“Knit your ribs together and pull down” Would this feel great?

“Knit your ribs together and pull down.” Would this feel great?Tangos & Tangles_0001

There are generic cues that you hear over and over. We need to modernize our cueing and imagery that will really enhance function. This cue is a poor solution for hyperextended ribs. I see so many dancers overexergerating this cue that they have made their ribcage rigid to not be able to use their arms and back correctly and expressively. One of the most beautiful lines is the arabesque or attitude. Pulling the ribs down will change this line.  We need to come up with cues and training that will enhance the line and improve function.

As teachers, we need to look deeper why there is poor function. Why are the ribs hyperextended?

  • Tight structures such as back muscles and iliopsoas.
  • Are the ribs in response to poor grounding of the feet and hyperextended legs?
  • Is the neuromuscular system going first to the back muscles firing in shortness?

Knitting the ribs together is not a dynamic cue.  It does not solve the problem and can create other problems in different level changes.  Why don’t we go deeper in our cueing?

  1. Put your attention to your spine and give support for the entire spine.
  2. If your ribs are hyperextending, visualize the hyperextended section has support to bring that section back to neutral.
  3. If you are doing footwork in Pilates, stop in the middle of the movement when the ribs start hyperextending.
  4. Relax the back muscles and imprint the thoracic spine back to neutral.  Continue footwork.

Understanding the function of the spine and legs can make huge differences.  When the facets of the spine are evenly spaced for neutral and move equally extension or flexion,  there is an invitation away from compression.  Hyperextension is usually at one section of the spine.

When the legs are hyperextended, important muscles for stability are kicked out.  Improving function of the legs will enhance the placement of the spine.

Remember: When you see a problem, look above or below.   The problem is usually an organization around a poor function.

2 thoughts on ““Knit your ribs together and pull down” Would this feel great?

  1. Meghan Pickrell says:

    Thank you for this lovely post! I agree that as pilates teachers we sometimes give cues that don’t even make sense… how is one expected to “pull their ribs down and together?” This doesn’t seem anatomically possible. Granted, sometimes teachers give imagery cues to elicit a specific quality or in the is case a particular posture. I always think it’s important to remember which joints we are asking the client to move, that way we can give them specific direction and help them better understand the posture (or movement). In this instance, a teacher may want a client to ground their thoracic spine when supine. As you suggested in your post, feeling for the mat with the mid-spine will help prevent a hyperextended mid-back and the ribs as a result may appear more grounded. It’s also important to remember that pilates is a full body experience. Looking up and down is essential. Thank you!

    Meghan http://mindmotion.wordpress.com

  2. Yes definitely, I agree with Meghan as well that we forget about the whole picture and spend so much time focusing on one tiny detail, e.g. ribs and how a cue like “pull your ribs down” may or may not fix that issue but can also affect another part of the spine. Thank You for this post, I’ll definitely remind myself from now to watch my cueing and think of some more new ideas to share.

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