Back (to the) Basics - Pilatesology

Back (to the) Basics

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Are you using your back when you work out? Are you aware of your back during the day – while you are sitting, standing and moving? Whether you are a student or a teacher, go through these basic exercises to build awareness and an understanding of the back’s role in all Pilates exercises. This quick session teaches you to feel the back working as you reach 1) from the upper back down toward your toes 2) from your low back as you reach overhead and 3) sideward as the upper back opens the arms. Once you master these concepts, work on incorporating them into each exercise on the mat, and in your daily living.

What Others Are Saying


  1. SalPilates 2 years ago

    I really admire how fluid the instructor performs these exercises!

    • Sandy Shimoda Author

      SalPilates – thanks for tuning in. Once you start practicing it becomes a natural, connected motion!

  2. eugenia 6 years ago

    This helped me feel those back muscles and allow them to work. Thank you.

    • Sandy Shimoda Author

      Eugenia – brilliant! Mission accomplished! Keep exploring your back. It takes time and practice to incorporate into your entire workout.

  3. soul_eil

    As I revisit the basics again and again, I’m hoping to finally be able to get my neck pull. That is my nemesis. I think I have been more concerned with my scoop than in keeping the back fully engaged. Very insightful. Thanks Sandy!!

    • Sandy Shimoda Author

      This will be an exciting journey. Finding your back will greatly improve your neck pull. I will be sure to visit that exercise in the near future.

  4. Sandy Shimoda Author

    You are so welcome, Jack! Finding your back connection is such a revelation, isn’t it?!

  5. JackKeller
    JackKeller 8 years ago

    That was great, I loved it! Thank you.

  6. joesmat 8 years ago

    I hope you are “coming back soon” as you intimated with further insight about getting into your back and connecting your arms. It seems to my body to be at the very foundation of good, efficient and fulfilling mat practice.Your invitation to practice the 100 has been taken on board. These critical connections that you spoke about in your introduction, with special consideration for the “back connection” would be a wonderful lesson in all the mat exercises!

  7. Sandy Shimoda Author

    What a deep and insightful comment. It is wonderful to realize the greater concepts built in to Pilates through Joe Pilates’ insight and feel how the body works together towards better health. Thank you for tuning in and for sharing your experience with the information!

  8. nigelmack 8 years ago

    Hi Sandy, for me its demonstrations like this that explain what pilates is all about. They help explain the forces our bodies encounter due to their design and the physics of gravity etc and then help show us how to come to terms with those forces and live healthily with them so they aren’t diminishing us but are liberating us increasingly on an ongoing basis. There’s no way I would have worked out what you just demonstrated about the arm-core relationship in years and years – thankyou so much.

  9. Sandy Shimoda Author

    My pleasure! Where in Hawaii are you?

    • arlene

      I’m on Maui, in South Kihei- I have a little home studio right on the beach! If you ever plan to come out here and do a workshop please let me know!!!!

      • Sandy Shimoda Author

        I would love to do that! My family is mostly on Oahu and I come home once or twice per year. It is always fun to hop to an outer island for a quick trip. I am so pleased that you are there teaching. Best wishes to you…

  10. arlene

    Deepening the work. Love this!! Awesome information, very much appreciated, mahalo for sharing.

  11. monica 8 years ago

    Hi Sandy, Can we get a whole studio class with the same purpose ” use the back” ?
    monica Italia

    • Sandy Shimoda Author

      Hi Monica, thanks for your interest in my class! I am happy to post classes that address the back on various apparatus. Jay Grimes taught me the importance of the back in all Pilates exercise so I encourage you to take a look at his videos as well as Karen Frischmann’s. Also, please check out the Teachers Clubhouse on Pilatesology that discusses the use of the back on the reformer and against the wall. See you soon…

  12. Vicki 8 years ago

    Perfect, thank you so much for this important reminder, pilates is so much more than just ‘pulling your abs’ in!

  13. Sandy Shimoda Author


  14. Ynowak 8 years ago

    Great review, awesome!

  15. joesmat 8 years ago

    I really enjoyed working along with you in this short lesson which I shall repeat many times in future.Sliding the hands along the mat when lying on your back with knees bent to get these critical connection into the upper back is “special”. In the Double Leg Stretch your back is so “connected” that when you reach the legs and arms and start to sweep the arms around your upper back is totally elevated off the mat with only your low back staying in touch with the mat because of the reaching effect, and your girdle of strength. Brilliant. I have never seen this exercise taught like this, and it is ground breaking stuff for a mat person like myself. This explains a lot for me. Teaching at its very best in my world. Thank you. More please…………!

    • Sandy Shimoda Author

      You are so welcome! Knowing that this information is useful and applicable to you at home is the whole reason I am doing this! One note: in the Double Leg Stretch, the base of the shoulder blades should be touching the mat. Thanks for pointing out something that I am working on – using the back to reach while pulling deeply into my stomach so my upper body doesn’t lift off the floor! Ai yai yai, there is always something to work on…

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