rocker with open legs

Welcome to Day 9 of March MATness. This month, I’m joining Pilates enthusiasts around the world in celebrating Joe Pilates’ mat exercises as he discussed them in his groundbreaking book “Return to Life through Contrology.” Day 9 is….Rocker with Open Legs (aka: Open Leg Rocker.)

This one is a sister exercise to: The Roll Over, Rolling Back and The Spine Stretch.

The Basics:

  • While seated upright, grab your ankles and lift your legs up to nose height. Can’t extend your legs all the way if you grab the ankles? Then, grab something more reasonable, like your calves
  • Separate your legs and balance on your sit bones. (They have a really cool anatomical name: ischial tuberosities.)
  • Rock back onto your shoulder blades and then return to your start position.

Pilates Magic Happening here:

  • 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.
  • Control Freak: when you rock back, try to stop for 1 beat on the shoulder blades and 1 beat on the sit bones. Why? To prove that you have control! There is no “momentum muscle.”
  • Distributed Scoop: see how the arch of my back is evenly distributed in the second photo? There are no “jagged edges” where one point of my spine is super-bent. This is happening because I’m scooping up all along my abdominal wall, not just in one spot.
  • 2-way reach: it’s tough to figure out where it is in this exercise, right? Look at photo #1 — my legs are pressing away from my belly and my belly is scooping away from my legs. I’m continuing this 2-way reach as I roll back. Try it and you’ll feel more muscles joining the party.

Teaching Tips:

  • Are your clients getting stuck in ‘flat spots’ along their spine?  Unless they’ve got fused joints, this can be smoothed out with work. Encourage them to scoop the entire abdominal wall, particularly on the opposite side from a flat spot.
  • Is there a ‘flat spot’ at the bottom tips of the shoulder blades or in the upper back? Take a peek at their upright posture — this is common in clients who have a bit of ‘forward head posture.’ That means it’s time to call the posture police — computer work and driving position are common causes.
  • Look for over-exuberant chin tucking — particularly in forward head posture clients. I like to see the curve of the neck follow the curve of the rest of the spine. My chin isn’t literally touching my chest.
  • Optional Add-on: sometimes, toys can tease muscles into bringing a little extra to the party. Try adding a magic circle or squishy ball between the knees or feet. Squeeze it, and you’ll kick in the Power Leg concept. (It’s never just about your legs — the Power Leg is the gateway to the lower abs!)
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