feel like we have to sit up really tall, sometimes, we end up jutting forward.

So we actually wanna stay aware in that back body. So from here, now we're gonna press down into the shins to lift the body up. So I'm gonna use my hands like this. I'm gonna lift my body up, and then I'm gonna sit my body down. No time am I arching my body.

So I'm not doing this to come up, okay? I'm lengthening my head, pulling my ribs back as I reach my arms forward, that's our key. Inhale. Exhale. Five times.

Inhale. Exhale. Here's three. Here's four. One more time, five, arms by the side.

Exercise now becomes thigh stretch, where your hands are by your side, kind of like a soldier, right? And when you lean back, we are not arching the back, but we're leaning back from our knee angle, and then pulling up. So again, we have the breath and then the butt. The breath, my arms are just mimicking something here, because that helps me keep my balance or something. So how would I make this harder?

Well, I would take my hands all the way up, and then see if I can take this straight line back. It's okay if you don't do that. Keep your arms by your side if you need to, okay? in this position, now we're coming down one more time hands and knees. Opposite arm and leg reach.

So from here, we've taken this complex exercise of lifting your leg as high as you can. And now, I want you to lift it as low as you can. So what I mean by that is arm down, leg down, belly in, and then raise those pieces up a smidge. So you really wanna feel the arms and legs working away from a stable trunk. So in this exercise, everything between my armpits and my hips are stable, or that would be everything is stable.

That would be the correct grammar. Okay, left leg out, right arm out, and then up. I love having English teachers as clients, because they're not afraid to correct you. Okay, I gotta pay attention now. Right arm, left leg, get connected.

Obviously, this is a challenging side, so lift it up a little bit and hold it. Feel the back of your lifted legs' butt. Don't lift it too high. Otherwise, it'll be spinal extension, and we are not there yet. Lower down, can you do three quick?

1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. Can you do hold? 2, 3, can you do three quick?

1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. Can you do hold? Good, let's do it on the other side again, okay?

Because we didn't do it quite like that on the other side. But hey, let's go back, because there's always time. We have lots of time. We have more time than we realize. Lift, 2, 3, lower.

Lift, 2, 3, lower. Lift, 2, 3, lower. Lift, quick, 1, 2, 3. Lift, quick, 1, 2, 3. And lift hold, 2, 3.

And lift hold, 2, 3. Notice my head's not changing, arms pressing, shins pressing, and then hold, knees come down. Coming down onto your belly now. So now, we have to look at the back, the upper back, the roll of the bottom in spinal extension. So our first exercise here, lying face down.

I'm gonna make a little pillow with my hands, and I'm gonna look down, and then I'm going to take turns lifting up one leg and then the other. And I'm lifting them very little, just enough to take the wrinkles out, stretch through my toes, and then I'm gonna leave my toes down. Building our spinal extension here now, the hands will come by your side. I will press those arms firmly down, watch what happens to my shoulders, the elbows reach back, the shoulders reach back. And then I'm gonna lift up just a tad, allowing my arms to help inform my upper spine that it's lifting.

My lower legs are gently attracting together to turn on the back of my bottom. I'm gonna lift up and I'm gonna hold right here. I'm gonna ask myself, "Can I hold this position here while my arms come down by my side?" And I reach my fingers long and I take two breaths. I'm holding the position of my head, not lifting my chin or dropping my face. My arms come down, I lower my whole torso down.

So we've gone from the arms helping to lift you, to give you the feeling. Do it with me again, one more time. So my arms are working majorly, right? And then now, we go to lifting without the arms. So the arms come by your side.

You reach your arms very long. My chest unweights my bottom. Touch your bottom. Your bottom turns on. Your collarbones lift.

But your head doesn't do this, because then that's not any load management in the back, that's just your neck giving way. So if you can lift your chest without your chin like flicking up like this, then your job is to use your hands to feel your body lift. Inhale, press the arms. At no point, are you shrugging your shoulders or into your neck? Like this, don't do that, right?

So we're gonna reach, lengthen space. So we're gonna reach, lengthen space. Okay, one more time with the arms down by the side, working this back body. Here's the bum, right? Here's the upper back, upper chest.

Doesn't matter how high you go, it just matters that you create that connection. And Lord, let's do two more like that, whatever you've got. You can always go back to the previous exercise, where you are supporting it with your hands. One more time, lift up, stay uphold. Exhale, hold.

One more time, inhale. One more time, exhale. And then lie yourself all the way down. Take your forehead, put it on your hands, bend both of your knees, and reach your legs side to side. Okay, given the hips, just a little bit of rest here.

Now we're gonna continue with the hands underneath the forehead. And then you're gonna lift your torso with your hands here. Is this harder or easier? Well, I hope you know it's harder, because now the weight of my arms has traveled from here and it's traveled to here, so it makes it harder. We'll do three more of these, inhale lift.

Exhale lower. Inhale lift and exhale lower. And last time, lift up, stay up, reach your arms out long, bend them back in, lower them down. If that's a challenge, you're gonna lift, maybe take your arms out, bring them in and lower. Or maybe you take turns, lift, reach, bend.

And one more time, lift up. Do the version you want. Take two breaths, lifting the chest to the level that you can, and then lowering yourself all the way down. Your upper back muscles are very, very important postural muscles, right? So we wanna be sure that we can work those muscles.

Then push yourself back to your hands and knees, lengthen your spine, right? So this is never really like a resting position. It's an active push and active lengthen, and we go from there. Okay, a little quick, move around to lying on your back, because we are turning back to the buttocks again. And we're going to press the bottom to lift the buttocks, And we're going to press the bottom to lift the buttocks, the arms come to the ceiling and reach forward.

And then you drip, drip your ribs down. Just feel that, just do that twice more. Press up, reach and roll down. One more time. Now, you're gonna roll to your side and sit up here.

We're gonna start our exercise here roll back. Now, this is towards the end of the session, but this is a very classic Pilates exercise, okay? So what I want you to start here is your arms are gonna reach forward and they're gonna stay reaching forward like this. I'm not shrugging my neck, okay? I'm letting my shoulders reach forward.

And then rather than grinding my pelvis into a maximum tilt and butt squeeze, I'm gonna let my ribs fall down. And the way these ribs fall down is by reaching these arms forward. It's hard to talk during that part. Okay, then you roll to your side. Do not worry about coming up, okay?

Push yourself up, because if you hoist yourself up over and over again, it is just defeats the purpose, okay? So again, arms reach forward, so why are my knees bent? Well, my knees are bent, because it allows my pelvis to kind of rotate naturally. I'm reaching my arms forward and it lets my ribs draw back. Now look, reach.

Reach and rotate, reach and rotate, reach and rotate. Reach and rotate, reach and rotate, reach and rotate, etc. All the way down. How can that not be a good exercise? Roll to your side, come back up, last one.

Arms reach forward, soften the legs. Scoop in the belly, right? Tighten your abdomen, pull your belly back. Whatever it is you wanna say is fine, but understand that if I reach my arms forward, my ribs will draw back. And then everything comes down to there.

Bend the knees, lift up into a bridge, tighten your bum, Bend the knees, lift up into a bridge, tighten your bum, add the arms reaching up maybe a little bit over your head, and then drip your chest and your ribs down without smashing your chin, or your neck, or anything like that. And then roll to your side and come up to standing for our last exercise, which starts to introduce us to the backside of your butt, okay? For standing postural muscles. And we'll do a whole class in standing, where we explore these a little bit more. But for the first part here, you're just gonna stand with say, one leg in front and the other leg in back.

And we're gonna bend the knee and the hip just enough till you feel some load in the back of your bottom, okay? So a lot of times, people are afraid to bend their knee. They're afraid to bend their hip. But just get wobbly that it'll tell you where you kind of need to be, and then stand yourself up. Do that again, it's harder on a soft surface like the mat.

So as you bow forward, you feel this lengthening in your butt and following that feeling of a nice lengthening in your bottom. The bottom has nothing else to do, but to contract, to pull you up, switch legs. I'll do this face on this time, so that you can see that I'm just split stancing my legs a little bit. I'm gonna bow forward. So as you look straight down my spine, I'm not rounded, or humped, or arched.

Everything is level. I'm getting loaded out into this right bottom. You have to kind of play with the position of your leg to make sure you get that load, and then you push up, and do that again. So as Ive bend, this is just a feeling. We're creating this awareness, this back body awareness, this bum awareness, so that bum gives you that power to pull you back up, we'll do that one more time.

So press into the foot, make sure your knee is facing right over your toes. You can tone up your belly there a little bit. Arms can be by your side. You can add a reach and a rotate. You can really do those anywhere, okay?

And then bring yourself all the way up. I'm a big fan of the reach and rotate. So let's finish this with a reach and a rotate. So now as we breathe, we're not looking for a big challenge here. We're looking to open up the breath, and then we'll gradually bring things back to center.

A dancer, I am not, but I love to move my arms, throw scarves around, all those kind of things, okay? Thank you so much for joining me today.


So excited for more Karen Sanzo!! Can't wait to explore the Alphabet in some more upcoming classes!!
1 person likes this.
So much achieved in 35mins with great flow and progressions  and reasoning. Cueing and explanations so good. Can’t wait for more  
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much Karen Sanzo! I enjoyed the class!
Karen Sanzo
1 person likes this.
Jeri Ann Alexander Thanks for posting first comment!!
I am having fun doing my own program right now!!
Karen Sanzo
memare Thank you very  much this comment!! We can achieve so much with the basics.  I love the feelings it gives.  Especially formulated for the beginner
Karen Sanzo
Copycat Thank you for taking the time to comment
Diane W
1 person likes this.
Great workout K, thanlks
Thank you Karen!  The mermaid with rotation hit the spot after 3 hours of pickleball today.  I always love your classes.

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