Pilates: Spinal Rotation

By Denise Vidal

The best way to maintain a healthy spine is to move it in all possible directions everyday.  So far, in our Pilates blogs, we have focused on flexion of the spine (abdominal curl) and extension of the spine (lying prone). In this blog we are going to discuss spinal rotation. The movement of rotation is relatively simple; however, the mechanics of the spine in rotation require a little explanation. If we can do the movement of spinal rotation while visualizing the proper mechanics, we’ll get much more out of the exercise.

As you may know, there are cartilaginous disks between the vertebra of your spine which absorb the shock of your spinal movement.  As we flex, extend, or rotate the spine, the disks expand and disperse to allow the vertebra to move while still protecting the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. The disks, in return, need the movement of the vertebral column to maintain its flexibility. I like to compare the disk to a ball of silly putty. The more you play with it, the more it maintains it’s ability to stretch. Once you leave it alone, it becomes hard and stiff.

Think about the disk’s pliable quality while doing this spinal rotation movement.
You can do this either sitting or standing, just make sure that whichever position you choose your head, spine, and pelvis are aligned. That’s just a fancy way of saying, ‘sit up straight’, but without tension. Once you’re in an aligned position, take a deep breath.  As you exhale slowly rotate to look to the right. In your mind’s eye, see the disks of your spine soften and spread. You can imagine a marshmallow between your fingers as you push down on it. It stays soft and fluffy while responding to the pressure of your fingers.

Slowly go back and forth from your right to your left side, taking a deep breath before each rotation. You can do this as many times as you want throughout the day. Eventually, you can think about this idea while doing rotational movements throughout the day, like whenever you turn to reach for something at your desk.

In the next blog we’ll apply this thought to a rotation exercise in Pilates. As always, if you’re experiencing any pelvic or back pain, please consult your doctor or P.T. before attempting any exercise.

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