Pilates  Language and Terminology

We all know by now that Pilates is good for you and has a myriad of benefits for your body, posture and overall health – but what about the unfamiliar language and terminology used by instructors in class? Between finding your way around the Pilates apparatus with its bars, ropes, straps and pulleys, the unfamiliar instructions and movement cueing from instructors and the anatomical terminology, there’s a lot of things to learn as a novice. The following is a guide to the language of Pilates to help you enjoy your new-found practice with the confidence of a regular and get the most out of your Pilates session.

Articulate the spine - Moving the spine sequentially, 1 vertebra at a time.

C-Curve - The shape the torso makes while you are in a flexed (rounded forward) position.

Core Strength - These are muscles of the trunk that help to stabilize the spine. Core strength also refers to the muscles of the back and the pelvic floor and core strength is developed through balance and the coordinated use of these muscles, allowing us to move in a more functional and safe manner.

Dorsiflexion - The movement of flexing the front part of your foot and toes towards the shin.

Draw in your ribs - Pulling in your ribs will help to restore your spine’s natural curves.  This can be especially useful when you have your arms overhead when your back tends to arch and your ribs push out and forward.

Imprinting - A position of safety used when you are doing an exercise where the legs and feet are up and off the floor. Imprinting the spine involves engaging the abdominal muscles and flexing the lumbar spine to protect the lower back.

Lateral Ribcage Breathing - A breathing technique that directs breath into the sides of the ribs.  In an effort to stabilize the spine as we perform Pilates exercises, we need to maintain some abdominal contraction while inhaling. When inhaling, rather than releasing the abdominals fully, maintain some contraction of the abdominals and allow the entire ribcage to expand especially into the back and to the side of your body (lateral).

Neutral Pelvis - A reference point for the placement of the pelvis in many exercises. When lying on your back, the pelvis is level meaning that the two hip bones in the front are level with the pubic bone and the two sides of the hip bones are level to each other. Neutral pelvis will place the spine is in its natural curve and is the most effective position for deep core muscles to engage.

Midline - The imaginary line going down the middle of the body, from the top of the head down to the feet.

Plantar Flex - The movement of flexing the front of your foot and toes away from the shin.

Powerhouse - Joseph Pilates coined the phrase, the ‘Powerhouse’, which is the region from the bottom of your ribs to your hip line, and includes your abs, lower back muscles, pelvic floor, hip muscles and glutes.

Prone -The position of the body when it is lying flat, face down. Many extension exercises are done in a prone position.

Sacrum - The triangular bone just below the lumbar spine and above the coccyx (tailbone). It forms the base of the spine and the centre of the pelvis.

Scapula - The shoulder blade which connects the humerus (upper arm bone) with the clavicle (collar bone).

Shoulder Girdle - A series of long bones (clavicle/collarbone) and flat bones (scapula/shoulder blade) that support the front limbs.

Sitting on your sit bones - The sit bones are the protruding bones that you feel underneath you when sitting up straight - they are part of the pelvic girdle and anatomically known as the ischial tuberosity. Imagine that your sit bones are mountain peaks (upside down) -  sitting right on top of the peaks and not rolling off the back of them helps us to work towards achieving a neutral spine whilst in a seated position in a Pilates exercise.

Supine - The position of the body when it is lying down flat face up, on the back.

Tabletop legs - The position where the legs make a 90-degree angle while lying supine. The knees should be directly over the hips, and the feet should be directly in line with the knees. It’s the starting position for many Pilates exercises. 

Thoracic Spine  - The upper and mid-back. It has twelve vertebrae (T1 to T12).


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