I once saw this quote:
“It isn’t a sign of weakness to need love; it takes far more strength to open your heart than to close it.” – unknown
Sure – this saying is directed toward feelings and passion. But it is, in fact, directly relatable to your posture.
When you ‘open your heart,’ it’s equated to allowing yourself to be open to possibilities; being dynamic and yet accepting of what comes your way. Our posture is meant to be stable yet, fluid. And by stable, I don’t mean static or fixed. But more and more, this is pretty much what we practice in this day and age – a static posture. You know who you are out there, don’t you? For many it means spending hours and hours of tightening up in a motionless state. If you end up with what I refer to as a typical “desk” posture, your shoulders are crowding your neck and you have constant, unproductive tension governing your state of being. You have probably heard of the “fight/flight/freeze response.”
It is said that nowadays, with the pace of our lifestyles, we spend a great deal of time in this heightened stress mode, taxing our parasympathetic nervous system. Ironically though, that tension residing in the body makes it tough to be dynamic and responsive.
So, we need to take a different look at fleeing this situation!
One of the best exercises you can learn to help get out of a hunched or kyphotic posture, is the Pilates Fundamental referred to as “Flight.” Not to be confused with the above stress response, the image we want to have here is of soaring freely.
This exercise focuses on taking your thoracic and cervical spine into extension, utilizing spinal extensors; small but important muscles that help you lengthen your upright from a flexed position. These muscles are often weak, and it can be challenging to bring awareness and fire them up.
Flight is considered a fundamental because it’s the base move for a number of Pilates exercises, and as with all foundational exercises, like with ribcage arms or the Pilates breath, understanding how to do it well is key. At the advanced level, you need the strength and flexibility of Flight in order to go into a full backbend. At the introductory level, you focus on coordinating your core and back to lift your upper body from a prone position.
How to do the Flight Fundamental
- Lying prone (face down), you can place a folded towel down so that you can rest your forehead on it, keeping your neck and head in line, without smashing your nose into the mat.
(Instructor Kevin Earll is demonstrating without a towel.)
Reach actively through the legs, which are laying hip-distance apart.
- Inhale to prepare, and then on your exhale, connect to your core, draw your chest open, your shoulders glide gently back and reach your arms long by your side as you rise the upper body
- Hover and hold, feeling support from your core, while you inhale.
- Exhale as you lengthen yourself back down.
- Repeat 5-10x
Properly executed, you will definitely
“open your heart” when in Flight!
Imagery and Tips
- To get the most out of this move, imagine that you are peeling the front of your body off the mat so that you can work segmentally and intentionally through your spine.
- As you reach your fingertips backward toward your ankles, think of the breastbone and head being drawn equally in the opposite direction, or growing taller from the pelvis.
- Picture your breastbone as the prow of a sailing ship, lifting up and advancing forward.
- Avoid initiating the rise of your upper body from the lower back. If you feel compressive force there, or your back gripping, relax back down. Try again, first centering with breath and connecting to your core.
- Avoid pulling only the head up and lifting the face. This will result in overtaxing the neck extensors alone rather than the coordinated lift of the spine.
Note that certain conditions dictate that this exercise be altogether omitted from a workout regimen. Not sure? Receive one-on-one guidance. Contact us to set up an Assessment appointment.
Proper execution of The Flight Fundamental helps reverse the imbalance of kyphotic posture by strengthening the spinal muscles and waking up the supporting tissues of the upper back. Positioning the shoulders free of the neck, you can literally let your heart take flight with the openness in your chest. The beauty is that this simple exercise helps your body break free of the stress –mode in the parasympathetic nervous system. With improved posture, you’ll have better movement in your diaphragm for healthy breathing and vitality in your spine – a Joseph Pilates objective!
Why wait? Come on into the studio for your flying lessons ☺