Pilates Week 4 – The Back Support

Happy Australia Day weekend all!

australian flag

I started my weekend with a beautiful family wedding at the Werribee Park Mansion, an absolutely stunning day in a picturesque environment. I often start thinking how glad I am for my pilates practice and core strength during everyday events and yesterday was one such moment.

Seven years ago I would have really struggled to stand for an hour or more in heels and be able to concentrate on what was going on. But because I consistently do my pilates practice and have now gained real core strength, standing in the garden at my cousins wedding was a breeze. Which meant I could fully concentrate on the beautiful ceremony and be there in the moment, rather than have my body and brain grumping at me that I needed to sit.

So for today’s exercise I thought lets do some static back work.

Everybody needs to be able to stand at times in their life, whether it be at a family wedding in a beautiful garden or at your kids football/netball match. And every body should be able to do this without the pain or exhaustion that comes from holding your body in the wrong posture for extended periods of time.

That was my problem, my posture was terrible, the most inefficient and not at all flattering, one day I will share my old posture with you to show you just how lazy core muscles can get and what kind of problems this then creates. However today’s post is week 4 of the 2013 challenge which I am proud to say is still going strong.

The Back Support

Goal : Torso stabilisation and upper-body strength

Technique Tips: If you feel any discomfort in your wrists, lower yourself down onto your elbows.


Step 1. Sit up straight. Place your hands behind you with your fingertips facing towards your hips, and stretch your legs together straight out in front of you.


Step 2. Lift your body into a reverse plank position, visualising one long line from the crown of your head to your toes, being careful to keep your chin slightly lowered and soft, maintaining the alignment with your spine.


Step 3. If you feel any discomfort in your wrists, lower yourself onto your elbows. If you feel any discomfort in your knees, bend your legs (with a 90-degree angle at the knee joint), with your feet hip width apart. If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, stop the exercise.

Step 4. Hold the position, draw your navel to your spine and slowly breathe in and out ten times.


Pilates Week 3 – Breast Stroke Preps

3 Weeks into my challenge and today’s exercise was one of my least favourites when I began pilates but now as an instructor I understand why my first pilates instructor used to say “the exercises you like the least are the ones you need to do the most”.

In my opinion she hit the nail on the head, the reason I hated this one was that I spend 8 hours a day at a desk with upper back flexed forward towards my computer.  Hence this exercise for upper back extension was something my body said no I don’t like doing that and please don’t make me.  Now because I am a good student I did what I was told and this exercise is now one of my favourites, it helps me get my upper back into extension and work those lazy muscles that think they don’t need to hold me up all day!

So this is for all you office workers out there who, like me, struggle with neck tension and headaches, try and do these every night and your back and neck will thank you for it.

Breast Stoke Preps

Goal : Develop even and sequential extension in upper spine and connection with middle back extens

Target Muscles: Tranversus abdominis, deep pelvic floor, mid and upper erecter spinae, obliques and hip extensors, Scapular stabilisers


Step 1. Lie on your tummy with a neutral pelvis, hands by your shoulders palms facing down.  Extend legs along the mat together or hip distance apart, feet are pidgeon toed if you have low back tightness.

Inhale to prepare.


Step 2. As you exhale, stabilise your shoulders, apply slight pressure through your forearms and gently extend your upper back upwards allowing your ribcage to open up but keep the bottom rib in contact with the mat.  Inhale and reach your chest away from your toes.

Step 3. Exhale as you lengthen back down onto your mat.

Repetitions: Five


Pilates Week 2 – Up Stretch

Week 2 of my challenge and the update is that it is really kind of fun to have a challenge like this, not only am I learning new ways to teach but I am also increasing my photography skills which my dear dad would be very proud of.  How good does my local Carrum beach look, I am so lucky to live where I do.

I have had a beautiful Canon Eos that was purchased before he passed away and I go through fads of using it.

Every day I find another reason to be thankful for all the things that I grew up with, my dad and his photography passion is today’s treasure.

Up Stretch

Focus: Core conditioning, strengthening the upper back and chest, and stretching the hamstrings and calves.

Precaution: Stop if you feel any lower-back, shoulder or wrist discomfort.

Pilates Week 2 - 2013 006

Sit back on your heels, with your knees and ankles slightly apart and your toes lifted underneath you so you are on the balls of your feet.  Lay your chest forward over your thighs, and stretch both arms out on the floor in front of your body, with the palms of your hands pressing firmly into the mat a little wider than your shoulders.

Inhale to prepare.

As you exhale, lift your pelvis in the air to form a pyramid with your body, pressing your heels down towards the floor and streching ot the back of your thighs and calves.

Pilates Week 2 - 2013 004

Draw your shoulders down your back towards your hips.  There should be a straight line from you palms to your tailbone and then another straight line from your tailbone to the heels of your feet, like an upside down letter V or a pyramid.

Breathe in and hold this position.

Pilates Week 2 - 2013 005

Keeping your heels as low as possible, breathe out as you transfer your body forward into a plank position, with one long line from the crown of your head to your heals.  You shoulders directly over your wrists.  To align your neck, visualise the heels of your palms as the base of the triangle and your eyeline as the pinnacle of that triangle.

Breathe in and hold this position, keeping your belly button drawn firmly towards your spine.

As you breathe out return the the pyramid position.

Repititions: Five

Pilates Week 1 – Hundreds Prep

Week 1 – SLP 2013 Challenge

I finally worked out how to upload pictures one week into the challenge the beauty of life and the internet is you can learn something new everyday!

Hundreds Prep
Focus: abdominals and flowing movement

Hundreds Prep 1

Hundreds Prep 1

Lie on your back in the neutral-spine position, with your legs stretched out flat along the floor and your inner thighs squeezed together. Stretch your arms out on the floor behind you and draw your navel firmly towards your spine. Sink the back of your ribcage down into the floor and relax your shoulders. Point your toes.

Hundreds Prep 2
Breathe in and you bend your legs, sliding your toes along the floor until your knees are at a 90-degree angle, keeping your spine in neutral, your abdominals firm and the back of your ribs anchored.

Hundreds Prep 3

Keeping your tailbone anchored, breathe out as you curl forward, lifting your chest, bringing your arms over your head towards your hips and stretching your legs straight up into the air.

Hundreds Prep 4

Keeping your chest lifted, breathe in and bend your legs at the knees, touching your toes back onto the floor.

As you breathe out, return to the start position, sliding your toes along the floor as you reach your arms over your head and back onto the floor behind you.

Repetitions: Five

Sonia Louise Pilates 2013 Challenge

So I had another fun idea last night whilst out and about with Miss Milly (my gorgeous puppy who lives only in the present, we can learn so much from them).  I thought how can I share my passion for pilates online with those who are interested yet I can’t be with them in person like my regular clients.

I came up with the idea of posting a new exercise every week of the year, so it will be 52 exercises in total.  Inspired by my dear friend Louise who will be blogging every day, I toned it down a bit 365 exercises was not something I could commit to but 52 seems like a challenge yet achievable.

My intention is to master them all in my own practice but also master the teaching of them with anyone who wants to join me on the trip.

For a little commitment phobe like myself it is a genuinely daunting task, but they say face your fears and do it anyway, and I believe if you share a challenge someone somewhere will cheer you on so please be that cheerleader for me, God knows I am going to need it. 

Maybe not, because Pilates is what I love, learning and mastering things is also a passion my dear Dad once pointed out so combining them will make the challenge achievable.

So join me for the year by following the blog and getting your weekly Pilates exercise, along the way who knows the benefits but some of them I can imagine will be, better posture, more core strength, more peace of mind from focusing on your body and breath and maybe even a deeper love for moving your body, which we all know is one of the keys to health.

Stay tuned exercises to be posted Sunday evening every week……..

Pilates and Integrity

While I was out on my daily walk with Mil today I started thinking about Pilates and Integrity.  I have done lots of reading and many courses over the last few years and one of my favourite learnings was Integrity.

“Without integrity nothing works” is how the distinction from many of the Landmark courses I have completed starts, I must admit for a long time this distinction didn’t sit well with me, but when I finally got it I loved how simple and to the point it is.  So today I was thinking about my passion Pilates and how it relates.  One of the many teachers I have learnt from says “put the bones in the right place and move them” or rather give the skeleton some integrity and it will operate with more efficiency.   What we do in Pilates is exactly this we get some integrity back in your structure and then we build your muscles so you learn and retrain your body how to have more efficiency in movement.

Today was one of those lightbulb moments in my teaching career because it has helped me understand better how to teach my passion to others and also made me realise how simple and logical Joseph Pilates was in developing his method.

So my advice is get yourself to a class with an instructor who loves teaching this and you will never regret it.  My clients often comment how what they are learning every week helps them in everyday life and this makes me smile, it really is a beautiful method to train the body for ease of movement which I might add every single one of us does daily.

New year, new ideas :)

So it’s 2013 and I am on the phone to my dear mum, we are chatting all things new and somehow come up with the inspiring idea of new pilates classes on the front lawn of my brother’s house by the lake (our family home where I grew up).

2 hours later we have the plan in action, 10 weeks of classes each Saturday morning, looking for anyone in my old home town of Colac to join the class.

What a challenge for the new year but I must say I am looking forward to all the benefits e.g., seeing my dear mum, brother and his family every week, new bodies to train and transform and most of all spreading the love of pilates to those who are interested …. here’s to new beginnings in 2013, I wonder what other miracles the year has in store.

Pilates by the lake