Proper breathing ensures that enough oxygen is flowing to the muscles you are using, and helps prevent unnecessary tension. A relaxed and full breath pattern encourages focus and concentration.
The STOTT PILATES breath pattern involves an expansion of the rib cage out to the sides and back without allowing the shoulders to lift. It is also important to breathe into the lower part of your lungs, because there is more efficient gas exchange.
The breath pattern used in STOTT PILATES will help engage your deep abdominal muscles and stabilize your torso.
STOTT PILATES emphasizes stabilization of the pelvis and lumbar spine (lower back) in either a neutral or an imprinted position:
Neutral Placement: Maintains the normal curve of the lower back. When lying on your back, front of hip bones and pubic bone should lie parallel to the mat, and your lower back should not be pressed into the mat. This is the most stable and optimal shock-absorbing position for your back.
Make sure you’re not arching your back to achieve neutral alignment. While breathing and engaging abdominals in this position no strain should be felt through the lower back. If you feel muscle tension, shift the pelvis to a more comfortable position.
When to use: This is the ideal position when one or two feet are secure on the mat or other equipment.
Imprinted Position: The lower back is moving toward the mat. Avoid pressing your lower back all the way into the mat or tilting the pelvis too far by overusing the abs or glutes. Note that the amount of contact between the lower back and the mat is different for everyone.
When to use: An imprinted position should be used to ensure stability of the lower back when both feet are lifted off the mat.
The rib cage position affects the alignment of the thoracic (upper) spine. When lying on your back in a neutral position, maintain the sense of the weight of the ribs resting gently on the mat (i.e. maintain the normal curve of the upper back). Don’t lift off or push your rib cage into the mat. Pay particular attention to the placement of your rib cage when inhaling or while performing arm movements overhead.
Using the breath pattern described below and engaging your abs will help stabilize the rib cage. Emphasize breathing into the back and sides of your rib cage during inhalation. When you exhale, allow you ribs to soften, with the two sides gently closing in toward each other.
Stabilizing your scapulae [shoulder blades] on the back of the rib cage is as important as contracting your abs during the initiation of every exercise. This will help you avoid strain through your neck and upper shoulders.
To achieve proper placement, a sense of width should be maintained across the front and back of the shoulders. Make sure you neither allow your shoulders to round forward too much nor squeeze together toward the spine. Shoulders should not be lifted too far,or over-depressed. Placement should be somewhere between these two positions.
The shoulder blades have a large range of motion, so remember to maintain stability (but not rigidity) at all times: a) when the spine is neutral and the arms are resting; b) when the spine is moving, and; c) when the arms are moving in any direction.
HEAD & NECK PLACEMENT
Your cervical spine [neck] should hold its natural curve with your head balanced directly above your shoulders when sitting, lying and standing. In some cases, a small pillow should be used when lying on your back to put your head and neck in a comfortable position.
Whenever you lift your head and upper body from the mat, lengthen the back of your neck and nod your head forward without jamming the chin into the chest. There should be enough room to fit your fist between your chin and chest. Once your head is in proper position and your shoulder blades are stabilized (Principle 4), the upper torso can be lifted by contracting the abs and sliding your rib cage toward your pelvis.
When lying on your stomach and lifting the upper torso, pay particular attention to maintaining an even line from the upper back to the neck. Avoid lifting the head too high and crunching up the back of the neck..