The Baby Chair, or Arm Chair, teaches the LIFT (Two-Way Stretch) of Pilates. Often, students bear down when executing an exercise. This shortens the spine and restricts blood flow to the muscles and organs. This action is counterintuitive to the Method. In Pilates, we lift, we lengthen, and like a great relationship, we create space to breathe. The Baby Chair, in the Forward Position, creates this length in the spine. When the Student can bring the Chair Back Forward without losing the connection of the spine lengthened against and lifted along it, the student understands the correct engagement of the true Powerhouse or Girdle of Strength. The Baby Chair also teaches the connection of the arms to and through the back of the body. The arms connect through and down the back into the pelvis, which connects up the back body and through to the front. This creates the Powerhouse from which we move. The Trinity engages the stomach, bottom, and inner thighs. This engagement helps to open the lower back and create space throughout the spine. Each piece of Mr. Pilates’s apparatus has a purpose, just like each exercise. We, as Teachers, must choose the apparatus to suit the needs of the student. The High Chair (Electric Chair) creates Stability, the Wunda strength, the Barrels open, the Cadillac (Table) combines strength with length, and the Reformer, well, it reforms. The Baby Chair lifts and creates space in the spinal column.
Every exercise builds within itself but also breaks down to build the Mat and the Reformer. Example: The Big Hug becomes the Big Hug to the Floor, which becomes Breathing, which develops into Breathing Alternating. Just as in the Reformer, Short Box Hug becomes Backstroke Swimming, which becomes the Teaser. This is true of all Apparatus.
Below are some of my favorite Baby Chair exercises and its Thread to the Mat. Before starting an exercise, take time and study the video to understand the concepts, movement, focus, and cues. As always, you are the best judge; listen to your body, and if you experience any pain or discomfort while performing a certain movement, stop immediately.
The Baby Chair is NOT recommended for persons with hip or knee replacements or issues. It is also contraindicated to ankle, foot, or shoulder issues.
I hope you will be inspired you to look deeper and search for yourselves and your journey in Pilates to find the lift of the Baby Chair.
Thigh Stretch- Kneeling Facing Back – Use to build the lift through the spine needed as the thighs stretch in the THIGH STRETCH on the Mat. The downward angle of the chair seat affords a unique position when the knees are at the lowest point while kneeling. This gives the body the opportunity to create great and longer front body space. More front body space allows the spine more surface to lift along. Use this exercise to build correct movement habits before adding the Thigh Stretch to your Mat routine or to increase the depth of your current movement.
Neck Stretcher Head Press Front- Round Forward- Kneeling Facing Out- Use to build the lift through the spine needed through the neck. The ability to safely execute the Control Balance relies greatly on the ability of the Powerhouse to lift the body weight overhead and on the shoulder, not on the neck. The correct curve can be created for Control Balance with the neck Stretcher on the Baby Chair. In this exercise, we are increasing the back body space, therefore creating the front body’s increased surface to build support against. Remember to have someone spot the Baby Chair for you while executing this and any Kneeling Facing Out exercises!
Baby Chair Butterfly One- Kneeling Facing Out- Truth be told, I LOVE this exercise. It is one of the places where I can create enough space in my spine to truly fill the rotation throughout my ribcage. As you execute this exercise, be sure to engage the Trinity and squeeze the sides of the Baby Chair. This will help you not to move from the pelvis down. It is very important to isolate the movement to the waist, ribs, shoulders, neck, and head- eyes too! In this exercise, it is NOT the side you rotate away from that has the focus of the lift, but rather the side you are rotating toward. If you are rotating to the left, with the right arm up, the nature of the position and action create space on the right side of the body. Here is now the opportunity to lengthen your left side up and along the elongated right side. This will aid in building the skills needed to execute Corkscrew to 90, with clean and effortless rotation.
Notice that when we use the newly created space of the action of the exercise to elongate the opposite side, we are drawing toward the center of the body. This is how the lift of the spinal column is created. This is the gift of the Baby Chair.