Moves Of The Month For Driving


By Amy Teter • Photos by Lisa Bailey Rostoen (Fotografix Studios) | Article Featured on Pilates Style

Clients frequently come into my studio complaining about neck and back pain. Quite often, they are guilty of driving for long periods of time for work or leisure. The good news is that strengthening the core, and in turn, the postural muscles, can help prevent and relieve those bothersome aches.

Take these moves for a spin at least three times a week, to help prepare your body for long stretches on the highway, or hours spent stuck in traffic. (Or even regular short drives, which add up!) Also, don’t miss my tips for proper alignment behind the wheel; just be aware that proper seated posture might feel uncomfortable at first, since your body has acclimated to those poor, pain-inducing habits. Time to do Pilates—it’s the law!

Half Curl with Breath

Purpose: increases the strength and endurance of the upper abdominals; promotes awareness of neutral pelvis and keeping the shoulders away from the ears

Setup: Lie on your back with your feet flat, and knees bent and together. Rest your arms by your sides, and come to a neutral pelvis.

1. Inhale, drawing in your abdominals and lengthening the back of your neck.

2. Exhale, peeling your head and shoulders off the mat, one vertebra at a time.


3. Inhale to stay, or curl a bit higher; exhale, articulating down to the starting position. Do 4–6 reps.

Tip: If you experience any neck tension, interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head. (This will also increase the abdominal challenge!)


Purpose: strengthens the upper back; enhances awareness of neutral pelvis/spine

Setup: Lie facedown, with your legs together and parallel, arms by your sides and shoulders relaxed.

1. Inhale, engaging your abdominals and pulling your scapulae closer together and toward your bottom rib.

2. Exhale, lifting your shoulders and head to reach a neutral spine, reaching your fingertips toward your toes while grounding your legs/feet.


3. Inhale, holding the position while maintaining the abdominal connection; exhale, lengthening and relaxing your head, shoulders and torso back down. Do 3–5 reps.

Modification: Place a small cushion under your hip bones to help relieve any tension in your lower back.

Spine Twist

Purpose: mobilizes the spine in rotation; strengthens the obliques; increases awareness of neutral pelvis/spine while seated

Setup: Sit tall, with your arms stretched to your sides at shoulder height, palms forward, and legs parallel and together.


1. Inhale, rotating your rib cage to one side for 3 steady pulses, growing taller and rotating further each time while keeping your spine neutral.


2. Exhale, lengthening your spine as you return to center. Repeat to your other side. Do 3–5 reps.
Modification: If your hip flexors or hamstrings are tight, sit on a raised mat, foam cushion, or even a chair.

Tips: Keep your nose centered over your sternum. Also, keeping your shoulder blades lightly squeezing the spine will increase awareness of rotating the ribs (not the arms!).

Short Plank 2

Purpose: promotes strength and endurance in the shoulders, arms and abs; increases stabilization of the spine and pelvis in neutral

Setup: Get into a quadruped position, with your shoulders over your wrists, and your knees under your hips. Squeeze your legs together, and flex your feet, tucking your toes under.

1. Inhale to prepare, engaging your core.

2. Exhale, pressing into your hands and feet to hover your knees ½ inch off the mat.

3. Inhale and pause; exhale, lifting one foot off the mat (keeping the other knee hovering), maintaining hip and shoulder stability.


4. Inhale, lowering your foot, then repeat on your other side.

5. Exhale, lowering both knees with control. Do 3–5 reps.

Modifications: If you have wrist issues, perform the move on your fists. If lifting one foot is too challenging, perform 4–6 knee hovers.

4 Rules for Pain-Free Driving

Before you turn on the ignition, follow these tips, gleaned from both my Pilates training and The New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand and Move in the Modern World (Healing Arts Press, 2006) by world-renowned Structural Integration expert, Mary Bond.


1. Your seat back should be as upright as possible, and the lumbar support completely deflated. Sounds crazy, right? But think about it: The manufacturer of your vehicle did not have your specific height and lumbar curvature calculations in mind—so it was not designed for your body.

2. Sit your buttocks all the way back into the crease of the seat, and align your three “domes.” Think: roof of your mouth over your ribs, and your ribs over your hips.

3. Place a bolster right below the tips of your shoulder blades. This bolster placement, devised by Ms. Bond, not only allows your core to do its job of helping to hold you upright, it also reminds you to breathe into your posterior spine and keep your ribs in place. (I’ve been known to use my wallet/towel/sweatshirt when nothing else is available!) Note: Ms. Bond adds that, for some, a lumbar roll may be comfortable.

4. Hold the steering wheel at four and eight o’clock. Not only will this help keep your shoulders away from your ears—making your neck happier—but it also helps you connect to your back, to keep your abdominals firing and posture upright.

If you’re looking for pilates in Hillsboro, Oregon, look no further than Balance Massage + Core Fitness Studio. We are a fully equipped massage and fitness practice located in downtown Hillsboro. Our core fitness studio features STOTT Pilates®, the gold standard in Pilates training, using specialized equipment. We offer 20 group fitness classes per week, including Zumba, Zenga, and Total Barre, as well as private instruction from our highly qualified team. Much of our massage practice is focused on injury recovery, relief from pain, and car accident and workers compensation rehabilitation. We also provide a variety of massage treatments purely for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Whether you enjoy the attention of one-on-one private training, or the excitement of a group fitness class, Balance Massage & Core Fitness Studio has the right training options to help you meet your fitness, physical therapy, and relaxation goals.

Balance Massage and Core Fitness Studio

233 SE Washington Street, Suite 103
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123

Phone: 503.352.9685