Why the Swan?
by Cecilia Pulido, PMA-CPT, 2nd Generation Pilates Instructor It’s hard to believe how quickly our posture can degenerate. The myriad of back aches, pains, and even deformities that can ensue from repetitive postural deviations, like sitting long hours in front of a computer, driving long distances daily when commuting, and even sleeping (or lack thereof) on a less than optimal mattress, are disheartening and even discouraging to some.
The good news is one simple Pilates exercise can help to alleviate postural discomforts and actually help to strengthen the entire posterior body, while stretching the anterior body. That exercise is the Swan.
In the simplest terms, the Swan is extension. Extension of the spine is one movement that is usually missing in one’s daily life and is most commonly left out of a Pilates session, but it is essential for a strong healthy back and good postural health.
The Swan is one of my most favorite exercises to do and give in a Pilates session, simply because it elicits immediate results and relief. It is a movement which most every single human being has done as a baby (think in terms of the Neurodevelopmental Sequence). The Swan is a consistent movement throughout the entire Pilates Method and can be done on all of the apparatuses. The Swan in any of its degrees (the simplest being Baby Swan on the mat to more challenging being Swan Dive or Grasshopper on the Ladder Barrel or Chair) can be included into any Pilates session. Even if you have a condition like Osteoporosis, Stenosis, or Spondylolisthesis, some form of mild extension is vital to maintain overall good spine health and posture (just make sure to work with a highly qualified instructor for this).
Back extension in any degree helps to elongate the spine, promotes axial elongation, teaches one how to engage core control (and even the pelvic floor) while not sinking into the lumbar spine, teaches how to integrate gaze into extension movements, teaches how to maintain scapular stability, stretches the anterior body (especially the Myofascial Front Functional Line if you’re a Fascia buff), and helps one to regain alignment of head, neck, and shoulders.
Overall, the Swan in some form or other is one exercise you want to include in every workout. Try it consistently for 8 days and let me know what you think, and enjoy the confidence and beauty of more uprightness!
Let me know if you feel differently. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org