"What move would be the best move to give as our daily exercise for our very first newsletter?" This question stressed me out for years. Hence why it took 7 years to launch a Zen newsletter! Just Kidding!
Hundreds would be the obvious choice...it is the quintessential Pilates exercise, equally loved and hated by Pilates enthusiasts. You will often hear me saying in group classes, "If you go to a studio and a teacher does not include Hundreds in their repertoire, you should question if they are actually teaching you Pilates." Yet it did not feel right to me as our first Daily Move. Hundreds, as brilliant as it is, has many backdoors for cheating, straining and resting. We needed something more definitive yet simple.
Next, I considered something very basic and necessary: the Pelvic Clock! After all, if you cannot do the Pelvic Clock, how will you ever be able to do any Pilates move? How will your hips, spine and torso ever be able to perform any of our much more complex moves effectively without mastery of the Pelvic Clock?
But alas, no; the first month's move needs to provide for our students a sense of challenge.
"I know what it is," a little voice shouted from deep inside the back row of my eternal classroom, "I know, I know, I know the perfect daily move for our Zen students!!"
Simple, Definitive & Challenging:
The plank is not a traditional Pilates move, but the essence of it is throughout our practice. Long stretch series on the Reformer could be looked at as moving plank variations on a Reformer. In Mat Pilates; the Pilates Pushup, leg pull front/back, side bends cannot be done without planking. So let's get to it...
Challenge: 1 Plank a Day
Bonus Challenge Level 1: 1 Plank daily for 1 minute (see video for beginner variation)
Bonus Challenge Level 2: 3 Planks daily for 1 minute EACH
Form & Function:
Begin in an all fours position. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, with your fingers spread and your arms straight. Avoid hyperextending your elbow joints.
Straighten your right leg back with your knee off the ground and your toes tucked under.
Draw your abdominal wall up and in (bellybutton to spine).
Be strong and supported in your shoulder girdle. Gently spin your biceps forward.
Extend your left leg back to meet your right leg, with your knee off the ground and your toes tucked under. Both legs are straight, and voila- you're in plank!
Draw your shoulder blades away from your ears so your chest is open and your neck is long
Keep your eyes looking down at the ground a few inches in front of you.
Keep your tailbone tilted towards your feet, so your lower back is elongated.
Simultaneously send energy back through your heels and forward through the crown of your head.
Energetically keep your upper arm bones (humerus bones) drawn towards one another.
"A Plank a day keeps the belly bulge away." ~JK