When it comes to exercise, most of us are used to thinking about muscles. But there is a bit of wisdom that has been passed around Pilates education for a long time. It says that what you need to know about an exercise is where your bones should be. If you intend to get your bones in the right place, everything else will organize to support that.
Arranging our alignment in terms of our bones can be a freeing way to workout. Bringing your attention into the spine in particular, can help carry you into the deep core awareness that we like to work from in Pilates, without having to try to micro-manage muscles like the infamous psoas, for example.
It is not necessarily important to know the names of the bones or other particulars. To begin, just tuning into the placement of your shoulder bones over the bowl shape your pelvis with your spine with its natural curves in between, will go a long way toward making exercises safe and significantly more effective.
Here is an easy exercise you can do to start increasing your awareness of your bones, especially the pelvis, spine, and shoulders.
(It might help you to scroll through the pictures above so you will have a basic image in your mind of what these areas look like before you begin.)
- Lie on you back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
Many people habitually grip in the groin area where the leg meets the hip. See if you can release that. Take a moment to get a sense of the leg bone falling down into the pelvis.
Sometimes it helps to turn your toes inward and let the knees fall together so that you don't work to hold your legs upright.
- Wriggle around a little to lengthen your spine out of your pelvis.
Your spine has 4 natural curves in it and you want to keep those. That is your neutral spine. There will be a little gap under the small of your back and a curve under your neck. You can place a small neck roll under your neck if it makes you more comfortable.
- Relax your shoulders and let them rest on the mat evenly - side to side and up/down.
- Take a few deep breaths.As you do, mentally scan your body and double check that your pelvis and shoulders feel even, and your spine is long. Your back is not arched, nor is your pelvis tucked.
- Feel the weight of the pelvis resting on the mat. Make it even side to side and up/down. It can help to place your hands on your hip bones to feel the placement of your pelvis. Now rock your pelvis forward and back and side to side, Feel the difference between your pelvis and legs - how rocking the pelvis can help release the legs in the sockets.
Reposition your pelvis again so that your hip bones are even and you could balance a cup of water on your low belly.
- Tune into the parts of your spine that are resting on the mat. Feel their weight. Now lightly ripple your spine along the floor. Let your head rock up and down with the ripple motion. You can make this small and playful. It is just a move to help you feel the length of your spine, how flexible it can be, and how its movement affects the rest of your body.
- Next, bring your attention to the weight of your shoulders on the mat.
You might bring your arms up toward the ceiling and reach away so that your shoulders move forward. You will feel your scapula (wing bones) opening. Before you settle your shoulders back down on the mat, feel the weight of the arm bones pointing down toward the floor. Keep your shoulder blades wide as you let the weight of the arm bones help you release your shoulders onto the mat.
Relax your arms at your sides.
- Finish by once again scanning your body and letting go of tension so that your muscles let your bones rest on the floor. See if you can get a sense of your weight being distributed evenly between your pelvis and shoulder area.
- Take a few more deep breaths and get ready to exercise with a new awareness of your bones.
If you like tuning into your bones you can take the sensibilities you develop in this exercise further into other exercises from the Pilates fundamentals set.
Of course the point is to actually move with an awareness of your spine and the alignment of your bones. Your next stop might be the Pilates posture check where you can work with your standing alignment with the line-up your bones in mind.