Picture the cylinder that holds your spine and pelvis strong
We know that visualisation is an amazing learning tool. Picturing a concept or an idea can allow the brain to interpret or reinforce new ideas being learned. Seeing muscles and joints in the body can help you to understand the workings better. It may even have you feel the muscles working better if you can picture them activating. This can be very much so in the deep 'core muscles' of the lower trunk and pelvis.
This illustration above may assist you in getting your head around the muscles we are always talking about in your Fix Program classes. These muscles form a part of your body's postural control system as you go about your day. The very same deep muscles that stop your bones from falling to bits and the cause of our many aches and pains!
In our Pilates classes, you will hear us repetitively saying:
"Breathe in deep and wide, and as you exhale, imagine gently lifting your pelvic floor ( feeling your' pebble lift from the pond') and become aware of the front hip bones drawing towards each other"
The 'cylinder' of lower trunk support
When looking at the picture above more carefully, and if using your imagination a little, you will see that the 4 sets of muscles make a cylinder-like shape. After looking at these muscles, try to picture a basic cylinder in your mind. Now place the diaphragm on top of your cylinder, the pelvic floor muscular sling on the bottom, and wrap the transverses abdominus ( deepest of the abs) around the rest. This cylinder fills the circumference of the lower half of your trunk, from the lower ribs to the base of the pelvis. Multifidis is another deep postural muscle that 'laces up' through the spinal vertebra and completes the picture.
Visualising this muscular cylinder can really help you to 'find' and activate your pelvic postural muscles better.
So, now that you can visualise your muscular cylinder, what comes next?
With the cylinder of muscles now pictured better in your brain, you may start to locate, contract and strengthen your 'core' even better than you thought. Why not try connecting your cylinder picture with the instructions you hear at class.
- "Breathe in deep and wide"
When looking at the diaphragm sitting at the top of cylinder under your lower rib cage, picture your diaphragm descending downward slightly into your cylinder as you breathe in 'deep and wide.' As you exhale the diaphragm moves upwards to its starting position.
- "As you exhale, lift you pelvic floor as you'd imagine a pebble lifting from a pond"
When picturing the diaphragm ascending as you exhale, you may see now that this creates a vacuum within the cylinder. This region of less pressure makes it easy now for your pelvic floor at the bottom of your cylinder to lift. Do you now understand why we lift the pelvic floor as we exhale? The pelvic floor and diaphragm have a direct relationship with each other. As the diaphragm ascends, so does the pelvic floor. Likewise, as the diaphragm descends as you inhale, so does the pelvic floor. This is the natural pelvic floor-diaphragm rhythm.
- "Imagine your hip bones drawing together as your deep abdominal activates"
The pelvic floor, transversus abdominus and diaphragm muscles are all interconnected through nerve and fascial (thin tissue between muscles and organs) networks. Muscles connected in this way will contract together and relax together. So, let's now imagine the circular component of your cylinder.
While your diaphragm and pelvic floor ascend together on your exhale breath, the deep abdominal will slightly draw in, as if tightening a belt gently around the lower cylinder. This apparent tightening will be felt the full circumference of the cylinder in those very aware of their bodies, even around the sides of the waists and in towards the lower back. For others, the feeling will seem heightened at the front of the pelvis between the 'hip bones'. The slight drawing in of the cylinder can almost have you believe these 'hip bones' are being gently pulled towards each other.
Putting it all together
This muscular cylinder is only the beginning of wonderful postural support for your pelvis, spine and body. These muscles work subtlely throughout your day, gently holding your spine and pelvis aligned. For maximum benefit, these muscles need to be trained 'functionally.' This means whilst doing other things such as moving, bending, lifting, twisting, walking, running, jumping and even sitting at your desk. There are other muscles all involved here too from upper back and shoulder muscles to spinal muscles, hip muscles and leg muscles, both deep and superficial layers.
So when involved in any of these activities above (which pretty much means all of the time when awake and conscious!), can you imagine your deep muscular cylinder at work? Sitting in there within your pelvis and lower trunk with the involved muscles on each surface all acting in a connected way?
Try it and you may be surprised at your postural alignment, endurance and movement freedom and efficiency.