Today is Day 6 of March MATness 2017 — the day Pilates geeks around the world photograph and post the 6th exercise in Joe Pilates’ book A Return to Life through Contrology — the One Leg Stretch.

The Basics

  • Lie on your back.
  • Tuck your knees toward your chest and scoop your stomach inward.
  • Lift your head to look forward.
  • Grab one knee as you shoot the other leg forward. Switch out the legs.

Pilates Magic Happening Here:

  • Distributed Scoop: see how the arch of my neck is line with the arch of my upper back? I’m not snapping my neck or breaking anywhere in the upper spine. That’s because I’m pinning down the bottom tips of my shoulder blades. (I pretend that Lola is sitting on my upper abs and I’m curling up to give her a smooch.)
  • Super Hero Shoulders: to help keep tension out of my neck, I’m drawing my armpits toward my hips. Say it in your head: pits toward hips, pits toward hips.
  • Upper Arm Magic: I’m popping my elbows out to the side to get a little extra work in that zone.

Teaching Tips:

  • Are your clients rocking their torsos during this exercise? Look for head, feet or knees moving right/left and ask them to keep those body parts within their proper zone. Head stays center; knees and feet track roughly with the shoulders.
  • Got a client who cannot tuck their knee straight toward their shoulder? Try releasing their hip flexors before starting their mat routine.
  • Where to aim that reaching leg? Use the comfort of their low back as your guide. Shoot for low enough to create work, but not so low that their lumbar curve lifts & lowers.