Get Pilates Strong: The Swan

The Pilates Swan Will Perfect Your Back

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Your move of the month is the Swan.

There are few exercise moves that are universally accepted as “good for every body.”  While there may be a small number of exceptions, the Swan comes pretty close to making the mark.

Taken right from Joe’s original book, the Swan exercise is an undeniable gravity fighter and posture perfector. Done regularly you will see and feel the difference. 

Think about it. All day long we stoop over our desks, our phones, our laptops. We carry heavy bags, slump in our car seats and beat up our bodies in one way or another.  Over eighty percent of the population suffers with debilitating back pain occasionally even missing work because of injury or discomfort. Research tells us that most of our back pain is due to weakness and poor biomechanics which result in misalignments of the spine. Research also tells us that the smaller sustainable changes we make are the ones that have the most dramatic impact on our health and well-being. The Swan is one of those moves that fit the bill. 

Sounds too good to be true? Well, there is some bad news. You are going to have to lie down on a mat to perform this move. For some of us, that's a deal-breaker. If you can get past that small detail, the rewards are yours for the taking. 

Pilates Swan Step 1


Use an exercise mat or a thick towel to perform this move. Be sure you have enough room length wise and width wise to swing back and forth in an elongated position.

Begin face down in one long line from head to feet. Place your arms under your shoulders for a moment to press down into the mat and activate your abdominals. Draw the legs together strongly, inhale, and prepare to hold your body strong.

In one smooth movement exhale, extend both arms side to side and lift the chest and legs, so you are suspended off the floor. Think of getting longer and longer rather than higher. Face your palms forward to open the chest and keep working your core pulling the abs inward and upward.

Lower everything back to the mat, and repeat twice more getting longer and higher with each repetition. 

Pilates Swan Step 2


Let the fun begin.

Without any jerking or sudden movements, begin a small seesaw motion, deliberately swinging slightly forward and then backward in a Swan like movement. Continue rocking gradually gaining momentum to lift a bit higher with each repetition. Focus on lifting the legs up high behind you as you rock forward and lifting the torso up high in front of you as you rock backward. 

With each rock forward, inhale. With each rock backward, exhale.

Seems Impossible? Don't worry, you have options. Simply stick with step 1 until you can begin to rock. It's not the size of the Swan that counts. It's your form and the quality of the movement that produce results in your own body.

Pilates Swan Step 3


When you have completed 6-8 reps, stop rocking, place your hands on the mat, and push yourself back to sit towards your heels in a child's pose. This will serve as a counter-stretch to flex the spine that you have just worked in extension. Take 2-3 breaths and roll yourself up to sitting.

Come upright to standing, roll up your mat, and enjoy your new and improved strength, posture and alignment. 

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