The Hammock - Part 1

By June Scharff

Have you ever taken a mat class and thought, “This was 

a great ab workout!” Then, a few hours later you are in 

a world of hurt in your neck and upper trapezius? 

Much of the abdominal work in Pilates involves raising your head and shoulders in order to engage the innermost abdominal, the Transverse Adominis (or TA). When performed correctly those exercises are extremely effective.


How can you perform them correctly?


It takes most Pilates students time to learn to perform these exercises without tensing the neck and raising the shoulders. One trick is the “Hammock.” While lying on the mat reach back and take ahold of the top corners of your mat. Hold the mat up cradling your head and shoulders. It looks like a hammock. Drop the jaw and relax the neck. You can shake the head back and forth a bit to ensure the neck is relaxed. Next, focus on recruiting only the abs in executing the exercise. Be aware of the neck and shoulders; at first they may try to get involved again. If so, stop for a moment, relax the neck and lower the shoulders again, and then proceed.


Remember, concentration is the number 1 principle of Joseph Pilates’ 7 Principles. Training our bodies to act differently than what they want to do automatically takes concentration and patience.


You can do it, and it is so worth it!