Pilates Teacher Rule of Thumb: teach the body in front of you. For people performing Pilates, this translates into: choose the exercises that your body needs to create balance, stability, mobility and strength.
When I’m teaching private sessions and small groups, I often ask the members at the start of our session: what feels off today? The #1 complaint mentioned in the populations that I teach: low back crankiness. For the majority of my clients, we’re not talking about major issues — like spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, or ruptured discs — we’re simply dealing with lifestyle hazards. If you have a job or a lifestyle that requires you to sit for a large portion of your day, you may experience low back crankiness that robs the fun from your workout.
Try these two ‘pre-workout’ re-sets to release common low back pain and allow you to focus on your workout:
HIP FLEXOR – AKA PSOAS – RELEASE
We’re performing this one off the end our Allegro2 Reformers; you can do this off the edge of your bed.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Without ‘fixing’ anything, notice the curve and comfort of your low back.
- Lie with your hips at the edge of the bed. Use your hands to pull your right knee toward your chest. Extend your left leg off the bed.
FINE-TUNE YOUR POSITION
- Point your left knee cap toward the sky. Don’t allow it to flop into a turnout position. It’s ok if your reaching leg bends or touches the floor.
- If your back ribcage starts to lift up, your leg may be creating too much pull. Try engaging your powerhouse to drop your ribcage down. You can also place a block under your foot to hold up a bit of the weight.
- Pull your right knee to achieve a slight tuck of your tailbone. Your back waistband should drop down onto the bed.
WHERE SHOULD YOU FEEL THIS?
- Most people feel this where their leg grabs onto their torso, just inward of your left front hipbone No worries if you feel the stretch spreading further down your leg. That’s a good thing!
- After performing the release for 60 seconds on each leg, re-assess your body.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Has the curve of your low back dropped closer to your mat? Is your low back more comfortable?
WHY PAIR UP THESE 2 RELEASES?
Your hip flexors attach the lower body and torso in the front, while your QL attaches the lower body and torso in the back. When one zone experiences a limitation, the other one does too! That’s why I call them the front/back twins. 9 out of 10 of my clients report an immediate increase in comfort and range of motion when they pair up these two releases.
QUADRATUS LUMBORUM — AKA QL — RELEASE
We’re performing this one on our Allegro2 Reformers; you can do this on your bed. The leg that is draped over the footbar is simply there for convenience, as we’ll move directly into ‘footwork” in a minute — no need to recreate this draped-leg position!
- Stand upright facing a mirror with your arms hanging comfortably. Side bend to the right, allowing your fingertips to slide down your leg. Notice how low your fingertips slide and how comfortable it is to side-bend. Check your side-bend on the left side as well.
- Sit down with your knees lined up next to each other. Try turning to the side without losing your knee alignment. Notice whether you can rotate more easily to one side than the other.
- Lie on your bed with your legs long. Tuck your right knee and use your left hand to guide it toward your left shoulder.
FINE-TUNE YOUR POSITION
- It’s ok to soften the knee of your free leg.
- Start this release with both of your hips on the bed. It’s ok if this is the way you do this stretch forever.
- As your QL releases, you may feel comfortable allowing your right hip to lift so that your knee can come further across your body. This is a bigger range of motion; there is no need to rush it.
WHERE SHOULD YOU FEEL THIS
- Most people feel this in the zone between your back waistband and the bottom of your back ribcage.
- After performing the release for 60 seconds on each side, re-assess your body.
- Try the side-bend assessment again. Do your fingertips now come further down your leg?
- Try the seated-rotation assessment again. Is it easier to turn to the side? Are you more symmetrical in your movement pattern now?
Yes, these assessments and releases will influence surrounding muscles as well. I’m throwing out the 2 ‘main culprit’ names in case your PT, Chiro, Osteo — insert whoever you turn to for guidance — starts bringing up anatomical names. Whenever something hurts, please do point to it, just to be sure your health pro is dealing with the right thingy.
I can’t count the # of times a client has said “my blah-blah hurts” and has pointed to something other than what they just named….