Opening the Ribcage for More Lift in Spine Extension

by | Apr 21, 2008 | Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips | 1 comment

I’m always experimenting with cues to help find good images that my clients can associate with while they’re moving through their workouts. When I can associate a relatable picture to proper body position and movements – I usually get great execution of each Pilates exercise.

Here’s my new cue of the week for improving Spine Extension.

Pretend your ribs are like an oriental fan, and as you lift into extension open the fan.

The pivot point for the fan is under the armpits, (assisted by shoulder depression and the lower trapezius.) By visualizing each rib sequentially pulling away from the next and lifting apart the spine moves more freely, and pulls away & up, reducing stress on the lower back while moving into a glorious well-supported backbend.

I have found this cue particularly helpful on Down stretch on the Reformer, where the goal is to be light on the arms while lifting into spine extension. But it works equally well on many other back extension exercises. Try it on Swan, Short Box Round (into the backbend) Extension exercises on the Spine Corrector, Pulling Straps on the Long Box, Kneeling Knees Arched, Even on Mermaid – opening one fan, and closing the other. (If you have success using this image on one exercise – associate it to other exercises and you should get similar results!) It might also be helpful on Spine Flexion in “Fanning the ribcage into a good C-Curve” bending the other direction.

Depending on the exercise you’re teaching, you might also consider which end of the fan is opening first. Pulling apart from the top of the ribcage to the bottom, or opening from the bottom of the ribs to the top. The image of the fan works both ways. Evaluate what you’re doing and what will be best for the body to determine which end of your fan should be opening first. Then see how many different exercises you can apply your “FAN” image visualization for improving exercises understanding and technique.

Try it and drop me a post to let me know how it works for you!

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.

1 Comment

  1. Elaine Ewing

    Hi Aliesa!
    Great image, so creative!
    I like it, its an interesting way to focus on feeling the open spaces in the fan as the opening of the spaces between the ribs. With that as a focus, the shoulders almost don’t even want to overwork to form the position!
    Its also nice to imagine the fan as opening from the center, just a little different feeling other than opening from one end or the other.
    I like this so much that I plan go out and buy one of those fans to have at the studio and to use as a visual aid!
    Awesome blog! Let’s keep communicating!


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