You will hear this repeated at the beginning of many exercises, especially exercises with one or both legs off of the floor. Using imprint during exercises with an open kinetic chain ensures that your back is safe and protected when your legs are off the floor. Imprint is an especially important position for people who have extra arch in their lower back known as lordosis.
When you imprint your pelvis, the obliques naturally need to engage, which allows for a more stable position. The muscle fibers of the obliques run diagonally from the lower ribs to the hips and criss-cross each other, so they not only help move your pelvis into imprint, but they hold it there, stabilizing against rotation and other distortions by activating independently.
No matter how long and how often you do Pilates, it is a good idea to revisit your form from time to time. Even if you’ve become strong and stable enough to do exercises with an open kinetic chain with a neutral pelvis, it’s helpful to check in with your imprint. It can remind you of how helpful your obliques are, and help you gauge the effectiveness and ease of working in neutral.
Finding Your Imprint:
- Lay on the floor facing the ceiling with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Rock your pelvis back and forth to warm up.
- Begin to engage your lower abs and obliques slowly allowing for your pelvis to tilt into the mat. Feel your lumbar spine lengthen and press gently toward the mat.
- When laying on your back in imprint, your pubic bone should be slightly higher than your hip bones (or ASIS) in the horizontal plane.
Make certain that you are not forcing your lumbar spine into the mat or flattening it all the way. The essence of imprint is allowing the deep core muscles and obliques to tilt your pelvis. Your hip flexors and glutes may have to work for other parts of an exercise, but they shouldn’t work to move you into imprint. Challenge yourself to initiate your imprint with relaxed hip flexors and glutes…by simply pulling your hips toward your ribs with your obliques.