As we wrap up our tour of the Pilates in Holland studio, we’re going to focus on some lesser-known tools of the trade: the Bodhi suspension system, ladder barrel, and many, many balls!
The Bodhi suspension system is a new kid on the block (insert Hangin’ Tough here). It was created in the last decade by Khita Whyatt and Kirsten Sell after Whyatt was in a car accident that left her with significant left-side paralysis and the inability to contract her deeper muscles, including the transverse abdominals. With a strong understanding of the body as a longtime Pilates practitioner, Khita knew she needed to re-engage those non-responsive deep muscles even without being able to consciously feel or contract them. She took advantage of the body’s righting reflex which moves to correct your body’s orientation when it falls out of an upright position. So when you lean into the ropes, your body’s reflexive reaction is to contract even some of the deepest muscles which also provides support for your joints.
By taking your body out of alignment with gravity, you are also able to use your own body weight as a tool for resistance against the ropes. Movement sequences include reaching limbs to the front, back, or side of the body, moving the center of the body into an unstable lean, and pulling the weight of the body against the force of the ropes. Bodhi’s fight with gravity creates great toned arms, and lithe, lean muscle overall.
The creation of the ladder barrel is a slightly different story. Our pal Joe was a beer drinker, and it was delivered to him in barrels. Inventive guy that he was, Pilates looked at an empty beer barrel and decided he could use it with clients to help with flexion and extension. I also really love it for stretching my hamstrings and quads.
The barrel connects to the ladder by a sliding base that adjusts to accommodate different torso sizes and leg lengths. It uses gravity and adjusted heights to challenge core stability and strength and to increase flexibility and mobility. Side crunches for obliques, swan, and grasshopper are a few common exercises, along with my favorite figure 4 stretch.
We use a wide variety of balls at PIH, including racquetballs, weighted balls, squishy balls, and the new fan favorite, the “green ball.”
The “green ball” is actually called a myofascial release ball and was brought to the studio by Terree after taking classes with Carolyne Anthony. It offers amazing tension release in muscles and fascia. Also working to relieve tightness and tension, racquetballs start almost every class to help soften our feet, toes, and ankles. Weighted balls add resistance and challenge to upper bodywork, while squishy balls can offer support or challenge to flexion work, especially on the mat or Reformer.
Another specialty ball we use at Pilates in Holland is the BrainSpeed Ball designed by fellow Michigander, Trent McEntire. It is a fantastic resource to help improve brain performance and resiliency.
Life is a team sport, and we all need help from the other players, and sometimes specialized tools. Luckily, when it comes to Pilates there are a multitude of options right at our fingertips.
81-year-young Nancy is awfully adept at this BrainSpeed ball exercise. Could you fare as well?