|We’re into Week Five of our Find Your Flow® Program so we thought we’d take a look at the Down Stretch to see if we can unpack what can be a challenging movement!
There’s a bit of ‘push-me/pull-me’ going on in this exercise – we’ll be using our lower body to send the carriage out and our upper body to pull the carriage back in.
To maintain stability throughout the movement, we need to find extension at the front of our hips (without collapsing into our lower spine). That’s why we spend time opening our hips (lots of lunges!) at the start of the program.
To perform the movement well, we need to be able to open our collar bones and use our shoulder girdle muscles to keep the arms long and stable. We want to feel that we are using our shoulders to send the bar away, rather than pushing away from the bar. That’s why we warm up with Supine Arms and Chest Lift work (see last week’s newsletter).
To bring the carriage back in we need to find length and extension through the front or our body – think of the Swan – again without collapsing into our lower back. That’s why we spend time finding that length through our Pulling Ropes work – finding extension through our thoracic spine (the mid-spine: base of neck to bottom or ribs).
Depending on how we choose to perform the movement, we’ll either be challenging our toes to find a deep curl, enabling us to push back through our heels; or we’ll be lengthening through the front of our feet and using our shins to find stability. Either way is really good for the feet and ankles – try it both ways to see what works best for you.
Once we have found the movement, we can add variation with rotations to each side. As always, we can alter the challenge by increasing or decreasing the load of the springs. (A lighter spring makes it easier to move out, but harder to bring the carriage back in and vice versa!)
What are the benefits of the Down Stretch?
As with many Pilates movements, the Down Stretch focuses on opening our hips. This is so important for all of us, to counter the effects of sitting! If our hips are tight, we tend to pull on our lower back, particularly when walking, leading to back pain.
In Down Stretch we’ll also be strengthening our core muscles – we need a strong core to support our spine and help us stay upright.
We’ll also be finding extension through our thoracic spine. This is important to help counter the effects of sitting (slouching?) over a lap-top, or using our phones, or even when relaxing reading a book! By strengthening muscles supporting our thoracic spine we’ll be able to spread the load through the length of our spine, rather than overloading the lumbar (lower) spine. This will help us stand, move and lift more efficiently and effectively.
It’s a complex move, but great when you find it and start to flow through the movement – and like everything – the more we practice, the easier it becomes!
If you’d like to experience our Down Stretch program, reserve your place below.