Swan is an extension exercise. Supported by a strong core, the spine lengthens and arcs up and back. This is a wonderful stretch for the front of the body and a great strengthener for the back.
Adding the neck roll to swan gives you the opportunity to stretch the tone the neck muscles, as well as enjoy the freedom of motion one can have in the neck when the head and neck are well supported.See modification tips below.
- Lie on the mat face down.
Keep your arms close to your body as you bend your elbows to bring your hands under your shoulders. Shoulders should be away from the ears.
The legs are usually together, but it is acceptable to do this exercise with the legs shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your abdominal muscles, lifting your belly button up away from the mat. The abdominals remain lifted throughout the exercise.
- Inhale: Lengthen your spine, sending energy through the top of your head as you press your forearms and hands into the mat to support a long upward arc the upper body.
The elbows are close to the body, the head stays in line with the spine, and the hips stay on the mat.
Protect your lower back by sending your tail bone down toward the mat.
- Head Roll: With a very long neck, allow your head to drop to the left side -- ear to shoulder.
Slowly bring your chin toward your chest in a nod with the head centered.
Continue the roll, bringing your right ear toward your right shoulder.
- Take the head roll back the other way, ending with your left ear near your left shoulder.
- Drop your chin toward your chest again but this time, instead of rolling to the other side, stay in the center and lengthen your neck, bringing the head up as an extension of the spine.
- If you feel strong here, do the roll again starting to the right. If you feel a little shaky, go to step 8.
- On an exhale, keep your abdominals lifted as you release the arc, lengthening your spine as your torso returns to the mat sequentially: low-belly, mid-belly, low-ribs and so on.
- Repeat the exercise 3 to 4 times.
- If you have upper back or neck problems, you may want to go small with this exercise. Coming up only a few inches off the mat is fine.
- Try moving the head only slightly, just to work toward the feeling of freer motion.
- Protect your lower back by keeping your abdominals lifted and your tail bone reaching down toward the floor.
- This extension exercise is a great counter stretch for the many forward flexion exercises we have in Pilates.
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What You Need
- An exercise mat