Updated: Mar 4
The exercise you see me doing here is commonly known as the Pilates Swan Dive. To properly execute movement into this full spinal extension we must recruit muscles from our posterior chain. Often these muscles are lengthened and weakened from living in a forward reaching world. To maintain the muscular balance necessary to keep us pain free we can be conscious of this fact and include extension in our daily activities. With temperatures on the rise and Spring in the air consider swimming this summer. Try the breaststroke, or butterfly for a non-mat based way to take your spine through a similar movement pattern. If you are a yoga enthusiast, you will find the Pilates Swan Dive like Upward dog. In the picture below I am using the aid of a Pilates arc barrel to encourage mobility evenly through my spine, a variation of this mat based exercise. This is an appropriate modification for participants with postural kyphosis commonly known as a rounded upper back. If you don't have an arc you can be directly on the mat or use a stability ball, bosu or ladder barrel.
Starting Position Note: when performing full spinal extension, it is important to turn the knees out/laterally rotating the femur in the respective hip socket. This allows for the required pelvic mobility necessary to achieve the desired range of motion. In addition, this helps recruit the muscles of the hip, providing stability and balance to the joints. Always move from the root of the limb to favor ideal bio-mechanical patterning.
Inhale: begin to recruit core stabilizers and spinal erectors as you move into spinal extension, when your extensors can't lift you any higher press gently into your hands to assist, your eye-line gazes onto the horizon. Your pubic bone must remain in contact with the mat/prop throughout. Your hip bones/ASIS will be lifted, so keep the lower abdominals engaged to protect the lumbar spine. Energy should be reaching from the tip of the toes to the top of the head. This is a full body exercise.
Exhale: return to your start potion, lowering to the ground (or onto stability ball/bosu/arc/ladder barrel). Completely release global and local movers prior to repeating the exercise. (Repeat 3 to 6 times)
The above breath pattern compliments the required opening of the ribcage during the spinal extension phase. Breathing is paramount and therefore the pattern can always be tailored to the participant. A continuous breath pattern will help to ensure the core connection as the abdominal muscles are accessory muscles in forced exhalation and this why Pilates Instructors cue to exhale through pursed lips, or to exhale with force like you are blowing out a birthday candle.
Always consult your doctor prior to beginning a new exercise program to ensure it is a safe choice. This exercise would be contraindicated for some populations such as those with anterior or anterolateral disk injury.
Fare Thee Well @Kasyholisticgirl