‘Pilates is a bone-building exercise’….
There are three important components that we should incorporate when we think about bone building exercises: BALANCE, VOLUME AND WEIGHT. In order to understand and orient ourselves around these ideas we need a sense of our CORE – our physical central axis that incorporates the spine and the strength needed to stabilise and mobilise from this centre.
We should take it for granted that sitting and inactivity for prolonged, mindless periods of time, is not good for any system of the body – from our skeletal system to our immunity.
VOLUME – how much 3-dimensional space you occupy.
Our movement can become very biased towards one-dimension and one-plane, forwards and backwards, epitomised in the hunched curled forward and bad ‘posture’.
Movements that include and emphasise the spherical nature of our bodies are essential for revitalising our posture, strength and range of movement.
A simple exercise that can be incorporated into any movement or simply in a seated position:
‘Imagine you are encased by a sphere, we have a front and back, sides, diagonals, spirals, figure of 8’s, the contours, curves and tides. We are 360 degrees’.
(Inspired by Abbie Galvin, a 68 year old yogi co-creator of Katonah Yoga in New York.)
Increasing this awareness helps to open our chest and shoulders, increase our lung capacity, elongate the spine and integrate the legs and arms as branches off our central axis.
Leading movement practitioners, physical therapists and physios encourage movement in all planes for osteoporosis with the intention the leading being key:
- one plane of movement
- in a small range of movement
- no loaded flexion or rotation
- encouraging extension in lateral flexion and rotation movements
A good image of what we should avoid during our daily activities and exercise is where your spine may mimic the foetal position, curled in and down – especially with any load or force – this is why we avoid abdominal crunches in class, and when you garden, golf, or pick up something from the floor, we should hinge at the hips and bend at the knees into a squat and a strong core.
Side-bending and rotation/twisting are encouraged in small ranges and with plenty of length. Rotations, like in a golf swing should have a lift of the chest towards the sky. On all-4s, or on your back, gentle spine rotations can be wonderful.
Extension of the spine, like swan on the mat, or in simple terms bending backwards – lifting the chest to the sky is excellent for all spines. This builds back strength and spine mobility to encourage the opening of the shoulders and chest at the front, and is another important way of building core control.
Balance is the distribution of weight.
BALANCE AND LEG STRENGTH
Balance is like a piano, it must be practised and played or it will get dusty and out of tune. Standing on one foot while waiting for the kettle to boil. Then developing that balance by closing the eyes, or lifting onto the ball of the foot, is a very valuable way to spend 5 minutes.
Glute and leg strength and mobility are essential and often lacking or in need of improvement. Think of the trunk of a tree, without grounding and connection to the earth we would not be able to take and absorb gusts of wind or give the steadfastness that the branches need to dance.
Weight is the force of gravity on an object.
WEIGHT AND GROUNDING
You have the ability to increase your bone density by increasing your connection with the Earth. Standing barefoot decreases cellular inflammation and helps to build bone density.
Any vertical vectors of force on your bones: squatting, standing up, walking, reaching up creates a piezoelectric force in your bones and brings in minerals.
Some simple exercises for home: repeated 5-10 times each
Lie on your back with nothing under the head. Feet and knees in line with hip crests (ASIS).
Spine Mobility Variation: Peel the spine away from the floor, by turning the tail bone and sit bones up the back of the legs to the back of the knees, unfurling the spine disc by disc, remembering the discs are spheres of fluid and space, maintain and visualise increasing these disc baubles as you peel up and unravel back down.
Glute Strength Variation: Lift the hips up into the final bridge position.
Hinge at the hips to return them to the floor, the spine remains neutral throughout.
Draw the pubic bone towards the navel and lengthen the tail towards the back of the knees and slightly up to the ceiling.
Lie on your front with your hands on the floor in front of the face.
Lengthen the tail bone and sacrum down to the heels and notice the pubis lengthening towards the navel while the abdominals lifting from the floor – maintain this connection throughout.
Glide the shoulder blades down the back, allowing the collarbones to open wide.
Peeling the front spine away from the floor, allowing the upper chest and heart area to fan open.
In a comfortable seated position on the floor or a chair – pelvis is balanced with an awareness of both sit bones and in neutral.
Stabilising one hand to the floor, drawing that shoulder blade down the back.
Lengthen and open the opposite side from sit bone through the arm pit to the finger tips, elongating this side line towards the ceiling and slightly over towards the stable hand.
Use the volume of the breathing lungs to open the ribs like a fan.
Emphasise volume, length and space for each disc, rather than a curled, compressed C curve.
On all 4s, stabilise the shoulders, pelvis and spine in a strong neutral position.
Slide opposite arm and leg along the floor and lift without losing pelvic stability, shoulders or core.
Excellent online resources for bone-building: