5 Principles of Alignment Revisited

Pilates breathing takes a little practice! Inhale through your nose and exhale through your lips/mouth. Laterally. Think of breathing in, around, and through your ribs (back and front) allowing them to expand like an accordion. You should feel a little extension in your spine. On the exhale allow the sides of your ribs to draw toward each other. You should feel a little flexion of the spine. If your shoulders are rising up and down, your breathing is too much in the upper part of your lungs/chest. And if your belly is rising and falling, you are not breathing correctly. Belly breathing doesn't usually protect the lower back. Too, be careful not to hyperventilate! If you are not used to deep breathing, as most people aren't, you may feel a little light headed. Take your time. Practice on and off throughout your day; it will make a difference. Why is proper breathing crucial in performing exercises as well as in your everyday activities?

  • it releases oxygen into your blood
  • it releases oxygen to the cells of your muscles
  • it cleanses and aids digestion
  • it provides the energy you need while performing a task or exercise
  • it helps your mind to find clarity and to focus on each task
  • it activates the deep abdominal muscles/the core
  • it brings life into your body-after all, it is the first thing you do when you are born!
CUE: Think of inflating and deflating your ribs like a bellows or an accordion. Three dimensional.

Most of us walk, stand, and sit with our heads forward instead of neutral. Take care that you don't hold your head and chin up too high, no sky gazers. Don't allow it to drop to your chest like you are snoozing in your favorite recliner! Bring your head back to where your ear lobes line up with the tops of your shoulders. Lift your head and lengthen your neck as though someone is gently pulling you up, up, up from the top of your head.

In Pilates we practice and use cranio-vertebral flexion (aka head nods) to demonstrate the principal of head and cervical placement.

CUE: To perform a proper head nod, pretend you have an apple or a small fist between your chin and chest, not letting your chin fall into your chest. No jamming. The move is ever so small. The axis and atlas are the two main cervical vertebrae at work.

Soften the ribs, keeping them from protruding. You might notice having a problem with the ribs "popping" when you are raising your hands and arms above your head while seated or lying or standing.

CUE: If you can, gently place your hands on your ribs and remind yourself to soften.

Some of us have a rounded back (kyphosis), some more straight back, some sway back. The goal is to not wear your shoulders like ear muffs or hold them back like you are in military stance! Choose rather to bring the shoulders back and then allow the scapula/ shoulder blades to slide back and down.

CUE: open or broaden your chest, and allow your shoulder/scapulae to slide back and down.

While on the mat in a supine (on your back) position, allow your pelvis to tilt so that your lower back is imprinted into the mat, while not lifting your tush off of the mat. Then allow the pelvis to tilt the opposite way. Ah, Elvis, the Pelvis move! Between these two points is what we call neutral. With most people there will be a small space between their lower back and the mat while in neutral. And while neutral is a goal to work out of in Pilates, we often work out of imprint while we are learning and developing stronger abdominal muscles and overall strength. Usually if our feet and legs are raised up, we work out of imprint so that we don't place undue pressure on/in our lower backs.

CUE: when you rock your pelvis back and forth, your neutral pelvis will be found somewhere in between the two positions. You can also think of a cup of tea resting on your lower belly where your pelvis is and find a safe position where it's not tipping over. Keep it square and level.

All of these take practice, so why can incorporate them into your everyday activities. Your body will love you for it. If you are not sure about the particulars, please give me a call or email me. Or seek the help of another professional. Just do it!