Head to Toe: Alignment and Muscle Engagement Check-list

When preparing to perform any Pilates exercise it is important to be aware of how to effectively position your body.  This positioning is intended to go hand in hand with any movement you are about to do. Ideally these connective moves will become natural responses, ones you can expect to automatically engage allowing you to become more connected to your body. Try this simple checklist while lying flat on your back to target your Powerhouse, connect to your core, get better and faster results, and to improve your posture! 1. Lengthen your neck.

Imagine someone is gently pulling your head off your shoulders.  This is not done by lifting your chin towards the ceiling. The length should feel equal on all sides.

2. Open your chest

Take a deep breath and visualize your collar bones lengthening out to the sides, while pulling the base of your shoulder blades down and together.

3. Close the base of your rib cage

Release your breath and draw the base of your rib cage together. Focusing on the base will help you maintain your open chest. Imagine your rib cage is made up of two curtains which you can manipulate open or closed. Try to work to maintain your long neck and an open chest while you draw the base of your rib cage in.

4. Pull your lower abdominal muscles in and up

Place your hand right above your pubic bone and draw your abdominal muscles in and up towards your center. Combined with the closing of your lower rib cage this will activate your abdominal muscles and protect and support your lower back. The simple act of activating and engaging these muscles will help strengthen them, so don't miss this important step!

5. Squeeze your glutes

Place your hands on the sides of your glutes and squeeze. You should feel the muscle engage. Squeezing the glutes should cause the hips to rotate slightly open, which is what you should be doing. Wrapping creates a lengthened lower back and squeezing your glutes is vital as it provides the base for your Powerhouse. Every house needs a strong foundation, so don't forget to squeeze your tush!

6. Squeeze your inner thighs

After squeezing your glutes don't neglect your inner thighs. Place one hand between your upper thighs and squeeze. Glutes are big muscles that tend to be easy to activate, inner thighs some times need a little more encouragement.

7. Soft knees

Keep your knees relaxed. Don't let your knees become stiff as a result of all this squeezing.

8. Press your heels together

Let your feet remain relaxed, and feet can be slightly rotated open but pressing the heels together provides another base for you to connect with, giving you a connected feeling to the top and bottom of your body.

Now that you've tried and found all of these connective points go back to the beginning and try to hold all of these positions at once, while breathing evenly. Once you've mastered summoning all these connections while lying flat, try taking them with you into the work. This postural awareness will support you and dramatically increase the value of your Pilates sessions.

Susannah