To maximize the awesome lateral flexion benefits we talked about in the last post, it is really key to isolate lateral flexion. This means that as we go up and over to create our rainbow or our U-shape, our spines should not make any movement into the sagittal plane. In other words, we need to edit out all of the flexion and extension of our spine in order to create space in our vertebra and give our bodies the greatest possible range in lateral flexion.
To do this, I have forever found this cue to be helpful. It is one of the earliest cues I can remember from my own instructors: window panes. Imagine you are sandwiched between two window panes. One pane lining up with the back of your body and one at the front. You can only move side to side or up and down. Any forward or backward movement will push you into the panes. Imagine squishing your face against the front pane if you move into flexion and smacking your head against the back pane if you create extension through the spine.
This cue can also be helpful for lateral movements without lateral flexion: Star, Sidelift, and keeping the torso still during Sidelying and Sidekick Series.
Lateral flexion is an important movement class that is not heavily addressed in traditional fitness regimes. The term describes the way in which our spine moves along the coronal plane. It engages our Oblique and Lateral Muscular Slings and creates spinal flexibility in a direction that is often overlooked. In more practical terms, movements that utilize lateral flexion improve core control, cinch our waists and create more stability for our bodies during standing, walking and rotational activities. In other words, lateral flexion is really important!
Pilates has a lot to offer in this movement category. In this post we’ll focus on those exercises that put us into deep lateral flexion. These exercises are Sidebend and Kneeling Sidekick (feel free to add some others in the comments!). For many, these exercises are incredibly challenging because lateral flexion is not a usual position for their spines. Familiar images can make the poses more attainable.
For Sidebend, ask your client to imagine the whole length of his/her body is a rainbow (an upside down one at the bottom of the movement!). This will help create a smooth, long shape that can be maintained throughout the exercise.
Kneeling Sidekick is a little different. The lateral flexion occurs in the static part of the exercise. For the setup, have the client imagine the shape of a lower case ‘n.’ This is the shape we are aiming to create underneath our standing arm and knee.
However you decide to plan your class, be sure to include some opportunities for the client to move through lateral flexion and stay tuned for another lateral flexion cue next time!