I remember the first time I read Joseph Pilates' famous quote: 'you are only as young as your spine is flexible.' It was at the beginning of my Pilates journey about 8 years ago, written in big bold white letters on a poster hanging on the wall of one of my favourite studios in Cape Town. I've just added a 3rd class to my Spine Health Series for you to open up, mobilise and experience your own spine health, so if you're a subscriber, definitely add this one to your movement agenda.
The quote really stuck with me because in all my years of 'toning' and 'sculpting' and burning calories, I'd never really prioritised my spinal mobility or spine health in my fitness routines or daily workouts. Little did I realise how much total body strength I would build from focussing on controlled segmental spinal movements in a myriad of scenarios on the mat.
To this day, I reach back to the original Pilates repertoire for spine mobility work including c-curves, rollups, roll-downs, rotations and side-bends and weird and wonderful 3D hybrids of them all. I use these movements to discover where my spine likes to move in certain scenarios, where I liked to zone out, where I rush, where I am too weak to control my range of motion, where my movement becomes erratic. The aforementioned continue to challenge me and stimulate mind-body awareness through experience as my body navigates it's surroundings and stressors.
If you're curious to find out more about spine health, activate your multifidus and it's deep spinal stabiliser buddies, then make sure to take part in my 3-part Mixed Level Flow video series called Spine Health & Articulation
If you're sceptical about the idea of spine health, then it's a great idea to dive into a bit of spinal anatomy. Our spine, like the links in a chain, can be broken down into 3 specific areas namely:
1. the neck (cervical spine) which comprises of 7 vertebrae
2. the mid-back (thoracic spine) which comprises of 12 vertebra and the ribcage
3. the lower back (lumbar spine) which comprises of 5 vertebra
These three areas are the bridge between
- the skull (at the top)
- the sacrum (tailbone) and coccyx (at your bottom).
Watch below where I talk a bit about the thoracic spine anatomy with Mr Bones.
In your body, you have muscles that span the length of your spine and whose primary job is to move your spine segmentally (which means: one vertebra at a a time). These important muscles don't get much street cred in most fitness classes, partly because they're not very well understood, have super complex names and because they're deep deep down and close to the spine. One super important segmental mover that's mega-important especially in some lower back pain patients is a muscle called multifidus.