Pilates: Spinal Extension

By Denise Vidal

Continuing with our prone series, we’ll now focus on extending the spine while in the prone position.

With so much of our lives spent focused on computer screens, our postures have taken on a sort of rounded forward position. Our spinal extensor muscles are continually overstretched, and over time lose their ability to shorten. As I have mentioned before, healthy posture comes from healthy muscular support, which requires the muscles to both shorten and lengthen to their fullest ability. The following exercise focuses on shortening the muscles of the spine, specifically the muscles of the cervical and thoracic parts of the spine.

Lie in the prone position that we discussed in the previous two blogs, your head will be resting on the backs of your hands. This time, however, you can eliminate the use of the pillow.

To start, take a deep breath into your back ribs. As you exhale engage your abdominals. Feel the front, back, and sides of your waist hug towards the imaginary sphere in your abdomen. Try to keep that tone as you feel the muscles on either side of your spine narrow inwards. I like to use the image of a little baby fist wrapping it’s hand around my spine. The tone of the muscles should be supportive, not tense. Slowly float your forehead off your hands. Keep your focus downward, and only lift your head about an inch off your hands. Just like we did with the legs, the head should feel a sense of lengthening as it lifts. Also, the height which you lift depends on your ability to maintain support in your lower back and pelvis. As soon as you feel tension in your spine and your abdominals disengage, know that you have lifted too high.

When you have reached your maximum height, lower your head as you feel your upper back muscles lengthen.

Lift and lower your head five times, each time getting longer as you go higher.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. It you have any questions leave a comment below. If you are experiencing any pelvic or back pain, you should consult with your physical therapist before attempting this exercise. In the meantime, work on the breathing exercises discussed in the previous blogs until your pain lessens.

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