Pilates with the Physios

July 21st, 2013

As a group Lori, Bryan and I are beginning a new journey in the area of Pilates. We have frequently used this style of exercise prescription in our everyday practice and also provided classes at the clinic administered by Helen, but now we are excited to have begun our Trainer Certification level for Stotts Pilates.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Stott Pilates, I thought I could give you a brief understanding of the principles of Stott Pilates and how this method will fit seamlessly into our practice.
Stott Pilates is an exercise approach that has evolved from the principles of the late Joseph Pilates. This newer approach takes into consideration anatomically correct spinal positions. Which is especially helpfully when dealing with individuals with suboptimal spinal control or health.

As a physiotherapist I see a great benefit incorporating this approach into my treatment regime as a tool to restore normal biomechanical movement patterns.
So to start with I’ll introduce you to the 5 basic principles of Stott Pilates in which every one of the Pilates movements and exercises build upon. It’s important to start with the basics because an exercise done incorrectly is a big waste of time.

The first principle is breathing, it sounds simple but it’s not as simple as inhaling and exhaling. Stott Pilates is about mindful exercise, therefore you need to think consciously of your breathing inhaling through the nose, directing that breath to the lower lobes of the lung, rather than shallow (neck) breathing , or stomach breathing, then exhaling through a pursed lips. The pursed lip exhalation stimulates a contraction of the transverse abdominus and the pelvic floor to help control any accessory movement of the spine with exercise. The inhalation to the lower posterior rib cage instead of the upper neck or the stomach allows for both relaxation of accessory musculature as well as continued contraction of the core stabilizers. Breathing into the stomach would lengthen the transverse abdominus thus making it less effective in controlling the core area. Wow that was wordy; to summarize breath in through the nose, out through pursed lips, into the lower back of your rib cage.

The second principle is pelvic placement. Don’t worry it’s not as complicated as the first. Basically you need to have your pelvis in a position that allows the lumbar spine to be in neutral. To get into this position you need to lie on your back with knees bent. Now put the heal of your hand on the bones of you pelvis and your finger on you pubic bones. If you are in neutral your hand will be flat. If not you need to either raise your pubic area or lower it to obtain the neutral position. This position is the most stable and shock absorbing for the lumbar spine. If you are doing closed chain exercise (one or both feet are in contact with the floor) this is the spinal position to be in, if your feet leave the floor (open chain) then Stott’s recommends an imprint position. Imprint is an engagement of your internal obliques to help you further stabilize the lower back. To get into this position you simply contract your obliques and pull your pelvis towards your ribs in a slow controlled fashion. Two down three to go.

The third principle is rib cage placement, the ribs need to align over the pelvis and maintain their position with arm movement. Therefore to get into this position you are going to be in the same position as pelvic placement. Supine with knees bent in pelvic neutral, then contract the core stabilizers and you should feel the lower rib cage against the floor. Once there scissor your arms with them extended overhead making sure the rib cage does not spring up with overhead movement of the arms.

The fourth principle is scapular movement and stabilization. The main reason we want to stabilize the shoulder blades is because they are the anchor for the arms and serve as support for the cervical spine. When we are not mindful of our scapular position there is usually increased tension of the muscles around the neck and shoulders. Anyone have tight traps? To find the correct position let your shoulder blades glide along your rib cage all the way forward (protraction), the all the way back(retraction)the middle of these two extremes is a neutral scapular position.

Finally the fifth and final principle is head and cervical placement. For all of you that have had whiplash this is your deep neck flexor muscle group. For those of you who haven’t you are going to lie your head down so that you chin and fore head are level then gently nod yes without using your larger neck muscles. This position will allow the cervical spine to maintain the line created by the thoracic spine in all planes of movement.
Ok that’s it all 5 principles once you master these it’s time to challenge yourself and try some of the basic essential exercises. Check out the following link for more info on Stotts Pilates : http://www.merrithew.com/stottpilates

Rochelle Lequier
Physiotherapist, Co-Owner
Resolve Health Partners

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