Pilates on the Go: Side Kick Series
|The Roll-Up||Single Leg
|Crisscross||Side Kick Series|
As I watch my children run, play sports, dance, or simply roll around on the floor, it amazes me how much grace, fluidity and flexibility they naturally have — that they are able to maneuver their way in and out of so many postures as they run around a soccer field, ski down hills, dance to their favorite music… all without prolonged aches and pains. Many of us were also like that as children and maybe still are. As we get older and less mobile due to lifestyle changes, some of us may notice less agility and flexibility of joints and muscles. Don’t throw in the towel and go with the most accessible excuse, “I’m just getting old.” There’s still hope — you can gain flexibility and mobility back in your joints and muscles at any age, and the Side Kick Series is a great way to get started. The Side Kick Series increases mobility and strength in the hip joint, and works your inner and outer thighs.
Let’s get started by finding the correct body alignment…
- Place yourself at the back edge of your mat, with your elbow, shoulder, mid back, and buttock aligned with the back edge of your mat.The phot
- The photos above show three options for head and neck alignment: 1) Basic – Place your bottom hand cupped at the base of the cranium (head) and press your forward hand into the mat, in front of the chest (fingers and thumb together and aligned with the wrist and forearm); 2) Modified – For neck and/or arm fatigue, modify by extending your arm or place a folded towel between the head and arm for more support and comfort; 3) Advanced – Place the top hand behind the head, extending the elbow towards the ceiling, while equally pressing the bottom elbow into the mat.
- Press the crown of your head away from the neck and shoulders, maintaining length in the neck and torso throughout the series.
- Place your feet in the Pilates stance, with the heels together, and a slight turnout from the hip and thigh. This will help you work deeper in the hip and buttocks and release the quadricep muscles from doing all the work.
- With your feet in the Pilates stance, engage your core (powerhouse), and lift the legs, placing the feet at the front corner of your mat (they will be at a 45 degree angle in front of your body.
- Lift the top leg so that it is extended at hip height when you start and finish each leg movement.
- Start with small movements and gradually work to increase your range of motion. If you are rocking or shifting in the hips or torso, you will lose the integrity of the movement.
- Use your powerhouse to keep the torso stable.
- Keep pressing into the bottom hip and arm to prevent rocking back and forth as you move the leg.
- Continue to lengthen out of the crown of the head and opposite direction out the feet, to prevent sinking into the neck and shoulders.
- If your hip clicks or pops during the series, squeeze the buttocks for control and keep the leg turned out from the hip socket.
- If the initial position hurts the neck or the neck becomes fatigued, place a rolled-up towel between your neck and the bottom arm, and extend the arm long on the mat.
- Imagine you are balancing a cup of coffee/tea on your shoulder throughout the entire series (preventing it from spilling), trying not to shift in the torso and shoulders.
EXERCISE 1: FRONT/BACK
- Place yourself in the correct Side Kick alignment as noted above.
- Lift the top leg to hip height, and slightly turn out from the hip socket to release the quadricep muscle from doing all of the work.
- As you inhale, draw the navel deeply to the spine, and swing the leg out in front, with a double kick. Stretch the leg as far forward as it will go, without breaking in the waist or shifting in the torso.
- Exhale the air from the lungs as you swing the leg long and to the back corner, maintaining hip height with the leg. Reach for the back corner of the room, without breaking in the lower back (remember to breath; inhale leg forward, exhale leg back).
- Repeat the movement front and back ten times, then bring the legs back together to prepare for the Up/Down Kicks.
EXERCISE 2: UP/DOWN
- Remaining in the side kick position, turn the top leg out slightly from the hip socket to release the quadricep muscle.
- As you inhale, lengthen the leg from the hip socket, kicking it gradually and gracefully up to the ceiling.
- As you exhale, lengthen the leg from the hip socket, slowly (resisting gravity) on the way down. Stopping the leg at hip height.
- Use your powerhouse (core) as you move the leg up and down, and try not to focus on the leg doing all the work.
- Imagine you have a spring attached to your ankle and overhead on the ceiling. Slowly stretching the spring, and resisting the pull.
- Repeat the movement Up and Down for ten repetitions maximum. If you begin to lose precision and control of your alignment and breath, begin with less repetitions and gradually build up to ten.
- The leg may want to turn inward. Keep a slight turnout form the hip and thigh. Keep the leg straight, and only lift it to a height that enables your hips to remain stacked (hip on hip). If you hips are falling forward or back, make your kicks smaller. Keep length in the torso and neck, by pressing the crown of the head away from the hips. Imagining you are sliding a penny up and down the wall with your foot may be helpful for keeping length in the leg.
EXERCISE 3: SIDE PASSE
- Remaining in the Side Kick position, extend your top leg, long and straight, up towards the ceiling (as high as you can go keeping a slight turn out from the hip socket) without the top hip falling back. You want your hips to remain stacked (hip over hip) at all times.
- Bend from the knee and bring the foot to the inside of the opposite thigh. Slide your foot down the length of the bottom leg until it is straight and hovering at hip height. Repeat by lifting the leg up to the ceiling again…
- Repeat three to five times and then reverse the movement. Bend the knee, sliding the foot up to the inside of the thigh. Extend the leg straight to the ceiling. Lengthen the leg long,and from the hip socket, back down to meet the bottom leg (ending at hip height). Repeat three to five times.
- Maintain a long torso, leg and foot, throughout the movement.
- Keep the torso stable and remain lengthened in your waistline as you perform the exercise.
- Try not to sink in the neck, shoulders or waist as you stretch the leg up to the ceiling. Continue pressing into the bottom hip and elbow to stabilize your body position, and work from the powerhouse (core).
- Imagine the leg is resisting the pull of a spring that is attached to the foot and overhead on the ceiling.
- Find your rhythm and keep fluidity and grace in the movement.
Let your breath be your guide. Let grace of movement allow you to flow. Let love and joy fill your hearts through the holidays and into the new year.