Elephant on the Pilates Reformer is often considered a beginner exercise but I think the concepts of Elephant can be just as advanced as any Pilates exercise. Safety wise it’s a pretty simple exercise and the movement is also not complicated. But, the effort to perform the Elephant requires a lot of strength and control. It’s so easy to downward dog this exercise and make it come from the hip flexors. But, if you can channel your Double Straight Leg Stretch and your Stomach Massage you’ll discover some great nuances to the lower body reach and the opposition it creates. And if you struggle to feel your center take control drop down to one or zero springs and you will quickly feel what muscles are required to make this exercise happen.
It’s easy to downward dog this and make it come from the hip flexors.
With two heavy springs place both heels on your carriage against the shoulder rests and your hands on the footbar. Place equal weight in your hands and feet and as much as you are reaching down into the reformer lift your center up. Pressing your heels down into your carriage press the carriage away and then digging your heels down pull your carriage closed. Repeat 2-4 more times and then lift one leg through the shoulder blocks back and point through your foot. The reach of the straight leg should help encourage the connection to your center. It will also teach your body the single leg Tendon stretch. With one leg press the carriage out and in three times and then switch sides. Notice what changes your body tries to make, any compensations when you lift a leg up?
One of the things I have to focus on when I move the carriage out and in is where my hip points are in place. It’s easy, especially if you have tighter hips or a tight back to allow your frontal hip points down as you press your legs back. Dig your heels into the carriage and lift your hips up as you move back and your hips up to close the spring. When you lift one leg up and behind you notice what happens to the weight in your arms. The key is to keep the weight even on both of your arms. The movement doesn’t need to be big. In fact, the elephant isn’t a big movement at all. Focus more on maintaining your connection then what the carriage does!
Be sure to check out more of my online Pilates Reformer exercises. I want to help you continue your Pilates Reformer training!