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Understanding the Block System® – Spinal Articulation

Spinal Articulation is normally introduced into the teaching program after several weeks’ acquaintance with the Block System™. It is a section that demands awareness and an already-established sense of full body movement and stabilization.

Joseph Pilates said: “If your spine is inflexible and stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” Therefore, looking after your spine and keeping it mobile is of paramount importance. We only have one spine, look after it.

Spinal Articulation in the Block System refers to exercises where spinal vertebrae sequentially articulate on one another from the coccyx through the bodies of the spine to the head and from the head back to the coccyx. The degree of spinal articulation naturally depends on the person you working with, the exercise and objective.

The spine can articulate from extension through neutral into flexion and vice versa. It is also good to think that spinal articulation is applicable in some lateral flexion and rotation exercises. The vertebrae still stacks itself on or off one another.  Visualize how one vertebra stacks on the one above or below and when rotating, the spine forms a beautiful spiral line or DNA helix.

Effective spinal articulation demands ultimate muscle control, especially from the muscles deep and close to the vertebrae column. Think of it as microscopic muscle control, which in turn promote good motor control. More superficial muscles like the abdominals will at times act as movers or initiators and especially in extension, act as the stabilizers.

Rael always says: “Think of your head as a bloated vertebra, it is part of your spine, not a separate entity.” Allow your head to respond to the movement in your spine even when doing spinal articulation.

As an instructor you often see that people can start with good articulation and then there is section/s where the spine moves like a plank. Never force the spine to flex or extend in these stiff areas, but rather encourage better muscle control in and around that area.

Typically we start a class with a roll down followed by the pelvic curl to warm up – for people with healthy spines. Forward flexion and at times a tiny pelvic tilt (posteriorly) can be contraindicated for people with a history of spinal injury. Nevertheless, spinal articulation is desert for the spine.

Have fun teaching.

Theo van der Riet – Botha
BASI Pilates™ Principal Instructor

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