Learn Mermaid Side Stretch

1
Intro and Set Up

Woman practising mermaid Pilates mat exercise
Angela Coppola/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Mermaid side stretch lengthens and opens the side body. It has an inner flow to it -- a dynamic between breath and stretch, and ground and skyward reach that makes it special. Use mermaid as a gentle warm up or as more intense stretch later in your routine.

Keeping the sit bones grounded as the arm extends in a long, up and over reach, will connect the stretch through the center of the body. Mermaid is also a good lesson in keeping the scapula settled in the back as the arm moves.



Set Up


  • Sit on the floor with both legs folded to the left side.

  • Make a connection between your pelvis and your ribs so that you are flat, as if your torso was between two sheets of glass.

  • The right hand is on the floor providing some support as you sit upright.
    Like most Pilates exercises, the real support for the move comes from the abdominals.

  • Keep your left shoulder down, away from your ear, as you extend your left arm straight up above your head. Bring the inside of the arm as close to your ear as you can without hiking up the shoulder.

2
Lengthen and Stretch to the Side

pilates picture
Pilates Mat Exercise - Mermaid. by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios, (c) 2006

  • Keep your left hip grounded as you lengthen your spine and the stretch moves up through the center of your body. Extend your spine so far up that you have nowhere left to go with the stretch but to take it over to the side.
    Do not let your ribs pop forward as you curve to the side.

  • Your support hand moves further away from your body to increase the stretch. You can also fold the supporting elbow down onto the floor.
    Keep your shoulders down and your scapula settled in your back, even at the farthest point of your reach.

  • To initiate your return, send your left sit bone down toward the mat. Then use your abs to begin to bring your torso up.

3
Up and Over to the Other Side

pilates picture
Pilates Mermaid. by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios, (c) 2006

  • Your torso lengthens further still as the left arm arcs over head and then down to grasp your left shin.

  • As your right arm travels, your right arm follows.

  • Now your focus is on keeping the right sit bone grounded as the stretch extends up and over toward the left.

  • Reach your right arm as far as you can without losing the integrity of shoulder. Your shoulder is down and the scapula is settled in the back.

Important Notes:



• Stay flat. Do not let your back arch, your ribs pop out, or your shoulder twist inward.


• Keep your shoulders down and your scapula engaged in your back.


• The head moves as an extension of the spine.


• The whole stretch should feel good.



Repeat 2 to 3 times and switch sides.

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