The Wall

The Wall is an exercise rather than a piece of Pilates equipment, but it appears in this chapter because Mr. Pilates cleverly designed this exercise to turn any stationary wall into a fitness apparatus. The Wall exercise may be done anywhere, with no special clothing and no special equipment—just locate a wall, and you're ready to go! Try it at work to help loosen a stiff and tired body, refresh a sluggish mind, and lift sagging spirits.

To do the Wall, follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet 10 to 12 inches away from a wall, with your back touching the wall from your tail bone to the top of your shoulders and maybe the back of your head. Keep your legs straight and squeezed together, knees unlocked, feet pressed firmly into the ground with heels touching and toes about 2 inches apart. Let your arms hang loosely by your sides with the palms facing in.

  • Scoop your belly in and up along the front of your spine to gently lengthen and press your back into and up along the wall (don't force this action by overtightening your buttocks muscles). If your shoulders are too tight or your upper back too rounded to comfortably touch the back of your head to the wall, allow your head to float an inch or two away from the wall.

  • Inhale as you raise both arms forward and as high above your head as you can while keeping your entire back touching the wall and your shoulders down (refer to FIGURE 6-12).

  • Exhale as you reach both arms wide and out to the side, palms facing forward, as they circle back down to your thighs. Repeat this arm circle movement two more times, then reverse the circles three times.

    With each repetition of the arm circles, notice that your arms move more freely and with more range. Let the motions of your arms help facilitate full, deep Pilates breathing. Eventually, your arms may touch the wall above your head and slide along it as they circle.

  • After six arm circles, inhale and begin curling your head, neck, and then spine (one vertebra at a time) off the wall; let your arms dangle and fall forward as you round-curl your spine, allowing the weight of your head to gently pull you over. Peel your back off the wall like a piece of tape, maintaining your scoop in order to help articulate each vertebra of your spine as you slowly release them, one by one, from the wall.

  • Exhaling, continue rounding forward, stopping when you feel a comfortable amount of stretch in your back and/or hamstrings, keeping your lower pelvis stable against the wall. Finish exhaling as you reach the end of your forward movement (your hands should be at least 8 to 10 inches from the floor). Continue to maintain your scoop and keep your knees straight but unlocked. (See FIGURE 6-13.)

  • Continue breathing with a natural rhythm as you make small circles about the size of grapefruits with both arms. Each arm circles in the opposite direction from the other. Make eight to ten circles one direction, then reverse for eight to ten more, letting your arms slowly come to a stop.

  • Inhale smoothly and slowly, as you draw your belly in and up the front of your spine to lengthen and place your spine, vertebra by vertebra, back up the wall, “exactly in imitation of a wheel,” as Joseph Pilates said.

  • Exhale as you continue to build your posture, stacking your vertebrae like building blocks, growing taller than you were when you began the exercise. Let your arms dangle and your shoulders settle easily on your torso as your upper back, neck, and, possibly, head sequentially touch the wall.

FIGURE 6-12

FIGURE 6-13

When you finish the Wall, notice how rejuvenated you feel. Your neck and shoulder tension is gone, your back feels long and relaxed, your hamstrings feel stretched and alive, and you're taller and breathing more fully! You can make the Wall work your muscles even more deeply by holding lightweights or soup cans in your hands as you do the exercise.

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