There are many exercises in Pilates that are based on Yoga poses, and Swan is one of them. Since Pilates is a series of exercises and Yoga is series of poses, Joseph Pilates took Cobra and rocked it back and forth to strengthen the back while opening of the front line of the body and loosening the spine.
I suffered from a bulging disc when I was 19 years old and it continued to bother me for five more years, until I discovered that Swan could help to compress the disc back into place. Now I make Swan a part of my daily life and I don’t feel any residual pain from that old injury.
To get the body ready, prop yourself up on your forearms and as you inhale slowly lift your elbows off the floor until the arms straighten. Lower back down to your belly as you exhale. I also like to torque the spine by keeping one elbow down while lifting the other in preparation.
To perform Swan, begin by placing your hands directly under your shoulders and line your legs up in line with your hips. Always be sure to pull the abdominals in, engage the adductors and tone the gluteals to protect the low back. Slowly press into your hands to straighten the arms. If you cannot straighten the arms without the shoulders coming up by the ears, take you hands either more forward or to the sides so that you can comfortably extend your arms. Bring your head back down while lengthening the legs and lifting them as high as you can off the floor.
Move slowly at first and then as you feel looser, move a little faster and rock back and forth. If you would like to go even faster, pick your hands up off the floor and the legs lift. The most advanced variation of this exercise is to stretch your arms straight out over your head and leave them there are you rock.
Repeat at least eight times as you breathe in through the nose as you lift the upper body and exhale through the mouth as you lift the legs. When you have completed the exercise, slowly come up to the hands and knees and sink your hips over your heels in Child’s Pose to counter the stretch of the back.