Pilates instructors work in many planes to help students achieve bodies that can move and function efficiently. Movement awareness and proper execution are a large part of the equation. By introducing various movement planes of motion into a well-rounded group exercise class, you can offer participants the same benefits that Pilates students enjoy. In doing so, you will better prepare your participants to move well in life.
Use your cool-down to help students transition from the group exercise class back to themselves and then to the outside world. Most movement in a typical class is performed through the sagittal plane, in which flexion and extension occur (running, walking, sit-ups, biceps curls, squats, etc.). Working through different planes will enable students to develop more balanced bodies and help prevent injury. Try some of the following Pilates moves during your next cool-down.
Seated Mermaid (Frontal Plane)
Start seated, cross-legged, shoulders over hips, arms by your sides; keep spine erect and abdominals engaged to support lower back and pelvis. Bring one hand up toward ceiling and bend to side, allowing hand on mat to stay placed, elbow bent for support. Let rib cage initiate return to vertical, arm moving back toward ceiling and then back to floor. Repeat on opposite side.
Modification: For tight hips, sit on a step.
Sitting Rotation (Transverse and Sagittal Planes)
Start seated on floor or with pelvis toward one side of a step (tight-hip modification). Spine is neutral, shoulders over hips, left leg bent and internally rotated, right leg externally rotated, foot touching top of left knee. Right hand rests lightly on floor. Left arm is to side, in line with shoulder. Rotate and flex spine, with arm following around in line with shoulder as if you were hugging a beach ball, then bring spine back to neutral and continue to rotate toward other leg, keeping arm slightly higher than shoulder. Repeat on opposite side.
Spine Stretch Forward (Sagittal Plane)
This is a great final exercise, as it teaches body awareness and good posture. Start seated, with legs in front, hip distance apart (or sit on a step so pelvis and spine are neutral). Feet are flexed, pelvis and spine in neutral, hands resting on thighs. Initiate gentle flexion of head and cervical spine, which will lead you to flex the thoracic spine. Slide hands down legs toward feet. Pelvis remains still. Tighten abdominals and stack spine one segment at a time until you are back at starting position, shoulders gently “melting” into rib cage as head comes up.
For an additional exercise, please see the full article, “Drifting in Different Planes,” online in the IDEA Library or in the October issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.