Pilates and Yoga Center of St. Louis
Fundamental Pilates skills to master at the Pilates and Yoga Center of St. Louis
Pilates Fundamental Skills to Master
History of Pilates Fundamental Skills of Pilates How To Do Well With Pilates Glossary
You might be wondering if there is anything you need to know coming into a Pilates studio. Although there is plenty that you will pick up over time here, there are some basic techniques to understand as you get started. The following is a list of our Pilates fundamentals that can help you get a clearer picture of what we look for- PLUS it’s a great sequence to try at home! Please note that learning Pilates for your body is always a work in progress. Whether you are an avid exerciser or haven’t moved in years, you will want to practice these concepts little by little to see how they are the makeup of ALL the Pilates

I know. You do it all the time But focusing on breathing can take your exercise and daily life to new heights. Deep, cleansing breathing and Pilates movements go hand in hand. For the most part, in a Pilates class you will be instructed to breathe within or to start the movement. Research has shown that proper breathing can stimulate our organs, help to create more space in the abdomen and ribcage, and to calm the nervous system.

Most of us spend our days breathing shallow breaths causing tightness around the ribcage, shoulder girdle, and neck. This can lead to or be linked to other issues in the upper torso. Often taking a series of deep breaths during your Pilates lesson can have lasting benefits to your body both inside and out.

neutral spineNeutral Spine
Now here’s a term you will hear A LOT of when you start doing Pilates. What we mean when we say "neutral" is the most comfortable alignment of your spine. This includes your head, spine and pelvis. What most of us are accustomed to when holding ourselves upright or lying down flat on our backs may not be the most efficient alignment of our bodies. Looking around, you may notice that everyone's spine is shaped a little different. What a neutral spine will do is give you insight into your best alignment of your torso which will also help to align your whole body.

The easiest way to find a neutral spine is to lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Take a few breaths to relax your whole system. Place your palms flat on the space just below your bellybutton and above your pubic bone. In an ideal world, this space will be a flat plane. As you explore this, when you "find neutral" you may notice that a small space exists between your low spine and the mat or floor. This is your natural curve of your lumbar spine and should be present during all neutral spine exercises. Notice that your ribs are resting flat on the mat and that your neck and shoulders are relaxed. See if you can find “neutral” in sitting, standing, and kneeling. In many common exercises, a stable neutral spine is the most effective way to hold your torso. Please note that you should feel no tension or "pinching" in your low back during any neutral spine activity. This should not feel like a forced shape, but rather a natural way to respect the curves of your spine.

Knee Fold and Toe Taps
Here is a great exercise to put your neutral spine into practice. It involves moving your legs from your hip joint while keeping your spine stable. You will likely feel some abdominal engagement while you work to keep your spine still. Be sure that you are NOT pressing your low back down to stay stable. Rather, you are engaging your whole core (all the muscles around your torso from your ribs to your pelvis) to help stabilize your spine. This concept is a crucial one to making the most of your abdominal and spinal muscles.

knee fold and toe taps First, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Take a few breaths to settle yourself into a relaxed, neutral spine. Starting with the right leg, pick up your foot off the floor to bring your knee directly over your hip joint. You should see a 90° angle at your hip and knee. We often call this a tabletop leg.

Keeping the shape of the leg, tap your right toe down on the mat and return it to tabletop. You should still be able to sustain a neutral spine during this action. Feel how relaxed and steady you can keep your spine as you repeat the action several times on both legs. For more of a challenge, fold the right knee in and then fold the left knee in to match. Hold both legs in tabletop. Feel your pelvis is flat against the floor and both knees are directly over your hips. Draw your abdomen in and begin to tap one toe down and up several times. Feel that this is harder than keeping one foot flat on the floor while the other leg moves.

Spinal Flexion and Extension
If you have ever taken a yoga class or been in physical therapy for a back injury, likely you learned some version of this exercise. It is important for the spine to keep it mobile and to strengthen the spine within different ranges of motion. This exercise will focus on two movements: flexion (rounding) and extension (arching). As you explore this exercise, work slowly to focus on articulating each vertebrae rather than "dumping" your spine one way or another in the movement. Also note that both the head and the pelvis work as the beginning and/or end of the movement.

Spinal FlexionBegin by kneeling on all fours. Make sure your hands are below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips. Try to line up your head, shoulders, spine, and pelvis in a neutral position. Think of gently engaging your belly from underneath without changing your spine so that you don’t give into gravity. Beginning with your head, look back towards your chest and press into your limbs as you round your ribs then low back towards the ceiling. You may feel a stretch between your shoulder blades or along your spine. This is called spinal flexion. Feel that you can draw your belly in deeper as you hold this shape. Return to neutral and repeat a few times.

Now, from a neutral position, begin to look towards the front of your mat as you lengthen your collarbones forward and feel an arch developing in your back. Try not to simply sag your low back and drop your belly. This is called spinal extension. Work more for length here. Spinal Extension

Return to neutral and repeat. To explore both movements together, move into flexion remembering to move one bone at a time. As you return to neutral, begin to look forward and lengthen your chest forward, moving into extension. Work to keep a gentle abdominal engagement throughout the exercise and rest off of your wrists as necessary.
History of Pilates • Fundamental Skills of Pilates • How To Do Well With PilatesGlossary

Pilates and Yoga Center of St. Louis
Pilates and Yoga Center of St Louis
9825 Clayton Road, Ladue, MO. 63124

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