7 Ways to Love Your Musculoskeletal System

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  On this day of love, your local Pilates studio would like to chime in with some simple ways to give your muscles and bones the care they deserve. As everyone who has just been to a great Pilates class knows, giving your body some love often makes the rest of you — be it mood, energy, or spirit — feel better too. So, on this Valentine’s Day, enjoy the chocolate, and as your digestive system is working on that, check out our list for your muscular-skeletal system:

  1. Constructive Rest Position.  A great way to do nothing while still providing your body with some great benefits. Spending 2-10 minutes in Constructive Rest Position lets the muscles in your neck, back, and hips release, often alleviating pain or discomfort.  
    Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. (Use a pillow behind your head if it helps your neck feel more comfortable.) Let your arms rest by your sides or cross across your torso.  Let the weight of the  rib cage sink into the floor, and the weight of the legs sink into your feet. Hang out, and just let things go!  Pro tip:  tie a yoga strap around your thighs so they don’t flop out to the sides, and you can relax the hip muscles even more.

    1. Pelvic Clocks.  We teach these to beginning Pilates students as a way to find your core and learn how to stabilize your pelvis.  They’re also a great exercise on their own to mobilize the lower back and release tension.Imagine your pelvis is a clock face, with your belly button as noon and your pubic bone as six. On an exhale, tip your pelvis towards noon, gently bringing your low back to to mat. On an inhaler tip your pelvis towards six, gently arching the low back away from the mat. Repeat 5-10 times. Pro-tip:  try tipping from 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock.
    2. Deep breathing.  Breathing is a cornerstone of Pilates.  Breathing deeply is also one of the was we can directly calm our “fight or flight” response.  I use this trick in traffic. 

      Imagine your torso is an empty glass of water. The bottom of the glass is the base of the pelvis (pelvic floor), and the top of the glass is the tops of your shoulders. As you breath in, start filling the glass, from all the way at the base.  Feel the breath travel up your spine, all the way into your shoulders. Exhale and slowly empty the glass, top to bottom.

    3. Neck release. Our necks take a lot of abuse with our screen-focused culture. Give your neck a break throughout the day with this simple release!
      Clasp your hands behind your head, holding the base of your skull in your hands.  Gently pull up.  Gently lean back — just a little, think 5-15 degrees — and let the weight of your head be supported by your hands. Ahh!
    4. Seated Spine Twist. Another movement we don’t get enough of is rotation.  You can do this one without even getting out of your chair.
      Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the back of your chair.  Look over your right shoulder, and use your hands to gently encourage the spine to twist to the right.  Take a few deep breaths, then repeat to the other side.
    5. Goal-post stretch.  This is another one which feels so good after a work day. Let the shoulders open up, and you’ll get some releif in your upper back as well.
      Lay on your back along a foam roller — make sure it supports your hips and your head. Bring your arms out to the sides and bend your elbows, like you’re making a “goal post” with your arms. Let the weight of your arms drop down towards the floor. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
    6. Hip-flexor stretch.  While you’re down there on the floor with your foam roller, why not give another often tight area of your body a release?  Sitting puts the hip flexors in a chronically shortened position. It’s nice to spend some time letting them lengthen…
    7. photo by Bénédicte Lasalle

      Lay on your back on the mat with your feet flat on the mat and the roller between your bum and your feet.  Lift up into a bridge and roll the roller under your hips.  Engage your core, and bring your legs up to table top. From that position, pull one knee into your chest and let the other leg lengthen over the roller. Hang out and breathe in that position for awhile – focus on letting the leg hang heavy and the ribs gently sink down towards the floor.

Bonus! Need a way to give your whole body some TLC?  Come to class!  A lot of these simple tricks we’ve mentioned above, and many more, are integrated into a Pilates workout.  We’ve added additional group classes to the schedule this year –  check them out, and join us for an hour of love!