Spinal articulation in Pilates: purpose and properties 

To get the true benefits of the method (especially the ones people love to quote) The Movement Refinery follows the philosophy, principles and lessons of the original method and the some of the first generation teachers. This includes a focus on the breath, every session (at every level) being ‘whole body’,  not pushing to fatigue and being mindful about detail, form and focus. Naturally, we prioritise the original exercises that Joe Pilates created which celebrate spinal articulation in all movement planes and celebrate all of our clients in North Melbourne.

Joe Pilates was VERY clear in his intention and vision of the methodology that he created as ‘Contrology’ which now bears his name. The movements were well-designed on their own, even more powerful when grouped in series and most potent when considered as part of the system – a framework which connects each apparatus and movement. They mostly involve building a sense of control of the mind and body through articulated, focussed movements which have a unique technique woven throughout whether the exercise be internal or large-scale externally oriented.

The monastic attention to detail of articulation Contrology/Pilates, in our hands at least,  goes well beyond the musculo-skeletal system and stimulates almost all of the senses of the body, creates a sense of circulation in the body and ultimately his ‘internal shower’ or flushing of the fluids and metabolic products through the lymphatic system. This will really shine bright when adding the Snake/Twist, Control Balance and dismount or the High Bridge and Wrestler’s Bridge into your Reformer regime! 

This week we focus on the constituent and final movements for Semi-Circle and The Overhead, two intense and potentially fun movements that require articulation of the spine, strength and connection to the upper body and the ability to function well against the load (resistance) of the Reformer. If you’d like to a clearer understanding of how our spinal anatomy is designed for your daily life, check this post out! 


Tip: There’s a lot going on, you can always learn the movements with your back lying flat on the Reformer carriage and when the time is right, wriggle over the cliff and let your pelvis hang into the springs.

Tip: North Melbourne wasn’t built in a day … work with a spinal and hip extension range that is sensible that you can control the entry and exit – clients may experience tweaks and sprains wiggling in and off the Reformer, not during the exercise itself. 

Tip: Move the Reformer carriage, or the body … never both simultaneously

Tip: This is your time to work your spinal extension with some load (resistance by springs). The semi-circle shape goes beyond a pelvic curl (natural/neutral spine) and into spinal extension; take your time and work the push/pull relationship of your hands into the Reformer shoulder blocks and your feet into the foot bar. Creating this outward pressure into the hands and feet may produce a sense of opening or productive traction through your spine and pelvis and feel fantastic!  

The Overhead

Tip: This exercise is the Reformer cousin to Jack-knife from the Mat. To build strength, continue to work on your Jack-knife, Roll over or Corkscrew to develop the relationship of the arms and spine in an inversion.

Tip: It’s hard to find some grounding and connection to the Reformer especially as the legs and pelvis descend from the shoulder stand … consider adding in some push-ups and planks (front, side, back) to your weekly home routine to get some more confidence and strength through your shoulder girdle…. This can really help to support your Overhead.

Tip: Break this down into a few parts and thread together when you feel ready 

Step one: Pull the straps down and simultaneously do a pelvic curl or low back lift – rinse and repeat

Step two: Just the Rollover and lat pull of the straps – hard enough, so just try a few at a time

Step three: Once you feel comfortable in the Rollover, add a little pop up to shoulder stand, go back to your Roll over and then come down

Step four: Hit the shoulder stand and layer reaching the legs away as per the final version of the exercise 

Enjoy week 6 as we develop your strength, awareness and understanding of these spinal articulation exercises from the original work of Joe Pilates. 

Nic and Co.