Let's Talk About The Pelvic Curl!
The Pelvic Curl is part of the Pilates classical repertoire, or like Joseph Pilates named it: Contrology. Most Pilates instructors would program this exercise at the beginning of each class, as part of the warm up sequence.
The idea behind it is to get the spine moving from the very beginning to allow more mobility throughout the rest of the class.
In a nutshell, this exercise’s main focus is to improve spine articulation. Honestly, I found this exercise as one of the most challenging exercises to teach to my clients, and yet one of the most beneficial ones. I like to use metaphorical cues during my classes to help my clients envision what is happening in their body. One of my favorites for the Pelvic Curl is to tell clients to think of the spine as a string of pearls, as you curl the spine up in the air; imagine lifting one pearl at a time away from the mat.
The Pelvic Curl has many benefits, such as activating and strengthening the hip extensors and Gluts and lengthening hip flexors, but for me the most significant one is the benefit of Spine Articulation.
So what is spine articulation all about?
When we encourage the spine to move in a segmental way, we facilitate distribution of movement. In other words - when more segments of our spine column are participating in the movement, there’s less stress on one specific part of our spine. This is simply the distribution of forces!
A lot of times my work as a Pilates teacher is to get my clients to adopt new patterns of movement in their bodies. Often clients will recruit the large global muscles of their back (like the Longissimus Thoracic). Their main purpose it to move the skeleton in a certain direction. The problem is that if we only use global muscles and not the deep local muscles of the spine, we’ll end up with no segmental movement in our spine. From there, the way to back pain or injury is short. One of my main goals is to encourage the waking up of those deep back muscles for better movement efficiency. Eventually, those muscles would engage subconsciously, with minimum effort.
Another interesting fact about lack of spine mobility is that when we lose spine mobility, we actually lose a certain degree of access to some of our senses. Very often, I’ve heard from clients that practicing Pilates improved their sense of smell and eyesight !
The reason is simple: when our spine is not strong enough to carry our head and neck, we would see the head “drops” down. In order to compensate, we would have to flex the neck so we could still maintain our sense of smell and our eyesight. Crazy to think how our posture impacts many aspects of our life.
I’ll finish with Joseph Pilates famous quote:
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
Here's to a healthy, flexible spine!
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