Dust Angels?

This exercise helps loosen the shoulder joints, but it’s really a core stability exercise.  We move the arms and legs around to challenge the stability of the core.

Start by lying down on the floor on your back with your knees up, feet flat on the floor, and hip distance apart.  This is usually a full hand spread (thumb to little finger) or two fists between the heels.  Your legs should be parallel.  Your knees should be the same height.  If they’re not, the higher one is too close to your butt, so walk the foot out a bit.  Or, you could have your feet too far out to begin with, so walk them back in and make sure your knees are level.

This is called “Position A” because your thighs and calves make an A-frame shape and the angles should be the same.

You can put a small pillow or folded towel under your head to avoid neck strain.

Starting with your arms by your sides, abs scooped up and in, and the rib cage closed down toward your belly button.  Ideally, you’d want to do this exercise in pelvis neutral (see my other article on “Pelvis Neutral”), but you may have to start in imprint first until you get more stability throughout the core.  Try to feel your twelfth rib on the floor so that the rib cage stays down and flat.

Breathe into the back and sides of your rib cage.


  1. Inhale and raise your arms up to point straight up to the ceiling, palms facing each other and shoulder distance apart.  This is about the distance of holding a normal-sized phone book at the top and the bottom.
  2. Still on the inhale, let your arms slowly float over your head.  Keep the rib cage closed down and your twelfth rib touching the floor.  Don’t let your rib cage pop up!  If you’re in imprint, stay there.  If you’re in neutral, monitor your low back so that the space under it does not increase.
  3. You will need to stop your arms when you can still see your elbows out of the corners of your eyes.  If you are keeping your rib cage down, you will notice tension in your shoulder joint.  Stop there.
  4. Begin to exhale and open your arms out into a T on the floor.
  5. Finish the exhale by circling your arms back down to your sides, staying on the floor.
  6. Repeat two more times.


  1. Inhale and circle arms out to a T on the floor.
  2. Find that “in between” spot described in #3 above, sort of a V above your head.
  3. Exhale and point your arms to the ceiling, palm facing each other, and shoulder-width apart.
  4. Continue exhaling and return your arms to your sides, where you started.
  5. Repeat two more times.

Make it a stretch:

Begin as in the first exercise above, but now let gravity take your arms down to the floor above your head.  It’s very, very important that your back and pelvis stay in imprint for this one, keeping your rib cage closed down.

Try to keep your arms straight through the elbow.  We’re trying to open the shoulder joint here, so bending your elbows is a way to avoid that stretch.  Keep your shoulder blades reaching down your back and not creeping up toward your ears for earrings!

Try to stay here as long as possible.  Try to build up to five minutes in this stretch.

I like this stretch for a couple of reasons:  One, I like to let gravity do the work instead of me.  And two, releasing tension in the shoulders is a must for today’s stressful life!

Let your body be your guide.  If you experience pain at any point, in any part of your body, back off the exercise or stretch to a more comfortable, but still challenging level for you.  Remember to breathe!

This can also be done standing or sitting next to a wall, but I find it much harder because I have to actively reach for the wall instead of letting gravity do it for me.

Let me know how you like or don’t like this exercise and stretch.  Let me know if you have any difficulties with it, and I’ll suggest modifications.  If you like it, pass it on!  And let me know, of course!

About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
Gallery | This entry was posted in Fitness, Pilates, Pilates, Riding & Fitness, Riding Fitness, Riding Pilates and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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