Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


Pilates Butterfly Exercise with Hand Weights

Posted in Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls by Harmony on January 6, 2011

In under two minutes you’ll learn how to do the Pilates Butterfly exercise using small hand weights.  The Butterfly is an arm workout that also incorporates a spinal rotation to help loosen up back muscles.  In this video they use small neoprene dumbbells, but you could also use your Pilates Toning Balls or small neoprene grip weights if you already have them.

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Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer : Part 3

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Pilates Bands,Toning Balls by Harmony on December 30, 2010

The final article in this three-part series on recovering from Breast Cancer with Pilates exercises.  As previously noted these articles were written for teachers to assist their students.  So, if you are practicing these exercises at home, please be mindful of your own body.  Also, these exercises are to be done in order starting with the first series posted on Dec 16th.

To get started:  gather your Pilates Mat, soft-weighted Pilates Toning Balls, and Pilates Resistance Exercise Bands.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer: Rebuilding the Foundation, Part Three

In this third part of our phase one programming for breast cancer survivors it’s critical to acknowledge the importance of parts one and two of the program, adhere to the goals of each segment and honor your client’s readiness to progress. There is no definite time frame allotted for each part—it truly depends upon the client’s success and comfort level.

The phase one exercises are essential building blocks recommended for a lifetime.

Follow these simple guidelines to assess readiness to progress:

  • The client has developed a good understanding of basic Pilates biomechanical principles.
  • The client applies Pilates principles both during the sessions and in daily life activities.
  • The client remembers from session to session the skills reviewed previously and the lessons are becoming second nature.
  • The client can maintain proper alignment throughout each repetition.
  • The client leaves the session energized, not fatigued.
  • The client experiences no residual soreness or discomfort post-workout.

Part Three Movements
As previously stated, the exercises here do not replace those shown in parts one and two; they are a continuation and are meant to be executed in the order in which they have been outlined.

If you have been scheduling your client’s workouts for 30 minutes, two to three times per week, you may opt to increase one of those weekly sessions to 40 minutes. This will help develop the client’s exercise endurance and give you a nice arena to add in the new repertoire.

It’s important to work within the guidelines outlined in part two: only add one or two new exercises at a time and vary the exercises from upper to lower body to avoid overtaxing one area.

You will note we have added the STOTT PILATES® FlexBand Exerciser® and 1- or 2- pound Toning Balls to either support the weight of the limbs and/or provide gentle resistance. Note: the movements may be done without the props.

  1. Side-lying Arm Circles
  2. Hip Rolls
  3. One Leg Circles
  4. Swimming Preps

1. Side-lying Arm Circles with STOTT PILATES® Toning Balls

Benefits: This move improves shoulder joint mobility and increases blood flow to the joint. The ball provides proprioceptive feedback and adds gentle resistance. The light load helps recruit the deep stabilizing muscles (e.g. rotator cuff).
Note: Only do this exercise if the client is comfortable lying on her side.

Start Position: Lie on side with both knees bent and a spacer between thighs to keep the hips more neutral. Head rests on a pillow or cushion; spine is neutral, top arm reaches toward the ceiling. Hold toning ball in the palm, facing forward.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale: make tiny circles in one direction for 5 counts.
  • Exhale: make tiny circles in the other direction for 5 counts.
  • Repeat for five full breath patterns.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Keep the movement very small and execute circles slowly.
  • Feel as though the ball is resting gently in your hand; do not grip.
  • Keep the arm directly over the shoulder joint.
  • The movement should feel like a shoulder massage.

2. Hip Rolls
Benefits: This exercise encourages proper sequencing and fluidity of the spine, pelvis and femurs. The goal is to strengthen the abdominals, hip and spinal extensors while relieving tension. While appropriate for all breast cancer clients, this is especially beneficial for those who have had TRAM flap surgery and experience core weakness and lumbar spine and hip flexor tension.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart, arms long by sides. You may use a spacer between knees to encourage proper alignment (place pillow under arm of affected side if necessary).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale, engage abdominals to rock pelvis away from the femurs. Activate the glutes and hamstrings and lift the pelvis, rolling through the lumbar spine until the hips are in line with shoulders.
  • Inhale, stay at the top of the movement.
  • Exhale, roll down—starting at the upper spine—all the way back to the start position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Activate the abdominals first, then the glutes and hamstrings.
  • Use your exhalation to activate the deep abdominal muscles and take the tension out of your neck and shoulders.
  • Re-engage the abdominal muscles before rolling back down from the top position.

3. One Leg Circle
Benefits: This exercise focuses on spinal stability in neutral against a circular leg movement. It brings blood flow to the hip joint, mobilizing the hip, and brings attention to the use of breath to activate the inner core musculature (e.g. transversus abdominus, pelvic floor and multifidus). This is another exercise that is very specific for developing core and spinal strength and stability for those who have had TRAM flap surgeries.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, both knees bent with band wrapped around one leg (which is in the tabletop position). The other foot is flat on the mat. Arms are bent, hands hold band with an overhand grip and palms face body. (do not wrap the band around the wrist). Note: If the client needs arm support on the affected side, place a cushion under the elbow.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale, allow the leg with the band around it to cross the mid line of the body.
  • Exhale, continue to circle the leg downward, outward and around back to start position, maintaining a neutral spine throughout.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times on both legs.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Use your exhalation to maintain core stability as you circle the leg.
  • Keep the range of motion small enough so you can maintain core stability.
  • Allow the band to support the weight of the leg; avoid gripping in the hip.
  • Press against the band to activate the hamstrings, releasing the hip flexors.
  • Keep the foot on the floor energized to help stabilize pelvis and spine.
  • Watch that the pelvis doesn’t rock and roll.

4. Swimming Preps
Benefits: This exercise helps retrain oppositional movement patterning between the upper and lower body, which is essential in daily functional movements. For example, when we walk it’s natural to swing our arms and legs in opposition. This exercise also brings awareness to how our abdominals support our spine against gravity. Four-point kneeling is a perfect position to notice and feel this effect. Note: it may be uncomfortable for a client to bear weight on her arms. Avoid this exercise if it creates tension.

Start Position: Kneel in “four points” with the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Entire spine is neutral and knees are hip-distance apart.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale, engage abdominals with the breath and lift the opposite arm to leg.
  • Inhale and return back to the start position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times consecutively with one side, and then do the other side (opposite arm to leg).

Beneficial Cues:

  • Think length, not height, when lifting arms and legs.
  • Engage the abdominals to keep the spine from sinking.
  • Activate the glutes to lift the leg.
  • Visualize the hips are headlights shining on the mat in front of you.
  • Hold a ruby in your navel and do not let it drop.

PJ O’Clair is the owner of Northeast Pilates Certification Centers and Master Instructor Trainer, STOTT PILATES®.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer : Part 2

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls by Harmony on December 23, 2010

Part 2 of a three-part series of Pilates exercises for recovering from Breast Cancer.  Please see last weeks post for Part One as these are meant to be done in order.  As a reminder, these articles were written for teachers so if practicing them at home, please be extremely mindful of your body.

To get started, you’ll need a cushioned Pilates Mat and a pair of soft-weighted Toning Balls.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer: Rebuilding the Foundation, Part Two

In the second part of phase one programming for breast cancer survivors, the goal is to continue to introduce some very basic biomechanical principles commonly used in Pilates. These basic principles focus on restoring joint mobility with gentle range of motion exercises designed to break down residual scar tissue both from surgery and various treatments. We continue our work to increase overall body awareness with slow, controlled and concentrated movements. These simple exercises in the phase one work are designed to prepare the client for the exercises that will be added for strength and endurance in phase two.

While Pilates is a wonderful format for joint mobility and overall strength, walking is the cardiovascular exercise of choice for breast cancer survivors and should be incorporated as part of a well-balanced recovery regimen. Start slow and progress as able—a little goes a long way in rebuilding the foundation. Remember to work closely with the client’s medical team and don’t begin without clearance.

Phase Two Movements
The following exercises are not meant to replace the foundational exercises from part one of this series (see the April issue), but rather as an adjunct to progress the client in a conservative yet effective fashion. Introduce movements a few at a time to avoid overload. Only add one or two new exercises at a time; it’s easier to determine which exercises are successful and which may prove problematic. If you add too many at a time and the client doesn’t respond favorably, you may not know immediately which exercise was premature. Consistency with quality movement is the key to success with this population.

Vary the exercises from upper to lower body repertoire to avoid stressing the affected areas and allow for adequate rest in between exercises. Work with the client one to three times per week for 30 minutes. This may prove more beneficial than working with her once per week for an hour.

You will note we have added STOTT PILATES® Toning Balls to a couple of the exercises. The weight of the balls is not relevant, as you will not be using them for resistance. Rather, use them to support the limbs and assist in the movements.

  1. Scapula Elevation and Depression with Toning Balls
  2. Hip Release
  3. Butterflies with Toning Balls
  4. Spinal Rotation

1. Scapula Elevation and Depression with Toning Balls
The lymphatic system helps rid the body of toxins and is an essential part of the immune system. This is vital for cancer patients. In addition to gravity and muscular contractions, the breath serves as the primary pump for the lymphatic system. The breath also encourages engagement of the deep core musculature—transversus abdominus, internal obliques, pelvic floor and the multifidus.

Benefits: Like the scapula protraction and retraction shown in the first part of this series, this exercise creates awareness of how the scapula glides along the rib cage. This move warms up the shoulders, improves mobility and helps restore range of motion. The balls assist in the muscular action by providing proprioceptive feedback.

Start Position: Lie supine with knees bent, feet hip-distance apart, entire spine neutral, arms long by sides with palms resting on the balls (you may support the weight of the affected arm with a cushion as shown).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale: slide shoulders up toward ears, elevating the scapula.
  • Exhale: slide shoulders away from ears, lightly pressing hands down on the balls, depressing the scapula.
  • Repeat 8-10 times.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Allow the balls to roll up and down, which will help keep the movement smooth and steady.
  • Watch that the arms do not round forward as they roll down away from ears.

2. Hip Release
Benefits: This exercise mobilizes the hip joint and strengthens the abdominals and spinal muscles to help hold the spine in neutral. The goal is to use the abdominals to maintain symmetry while moving the leg away from the midline of the body. While appropriate for all breast cancer clients, this is especially beneficial for those who have had TRAM flap surgery and experience core weakness as well as inflexibility in the hip joint.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart, arms long by sides (place pillow under arm of affected side).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale, rotate one leg laterally, allowing it to drop out away from the midline of the body. Extend the knee and slide the foot down along the mat.
  • Exhale, medially rotate the leg and slide the foot back up. Bend the knee and return to the start position.
  • Repeat 3 times on each leg.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Keep core muscles engaged when the leg drops out to the side, think small range of motion first.
  • As you exhale visualize the core musculature wrapping around you like a gentle corset.
  • Keep leg relaxed and hip socket tension free; avoid rigidity.

3. Butterflies with Toning Balls
Benefits: This exercise focuses on scapulohumeral rhythm, which is often compromised with breast cancer surgeries. You want to mobilize the shoulder, but not at the expense of dynamic stability. The balls are a perfect prop to assist in controlling range of motion and aiding dynamic stability.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart. Arms are bent and hands hold toning balls on the tops of the shoulders. If the client needs arm support on the affected side, place a cushion under the elbow.

Perform this exercise in two parts. Do not add part two until client can do part one without pain. Keep the range of motion small at first.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Part one: Inhale, lift elbows off the mat straight up to the ceiling. Exhale, lower them back down to the mat.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Part two: Inhale, lift elbows straight up to the ceiling. Exhale, open the elbows out to the sides. Inhale, lift elbows back up straight over shoulders. Exhale, lower them back down to the start position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times

Beneficial Cues:

  • Let the arms feel as though they are floating. Avoid tensing hands or forearms and do not grip the balls.
  • Only open arms as wide as you can while maintaining pain-free control.
  • Use your exhalation to maintain core stability as you open the elbows. The breath precedes the movement.

4. Supine Spinal Rotation
Benefits: Rotation of the axial skeleton is a necessary and functional movement that may have been compromised during treatment. Abdominal tightness and spinal rigidity are common side effects of certain breast cancer surgeries. This exercise will help mobilize the spine and core musculature as well as provide a nice stretch to the upper body.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral (may imprint the lumbar spine for additional support), knees flexed, legs together, arms out to sides just below shoulder level with palms facing up.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale to prepare. Exhale, rotate lower torso allowing both legs to lower toward the mat, keeping legs together. Inhale to stay. Exhale, rotate back to the start position.
  • Repeat going in both directions 3-5 times.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Keep the inner thighs engaged as you lower legs to one side—this will help with abdominal connection.
  • Do not let your upper body rotate with the lower body.
  • Maintain a lifted sensation in your pelvic floor muscles as you rotate your spine.

Look for the next installment of phase one Pilates exercises for breast cancer in the June issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review.

PJ O’Clair is the owner of Northeast Pilates Certification Centers and Master Instructor Trainer, STOTT PILATES®.

Exercises for New Moms & You

Posted in Core/Fitness,Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Toning Balls by Harmony on December 10, 2010

Although these following exercises are intended for new mom’s trouble spots, you may find these exercises perfect for you too.  Two of these exercises use small exercise balls.  We carry three different sizes:  6″ Exercise/Body Rolling Ball, 7″ Exercise Therapy Ball, and a 9″ Exercise Therapy Ball.  These small vinyl inflatable balls have many uses so feel free to incorporate into other exercises, such as holding the ball between your hands during crunches.  The simple act of squeezing the ball between your legs or your hands activates additional muscles and brings more awareness to those areas.

The Wood Chop exercise is to be performed with a dumbbell or hand weight.  Check out these options:  Neoprene Dumbbell Weight Set (2, 3, 5lbs), Grip Weights (3 or 5lbs), or the Soft Weighted Toning Balls (2lbs).

Exercises to Tackle Your Trouble Spots

Exercise: Ball Squats

Ball Squats
Best for Thighs

Exercise: Ball Squats

Do It: In a standing position, place a beach ball between your thighs (you can also use a basketball or a pillow). Holding ball firmly, bend knees into squat position, as if you’re going to sit in a chair (make sure your knees don’t extend past toes). Hold for two counts; return to start position. Repeat 20 times.

Why It Works: This targets the front of your thighs, plus your inner thighs, which have to work to hold the ball in place.

Exercise: Wood Chop with Dumbbell

Wood Chop with Dumbell
Best for Allover Toning

Exercise: Wood Chop with Dumbbell

Do It: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in front of you. Bend knees as if you’re sitting in a chair, so thighs are almost parallel with floor. As you bend, rotate shoulders to the left, bringing weight toward left knee. Straighten legs, twisting torso right as you raise weight diagonally over your right shoulder. Repeat 10 times; switch sides.

Why It Works: The squat incorporates your glutes and thighs, while the twisting motion targets your obliques, Pasternak explains.

shim

Exercise: Walking Lunge with Trunk Twist

Walking Lunge with Trunk Twist
Best for Lower Body

Exercise: Walking Lunge with Trunk Twist

Do It: Start with feet together, holding a ball in front of you with both hands. Step forward three to four feet with right leg, as shown, lunging forward until thigh is parallel to floor, knee over ankle. As you lunge, twist torso right, keeping head and pelvis facing forward. Bring torso back to front. Pushing off with right heel, bring left foot forward into a lunge and twist torso to left. Do 20 lunges — 10 each side.

Why It Works: Lunges target glutes, quads, and hamstrings. The torso twist works your abs, particularly the obliques.

Originally published in the July 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

Pilates Boxing Exercise with Hand Weights

Posted in Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls by Harmony on December 9, 2010

A quick video showing us how to perform the Pilates Boxing exercise with small hand weights.  The model is using small neoprene dumbbells, but you could also use the neoprene grip weights or soft-weight Pilates toning balls during this and many other Pilates arm exercises.

Pilates Arm Exercises with Weights

Posted in Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls by Harmony on December 2, 2010

The following video shows us how to do two Pilates exercises using soft-weighted Toning Balls. The first is an arm extension and the second is a variation of the Hug a Tree exercise. Adding weights to your Pilates routine is a sure way to increase strength quickly.

The model in this video is using Toning Balls, but you could also use light-weight dumbbells or grip weights as well. The Toning Balls have a soft vinyl texture making them easy to grasp and hold throughout the exercises.

Pilates Series of Five with Hand Weights

Posted in Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls by Harmony on November 11, 2010

Learn how to do the Pilates “Series of Five” with hand weights. You can use your choice of hand weights – whichever you think are the most comfortable for you to hold and which ones would offer you the most versatility allowing you to use in other exercises of your choice. Consider small soft neoprene dumbbells, neoprene grip weights, or Pilates soft weighted toning balls.

The video is just over four minutes long and will cover the details on doing five Pilates floor exercises: Single Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, Scissors, Lower Lift, and Criss Cross. All while holding the small hand weights to add arm strengthening and toning while performing these ab and leg workouts.

Pilates-weights

Toning Balls: Add to Pilates, Yoga, and Exercises

Posted in Core/Fitness,Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls,Yoga by Harmony on September 16, 2010

The soft, weighted Toning Balls that we carry are 2 lbs each and are sold as a pair.  They are manufactured by Natural Fitness and are made with the environmentally friendly phthalate-free vinyl.  The size and texture of toning balls make them easy to grip and can improve your hand and finger strength as well.

The following exercises could also be done with hand held weights – such as our neoprene dumbbell weight set, that offers weights from 2lbs to 5lbs for those looking to up their weights in these exercises.

Another way to increase the intensity of the workouts below (without increasing the weight) is to up the repetitions or the number of sets.  Or, if you know an intermediate or advanced level of the exercise or pose, try that while using the weights.  For example, if you practice yoga and are familiar with a “Blowing Tree”, you could perform this variation while holding the weights as well.  Feel free to experiment, but pay attention to your body!

Toning Ball Workout

by Denise Wang ~ Livestrong.com

Overview

Toning balls are a popular accessory to a variety of different exercise routines, including Yoga, Pilates and basic calisthenics. Toning balls are an alternative to hand held dumbbells or weights and are made of a soft vinyl material. Toning balls come in weights between 1.1 pounds and 5.5 pounds per ball and are held in the open palm with a gentle grip. For light weight training and as added resistance to popular Yoga and Pilates exercises, the balls also help individuals with balance, coordination and flexibility. Performing a 20 to 30 minute workout with toning balls adds interest and effectiveness to any exercise routine.

Step 1 – General

Utilize weighted toning balls to work arms, shoulders and upper torso strength and flexibility. Toning balls are popularly used in Yoga and Pilates workouts by balancing them in the palm of the hand for added resistance or muscle toning exercises. Adding even a slight weight resistance to such poses as Warrior’s Pose, Tree pose and basic calisthenic or isometric exercises like jumping jacks, shoulder raises and arm circles is helpful.

Step 2

Work the arms by holding a ball gently in each hand, arms at your sides. Start with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart. Using a 1 to 2 pound ball, lift both arms above the head, pause and then lower. Repeat this exercise between 12 and 15 times, repeating the set twice.

Step 3

Stand with the feet just over shoulder width apart. Tuck in the abdominal muscles and, holding a ball in each hand, bend slowly forward at the waist until your back is level or parallel to the floor, arms hanging downward. Holding the stomach in and looking downward, extend your arms outward. Raise the arms until they are level with your torso, even with the shoulders and hold. Count to 5 and then slowly lower to the original position. Repeat this exercise between 10 and 15 times. Repeat this set two times.

Step 4

When performing a Pilates Criss Cross, hold a light pair of toning balls in the hands near the side of the head instead of clasping the hands behind the head. Lie down on the floor, legs bent and lifted above your hips. Tuck in the abdominal muscles and lift the head and shoulders off the floor. Extend one leg out while the other pulls in toward your chest. Switch legs, pushing the opposite leg outward while bringing the other knee toward your chest.

Step 5

Hold onto a light set of toning balls when performing Yoga moves like the Tree Pose. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Gradually shift most of your weight to the right foot and bend your left knee, lifting and resting your left foot along the inside of the right leg. Beginners may only be able to place the foot at ankle or calf level. Balancing, lift the arms over the head, keeping them either shoulder width apart or bringing the hands together high above the head, depending on your balance, comfort and strength level. Hold this position for 1 minute, rest a few moments and then switch sides.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/39437-toning-ball-workout/#ixzz0yEbZMoLa

Senior Exercises: Chest Press

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Toning Balls by Harmony on June 4, 2010

This is the second in a series of exercises for seniors. A couple weeks ago, we offered a video on an Overhead Press. If you are taking care of an arm or shoulder injury, or just starting on your fitness journey, don’t let the name “Senior Exercises” fool you. Watch the video and learn. Sometimes it’s important to be gentle with your body, know that and respect that. It’s ok.

This video shows the instructor using a soft weighted toning ball during the exercise.  As she informs us, you could also use an inflated ball if so desired (check out our 7″ mini-exercise ball and our 9″ mini-exercise ball).  Perhaps this is because you don’t want the added weight, but the inflated ball still offers resistance and will help you be mindful of your movements.  Sometimes we choose our exercise tool because of what we already have lying around the house!  And that’s fine, too.

Senior Exercises: Overhead Press

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Toning Balls by Harmony on May 21, 2010

Sometimes exercises or yoga practices labeled for “seniors” isn’t totally accurate. These exercises can also be used by individuals who are caring for an injury or for those who want to start out slow and gentle. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of gentle, “senior” exercises like these…no matter what age you are. Honor your body.

To perform these Overhead Presses, you could use a 2lb Soft Weighted Toning Ball or select a hand weight from our Neoprene Dumbbell Set.

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