Cheryl Dunn teaches a Seated Spinal Series on the Pilates Reformer

My name is Cheryl Dunn and I teach at CORE Therapy and Pilates in Austin, Texas. Today we’re going to do a reformer workout teaching the basic movements in the spine which are flexion, extension, rotation, and side bending. And we’re going to do this all in a seated position.

So, I have him seated here on the reformer with no springs with the feet in the carriage. Now because his legs are a little bit longer I put him on a small moon box to elevate him a little bit so we don’t get too cramped here in the front of the thigh and the hip flexor area. So, first thing you need to find in a seated position is how to be, you need to find how to be seated in neutral. So, what we’re going to do here is I want you to just send the carriage forward and back and start to feel your sitz bones. I want you to send it forward and you’re gonna feel like you’re sitting on the back of your sitz bones and then I want you to come where you perceive that middle to be and then I want you to send the carriage back to where you’re seated on the front of your sitz bones. And then come back where you perceive that middle to be.

And I want you to think about the distance and how far it took you to get to the front and how far it took you to get to the back and I want that distance from the middle to be pretty equidistant. If you’re sending it way forward and not so far back then you want to rearrange that middle so it’s a little bit in the center there. And once you find that center position we’re going to work on elevating your spine. So, you’re gonna take an inhale and as you exhale you’re gonna lift up your pelvic floor, you’re going to engage through your transverse and I want you to lengthen your spine all the way up into my hand reaching out with the crown of your head and then exhale. Let’s try it again. Lift through the pelvic floor, engage the transverse, lengthen all the way up through my hand and you’re gonna, find that you’re finding opposition here as the sitz bones are reaching down, the crown is reaching up and we’re creating space in that spine.

And that’s going to be the foundation of our movement here is elevating the spine. So, from this neutral position in elevating the spine we’re going to move the spine into flexion and extension. In here we’re going to allow the carriage to move, we’re going to use that carriage to help us find these positions. So, let’s do that here. So, you’re going to take an inhale, as you exhale go ahead and elevate your spine and I want you to send the carriage back and you’re going to find the relationship between the head and the sacrum. So, as you’re sending it back you’re gliding the shoulders down, lifting the sternum up and we’re extending that entire spine here. And then inhale, come back into that neutral position and as you exhale you’re going to go ahead and elevate the spine, you’re going to send the carriage forward going into that flexion, curling the head and the sacrum together, inhale back to your center, finding that neutral, and exhale.

Go ahead and send the carriage back, glide the shoulders down, lift the sternum up, finding that extension through the entire spine. Inhale, come back to your center, and exhale, curl sending that carriage forward. Inhale back to your center and exhale. Go ahead and send the carriage back, thinking of that rib cage actually moving forward lifting up. Inhale, come back to your center and exhale. Here I want you to think of that rib cage actually moving back and up to hug the back of the shoulders and inhale back to your center and exhale. As you send that carriage back, those ribs are coming forward and up and together. Inhale back to your center, and last time into flexion, curling it forward, keeping that belly tight and inhale back to your center. Good, and relax here.

So, now we’re going to go into some rotation. And with rotation we’re not going to let the carriage move and we’re going to do this with a pole. You’re going to go ahead and take the pole and you’re going to place it behind your upper back and you want to have your hands reaching wide, you can let the elbows fall down just slightly so the shoulders are a little relaxed but, the palms of the hands are gently pressing into the pole. This will keep the chest open and if this is too much opening for somebody’s shoulder then you want to go ahead and do it with the arm straight, not using a pole. But, today we’re going to use the pole.

So, from here we’re going to go into rotation and we’re going to rotate to your right first. You’re going to elevate your spine, rotating and making sure that this pole stays horizontal, it’s not going to shift one way or the other. Inhale, you’re coming back to your center. Now exhale, elevate, keep that elevation as you go around, let that gaze take you around the corner. Inhale back to your center and exhale, elevate keeping the pole level making sure the carriage isn’t moving here. This is work through that bottom trunk to keep the carriage steady so it doesn’t move. And exhale, keep the spine long, don’t send the carriage away, keep it steady. And exhale, elevate and bring it around. Inhale back to your center. Last one, rotating towards your left, elevate and coming around the corner.

So, we’re going to add a little opposition here with the leg. So, I want you to go ahead and take your right leg and you’re going to place it on here on the wood and I ask this next time is we rotate to the right we’ll be pressing this leg out so, inhale for you, begin. And exhale, elevate, start to rotate to the right as you press out, opening behind the knee. As you inhale go ahead and pull that carriage in using that hamstring and let’s switch legs here. Go ahead and place that left leg up, good. Inhale before you begin, exhale, elevate. Find the opposition as you reach out through this heel, lengthen up through your spine, good. Inhale, pull it in using that hamstring and then switch the legs and exhale, elevate, press away, opening up behind the knee, getting tall through the spine and pull it back in.

Last one, go ahead and switch those legs and exhale. Belly in, lengthen, reach out through the leg as much as you’re reaching out through the head and bringing it back in. Good, go ahead and rest the legs down. I’m going to take the pole away here and go ahead and take those shoulders and circle them around, loosen them up. Let’s take them forward and back, good. And then we’re going to go into a side bending in the spine and with side bending you can also use the pole or you can just use your arms and this time we’re gonna go ahead and just use the arms.

So, the arms are out, the shoulders are nice and relaxed down the back. We’re not going to allow the carriage to move again. We’re going to keep the carriage steady. You’re going to inhale before you begin, you’re going to exhale and you’re going to elevate and we’re going to side bend over towards me and here I want you to think of opening up through that rib cage, lengthening out, good. And bring it back to your center, pulling that belly in. Now inhale before you begin, and exhale, elevate, good.

Start to side bend over by reaching up up through here, holding your inhale, opening up through those ribs, and exhale, to your center. Good, inhale before you begin and exhale. Get up nice and tall, open up through this rib, hold your inhale into my hand, good and exhale to bring it back to your center. Make sure you’re right on top of those sitz bones. Don’t allow the carriage to move and exhale. Reaching up to get over to your side, don’t compress over here. Inhale, open up this rip and exhale, back up to your center, good. Inhale and exhale, elevate, up and over, opening through the rib, and exhale back to your center. Last one, don’t let the arms get too high and exhale. Belly in, reaching up, keeping the shoulders down, and exhale back to your center, good.

Go ahead and relax your arms down, that can be really tiring on the arms, circle the shoulders, forward and back, good. And now we’re going to go into a little bit of articulating the spine, combining that flexion and extension and rotation. So, let’s start first, let’s go ahead and place your hands on the foot bar and we’re going to do a wave motion through the spine. So, here I want you to inhale and elevate your spine, and as you exhale I want you to send the carriage away and you’re extending the spine here so I want you to keep that sternum reaching out over the foot bar. Hold it here, take an inhale, and as you exhale go ahead and curl your tale bone under and feel that relationship between the head and the sacrum.

Inhale, go ahead and elevate that spine, and exhale. Send the carriage away, open up behind the knee. Really lengthen those hamstrings, reaching the chest out, holding your inhale, and now exhale, curl that tale bone. Yes, let that head fall. Inhale, sit up nice and tall, you’re right on top of the sitz bones here and as you send the carriage away I want you to lengthen out, don’t compress in the low back, really lengthen, holding down your inhale, get a little further and then exhale and hold pull that back in.

Now inhale a little, up tall, and we’re going to add the rotation. So, you’re going to take your hands and you’re going to place it on this side of the foot bar and now we’re going to into the wave from here. So, you’re going to inhale, sit up nice and tall and exhale. Send the carriage away, make sure you still have that belly tight, good. Holding down your inhale going a little longer and then exhale, curl holding it in. Inhale, sit up tall as you bringing the hands to the other side and exhale. Send the carriage away, lengthen that spine, get it really long here. Hold it there on your inhale and then exhale. Curl that tale bone, pulling it back in. Inhale, sit up tall as you bring the hands back over here and exhale. Send it away, open up behind the knee, hold it there, inhale get a little longer and then exhale. Curl that tale bone, bringing it in, sitting up tall, switching to the other side.

Last one, adding the rotation in. Exhale, send it away. Keep the chest open. Hold it there, inhale a little longer and exhale, curl, holding it in. Good, we’re going to finish it off doing it here in the center. Arms back to the center and exhale, send it away. You should get a little bit longer here. We’re opened up that spine and really got it moving and exhale, curl it in. Okay last one, inhale, sit up nice and tall, reach down through those sitz bones and exhale. Send it away, good. Hold it there, inhale longer, longer, longer and exhale, curl. Beautiful. Good and relax those arms down. And those are the basic movements through the spine. Thanks.

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Cheryl Dunn

Cheryl Dunn

Co-Owner, PMA® Certified Pilates Teacher, Certified GYROTONIC® & GYROKINESIS® Instructor, GYROTONIC® Master Trainer at CORE Therapy and Pilates
Cheryl completed her Pilates certification in 2002 then her Level 1 GYROTONIC® certification while working with Madeline Black at Studio M in Sonoma, CA.Since moving to Austin to 2004, Cheryl has become level 2 GYROTONIC® trained as well as assisted Madeline in teaching Pilates education courses from California to New Orleans. In 2009 she completed her GYROKINESIS® certification in Germany with Juliu Horvath, certifications on the specialized GYROTONIC® Archway, Leg Extension Unit, Gyrotoner and Jump Stretch Board, as well as becoming a Certified GYROTONIC® Pre-Trainer. Cheryl completed a Pilates mentor program in 2011 with Madeline Black offered by Balance Body University coined "Passing the Torch" and in the summer of 2011, Cheryl and Stephen launched a Pilates Teacher Training Program at CORE. Cheryl passed her PMA Exam and has studied the GYROTONIC® Therapeutic Application courses with German Physiotherapist Paul Horvath and Uwe Herbsreit. In 2014, Cheryl completed the requirments to become a GYROTONIC® Master Trainer and is now able to teach the GYROTONIC® Level 1 Foundation Courses as well as all updates for current certified GYROTONIC® trainers.
Cheryl Dunn

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