To C-Curve or Not to C-Curve

Lately I’ve been questioning the use of c-curve in class. In the early days of my Pilates teaching, if you had told me I needed to teach a reformer or mat class without c-curve I would have started to nervously sweat a little and certainly would have had a moment of “What I’m going to do to fill an hour without c-curve??”  Now, after teaching Pilates for many years, I have more training and more tricks in my Pilates bag! I’ve pursued education in Pilates for rehab and chronic conditions, and I feel comfortable in these areas.

I am seeing more and more students for whom c-curve is contraindicated or I believe would be better off skipping c-curve for a period of time. There are many reasons c-curve may be a bad choice for a student including bulging discs, spinal fusions, abdominal separation after having a baby, osteoporosis, or just simply slept funny and my neck hurts today!

When Joseph Pilates began his practice and introduced Pilates or Contrology as he called it to the public, lifestyles were quite different. No one sat in front of a laptop all day hunched over in flexion … there were no laptops! No one walked around on a cell phone searching for pokemon, texting, talking or following navigation …essentially in a  c-curve! Joseph Pilates lived in New York City were his students did not commute by car 40 minutes or more each way hunched over a steering wheel. I think it is important to look at how we as a population have evolved when we consider the Pilates exercises. In Joseph Pilates’ time, his students did not spend all day in flexion as many of us do now.

For this reason, I make a point to include extension in every class provided my students are healthy enough to handle extension in their spine. Some hate it … and I find this is often because they need it! It feels very unnatural to their flexion-focused bodies. Others love it because their body crave that length.

Given our propensity for flexion and c-curve, I wonder if we may be better served limiting some of our c-curve in Pilates class? I believe my body could use a break from c-curve from time to time. I’ve been working to uncover and feel work in the body that mimics c-curve with a neutral spine. Yes – it can be done! Maybe you neck could use a few moments of being properly aligned more than a c-curve while your lats and abs still work. I think so!

Here are a couple videos I’ve created to showcase how you can work your upper abdominals in a mat class and also on the reformer without c-curve.

Reformer work option:


Mat Work Option:

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