Tree for Pilates Reformer

A lot of the exercises I’ve been focusing on this week are especially great in promoting spinal articulation. This exercise is called Tree and it’s an intermediate level exercise. It’s important to maintain an engaged core to support your spine. I love the leg stretches at the beginning of this exercise – it feels especially yummy as a hamstring stretch.

Here’s how to do Tree:

Keeping one foot pulling taut on the strap, extend and flex your gesture leg three times.

After the third time, keep your gesture leg extended and bring both hands to meet at your ankle.

Begin to slowly walk your hands down your leg and you roll your spine down vertebrae by vertebrae.

Once you feel your sacrum level on the short box, release your head to look back – keeping your hands on your leg for support.

If you feel like you want more – extend your arms over head and grab on to the rails of your reformer to enter a full spinal extension.

Take an inhale to tuck your chin and your draw your arms back up to the gesture leg. Begin to walk your hands back up that leg as your spine peels off the box.

Once your spine is back in neutral, bend your knee and set your gesture leg down.

Here’s what that looks like all together:

This exercise is best done towards the end of a workout. Making sure your hamstrings and abs are warm and firing before putting them to the test.

Semicircle on Pilates Reformer

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I know, there have been a TON of Pilates posts lately – but that’s what’s up in my life so that’s what’s up here. This week, I have been working on form for many of the intermediate reformer exercises. This exercise is called Semicircle and I hated it when I first tried it. You have to roll your lower thoracic spine into extension and it’s a really odd sensation. People don’t normally bend back in half. This week, I went slow and controlled through the movements and I found a really satisfying spine stretch that left me feeling looser and taller after my workout.

Here’s the Semicircle for Pilates reformer:

Footbar at position 2, heels together, toes apart with toes on the footbar. Feet and legs laterally rotated. Roll your hips up to one long line with your body.

Push through your feet to engage your quads and straightened out your legs.

From here, start from the top of your spine and slowly roll down through the spine to drop into the well of the reformer.

Maintaining that spinal extension, bend your knees to pull the carriage back in to the stopper.

Tilt your pelvis to roll your hips up – articulating the spine from bottom to top. Come back to your starting position at one long line.

Now, reverse the semicircle. Starting from the top of your spine, begin to articulate back down into the well of the carriage.

From here, extend your legs out to straight to push the carriage away. Lift your hips in line with your shoulders and knees.

Bend your knees, keep your hips lifted, as you slowly return the carriage back to the stopper, maintaining that long diagonal line with your body.

Here’s what the semicircle looks like all together:

Before the Storm – Hurricane Katrina

Whether it’s good or bad, it’s got to be a party. Laissez le bon temp rouler!

The residents of this weather prone bowl were used to dire warnings. The bowl people had their own way of mitigating the damage of the usual autumn storm – whiskey smoothies and crawfish boils. It was no wonder that they took no mind of this year’s installment. Before it had even finished crossing Florida, residents here began boarding windows and accumulating provisions for the ‘Hurricane Parties’ that would be taking over the city, block by block. It was hard to tell whether the electricity in the air was atmospheric, or something emanating from the revelers below. Signs outside shops announced closers with the giddy excitement of school kids with an unexpected day off. The anticipation had not yet turned dark. Even as the clouds rolled in lower and denser and darker so did the citywide celebration crescendo to a fever pitch. It wasn’t until the storm passed that fear began to set in. It wasn’t nature we had to fear, but man himself. 

Developé for Pilates Reformer

One of my favorites things about Pilates homework is getting to do some delicious stretches. The Developé is one of my favorite Pilates exercises. It’s an intermediate level exercise because of the coordination required and the core strength necessary to keep your spine supported with one moving leg. Once you start to use the correct muscles – at the right time – you find a flow that is so satisfying. It’s a full body stretch and roll that feels like a full body yawn.

Here’s what the Developé exercise for Pilates Reformer looks like:

Start by placing your right toes on the footbar and your left leg extended out to a 45° angle – toes pointed.

As you push your right leg out to straight, bend your left leg to move through bicycle before extending the left leg straight up to the ceiling.

Straight leg to ceiling – point your toes!

Keeping both legs straight, drop your left leg down to tap the foot bar before raising that leg back up to the ceiling.

Stay here. Flex both feet – dropping your right heel under the footbar. Point both feet.

Bend your right knee to control the return of the carriage as your left knee bends to move through bicycle before extending back out to your starting position at 45°.

Here’s what that looks like all together:

What to Know

I’m teaching a free Community Pilates Reformer Class at Truve in Oakland, California every Monday morning from 9:30am-10:30am. Visit TruveFit.com to register.

Thrashing

It felt like my mind had the flu. It started with a sick feeling felt in the deepest pit of my stomach but originating from the very front of my cortex. Reasonable fear. “You should be afraid.” This was all I could hear. Over and over again.

I get quiet when I’m afraid. I can’t speak, just an insatiable desire to observe. Obsessively hoping that if I focus on this enough I can somehow will the outcome in my favor; like a sports fan holding on hope for a team that just lost the game.

In the face of defeat, fear does not have the momentum or the drive to turn into rage. Instead, fear instigates an unrelenting and unforgiving sadness. A physical depression resulting from a mental burnout. Heavy. Hurt.

The blindness of privilege. The ignorance of faith. 

Shadows

Shadows

Where do shadows hide?

In a dark room, do shadows exist at all? Do shadows care that they are stuck to the feet of these bodies, unable to break off and head which ever direction they choose? Can they see? Can they hear? For silhouettes that lack many of the elements essential for a living, breathing person they certainly are good at the details of following someone else’s movement. Are they dancing or chasing? Does it hurt to be stretched out long under the bright angle of light? Do they fear themselves or others? Are they happy? Are they ever surprised when they run into another shadow? Do they feel powerful and indestructible? Can they show us things that can’t be made out in the light? Do they experience growing pains? Are they thoughtful? Do they give of themselves? Would they if they could? I know enough to know there is not one answer to any of these questions – all shadows are different.

Memory

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“My mind is flypaper; tiny details stick and stay there forever,” she said.

I wish that was me. My mind wonders off on its own, always unsupervised, and returns with experiences and knowledge (and secrets) that stay in the background – unnoticed. My mind pays no bother when the rest of my body shuts down for the night. Instead, my mind works overtime playing out its new found experiences in my dreams. I wake aware of the scope of my imagination, but unfamiliar with its roots. My mind is so active on its own, that it has very little room for experiences that others want me to catalog. Why can’t I log memories well? Why can’t I remember my first concert or my first kiss? Why can’t I remember what happened to Granddaddy even though mom has told the story a million times? I always say “I didn’t know” and they always say “we told so.”

For all the embarrassment my mind has caused, I hold a glimmer of hope for the future. When we’re older, the mind will take center stage as the body becomes more and more fragile. For many, this can be a scary time. Perhaps, for me, it won’t be so bad. My mind is already on its own. Maybe it won’t feel so scary to not remember when I’m older. Maybe I’m keeping room open for life to happen later.

Sanctified

One line man. - street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.

The double wooden doors were heavier than I imagined. They were as thick as they were tall – a fortified barrier guarding this sacred space.

Inside the candles burned wildly; like stars lining the path to the altar. Flames dancing and twisting as the wind stirred them.

The carpet stretched long down the room, soft and forgiving against bare feet.

The garlands wrapped along the pews holding floral proof of the beauty of life.

The body more at peace here than it was before. Sanctified.

New Pilates Class + Exercises

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Pilates has been a part of my workout routine since 2009. A friend of mine invited me to take free classes at her studio, and I’ve never had more fun while working out. She was funny but firm. The workouts were hard but possible. They gave me greater body awareness and I felt it in my day-to-day life. To this day, Pilates supplements my regular cardio workouts beautifully and I feel longer and leaner. I walk taller and move with more ease.

As I finish my certification, I’m going to begin teaching a free Community Pilates Reformer Basics class on Mondays from 9:30am-10:30am at Truve! I’m excited to start programming lessons and building better strength, stabilization and mobility. Below are some examples of the kind of exercises we’ll be doing. Come take a class – it’s free!

What to Know

Truve offers a ton of amazing classes! Check out their class schedule and click the ‘Community Pilates Reformer Basics’ box to sign up for my free class on Mondays at 9:30am. Hope to see you there!

Forgiveness and Acceptance

Reflection

You often wonder if you are even capable of the forgiveness you seek.

You know you are going to have to deal with it one way or another; like a brain swollen so large it’s about to burst out of its skull. Bones fracturing. Heat rising. Intensity growing.

How do you make the swelling go down? How do you arrive back at neutral?

Asking for forgiveness means seeking it for yourself. Acknowledging the suffering you have caused. The kind of pain that’s so deeply embarrassing you feel your heart might stop. A pervasive pain – shame.

The only way to rid this fear is to expose it. Say sorry. Mean it. It won’t feel so big anymore.

Then, stop. Close your eyes. Find yourself. Got it? Can you hear your own voice and see your own face?

Say you’re sorry. Mean it.

Acceptance. Accept your own apology.

Release. Let it go. It’s okay.

You’re fallible. Just like every other thing in existence. This is what it is to experience Life.