Pilates for Spine Health

By Emily Weiss

“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” – Joseph Pilates

What a powerful statement! As you sit reading this article, are you slumped over to one side of your chair? Are your legs crossed? Maybe you are leaning forward towards the screen because you didn’t feel like you could comfortably support your back to sit up straight for an extended period of time. 

According to the Global Burden of Disease 2010, low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. The trouble today has to do with our lifestyles. What we do every day is full of posture booby traps—whether it’s driving, sitting all day, standing all day, twisting all day, lifting all day, tennis/golf/running for hours, breastfeeding, flying as a passenger or pilot, using our phone/laptop/tablet, washing dishes, changing diapers, carrying a heavy suitcase or purse, or even using a cash register. We are hurting our spines with poor posture, and posture imbalances do not discriminate by age, race, gender, job, etc. They affect everyone.  

Pilates focuses on the spine and one’s ability to move the spine through all planes of motion daily. Clients are encouraged to work within his or her personal range of motion in order to be the most successful with the exercises. Through bringing awareness and activation to the deepest layer of abdominal muscles, the transversus abdominus, individuals are strengthening the muscles that support and stabilize the spine and protect it from further injury and poor posture habits. This body awareness also helps each individual to move more efficiently and reduce the uneven stresses on the spine.

Pilates helps to restore balance in everyone.  With some people restoration happens right away, with others it may take longer, but if a client sticks with Pilates and commits to a consistent program they will start to feel a stronger foundation in their bodies as they move through all activities of daily living. 

When performed correctly, here are several exercises that really get to the nitty-gritty of most postural imbalances: 

Reformer: swan, pulling straps, down stretch, up stretch, long back massage, chest expansion, bridge, footwork, side plank/side support, short box hinge, grasshopper

Mat: bridge, pelvic lift, plank, swan, leg pull front, bow, rocking, spine twist, spine stretch, side plank, swim, superman

Spine Corrector: swan, push-ups, roll ups, swim, side sit-ups, bridge 

Inactivity is one of the worst things you can do for your spinal health. Get out there and just get moving!

Emily Weiss recently returned to her hometown of Atlanta after several years spent teaching Pilates in Houston. She started taking Pilates while dancing in college and immediately noticed its strengthening benefits in both her dancing and throughout her everyday life. Emily trained with Pilates elder Lolita San Miguel and completed her certification through Lolita’s Legacy 500-hour program. She’s comprehensively certified to teach mat and on all equipment/apparatus. During her time in Houston Emily combined her dance knowledge, education background, and Pilates experience to create a Pilates For Children curriculum and program at a local private school. Whether it’s preventing future injuries, or gaining confidence to functionally move, Emily’s goal is to have her clients leaving more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, while feeling more centered and in control of their bodies.

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