As you can (possibly) tell by the title, during the (latter part of the) week we made it onto the Reformer during class. We’re still doing basic exercises on it, mostly working our legs, calves, ankles, arms, and of course, cores, but trust me, it is challenging!
Hopefully I’m not the only person ever who thought at first glance that the Reformer looks like a medieval torture device. I was thinking ‘Is that what they use to stretch out your limbs?’
(I love how the studio has pictures of Joseph Pilates doing incredibly hard-looking exercises on the Reformer on the walls; compared to that, what we’re doing at this point looks like a piece of cake. Mmmmm, cake… I once got this cake that was made with ice cream and coconut and it was soooo good… wish I had some right now… if the place that makes it wasn’t clear across town and it wasn’t rush hour I’d probably try to go get one… Anyway.)
During the calf leg raises and “prances” exercises Pilates Teacher pointed out that my ankles were rolling in a little bit, which I guess would be like sickle-ing on releve. She said we have some work ahead of us! However, I seem to be getting the hang of the core tightening and breathing, so it’s not all bad. We work on the Reformers in partners, kind of checking on each other’s alignment while P Teacher makes her way around the room. Working with a partner is fun; being socially awkward, I like having an excuse to talk to someone sometimes.
We did these arm exercises on the Reformer that were sort of like cable pull downs, as well as arm circles and curls. I walked out of class so incredibly sore after that!
During the first half of class we’ve still been doing mat work. P Teacher has been gradually introducing new exercises to us as well as repeating the basic exercises daily. I think by now I figured out that the last day of the week she works us out extra hard, giving us the weekend to recover. We’ve been using this thing called a Magic Circle which looks kind of like a steering wheel but with padding on two opposing sides. The Magic Circle goes between our knees (while our legs are up in the air in the “tabletop” position) and then we squeeze as we exhale to work out our adductors. Then we put it between our ankles and repeat (this is the part when audible groans of pain begin to ring through the studio) and this last time P Teacher had us lay down on our stomach and do it between the knees in this position as well. Ouchers. But my behind feels so nice and tight afterwards…
For the most part, I’ve been able to keep up in the mat work. However, we did this exercise called a “roll up” that involved laying down face up and, well, rolling up; first the head, then shoulders, then vertebra by vertebra, until (hopefully) coming up to a seated position with the back straight, all without getting any help from our legs. I wasn’t able to make it up to the seated position, only about halfway, and then I could feel my legs trying to get involved so I went back down. Oh well, I’m just a beginner – we’ll see in a bit as my core and back get stronger.
We also do stretches for our hip flexors and hamstrings, both on the mats and on the Reformer. It’s probably too soon to make this claim, but I think my flexibility has increased more already. I did read somewhere that flexibility is a combination of flexibility and strength, so if I’ve gotten stronger it would make sense that I’m more flexible, I guess. I did notice today during my home ballet practice session that my hips feel more “open”, especially my extra-tight left one.
Then there’s my shoulders. I’m still constantly monitoring them to make sure they are not forward, and if they are, I bring them back. I’ve also begun to identify triggers, like driving, that cause me to bring my shoulders forward. But my upper back/shoulder pain (which I’ve suffered pretty much continuously for years) is practically gone, which feels really awesome.
Why did I not try out Pilates sooner?!