I felt great after my first day on the Pilates Apparatus, but man, my abs were sore! I arrived a few minutes early to my appointment to a bustling studio. There were a few other people on the reformers, cracking jokes and working hard. Everyone was in good spirits because we’re experiencing the first week of real warm weather after a grueling winter. Cathy led me directly over to the reformer, and we got started with leg presses that shifted the position of my feet to warm up. Again, I was struck by how clearly I could feel the natural articulation of my spine against the part of the reformer I was laying flat on. It helped me move with intention, and I could feel my pelvis and sacrum getting more pliable. While I was doing the leg presses, I confessed to Cathy that I felt guilty having told her last week that I wasn’t going to do any homework exercises she offered me.
“Let’s go all in this week,” I said.
We moved onto bridges, a backbend done with shoulders still on the floor and feet in table-top position, which might be my favorite exercise because it’s something I do often in my yoga practice but Cathy guided me through a vertebrae by vertebrae articulation of the spine that was really enlight
ening. I could feel my abs working harder, and got a sense of how my pelvis, feet, abs and spine might all work together once I am more integrated.
“This is definitely homework for you!” Cathy told me.
After the bridges, I did some arm butterflies using the reformer arm pullies and tried not to think about how little upper body strength I have. Then I did a really fun exercise called Eve’s lunge, which is sort of like a runner’s stretch but the back foot pushed against a part of the reformer that moved. Cathy worked me hard, because then we moved onto the Combo chair which looks like this:
And is a totally amazing tool if you’re looking to gain ankle strength and stretch out tight calf muscles. I stood with one foot on the part of the chair that you can push down, and practiced some achilles pumps which hurt so good. I knew it was just what I needed. We did a few different feet positions on this, and then moved onto to some supine stretching on the spine corrector, which looks like this:
This is where I really found my abs. I did a series of what looked like simple sit-up like movements, but the expectation was that I would lean back over the rounded part, careful to press every vertebrae against it, and then curl back up with my chin tucked and my abs deeply engaged. It was so hard I quivered, and realized, as Cathy cheered me on, that this is just the medicine I need.
We finished the session using the floor reformer to do a few side splits, while Cathy talked me through my homework: more bridges, some ankle stretches using a ledge or the stairs, and a seated side stretch with my legs in “Mermaid Position.” My childhood dreams of being like Ariel from The Little Mermaid were finally about to come true! Perhaps this isn’t true, but in all seriousness, these exercises felt like things I could manage to work into my daily routine, and I left feeling strong and optimistic about a living a life inside of a body that had more mobility and less pain. Bring on week three, I am a Pilates machine!