Part 4 is all about hip mobility and core connection. Read through the exercises carefully before you try them. Before you attempt any of the following exercises warm up your body with Parts 1, 2 and 3 of stretching and Strengthening for surfing.
11. Side Leg kick
Flexibility and stretching; specifically for the hip
I’ve added an element of balance by starting you with your upper body raised up supported by your elbow, if this feels too uncomfortable, lay down on your side with a pillow under your head.
Start position: Laying on your side with your hands behind your head, thumbs forward under your ears and fingers spread out behind your neck and head. Line your back up with the back of the mat and angle your legs forward from your hips at about 45º, flex your feet at your ankle joint and curl your toes into your shins. Your bottom leg is on the floor and the top leg is floating up at hip height.
- INHALE: through your nose, push down into your bottom elbow and lengthen your top leg forwards, reaching your heel away from your bottom.
- Keep your spine long and your hips stacked 1 on top of the other
- EXHALE: through pursed lips, slide your bottom ribs together, shrink your bottom cheeks and lengthen your top leg back past your bottom leg making sure your spine is still long, your chest open and your hips stacked 1 on top of the other.
To make the exercise more intense you can do a double kick forward with 2 small sniff in breaths instead of one long inhale and one slow kick forward. You can pick up the pace with this exercise but make sure your abdominal muscles are turned on and the body stays long and open.
Do 5 to 10 kicks on 1 side then swap to the other side.
12. Imprint and Neutral
Core strength! Pure and simple, this is all about the abdominal muscles.
In Pilates, neutral and imprint are hotly debated subjects between all the different schools and methods. This is the method that I prefer, it works for me!
Neutral Pelvis: lay on your back (pillow under your head if you need it), legs lined up with your sit bones, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. The centre of the back of your head is heavy, feel your shoulder blades on the mat. Sigh your breath out and let your back ribs melt into the mat… Can you feel them on the mat?
Your lower back – the lumbar arch – should be slightly off the mat so you are able to slide a hand underneath your lumbar arch, whilst still keeping your ribs heavy on the mat. The back of the bottom should be heavy with your sacrum (the fused bit of the lower back above the tail bone and below the lumbar arch) centred and heavy on the mat.
Imagine a glass of water on the pelvis; the water in it should be level, not tipped forwards or backwards or side to side (in the photo below if I had a glass of water on my pelvis it would be half on my top and half on my trousers centred between my pelvic bones).
Neutral spine and pelvis is the most efficient and shock absorbing position for the body to work in whether you are laying, sitting or standing. If you cannot maintain neutral position because you have an injury or weakness or because of your body shape you can use imprint.
Starting position is your neutral, as explained above.
- INHALE: prepare
- EXHALE: through pursed lips, feel your tail bone curl between your legs and roll your pubic bone in towards your belly button, feel your sit bones and bottom ribs slide together as you narrow the gap between your ribs and your hips.
- INHALE: allow your tail bone to relax to the floor, release your sit bones and allow your pelvis to return to neutral.
Try 6 repetitions going into and out of imprint from neutral.
In the picture above I have my thumbs on my bottom ribs and my fingers on my pelvic bones. If it helps, you can try placing your fingers and thumbs on your bones to feel them move as you connect your muscles and go in to imprint and back to neutral.
NOTE: imprint is a posterior pelvic tilt; your bottom should be like jelly (no butt clenching!), your shoulders should be relaxed, your neck soft and your thighs relaxed. There is absolutely NO pushing involved with this exercise. It’s a feeling of gently wrapping and shrinking your abdominal muscles around you. You will feel your lower back lengthen closer to the mat, it may even touch the mat, but you are NOT trying to push the lumbar back towards the mat but rather shrink wrap your abdominal muscles and relax your back muscles.
13. Leg Lifts up to Table Top
Core connection and strengthening your abdominal muscles
Start Position: laying on your back in neutral position (as explained above) with your body centred, knees bent, feet lined up with your sit bones and pelvis in neutral. This exercise should be done in neutral pelvis (maintaining your lumbar arch) if you are strong enough to keep your connection without popping your ribs or stressing your neck and shoulders.
INHALE: through your nose, prepare.
- EXHALE: through pursed lips and gently connect your abdominal muscles by feeling your sit bones, hip bones and bottom ribs slide together – maintain neutral if you can or go into your imprint (as explained above if you cannot maintain neutral pelvis with your legs off the floor).
- INHALE: take your right leg off the floor keeping your knee flexed at 90º, float your knee over your hip and keep your toes lined up with your knees.
- EXHALE: deepen your connection by rolling your pubic bone in and sliding your bottom ribs closer together, raise your left leg off the floor and hover it in the air next to the right leg
- INHALE; lower down your right leg to its starting position
- EXHALE: lower down your left leg, maintaining your imprint
Keep going! Maintain your abdominal connection throughout this exercise. Do 10 repetitions, take a short break and then try 10 more. Finish by hugging your knees into your chest.