1. Pilates strengthens the core in 3D.

In Pilates, we often work the spine in something called neutral spine or neutral pelvis. This means that the spine is at its optimal curvature, creating a small lift, about the size of a caterpillar, at your low back.  A neutral spine is an important of using Pilates to get out of low back pain because it requires the stabilizing muscles in the spine to turn on during ab work. When the stabilizers become strong and know when to fire they will be more likely to turn on when we need them, like when we are walking, standing, or driving.

This a great beginner exercise for learning how to work your core in 3D:

This is something just a smidge more advanced for when you are ready to move forward with your practice:

2) Strengthens hips and glutes for a strong pedestal for the low back.

Our modern society is set up to weaken our glutes. We do so much sitting! When we sit the glutes (butt) turns off and the hips (especially the hip flexors) and quads turn on. We also tend to round the lower back when sitting for long periods (the opposite of neutral). All of this leads to a week pedestal for the low back. The hips and glutes should create a strong, balanced, surface for the low back to rest on. If this pedestal is weak or off balance the low back must work extra hard to stabilize around the sensitive sacroiliac (SI) joint, which can cause strain and a gripping sensation. Pilates helps to strengthen this pedestal in a balanced way.

This a great beginner exercise for learning how to strengthen the glutes and hips:

This is something just a smidge more advanced for when you are ready to move forward with your practice:

3) Pilates focuses on alignment and posture.

Pilates is known to help posture in general. In Pilates, we spend a lot of time on alignment and lengthening the spine, both of which may feel like they have little to do with low back pain. However, a long spine and good posture can help to take weight and pressure off of the low back.

Take a moment to play with this. If you are reading this on your phone or computer you are most likely hunched forward, shoulders rounded, with a hollow chest. Try reaching the crown of the head toward the ceiling as if you are suspended from there like a puppet while letting your shoulders relax and keeping your chin parallel to the floor. How does your low back feel compared to when you were slumped over at your desk? Less compressed? Lighter in general? Strengthening the muscles in the upper back needed for good posture helps to relieve the muscles in the low back.

This a great beginner exercise for learning how to extend the spine:

This is something just a smidge more advanced for when you are ready to move forward with your practice: