Principle No 5:  Cervical and head (cranium) placement

Principle No 5:  Cervical and head (cranium) placement

The cervical spine (neck) should hold its natural curve (slightly anterior convex curve) and naturally follow on from the natural curve of the upper (thoracic) spine during flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation.  The skull or cranium should balance comfortably on top of the neck, directly above the shoulders with no forward or backward tipping.   Ensuring correct placement of the head on the neck decreases the risk of muscular strain through the neck and shoulder region. When in a supine position (lying on your back) if there is a kyphosis or over rounding of the upper back and shoulders with a forward head posture, the head rest may need to be up, or a cushion or pillow placed under the head to alleviate tension and prevent the cervical spine from over extending.

When doing our supine abdominal work, all actions should first start with cervical flexion which is done by lengthening the back of the neck, without jamming the chin into the chest.  This cervical flexion is otherwise known in the pilates world as cranio-vertebral flexion.  There should be sufficient room between the chest and the chin to place a rip medium sized peach … squeeze too hard and you’ll get juice down the front of your top, not enough and you’ll lose your peach.

Once cranio-vertebral flexion and stabilisation of the scapula has been created, the upper torso can then be flexed up by using those abdominals to slide the ribcage towards the pelvis with the aim of keeping length through the spine as we perform this action.  Thinking of creating length as we flex up into our abdominal work will ensure an even flexion through the thoracic and cervical spine, reducing those compressive forces through the spine and ensuring it’s your abdominals working to lift your chest and not your neck dragging you up … afterall, it’s ab work … not neck work!!

Even when doing your prone extension work (lying on your belly), you still need to ensure that your cervical spine and head follow on in an even manner from the shape of your thoracic or upper spine.  Resist the urge to create tension in the neck and shoulder muscles by throwing your head back too far … think length length length and you can’t go too far wrong.


Julie Ojeda

Pilates Nation

Julie is a fully certified STOTT PILATES® instructor and holds Cert IV Allied Health Assistant; Cert IV Fitness and has completed numerous additional courses in Pilates for Injuries & Special Populations,  Athletic Conditioning, Pilates for Children & Adolescents, Pilates for Pre & Post Natal Clients


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