What do you think of when you think of traction? The first thing that immediately pops in my head is someone lying in a hospital bed with their legs being held up in the air in traction. Traction can be used in a variety of medical conditions usually to take pressure off a joint or area of the body so it can heal properly. By gently pulling on the body using a force the muscles are lengthened and the joints effected are decompressed. Did you know that the Pilates method uses the idea of traction to help students align their body and decompress their joints?
Lengthening and decompressing the spine and body as a whole is one of the main goals of the Pilates work. By learning how to engage your core muscles you can learn how to create a support system for your bones that actually decompresses your skeletal system and leaves your body feeling long, tall, and working most efficiently. An easy example of this is to think of your seated posture.
In the Pilates work we often focus on how you can use your muscles to get out of that slouchy, rounded forward posture (that many of us do day in and day out!) Many exercises will teach you how to sit tall on your sitting bones, use your core muscles to align your rib cage over your pelvis and lengthen your neck muscles to bring your head in line over your shoulders.
There are times when the Pilates equipment acts as a force that can help you create more traction and decompression in your body. One of my favorite exercises on the Tower is something called the half hang. The half hang consists of carefully putting your feet into straps that hang from the Cadillac so that you hips are slightly suspended over the mat. This is an amazing way to allow the muscles in your legs, hip and back relax while letting the joints of the legs, hips and spine decompress.
Another favorite “traction” exercise of mine is called Long Spine on the reformer. You put your feet into straps that are attached to the carriage and springs and use the resistance to create a pull or traction that helps you find articulation through your spine while also decompressing the space in between each vertabrae. The design of the equipment allows you to find a sense of support and traction while still working your body in a balanced uniform way. (it feels amazing!)
The idea of decompressing your body during your exercises is one of the reason Pilates leaves you feeling so amazing! Even though the exercises can seem like a lot of work, they are done in a way that leaves your body feeling better when it gets done working!
Want to learn more about Pilates as an exercise program and how you can lengthen and decompress your body? Contact us today!
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