Late last autumn I came across this inspiring blog event designed by Benjamen Deganhardt called March Matness. The game is to post something each day of the month relative to the corresponding exercise, and to share the love with the global Pilates community using social media. Click the link to download the Order of Exercises.
To join in just post something; It could be a photograph, a video, musings, practice tips, a drawing... any form of creative expression is welcome! Use last year's contributions to the MM Blog for inspiration, too!
To connect with everyone participating, use the corresponding hashtag AS LISTED IN THE ORDER OF EXERCISES. Also add #mmkinesiapilates, #marchmatness and #MM2015 (ideal for Twitter)
And don't forget to come to MAT CLASSES: Monday - Thursday at 1pm. All-levels. Drop-in's welcome. Bring a new friend and you both get $10 off your next purchase at their second class. Remember the first class is free. Sign me up!
The first exercise in Pilates manual "Return to Life through Contrology" is often mistermed as “The Hundreds” - probably because it feels a lot longer than it is.
Joe Pilates developed an order of the exercises with a clear beginning and ending , and all kinds of crazy stuff in the middle. Some of that stuff is not for everyone, but "The Hundred" is universally good for every body. The reason being that it is about breathing. Pilates’ intro chapter is titled; "Correct Breathing - The Foundation". Obviously if you’re reading this you are breathing, but how well?
How big of a deal is breathing correctly? It is THE DEAL! From the time we start sitting and slouching in our chairs our posture impedes good breathing, and our lungs begin to age at the age of 20! Better start catching up now so you can be a geezer without a wheezer!
The instructions for The Hundred are to raise straight legs 2” off the floor and to pump both arms 6”-8” above thighs. This is the ideal advanced version, but not everyone can or should do it with the legs that low. Even if you can, it is good to try different variations to keep your neuromuscular senses attentive.
Normally I see people pumping away with the arms by their sides. Try your arms over the thighs, it’s way more core effort and helps connect to the diaphragm for exhalation. Another benefit is that it helps you hold your head up from your core, instead of overworking those stringy scalene muscles along your neck. I tend to vary my arm level from 5” armpit to floor, to the same relative to my thighs. What is important is that you are measuring from the level of your armpit, not your hands level.
Remember that your core muscles will get thicker if you over-load them, to keep your core trim keep the weight of your legs to the level you can maintain without straining for it.
Also important: Use your nose to breathe. If you have to use your mouth due to sinus issues, do attempt to breathe using an “H’ rather than an “F” or “Sh” aspiration. Breath smoothly, resist the urge to pant or breathe erratically. The smooth breathing style is found across disciplines from Kettlebell, to martial arts, to physical theater and dance. Smooth breathing increases endurance and encourages good heart-rate variability (HRV) which is a favorable quality that indicates your heart is healthy. The point is to raise your energy and clear your respiratory system. It’s a great way to fight off an illness!
Tips and Terms:
- Doming: Pushing your abdominals out (don’t do it!)
- Scooping: Firming your core muscles to pull your organs in and up (yes, do this!)
- Knit: Gather together your muscles
- Widen: Try to open more space, use the floor as a reference
- Pelvic Floor: the hammock of muscles that supports the base of your core (use them)
- Diaphragm: a dome shaped muscle that sits below your lungs and helps support breathing
Intro Hundred: Lie on your back with your arms to your side. Bend your knees leaving your feet on the ground to give your back more support. If you need a pillow use something firm, a mid-size hardback book is a great prop for active support. Soften your abdominals and your back, this is also called imprinting. This should create a sensation like a reverse corset: laced in front and wide in back. When you breath your body will expand, keep your abdominals firmly knit and try to use your breath to feel length and depth from your center. Now you are scooping. Your back should not tense, try to keep your back feeling wide against the floor.
- Inhale as long as you can. Try to expand your rib cage all the way up to your shoulders, avoid doming your low abdominals
- Exhale as long as you can. Begin to narrow your ribs, knit in front and widen in back
- Inhale to count of 5 and hold for a second at the top. (Can you sip in a little more air?)
- Exhale to count of 5 and hold for a second at the bottom. (Can you squeeze out a few more atoms?)
- Inhale to count of 5, Exhale to count of 5 do each 5x-10x
The Hundred: Start from the Intro position.
- Exhale all the air from your lungs by knitting your ribcage and scooping your abdominals.
- Nod your head and/or swallow to release your neck.
- Raise your head and shoulders above the floor as high as the base of your shoulderblades. If you can't, or your neck gets tired, use a pillow (I prefer a mid-size hardback book).
- Raise your arms anywhere from 5" above the floor to 8" above your thighs. Measure from your armpit not your hands.
- Bend your knees and choose your level: feet on floor, feet on a prop, knees toward chest, table-top, straight to ceiling, 45% or lower.
- WARNING: The level of your legs should not impede your ability to breath correctly as described above. You should feel your stomach muscles. Scale it down if you can’t breathe correctly, you feel your neck, shoulders, hip flexors or back straining, stop if you get dizzy, or have any other discomfort. If your abs are getting tired change level and keep going!!!
- Pulse your arms and inhale to count of 5, Exhale to count of 5 or as long as you can. Try to do at least 10 sets. Change it up by decreasing inhalation and increasing the exhalation.
- Keep your breathing smooth.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions let me know and I’ll try to clarify.
Kinesia Pilates Studio