The Dailey Method : Barre Fitness, Healthy Lifestyle, Exercise Studio
The search for the best barre & cycle fitness class is over. The Dailey Method is here to help you achieve a strong, lean, sculpted body through an evolving mix of fitness practices that samples the best benefits from multiple disciplines.
We think of August as a relaxing and fun time where we can still play and are able to enjoy the end of our summer. Right?
That is definitely not how I’m feeling at the moment! My kids are about to head back to school and rather than feeling as though a break is near, I’m finding it difficult to shift back into a schedule. Believe me, I love my kids, my time with them, AND my summer, but I always forget how difficult the transition back to the school year can be. I won’t be SO vulnerable that I let you know all of the things I’ve let slip recently, but let’s just say I’m feeling very human.
So in honor of our word of the month PLAY – and due to the fact that inspiration often comes out of chaos, I have been “playing” with an exercise series that is incredibly quick and efficient for those times you lack the mental focus and time to fit in a class.
This series takes a little over 5 minutes and focuses on seat work, yet has the intensity and efficiency of continual muscular engagement paramount for optimal results gained from our Dailey Method fundamental principles. I incorporate functional range of motion for multiple joints, tempo varieties to target core stability and balance and also muscular strength/endurance for multiple muscle groups. All at the same time!
With a strong focus, first on balance, these exercises require stabilization and support of your small muscle groups, especially your primary pelvic stabilizer – Gluteus Medius. Gluteus Medius is called into action when you have to move slowly between two points of foundation to one point. Then, tapping into your new found stability, you’ll start working with a quicker tempo to increase your heart rate and target deeper into the gluteal muscles, core stabilizers and muscles of your shoulders and arms. The final set is less range of motion of the stabilizing side, and will burn out your seat while additionally getting your heart rate up. Intrigued?
Deep Lunge to knee lift:
Start in a crescent lunge with your right leg forward and left back. Using your arms for contralateral support reach left one forward and right arm back. Find squareness of your pelvis by drawing front thigh bone back and back hip point forward. Very slowly (counts of 4) stand on front leg and lift back knee towards chest, moving arms in opposition. Move back to starting position in 4 counts. – 8 times
Pick up tempo- lift in two counts and lower in two counts. – 8 times
Bend your arms at 90 degrees (to protect your shoulders) and pick up tempo – lift on one count and lower on one count. 16 times
Stay in a deep lunge with arms stabilized by side (to strengthen rotator cuff) and do knee pulls 32 times. Repeat other side.
Flat back floor (FBF) is potentially my favorite abdominal exercise! Over the 18 years that The Dailey Method has been practicing this exercise it has continued to be refined, possibly more than any of the others, due to its complexities and its benefits. Yes, we’ve geeked out on it a bit-but with that attention to detail we have acquired tons of knowledge and have developed cuing to go along side it. The end result is helping you find your ideal position to work most effectively. When executed mindfully, FBF works to strengthen the smaller and deeper muscles that stabilize your entire core. This gives you a corset of core support from the inside out, front, side and back. There is a common misconception that your abdominals are your core- but your back and sides are also part of your core. Targeting these muscles is just as important as engaging the abdominals to achieve strength and stability for your spine and pelvis. FBF also directly targets your transverse abdominus, which is the deepest layer of our abdominal muscles. This layer is the most difficult abdominal muscle to connect with, especially if not in your ideal alignment. This layer is most accessible when you’re in a true neutral spine and pelvis. When people think “flat back” they generally think of removing the spinal curves and flattening their back to the floor. But that’s not where you can achieve the greatest benefit. We teach it with a neutral spine and pelvis while trying to maintain what’s called axial elongation. Axial elongation is the proper alignment of the head, spine and pelvis, with as much length as possible, so it provides optimum spacing between the joints during movement. When you are in alignment you have a better capacity to engage your muscles properly. Alignment of your spine is the key to getting your best benefit out of every exercise at The Dailey Method and in life. The cuing focus for this exercise is the back body integration into the ground. By energetically connecting your entire back body to the floor you have greater ability to fire up all of your trunk stabilizers.
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Rock your pelvis back and forth to find and then settle your pelvis and spine into neutral.
Inhale length to your spine and try to reach sitz bones and the crown of your head as far away from each other as possible. This is what is defined above as axial elongation. You’re actively creating more space between each of your vertebrae while still maintaining optimal alignment.
Press the energy of your back to the ground without changing the position. Feel your sacrum root down, your rib cage and shoulder blades press down, and the sides of your waist connecting into the floor. Your low back will likely still be slightly off of the floor but you are energizing the musculature of your entire back to the floor. By activating the muscles of the back body you create a corset of support. You’ll notice that the action of pressing down with the back body will naturally create a deeper engagement of the abdominal muscles.
While maintaining stability, lift your legs up and straighten them out over your hips (if you have tight hamstrings keep the legs slightly bent.
In counts of 2-4, lower one leg towards the floor as far as you can without losing alignment or engagement, and then alternate.
The simple action of maintaining focused energy of the musculature down towards the floor will have a positive strengthening impact. Taking the weight of the legs moving further away from your center line to challenge the engagement can progress with time as you get stronger and more aware of what muscles you are engaging.
We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. Herman Melville
One of the things that I appreciate the most about The Dailey Method is that it’s an environment that invites and nurtures connection in a number of different ways. We all desire and crave connection. Connecting with our students and our communities is something that we value and is at the core of our training. Here are different ways we train our teachers and staff to connect, and can help you to focus on connecting with others and yourself this month.
Connect with someone through eye contact. With a store clerk, the local barista and definitely with people that are important in your life. This is my absolute favorite way to connect with people. It lets them know I’m present with them, I see them, and that I am truly listening to what they’re saying. It’s even better if a smile accompanies it!
Connect to what it takes you to get to class in light of your busy life. Notice the steps you took to be here 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 times a week. Thank and appreciate yourself for taking those steps.
Connect to one to two steps you can take in class to deepen your practice versus doing an exercise the same way you’ve always done it. Try holding the depth in thigh work a little longer than you normally would, resetting plank by going onto your knees to find deeper engagement, or self adjusting in back dancing with your hands on your hips to sense the squareness of your pelvis and achieve better alignment.
Connect to your breath. Only by leaning into challenge or adversity do we ever see it through. Breathe and lean in so that you can meet physical challenges in class today in a new way. Let it help you find length and depth of engagement or push you through a difficult section of class. Take this breath and connection with you into the remainder of your day.
Connect internally with your mind and your body. At The Dailey Method we work on cuing micro adjustments so you can achieve better alignment and get deeper into a position. This focus can also translate to a much needed meditative focus on your body and breath. Connection to oneself requires that we carve out the space to be present with ourselves and get out of our head. It can feel overwhelming, I know, but it’s as important in creating a more balanced and peaceful life. Just think how your might be affected by this small shift!
Commit to connect with or to say hi to someone in the studio today, before or after class. It could be a person you’ve seen in passing, have always thought was interesting, or that you just happen to be standing next to. We spend so much of life with our heads down and on our to-do list and while you may not know this person, it’s possible you could be missing opportunities to meet amazing people you were meant to become connected to in this lifetime. The more we can connect with our communities the more potential support we can both give and receive in our lives.
Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. Cicely Tyson
I love this picture of Master Teacher Trainer, Katina Griffin. It shows the power and capabilities we have to discover our own personal edge. There is so much thought and integration working throughout her entire body to hold this challenging position in phenomenal alignment. She’s focused and consistently discovering how she can align or engage deeper to reach her best potential – today.
Self discovery and experiencing new things are true passions of my own and I’m excited for our June word of the month: Discover. There’s so much in life to discover, to see and do and feel. I love to travel, be introduced to new cultures, experiences, sights, and to meet new people. I also love to play with movement. It allows me a chance to learn something new or experience something familiar in a very different way. So much of what we do at The Dailey Method is to help you discover what is inside of you. Our workout provides you opportunities in every class you take to uncover your best potential. It calls on you to discover new challenges in a way that helps push you past your edge and onto greater achievements.
Here’s a few ways for you to “Discover” this month:
Discover how your breath patterns can change the way an exercise feels. I tend to think generally the best technique is to inhale as you lengthen (move away from your center line) and exhale as you shorten (draw towards center line or the more exertive portion of the movement). But try it the other way and see if it changes the way you can engage. Or play with lengthening out your breath to see how that feels.
Take different types of classes offered at your Studio or online this month. If you stick to Dailey Basics, try a Dailey Barre class. If you’re a Dailey Cyclist try a Dailey Interval class. If Dailey Interval or Dailey Fusion are generally you’re choice, try a Dailey Basics or Dailey Gentle instead. You may surprise yourself with what you discover which will inevitably help you gain even more out of the format you prefer.
Challenge yourself to do something you’ve never done. This can be as simple as going to a movie by yourself or as big a challenge as skydiving!
Stop and smell the flowers. (such old advice, I know!!)
Discover a new body part to focus on today in a position where you tend to think of the exercise as only one-dimensional. An example: In Narrow V thigh work – work on engaging your gluteals and hamstrings more as you squeeze your heels together. This will allow you to feel how the back body and inner thighs can work as hard as your quadriceps during thigh work. Especially on the upward part of the movement.
Transform your Dailey Method practice by discovering new ways to shape “your edge”. And “edge” doesn’t always refer to intensity. Today, maybe you opt to take a couple more resets versus pushing through a difficult part of class. Try it! You could discover a segue to inviting more allowance for recovery time in every class you take therefore opening the door to a 4-5 day a week TDM practice versus only 1-2.
There are so many things out there to enjoy and discover.
Great posture is something everyone would like to achieve. But it’s difficult for many because they haven’t been properly taught how. We’re generally instructed to:
strengthen our back muscles
work on core strength; primarily abdominal exercises
stand up straight
draw shoulder blades together and down your back
All of these (except possibly #4 if done too aggressively) are beneficial. But one thing that isn’t always emphasized is how integral the muscles that support our scapulae (shoulder blades) and rib cage are for our posture. Having these muscles both strong and flexible can tremendously help support proper alignment, spinal support and shoulder health.
The scapula, is the flat hand shaped bone that sits on top of the rib cage. It creates the shoulder joint where it meets with the head of the humerus-the bone of the upper arm. The scapula is an incredibly mobile bone that can move in six different directions. It’s nestled in sheaths of muscles that act alone or work together to create these movements.
In several different sections of my classes I like to teach a variation that is a functional movement of the scapula to draw attention to this part of your posture and help my students stand tall more effortlessly. Recognition is the first step to deeper strengthening and support of our muscle groups. The primary focus should be to keep your shoulder blades flat on your ribcage and move your shoulder blades around in circles on your ribcage. Try not to use your arms or the muscles of your neck to do the work.
keep your shoulder blades wide and flat on your back
arm bones held in goal post position
slowly rotate your shoulder blades around in a circle 8 -12 times up/back/and around. You can do this with or without weights depending on your strength. Your arms will move but only because you’re moving your scapulae.
Knowledge is power! At The Dailey Method we understand that the more knowledge we can give you, the more power you each have to continually evolve within and deepen your practice. Education is a primary key to changing the way we all move for the better.
Take Parallel Squat as an example:
This is an exercise that has been around for a long time and it is highlighted in many different types of fitness classes because of its effectiveness. It’s primarily thought of as a thigh exercise but at TDM we consider it one of our “thigh/seat” combos because there is tremendous strength to be gained in your gluteals and hamstrings on the upward part of the movement. These muscles live at the base of your spine and help you stabilize in all movement. They assist you in achieving better balance and do a huge job with respect to supporting a healthier spine as you move through life.
Like all of the exercises we teach, Parallel Squat is a functional exercise. While aligning and maintaining neutral spine during the movement you are training your body to bend and lift in its most supported state. This translates in so many practical ways and applies to your everyday activities in life. Picking up your kids when they need you, or sitting down and getting up off of a chair are only a few notable and integral ways to understand the importance of the health and strength of these muscles. Your mind and body will work together to create this movement safely and efficiently because you’ve already practiced the training in our classes, online videos or on your own.
Parallel squat is also an exercise that provides you with the tremendous benefits of strengthening your knee joint. This can help offset or rehabilitate knee problems, especially the more common ones that are medial or lateral to the joint.
It’s pertinent to know that there are subtle differences in the location of the acetabulum (the socket of your pelvis where your femur inserts) and the length of the femur (thigh bone). This results in making different squat variations more or less challenging in different bodies. Always prioritize alignment and active muscular engagement over depth and range of motion. Your neighbor may be lower but you’re both doing what’s ideal for your own body type.
Here’s how to do the perfect Parallel Squat.
Feet are parallel and hip distance apart. This can be visualized by lining up the center of your foot with the bony protuberance in the front of your pelvis (ASIS).
Feel your weight distribution evenly through all four corners of your feet, bend your knees as deeply as you can. Your knees will come forward of your ankle joint but must stay behind your toes.
Lift your torso as upright as you can, maintaining neutral spine. It will be a parallel angle with your shins but the more you focus on lifting your torso upright the more capacity you have to
While extending your legs focus on the energy of pressing upright from your gluteals and the energy of dragging your heels behind you to engage your hamstrings. On the lowering position envision the elongation of your quadriceps. This will keep them engaged throughout and help encourage a longer, stronger muscle.
As you bend your knees, keeping them aligned over the centerline of the foot gives you the support of both the inner thighs and the outer thighs. Pay attention to hugging your inner shins towards one another while pressing your inner thighs away from each other at the same time throughout the bending and lengthening. This action is referred to as “shins in, thighs out’ and helps you maintain engagement of both inner and outer thighs so you’re hugging muscle to bone and optimizing stability and power – front to back, side to side.
Stay present in your movement. Use your mind to focus on how your body feels and your teacher’s words to help you achieve optimal alignment in order to get deeper into your position.
In future fit tips I’ll visit a wider squat stance in a turned-out squat so that you can note the difference and determine what feels best in your body!