Though this isn’t a traditional Pilates Mat exercise, it is a component of a number of our favourite mat and equipment-based movements. Taken on its own, it’s real value is in it’s ability to challenge your centre, strengthen the muscles of your hips (read ‘glutes’, for example), articulate and lengthen the spine, and improve your body awareness.
Hey, it actually IS a Pilates exercise!
- Simple choreography It’s not complicated, needs no special apparatus…just find yourself a bit of clean floor and off you go. CAUTION: I recommend you NOT do this around your pets; dogs and cats seem to think that lying on the floor is your call for them to sit on your face.
- Safe With the notable exception of the early stages of a severe disk injury or a spinal condition like a spondilolysthesis, it’s a fairly safe movement. As with any exercise, check with your teacher if it needs to be modified or avoided due to a condition or pathology.
- Challenges your centre Any exercise that gets the trunk up off of the floor, supported only by the muscles that surround it, is going to work your core…IF done properly.
- Loosens the spine The action of lifting one vertebrae at a time off of the floor then replacing it similarly in reverse while in a semi-horizontal position helps to iron out those hard-to-get-to tightnesses that a standard Standing Rolldown just can’t get into.
- Prepares you for your workout The fluid wave-like movement has a calming effect on the mind as well as a retuning effect on the body, getting the spinal muscles and posture closer to a neutral position to begin your workout.
- Do not sag. Make sure your spine isn’t sagging like a rope bridge in an Indiana Jones movie. However also avoid over using your lower back to do this. If you feel an overuse in the lumbar region or see a large extension during the exercise (look in mirror), try to create a small ‘tuck’ at the top of the movement. Think of the coccyx or ‘tailbone’ elongating and lifting slightly to the ceiling.
- Only lift your back until you reach the BSL. (BSL = “Bra Strap Line”. Men, ask your wives or lady friends where this is). Stopping the lift of your bridge to the area between your shoulder blades ensures that you don’t over strain/flex your cervical or neck region.
- Neutral line from resting point through knees. The usual yoga pose version takes you into a strong, extended curve of the spine. This is NOT a bad idea and yes, I do teach this extended-back version to clients and in classes. However, the Neutral back version involves a stronger use of the anterior trunk musculature, creating an awareness of the balance between front (abs, etc) and back muscles.
- “Roll the spine up and down as if in sticky mud”. Feel the spine being held in the mud as you lift, as well as push the mud aside when you return to the floor.
- “Lengthen your knees away from your shoulders”. My favourite visualisation. Honours the importance of elongation of the spinal column and opens the front of the hip. Plus, it helps ensure that your glutes and hamstrings are working.
Here are three ways that you can modify this movement to make it easier or harder without hurting yourself:
- Easier: Get on the Trap Table and get a medium weighted springbar behind your knees. This will encourage that ‘shoulder through knee’ line I talked about above. Ask your instructor to set it up for you the first few times because it can be a tricky getting in to this.
- Stronger: Put feet on wall. Scoot your bum up to the wall and rest your feet on it, with knees in a 90degree flexion or less. This will create a stronger flexion ROM (range of motion) through the spine and also help you feel it more.
- Even Stronger: Put feet on a foam roll. This will work your hip musculature and hamstrings hella harder. But be careful of hamstring cramping if you over use them.
- Really Strong: Put feet on a Swiss Ball. Works your ability to stabilise and balance as well as a killer bum movement.
See your instructor to review or learn this movement for the first time, and to get advise on appropriate, safe modifications designed for your ability and condition.