[Yan] Let’s talk about The Spine Stretch

Posted on Apr 10, 2015

Disclaimer: This blog post just represents my thoughts and observations from both learning the Classical sequence as well as from my current learning journey with the Polestar Syllabus as a student.


Today, I am going to share a little more about what I have been learning about the Spine Stretch — one of the original 34 matwork sequence in the traditional Joseph Pilates exercises on mat.

In relation to the Spine Stretch movement,  I realize it seems to be similar to a daily movement where we are standing upright and trying to reach for your toes. In today’s population, there are  —
1. those who cannot stretch to touch their toes,
2. and those who can stretch to their toes.


The question is what does the Spine Stretch really do ?


I personally believe that when one start to look at the purpose of this movement (or any other movements) — one can then achieve the maximum benefit behind this seemingly easy movement.


In Joseph Pilates’ “Return to Life through Contrology” Book, the Spine Stretch is simply a movement with the following cue sequence:

1. Legs outstretched in front of you, with legs spread apart usually mat-width apart
2. Drawing toes (actively) pointed upward and backward
3. Palms resting on the floor
Begin movement by
4. Sliding the palms on the floor, as you reach forward, with CHIN “AIMING” TO TOUCH THE CHEST
5. Reaching forward with 3 successive “sliding” motion-stretch movement together with exhalation of breath.
**Taking note of abdomen drawing in as you reach forward, chin pressing firmly against chest and spinal articulation movement**


According to Pilates, there are many purposes to this exercise:
FIRST : It obviously stretches the hamstrings and erector spinae (which are located back of thighs and your entire back)
SECOND: It improves or increases spinal mobility into flexion ( as well as exposes where your spine may be hypomobile / tight)
THIRD: It also improves pelvic stability ( if pelvis is unstable, you may find your body bending or shifting one side when stretching)
FORTH: It co-ordinate an entire sequential control of the body from head to toe, thus improving postural awareness.

Pilates does not seem to talk about modifications for this exercises during this time.

In my learning journey with Polestar course so far, if one is to look at the Spine Stretch deeper and carefully, you will realize, or feel that the Spine Stretch truly works on the Thoracic Flexion mobility work — perhaps because I have a relatively flexible hamstrings, so I will tend to focus on where I am not as “good” at.

One major difference I have observed is for this exercise, how the Polestar syllabus focus on
1. Starting pelvis vertical and the spine in neutral,
2. KEEPING pelvis vertical throughout movement — which means modifications become extremely crucial for the perfect execution of this exercise.

Important Modifications will include
>> Prop the sacrum up with small towel or mat or box for the pelvis to remain in vertical.

Movement Fault to Watch Out for will include
>> Flexing from hips rather than from the spine ( this usually occurs with flexible hamstrings)
>> Excessive cervical flexion (this usually occurs with tight hamstrings and rounded backs)
>> Excessive shoulder elevation or protraction
>> Movement of the Pelvis ( this usually occurs with imbalances in tightness of hamstrings and/or weak core stability)


Modifications are important, but one must remember not to forget the end-goal of the exercise in the first place — that is to achieve Total spinal mobility into flexion, Hamstring lengthening and Pelvic stability all in one continuous movement.

And as I patiently continuing working on my own Thoracic Mobility into Flexion 🙂

Let’s enjoy life through fitness and movement.


~ Yan yanyayohuangalwaysfreewilly100~

#pilatesplus #spinestretch #livelife #enjoylifethroughfitness