The Functional Back

Back pain self-treatment featuring the Hubble Method

Why this core Pilates technique is outdated

I am a big fan of Pilates, and use many Pilates moves in my core strength workout. It has excellent overall postural and strength benefits (just look at Madonna). But when Joseph Pilates invented Pilates during World War I, times were different.

People’s lifestyles were the polar opposite of what we see today. So were their primary postural issues. Joseph designed his foundation “navel to spine” movement to correct the then-common Darwin Duck posture (see picture) by engaging the transversus abdominus, our girdle muscle.

Duck1-CroppedLie on the floor with your knees bent and try it by pulling your navel into the floor. Notice how your low back flattens and your pelvis tips backward. It’s an excellent antidote to the extreme low back curve and forward-tipped pelvis of the Darwin Duck posture.

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Here lies the problem today: Joseph could never have foreseen the sedentary, technology-driven

 lives we lead. The most common poor posture we see now is the Purple Panther (see picture). Not coincidentally, this posture resembles slouching behind a desk, in a car, on the couch, or over a smartphone. It is the opposite of Darwin Duck, highlighted by a flat low back and backward-tipped pelvis.


What happens when Purple Panthers perform a navel to spine movement? They reinforce their painful posture. I made this mistake for years, and wondered why it hurt.

So if you have the flat low back and backward-tipped pelvis of a Purple Panther, what should you do? Keep doing Pilates! Just 1) de-emphasize the navel to spine movement, and 2) focus on movements that hinge from the hips rather than curling your spine up from the floor.