One of my favourite Pilates equipment to work with is the Spine Corrector, also known as the small barrel.
Unlike the more well-known Pilates Reformer which looks like a single rectangular bed:
The Spine Corrector is rounded and curved. This unique shape provides many opportunities for me to explore the natural curves of my spine with a lot more intricacies and refinement than the Pilates Reformer can.
One of the most challenging movement on the Spine Corrector is fully wrapping the entire spine over the arc one vertebra bone at a time – “Full Extension over the Arc”:
Considering that we have a tailbone, sacrum, 5 lumbar vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae and 7 cervical vertebrae, to press and imprint each of these 26 bones over the Spine Corrector arc requires that each part of the spine is flexible. This also means that the corresponding muscles surrounding that part of the spine be toned.
“Muscle tone” is defined as the “degree of muscle tension or resistance during rest or in response to stretching”.
In “Full Extension over the Arc”, the 2 scenarios below are common due to either a (i) lack of muscle tone, or (ii) exaggerated muscle tone.
(1) Lack of muscle tone – flaccid muscles
When there’s insufficient muscle tone, clients complain of the 2 main areas aching during this movement – lower back and neck. In the case of lower back pain, the abdominal muscles are not able to maintain its tone while lengthening (ie eccentric contraction). This means the lower back is not supported in a backbend or arch.
(2) Exaggerated muscle tone – rigid muscles
On the flip side, when muscles are too rigid, its reluctance to lengthen and stretch means a client simply cannot continue to wrap the rest of the his/her spine over the arc and still keep the lower vertebrae connected to the arc, hence missing the Pilates principle of Oppositional Energy.
So the challenge is to work towards finding the balance, a “middle way” so to speak.
In practicing “Full Extension over the Arc” on the Spine Corrector, being mindful about one bone at a time is the key to reaping the benefits of this piece – feeling open, lifted and connected. For me, its feeling “high” and grounded at the same time.
If you haven’t worked with the Spine Corrector before, consult your Pilates teacher in your next Pilates classes.