Fitness and Sport

Pilates: Building to Downward Dog

By Denise Vidal

So far in our Pilates blogs we have built a solid foundation of exercises by exploring fundamental joint movements in relationship to our breath and core support. In this blog, we will attempt to apply what we have learned to a more challenging movement called downward dog.

Downward dog is a movement that is a part of the yoga repertoire, but versions of it are also done in Pilates. In Pilates, the mechanics of downward dog are involved in the exercises “Knee Stretch” and “Upstretch.” In both methods, the exercise is a full body movement that requires a flow of communication between the upper and lower limbs through the torso. In our last few blogs we have been working on movements that support this interaction. In this blog, we will begin to put them together to create the full movement.

To begin, come into a table top position; that is, on your hands and knees with your head in line with your tailbone. Take a deep inhale, feeling your ribcage expand under your shoulder girdle. As you exhale, feel the abdominals float up toward your spine, without changing your spinal position. Remember the pregnant cat cue?

On your next exhale, maintain the connection of your shoulder blades and ribcage as you begin to sit back towards your heels. As you sit back, two things are happening. The shoulder blades are beginning to widen, just as they did in the last blog. Remember lifting the dowel up to the level of your forehead? Your hands should be in a similar position on the floor. The second thing that is happening is your sitz bones are widening and your thighs are rolling back in your hip joint. Remember our Pilates footwork?

Continue to shift forward and back until you can feel both movements, while connecting to your core. Remember to inhale in the table top position and exhale in the kneeling squat position. Practice this a few times a day.

If you are experiencing any wrist or knee pain do not continue with the exercise. Check with your doctor or physical therapist before proceeding. In the next blog we will attempt to take our knees off of the floor.

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