How to Do Pilates Imprinting

Basic Position With Profound Benefits

Woman lying on her back on exercise mat, knees bent
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Imprinting may be the most basic Pilates exercise there is, and yet it can also be one of the most profound. It is one of the first positions you learn when beginning Pilates training and serves a couple of purposes in your practice.

Imprinting is the perfect way to get centered before you begin your Pilates workout or any other form of exercise. It helps you lengthen and relax your spine, and settle into your body.

Imprinting also serves to stabilize you during exercises in which you lift both legs off of the floor. This is particularly useful in exercises where both legs are extended and are at a low angle off of the floor. By keeping the back pressed into the mat and the abdominals pulled down to achieve this, your body is well anchored.

Imprinting may not work well for everyone. Those with lower back issues, such as a bulging disk, should avoid imprinting, for example. If you have any lower back issues, it is best to consult with your doctor before attempting imprinting and to seek assistance from a Pilates instructor who can help guide you through safe and proper practice for your case.

Performing Pilates Imprinting

A simple exercise, imprinting can be used anytime for stress reduction and quick rejuvenation. You will need an exercise mat or other firm but padded surface. You may also use a neck roll, but this is optional.

  1. Begin imprinting by lying on your back with your arms by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You will be in neutral spine position, allowing your spine to rest with its natural curves.
  2. Now, relax:
    • Relax your shoulders. Let them release on to the floor.
    • Relax your jaw and throat.
    • Relax your ribcage. Let the sternum drop and the back ribs move to the floor.
    • Relax your abdominal muscles. Let them drop down toward your spine.
    • Relax your spine. Let it get long and melt into the floor.
    • Relax your hips and legs.

Use only as much energy as it takes to keep your knees up and legs in alignment.

  1. Next, "see" the imprint in your mind's eye:Visualize your spine lengthening and sinking down to the mat, lightly imprinting against its surface. Just let it happen. As you relax, you can breathe deeply into the spaces opening up between your vertebrae.
    1. This is a wonderful time to linger, and perhaps to add some sequential breathing.
  2. As you do the imprinting exercise, see if you can let your imprint be very even, so that it is balanced along your body. Imagine that if you were to get up, the print your body left would be perfectly balanced.
  3. Do imprinting for at least three to five breaths.

For relaxation and stress reduction, do imprinting for five minutes or more.

Imprinting Tips

  1. You might want to use a rolled towel or small pillow to support your neck.
  2. If you are doing imprinting as a warm-up for your workout, relax, but stay alert enough that you will enjoy moving out of the imprint and into exercise.
  3. As mentioned above, if you have lower back issues, imprinting may not be right for you without first consulting your doctor and getting special guidance from a knowledgeable Pilates instructor.
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