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24 gifts – day 15: How to prepare for 4-point-kneeling exercises

15 Dec 2020

Hands release

How to prepare your hands for 4-point-kneeling

When I think back to my early pilates days, I could barely be in 4-point-kneeling for a few repetitions. Needless to say, I wasn’t very fond of that position – to put it mildly. I see something similar happen with clients. How do your clients feel about 4-point-kneeling? Most of the time they like the exercises but they find it hard to be weight-bearing on their hands. Do yours also complain about pain in their wrists? The thing about being in 4-point-kneeling is that in order to improve weight-bearing on the hands, you have to, well, practice weight-bearing on your hands ;o). What we practice we usually get better at. There are all sorts of work arounds to relieve the compression in the wrist which I am sure you have tried, such as standing on the knuckles or lifting the ball of the hand higher up compared to your fingers. These measures do work. What I found is that we can give the hands some extra help by giving them some proprioceptive input. This way we can ensure a much better connection up through the arm and into serratus anterior and thus we have a better chance to work with shoulder stability and weight-bearing. So let’s try this today.    

What is the exercise about?

  • Prepare the hands, wrists, arms and shoulder girdle for exercises in 4-point-kneeling.
  • We also get some release of the hands and lower arm.
 

What do I like about it?

  • I like the release aspect of the hands and lower arm. We always think of releasing the shoulders but maybe sometimes forget that shoulder release can also be achieved by releasing tension in your hands.
  • This exercise also improves your grip for holding, pushing or pulling. So if you work with weights or bands, this can be a really good prep as well.
  • You sit in a deep hip flexion, especially when you try to roll your lower arm.
  • You also shift your thorax from side to side which means that your are indirecting mobilising it.
  • This exercise is also great if you have worked for too long in front of the computer.
 

What prop do you need?

A small ball – I personally like a small softer spiky ball.  

Where to place the prop

  • First under the palm of your hand
  • Then under your lower arm
 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 3:12 minutes   Read more

24 gifts – day 14: Find your salsa hips

14 Dec 2020

Hip joint mobility

How to mobilise your hip joints in a standing exercise

Let’s explore full range in the hip joints with an embodiment from The Franklin Method

The one thing I really like about The Franklin Method is the focus on moving the body in the way it is designed to move and finding dynamic movements. And this involves exploring the range in the joints.

And this is what we will do today: Swing the pelvis in large figure 8-motions and explore the range of the hip joints. I will add some shoulder movement, too.

This is certainly something we never do in a pilates environment where everything is much more about stabilisation and being in neutral. Don’t get me wrong, I think this approach definitely has its place.

However, your body is very seldom stable and in neutral. Therefore, I think it is important to bring these kind of movements into a pilates environment.

Let’s explore my go-to exercise when I need to step away from the computer and allow my body to move freely. Maybe put on some music while you do it.

This movement is part of a movement sequence called the “Pelvis Dance”, so think about dancing when finding your salsa hips.

 

What is the exercise about?

  • Mobilising the hip joints.
  • Allow the pelvis to move more freely in its different ranges.

 

What do I like about it?

  • The free and flowing movement.
  • It becomes a full body exercise – the figure 8-movement of the pelvis ripples downwards to your legs and feet and up through your thoraco-lumbar fascia and towards the shoulder girdle
  • By allowing all this movement to happen we activate our myofascial system dynamically so it can bring some release in the thoraco-lumbar fascia.
  • You can easily add the shoulders – or you can just move the pelvis.
  • The exercise can easily be integrated into a pilates environment to add some more full body movement.

 

What prop do you need?

None.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

  • The Franklin Method – pelvis, spine and shoulders

In this workshop I combine 3 short Franklin Method workshops

  • “Pelvic power”
  • “Imagery for a healthy, strong & youthful spine”
  • “Release your neck & liberate your shoulders”

to a full-day workshop. We go through the bone rhythms of the 3 body areas and explore them by using a variety of dynamic imagery.

You already had a taster of “Release your neck & liberate your shoulders”. You will get another short taster of an embodiment from the spine in a couple of days which is even “wilder” than the one today ;o).

If you are curious about The Franklin Method, take a look at their website or mine.

 

You might also be interested to know that The Franklin Method Teacher Training Level 1 will run in October 2021 in Denmark. You can read more about the first module here.

And here is the video …

Video length: 2:51 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 13: Have you ever experienced the effects of lung sponging?

13 Dec 2020

Lung sponging

Have you ever experienced the effects of lung sponging?

My guess is, probably not, unless you have attended a Franklin Method breathing workshop.

Let me explain.

Sponging

In the Franklin Method, we use the metaphor of a sponge when we massage our myofascia. We use dynamic imagery when we imagining that we squeeze the water/fluid in the myofascia out and when unsqueezing, new water/fluid can flow into the myofascia and hydrate the area. This way we can achieve to relax the myofascia in this area and improve e.g. flexibility.

Lung sponging

When you place your hand on top of your upper trapezius and if you could take away all layers of skin, fascia and muscles, your would find the upper tip of you lung right there under your hand.

So Lung Sponging simply means that you imaging that instead of sponging the myofascia, you sponge the upper tip of your lung.

We will add some movement of the shoulder and the head to increase the effect.

 

Let’s have a go with that.

 

What is the exercise about?

  • This exercise is about releasing tension in the shoulder girdle and neck.
  • It is calming because your focus on breathing and you slow down.

 

What do I like about it?

  • It makes you slow down and focus inwards.
  • You can improve flexibility in your neck and shoulders.
  • You can do it anywhere.
  • It is a simple release technique which doesn’t require any other tool than your hands.
  • You have a proprioceptive aspect because you use your hands. This stimulates the communication between the brain and body and there is therefore more clarity about where the movement happens.
  • You have the release aspect because you are massaging your myofascial system. The warm hands add another dimension – that of adding “heat” to release tension.
  • Breathing feels easier.
  • Because it is a slow movement your have time to notice the shoulder lift and lateral flexion of the neck and compare sides.
  • Movement and massage have a doubling effect.

 

What prop do you need?

The best prop of them all – your hands … ;o)

 

Where to place the prop

On your upper trapezius.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

  • The Franklin Method – Breathing

I taught this workshop as part of the training programme “Åndedrætsterapeut” in Skolen for åndedræt in Denmark.

If you are curious about The Franklin Method, take a look at their website or mine.

You might also be interested to know that The Franklin Method Educator Training Level 1 will run in October 2021 in Denmark. You can read more about the first module here.

 

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 5:13 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 12: Wake up your feet with a foot quicky

12 Dec 2020

Wake up your feet

Wake up your feet

Do you like exercises for the feet?

I do for sure. Maybe it is because I had such problems with my feet. I usually bring quite a lot of exercises for the feet into my classes. Today’s exercise for example.

Any exercise for the foot is good time spent, in my book. And any exercise for the feet will wake them up which is important because

  • they are the ones with the immediate contact to the surface we are standing on,
  • they carry our weight
  • and they move us around all day long.

I find that the foam roller is an excellent tool for waking the feet up. And we do so today by plantar- and dorsiflexing our foot wrapping it around the foam roller and also trying to flex and extend our toes. It will make sense once you watch the video.

 

 

What is the exercise about?

  • Mainly it is about improving how you are standing on your feet – your balance and proprioception.
  • You also strengthen the small intrinsic muscles between the metatarsals and toes because you wrap your foot around the foam roller.

 

What do I like about it?

  • What I find interesting about this exercise is how balance is not improved by standing on 1 leg for an extensive amount of time but because proprioception is stimulated via the sole of the foot of the other leg.
  • It is a simple exercise which has a big effect on your feet, mainly in balance I find.
  • It is a great way to enhance any standing exercises you might be doing because you will stand better.
  • It is an easy way to strengthen the small intrinsic muscles in your foot.
  • At the same time you are activating the muscles in the lower leg which support your arches.
  • You are also mobilising your ankle joint and by wrapping your foot around the foam roller your plantar- and dorsiflexion gets direction
  • If we take the standing leg: I like this exercise because there is the element of stability of the standing leg and the strengthening aspect of gluteus medium and minimus in standing while the other leg is all about moving and focusing on the foot.
  • Because we are activate the sole of the feet, you might feel the effect in the whole backline of your body. Try a Roll Down after this exercise and you might feel how much easier and smoother the movement is.

 

What prop do you need?

A foam roller.

 

Where to place the prop

Under 1 foot.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

 

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 4:05 minutes

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24 gifts – day 11: Release tension around the scapula

11 Dec 2020

Scapula release

Release tension around your scapula – 1 arm at a time

Free movement of the scapula is crucial for good shoulder and arm movement.

However, if we could ask the scapula how it was moving today, it might say: “Stiffly” or “Movement? What is that?”.

Also if you ask clients what they would like to focus on, it is often either shoulders or the lower back because these areas are notorious for feeling stiff.

So, today let’s free up those shoulder blades with some simple arm movements and 1 ball.

 

 

 

What is the exercise about?

  • This exercise is about releasing tension in the around the shoulder blade to allow for movement in the shoulder girdle.
  • You might also find that this exercise releases neck tension or lower back tension.
  • We add some proprioceptive input by lying on a ball.

 

What do I like about it?

  • You massage the myofascia while moving the shoulder blades.
  • You use 1 arm at a time, so you can clearly feel the difference after having done the first side.
  • You can use any arm movements you like.
  • Because you use 1 arm at a time, you will notice differences in the side much easier.
  • You can easily integrate leg movements to connect the legs to the arm or make the exercise more complex
  • You have a proprioceptive aspect because you use a ball. This stimulates the communication between the brain and body and there is therefore more clarity about where the movement happens.
  • You have the release aspect because you are massaging your myofascial system.

 

What prop do you need?

1 orange Franklin Method ball – or a ball of similar size and texture. The ball could actually be smaller but should still be squooshy.

 

Where to place the prop

Between the shoulder blade and your spine but the ball will mainly be under your shoulder blade.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

A Corona-friendly Friday bar in a pilates studio where we focused on the neck and the shoulders.

 

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 5:00 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 10: Is this the best neck release exercise ever?

10 Dec 2020

Is this one of the best neck release exercises ever?

Neck release

 

Sometimes the simple exercises are the best, I think.

A few weeks ago, I taught some of the modules on Body Control Pilates Teacher Training where we cover a large array of exercises which give you a strong foundation to teach from.

Two of the exercises are called “Chin tuck” and “Neck roll”. Normally, they are done without a prop, but I have added one – the redondo ball – to facilitate the head movement.

 

What is the exercise about?

  • This exercise allows the muscles in the neck and throat to rest for a moment.
  • It also releases tension in the neck because of the small and slow movements.
  • We alternate between activating and lengthening the small sub-occipitals.

 

What do I like about it?

  • By placing your head on the ball you raise it off the floor which allow a smoother roll and nod.
  • These are 2 small and fundamental movements which can create awareness of how to move your head.
  • Because the movements are small and slow it and focus is on awareness they can make a big difference.
  • It is very calming because your movements are small and the attention is directed more inwards.
  • It is a perfect exercise to slow down a class if you want a more relaxing class.
  • At the same time it is a perfect exercise to teach good head movement as a preparation for e.g. curl ups.

 

What prop do you need?

A redondo ball without with just enough air in it, so you head is lifted off the floor and neutral.

 

Where to place the prop

The back of your head (under the curved part of your skull) – your head should feels as if it is floating.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

Body Control Pilates Teacher Trainer Programme.

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 4:07 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 9: Twist and stretch

09 Dec 2020

Hamstring stretch and twist

Hamstring stretch and twist

Bring out your foam roller: We will need it for another one of those “double duty exercises” or get 2 for 1, maybe even get 3 for 1 ;o).

The exercise can do “double duty” in at least 2 ways:

  • Tempo
  • Focus area

Tempo

  • Perform the exercise slowly and with control (that is how I start out in the video)
  • Perform the exercise in a more flowing and dynamic way – you are still in control (that is how I do it mainly in the video).

Focus area

  • Hamstrings – you can achieve a dynamic stretch in your hamstrings
  • Ribbasket – release tension in the myofascia
  • Rotation – Mobilisation of the spine

 

While most people who have tried this exercise agree on that it is lovely afterwards, many don’t enjoy it while it lasts ;o). And that is simply because they hold a lot of tension and are very sensitive on the side of the upper thorax. Or as one client once said: “It isn’t as painful as it used to be” … ;o).

 

What to do about it

  • Well … do the exercise regularly ;o).
  • Use a rolled up blanket instead of the foam roller (that is actually a wonderful alternative in its own right).

 

NB: A small note of caution for this exercise: If you or your clients are suffering from osteoporosis, this is not an exercise I would recommend because you are lying on your ribs with a lot of body weight.

 

What is the exercise about?

  • Firstly, you release tension in the upper thorax by rolling across your myofascia on the foam roller.
  • You are stretching your hamstrings dynamically.
  • We add some proprioceptive input to the side of our ribbasket and mobilise it.

 

What do I like about it?

  • I am a big fan of dynamic stretching in general.
  • And I am also a big fan of dynamic exercises.
  • You can choose to make it a slow & controlled movement or a dynamic & controlled movement
  • You can do the exercise without the foam roller.
  • Since you release myofascial tension around the ribbasket you improve shoulder flexibility and ease your breath.
  • It is fun to swing your leg and rotate.

 

What prop do you need?

The foam roller

 

Where to place the prop

On the side of your ribbasket

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 3:07 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 8: In how many ways can you guide a side-lying lift & lower?

08 Dec 2020

Have you ever considered in which way you guide an exercise?

Side-lying lift & lower

 

A few days ago, I shared one of my favourite topics to explore and play around with and that is in how many ways you can guide an exercise. We looked at the topic using spine curl/bridging as an example.

Today, we will look at another very commonly used exercise “side-lying lift & lower” as it is known in Body Control Pilates.

We will explore different perspectives from which you can cue/guide/perform this exercise.

 

What is the exercise about?

  • Mainly, I would say that the exercise is about anchoring the head of the femur into the acetabulum.
  • There is definitely a strengthening aspect of gluteus medius & minimus.
  • We also get an active involvement of quadratus lumborum since I will change the perspective of where to guide the movement from.

So in today’s video, I have chosen 3 focus areas or perspectives:

  • The greater throchanter (anchoring the head of the femur into the acetabulum)
  • Gluteus medius & minimus (to simplify I usually call these two the side glutes)
  • The pelvis & 12th rib (normally we don’t want to move the pelvis but here we actively move it)

I will guide the exercise in different ways using mainly anatomical imagery from The Franklin Method’s dynamic imagery types. But there will probably also be a happy mix of the other types of imagery.

 

What do I like about it?

To start with the exercise as such:

  • I find the side-lying position to be very supportive and a good starting point to strengthen the “side glutes”. But I prefer to do them in standing which opens up a whole array of other wonderful guiding opportunities ;o).
  • The clients can easily correct themselves because they can have their hand on the pelvis/thigh and thus add some proprioceptive input.
  • I like the active hip hike to consciously activate our hip-hiker quadratus lumborum.

 

Looking at the concept behind it:

  • Depending on the perspective the exercise feels different. Sometimes you can physically see the difference, other times it is just an internal feeling.
  • Using different types of imagery gives yourself or your client more options. I am sure you have all experienced that the clients try to lift the leg very high up and therefore move their pelvis. By allowing the movement it becomes much clearer what the difference to not moving the pelvis is.
  • It gives you tools to create variations on well-known themes to keep your brain and that of your clients alert. This way you can make an exercise you or your clients have done a million times seem fresh and new again.

 

What prop do you need?

None.

 

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

 

This is a workshop in which I combine pilates with The Franklin Method. This means I am bringing the idea of dynamic imagery from The Franklin Method into a pilates environment.

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 6:45 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 7: How an exercise about releasing the upper thorax can become an abdominal exercise also

07 Dec 2020

Release upper thorax

How an exercise about releasing the upper thorax can become an abdominal exercise also

Do you have exercises which on the surface look straightforward, and then when you do the exercise you discover a wonderful side effect?

For me, today’s exercise is such an exercise. Secretly, I call  it “the sneaky curl-up”. It starts out nicely with some release in the upper thorax on 2 Franklin Balls (or similar balls) and when you are done you wonder how the abs all of a sudden got so involved.

It has to do with where you place the balls on your scapula – the inferior angle.

 

What is the exercise about?

  • This exercise is about releasing tension in the upper thorax and mobilising the ribbasket.
  • You might also find that it releases tension in the lower back.
  • You activate the abdominals in a way you didn’t quite expect you would.

 

What do I like about it?

  • I like small series where you start with one movement direction, then you add another one and then you combine them.
  • To me it is a nice and flowing exercise where you flow from one movement direction to the next.
  • You have the release aspect because you use the balls to massage your myofascia in your upper thorax.
  • You increase proprioception in your upper thorax.
  • You have built in – or as I like to call it: You get for free – some abdominal activation.
  • The exercise can easily be transformed into a more abdominal work in a curled up position. Or if you have advanced clients you can challenge rectus abdominis even further by not curling up and instead stay in a more back bend position (it will make sense once you see the exercise, though I will not show this advanced version).

 

What prop do you need?

2 orange Franklin Balls – or some other balls similar in size and texture.

 

Where to place the prop

Around the inferior angle of your scapula.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

  • English title: “Achieving efficient movement – how to combine pilates with myofascial release”
  • Danish title “Pilates and Fascia – sådan kombinerer du pilatesøvelser med fascia release”

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 3:53 minutes

 

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24 gifts – day 6: Release your sternum and breath easier

06 Dec 2020

Release your sternum

Release your sternum for an easier breath

Slow down on a Sunday with another embodiment from The Franklin Method

Normally, we don’t pay a lot of attention to our sternum when we think about how to mobilise the ribbasket to breath easier. So let’s try to release some tension around the sternum and discover if this has an effect on thoracic mobility and thus our breath.

As it is The Franklin Method I am adding some dynamic imagery. So throughout this sequence I have an image of my sternum, rib cartilage and ribs being made of soft & pliable wicker. This is why I call it ribbasket and not ribcage. To me the basket is made of wicker which has give, a cage is made of metal which hasn’t any give.

I am also imagening moving in the joints between the sternum and the rib cartilage, as if flexion and extension of my thorac could happen from there (it’s imagery ;o) – we can imaging anything we want and by this increase the movement experience).

 

What is the exercise about?

  • This exercise is about releasing tension around the sternum to increase thoracic mobility and thus facilitate breath.
  • Slowing down.
  • Notice your breath.
  • We add proprioceptive input by gently brushing the sternum and partly the rib cartilage and ribs.
  • We also use our fingers to “coax” the joint between the sternum and rib cartilage into “flexion and extension”.

 

What do I like about it?

  • It is a very calming and distressing sequence because it is slow, focusses on the breath and therefore stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • It is very useful for adding awareness to the breath.
  • In addition to that it also creates awareness the body’s natural breathing patterns when you flex and extend your thorac.
  • The proprioceptive elements stimulate the communication between the brain and body and there is therefore more clarity about where the movement happens.
  • You have the release aspect because you are brushing your myofascial system. The warm hands add another dimension – that of adding “heat” to release tension.
  • The exercise can easily be integrated into a pilates environment or any other training programme where you want to focus on breath or distressing.
  • This was a key exercise for my to increase my ability to flex my spine in the thoracic area and thus create release in my upper back. My kyphotic curve was non-existent, now at least it is small – hopefully not so small that you cannot see what I am trying to do ;o).

 

What prop do you need?

The best prop of them all – your hands … ;o)

 

Where to place the prop

  • On the sternum
  • On the joints between the sternum and the rib cartilage.

 

Which course/workshop is the exercise from?

  • The Franklin Method – Breathing

I taught this workshop as part of the training programme “Åndedrætsterapeut” in Skolen for åndedræt in Denmark.

If you are curious about The Franklin Method, take a look at their website or mine.

You might also be interested to know that The Franklin Method Teacher Training Level 1 will run in October 2021 in Denmark. You can read more about the first module here.

 

And here is the video …

Video length: 5:16 minutes

 

Read more