Whether you are working the ORIGINAL technique at home, in a studio or in a park, with a barre or without, there are a few basic elements you need to understand:
When you practice the ORIGINAL technique, you won’t need much: water, possibly a towel and maybe a pair of grip socks (depending on the studio). Most similar to classical Pilates exercises, the movements in the ORIGINAL technique are small and repetitive. This is not a class to attend occasionally - the method is meant to condition the body. The more you practice these moves, the better your body will respond.
There are no balls, no weights, no bands, no planks and no instructors yelling from microphones because the music is too loud. The ORIGINAL class is fun, inviting and full of chatter. Though the exercises can be practiced individually, what makes this technique special is the community that forms when women come together to improve themselves. Women encourage each other, befriend each other, laugh together, complain together (it is work after all) and they form bonds that go beyond the studio.
The ORIGINAL technique centers around the TILT, a position in which the pelvis rotates forward, ensuring a flat back. When in a TILT, the belly is pulled in toward the spine, the torso is lifted and the entire core is energized.
To find your TILT, lie on the floor, position your feet flat on the ground and bend the legs so that the knees are toward the ceiling. Start in a relaxed position (your everyday, don’t-think-about-it spinal posture) and place a hand at the base of the spine. Notice the small space between the floor and your spine when you are relaxed. Pull your hand away, press your feet into the floor and rotate your pelvis forward. Feel your quads activate, your middle and lower abdominal muscles engage and your lower back press into the floor. This is your TILT.
Relax and TILT a few times so that you train your body to know what the TILT feels like. When you are ready, stand up, notice your body in your relaxed posture and then pull your belly in toward your spine as you bring your pelvis forward and watch how your body transforms as you TILT.
the stretch & release
Many of the ORIGINAL exercises work one side of the body while stretching the other. While you participate, pay attention to how your body is positioned - the core AND the limbs - so that you can optimize not only the working muscles but also the stretched muscles. Think about activating the muscles you are stretching - those muscles will be working just as hard as the muscles that are moving.
Some exercises will include a big bend in the leg, whereby the leg is fully extended and then fully bent, bringing the foot back toward the body’s midline. Most movements, however, are incredibly tiny and simply involve releasing the stretch, not bending the knee at all: stretch and release, stretch and release, stretch and release.
With the ORIGINAL technique, it matters not how high you can lift your leg or how far you can contort your body. What matters is that in every exercise you maintain the proper FORM. If your leg lifts 3 inches off the ground but at that 3-inch height you are stretching and releasing with your toes pointed in the right direction, your back straight, your chest high and your belly pulled toward the spine so that the core is supported, you are doing beautifully.
the pelvic floor
The ORIGINAL class features a section dedicated to pelvic floor health. These muscles help secure the bladder, colon and uterus. Pregnancy, labor, surgery, obesity and aging can cause muscle weakening, leading to incontinence, frequent gas passing and pain during sex.
To find the vaginal muscle group, act as if you are holding your pee; to isolate the posterior muscles, pretend you are preventing yourself from passing gas. You can move these muscles separately or in conjunction with one another.
Kegel exercises are a great way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Relax the body completely, isolate the muscle group and then contract and relax the muscles, in and out, one second at a time to start. Once you can emulate the concept, try contracting and relaxing for 3 seconds each, then 5 seconds and, if you are able, up to 10 seconds. Don’t forget to work both sets of muscles.
Lie on your back, either on the floor or a mat, and place your feet flat against the ground, bending the legs so that the knees are pointed toward the ceiling. Move your pelvis into a tilted position, pressing your back into the floor. Breathe in and, in one fluid movement, lift the head, neck and shoulders so that the shoulder blades are lifted.
Pulling the belly into the spine, lift the arms and place the hands behind the thighs, just under the knees. Grip with the hands the backs of the thighs and engage the arm muscles. Press the feet into the floor for optimal stability, ensure the neck is stabilizing the head, which can be freely rotated.
Whether practicing with the feet pulling down on the barre, pressing into the baseboard or flat on the floor, this is the abdominal series working curve.
While the exercises are safe for pregnant and postpartum women (as long as a doctor approves the low-impact workouts), modifications are required. Some exercises may require modifications or become eliminated due to certain injuries or limitations. To avoid injury, please inquire about alternative movements.
The ORIGINAL technique was created alongside a ballet barre. Studio classes will incorporate the barre into the workout as intended; however, modifications to the program have been made so that one may practice the technique almost anywhere.
For women who have young ones, Rachael adapted the ORIGINAL technique for stroller workouts. To practice the ORIGINAL technique in your own space, whether you have a barre or not, stay tuned for online videos giving you the opportunity to work out whenever you like.