Pilates with Kierstin! Thoracic Mobility

Kierstin Elliott

Exercise: Thoracic Mobility

Set Up: Set up your foam roller vertically (so it runs up and down your spine). Sit on a mat with the end of the foam roller placed right between the bottom tips of your shoulder blades. Lean back into the roller with arms stretched back so hands are gently placed on either side of roller. Place feet flat on the mat, parallel.

Execution: Inhale to prep, exhale to lift hips off the mat, finding extension through the psoas. Inhale to lower hips down. After about 3-5 hip lifts, reposition the roller a couple inches further up the back, mid shoulder blades. Repeat hip lifts. Pause here with hips on the mat and take a few lateral bends right and left, allowing the roller to become an extension of your spine. After about 4-6 reps on each side, reposition the roller one more time towards the top of your thoracic spine (upper shoulder blades), being careful not to place it on the neck. Repeat the hip lifts.

Focus: Focus on stabilizing your pelvis during lateral flexion and connecting to breath during the hip lifts.

Importance: Mobilizing the thoracic spine! This alone comes with so many benefits: deeper, expansive breath, more accessible spinal rotation, mobile shoulders, greater spinal extension and flexion, better connection to core, etc.

Modifications: Place a small pillow or towel roll under head if neck support is needed. Take a few moments after the lateral flexion for some snow angels to stretch the pecs and open the chest.

Rock Your Body Mechanics

By Riva Preil

Tis the season to be reviewing proper body mechanics, especially considering the amount of heavy lifting and transporting (ex. suitcases, gifts, decorations). Protecting your back is one of the best presents you can give yourself this holiday season, and the benefits will far outweigh that of any iPad. That being said, please pay close to attention to the following tips you can easily incorporate into your routine to promote optimal health and safety:

  1. SQUAT TO LIFT HEAVY OBJECTS- while lifting an object, step close to the object, spread your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend from the hips, knees, and ankles. Head and shoulders should remain upright, and tighten your abdominal muscles (your core) throughout the lift. Avoid bending from the back, and instead use your large, strong lower extremity muscles.
  2. USE GOLFER’S LIFT TECHNIQUE TO LIFT LIGHT OBJECTS- Choose one leg, and shift your body weight onto that leg. Put your opposite arm on a supportive surface (ex. countertop, rail, table etc.) and bend forward.  Allow the supporting knee to bend slightly and allow the unweighted leg to lift off the ground in line with your torso.
  3. PUSH RATHER THAN PULL- When moving heavy objects (ex. table, bed), pushing the item from behind while standing erect allows you to use your body weight during the move, which decreases the burden from your back.
  4. AVOID TWISTING- Trunk rotation while carrying or moving a heavy object puts severe stress on the lumbar vertebrae and the intervertebral discs. It is better to pivot and move from your feet while engaging in loaded twisting movements (ex. carrying luggage, vacuuming, etc.). As with all back protection strategies, remain as close to the item as possible throughout activity.
  5. SINK SAFETY- Most sinks are situated lower than our backs would like. Pay attention next time your brush your teeth- do you find yourself bending forward? Does this make your back feel strained? If so, try this simple trick- place one foot atop a stool while brushing your teeth or washing your face, and see how much better your back feels afterwards.
  6. LOGROLL YOUR WAY OUT OF BED- The worst thing is starting your day off on a bad foot…or a bad back for that matter! Getting out of bed in the morning could be a much more pleasant experience by avoiding awkward twists and bends as you arise. Instead, try using the logroll technique- roll onto your side, scoot close to the edge of the bed, and bend your hips and knees. Then, push up through your upper body as you drop your legs off the bed. This maneuver allows you to move your back as one unit and decreases pressure on the spine.

Good luck with these techniques! I hope they help you feel great during 2013 and beyond. Happy New Year!