The issue of flatness . . . in your thoracic spine, that is.

Bridging on the barrel

If you’re like me, you have joined the many Pilates instructors who stand with so much “length” through their spine that they’ve lost their thoracic kyphosis. I’ve spent a lot of time doing the standard push through on the tower, hamstring I and III on the chair, knee stretch series and kneeling cat on the trap. Though all of these helped in some way, the biggest release through my thoracic spine came from bridging on the barrel. During our Polestar educator meeting last year, Sherri Betz addressed my constant complaints of feeling stiff in my upper back with a profound stretch over the barrel. She cued me out of my constant rib binding in the front (in an effort to fight the stiffness with some abdominal strength – how naive – don’t I learn anything?!), out of an aggressive chin tuck, and into length and reaching. I BREATHED there, and what do you know? All of a sudden things started releasing. My upper back, shoulder girdle and neck relaxed in a way they hadn’t for very long time. With minimal traction on her part as a wonderful, yummy tactile cue, I felt like I was healed.

I believe in Pilates!

What a wonderful tool we have. Do any of you have any profound experiences in your own bodies that you could share? I witness my clients experiencing these life changing moments every few sessions, and was due for one myself. It works!


3 responses to “The issue of flatness . . . in your thoracic spine, that is.

  1. I had a life changing experience about 10 years ago in a workshop at the beautiful Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle’s Pilates Center of Austin with the legendary Pilates First Generation teacher, Mary Bowen. I had spent years overworking my rollup with the push-through bar on the Cadillac because of neck injury from two whiplashes. I was afraid to release so I kept my upper back tense out of fear and a sense that more effort was better. Wendy and Mary (and a wonderful young male Texan teacher whose name I regrettably can’t remember) lead me through a roll up with a deep dropping back of my thoracic spine and softening of my sternum and rib cage as well as a release of my glutes and hip flexors which were previously doing most of the work. This experience was transformative and I felt my upper abdominals work well for the first time. I look back on this moment as a kind of rebirth. It was that profound a change in the way that I practiced Pilates. It was the first step toward the easeful Pilates that I teach today. Now I try to give my students the shortcut to a balance of ease and effort that took me so long to master. Sometimes less is more.

  2. Since I have been releasing my external obliques with chi balls and allowing a softening of my diaphragm during any thoracic flexion, things have changed! I have so much more range and my scapula melt away creating more space yet again!

  3. i am encouraged by the comments above. It is amazing at how we as a profession have over recruited our muscles, leading to restrictions of movement, when the essence of what we practice is “Efficiency of Movement”. thank you all for your inspiring comments and discoveries.

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