This is an exercise that we learn in the basic repertoire. At first glance it looks like an easy exercise until you break it down and THINK about what it does to YOUR body. The reason I ask for you to think about it personally is beacause we are all different shapes and sizes. Therefore the stretch someone may feel in the hamstrings others may feel in the glutes, stomach or ribcage.
In his book Return To Life Joseph Pilates gives these directions:
Spread legs as wide apart as possible
Draw toes pointed upward and backward
Rest palms on the mat
Then with outstretched arms , palms flat on the mat
Chin to chest
Begin reaching forward with three successive sliding motion-stretching movements as far as possible.
Taken from Pilates'Return To Life Through Contrology
In the Spine Stretch Forward exercise you lift the ribs up off the pelvis, reaching the legs away to create space between the top of the pelvis and hip. Scooping to help find the correct position.
Here is an image with a great teacher Kathryn Ross Nash of The Red Thread Ranch showing what the Spine Stretch Forward should look like.
Reprinted by kind permission of Kathryn Ross Nash.
It is so important to understand the essence of this exercise in your body because it threads through the entire system. If we think of the basic mat repertoire.
The Hundred; Begin to find the thoracic flexion and length out of the legs keeping lumber spine long and supported with stomach muscles.
Half Roll back: Moving through the movement and keeping the length of the legs without losing ab connection
Roll up: Adding a greater range of motion
One leg Circle: Use the abs to support the leg which moves freely in the hip socket without the quads firing. This allows you to feel the space needed between the hip and the pelvis.
Rolling like a ball: Abs hold the body in position, improves balance & control as you massage the spine. Now you are in a compressed position and still have to find the space between the hip and pelvis!
Single leg stretch: Strengthens the abs and stretches the back. Again you need to find the space between the hip and pelvis whilst coordinating fluid movement without losing your flow.
Double leg Stretch: Now stretching all limbs and holding them you increase the weight your abs are holding and back is stretching, as well as continuing with flowing movement connecting your breathing. The hardest point is when bringing your legs in to keep the space between the hip and pelvis.
Spine stretch forward:Stretches the spine and the back of the legs. This is what all those exercises before hand have led you to. Being able to lift those ribs up off the pelvis and keep stretching the legs away.
The wonderful thing about the Pilates System is that Joseph Pilates understood that we were all different and created pieces of equipment to help us find those shapes.
More next week when I show you that same shape on the Wunda chair and you get try try to mimic them in your living room using weights and a chair!