Mr. Pilates was a man before his time, almost like Van Gogh. His methods tone you up, lean you out, and keep you in fantastic shape. But Pilates is so much more than just exercise. It has many more benefits including improved flexibility, correcting postural issues, helping with muscle imbalances, and relieving back pain. In the next couple of blogs I will set out certain Pilates moves that will help you achieve these benefits. If you are new to Pilates find my videos here to help you.
To kick off the series I'll start with one of the most common problems most of my clients have: an inflexible lower back or lower back discomfort/pain.
What might be the reason for this? Your pelvis is tilted forward which causes your lower back muscles to be short. You have to focus on lengthening them out.
1) Half Roll Back: Focus on really tucking your tailbone and squeezing your glutes on the way back and keeping the C-curve in your back on the way up. Only Roll Back as far as it feels comfortable for you.
2) Roll- Up: This exercise might be really challenging for people with stiff lower backs/lordosis. Start with your legs bent and only do a Half Roll Back 5 times and then Half Roll Up 5 times. Strengthening your core and lengthening your back muscles in this safe way will be better for you in the long run. Avoid jerking yourself off the floor and creating more imbalances along your "jerky" way.
Modifications to do for the rest of the repertoire:
You might not enjoy exercises like Breast Stroke, Swimming, or anything prone for that matter as you always feel this more in your lower back. Try the following: put a hand towel that's been folded in half under your hip bones (your ASIS's. They're the bony bits that stick out in the front of your hips). Make sure the towel is above your pubic bone. Focus on not tipping your pelvis into the floor when you're lying on your tummy, so keep your back neutral. Really pull in and up on your abdominals. This will help you stabilize through your lumbo-pelvic area and protect your back.
Does the Ab series also cause discomfort in your lower back? Trust me, you're not the only one. An easy fix is to reach your legs higher in the air and really focus on keeping your lower back close to the mat. Also, keep the distance between your hip bones and your ribs the same throughout the series.
Remember to be patient with your body and work safely. Safely doesn't mean you work less hard, it just means that you're taking care of yourself and using the correct form to advance your practice and achieve your fitness goals!
In the words of Mr Pilates himself: " A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."
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