Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


Deep Hip Openers with Pilates Ball

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on November 25, 2010

The second in two posts teaching us how to use a Stability Ball/Pilates ball to open our hips and stretch our legs.  Check out our selection of Pilates Balls and be sure to select the right size for your height.

Deep Hip Openings with the Stability Ball

Created Feb 3 2009 – 14:20

What It Is:
In my last post, we explored some leg and hip openings using the stability ball. Today we are going to delve into the hips a bit deeper. You want to be warm before going into these so take a brisk walk, for example, and start with some of the lighter stretches from the last article—hamstring, inner thigh and IT band stretch, PSOAS stretch and quadricep stretch. Also remember the following precautions when going into your stretches:

  • Stretching under your limit is much better than over your limit. Make each stretch fit your body type and limit. In other words, DO NOT ever force a stretch!
  • Never bounce into a stretch or jerk out of a stretch.
  • Be aware of your alignment as you stretch.
  • Always use tension free, full breaths to keep tension out of other parts of the body and to help you ease deeper into the pose.

Exercise: Frog Stretch
This pose stretches into the hips and helps to lengthen and open the groin muscles. The muscles of the groin pull the upper inner thighs together. These muscles are often tight and sometimes torn if not warmed up or properly stretched.

  • Lie on the mat on your back with the stability ball at your feet.
  • Bring the feet onto the stability ball.
  • Place the soles of the feet together and allow them to rest on the ball.
  • Let the knees open to the sides of the room in a frog position.
  • You may place the hands on the inner thighs to encourage the downward direction but do not force the knees and legs down.
  • Using your breath, time in the pose and gravity will encourage the legs to soften and open.
  • To go deeper you may inch the feet a bit closer to the groin area, closing the diamond shape a bit.
  • Remember, you can stay in the stretch as log as you like. Just make sure everything is staying relaxed and the breath is flowing.

Exercise: Pigeon with the Ball
Ease into this stretch carefully. If you feel this stretch in the kneecap come out of it.

  • Start on all fours on your mat with the stability ball in front of you.
  • Bring the right shin forward so it is parallel to the front of your mat. Now most of us will not be able to hold this parallel position. This is very advanced and indicates that you have very open hips. If you are not able to hold this scoot the foot towards the groin area.
  • The back left leg should be long and the front of the hip should be facing the floor.
  • You can also place a folded towel or blanket under the right buttock to help square the hips and ease the tension.
  • Place the hands on the stability ball and lift the eyes and sternum upwards as the ball comes into you.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Push the ball out and allow the forehead to rest on the ball.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Again, pull the ball back into you, arch the back and lift the eyes and sternum to the ceiling.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Push the ball out so the arms are long.
  • Allow the head to go in between the arms and (if possible) for the forehead to rest on the mat. This will help to open the chest and underarm area.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Keep the left hand on the ball, rotate the torso as you reach the right arm back.
  • Look towards the right hand.
  • Try to keep the pelvis square to the front wall.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Change sides.

Exercise: Backbend Into a Squat
Squatting is one of the best poses we can do to open the hips, strengthen and open the pelvic floor and create an overall flexibility in the lower body. Squatting also helps to reverse the tightness acquired from to much sitting in chairs and driving. If you have any neck issues or injuries do not attempt the backbend part of this exercise.

  • Start seated on your stability ball with a mat under you and the ball.
  • Slowly, walk your feet out one at a time until your head and shoulders are supported on the stability ball and the knees are aligned over the ankles.
  • If you have neck issues, hold this position.
  • If you wish to go further into the pose, stretch the legs long, reach the arms behind you and extend the head back.
  • Hold here for a few moments enjoying the opening in the front of the body. Let the breath flow freely while you hold this pose.
  • To come into the squat position, slide forward on the ball bending the knees, planting the feet and bringing the torso into an upright position.
  • Your hands can be by your side helping you to balance or in prayer position in front of the chest.
  • Make sure the sticky mat (yoga mat) is underneath the ball and your feet for safety.
  • Hold the squat for 10 to 20 seconds and then push back into the backbend over the ball.
  • You can alternate between the squat and the backbend a few times.
  • When you are ready to come out of it, go into the backbend pose, roll the chin to the chest and start to walk the feet in towards the ball one at a time until you are sitting on top of your ball.
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Legs & Hips with the Pilates Ball

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on November 18, 2010

The first of two series on using the Stability Ball or Pilates Ball to open those hips and stretch out those legs.  A Pilates Ball is also known as a Stability Ball, Exercise Ball, Yoga Ball, and by so many other names.  Basically it’s a large, inflatable vinyl ball that comes in several sizes to accomodate your height.  Please visit our Yoga Ball page to see out entire selection which includes burst-resistant balls and eco-friendly balls.

Pilates Stability Ball Exercises to Lengthen Legs & Open Hips

Created Jan 27 2009 – 15:27

What It Is:
With its pliability, roundness and fluidity of movement, the Stability ball lends itself perfectly to supporting and encouraging stretching and opening poses. The next few exercises help to bring awareness and suppleness to our legs and hips that are often over used and in need of this much deserved TLC! Remember these following precautions when going into any stretches. Stretching under your limit is much better than over your limit. Make each stretch fit your body type and limit. In other words: Do NOT ever force a stretch.

This one is derived from the old aerobics days where injuries ran wild. Never bounce into a stretch or jerk out of a stretch. Be aware of your alignment as you stretch. Always use tension-free, full breath to keep tension out of other parts of the body and to help you ease deeper into the pose.

Exercise: Hamstring, inner thigh and IT band stretch
This is a simple but effective and thorough stretch for the legs. If you have only time for one stretch sequence for the legs, then this is it. The opposite leg (the one you are not stretching) rests on the ball. Because of the height of the ball this eases the lower back but because of the wobbliness of the ball you have to pay more attention to where you are in space as you stretch. This will help you build your proprioceptive skills in a very safe pose.

  • You can use a strap or towel around the foot or hold onto the leg behind the calf or at the big toe if you can reach comfortably.
  • Lie supine on a mat with the ball at your feet.
  • Make sure the ball is on the mat for greater stability.
  • Drape the left leg over the ball.
  • Stretch the right leg to the ceiling to target the hamstring muscles.
  • Be sure that the back of the pelvis stays on the floor and the tip of the tailbone keeps reaching towards the mat.
  • For the beginner keep the head down but be sure the shoulders stay away from the ears.
  • For more seasoned stretchers, the head and shoulders can roll towards the knee if you can keep the shoulders down.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.

Next:

  • If you have a strap around the foot bring the strap into the right hand.
  • Let the right / straight leg move to the side targeting the adductor (inner thigh) muscles.
  • Make sure that the left side of the back of the pelvis does not leave the floor.
  • You might have to not drop the leg down so far in order to keep both sides of the back of the pelvis anchored.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  • Next, slowly bring the leg back to center, bring the strap into the left hand and slowly cross the right leg over the body but try to keep the right hip on the floor. In this way you will target and stretch the Iliotibial band (IT band) on the outside of the leg.
  • Be sure the shoulders are staying away from the ears.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  • Switch sides.

Exercise: PSOAS Stretch

  • Because of all the sitting and driving we do in our culture the front of our hips get very tight. Opening the front of the hips helps to keep the stress out of the lower back and keeps us moving more fluidly.
  • For more stability you can place your mat and ball close to the wall.
  • With the ball in front of you, slide the left leg back behind you with the knee on the floor.
  • If you have sensitive knees place a blanket underneath this left knee.
  • Bring the right leg to the front with the knee bent and the foot by the ball.
  • Imagine you could bring the tailbone between the legs as you lift the belly up towards the face.
  • Breath deeply.
  • If you want to ease into it a little more, allow the ball to roll slightly forward.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • For an even deeper stretch, curl the toes of the back leg and straighten the leg without lifting the hips too high.
  • Keep imagining the tailbone going between the legs as the belly lifts towards the face.
  • With either the knee down or the leg extended you can add a side bend that will deepen the opening in the left front of the hip.
  • Keeping the right hand on the ball, lift the left hand to the ceiling and straighten the arm.
  • Exhale and side bend to the right , fanning the left ribcage open.
  • Be sure the hips stay square to the front as you side bend.
  • Switch sides.

Exercise: Quadriceps Stretch

  • Start seated on your ball at the end of your mat facing towards your mat.
  • Gently walk the feet out one at a time until the head and shoulders are resting on your ball and the knee is right over the ankle.
  • In this position, press the hips to the ceiling.
  • The eye focus should stay to the ceiling.
  • Keeping the hips lifted and the head and shoulders on the ball , move one foot closer into the ball and allow that knee to point towards the floor. To get into this position, you may need to put your fingertips on the floor.
  • You will be on the ball of the foot with the heel lifted in order to point the knee towards the floor and target the quadriceps.
  • Hold for 20 seconds and then switch sides.
  • To go further into the stretch , bring the legs back to the tabletop position.
  • From there, walk the legs out to a long position, extend the back and head and arms (if comfortable) over the ball.
  • This long stretch is a full body stretch and allows the front of the hips to fully open.
  • To come out of this long stretch , gently bring the chin to the chest as you walk one foot at a time into the ball, slowly sitting up.

Join us next time as we delve into some deep hip openings using the Pilates Stability Ball.

Pilates : 5 Invigorating Exercises on The Ball

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on October 14, 2010

In 6 1/2 minutes you’ll learn how to do five different Pilates exercises that will get the blood pumping. Besides a thick Pilates mat, you’ll also need a Stability Ball.

Stability Balls have lots of names: Exercise Ball, Yoga Ball, Pilates Ball, Swiss Ball, and many more. So don’t let the names confuse you. This type of ball is larger, inflatable, made of soft vinyl, and comes in sizes ranging from 45cm to 85cm. The size you choose is based upon your height, and you can find sizing information on our product pages. RollingSands Harmony also sells stability balls that are standard or burst-resistant, and made of PVC or phthalate-free, eco-friendly vinyl. Check out our Yoga Ball page for our selection. These balls are very versatile and can be used in Pilates, Yoga, Core Fitness, and even for Prenatal & Labor.

http://www.videojug.com/player?id=7525a886-540c-0224-f850-ff0008c93868
Pilates:
Pilates: Five Invigorating Exercises Using A Balance Ball

Yoga Poses on a Yoga Ball for Core Strength

Posted in How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball,Yoga by Harmony on October 12, 2010

Using a Yoga Ball in yoga poses adds a stronger sense of body awareness in addition to challenging your core muscles. The following four minute video teaches us how to do an inverse plank, with twists, on a ball.

Stability Ball Exercises

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on July 30, 2010

This 16-minute video provides a complete workout of your legs, abs, lower back, arms and chest using an Exercise Stability Ball. As you begin the floor exercise portion, you’ll want a cushioned exercise mat to soften the pressure points on your hips and spine. The video ends with a final stretching routine, as well.

Learn how to perform the following exercises with a stability ball :  squats, calf raises, plank, modified plank, pushups, leg lifts, crunches, bridge and more.

Intermediate Pilates with the Ball – Part II

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on July 29, 2010

In this Intermediate Pilates video you’ll learn four Pilates exercises incorporating the Pilates / Yoga Ball. You’ll do Push Ups, Tricep Lifts, Sit Ups, and Lower & Lift working your arms and stomach. Grab your Pilates Mat and Pilates Ball and enjoy this six-minute video routine, or watch last week’s Part I, in addition to Part II, for a longer workout.

http://www.videojug.com/player?id=710d5351-d02a-aab9-8fb7-ff0008c95703
Pilates:
Pilates For Intermediates: Balance Ball Workout – Part 2

Stability Ball for Prenatal & Delivery

Posted in How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball,Yoga by Harmony on July 27, 2010

Exercise Stability Balls can be used in many forms of exercise – whether it’s Yoga, Pilates, or Fitness workouts. What some people don’t know is that these same balls are not only used for Prenatal Yoga, but in preparation for delivery of a baby. Hospitals and birthing centers incorporate “Birthing Balls” as part of their birthing preparation classes. This video will give you some ideas as to how this may be done.

When following along with this video, have your Yoga Ball / Birthing Ball, a Yoga Mat, and even a folding metal chair available to try some of these exercises.

Intermediate Pilates with the Ball – Part I

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on July 22, 2010

Four easy-to-follow Pilates exercises in less than 5 1/2 minutes. These exercises will require the use of a Stability Ball (also called a Balance Ball and many other names) and a Pilates Mat or Exercise Mat.  When buying a mat for Pilates, you’ll want one that offers nice cushioning for your joints, so we recommend at least 1/4″ thickness.  You’ll also want a mat that offers a non-slip surface.  When choosing a Stability Ball, be sure to select the right size for your height.  We also sell both PVC and eco-friendly PVC-free vinyl for you to choose from.

http://www.videojug.com/player?id=ad172169-7360-aa2f-a068-ff0008c95703
Pilates:
Pilates For Intermediates: Balance Ball Workout – Part 1

Prenatal Yoga – Volume IV

Posted in How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball,Yoga,Yoga Bolster by Harmony on July 20, 2010

Following is the fourth video in our series of Prenatal Yoga on a Ball. Each have run about 10 minutes long. To make one continuous practice, watch each of the last four Tuesday videos for a nice practice. In today’s video, Sara shows us a side stretch and some gentle backbends on the ball. You’ll need a yoga bolster and a Yoga Ball for this portion of the video series.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series.  Even if you aren’t pregnant, you may enjoy trying some of these yoga poses on the stability ball, or even to learn how to incorporate a yoga bolster into your practice.

Stability Ball Crunches

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on July 16, 2010

Work your inner thighs while doing abdominal crunches? Watch this video to learn how adding a Stability Ball to your core workout can incorporate other muscles – giving you a more complete workout in the same amount of time.

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