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Pilates is pretty amazing. For more tips and tricks on pilates, read The Pilates Magazine today.
Pilates has its roots in the care of spinal health around which all other health is based. An unhealthy spine can be the result of congenital defects or situational neglect, but no matter the cause, improving the mobility of the spine will improve the overall quality of your life.
Do you have difficulty keeping your chest up when squatting, whether under load or with body-weight only?
Do you have pain in your rotator cuff that you have resigned yourself to?
Do you toss and turn in bed because of a tight feeling in your back, or pain in the shoulders?
Do you struggle to lift heavy objects from the ground?
A “yes” to any of these four questions could mean thoracic spine mobility problems. Considering the manner in which so many live their lives today, with the sole exercise coming from gyms, it is no wonder that the back is tight and restricted. Thoracic spine and hip mobility are the two keys to general mobility and comfort.
When mobility of the thoracic spine begins to go, injuries are triggered from even modest attempts at exercise. Running with mobility issues forces the lumbar spine to accommodate the tight upper back, resulting in shoulder, hip, and more thoracic spine issues than we have time to name herein.
When your lower back hurts, maybe your foam roll, stretch, or attempt to do some stretching. The thoracic spine, however, is less intuitive, requiring a holistic and natural approach which simply does not come naturally to most people.
Enter spinal health, enter Pilates. Joseph Pilates developed a unique exercise program designed to improve the overall fitness of troops during World War I. Pilates uses a combination of mental and physical exercises which place great emphasis on the spine, with focus on proper movement and mobility. With the use of springs, gentle resistance accompanies movements which originate at the core.
Pilates classes offer:
o Core movements
o Mental focus to improve efficiency of all movement as well as muscle control
o Breathing techniques
o Centering of the mind and power on the area around the pelvis
o The strengthening of back and abdominal muscles in order to achieve proper posture
The human back is comprised of five segments, including the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacrum and coccyx. Each part of the spine performs a different function, and each has its very own capacities.
The thoracic spine is very often neglected, likely because people are unaware of its existence. Thoracic movements include the shoulders and chest, so pressing, pulling, running, biking, swimming, and anything requiring the arms is going to affect the thoracic spine. See why this is such a big deal?
Pilates offers gentle reprogramming of movements through the use of core movements and gentle breathing designed to initiate power from the proper source: the pelvic region. From there, power is extended up the spine, through to the arms, as well as down to the legs. While most people are aware of the need to stretch their hips, too little attention is given the thoracic spine and therefor the shoulders.
Since very few people perform movements that are biologically appropriate and beneficial to thoracic health, and since the thoracic spine is so often unknown and therefor neglected, its immobility worsens over time. This leads to pain in the lower back, shoulders, and even hips, even though the problem might very well be thoracic.
Next time you feel a twinge, ask yourself if your thoracic spine has been attended to lately. If the answer is no, maybe a Pilates session or ten are in order.
Like what you read? For more articles like this on pilates, read The Pilates Magazine today.