A mermaid fair,
Combing her hair,
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?
The other day my nine-year old daughter challenged me to do a cartwheel in the backyard. No problem, I thought. I’d done plenty of cartwheels in my life, maybe not in the last 15 years, but it’s like riding a bike, right? I could whip one off and show my daughter that I was a cool mom. It seemed like, in my mind, I could visualize myself doing a cartwheel with ease; my muscles that I would be using seemed to contract in preparation for this feat. Well, let’s just say that the cartwheel was performed, but thankfully, not filmed. I quickly learned that there are a lot of muscles used for cartwheels that I hadn’t tapped into for far too long!
I think we can agree that we spend a lot of time flexing our spine forward, like when we reach over to put on our shoes or pick something off the floor. We tend to spend a lot of time sitting down, so we become tight in those supporting muscles around our spine. But, we don’t lean side to side very often throughout the day. How much does that even matter?
The Mermaid side stretch is a Pilates move that opens the side of the body and lengthens the obliques, QL, iliacus, and pelvic floor muscles. There is a dynamic connection between when you breath and stretch at the same time. Pay close attention to your instructor and use that breathing pattern to open up your rib cage and get a more intense stretch. Remember when you extend your arm overhead, do not lean forward or backwards. Imagine you are between two planes of glass. It is not about how far over you lean, but about how open you can get the opposite side of your body. Think about reaching up at an angle more than coming closer to your knee. This will help open up your waist and hip on the opposite side. You could also keep your gaze towards your outreached hand to open the hip even more.
Maybe you aren’t tempted to do a cartwheel like I was, BUT, you may find yourself wanting to play tennis or golf or swing a bat. This motion around your spine and hips needs to be stretched and fluid to keep you safe from injury. We want lots of strength and lift in both sides of our waist. The Mermaid exercise builds a balanced range of motion in the hip joints, resulting in less strain on the spine and more fluid cuts and turns. So lean side-to-side and embrace your inner Ariel!