Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


Pilates for the Feet

Posted in Pilates by Harmony on March 10, 2011

Get in touch with your feet. Bring awareness to your feet. Learn simple techniques to improve balance with some simple toe and foot stretches and manipulations.

Post-Natal Pilates

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Pilates by Harmony on February 10, 2011

Whether it’s post-natal Pilates or yoga, the emphasis is on toning the abdominal muscles and the core, so if you’re looking for core work don’t let the name fool you. All you need to do to perform the following Pilates exercises is a mat.

A Pilates mat tends to offer a little extra cushioning as compared to a yoga mat since many exercises are done on the floor and the extra thickness or padding will help cushion your spine and joints. Check out our Harmony Fusion Mat which is 5/16″ thick, Natural Fitness Powerhouse Mat 3/8″ thick, our Extra Wide/Extra Long Mat at 1/4″ thick, or if you’d like a padded exercise mat take a look at our Tri-Fold Exercise Mat.

Prenatal Pilates

Posted in How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Pilates by Harmony on February 3, 2011

In this video you will learn several easy-to-follow exercises that are beneficial for pregnancy, but aren’t just for pregnant women. Good cueing to engage the pelvic floor and core. In these simple pilates exercises all you will need will be a pilates mat and a small inflatable exercise ball.

We offer several sizes of these small exercise balls – a 7″ Exercise Ball and a 9″ Exercise Ball. When using them to provide resistance in your exercises, they will generally be slightly under-inflated. When using between the legs, you’ll still want your knees about hip-distance apart and if between the arms, arms should be shoulder-width apart depending on the specific exercise. Hopefully that will give you a rule of thumb to determine which size is best for you. We also offer a 6″ ball that is used for body rolling (a wonderful massage technique), that could also be used in many exercises as well.

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.

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®.

Pilates for Breast Cancer : Part 1

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Pranayama / Breathing Exercises by Harmony on December 16, 2010

This is the first of three articles describing Pilates exercises that you can perform to help in your recovery of breast cancer.  Unfortunately the images in this first part were not available from the original article, but hopefully you’ll be able to follow along with the detailed descriptions.  When performing Pilates floor exercises it is helpful to have a cushioned Pilates mat.  Pilates mats are non-slip mats with a little more cushion than a standard yoga mat.  We’d recommend 1/4″ thickness or greater to help cushion your spine and joints during your practice.  Visit our Pilates Products page for our selection of Pilates mats.

These articles are written for instructors to help teach their students.  So please keep this in mind if you are trying this on your own at home.  Some knowledge of Pilates would be very helpful when starting your own home practice.

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

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 2.4 million women living in the United States in 2004 had been treated for breast cancer (American Cancer Society 2007). Fortunately, thanks to early detection and advancements in treatment, many more women will survive breast cancer and go on to live out their natural life expectancy. Despite this good news, cancer treatments take an enormous toll: in just a year of treatment, the body can age a decade. Between the inherent weight gain, muscle atrophy and premature bone loss, women are left weak and physically challenged even by normal day-to-day activities.

Pilates is a gentle restorative exercise regimen perfectly suited for women as they recover and work to rebuild their bodies. (The benefits also extend to the very small minority of breast cancer patients who are men.) Many people considered Joseph Pilates a master of rehabilitation during his lifetime. His approach emphasized precision and control. Combine those qualities with current exercise science and you have a recipe for success.

For a cancer survivor who is re-building her foundation of physical strength—flexibility, endurance and self-esteem are priorities. Once the client’s medical team has given the okay to begin a gentle exercise program, the process begins.

Phase One
In the first session, be sure to review the client’s overall health history as well as the types of treatments and surgeries she may have undergone. This information is instrumental in developing an effective and safe Pilates program. Remember that you are not here to diagnose, but to help with her rehabilitation. Therefore, it is imperative that you prepare by gathering all of the facts before beginning.

Keep in mind that the usual stages for tissue healing and exercise progression for a client who has had cancer differs greatly from a client who has an acute or chronic injury. Symptoms like muscle tightness and joint stiffness are present in both instances. However, while the symptomology may appear similar, you cannot treat a mastectomy or a lumpectomy like you do a rotator cuff or joint injury. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation coupled with surgery greatly affect the time it takes to heal and fully recover. Also keep in mind there are ongoing side effects this client may experience that are unlike those an injured client might have.

The phase one exercises focus on developing the clients’ kinesthetic awareness and teach very basic biomechanical movement principles. These principles are foundational and can be part of the client’s daily exercise regimen forever.

In this first of three installments we will cover three principles:

  1. Breathing
  2. Pelvic Rocking – Imprint and Release
  3. Scapula Protraction and Retraction

1. Breathing Flexed Forward
Benefits: 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—all important for restoring posture and functional strength.

STOTT PILATES®  photography © Merrithew Corporation.  <image missing>

Start Position: Seated with knees bent, pelvis vertical, spine neutral, arms resting long by sides.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:
Inhale to prepare, exhale, initiate from the top of the head and articulate the spine into forward flexion (position shown in photo). Maintain a vertical upright pelvis, relax arms over shins, inhale through the nose and expand the entire rib cage. Exhale through the mouth, allowing the ribs cage to soften.

Complete three to five full breaths while flexed forward. On the last exhale, initiate from the tail and articulate the spine, rolling up to the start position.

Beneficial Cues:
• On the inhalation, allow the ribs to expand like an accordion.
• On the exhalation, feel a gentle wrapping sensation around the torso.
• Focus on full breath patterns and relax; get centered.

2. Pelvic Rocking – Imprint and Release
Benefits: This move helps mobilize the lumbar spine and strengthen the abdominals, especially the obliques, which are essential in the case of TRAM flap surgeries where the rectus abdominus is used for breast reconstruction.

STOTT PILATES®  photography © Merrithew Corporation. <image missing>

Start Position: Supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart, arms long by sides (place pillow under arm of affected side). Note: photo shows arms in the air so that the reader can see the neutral shape of the spine, but the arms should be kept long by sides, supported with props if necessary on the affected side).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:
Inhale to prepare, exhale, contract the abdominals and imprint spine toward the mat. Inhale to release back to neutral.

Beneficial Cues:
• Gently rock the hips toward the ribs.
• Visualize a fossil imprint of your spine in sand; avoid pressing the lower back into the mat.

STOTT PILATES®  photography © Merrithew Corporation. <image missing>

3. Scapula Protraction and Retraction
Benefits: This exercise focuses on scapulohumeral rhythm, which is often compromised with breast cancer surgeries. Strengthens the middle and lower fibers of the trapezius, the serratus anterior and the rhomboids, which are all are extremely important for shoulder girdle mobilization and dynamic stability.

Start Position: Supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart. Arms are long to ceiling (may have to do one arm at a time and use the strong arm to help hold the affected arm up). Note: photo shows exercise seated upright so reader can see the scapula movement. However, this exercise should be performed on the mat in the supine position with the arms straight over the chest reaching toward the ceiling. See photo #2 for reference.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:
Protract: Inhale to protract the scapula, reaching arms toward the ceiling, exhale to come back to neutral. Repeat 3-5 times.
Retract: Inhale to retract the scapula, bring them closer to the spine; exhale go back to neutral. Repeat 3-5 times.

Beneficial Cues:
• Feel the gliding of the shoulder blades along the ribs. They glide toward the spine and away.
• Visualize holding a roll of paper towels in your hands so that arms don’t go wider or narrower.
• Minimize the range of motion and pay attention that movement occurs just with the shoulder blades and not the spine.

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

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

Reference
American Cancer Society. 2007. Breast cancer facts & figures 2007-2008. http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/BCFF-Final.pdf; retrieved Feb. 14, 2008.

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.

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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