Pilates

How To Release Knots In Your Back

Over the years as a Massage Therapist, the primary complaint of most of my clients was knots in their back; those aching, aggravating, tight spots that just never seem to go away. Something many of you can relate to.

Hours of sitting and working at your desk is an invitation for those irritating spots of tension to take up residence in your neck, shoulders and back. Unfortunately, some workouts can do the same.

I encourage my Pilates clients to get massages on a regular basis to help relieve muscle tension and release tight fascia - something everyone can benefit from. In fact, since I am still a Licensed Massage Therapist, I incorporate mini-massages into my private Pilates classes, focusing on tight muscles that need to be released, then stretched.  

I'm also a big supporter of massages for the additional health benefits such as increased circulation, improved lymphatic function, stress relief, injury prevention...this list could go on but that's all for another post.

If you're stuck with an achey knot in your back and don't have time for a massage here's a trick you can try: 

Tennis Ball Massage

I use this trick throughout the week to fight off the bundles of tension that live beneath my shoulder blades (teaching is not always easy on the body).

How To:

1. Lie on the floor and place a tennis ball between your back and the floor, in the area between your spine and shoulder blade. (Be sure to place it under a muscle, not on a bone or your spine).

2. Let your body weight lean into the ball and roll it up and down (laterally) along the tight muscle/knot in your back. Also try shifting your weight from side to side, moving the tennis ball horizontally.

3. When you feel a point of pressure (a knot) hold the ball in place and relax into it until you feel the knot release. Imagine your muscles 'melting' around the tennis ball. Take long, slow breaths as you do (don't hold your breath) because it may feel quite intense!

You can increase or decrease the depth of the massage by how hard you lean into the ball.

For a less intense version, try leaning against a wall instead of lying on your back.

Travel Tip: Throw a tennis ball in the car on long road trips and use it by placing it between you back and the car seat to release knots while on the road. Or if you're traveling by plane, take a tennis ball with you in your suitcase and roll out your back once you arrive at your destination. 

I hope this trick brings you some relief. Remember, knots may not go away over night...the key is to practice releasing your muscles on a regular basis. 

If you're holding tension in your body day-after-day or sitting/standing with poor posture, the knots will keep coming back. Releasing knots is a short-term 'fix'. The key to making sure the knots don't return, is addressing poor postural patterns, and strengthening weak muscles... which is a primary focus of Pilates!

The 6 Pilates Principles

There are 6 essential principles in Pilates that are important to keep in mind as you begin your Pilates journey or dive deeper into your practice.

These principles were not created by Joseph Pilates himself, rather they were brought about by those who studied under him in an effort to preserve and spread his unique method of exercise.

1. Centering

This addresses the key component in Pilates that everything begins and ends with the center. Some people call this the core, others call it the “powerhouse.” All Pilates exercises are energized and powered from the center (you can read more about what “the core” includes in this post).

2. Concentration

Pilates is not an exercise method where you can show up and zone out. One should bring their full attention to each exercise and what is going on in the body to work efficiently, effectively and with intention.

3. Control

Every Pilates exercise is to be performed with full body control. Using momentum or rushing through exercises at the expense of form and function is not Pilates. Pilates requires control of both mind and body.

Joseph Pilates

Pilates Principles
Pilates Principles

4. Precision

Exercises should be performed with precision and focus. The details matter. Working with precision will affect the muscles that you work and the effectiveness with which you work them. Failing to focus on the precise details will reduce the effectiveness of the method.

This is the beauty of Pilates. This is why we only have you do 8-16 repetitions rather than 30+. When done right, more is not better. In Pilates we work smarter, not harder.

5. Breath

Joseph Pilates encouraged full, intentional breathing in life and in exercise. The breath has the power to transform the body and mind. When practicing Pilates one should exercise the lungs by breathing deeply and synchronizing the breath with the movement at hand.

6. Flow

Pilates exercises should flow with grace and ease. Flowing through each exercise, from one exercise to the next and using all part of the body in graceful unison.