How can I develop more flexibility with my primary school children?

Using Pilates as a way to build flexibility

Now let's look at moving the spine.  When we sit for long periods of time, the spine is held in one position and that's usually flexed forwards if you think about children writing or reading. The shoulders are hunched and the neck is held in a really strange, awkward position. 

If you think about if you go on a long journey on a plane, or in a car for a couple of hours, how uncomfortable you get, how stiff and tired you feel when you finally start moving again.

This is how the children feel if they're if they're sitting in that chair for too long. So moving the spine has amazing benefits, not only for the body, but also for the brain.

Did you know that 90% of nutrition and stimulation to the brain comes from movement of the spine?

Movement promotes spine and back health, which helps them now and throughout the rest of their life. It nourishes the vertebral disks and the central nervous system, again, helping them now and throughout their life.  It helps the development of the vestibular system in the ear to improve perception, spatial awareness, balance and coordination.  It also allows the children to undertake crossing the mid-line activities; this is when you rotate the torso, developing complex movement patterns, so that the brain can process movements that involve the hands working on opposite side of the body.  This includes thing like getting dressed, tying shoelaces, and using forehand and back hand movements with a racket.

Watch the short video for some amazing ways you can help children build their flexibility using Pilates, and why it's important.

Scroll down to read more.

So, here are the spine movements that we try to develop through Pilates, and it's all about just practising them and getting to move in between these positions as often as you possibly can. 

Let's start with a neutral spine, where the spine is in its natural alignment.  We then build in different movements such as forward flexion, where the spine is flex forwards; lateral flexion where the spine is flexed to the side; rotation, where the spine is twisted side to side; backward extension, where the spine is arched backwards.

All these positions can be done standing seated, lying on your back, lying on your front, lying on your side and kneeling on your hands and knees. So let's practise those now

Let's look at seated first and you can join in if you want to.

So we're seated in neutral spine where the spine is in its natural alignment.  Lift up nice and tall, where the shoulders are down and neck is low. Perfect flexion is where the spine is flexed forward. Now we sort of sink down and allow wrinkles to come on the front of your shirt.

Rotation where the spine is twisted side to side, so we're going to twist side to side.

Lateral flexion is where the spine is flexed to the side. So bending sideways, an extension where the spine is arched backwards, so arching, lifting the chest, lifting the ribs and looking up towards the ceiling.

Brilliant. Now let's do that standing. So neutral spine where the spine is in its natural alignment. Flexion where the spine is flexed forwards; lateral flexion where the spine is flexed at the side; rotation, where the spine is twisted side to side; and extension where the spine is arched backwards.

Beautiful image and well done. So how can we fit more spine movement into a child's day?

Well, we can start by doing them seated in there in their chairs and just start to do some twisting and some stretching. And then doing them standing behind the tables and chairs and just creating more movement within the spine as you do that.

And then just start to think about, well, how can I get more of these really easy spine movements into a child's day to energise brain and body?

Just a few minutes every day will build up the flexibility in the longer term, and in the short term will make your students more energised and receptive to get elarning! 

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