Pilates practice tools aid in building strength and flexibility.
Props are nothing new to Pilates students. In fact, it is said that Joseph Pilates created the Magic Circle (or Pilates Ring) from the steel ring that encircled a cognac keg… talk about creativity and resourcefulness! Today, we have many options to challenge or modify any Pilates practice, such as the Theraband, Physio-Ball, and foam roller. These small tools are great at-home options when you can’t get to a reformer class but still want to create internal resistance to help strengthen, stabilize, and stretch your entire body.
One of my favorite props to use is an inflatable ball. I love the Yoga Tune Up® Coregeous ball because of its extra grippy and pliable texture. While the Coregeous ball was designed for abdominal massage, it can also enrich your workout by helping you better propriocept your powerhouse (bring your attention to the core of your body). If you don’t have a Coregeous® ball handy, a Spri Ball, Pilates Overball, or mid-size inflatable ball will do. Be sure to only fill it to 80% of its capacity to better test your stability and balance.
Here are two exercises you can try utilizing this prop:
A classic exercise part of the Pilates Series of 5. Use the ball to kick it up a notch and allow for some much-needed hip extension work too. Lay on your back and place a mid-size inflatable ball underneath your sacrum and reach your legs up towards the ceiling. Hold on to the side of your mat, simultaneously pressing your arms into the mat while attempting to pull it apart (but not really doing it, just engaging your muscles). Without allowing your ribs to flare up towards the ceiling, inhale and lower one leg down towards the floor. Exhale and scissor switch the legs. Alternate this rhythm and imagine that each time you lower your leg, you are scraping gum off your heel to engage the hamstrings and gluteals. Imagine that you are kicking a soccer ball to flex the hip and bring the leg up without flexing the back. Try this for 10 times on each leg. When you are done, allow yourself to rest in a supported pelvic bridge on the ball. To modify, keep one foot on the ground and work the opposite leg before switching.
Finish your workout by creating suppleness in your abdominals with massage. Place the ball directly under your navel while laying face down and breathe into your abdomen. As you inhale, your abdomen will bulge into the ball. As you exhale, your abdomen will passively hollow as the ball burrows into your belly. Slowly begin to move your body left and right to target your rectus abdominis and the obliques. Continue for three to five minutes. Enjoy feeling the effects of a strong and supple center.
Props are an excellent way to scale the difficulty and novelty of an exercise. I encourage you to get creative and think outside the box(or boxasana) to challenge your students and yourself in new ways with props you know and love.
Nicole Quibodeaux is a Pilates, Yoga, and Integrated Yoga Tune Up® Teacher who teaches throughout Orange County. Visit movementreform.com to learn more about her and her schedule.