The A - Z of Pilates........K is for Kyphosis

One of the main aims of Pilates is to train and condition the body to have good spinal alignment and to help and improve any spinal mis-alignment caused by tension and stress in the shoulders and back. There is much that can affect the spine, for example, just going about typical daily activities such as working for long hours at a desk, standing for prolonged periods, having a manual or physical job, carrying heavy loads or lifting children can all serve to throw it out of balance and cause postural related conditions.


Postural Kyphosis of the spine is one such condition could develop over a period of time owing to lifestyle and repetitive daily activities. It is easily identified because there is a pronounced curve of the upper back that forms a hump, and is typically accompanied by forward rounded shoulders and the neck being out of natural alignment. People who have jobs which demand a considerable amount of time having the upper back flexed over to complete work tasks, or sitting huddled over a desk on a daily basis are much more prone to develop this condition owing to long hours of repetitive poor posture. The abdominal muscles will become weak; there will be tightening of the muscles of the chest and lengthened muscles and ligaments in the back. 


To correct this posture, we want to focus on a number of exercises, especially those that strengthen the back muscles and open up the chest. One such exercise is the Cobra Prep exercise, as regular practice really does help to extend and mobilise the upper thoracic spine and open up the chest. I have included the instructions below, but do remember to take advice from your GP or health practitioner should you have any back pain or problems:


How to do Cobra Prep:
  • Lie down prone on the floor/ mat. Your elbows are bent and drawn down just slightly lower that your shoulders. Your forearms and hands are in line with your elbows at 90 degrees and your forehead is on the mat. The legs are shoulder width apart and parallel and your feet are relaxed. The toes, knees and hips stay in contact with the floor throughout.
  • Lengthen your tail-bone to the back wall at the same time as engaging and contracting your lower abdominals.
  • Inhale to prepare. On exhale lengthen through your upper spine and nudge your nose forward. Start to lift your head and chest away from the mat leaving your sternum down on the mat. Gently draw the shoulder blades down your back at the same time as having a sense of reaching forward from the chest to lengthen the upper spine. 
  • Inhale. On exhale lower your body back down to the mat keeping the length in your spine and relax. Repeat 6 – 8 times.
Hints and tips:


Imagine a piece of string pulling your spine up from middle of your shoulder blades whilst keeping length in your upper spine and neck.


Your shoulder blades should not pinch together at the back, and nor should your shoulders lift upwards towards your ears. Your neck remains long and in alignment with your back, avoiding flexing backwards and jutting your chin. Keep your legs and glutes relaxed. 

This entry was posted on February 11, 2018