Several years ago, I was the resident Pilates trainer at the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. People would come to see me in-between all the fabulous wine tasting, gourmet food shopping and spa treatments that Sonoma California has to offer. If I wanted guests to make time for more than one Pilates session during their vacation, they needed to have an “a-ha moment” in that first session.
Literally hundreds of guests have called and emailed me after going home, to tell me that the Pregnant Cat exercise changed their life by eliminating their ongoing low back pain. If your low back has been a source of discomfort, general crankiness or outright pain, this movement may be the answer. Pregnant Cat is also the perfect place to begin learning the Ageless Pilates System, since you’ll be activating a key Anchor Point: the Baseline.
1) Begin kneeling on all all-fours. Stack your hips directly over your knees and your shoulders directly over your wrists. Lengthen your spine and flatten your back so that you look like a solid tabletop.
2) While keeping your back flat, release all of your abdominal muscles, all of your ‘suck it in’ impulses. Let your belly hang down. The idea is to look like a pregnant cat with a belly full of kittens. Don’t let your back arch to create this shape; simply let your belly hang out.
3) Without moving your back, exhale as you scoop up the kittens. Draw your stomach up as much as you can.
Here’s the good news: if your belly moved, even just a little bit, you just used your deep abdominal muscles.
- Allow your back to stay relaxed while you’re practicing Pregnant Cat. It’s important for the back muscles to rest whenever your abdominal muscles should be doing the work. If your back muscles are in the habit of assisting all movements, trust me, they’re fatigued. Ask a fatigued muscle to perform at 100% capacity, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. This when you do something simple in life, like twist to get into your car, and find that you’ve just thrown your back out.
- In the beginning, it can be helpful to have a friend place their hand on your low back, as you perform Pregnant Cat. They can tell you whether the muscles are tensing as you Scoop Up the Kittens. Sometimes, I wiggle my fingers on those muscles and tell my clients “right here, relax this as you scoop.”
- More good news: sometimes the back tensing occurs when you try too hard. Scoop up enough to move your belly, but not so much that your back begins to tense up. Rome wasn’t built in a day — over time, you’ll be able to scoop deeper and deeper.
Many people think they ‘have no abdominal muscles.’ They often feel like they’re forever doomed to feeling uncomfortable. Forget about possibly attending a Pilates class… If you’re in this boat, I have three messages for you:
- You are not doomed
- You do not need to live with discomfort
- Pilates is exactly what you need
Do take the time to interview Pilates teachers, to find one who is compassionate and who will take the time to help you find what works for you. The ABC’s of Ageless Pilates are a fabulous tool that can help you break past any cycles of pain that you’ve been living with. Consider taking a smaller Pilates class, with no more than 10 people, or a few private sessions. You’re worth the effort to find the solution that works for you. In the meantime…
REMEMBER TO SCOOP UP THE KITTENS whenever you are:
- Getting into or out of your vehicle. This requires more adept movement patterns than you’d guess.
- Picking something up, whether it’s a child, a bag of golf clubs, or a gum wrapper.
- Exercising. Pregnant Cat will give you a strong Anchor Point at the center of your body, so that all of your other muscles get the correct message about when to exert energy.
Please shate your expertise. What’s the first exercise that you teach to new students, and why?
Leave a comment below or shoot me an email: Christine@Binnendyk.com