Principles of Pilates, Stott 1999

1. BREATHING     Breathing well will oxygenate the blood and improve circulation. Incorporating the breath during exercise helps relax the muscles and avoid unnecessary tension.  A relaxed and full breath pattern also focuses the mind and allows concentration on the task at hand.
Our approach emulates a natural breath pattern.  Normally the ribs roll slightly forward and down and the spine slightly flexes during exhalation. Hence, in most cases, an exhale is suggested during spinal flexion. Normally the ribs roll backward and down and the spine slightly extends during inhalation. Hence,in most cases, an inhale is suggested during spinal extension.

An awareness should be cultivated of the diaphram moving downward during inhalation and allowing the rib cage to expand to the back and sides as much as the front. An “active”exhalation is recommended to engage the abdominal muscles in compressing the abdominal cavity thereby forcing the breath up and out of the lungs.

2. PELVIC PLACEMENT    “Neutral” position of the pelvis means that the natural lordotic curve of the lumbar spine is present. Lying supine, the triangle formed by the ASIS andsymphysis pubis should lie parallel to the floor, as if a cup of teacould balance there. If the pubic bone is higher than the ASIS aposterior pelvic tilt is created. If the pubic bone is lower that the ASIS and anterior tilt is created.

“Imprinted” spine refers to the normal lordotic curve being “lengthened” toward flexion of the lumbar spine. Lying supine the pubic bone will be slightly higher than the ASIS,creating a slight posterior tilt of the pelvis. But not so tilted that the tailbone curls off or loses contact with the mat.

Exercises with one or both feet on the mat are usually performed with neutral pelvis.  Exercises where both feet on the mat are usually performed with an imprinted spine. Individuals can eventually maintain neutral pelvis when both feet are off the mat, but only if neutral can bestabilized.  Usually whenever the spine is long i.e. not flexed or extended, the pelvis is neutral and the lumbar spine has its natural lordosis

3. RIB CAGE PLACEMENT    The abdominal wall attaches to the lower ribs. To keep the rib cage in good alignment andto keep the abdominals engaged there should be an awarenessof not allowing the lower ribs to “pop off” the mat when lyingsupine, or “pop forward” when sitting with neutral spine.Paticular attention should be paid during inhalation or while elevating the arms.  As well during spinal flexion there should be a sense of allowing the ribs to slide down the front of the body.
The breath can aid in keeping the rib cage relaxed. Allow it to depress with each exhale and keep the sense of the spine between the scapulae dropping down gently onto the mat while lying supine.

4. SCAPULAR MOVEMENT  
Because the scapulae have no direct bony connection to the back of the ribcage, they have a great deal of mobility available and canglide upward (elevation), downward (depression), inward(adduction), outward (abduction), and rotate (upward ordownward).

MUSCLES OF SCAPULAR STABILIZATION: Lower and upper fibers of the Trapezius, Rhomboid Major, Rhomboid Minor, Levator Scapulae, Serratus Anterior, Pectorialis Minor.
We will collectively refer to the scapula stabilizers, together with the latissimus dorsi, teres major and the pectorialis major as shoulder girdle stabilizers in the muscular emphasis section following each exercise.

An awareness should be cultivated of stabilizing the scapulae on the back especially during arm movement.  There should be a feeling of gentle sliding the scapulae down the back, without forcing them down so much they round forward or squeezing them together towards the spine. The scapulae should lie close to the rib cage and glide across it without “winging” away.

5. HEAD & CERVICAL SPINE PLACEMENT   Particular care should taken when lifting the head off the mat from a supine position. In order to avoid excessive neck strain do not leave the head and cervical spine in a perfectly neutral position while flexing the upper body off the mat. Conversely, do not over flex the cervical spine (jam chin towards chest).

Before flexing the upper body off mat gently lengthen the back of the neck creating a slight flexion of the cervical spine and a slight nod of the head (cranio-vertebral flexion).  Keeping this strong position the spine can be brought into flexion by contracting the abdominals to slide the ribs down towards the pelvis.

In general the cervical spine should continue whatever line is established by the thoracic spine. Gently continuing the spinal curves in flexion or extension. The skull should sit with no undo tension in the neck or shoulders atop the spine in neutral.
Copyright Stott 1999, All rights reserved

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