Tutorial #3253

Working on Leg Alignment

20 min - Tutorial


Learn a strategy for working on leg alignment in this tutorial with Deborah Lessen. She works with Anula Maiberg on straightening her legs completely so she find a connection from her inner thighs to her abdominals. She shares a series of exercises on the Cadillac and Reformer that carry the same thread so you can see how they would be part of a workout.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box, Cadillac, Tennis Ball, Overball

About This Video

(Pace N/A)
Nov 09, 2017
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Hi, I'm Deborah Lessen. We are at the Green Street Studio. This is Anulla Myberg and she's here on personal pajama day. (laughs) What I'd like to do is show you a strategy for working on leg alignment, because I think it's something that would be beneficial for many people. So Anulla, if you will lay on your back.

And put the two outside springs on. Anulla is a very good sport for offering to do this. What I want you to see is that when her heels are together, and it's kinda difficult to see with pajamas, but her knees aren't completely straight. When she completely straightens her knees, her feet are separated. What's our choice - our choice is always straight legs.

Anulla, first, you're going to start on your exhale, with a quick walk down to the mat, keeping the inner thighs together, and walk your way back up. Good, so when her legs are completely straight, she can pull up through her inner thighs, and connect into the abdominals. Good, and when you come up to the top just hold for a second. She's gonna take her legs a little slower down though center both legs. Start your plié, and as soon as you bend, the heels come together.

Stretch straight up. As she straightens her legs, the heels come apart. So this is part of the mechanics of her plié, that are necessary for her to get to a straight leg. Come to the top and then let's reverse. Stretch and you'll see the heels come apart at the bottom.

Good. If she doesn't straighten her legs all the way, she doesn't get that feeling of pulling up through the inner thigh, she doesn't finish her quads all the way. She doesn't finish supporting the patella properly. Now, one more time, and hold when you get out here. You're going to open wide, rotate from the top of the legs, close inner thighs together, turned out, turned out, turned out, that's it, plié just like before, and stretch forward.

Inhale, open rotate in the sockets, exhale. Close inner thighs together. Plié, the heels come together right away and stretch, good. And continue. When she does her plié and the heels come together, she actually is pressing together and feeling both the bottom, the heels, and the top of the leg, just under the buttock, active.

We want her to feel when her legs are straight, those same two places, even though her heels aren't touching each other. Good, one more. Good, bend the knees, and you can take the springs off. I'd like you to come sit up facing this direction for rolling back, good. I know that most people, excuse me, I'm just getting a ball.

Most people do this exercise starting with their feet wide, and that's to help get the pelvis vertical, but Anulla is able to get her pelvis vertical, and what I want her to do is, again, connect inner thighs up into the abdominals. Bring your legs as close together as you can with them straight, and you see she still has a space here, so this is little big, but I'm gonna give her a prop to press together onto as if she were pressing her feet together. You're gonna exhale, scoop under, and roll back into the mat. Ideally, you have balls of different sizes so you can find the appropriate size for that person. Don't worry if there's a large space.

It doesn't matter. Exhale, round in. What matters is the muscle use and coordination. Again, exhale scoop, and roll. Inhale, exhale, round.

Inhale, up, now you're gonna arch up and back. Good, three bend and stretch. She's still very active up through her inner thighs, connecting up into her torso. And rise up on the legs. And exhale roll back.

Good, inhale, exhale, round. And rest, okay. Normally, we would do more repetitions of this, but I want to continue into different situations where Anulla can keep working on the same idea in pilates exercises. If you could come back to the other end on your back. Top of the head to the edge of the mat.

We're gonna put on the two bottom springs. The position for the footwork on the trap table is hip with the part. You're gonna push this up and take both feet under the bar, parallel. In this position, we want the outer boarders of her feet parallel to each other. If you look from behind, which is really the best angle for the teacher, you should see that the achilles is vertical and the malleoli are equally sticking out from that center line.

You're going to point the feet. Flex the feet. Point the feet, and everything bends at the same time, ankle, knee, hip, and stay. Even though she is lowering the bar, she's very much - push up against me. Very much using her hamstrings to press up against the springs.

Inhale, stretch all the way up, point. Straight legs flex, stretch, stretch, stretch. That's it, point. All joints bend at the same time, heels go to the ceiling. That's it.

You still have to watch your feet and keep those outer edges of the feet parallel to each other. Stretch up and point. Straight legs flex. This is a great position because you can look at your feet, you can see your ankles, and you want to make sure that your ankles are centered. Point and bend.

Excellent, one more time. Because you're not standing and weightbearing, you have the opportunity to center the ankle, but the foot is going to go where the foot goes. You can't burn the candle at both ends, so to speak. Right now, in the foot work, and also you'll see on the reformer, that we want to concentrate on centering the ankle to get equal use of the muscles on the inside and the outside of the ankle. Excellent, and you can take that down.

Very good, okay. We could do single leg, but we won't do that right now. I would like to show you tower and how you can continue that same exact leg alignment into tower. Your back is okay? Alright, so come down arms plus fingers length away.

This is not a workout, this is a series of exercises carrying the same thread that would be part of a workout. Two feet under the bar. Same exact position. The starting position is actually knees bent. You don't have to get your pelvis down on the mat.

Just let it hang. You're gonna straighten your legs as low as you can keep your pelvis. Start from the pelvis and roll up, pointing your feet as you go, good. The torso stays in a space hold, you're going to bend hip, knee, and ankle and hold. Press that bar up, that's it.

You carry the weight with your legs not with your spine. Stretch the legs high up, roll down one vertebrate at a time. She's watching her feet, keeping those outer edges parallel to each other. You only go as low as you can keep your legs straight and then flex the feet. Good, can you go more...

okay. (laughter) Point the feet - just asking! And bend everything. But carry the weight with your legs, good. Straighten, first. Start from the pelvis, go through your legs to point your feet.

Bend halfway. This is important, you don't wanna drop your knees way down or your losing carrying that resistance in your hamstrings and the weight's going down into your knees and your spine. Stretch up and point. Exhale, roll down. Good, straight legs flex.

Straight legs point. Bend, so this the starting position, let's do one more, just watch that parallel line. When you hold that parallel line, all ten metatarsals, hopefully, will be on the bar. Straighten, first. Start from the pelvis, scoop, and roll up.

Bend halfway, heels to the ceiling. This always reminds me of Atlas holding the hemisphere up. Stretch up to the top. Roll down. Straight legs, flex.

She's very tempted to bend her knees. We're not gonna let her. Point. (chuckles) And now bend. Good, and you can take the bar down.

Just lower your feet, stretch out your legs. After tower, you should always lengthen out, let your back rest for a moment before you jump up. Let's move on to the reformer. I want to show you how Anulla can achieve straight leg, doing traditional pilates footwork. The first thing we want to look at is the amount of flection in her knee.

If she's okay with this, she can stay in first gear. If it's too much flection for her knee, or if her heels rock up because she doesn't have a lot of dorsiflexion, then we would definitely want to put her in second gear. Are you comfortable here? Take your fifth metatarsals and have them weight bearing on the bar. Let's just do one inhale out to straight legs and stay.

I want you to see that when she finishes her legs, completely, yes, that her heels are significantly apart. Come back in and we're going to give you a prop. You don't have to use the prop forever, you just use the prop to press against until you get that feeling of wrapping the backs of your legs toward each other, and closing the seam all the way up through the back. You're going to inhale and stretch all the way out, just stay for a minute. I want you to go far enough that you feel that you elongate through your hip joints.

And then bend back in, good. And inhale, stretch, good. I don't know - you can keep going. I don't know if you can see this on camera, but actually when she straightens her legs, you can see her pulling all the way up through the inside of the ankle. Not supination, just centering her ankle.

This first position would be the toes apart, heels together. Good. Now, let's come to parallel. Because she has a prop, we don't want her to close her forefeet completely or she would actually be turning in. Inhale, stretch, good.

Essentially, she is doing the same position that she did on the trapeze table with the outer edges of the feet parallel to each other. The reason this is important is that you get all the metatarsals on the foot bar, parallel to the foot bar. Important, especially when she does her releves, that she gets action through all ten metatarsals. Good, okay. Try to hang onto that ball and come up on the heels.

Trick! (laughter) Come up a little higher, I'm actually gonna to put this between the balls of your feet now, because your feet are fixed against the foot bar, and this will also give you the sense of pulling up inside the thigh. Inhale, stretch, good. It's difficult to see the energy of the body on camera, but when she doesn't straighten her legs all the way, she's doing a much more static movement. When she goes all the way out the movement extends beyond her body, that's what we want. That's literally the way to move to elongate your muscles and free your joints.

All those good things. Come back down to the balls of the feet. I'm going to give you this again. When she trains her muscles to work this way, that space between her heels is going to get smaller and smaller. Maybe not ever go away completely because it's the structure of her legs, but the muscles will definitely change.

Now you're going to go out to straight legs and stay. Just flex and point with straight legs. Good, so as you flex, wrap, wrap. She's pulling up though the inside of the legs, wrapping and closing through the back of the legs. Good, now I'm going to ask you to do something wrong just so they can see.

Press high up, now as you lower, let your knees bend slightly. Not even that much, just a tiny bit, yes. Once she bends, she loses all of that energy through the leg and it disconnects from her torso. We want whole body, whole body. This is one of the definitions of pilates movement.

Good, two more. Good, and bend back in. I know a looming question is - But isn't she hyper extending her knees? We could do another whole film on that topic, but the answer is no. As long as she is supporting, go out one more time.

As long as she is supporting with her hamstrings, which cross the back of the knee, she's supporting the back of her knee joint. As she flexes, she's still engaged back here, and I can feel her hamstrings working. Press high up and keep using those hamstrings. If you feel your legs when you're in hyper extension, the hamstrings are lax, alright? You define hyper extension not by how it looks, but by what muscles you're using.

Should you feel your knees are in hyper extension? Pardon? Should you feel your knees are in hyper extension? You shouldn't feel like you're hanging in the back. You should feel supported.

Okay and come on back in. And thank you, Anulla. Thank you.

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Deborah, thank you for the explanation on how to determine hyperextension ..also I really appreciated the info about the heels not touching when the legs are in full extension.. an aha moment for me !!!!! Blessings to you from Chicago :)
1 person likes this.
Deborah, always great to hear your cueiing and fine tuning. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Regards from Tel Aviv, Tamar Even-Kesef
2 people like this.
great video. Loved that juicy tidbit of information at the very end about the knee and lax hamstring.
Oh Deborah, how I adore you! As always, your teaching is incredibly helpful and most of all so inspiring. :)
Thank you for your comments. It's good to now that you are benefitting from the video.
2 people like this.
Thank you! This is so good and so useful. You are a very good teacher. This is Pilates at its best!
1 person likes this.
Really great video, concise, great information. Loved the props.
3 people like this.
What a great video and very timely for me You answered many questions about heels not touching and hyperextension..I do see this frequently so it is very useful... Hope to see you soon!
1 person likes this.
This is really great! Thank you!
Great video ! Thank you for explaining so well
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