You will often hear pilates teachers referring to the ‘centre’ or the ‘core’. In reality this consists of three postural muscles that should work together to form a natural girdle of support around the low back, abdomen and pelvic floor. If this system is failing then we are more prone to low back pain.
Research has shown that the core muscles work best when the spine is in a neutral position, so that the curve in the lower back is preserved.
Try these exercises
Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent. Place your thumbs on your naval and your fingertips on your pubic bone to form a diamond shape. Tilt the diamond away from you to exaggerate the arch in your lower back. Then tilt the diamond towards you to flatten the lower back onto the mat. Repeat this a few times and then place the diamond in the middle of these two positions- this is your neutral spine position.
Now you can set your centre using the deep abdominal muscles. Stay in the same position but place your fingertips on your deep abdominal muscles. You can do this by finding the two bony pelvic bones then sliding your fingers inwards by three inches and downwards by three inches. Imagine the muscle fibres of the deep abdominals running horizontally between your fingers. Breathe in to prepare then breathe out and towards the end of the out breath gently draw the lower abdominal wall inwards towards your spine- you should feel the muscles slightly draw away under your fingers. The contraction is very gentle and you should be able to continue breathing as normal. This takes practice so keep going!
Next week we shall discuss and give exercises on ribcage placement within pilates.