DIGGING DEEPER – Get to Know Your Pilates Exercises: Swan

By Amanda Turner

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and feel rested, rejuvenated, and ready to invigorate your Pilates work! This month, I wanted to take a closer look at Swan. I love Swan because it can be done at almost any level, on almost every apparatus, and is so good for most bodies that sit for hours slumped forward each day. It’s great for strengthening the back of the body, working on the beautiful arch of the upper spine, and stretching the front of the body.
Like I said, Swan can be done on so many pieces of apparatus – the Mat, the Reformer, the Wunda Chair, the Ladder Barrel, the Cadillac and even standing against the wall; let’s focus on the Swan on the Mat, which is considered intermediate level. Side note: even here there are progressions of levels – adding a Neck Roll, Dive and Catch, or just Swan Dive. You’ll start face down on the Mat, forehead resting. Your heels are together, toes are apart (if you have feet that cramp and you can’t get them to relax, slide back on your Mat so your feet are just off the edge). Palms are underneath your shoulders and elbows are anchoring to your waist. Now to begin:
·       Press your hips down, lift your abs up
·       Inhale and lift your eyes, chin, and chest off the Mat, gliding your collarbones forward, and then up
·       Exhale as you return to the Mat
·       Repeat two more times
·      Sit back on your heels and round your spine (it’s so important to round your spine after extending/arching it)
   Things to think about – keep your heels together, do not let them come apart! Also, the work should NOT happen from your shoulders or arms, it happens from the muscles between your shoulder blades AND your scoop supports your movement. So, lift only as high as your upper back can control and keep those elbows anchored to your side!!
This is one of the first exercises you learn while lying on your stomach. It’s important to take the time to develop this exercise as it is the foundation for many more to come. Enjoy!