The rack of ribs
Have you ever found yourself in a Pilates class wondering why we're telling you to 'think long through the waists' or to 'melt between the sit bones'? We can hear you thinking 'What new impossible task will I be asked to do this week – wiggle my spine-toes?' Explain The Pilates Cue is a new category of articles you'll see popping up in Fix News over the coming months in which we will look a little closer at all those weird and wonderful verbal cues and uses of imagery we mention so often to aid us during our Fix Program classes.
So why do we love to use these cues at The Fix Program? We know from the research that motor learning and skill acquisition can be greatly improved by the use of visualization techniques. We layer multiple cues which, through practice, reinforce the laying down of new nerve pathways in the brain during exercise and postural practice. This way it will become a new habit for you, even outside the context of the studio.
Let's get into unraveling our first cue, the 'rack of ribs' – which is certainly not an invitation to dinner! Our familiarity with their shape, however, makes it a useful visualization tool which can, through applying the right Pilates techniques, address problems in our posture.
Imagining the iconic meal of ribs, where each individual rib is parallel and separated by even gaps filled with delicious meat. These intercostal muscles (the 'meat') should be just as equal between parallel ribs in our own body, making the ribcage equally tall on both sides. For those of us who slouch to one side, we can imagine the result - a tightening of the intercostals muscle space between each rib can become smaller and less even – by thinking of the results on the dish. When the ribs close together like a folded accordion with a slight sideways twist, it is far from ideal in both the culinary and the physiotherapy sense. This poor rib posture can set up poor movement patterns and muscle activations in the trunk, can affect the neck and lower back, change nerve dynamics in the area and even interfere with our breathing.
Putting this into practice, imagine how we might reduce the space between our ribs when we valiantly attempt to 'glide the shoulder blades down the back' (a cue for another post perhaps?). When doing arm work and setting the shoulder blades, think of the blades gliding freely over the top of the rack of ribs without causing those ribs to lose their lovely parallel gaps and collapsing downward on one side. Another reason to 'keep both sides of your trunk long' (yet another cue)!
Why not try thinking of your rack of ribs next time you're doing Scissor Arms on the mat or as you stretch into a Wall Twist? And then carry this visualization into functional activities as you carry your child or a heavy bag of groceries or when sitting long hours at your desk.
Then you can get back to dreaming wistfully of dinner.
By Tabitha Webb