In my Hatha classes, I'm often cueing to engage the T-Zone to provide inner stability to the lower back, sacroiliac joint and pelvis, build core strength and reduce the likelihood of injury.
WHAT IS THE T-ZONE?
Draw an imaginary letter T on the front of your pelvis - the horizontal line going from hip bone to hip bone and the vertical line from the pubic bone to form a T. The vertical line is a visualisation of your pelvic floor muscles and the horizontal line is a visualisation of your deep abdominal muscles.
To activate and feel for the T-Zone, place your fingertips just inside your hip bones. First let’s think of the vertical line - draw the pelvic floor up that vertical line as if you we’re trying to stop going to the toilet. Next, think of the horizontal line and try to draw the hip bones across toward each other along the horizontal line, and then flatten that line in toward the spine. The upper abdominals should be relaxed so you’re able to breathe or talk while holding the T-Zone on by diverting the breath to the upper chest.
Practice engaging your T-zone by tightening for ten seconds ten times a day. Before you know it, it'll become instinctive to switch the T-Zone on while you go about your activities of daily living to act like an inner corset of strength.
We want to be able to activate our T-Zone in various positions. Once you’ve got the hang of it, try some of these positions
Lying on the back with feet on a chair or large exercise ball
Side lying with the knees bent
Sitting on a chair
On all fours (tabletop - on hands and knees)
Lying on the front with a neutral spine
Don’t lift the tailbone off the floor
Make sure your abdomen isn’t doming outwards
Keep the leg and buttock muscles relaxed
Relax the neck and shoulders
Tightening your T-Zone too hard and fast
WHY DO I MENTION THE T-ZONE DURING YOGA?
As a quick reminder, the T-Zone is the Pelvic Floor + the deep abdominal muscles (the deep core muscles) THE PELVIC FLOOR Holds the pelvic and abdominal organs in place + Allows bladder and bowel control. TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS draws the abdomen in + Stabilises the spine acting like a deep internal corset. This engagement keeps us safer during yoga for everyone! Feeling weak, switch on the core. Hypermobile? Switch on the core. Want to improve your posture? Switch on the core
BREATHING IN PILATES VERSUS IN YOGA
This is where it gets a bit confusing at first!
In yoga we take our breath deep into the lowest part of the lungs, filling up that area then exhaling long and slow, breathing in and out through the nose
In Pilates we inhale gently through the nose into the sides of the ribs and exhale with a little force through the mouth
So a normal inhalation and a slow, forceful exhale through the mouth
In Pilates, we inhale sideways into the ribcage to help keep our abdominal muscles engaged. If we breathed into the lower part of the lungs as in yoga, we’d lose control of the abs
On the exhale in Pilates, we draw the lower ribs down and in to activate the Obliques
Prevent the ribs from flaring and the lower back from arching so are useful throughout class particularly for those with an exaggerated curve of the lower back
Activating the T-Zone and the Obliques can help with lower back, pelvic and hip pain
WHEN TO INHALE AND EXHALE IN PILATES
Inhale, switch on T-Zone (draw up pelvic floor, across front of abdomen and in)
Exhale, when maximum effort is required, when performing the movement + when your abs need to stabilise your spine and pelvis
Do you find tabletop (the Pilates variation) difficult to do without arching your back?
Focus on activating your TA and Obliques
Does your neck hurt during some Pilates exercises?
Draw your shoulder blades down and back
Does your neck hurt lying on your back on the floor?
Try a pillow under the back of the head
Try gently tucking your chin in, lengthening through the crown of the head to create space in the back of the neck
Does your hip click when doing some movements?
Try activating your hip flexors by gently drawing your hip into its socket using the muscles in the inner front thigh before making the move that creates the click