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How to Do the Saw in Pilates

The Saw is a classical Pilates exercise that strengthens the spine, tones the waistline, and stretches the hamstrings and hips. It uses the deep abdominal muscles to pull your upper torso forward, a practice that helps you learn to initiate movement from your body's center. Not only does this move strengthen your back, but it also improves posture. When combined with the correct breathing technique, the Saw helps to expel stale air from the lungs while emphasizing lateral breathing. The Saw will also help you develop stable and controlled movement throughout your whole body.

Instructions

  1. Begin seated at the top of your mat with your legs extended in front of you and your hands resting at your sides. Sit up as tall as possible, pressing your weight evenly across both sit bones. Flex your feet and spread your toes. Pull your navel in toward your spine, strongly engaging your abdominal muscles.
  2. Spread your legs as wide apart as your shoulders. Keep them straight and firmly pressing into the mat.
  3. Raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder-height. Keeping your palms facing down, extend outward through your fingertips. Pull your shoulder blades together and keep your chin level (neither raised nor tucked).
  4. On an inhalation, pull your navel in toward your spine and lift it up. Imagine you are lengthening your entire torso and spine up to the ceiling through the crown of your head.
  5. Initiating the movement from your torso, twist to the right as far as possible. Do not let your left hip lift off the floor. Reach forward and downward as far as you can until your left hand crosses over your right foot, brushing your left pinkie finger past your right baby toe. Your legs should be completely straight and your right arm should remain lifted.
  6. Exhale slowly as you stretch your body forward in three gentle, saw-like sliding motions (pulses).
  7. Inhale as you draw your torso upright and return to center, keeping your arms extended.
  8. Twist to the left and repeat the sequence.
  9. Complete four full rounds, reaching farther forward with each repetition. End by lowering your arms to your sides.
Hot Tip: Stabilize Your Hips

Keep your hips completely still and unmoving when you stretch forward. Imagine that your legs and hips are locked in a block of cement and are unable to move! This will help you learn to use only your abdominal muscles. It will also provide a deeper stretch to your hamstrings and hips.

Modifications & Tips

The Saw will teach you to move with control and precision while coordinating your breath with your movement. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • If your hamstrings are stiff, sit on a folded blanket or rolled-up mat. You can also practice this move with your knees slightly bent.
  • Do not let your knees roll inward when you stretch forward.
  • Focus on the midline of your body to prevent stretching unevenly.
  • Keep your feet flexed and the arches of your feet long.
  • Keep your pelvis stable and unmoving throughout the exercise.
  • Use the deep abdominal muscles to help support your spine as you stretch forward and return upright.
  • Keep the crown of your head lifting and reaching throughout the exercise. Do not scrunch your neck or hunch your shoulders when you reach forward.
  • Roll up completely before twisting to the opposite side.
  • Synchronize your breath with your movement.

Twist to Sit Taller

The Saw will build strength through your core muscles (the powerhouse) as well as your upper back and shoulders. Sit up as tall as you can when initiating the movement, and then twist as far to the side and as far forward as you can to finish the movement. The longer your twist and reach, the more space you'll be able to create between your vertebrae. This will help you create a strong, supple spine and graceful posture.

The Saw is a seated Pilates exercise that trims the waistline and stretches the legs. Read this guide to learn more information about this move!
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