Active Pilates’ Tip 4 – head, neck and shoulders organisation

The fourth core principal of movement according to Polestar Pilates relates to head, neck and shoulder organisation. This can affect your ability to achieve the overall balance, strength and flexibility necessary for optimal movement.  

What does it mean? Well, everybody moves every day in all different ways – reaching for a phone, chair or child, lifting heavy stuff and often not really giving much thought to how you move. As a result, we often end up with muscle strains or other injuries that leave us out of action for a certain period of time.

From my experience teaching Pilates, I can see that there are a lot of people (including myself before I started Pilates) who have the tendency to engage the wrong muscles to do a particular movement. For example, hinging your shoulders and not engaging the surrounding muscles correctly to manage a load when lifting – very commonly seen with my female clients. 

As another example of how optimal movement can look, think about when you’ve seen a male ballet dancer carrying a female dancer as lightly as if she was a feather. He appears to do this with little effort; however, this apparently effortless and graceful movement is only possible if both dancers have absolute control over they own bodies. The movement requires a perfect centering of their bodies and purposeful neck, head and shoulders organisation. Without this solid foundation to support them they would be unable to hold such a very challenging pose.

A warning though, balance is important as over-recruitment of joints and muscles can lead to a decrease of endurance and quality of movement. Therefore, if you are able to teach your body to move in the optimal way and with proper head, neck and shoulders organisation, you’ll be able to move with ease and prevent injuries and strains.

Are you one of the many people who suffer from re-occurring neck and shoulder pain? This might be due to poor scapular muscle control. Or you might be experiencing tight muscles or not have much mobility in your thoracic (upper) spine due to structural limitations. This is precisely what regular Pilates classes can help you with. Regular and correct Pilates practice can improve your performance, increase core strength and balance and prevent injuries and strains.   

As for the correct posture, it’s very important to know how to hold your spine in a neutral position - the best position for your body. To achieve this however, you need to be patient and persistent.

Daily practice – new movement:

  1. Lengthening through the crown of your head while visualising that your feet are fully connected with the floor. 
  2. Open your chest - expanding your shoulders/collarbones/upper spine laterally.
  3. Exhale - keeping your jaw and throat relaxed; sliding your shoulder blades down towards your waist.  
  4. Keep your shoulders away from the ears, in particular when flexing your arms. 

Next week, we’ll introduce another Pilates principle of movement – weight-bearing and alignment of extremities (arms and legs).  Send us an email if you want to learn more about how we can help you to achieve better body alignment with Pilates practice.