Stomach Massage, Knee and Tendon Stretch Series
Freeing up your body
This flow of exercises is great for opening the Back Line, the back of your body, freeing it up from tension and being able to move efficiently more it’s different parts. When this happens, the front can also be more open and relaxed. For example, once you stretch and open your lumbar, your hips can take a break and stretch as well. Your core will be more engaged and suddenly your hamstrings are back to business! Everything really is connected and these movements are geared at making you feel lighter, more flexible and more graceful.
They are not easy. The Knee Stretch Series has made me cry in frustration a couple of times but it is key in freeing your hips and get those legs lubricated and ready to go for a spin.
As with all exercises in Pilates, you can just go around them and tell yourself you made them. It’s relatively easy. But if you dig deep and follow the Pilates principles, then it’s going to challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally. It takes way more energy but, I promise you, it gives you way more benefits and you will be so much better off for putting in the effort.
Stomach Massage: Round
- Use the same springs as with footwork. (Normally 4/3, 3, 2, 2)
- Sit close to the footrest, both feet on one side.
- Sit straight, hands by each hip
- Push them down and forward – your core will engage.
- Resist going backwards
It’s then easier to lift the legs into position. This is a better set up to get started.
- You then control the carriage with the spine and pelvis. The feet don’t move.
- Keep the Heels for the first 2cms and then let them drop.
- Your hands are just connecting you to the machine, giving you information on the smoothness of what you are doing. The elbows go to the sides. This is your frame and it doesn’t change throughout the exercise.
- Contact with the big toe on the bar. The carriage moves away from the feet. The hips will then open / rotate to the side
- Stay behind the sit bones
- The pectoralis need to be open (think wide chest). Otherwise, it’s harder to get a curved back
- Keep pushing from the pelvis. The heels are invited to move back but you don’t push your feet.
- From your pubic bone, you want to lift up. Watch out that both your Superficial Front Line and Superficial Back Line are lengthening (both your front are back are “expanding” and growing).
- Pull from the base of your skull away from the spine and relax the chest.
Put the wind in your sails and go back.
If you notice yourself “locking” your knees (hyperextending), remember that with a “straight” leg the knee is still movable the kneecap is floating and free. This allows for the knee extensors to still fire and for the communication to flow along the leg.
Stomach Massage: Hands Back
- From the round position, lift the Superficial Front Line (think uncurl from to grow tall, without pushing from the back.
You should be able to remove the hands from the shoulder pads without losing position.
- Elbows are pointing up.
- It’s important to let go of everything in the front of your body. This helps the collar bones open up. It also makes it easier to reach higher when coming bac.
- Check the knees don’t lock so that the whole Superficial Back Line can stretch (not just the calves, but the hamstrings, back, etc) when going back.
- Make sure you look forward, to the future. Avoid mix messages to your brain. If you look down, the spine will tend to bend forward.
What moves the carriage is what is on the carriage
In this case, that will be your butt, not your feet.
Stomach Massage: Reach Out
- Pull from the base of the skull. Imagine you are being pulled from your fingers. The movement starts here.
- If you think you need to reach, the movement will tend to start from the lower back and closes the hips – it creates tension.
- If Keep heels together
Note that this exercise is focused on unwinding the spine.
Stomach Massage: Twist
- The stretch starts from above the hip!
- It’s all about opening the front by the collarbone on the side that is not twisting. If you twist towards the right (right arm goes back), then the left side of the top of your rib cage is opening up; the left hands stay in place – it’s your anchor (see There’s no Beauty Without Integrity).
- The side that is in the front can’t collapse, lower down. Although the tendency is for the armpit to go near the hip, you want to avoid it so that you can maintain a good stretch.
- Pressing a heel against the other helps the movement.
- As with the whole Stomach Massage Series, the whole movement happens just behind the sit bones.
- Use two springs.
Knee Stretch Series:
A great set of exercises to repattern the Running movement. It focuses on opening the hips and dissociating the pelvis from the femur, providing more efficiency and flexibility.
Knee Stretch Series
- T12 (think lower ribs) should be midway between the footrest and the shoulder pad
- Round the spine without tilting your pelvis. If you can’t avoid it; then really tilt it like a cat and slowly get into position
- Press your foot to pull the carriage back. The footbar is a support, not the place to start the movement.
- Press your heels to activate the hamstrings
- Touch your toes, especially the pinkie, so that it activates the lateral line (think all the side of your body)
If there’s a lot of tension in the lower back, ask your Deep Front Line to help so the Superficial Back Line can relax a little.
You want a strong core and hamstrings. This is ideal because it’s the opposite of what is usually happening with us: tense quads and lower back!
- The extension comes from the front ((from the pubic bone to the collarbones). The back doesn’t flex or bend, it will happen – ideally you won’t feel those little muscles in the back that go along your spine.
- With the movement, imagine that you are keeping a glass of your favourite drink on your sacrum (think, butt!)
- Use the stretch to go away as a recoil to go back – your body is a spring!
- To come back, don’t tilt the pelvis. Roll the back into a long C shape without actively holding the front.
- The sit bones open the movement.
By keeping the pelvis steady and pilling the femur, you stretch the station/space between both. We are aiming at dissociating the pelvis from the femur. As an image, think of those kids running- it looks like their legs are just hanging out of their bodies!
Keep the knees low and close to the mat so that the back can stretch.
If the heels can’t reach the shoulder pads…
- avoid adding pillows or added props.
- Energetically push around/over the heel. It will get better each time you perform this exercise.
This exercise is hard and requires your body to move in a new, more efficient way. Our bodies are looking to minimize the energy consumption – so, you need to do it enough times for the body to feel secure in using this new, more efficient, pattern of movement.
Knee Stretch Series: Arched
- Extend the hips with the carriage back
- To return the carriage, open your sit bones, give loads of space between sit bones, sacrum and magnus (if you don’t know it, think inner thigh). The magnus muscle should rotate back and out.
Tendon Stretch Series
- Adjust the machine so that you have enough tensegrity to keep the position. (think tense just enough to keep a steady position).
- Sit on the footrest, facing the shoulder pads, feet in V position
- Lift the butt and push hands against the foot bar.
- It’s important to keep tension in arms against the bar to allow the lumbar to open
- To go forward, you push the feet
- The arms reach back, opening the front
- Go back two-thirds of the way with the carriage.
- The last one third comes from the full extension of the legs. That’s what lifts you up.
- Keep sternum relaxed and down – focus on being behind the sternum.