Musings from your neighborhood Swan Instructors: Pt. 2

We love picking the brains of the instructors at the Swan. They are such a lovely bunch of deep thinking individuals. Check out what they have to say about the current state of their swan brains!

What is your favorite exercise? Why? And walk us through how you execute it?

Johanna: I love serratus push ups and all the exercises that one can feed into afterwards. Not strictly a Pilates exercise but one that can make a lot of the upper body flexion exercises like 100s feel so much better on the neck. The way Eleanor and Julia give details on the serratus push up and me very fond of this exercise and I like to incorporate in most sessions and classes. I love warming up the shoulder girdle and getting the serratus a little more activate as a great support in other exercises.

I tell clients to go onto their hands and knees allowing their ribs to glide down towards the floor and push away without hyperextending their elbows. Floating their ribs above I cue clients to find an “alert spine” spine like an animal. I find it profound when clients energize their whole trunks. I also cue them to think of doing a headstand on the wall as if they could do a horizontal head stand, to find energy through the rest of their body.

From here I have clients go into standard opposite arm leg balance and then into a plank to maintain that rib cage lift or float off their wrists. Then I go into abdominals lying on your back with hands behind the head, maintaining the connection of shoulders blades as you fold forward from the lowest ribs. I like to think of the shoulder blades as hands helping to widen the back and help support the spinal flexion.

Kathryn: I have no honest answer. Ninety percent of the movement I encourage with students are progressive variations on the classic choreography. The principles applied hold much more worth for me. So that being said, stability vs mobility is one of my favorite fundamentals in Pilates.


Alexis: My favorite exercise right now is simple... Side-lying grapefruit-sized leg circles. Side-lying gives a lot of information about howe we are organizing ourselves and the circles help plug in the femur bones using the natural structure of the hip joint. The whole thing quickly helps me (and you) re-find length and support for standing!

To begin, I grab a block and place it under my head while lying on my side of choice. Bottom leg bent to 90 and top leg long in line with top sitting bone. 

I first start with a couple breaths, allowing the inhale to elongate my spine. Each new breath cycle. I work closer to the back line of my diaphragm while keeping engagement with the lower abdominals. 

After a few breaths I wrap my top hand around the top half of my pelvic structure - it's a good reminder for my body of pelvic motion vs. femur motion.

Before moving into circular motions of the femur I do a couple of straight leg lifts up and down. I'll go as high as I can while keeping the pelvis stable. It's usually no higher than my hip. I am careful to keep my leg right in line with my body (not in front or behind!)

Finally, I will hold my top leg about hip height and double-check in with my spinal length (did it compress?), breath (is it still easily exchanging with the motion?), top hip crest (did it shift into my waist-line?)... I'm ready to circle the femur. 

I start making grapefruit-sized circles and usually go until I start to feel a little fatigue, and then reverse. If my quad starts to grip or I can no longer keep movement out of my pelvis then I will take a rest before finishing. 

KEY!! The length of the leg away from the head is more important than the size of the circle. Feeling some burning? It is a sneaky exercise - you're doing it right!

Alaina: The Roll Over. I had such a hard time with that exercise, so now that I have the tools to conquer it I feel a sense of accomplishment each time I do it. Lying supine legs extended on a 45 degree angle and arms on the mat by you side. On an exhale lift the legs up and over, bringing the legs parallel to the floor. Open the legs, tap your toes to the floor and slowly roll down to the pelvis, circle the legs around to the starting position.

Katie: I have a lot of favorite exercises that shift depending on what I'm focusing on- I tend to gravitate towards simple yet effective and challenging exercises. Right now, my favorite glute exercise is one that I learned in Kathryn's class (a fellow swan).

Lying on your side with the head supported, take a theraband around the top foot and wrap under the bottom knee, holding both ends in the top hand. Legs are stacked like you're sitting in a sideways chair. Lift the top leg to hip height and then extend top leg straight beneath you and bend back in 6x, maintaining neutral pelvis. Then externally rotate the top leg and bend and straighten 6x maintaining the turned out position. I feel it every time!

Eleanor: My current favorite exercise is butterfly knees. This is mainly a stability exercise that takes a lot of brain power and deep core stability to perform well. I like this exercise because it helps balance the pelvis, gets the TVA, multifidi and pelvic floor ready for more complicated exercises to come. 

Place your legs and feet together. With a really long and supported pelvis position, allow your knees to fall away from center without disrupting your pelvic and lumbar suppport. You will be rolling onto the outsides of your feet. Keeping your length, bring your inner thighs back together. Repeat a few times to feel really stable. Once you feel stable, alternate opening one leg at a time, moving only in a range of motion where you can truly maintain your pelvic and lumbar stability. If you have a side that feels more challenging, you may do a few extra on that side - really try to make yourself feel even by the end of the exercise.