I have been itching to start a bit of a series on here. I want to share my favorite moves and pieces of equipment/accessories. I have been putting it off for various reasons. First it was that we were in the middle of a move. Then I was busy unpacking and starting my summer hours at the studio. NOW my husband has begun remodeling my Pilates room/in home studio. Despite the fact that my Pilates stuff is currently shoved into a small space in our guest bedroom that has a queen bed, rocking chair, a desk, a dip station, and a weight bench, I am going to give this a shot. I figured I could start with one that I photographed while living in our previous home. Sigh, it is not the gorgeous in home Pilates studio that is being created right now, but it will do. I am hoping that after my room is done these posts will get a little more photo heavy.
So that brings us to this first move I want to talk about. It is a favorite of mine. I do it on a daily basis. The High Bridge.
You can see how old this photo is by my charming decor in the background! Anyway, I love it. Why? It opens everything up. I initially started doing it for digestion. I was looking for moves that specifically help with digestion and this was one of them. I found that it took me time to be able to hold it higher and longer.
How do I get into a high bridge?
- I always warm up. I never start out trying to just go into this position. You can and likely will hurt your back. You also may not find the flexibility you are looking for. Roll downs, regular bridging, swan on the chair, jackknife, and shoulder stand are just a few of the things I do to warm up. I usually wait until the end of my work out to go into this. So my entire body is nice and warm.
- I will always do a few Mat or Chair Bridges immediately before extending up. If I am doing a Mat Bridge, I lay flat on my back. Feet in hook laying position (flat on the floor) Arms are long at my side. I inhale to prepare and on my exhale I curl my hipbones toward my belly button as I articulate up one vertebrae at a time, stopping at about my bra line-ish area. I will pull my belly deep towards my spine, inhale, exhale and articulate back down. I will do several of those. Sometimes I will do variations, pulses at the top, lower/lift one leg. The point being, my spine is being warmed up for the grand finale.
- When I am ready to open myself to this position I take a few deep breaths. Melting my shoulders away from my ears. Feet are still flat on the floor. Sometimes I will scooch them in closer to my butt. I inhale and exhale starting to curl up, I bend my arms and place my palms near the side of my head. I continue to curl up, striving to place even weight on my hands and feet. I take it slow. Seeing how my back is moving. On a great day I get nice and high. At this point in my practice, it is likely higher than this photo above.
- I am focusing on breathing, pulling my belly deep towards my spine, keeping my weight even between hands and feet, and letting my heart and front of my body really open and elongate in this position. I squeeze deep into my hamstrings and glutes. My arms are engaged while getting a stretch. I relax my head and neck, trying to avoid drawing tension into them.
- By now I have been able to add some variations. I can come into a high toe, so heels lifted. I can also extend one leg up at a time. That takes tremendous core strength and pelvic stability. It is something you have to build on as you master this position.
- To get out, I take in a deep breath and on my exhale I slowly start to articulate down, being mindful that the tension is not in my neck. Shoulders come down first, my arms slowly release their strength and as my spine articulates down I bring my arms back towards my sides. I melt into the mat. I will always cross my legs and hug them close to my chest. Letting my spine settle and taking a moment to enjoy the end of my favorite pose.
I love this position because it is a challenge. It takes practice and strength to do it. You have to be open in your mind and body in order to achieve the height and openness you are looking for. There are days where I barely get up at all. I can feel how tight my body, spine, and in many instances my mind, are that day at that moment. I have to clear my head, I have to allow myself to relax. When I am in the pose and I want to stay nice and lifted I have to surrender myself to the position. I have to think about my breath and where I am feeling the weight and stretch of my body. I cannot be thinking about anything else that is bothering me. If I do, I will not find the work I want to find in this position. Sometimes I count. I want to eventually be able to hold it for a minute. I can currently get to 30. It feels amazing to melt back down into the mat. There is a sort of high that comes with this position. When I melt down and let my back settle, rocking side to side, knees close to my chest, I just get that moment of relaxation. I always turn to this position when my digestion is bothering me. That usually means I take 10-20 minutes to do a mini workout, even if I worked out earlier. Since I am so focused on warming up my spine for this challenging position.
I hope that if you are working on your high bridge that you find the joy in it that I do. If you haven’t tried this yet be open to the idea of it. Take your time. Warm up and build on this position one step at a time. Remember, if you are not a certified Pilates or fitness instructor it is a good idea to work with one before attempting advanced and challenging moves. We will help you better understand the movement and we will help to keep you safe.