Imprinting is a way of setting up your body in the correct position on the floor to perform certain Pilates moves.
It’s one of the first positions you’ll learn in a Pilates class, along with neutral spine position. An imprinted position should be adopted to ensure stability of the spine and pelvis if neutral alignment cannot be maintained because abdominal strength is compromised. It can be used as a way of helping participants progress and certain postures such as excessive lordosis can also be helped by using imprint.
An imprinted spine refers to a slight flexion of the lumbar spine. However the emphasis is on the cue ‘ribs to hips’ and not ‘hips to ribs’. Although this may feel like a slight posterior pelvic tilt it is important not to teach our participants to complete a pelvic tilt as this will bring the lower back out of neutral. During imprint the rectus abdominis and the obliques move the ribs towards the pelvis.
Eventually clients will not need to imprint as their abdominal strength increases and they can maintain neutral.
If you are working with very small groups or one-to-one, you could slide your fingertips under the lumbar region to check that the client maintains core contraction and therefore remains in neutral. Clients can also be instructed to do this – however it will affect the position of their shoulders but it is very good for feedback until they understand what they should be feeling and how challenging it is to maintain neutral.
Please note that different posture types such as ‘flat back’ will probably not have an apparent lumbar curve.