It's only fitting that I write about the 7th Day of Fitness on the 25th of July, (aka Christmas in July). What exercise do we get to dive into on this fine occasion?? Swan. Haha, get it? Swan, swan dive...I'll continue laughing to myself as I type.
What is the Swan is good for? I'll give you a hint: 7 Swans-A-??????. That's right, stretching! Of course that isn't the only purpose, all Pilates exercises are first and foremost about the powerhouse, but swan also encompasses two of the primary foundations: stretch & strength and breathing. It is also, in my humble opinion, a quintessential 'it looks so nice and easy' exercise that is anything but.
As can be seen in the picture above, Swan can be performed on a variety of apparatus, with more advanced versions leading into the Swan Dive. The Pilates version of the Swan Dive does not include the refreshing splash of water after a free-fall through the air. I've got an anecdote about this wonderful exercise, but in the interest of keeping your attention, I will save that for the next post. Let's go through each version one at a time:
Swan on the Ladder Barrel
Generally, the Swan is first learned here and is my 'favorite' place to do it. There are two variations of the Swan that can be done on the Barrel: Standing Swan, or Swan, (feet are placed against the rungs on the ladder portion of the barrel).
Swan and Swan Dive on the Wunda Chair
Swan can also be learned on the Wunda Chair, and it is primarily men who might first learn it here. Doing the Swan on the Wunda Chair provides assistance from springs, the only assistance you get on the barrel is a wish and a prayer. The Swan Dive is an advanced exercise that can be performed here that serves as a transition exercise between Swan and Grasshopper.
Swan on the Reformer
An advanced exercise when performed on the reformer, the movements of Swan here is most similar to being done on the ladder barrel. It is the first exercise of the Long Box series, and being on the reformer there is the tension added by the springs, but it is different than the spring tension of the Wunda Chair. The Wunda Chair is a stationary apparatus, so the use of the springs here lends support throughout the exercise, while on the Reformer they provide resistance to work against. I like to think of Swan on the Reformer as the final frontier in terms of doing the Swan. It combines all of the elements learned on other apparatus and brings it all together in one fluid motion.
Swan on the Mat
Swan (Dive) on the mat is part of the advanced mat order and I like to describe it as a trust fall with yourself. Who does a trust fall alone? Pilates folks, that's who. While Swan Dive isn't something that you would commonly come across in general Pilates classes, the Neck Roll is the exercise used to prepare for the big dive. Check out the video below to see it in action:
And there you have it, Seven Swans-A-Stretching.