The CoreAlign challenges you to explore practical and functional movement and find a better way to stand, walk, squat and rotate. Step right up!

By James Crader • Edited by Amanda Altman

It was love at first tread: Around seven years ago, I stepped foot on Balanced Body’s newly launched CoreAlign, designed by physiotherapist Jonathan Hoffman, and immediately knew I’d found a new sense of embodiment. I’m not naturally drawn to “exercise” and its guidelines of sets and reps. It mostly leaves me with a feeling of “so what?” Instead of solely testing the body’s ability to flex and negotiate resistance, the CoreAlign asks the body to explore movement, and challenges any body to create better strategies for natural and functional movement requirements like standing, walking, squatting and rotating. The CoreAlign system is a seemingly simple setup of a ladder and carts that is capable of providing elastic resistance from one end of the track, the other end, or both ends simultaneously, depending on how you’d like to be supported or challenged throughout a movement.

The CoreAlign is a prime place to focus on what makes human movement human: our ability to walk upright. This sequence of many new and a few classic CoreAlign movements travels through motor development, from crawling to sitting to standing and walking, and explores our body’s ability to rotate and reciprocate movement while creating bipedal walking patterns. While the Pilates studio environment in general can be a great place to play with these concepts, by design, the CoreAlign supplies instant feedback to both instructors and clients as to what is working and what is not.

The following series is great for most clients, although I’d monitor or eliminate some of the deep spinal flexion and rotation for clients dealing with osteoporosis issues. Having said that, I’ve utilized this series with my professional-athlete clients and active-agers looking for better balance, all with success and sweat. Don’t have access to a CoreAlign? See page 67. Let’s go move!


GENERAL GUIDELINES

PROPS: CoreAlign Rotator Disc and cart pads; Reformer Sitting Box; foam rollers and/or weights, blocks or sandbags
BREATH: Breathe naturally throughout with an emphasis on inhaling through your nose. Use your exhale as a means of supporting your body during the exertion phase.
Reps Varies.
TIPS:
• This series can be performed daily as maintenance, but it also makes a great movement check-in if done weekly or monthly. Assess questions like, “Am I making progress organizing my body?” and “What areas of my body are still missing from my movement puzzle?”
• Play with resistance loads, both more, less and asymmetrically, to challenge or support the body as needed.
•Always stay alert while using the CoreAlign, and utilize a solid base of support to help you organize new moves (e.g., keep a hand on the ladder or safety ropes, or a foot on a stable surface).


Low Rotation

SPRING SETTING: light (1 peach) from rear
PURPOSE: prepares the body to explore spinal rotations relative to the ground and gravity; enhances abdominal awareness; promotes plantar flexion of the feet
SETUP: Sit behind the CoreAlign (CA) in a rounded position similar to Child’s Pose with your knees on cart pads (if desired), the tops of your feet on the ground and your palms on the carts.

1. Press the carts one arm’s distance away from you while keeping your shoulders wide, gazing toward the ground and engaging your low abdominals.


2. Bend one elbow, bringing the cart toward you and gazing over your shoulder, while actively reaching away with your opposite arm.


3. Return the cart to the starting position while widening your shoulders further, and then push the carts away with the heels of your hands.
4. Repeat step 2 to your other side, gently keeping your belly off your thighs.
5. Do 6–8 sets, or until you feel an openness throughout your rib cage.

TIPS: Allow your eyes to be your guide, and initiate the rotation by first gazing in the direction of your movement. Keep your scapulae wide to avoid impinging your shoulder joints.
ADVANCED: For an increased challenge and a stretch for your lats, attach the elastics to the opposite side and focus on pulling rather than pushing.


Bouncy Baby

SPRING SETTING: light–medium (2 peach or 1 blue) from rear
PURPOSE: plays with quadruped and crawling movements while enhancing extension at the hip joints and dynamically supporting and strengthening the trunk; activates the deep spinal stabilizers
SETUP: Kneel behind the CA with your palms on the carts, feet flexed, knees just slightly wider than feet (and on the cart pads, if desired) and pelvis resting by your heels. Keep your spine relatively neutral and gaze slightly in front of you.

1. Use your feet and toes to bounce (or pop) forward, until your hands are directly below your shoulders, and then continue to extend your legs until your trunk, hands and the carts move.


2. When you find the carts wanting to slide back home, begin to alternately move the carts in a crawling motion to return your body to the starting position.

 


3. Do 10–15 reps, or until you feel connected to the muscles of your trunk.

TIP: Concentrate on using your feet to propel the carts forward.
ADVANCED: “Bounce” from the starting position all the way to Plank, then proceed to cart-crawl back to resting before repeating.


Twisted Cat

SPRING SETTING: light–medium symmetrically from front and rear
PURPOSE: explores and strengthens spinal flexion and extension and their relationship with rotation; opens the rib tissue and diaphragm to better facilitate thoracic rotation and psoas tissue hydration
SETUP: Get on all fours with both knees on one cart, and both hands side by side on the Rotator Disc secured to the front cart. Because the carts are secured from both ends, you should be in the center of the CA.

1. Press the Disc toward the ladder, allowing your fingers, head and chest to rotate while simultaneously pressing your knees/cart to the opposite direction, lengthening your body like an outstretched cat.


2. To transition to your other side, twist the Disc away from the ladder and allow your head and chest to follow while pulling your knees toward the center.
3. As you pass through center, arch your spine into flexion like a scared cat.


4. Continue to push your hands/cart away from the ladder as your knees push toward the opposite direction.

 


5. Do 10 reps.

TIPS: Keep your knees grounded, and allow your eyes to follow the movement of your hands. Play with where you choose to inhale and exhale to create different stretches and internal movements.
MODIFICATION: If one side is weak or disorganized, explore springing the elastics asymmetrically or play with resistance to strengthen that side.


Don’t Have a CoreAlign?

You could pout, or you could still explore many of these movements with props you already have in your home or studio. The following are some exercises I give to clients to try at home. Not pictured but worth trying is a towel version of Toe Push with your back against a wall. Do as many reps as you deem worthwhile, or 8–10 for each exercise.


Low Rotation with Towels

SETUP: Get in a Child’s Pose with a hand towel (or paper plate, if you have carpet) under each hand.

1. Slide the towels away from you as you lower your face and chest toward the floor.
2. Alternately slide one towel at a time toward your body as you twist away from your outstretched arm to gaze over your opposite shoulder.


3. Return the towel to the starting position, then repeat to your other side.


Getting Up with Towels

SETUP: Sit on a Box or bench with a hand towel under each foot (or if you have carpet, wear socks for traction), and place your hands behind the base of your skull.

1. Firmly press your feet into the floor and slide the towels toward you, then keep your hamstrings engaged to curl backward into spinal flexion.
2. Curl back up, then begin to lengthen your spine into a soft extension.


3. Practice transitioning from sitting to standing.


Gait Hoof with Towel

SETUP: Stand with your hands either against a wall for closed-chain support, or on your hips or by your sides for less support. Place a hand towel under one foot, and slide it a foot’s distance behind your opposite leg, making sure to keep your weight evenly distributed throughout both feet.

1. Use your hamstrings to flex your knee and further drag the towel. Make sure to maintain the weight in your moving leg.


2. Repeat on your other side.


Get the rest of this article and more exercises like this in our current issue, available on newstands and on Magzter now!

May 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm
Category: Articles, Exercises, Teasers
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