STUDIO NEWS - A Focus on Spinal Rotation

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Rotation is 1 of the 4 Movements of the Spine
I have mentioned previously that we lose movement in our spines as we age, especially if we don’t use the musculature. The “use it or lose it” problem. That applies to spinal rotation as well. Our cervical spine, the first 7 vertebrae, has up to 90 degrees of rotation to each side. Quite a bit when you think about it, but how else could we see over our shoulder when we look for oncoming traffic before changing lanes?
The thoracic spine, the next 12 vertebrae, has 30-35 degrees of rotation to each side. This area of the spine is controlled by the obliques, especially the external abdominal obliques. When they contract in coordination with the opposing internal abdominal obliques, our spine rotates – away from the side of the external obliques. Still a significant amount of rotation.
The lumbar spine, the last 5 vertebrae, has 10 degrees of rotation to each side. Not a lot, especially when you consider how many people move, thinking about instability in the lower back & the problems that arise from that.
In Pilates we tend to focus on rotation in the thoracic spine. Think of exercises like Spine Twist on the Mat or Side Twist on the Reformer or Tower/Cadillac (see link below). We tend not to rotate the lumbar spine too much. Instead we attempt to keep it in neutral & have it follow the rest of the spine. Think of the way I cue you to perform Spinal Rotation in your warm up – glue the knees together & bring the pelvis along with the lower back. That is another way of saying rotate the mid-back (thoracic spine) & keep the lumbar spine aligned. Also consider Twist with Pulses on the Tower, where I cue you to bring your pelvis along with your lower back. The rotation begins in the thoracic spine; then the side glutes fire & the pelvis rotates to keep the lumbar spine aligned as you reach toward the corner of the mat.
Developing & maintaining our ability to rotate is a matter of practice & mindfulness. As you engage the proper muscles, think about the action they are performing while considering which muscles are working to stabilize the rest of the body at the same time. Sound complex? Well perhaps at first. But once you’ve been practicing Pilates & building your body awareness, your proprioception, it becomes a matter of habit & easy-peasy!


Pilates, Health & Aging
2 famous actresses, Susan Lucci & Jayne Seymour, both in their 70’s attribute their health & great physical condition to Pilates!

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Video Highlight - Side Twist Standing on the Tower
As mentioned above, here’s a great example of thoracic rotation. You’ll notice that my cervical spine stays aligned; it doesn’t rotate. And the lumbar spine also stays aligned; the glutes engage to facilitate that stability. So my left external abdominal obliques & my opposing (right) internal abdominal obliques rotate my spine to the right, assisted in this instance by the back of my right shoulder. And the obliques also work as they lengthen to rotate my spine back to the left on the inhale.
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Side Twist Standing on the Tower
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