Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Imprinting: A Skill to Improve Your Performance

One of the key skills in properly executing many of the exercises in Pilates is engaging your core muscles. The correct level of activity in core muscles should be 30% of their maximum so that they have enough energy to contract continuously. Failure to contract your core muscles properly will promote unwanted contraction of the larger muscles surrounding the core. These will then take over the movements thus defeating the goal of the exercises.

Steps to Imprinting:
  1. Lie supine with arms by your sides, knees flexed, feet flat on the floor with a neutral spine (spine with natural curves present)
  2. Palpate the transversus abdominus to know whether you are contracting the correct muscles. Place your hands on your anterior superior iliac spines (asis) (the bony parts at the front of your hips). Move your hands medially an inch (towards your navel) and inferiorly an inch (towards your toes). Your hands should now be directly over the transversus abdominus muscle. Keep your hands in this position. When you contract your core correctly you should feel a gentle tightening under your fingers when they are in this position. If you feel a 'bulge' you are contracting too much.
  3. Inhale.
  4. As you begin to slowly exhale, relax your jaw and neck muscles.
  5. Depress your shoulders and relax them.
  6. Relax your ribcage. Allow the sternum to drop and the back ribs move to the floor.
  7. Relax your abdominal muscles. Let them drop down toward your spine. Focus trying to lower your belly button down towards the floor. Relax your spine. Let it get long and melt into the floor. Palpate for a contraction of the transversus. Now ease the contraction off to about 30% of its max.
  8. Relax your hips and legs. Use only as much energy as it takes to keep your knees up and legs in alignment.
  9. Next, visualize the imprint in your mind's eye.Visualize your spine lengthening and sinking down to the mat, lightly imprinting. Just let it happen. As you relax, you can breathe deeply into the spaces opening up between your vertebrae. . Imagine that if you were to get up, the print your body left would be perfectly balanced.
  10. Perform 3-5 repetitions of imprinting with diaphragmatic breathing.

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