Online Pilates Foundations Course

Online Pilates Foundations Course: Day 2 of 10

Online Pilates Course: Day 2

The Pelvic and  Lower Spine Alignment & Control.

 

What is Pelvic & Lower Spine Alignment & Control?

 

“Everything’s connected!” is not just some New Age mantra, but everything really is connected!  And this is especially true of the  Pelvis and Lower Spine.  What happens to one has an effect on the other.

Tip your pelvis backwards and your spine moves backwards.  Tip your pelvis forwards and your spine will move forwards.  This has a massive impact on our alignment and posture.

In this lesson we explore how to find neutral position in two ways (using bony prominences and using muscle tension) and then how to keep the pelvis and lower spine stable as our legs move in air.

 

Jargon Buster!

Pelvis = the lower part of the trunk between the abdomen and the thighs.  It includes the bony pelvis.

Lumbar = the lowest five vertebrae of the lower spine.

Lumbo-pelvic = the lower spine and the pelvis together.

Supine: lying on your spine, face up.

Prone: lying face down.

Bony Prominences: parts of the bones that are close to the surface.

 

Previous Lesson

Day 1: Foundations click here – “#1 Breathing, #2 Deep Core Activation and #3 Abdominal Strengthening”

 

The Workout 1 & 2: Pilates in Flow

PDF: click here

What you need

Just your amazing self.  You don’t even need a mat yet!

Focus

Form, safety and practicing the following principles of movement:

  • Breathing,
  • Deep Core Activation,
  • Abdominal Strengthening and
  • Lower Spine & Pelvis Positioning and Stability.

in the most common positions: supine, all fours, sidelying, prone and standing.

Time

About 20 minutes.  When you know the exercises and the routine, it’ll take much less.

About the Order of the Exercises

There are two reasons for the order of the exercises:

  1. Awareness gained in one or more awareness exercises helps to perform the next exercises more effectively:
    • Posterior Lateral Breathing & Fingertip abdominals help us create deep abdominal contraction for Toe Taps and Abdominal Curls.  That’s just one example.  Can you find any more?
  2. The exercises are arranged to reflect the Traditional Repertoire.

 

 

All Roads lead to: Foot Pumps on the Chair.

This is a basic exercise that just about anyone can do from the “get go”.  It perfectly shows how we use our abdominals, spinals (aided by breath) to create stability of the pelvis and lower back whilst the legs are pumping the pedal of the chair.

Click Here

 

The Exercises & Awareness Raising Techniques

Foundation #4: Exploring Lumbo-Pelvic Position

 

In Standing

Finding Neutral Position

 

 

Two Ways of Finding Neutral Position

There are two ways that we can use to find our neutral position: using bony prominences of the pelvis and by feeling the muscles activation or connection.  Both are equally valid but have a different focus.

Using the techniques described in the “bony prominences” videos are often more useful if you are at the start of your Pilates practice and don’t feel especially connected to your body.  You can align these bony points up with the floor, check in a mirror and experiment with the sensations that are produced by connecting with, or activating the different muscles groups either at the back or front of our bodies.

The “muscle tension” or “muscle connection” method is more useful if you want to maintain the flow in your practice: you can feel the different muscles groups work and have learned how to balance the sensations produced when both the front and the back are working together to balance the body.

 

Supine

Finding Neutral Using Boy Prominences (supine): Pelvic Rocking

Is a good exercise to explore the relationship between lower spine and pelvis. Additionally it is also an excellent way to reduce tension and help stretch tight lower back. Here it is used to practice finding our neutral spinal position.

  • Think of tipping the pelvis back so that your spine melts into the mat.
  • Think of your pelvis as a bowl of soup.  Although the soup reaches the rim of the bowl – don’t spill any!

 

 

Finding Neutral Position Using Muscle Tension: Pelvic Rocking

After you have become accustomed to finding your neutral position using the bony prominences, you can begin to use muscle tension to gauge the correct position so that you feel equal effort through both the front and back of the body as in pelvic rocking.

 

 

Supported Neutral while Supine: if the Neutral Position is tiring  …

Here are two solutions if your get tired holding that neutral position for any length of time.  The first is using a supported spine and the second is an imprinted spine.

 

 

Quadruped: All Fours

Finding Neutral Using Boy Prominences: Cat / Cow

The idea of finding a “neutral pelvis” reoccurs in every position: standing, lying on our back (supine) and also on all fours (let’s call this the “attitude” of the body.  Notice that the pelvis does naturally want to sit in a slightly different position depending on the attitude of the body.

 

Finding Neutral Position Using Muscle Tension: Cat / Cow

Now try the techniques in the videos above to find your neutral pelvis using muscle tension on all fours!

 

Side Lying

Finding Neutral Position: Pelvic Pushes

All of the exercises that we’ve looked at so far have looked at the interaction between the front and the back of the body.  Now, we’re looking at the sides.  Finding the “sides” of the body is essential not only for our Pilates practice, but for keeping our waists open.  Imagine for a minute a person with an elderly skeleton: the ribs have come closer to the pelvis than they should be.  This causes not only the waist to collapse but helps the chest and shoulders collapse too!

This video shows how to position your body and opening out the chest for better breathing in side lying exercises in the Matwork.  Remember that we all do have different shapes and you might find that you can’t achieve the space between your waist and the floor.

 

 

Foundation #5: Pelvic Stability – be neither stiff & immobile nor wobbly …

Once we’ve identified the neutral position, we can work towards maintaining it whilst other bits of the body are moving around.

 

Marching – easy …

Focus:

  • keep your pelvis from rocking backwards and forwards.
  • Keep the abdominal muscles pulled in so that they don’t pop out.
  • Keep your hip joint and knee at 90 degrees.
  • Point your foot.

Before you start:

  • Practice your Posterio-Lateral Breathing
  • Practice Fingertip Abdominals

… to help achieve the deep Abdominal Activation / Connection.

Images that can help:

  • Imagine that helium balloons are attached to your legs as they float up.
  • Imagine you have a bowl of hot soup in your abdomen – don’t spill it as you legs rise up!
  • Imagine you have a pulley attached to the base of your spine and the rope is attached to just below the knee joint.  Slowly, turn the pulley to tighten the rope, that lifts up the knee…

 

 

Toe Taps – more challenging!

In this more difficult variation to Marching, both legs are held in tabletop position simultaneously! Maintain a stable pelvis and don’t let the abdominals pop out -just as you lift the knee – sink the abdominals in deeper!

 

 

Hamstring Stretch

It’s not a Pilates exercise, I know, but for many people with tight hamstrings: runners, cyclists, many men, office and desk workers, drivers and so on… hamstrings tend to get short, resulting in imbalanced muscle systems, a tight pelvis, a faulty posture and possibly even injury!

As regards our Pilates practice, this exercise is not only a great preparation for the Single Leg Circles but is a wonderful way to explore the relationship between the pelvis position (imprinted and neutral) whilst the leg is moving.  Try this stretch imprinted, and then find your spinals and bring your pelvis into neutral.  What happens to the stretch? – Does it increase in intensity or decrease?

To get the best benefit of this stretch watch the following:

  • maintain your neutral lumbo-pelvic position;
  • keep your tailbone connected to the mat to help you maintain a neutral pelvic position.  Consciously activate to your lower back muscles to deepen your connection to them and strengthen them;
  • keep your foot is dorsiflexion (ankle at right angles – try to keep your toes relaxed though),
  • keep the stretch active by making small, controlled external rotations and you feel the stretch move across the three hamstrings…
  • hold the stretch for between 45 – 90 seconds.

Consistency and frequency are key.

 

 

Opposite Arm & Leg Reach

Have a friend place a roller or a dowel along your spine.  Take note of the sensations as you line up the back of your head, shoulders and pelvis as you reach out your arms and leg.  Try to recreate those sensations without the dowel.

  • Focus on lengthening out your arms and legs rather than lifting them up.
  • Remember the Michelle Larson’s Pregnant Cat abdominal activation exercise?   Pull your kittens up away from the pavement, up towards your spine before starting this exercise.

 

 

FAQs

Q.  My foot cramps when I point it in the Marching and Toe Taps exercises.

Don’t give up, keep practising and slowly the frequency of cramping will diminish as the arch of your foot gets accustomed to this activation.

 

Q.  I get really confused by the neutral pelvic position.  Can’t I just do the exercises without worrying about this?

A.  It takes time to assimilate and learn how to do Pilates exercises.  You might hear Pilates nerds use the phrase: “you have to get it in your body”.  This means that in order to perform an exercise properly we need to take time to understand it, not just on an intellectual level, but also on a physical level.  So, just because you can’t access something right now, don’t give up, keep on trying and slowly, over time it will come.  Learning the relationship between our spine and pelvis is really useful when we come to other more difficult exercises like Short Box Abdominals.  This attention to detail is one of the things that distinguishes Pilates from other exercise methods: it takes time to learn the exercises.

 

Q.  When I try the Side Pelvic Pushes I fall over. 

Keep your spine in line with the rear side of the mat and your heel towards the opposite corner.  that starting position should give you added stability.  If it’s not enough and you still experience instability use your upper hand as a support in front of your body.

 

Q.  I can’t control my abdominals when I do the Toe Taps – they balloon out.  What should I do?

Keep practising the Marching which is easier than the Top Taps exercise.  Remember that in Pilates we’re focussing on the quality of the movement and developing that, rather than increasing the number of repetitions.  Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.  Also, you could try this:  lift up one leg (left) as in Marching, then lift up the other (right) as you would for Toe Taps.  Then, replace the left leg then the right so that both feet are on the ground.  repeat, starting this time with the right leg.

 

Q.  My wrists hurt and I can’t support my weight on them.  Should I skip these exercises?

No, don’t skip them, but find a way to get your wrists stronger.  Use a Push Up Handle or rest your hands on a rolled up towel.  A child’s wooden cubes might also serve.  There are wrist exercises that we can do in the studio to help.  If you have a problem with your wrists, see an orthopaedic specialist.

 

Q.  My arms aren’t strong enough to support myself in the Opposite Arm and Leg Reaches.

Just lift up on arm or leg at a time instead of simultaneously.  Keep practising and don’t give up!

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