FITNESS FOCUS: The Swan (*this is a different version than the one described a few weeks ago) This Pilates exercise extends or stretched the front of the body. It helps to open up the chest area which is usually very tight due to the “hunching” of our shoulders throughout the day. The Swan also strengthens the abdominals by keeping them engaged for the duration of the movement. Other muscle groups that are working here are the glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, shoulders, back, and triceps.
- Lie on the mat face down.Bend your elbows, keeping them close to the ribcage. Bring your hands under your shoulders. Shoulders are back and down.The heels are together, toes resting on the mat, but in a turned-out position. This engages the hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs.
- Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your navel to spine and lifting your abdominals off the mat. Keep them lifted throughout the exercise. *Do not let hip bones lift off the mat, however. Press them into the floor as you pull up on the abs.
- Lengthening through the crown of your head. Inhale as you press your forearms and hands into the mat to support a long upward arc the upper body. (KEEP THE SHOULDERS BACK AND DOWN!)
*Here is where this SWAN is different than the previously described version. In this exercise, you can allow your forearms to come off the mat sooner, pressing mostly with the hands. This will allow for more stretch in the abdominals and a “higher” arc of the body. BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR LOWER BACK. DO NOT DO THIS VERSION IF IT HURTS YOUR BACK!
The elbows are close to the body, the head stays in line with the spine (your gaze is toward the floor), and the hips stay on the mat.
- Exhale, keeping the abs lifted, slowly lower your torso to the mat in a sequential way: low-belly, mid-belly, low-ribs and so on.
- Repeat Swan 3 to 5 times using an even, flowing breath to support the movement.
FAITH FOCUS: The movement described in the faith focus has several different “versions”. We have worked on Swan I which is a slow, contained, and relatively stress-free on the lower back. Swan II increases the challenge by making the movement larger, lifting more of the body and placing more work on the lower back, arms, and shoulders. Finally, a move not yet fully described due to it’s complexity, the Swan Dive really challenges the entire body from the crown of the head to the tips of the toes. All require their own measure of core activation, muscle control, precision, and flow. Depending on our level of fitness, our perceived strength, and physical health we choose the best “Swan” to practice. The same is true for our spiritual “exercises” or actions. It is not important our level or experience of faith, our perceived strength of faith, or how healthy we think we are spiritually that determines our need to act. It is, however, the movement itself that increases our faith strength, experience, and health. What faith action we choose to practice may vary based on our experience in our faith, but we still must DO THE WORK!