Tutorial #3210

Swan on the Reformer

15 min - Tutorial


Learn ways to make the Swan more accessible on the Reformer with this tutorial by Blossom Leilani Crawford. She shares the Swan that she learned from Kathy Grant on four different bodies so you can see how to progress this movement. This technique will help you use your whole posterior chain rather than relying on your lower back to do all of the work.
What You'll Need: Reformer, Small Tennis Ball, Knee Pad

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Nov 03, 2017
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Hi, thanks for joining me for my reformer swan tutorial. So, I actually really feel very passionate about swan on the reformer. It's one of those things where I feel like, if we don't sort of talk about it and do it, it will sort of just fall by the wayside. And my concerns about the swan is that, well many, is I sometimes feel like it hurts people, like bruise on pubic bone, bad. My joke is always like, only one reason to, no I'm not going to go there.

So, anyway, often when you're teaching reformer classes, we are taught to do, like avoid the swan here, do swan on the ladder barrel instead, which is all fine and dandy, and I hope you actually check out my swan on the ladder barrel tutorial that I have as well, because I love the swan. And this is also coming from a back person. I started doing pilates with Kathy Grant because I could barely arch my back, actually. Like, I had injured myself dancing, and I could barely arch my back and Kathy sort of got me back to doing extension, and so I sort of just want to really talk about this one and just maybe hopefully get you to like it again, because I actually think it's quite accessible, and it's not as scary as maybe you think it is. We'll see how.

So, John's going to join me, and he's going to actually show me how he does the swan normally, because it's actually what I see a lot these days. So, do you need a pad for anything? On your feet down there? OK, yeah, so I'll set that up for you. He's on two outside springs, which I like, and he's just going to show us where he likes to set up for the swan, because this is what I've seen often, and just stay here.

So, he's going to rest there for a second. So, right now poor John, because your name's now changed, is right as is, the box is hitting his hip bone. I don't know what else it's hitting, but that does not look comfortable to me. So, sorry John, can you continue and do the exercise, please? He's like, "Let me wiggle." Yeah, and we are doing this judgment-free.

This is what I see a lot, so I want to sort of show this. Yes, yes, breathing through it. Yes, good. Hold it there for a moment. Really straighten those legs.

(grunts) Yes, and rest. So, this is what I see a lot, and I mean it's fine, and if you like it, then continue doing it. I don't want to yuck your yum, but let's try something different. So, come up on your hands. Actually, lift your pelvis up, as well.

So, come all, that's it. Now all the way up so your hips are lifted, I call this a pike position. Lift your booty up into the air. So, just holding up there. So, John's going to stay there patiently while we talk about man padding.

So, a friend of mine, he likes to sort of take the thick pads and pile them up on his thighs, so that there's less pressure on the bits. All right, you can get that, right? We don't have to go farther? Please don't make me. So, if you want that, great, and if not, let's just not use the pads.

Actually, I'm going to have John at least use a pad here because there's a little bit of a sliding action that happens on the thighs. So, here we go for my swan, which I learned from Miss Thing, also known as Kathy Grant. So, he's going to push the carriage out, and he's going to find the box, instead of at the hip crease he's going to go for thigh. So, there should be, great, there should be a little space between the pubic bone and the box. I won't try to point toward my pubic bone any more.

Now, this is interesting in this position. So, he's going really narrow with his knees. Right now, John, really use your arms, because, yeah, you're going to use your back later. So, let's use the arms. So, in this position, what if, and I really mean what if, what if he went wide with the knees?

Oh yeah, which is going to make him have to press his heels together more, which is going to maybe make this work harder. Is that true? Oh good, he said it feels like it. I'm not making, anyway. So, from here, now this is part one, just finding this position, and then take a step back and take a look at the person's spine, because you really want to see an arc in the back that includes the pelvis, because often we're arcing from the waistline up, but we're not including the pelvis.

So, I like to sort of give a little poke here at the booty, and give me a little tuck of the pubic bone forward. So, from here, John is going to lift his heels up. Notice how he's trying to straighten his legs? And he's going to lower his heels back. So, he's going to keep his knees bent and lift the heels up.

That's more like it. And as he lowers his heels back, he's going to tuck the pubic bone forward. Do that one more time. So, we're really using this. I mean, pardon me John.

Yeah, like we're really, we got a nice angle on that. Yes, that's it. I mean, that's what we're using. It's not just back, it's actually the whole posterior chain, heels, hamstring, back, booty. OK, here we go.

So, that's part one. Kathy Grant put balls in the head rest, and so that's right. Heels lift and lower. Part two is he's going to grab on to those balls in the head rest. They're light, they're little, you can just use tennis balls, and he's going to open the arms out to the sides.

If you don't have tennis balls, you're just going to, hold on, don't lift your arms out to the sides, you could just make fists. I'm going to help him, and I'm going to give him a little bit of a pressure down and back toward me. Now, John, keep those knees bent. Isn't it interesting how you keep wanting to straighten them? Yeah, because he doesn't want to use this.

Tuck that pubic bone, yes, that. And now, part two of the exercise is John is going to open his arms into a T, and just hold here and breathe. Thank you. And this is my next progression of the swan. If they can lift and lower their heels, great, then we go to this, and if this is good, then for the grand finale, he's going to straighten his legs.

Push out, straighten those legs, use me. Straighten those legs, they're not straight yet. Straighten, straighten, straighten, yes. Lower the chest to the box. Straighten those legs still, yes.

Start to come up in the torso, use me. Pressing up against is what I mean by use me. And that's enough. Rest, bend those knees. That's enough.

I'll show you how to take the swan and progress it more, but if you're just starting this with a client, part one, lift and lower the heels is awesome. Part two, just holding the arms out to the sides is work without going in to the back. And then if, you know, when on a good day, you shoot forward. And now let's take a look at the swan on another body, please. Hi, so now we're going to do swan with another body, which is always interesting.

I like showing the swan on different bodies, because we're all so different and, you know, she has a different flexibility than I do. Leg length, it's all different. But, let's for a moment, before she actually does swan, let's talk about theography, which is actually very good, because we used to dance together. (laughs) OK, so we're totally serious right now, totally serious. So, let's have a moment because everyone sort of like to, you know, it's one of those things where like you see something and you're like, "I totally know what that is, I get it," and then you get in the position and you're like, "Wait, what's that again?" Remember that in barre class?

Anyway, open the arms out to the sides. So, when you come up in to the swan, you're holding here. You're going to straighten the legs, push out, and just practice. You're going to go down to the floor, come back up, and the arms change back here. Keep the arms up, straighten the legs, push out.

Reach out to the beautiful ocean, right, and you're going to come back up. The change in the arms happens as you go back into the back bend. That's the trick. All right, so now that you've practiced that at home, let's try it with Cynthia. So, here we go.

Now, you get to stand in different places and we'll talk about that next, but you're going to push the carriage out, yeah. There are two balls waiting here on the head rest. Now, let's just see her position. So, it's always interesting to see what people just do without me talking to them. Alright, and you take a look at the legs, and the next thing I like to look at, so this looks pretty darn good.

This is what I want to work on next, her spine. So, right now she's in this gorgeous, like airplane position, but I want swan. So, she's going to keep her hands there, just straighten the arms and go, ah that. Good, now Cynthia, staying there, can you incorporate your pubic bone? Now are you still off your pubic bone?

Good, because no weight on pubic bone, bad. Yeah, there you go, right. Now that was great because I thought you might have to bring it, so good. Now, test is the same. So, the first thing that she's going to do is lift and lower her heels a few times.

And I'm going to start talking about the assist a little bit because you will hopefully be teaching this. As she goes back, I'm pulling her heels back to me, and giving her a little press down. She lifts the heels, I let her go, but I'm still holding her a little bit, and then press the heels back and down. She's like, "Yeah, stay there." Again, so even right now with her heels lifted, I can feel she's pushing up with this one, but I don't, oh there's both. Give me both now, thank you.

There's her butt, and she's going to bring her heels back and hold, alright. So, now that she can do that, I'm going to hold her every so slightly. She's going to grab those beautiful balls at the head rest, she could use tennis balls, you can use fists, that part doesn't matter, and from here start right with your arms propped up against, Cynthia, no that's it. Straighten those arms. Now, from here, you are going to keep this beautiful tuck of the pubic bone correct, as you open the arms out to the sides, look straight ahead.

Take a moment here, and breathe. Take the pubic bone up with you. I am pulling back and down. Here we go, she's going to straighten her legs and push out. "Nipples to the box," is what Kathy would say to me.

Straighten those legs, yes. Chest all the way down. Move it, move it, move it, move it, don't go too slow. Down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down. Start to come up, head starts to come up.

When you can't come up any more, use me. Bend the knees, reach up to the ceiling, give me a big exhale, and I pull back like crazy. Take the pubic bone up, up, up, up, beautiful. Straighten the legs, push out, reach to the ceiling. Reach forward, reach forward, reach forward.

There it is, see? It's really amazing. Now, nipples to the box, go. And as you come up, Cynthia, arms are the leader, head follows, just like in the ladder barrel, but use me, use me. That's right, when you can't come up any more, you bend the knees.

When you can't go back any more, heels back, take the pubic bone up, up, up, up, beautiful. One more time, straighten the legs, push out, nipples to the box, stay in the T. She did it again. That's OK, nipples to the box, move through it. Press those legs up to me with this right leg, as you come up.

Yes, yes, yes, when you can't come up any more, bend the knees, reach up to the ceiling, and as the heels go back, the arms go up. Take the pubic bone up, up, up. That's enough, rest. Beautiful, hands go, now put your hands down on the barrel, around the box. To transition to pulley straps, you lift your pelvis up.

So, yes, and hike your booty up there, hi-yah. That's what I say in my head, you don't have to say that. I'm sorry. And then you would take a pad off, take a spring off, and you go into the pulling chest. And if the balls would just rest in the head rest.

OK, let's look at it again now with a flexible back. Let's mess around with that. All right, body number three doing the reformer swan. So, when you're ready, Gia, have a stand. Now, stay here for just a moment.

Let's talk about feet for a second. If Gia were taller, and wanted more space, and didn't want as much pull of the springs, she could stand on the foot bar, which I will demonstrate later. I really will, I promise. And you're going to, instead though she's not six feet tall, so she's going to stand toward the front. She's going to push out like you've seen the others do before, and she's going to find her spot, which is lower than, that's it.

Hi, and so just holding here, so remember test number one is straight arms, Miss Gia. That's right, so she's going to lift and lower her heels a few times. (humming) So, lovely, but I want a little more what I sort of, keep going, what I sort of call integration. So, she's going to lift her heels up, and I feel the tuck of the pubic bone, yes. But when she lowers her heels, I want her to work in opposition, oh she did it all ready, darn it.

Right, so again, she's going to lift the heels up, so as she lowers the heels, her pubic bone goes forward. Yes, the heels go back, and now she's really feeling this, yeah? OK, which is all the rage these days, let's face it. OK, stay there, all right. So, you're going to grab on to those balls.

I'm going to get ready to sort of support her a little bit. And so come, prop yourself up on the arms again. This is what I refer to as good cheating, she didn't do this until she has to. All right, so stay here and just breathe. And the nice thing about being back here, is I can sort of see, you know, how she likes to twist ever so slightly, yes.

I'm going to give her a little resistance. I want to say résistance. Yeah, and you're going to open the arms out to the side, and just breathe. Squeeze the balls and get out of those elbows for just a second, thank you. So here we go, she's going to go to town.

Straighten the legs, push out, nipples to the box. Yes, oh get down there, get down there, thank you. Pressing up against me, start to come up, and the top of the head, when you can't come up any more, bend the knees, reach up to the ceiling, and give me a big S. Now, I'm pulling her back. Now, stay here.

Gia, you can go to your full extension. That's what she really wants to do. Let's see that again. Straighten the legs, push out. So, as she pushes out, yes, let's try that again, sorry.

I'm going to make her rehearse this a little. So, as she pushes out, she goes in to what I call the low back. This is a belly flop, we don't want belly flop. We want, yeah, so I'm going to almost, sometimes I hold here and I, yeah, that's what she wants. She is me.

Nipples to the box, maybe Gia. And now she's going to start to come up. I'm going to give her a little resistance here, good. When she can't come up any more, she's going to bend the knees, and think of taking that pubic bone. Now, heels go back as this goes back.

Yes, so heels go back, that's it, that's it, that's it. Last time, straighten the legs, push out, and sometimes I hold here so she has to straighten. Nipples to the box, get down there, yeah, and start to come up, yes, yes yes. And when you can't come up any more, bend the knees. Take this with you.

Heels, heels, open those arms out to the sides. Take this, still, still, still, still. Yeah, oh, that was different. And rest. (exhales) OK.

I'm going to attempt to do the swan for you. Though, the thing I really want to show is the foot thing, because you're not always going to have, like a nice Asian lady pulling on your feet, right? So, this is the replacement of that. Or, you know, an 80 year old black woman, which is, you know, so because Kathy was like, "I can't be there for you all the time. You've got to figure this out." And so, what you would do is you would use this foot strap. Now, the foot strap, on a regularly strapped, you know, I think like a size five foot can fit in there.

I can get like one foot in there, so that doesn't work for me. So, you lengthen the strap by paying $2.99 per hook, right? Or you can buy a longer strap for 30 bucks. I just suggest just making it longer with extra hooks. And then I like to put the pad here, because I have sensitive, giant feet, apparently, and I stand in here, pushing up against the strap, like so.

Now, I, yeah there you go, so I like to press out, because if I press out, I can then find my hamstrings, or my posterior chain. It just cracks me up to say that, because I just want to say it helps me find my butt, which is what I really want to say, so I said it. So, here we go, I do the lift and lower of the heels. I like it better when someone pushes me. Hold on, let me get that back up there.

So, lift and lower the heels, and I have the same struggles as everyone else. I want to lift and go in to my back. Well, that does feel kind of good, but I'm not, I'm not. I'm going to lift the heels, tuck the pubic bone. I'm going to tuck the pubic bone forward, as I lower my heels.

Can you hear the difference in my voice? Because I do. So, that's part one. Part two, I grab those gorgeous balls, and I find my spot. So, heels back, pubic bone forward, and I hold the position.

Here we go, straighten the legs, push out, nipples to the box. Press the legs together, and when I can't come up any more, I bend my knees. When I can't bend my knees, my heels and hands go back. I lift the tummy like crazy. Legs. (breathes)

Reach forward. This is the end of one set. I'm actually not even using the strap right now, but if I want to use it, you push out, and I'm pushing out against the strap to come up. When I can't come up any more, I bend the knees. Heels go back. (breathes)

Last one, push. Nipples to the box, come forward. Uh-oh, I'm going to get my heels back in the strap. And I press out, open, open, rest. So, when I first started doing this one with Kathy, I needed the strap a lot, and as you can tell, I don't need it any more.

And it actually gets to the point where you can do this whole swan series. I'm totally not out of breath. You don't have to use the strap, and after a while, you can figure out how to not even use it at all, and you can just put your feet on the foot bar. And I want to show this, because as you do it, the foot bar sort of floats up and down a little bit. So, from here, same test.

Lifting and lowering the heels. Holding up, I want to do a set, here we go. Straighten the legs, push out, nipples to the box, the hands drift, hands come up. When you can't come up any more, you bend, reaching, the heels back, take the pubic bone up with you, legs. And right about here, the foot bar usually lifts a little bit.

Come up, open the arms, pubic bone off. That's my swan, woo. And now, that's from a person who has a bad, no I shouldn't say that, who used to have a bad back. Now I do pilates. So, I hope you learned a couple of new things, or at least got to see something like, "Oh wait, I've seen that before," so that later, you're like, "Oh wait, this would be great if someone did nipples to the box," or you could use the strap, hopefully.

Thanks, guys.

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1 person likes this.
LOVED it. Full of information, break downs, and laughter - thank you!
3 people like this.
You are awesome
Thanks Blossom, lots of key areas to look at and make work for each body, super helpful.
2 people like this.
More, more, more!! of these perfect in every way tutorials. You are my role model; witty, no-nonsense and full of knowledge. Thank you.
Beautifully executed by all! Look forward to applying that in my own body. Thank you!!
Thank you Blossom, I learned a lot! (also new words in English - really funny!) Working on German translations 😅... Hope to meet you somewhere in future! Greetings from Austria 🇦🇹
Thank You Blossom, very informative can't wait to practice. Loved your personality :~)
You are the best, Blossom, I love this tutorial, great info and of tons of fun.
1 person likes this.
Just not my favorite exercise. It still hurts. Maybe my body is just not made for it or something. Or I'm doing it wrong. I need to teacher like you to watch me.
Love this tutorial! Thanks!
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