Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Said The Thorax, "Nevermore"

Before I begin typing at you, I'm going to ask you to make an observation. Where are your shoulders right now? Are your scapula stabilized firmly on your ribcage with the points of your shoulders (at the deltoid) widening away from the midline of your body? Or are they rounding over, increasing the curve through the shoulder? If it's the latter, which is likely, then your thoracic spine is in flexion (curved forward).

In today's pilates lesson, I'd like to remind everyone that a slight curve in the thoracic spine, as illustrated here, is normal, but putting the spine into both flexion AND extension is critical for keeping the spine healthy, and for assisting in our goal toward perfect posture.

Stand relaxed with your shoulders pressing down, feet inner-hips distance apart. Bend your elbows and place your arms beside, you like you're being held-up at gunpoint. Imprint your spine, meaning as you exhale you pull the stomach in and think about decreasing the distance from your lowest rib to your hip bone, to stabilize your lumbar spine - it's not going to move at all - then as you inhale, envision a big hook grabbing you under the sternum and lifting only your chest up toward the ceiling. If you're stable through the lumbar and scapula, you'll feel a stretch in your midback. Do this exercise 2-3x in the morning when you wake up.

I remind myself throughout the day to grow tall through my midback so that I'm not conditioning my body into premature kyphosis (over-rounding of the shoulders). When I do this I have to engage my abdominal muscles which protects my lumbar spine and helps put it in a neutral position, relieving strain on the lowback..

Incorporating a pilates workout as a primary exercise vehicle, or even an accessory to an existing program, is a great way to add flexibility and stabilization to your strength training. As we say in pilates, "If it's long and loose we strengthen, if it's short and tight we lengthen."

A pilates workout will probably not allow you to make muscular gains at the Ferrigno level, but it will help you do things like bend over to tie your own shoes, or sit up straight for an hour. And I ask you, what's more practical in your activities of daily living?


walktrotcanter said...

Thank you for the morning tips! I have been looking for a pilates class nearby but no luck, NW Indiana is a bit behind the times. Would the tapes be worth a try or not, in your opinion?

Jo said...

When are you going to come over and see to the tall boy? He is getting quite hunchy from living in a world designed for midgets.

Robby Johnson said...

I have to say the beauty of pilates instruction in a studio is the individualized attention you receive from a qualified instructor. DVD's can be a little sketchy. Visit www.stottpilates.com to see if there's a studio near you or, at minimum, buy their DVD's. I can endorse them with confidence that they're geared toward safety!

Jo, I so wanna come to NZ. You know I do! I will figure it out soon. It would help me if you'd, erm, set the date so I could plan! ;)