Pain is tiring. A healthy, mobile spine is vital to our ability to enjoy all that life has to offer. Today, we will focus on the design of your back, and share five simple Pilates exercises that will help you to maintain a healthy and flexible spine.
Your back is designed to:
Move in all directions
The spine is designed to move in all directions. Not only forward and back but rotational and side bending movements. Often a poor seated position means you might be doing all these movements at once without knowing it. If you are slouching into these positions it can lead to aches and pains. Or maybe you sit on a chair that spins and you never actually rotate the body. In every Pilates session you attend you can be assured that you will move your spine in all directions.
Have good range of movement
In order to have a spine that feels flexible and strong you need to take it through its full range of movement. Movement keeps the spine functioning optimally. Ideally we want to spread the movement of the spine throughout all of the vertebrae so that no part is over or under used.
Did you know movement is how the nervous system receives information regarding where the body is in space? The technical word is proprioception. This heightened sense of awareness helps us to maintain better posture throughout the day which helps us to decrease the stresses from poor habits or patterns.
Support & stabilise your body
Once the spine is moving, we can work on strengthening the muscles. The spine has small deep muscles that aid in stability and big muscles that help us move. Pilates focuses on the both. And when we are working muscles on one side of the body, the opposing muscles lengthen. The muscles work in harmony.
A Pilates session will incorporate all the aspects required to have a flexible and strong back. Your muscles will be more balanced, which makes everyday life less tiring as your body is working efficiently. You’ll feel more agile, young and energetic. Who doesn’t want that?
The primary objective is to create fluid movement throughout the whole spine. Many of us might find we move in a clump at a certain spot along our spine. Take your time here and make sure you breath to allow the muscles around the joints to lengthen.
2. BOOK OPENING
Taking the body into rotation is essential. Think of the amount of times we do it throughout the day without realising it, like reaching for the seat belt or the toilet paper! Once you have rotated take a few breaths and allow the body to soften towards the floor. Think about drawing your bottom ribs toward the mat to allow a deeper twist.
3. PRONE EXTENSION
Taking your body into extension to reverse the effects of time spent hunched forward is essential. You’ll be stretching the front of your body whilst strengthening your back body. Plus reminding your body that is it designed to move in this direction. Think long and low, you want to feel this around the base of the shoulder blades not your lower back. And remember to keep your pubic bone in contact with the mat so your lower back doesn’t arch.
Mermaid allows your body to flex to the side and open the rib cage. Inhale to the side ribs to increase the stretch. Stay for a few breaths, stay for one. Do what feels good for you. You can also add on a rotation and extension here. Once you have finished you will have moved your spine in every direction.
5. STANDING ROLL DOWN
Best to perform this once you have warmed up the body. This is a great one to do while you have a spare minute or two. As you roll down your back muscles are lengthening with control to stop you falling on your head. As you roll up your muscles are contracting to bringing you back up. Each is beneficial.
Huge thanks to Polestar Pilates International’s Head of Education, Shelly Power for being our model during her March 2019 London tour.
Not all exercises are ideal for every single person. If you experience discomfort or pain while performing any of these exercises, we recommend speaking with a skilled Pilates teacher, physical therapist or rehabilitation practitioner. Our team of teachers and therapists at Moss are here to provide the personal attention your body needs to move and feel better.
Whether you’re coming back from injury or simply been sitting for too long, try these 5 exercises for a healthy spine. Work them into your daily self-care practice and let us know how you go.