An Extended Spine is a Beautiful Thing to Behold
- Paul Van Alstine
When someone says stand up straight most people lift their chest, squeeze their shoulders and tuck their butt under. What they have just done is take their spine more into slightly more extension. When a person is walking with naturally great posture - they are usually in more extension than most people who are stuck in a slightly head forward and chest down position.
Well performed extension moves are beautiful and inspiring. What you are seeing is symphony of muscle, nerve, bone and breath. Hundreds of tiny muscles, dozens of joints. the respiratory and core system all must work together to create safe full body extension. When you are doing breathing in deep core toning you are working some of these muscles. You are working even more of them in a hip roll. And you are working all of them when you do a big move like Swan Dive.
Extension is Important
Over time, desk jobs, injuries or poor habits most of us tend to get head forward, the upper chest drops and the shoulders roll forward. Once this happens your muscle patterns and reflexes are in the shoulder ands neck tend to work at the wrong time and in the wrong amounts. The technical name for this is dyskinesia. In the case of neck injuries the pain may subside but the poor movement pattern will remain. These poor movement patterns are called dyskinesia. Dyskinesia simply means things are not moving the way they should. Because of the complex nature of extension dyskinesia is the rule and not the exception,
Its a maintenance thing:
Maintaining extension one of the most important tasks of the active adults life. This is because most of what goes wrong with us tends to pull us into flexion or forward bending. Once a body falls into forward flexion the tone, strength, and timing of ALL of the muscles in your body become slightly impaired. When you are younger you can fight these affects off by compensating and toughening up. As you get older you will want to conserve the energy you spend by getting your posture as neutral and balanced as possible.
The way to get more balanced is to learn about extension in class, practice extension exercises at class and at home and teach yourself and your new body some new tricks… I like to think of it as creating some beautiful new (muscle) memories.
Learning how to extend (and how much extension is good for your body) and then maintaining extension is a goal that you should keep in mind. As I mentioned earlier, because most of our tasks, injuries, and aging tends to take our bodies into flexion you will want to keep watch over all aspects of this type of movement.
Luckily, our program has a lot of exercises that will assist you to improve your extension. Posture prep, Side Bend, and Saw are all excellent for this. In addition, before class, ask your instructor if they can give you some hands guidance during your class. Research shows that a good hands-on assistance is far superior to verbal cues…
Finally, Having Proper Extension Feels AMAZING:
With VASIE Pilates we are working to create a more structurally integrated body. Structural integration looks like easy relaxed and grounded posture, moves like a graceful animal, and it feels like walking being strong, weightless and free. One of the key ways we work to get and maintain this feeling is by toning the muscles that help you to keep your spine longer and more supple in walking. Those muscles are of course your breathing muscles and then your extensors… This is why structural integration walking feels amazing because you are supported and you are breathing smoothly and easily from a stable and responsive core.
Being able to keep the muscles of extension toned, balanced, and working together feels great and it helps to support a structurally integrated body. You don’t need to be able to perform huge extension moves. The smaller move demonstrated below by Ana is enough to keep you moving well and feeling good. Be persistent, take it slow, ask for help and your extension exercises will look and feel great! See you in class!