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underSTANDing- Pilates Upright- PMA Approved course 5/23

Posted May 07 2010 5:15am


with Lesley Powell Dates: Sun   5/23/2010 Time:  9:00 AM – 4:00 PM $200
PMA Approved -Pilates Upright is a dynamic workout that incorporates the training of Pilates mat with weight bearing exercises in standing. Pilates Upright gives you a new underSTANDing of the coordination of your muscles & bones in standing, which is very different from exercising on the floor

Lower body enhancing the core.

How one stands can affect your posture and your core. Leg alignment and coordination of the bones and muscles are essential for good posture and fitness. The organization of the legs is different in standing (closed chain) compared to leg exercises such as side kicks (open chain).

Purposely stand with your legs hyperextended.

  • Observe how your legs feel. Where is the weight on your feet?
  • How does the pelvis organize without you consciously making any changes?
  • Feel the tone of your abdominals and back.

When the legs are not well aligned such as with hyperextended legs, the spine has to organize around this. When there is a poor tailbone-heel connection, the legs and feet work unevenly to support our body. For many, one tucks to bring the pelvis over the feet and pulled the front ribs down to solve the problem of a poor head-tail-heel connection. Poor posture and gait diminishes proper shifting our weight forward for simple actions. This poor action forces our upper bodies to shift us forward to walk and other movement actions instead of our legs.

Rudolph Laban’s concept of stability/mobility.

To mobilize a joint, there has to be stability in adjacent parts of the body to assist in this movement. With a clients with hyper-mobility in the legs and hips, I see the client having to brace down on their spine to compensate. This lack of dynamic strength in the legs affects the alignment of the spine. Different strategies will happen with certain clients standing on one leg:

  • One client braces down on her back and their thoracic spine becomes more flexed.
  • One client’s pelvis goes into anterior tilt.
  • Another the pelvis rotates with upper body rotating in the opposite way to compensate.

Amazingly as you improve the dynamic alignment of your legs, your core support improves. When I am better organized in my legs, the tone of my abdominals and my alignment is better. When I hyperextend my legs (yes I have hyperextended legs), the tone decreases and my pelvis goes into anterior tilt. Improving my legs makes core support feel effortless. All the years that I was dancing, I struggled and push my body into alignment. In truth without understanding my legs, I was creating more imbalance.

Pilates is a wonderful way to create the awareness and dynamic strength for standing. When someone comes in for their initial evaluation, I watch the following:

  • How they stand on two legs?
  • How is the alignment of their spine with their legs?
  • How they stand on their feet? Where does the weight fall on each foot?
  • How the legs and pelvis organize in lateral shift?
  • How they organize their bodies to stand on one leg?
  • How they organize their bodies to shift forward on one leg?

My goals to develop better awareness in legs:

  • Alignment- is there muscular imbalance? Poor flexibility?
  • Improper sequencing of joints and bones for standing actions?
  • Too much mobility?
  • Improper strength of legs to accommodate standing moves?

I always look at the pelvis to give me information about the legs. How the pelvis is organized can influence the work of the legs. As the imbalance of the legs becomes a habit, this leads to more disorganization of the pelvis and spine. Some clients unconsciously stand more on one leg.

Purposely stand on one leg more than another.

  • How does that affect the rotation of the legs?
  • How does it affect the feet? Pronated? Supinated?

Notice when your client lies supine, how the pelvis touches the floor. This is where the simple actions of pelvic tilts and clocks can be quite effective for change. For instance, the tightness of the hips can affect the pelvis and the use of the legs.
In pelvic tilts, are they sequencing equally on both sides of the sacrum. If the pelvis is rotated in standing, usually the pattern is reflective throughout the workout.

Pelvic shifts forward and lateral give me information how the client uses their legs. When a client tucks for a neutral bridge, they are kicking important coordination of leg muscles that assist standing.

Building from the Ground Up

Most of my warm-ups include neutral bridging. I like to wake up the back of the legs before I take the client through foot work.

In Foot work, I look if the same patterns in assessment come up in the foot work. For instance if a client stands habitually on one legs, one can sometimes see the pelvis shifting slightly. I might use my foot or hand against the opposite hip from the shift. They press their hip into me to prevent the shift.

Hyperextended legs.
It is very easy to hyperextend the legs on the reformer.

To teach a new pattern, I have the client do small pushes out.
Each time I increase the movement, but they must keep their quadriceps engaged. If they are tightening around the femoral folds, this takes away from the work of the quadriceps.

The calf muscles are very important in the alignment of the lower leg.

  • Push the carriage out half way. Your legs will be bent. Releves on two legs without moving the carriage and then one with the legs bent. Do not move the carriage as you releve.

Have the client stand up after this exercise.
Everyone will feel different after this deceptively simple exercise.


As BalancedBody faculty, I learned a different version of semi-circle with legs in second instead of first position. Because of knee injuries, I could never do the original version. It is very important not to tuck. When bridging correctly, the legs should bring the sacrum and tailbone as one. This teaches hip extension which is needed in standing.

Remember tucking will kick out important gluteal muscles and hamstrings
for better standing.

Side leg lifts

Can your client lift the leg up without engaging the front of the hip or the quadratus lumboram? The pelvis needs to be perfectly still.

Take a New Stand
Great standing is a tango of all the muscles of the legs around the joint to stabilize and move. New understanding of the calf and foot muscles, the quadriceps, abductors, adductors, gluteals and hamstrings will improve the coordination in standing.

Proper use of the

  • Calf and foot will ground the foot and organize the lower legs.
  • Quadriceps support and balanced the knee.
  • Gluteals and hamstrings help to extend the hip.

Side splits on the reformer

  • Does the alignment of the legs change when they push out?
  • Bring all the principles of foot work into standing.
  • Can they keep their lower leg stable over their ankles as they push out?
  • Or does the lower leg swing backwards with the movement. The pelvis will compensate with the mobility of the legs?

Taking a stand

Yoga block or moon box

  • Have a client stand on one leg on a block.
  • Are their hips level?
  • How is the alignment of the leg?
  • Are they using the opposite hip of the standing leg to bring the pelvis level?
  • Is the gesture leg hanging directly down? If not, this can give you hint about tight psoas, ITB, and back muscles.

49 W. 27th St. Mezzanine B, New York City 212-904-1399

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