Pilates, one of the most popular exercise programs today, is consistent with a program of exercise that promotes a healthier back. Consequently, people with back pain can benefit from a Pilates exercise program.
For the uninitiated, Pilates is a program of low-impact exercises intended to strengthen your core muscles. Individual Pilates exercises help develop your spine’s alignment and improve the flexibility of your core muscles. The exercises are done on a mat. Originally developed by Joseph Pilates, this program has become increasingly popular over the years.
Many Pilates exercises work the abdominal muscles, but there are some exercises that help stretch your back, leading to better alignment of your spine and improved toning of your back.
Here are a few Pilates exercises that will work your back.
1. The Swan
This basic exercise works not only the back, but also the abdominals, shoulders, inner thighs, glutes, and hamstrings. To do this exercise, lie face down on your mat. With your arms close to your body, bend the elbows, bring your hands under your shoulders, palms down on the mat. Then engage your abdominals and lift your navel away from the mat, lengthening your spine. Inhale as you do this. Press your forearms and hands into the mat. Your upper body should be in an upward arc. As you exhale, release your upper body from the arc, keeping your spine lengthened as your upper body returns slowly to the mat. Repeat these steps.
2. The Swan Dive
This intermediate exercise works not only your back, but also your abdominals, hamstrings, and inner thighs. This exercise is for intermediate Pilates practitioners; beginners should stay with the Swan exercise. To do this exercise, press up into the Swan as you inhale, maintaining a long spine. Then, as you exhale, release your arms and rock forward, maintaining you arc. This will cause your legs to come up. Remember to keep your abdominals, inner thighs, and glutes engaged. Then as you inhale, bring your hands back under your shoulders and return to the Swan.
3. Spine Stretch
This exercise is great for the back and hamstrings. To do this stretch, sit up straight on your mat, with legs extended and feet flexed. Legs should be no more than shoulder-width apart. Relax your shoulders. Inhale and extend you arms in front of you, shoulder-width. Exhale as you curve forward, keeping the shoulders down and reaching with your fingers toward your toes. Inhale and stretch further. Exhale and return to your original position, rolling through the spine.
If you have a Pilates instructor, he or she can suggest other exercises. People with back pain should, of course, consult their doctors before beginning any exercise program.