The A-Z of Pilates - I is for Imprinting the spine

Along with Neutral spine, Imprint is one of the first positions that you are likely to learn when starting Pilates exercise. Setting up the spine in Imprint is different to Neutral spine, as instead of keeping the natural curve of the spine when executing a move or exercise, the spine is flattened so that the natural curve of the back is  making contact with the mat.


I think that Imprinting the spine is an excellent way to help protect the lower back, and keep it stable during Pilates movements and exercises that need both legs to be raised away from the floor when lying down. A good example of this is where both legs are raised to a double knee fold ‘tabletop’ position to be able to perform the Hundred abdominal exercise – or in fact any abdominal exercise where the legs are raised (see my previous A-Z blogpost; H is for the Hundred).


By keeping the natural curve of the back in contact with the mat in Imprint you create an anchor for the spine, as you really need to focus on the lower abdominal muscles, and imagine them flattening down into the lower back to keep the spine in place.  This week and last week, I have been setting a series of targeted exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles and focus on pelvic stability. These have included Imprint as well as using the hands, by placing them just underneath the natural curve of the spine to give important feedback on what the spine is doing throughout the movements. The exercises have been a real success. They have added a whole new dimension to some fundamental Pilates exercises, and have created a much better understanding of how to use the abdominals more effectively, and how important core strength is for stabilising the spine.


How to practice imprinting the spine:



(Illustration: Pain Free Living Life)


Imprinting is a super exercise in its own right as it is perfect for relaxing or reducing stress after a busy day. You can repeat the exercise several times until you feel refreshed, but please note that this exercise may not work for everyone. If you have lower back problems, such as a bulging disk for example, it is always recommended that you take appropriate advice from your GP or health practitioner before doing any form of exercise.




  • Begin by lying on your back with your arms long down by your sides, with your knees bent and hip width apart and your feet flat on the floor and parallel. Your spine should be resting with its natural curve – this is Neutral spine.


  • Inhale and on your exhale of breath visualise your spine lengthening down into the mat down to the mat, lightly imprinting the natural curve of your back and gently drawing your lower abdominals downwards away from your waistband.


  • Hold the position and breath in and out sequentially for 3 – 5 breaths, and then relax into Neutral spine again.

This entry was posted on January 16, 2018