Tutorial #3217

Short Spine Stretch

10 min - Tutorial


There are many different versions of Short Spine Stretch which makes it difficult to decide which one to do. In this tutorial, Diane Diefenderfer shares how she was taught by Romana Kryzanowska and Ron Fletcher. She encourages you to see which version is best for your body, but also reminds you that you should do it well and with intention.
What You'll Need: Reformer (No Box)

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Oct 29, 2017
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Hi everybody, I'm happy to be here at Palladio's any time talking about the short spine stretch. I have my pal here, Laura who is going to demonstrate while I talk and poke and prod and so on. Um, this movement is perhaps one of the most favorite, at least in all the years of my teaching experience. And as my, in my own practice, I think I heard the phrase a day without short spine stretch is just not a day worth living or something kind of like that. But most everyone that I work with loves it. Provided they are able and should be doing it depending on a range of issues, neck, shoulders, backs, any kinds of injuries. I'm not going to go into all of the therapy and medical aspects of that is, that's not my practice.

But those of you that are teaching or practitioners should make sure that this is a, a movement that is appropriate for you or your students. So I hope you know who you are. Um, with that little bit of things had, um, we do want to make sure that we have the correct, uh, apparatus head rest is down. That is always, always, always. And the uh, springs, depending on the kind of equipment you're using. I've used a red and a blue, I've used two reds. You could use a red and a green. It also may depend on what quote unquote version you're doing. And that's really what I'm here to talk about. I know a few. Um, I have been teaching for over 30 years, so I, I do know a feeling and I'm not saying any is right or wrong or better or worse, they're just nice variety. But whatever you choose to do, do it well, do it with intention. Why are you doing it this way instead of that way? Um, the first, well, two versions that I will primarily talk about are the ones that I learned from both of my teachers, Ron Fletcher and Romana. So I, that's what I'm going to go with though. All right, Laura, let's have you go ahead and roll down to your reformer and we'll take the straps and I'll have the student put her own feet in the straps.

I feel like this is the way to do it. Just hold heels to crotch for a moment. Um, if the student has a great deal of trouble getting into the straps, they maybe aren't ready to do this exercise in the first place and there's plenty of modifications doing a little hinge of the hips and a frog or taking them to the trapeze table. But I'm here to talk about short spine stretch. So having said that, um, different terms I will use, I don't usually use the word crotch to give an indication of where the feet are or, but it's not a particularly delicate term, but it's part of the body and that's exactly where her heels are aiming for at this point in time. So here she is in with her heels in and careful it tuck your pelvis for a moment. Laura, this can happen so easily, so she really has to bring her sacrum down into the mat. It's pretty hard as a teacher to get your hands in there. Um, I'm not one who goes under this way with hands on as I'm teaching, but I know some people do. Um, but try to make sure those hips are anchored.

And that sacrum, that pubic bone to sacrum anchoring is key here as is, we all know navel to spine. So the f this version is more of what I learned from Romana and before she does it, it's a very strong, powerful core initiated movement, uh, with flow as they all should be. She's going to in a moment pretty much shoot her legs out. And when I say shoot, I mean controlling them to parallel stretched legs, pointed feet and then boost her body up as smooth as possible. Bend at the top, heels to Crotch, roll down and then shoot out again.

So I'm going to have you go ahead and give it a shot. Go ahead, shoot the legs, boost the hips, bend the knees, roll through you back to where you started. Shoot the legs, boost the hips, bend and there is an articulating, rolling. Shoot and press the pelvis up. Good try to control that. So the carriage is a little bit more of a control and one more boost. Yes man. And Roll and stay where you started.

I'm going to give her a little stretch, which should feel really good. Then bring your heels closer toward the crotch and rest. You okay? Okay, good. So she did that quite well. I have this vivid memory of Romana in her wonderful manner saying to me, no hanging baskets. Uh, what was she mean? Well, she certainly meant the buttocks. She wanted us to get the butt right up in the air right away.

I'm gonna have you try with a little bit of help. I'm going to press on her feet slightly so she can almost plank up. So it's a, it's a very definitive boost using core and buns. So she's gonna Press and boost right up there and then bend and rural and on your own, bring the heel sooner. Boom. Lift the pelvis. That was better and good. And then heels to the bottom right away.

Alright, so Laura's strong. She's able to do it that way. Excellent. Good. Stretch your legs out to a 45 degree angle. Parallel please. Alright, a version that I learned many years ago from Ron Fletcher, and it has evolved over time until he actually passed away. He was still making changes, but one way we did the short spine stretch was to flex in the hips on an inhalation all the way, all the way, all the way, all the way. Inhaling, inhaling, inhaling, then rolling up using your belly, definitely to peel the pelvis, the spine up, bend to a diamond. Inhale and exhale. Roll Down Vertebra by Vertebra, by Vertebra, closing the ribs, pulling the belly in, bringing that sacrum down.

Heels to Crotch, sacrum neutral or out to parallel. So this was Ron Fletcher. Short stretch circa 1978 again, hinge in the hips. You're trying to keep the sacrum down, but it most likely won't unless you're super flexible. You exhale, initiate low in the belly, use your pelvic floor, use your buns. Good. Stay up. Bend to a diamond and then rural vertebra by Vertebra.

I love to trace my fingers along the spine. Good. Bring that tailbone down. She took an extra breath, fine. Heels to the crotch. Use the belly to push to parallel. Good. So that's a lovely stretching movement. It's easy to get sloppy though and just enjoy the stretching aspect of it.

We love to stretch, but please be mindful of not just letting your legs hinge back and then mapping your equipment. Do the work you still want to. Well, it's an abdominal program so you still want to be using your abdominals to very articulately. Peel up off a version that Ron also did was a little bit more choreographed, but I'd like to share it today. You're going to go to a long diamond, inhale and out to para, uh, 45 degrees. Exhale again, diamond to parallel diamond to parallel. Whole inhale legs back to perpendicular. Exhale, roll up from here.

Little more control at the top. Reach higher. Bend to a long diamond. And now we do three breath patterns in and out to get down to your shoulder blades. Keep moving though in and out to bring the ribs and mid back down in and out to get closer. Say Crim to mat, and then keeping the diamond. Inhale. Exhale diamond to 45. Then you start again, parallel and diamond. Three times.

Inhale, diamond. Exhale, parallel. Inhale, you look good, diamond. Exhale. Inhale, hold good legs back to perpendicular. Come a little more. There's perpendicular. Now roll from there. Engaging. You can really see her belly pulling in to take her up. Bur Great. Grow Taller. Can only do this if you have healthy neck, shoulders, diamond up here. It's a long diamond. Three breath patterns to come down.

So the extra breath gives lots of opportunity to really articulate and get each bone of the spine down sequentially. Here's the third one, bringing sacrum down and take the diamond out and over and stop. Good. Just hug your knees to your chest for a minute. Parallel, whatever. So rest good. So lots of versions. Um, the one that I have been doing most recently that I like to do is yet again, go ahead. Out to parallel. Alright, so you're here, you're going to just not just, you're there in your body, you're mindful of where you are. Take air, flex the hips, and go ahead and enjoy the stretch. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. This is for those that are able to don't move. Take air and now deep in the belly, peel up and the toes are aiming up like an escalator.

I find that image helpful, Ben, to a diamond here. And then one breath to roll down. So you need to keep it moving. Keep it moving, keep it moving. Think of opening your back sideways. Heels toward the crotch. Inhale and to along extension. Exhale, prepare with a breath in. Flex the hips, keeping the spine down as long as possible.

If you're able, the carriage has stopped. Take Air. Use the low belly, the pelvic floor, the inner thighs. Good, beautiful to a diamond. Inhale and roll down Vertebra by Vertebra, by Vertebra. You have to have a nice breath flow to a be able to do that. Heals in and stretch out. Good. Nice. So a couple things I want to talk about too before I close a is what I feel is so important is that you remember the intention of the exercise.

Remember what you're getting trying to do here and then pick your, your choice accordingly. And if your teaching to the body that's in front of you, um, being mindful of what they need but sometimes are variety, you know, well thought out is, is a good thing and keeps clients interested. Um, go ahead, start, start again. Particular last version. Take your breath and hinge in the hips. Cues I like to do. Sometimes I'll put my hands here. Really give them that stretch and then make sure you get your air.

And then as I said, the legs are going up, but on a diagonal good, I'll often put my hand here, not pushing, but encouraging the back to stay tall. Hands here so they feel secure. Maybe a little extra pull. Now she's been up here on our neck long enough. The diamond position, the feet are somewhat praying. All right. Make sure that they're not, I hate to do this to you. Drop your knees down towards the shoulder blocks. This is one of the worst things we can do. It really puts a load on the back and it's just dropped out of control.

You want to have an ope? She's up here awhile. I'm sorry, Laura. You want to have openness in the hip flexors so her thighs aren't going to fall into her chest. Now go ahead and roll the back, and I love using the fingers, but I also would like the client to remember to open their back sideways. So they're making a big imprint on their bed. Easy neck and shoulders heals in. Use Your abdominals always and out to parallel.

Beautiful. Do you feel like your spine has been stretched? All right, so whatever version you do, do it well. Enjoy. Thank you.

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1 person likes this.
Nice to revisit this beautiful, yummy exercise. Laura makes it look graceful. Thank you
1 person likes this.
Excellent thank you
1 person likes this.
Very good
Appreciate the 3 different versions. When I started on my reformer 6 months ago, this move was impossible. Happy to say, I can do it now but can only achieve a straight up position. Still unable to bend my legs over my head. I hope that comes with more practice and spinal flexibility. At age 68, I'm loving the strength and flexibility I've gained practicing Pilates.
Elizabeth V
1 person likes this.
Beautiful tutorial Diane, Laura looked amazing. But is it just me or where did Laura get that awesome body suit?
Patty Hafen
1 person likes this.
Thank you for the various versions of this exercise.
Samantha S
I loved the compare and contrasting of the different variations or versions. As a teacher, its always good to keep the different options in our back pockets and as you said, always have intentions behind our choices. 
Edgar A
It was so great to learn more ways to do the short spine stretch. I especially loved learning more about Ron Fletcher's creative and practical choices.
Cara L
1 person likes this.
I really enjoyed seeing the similarities and differences between the different versions of the same movement! The intention of each variation is different, but all continue in a beautiful flow and stretch. 
Isabela D
1 person likes this.
Romana's was much quicker movement in comparison to Fletchers which was more about stretch and articulation. I also liked how the second Fletcher variation had the earlier core initiation for the roll up like Romana's. I feel that adds a new challenge along with the diamond shape legs lowering for the hamstrings work and glutes.
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