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By January 8, 2024Pilates In Holland

Have you ever been in class and a teacher says something, usually referring to a muscle or a part of the body, and you’re like, “What’s anterior again?” I feel like I’m pretty well-versed in body knowledge, or at least I have become so over the last few years, but this still happens to me.

And I’m not trying to dig on our teachers, who are wonderful, educated body experts! What’s sometimes confusing for me is just them being precise and accurate, using language their brains have been trained to use. It actually comforts me to hear them use it, and it helps me to learn more about my body, which is why I’m there in the first place. But for those of us who sometimes need a little help to understand, I put together a primer of vocab as a way to start out the new year.

Okay, let’s start with some Pilates basics:

  • Neutral spine = spine has natural curves; in a neutral spine, the back of your head, upper back, and pelvis touch when standing with your back to a wall
  • Imprint = lay flat and press your low spine into the ground, losing its natural curve. Your hip bones are down and your pubic bone is tilted upwards
  • Supine = lying face and torso up
  • Prone = lying face down

And while we’re talking about the spine, here are the main regions you’ll hear teachers refer to:


  • Cervical = upper back (top 7 vertebrae)
  • Thoracic = mid-back (next 12 vertebrae)
  • Lumbar = low back (next 5 vertebrae)
  • Sacrum = lowest spinal section that provides the connection point to the pelvis
  • Coccyx = tailbone
  • Pubic bone (pubis) = the most forward-facing bone of the pelvic bones
  • Sitz bones or sit bones = the bottom of either side of your pelvis, the bones we sit on

Sitz bones

Sometimes they’ll ask us to move in a certain direction. Feeling lost? Here’s a map to help.

  • Anterior or Ventral = front of body
  • Posterior or Dorsal = back of body (I was today years old when I learned that posterior and dorsal are the same!) Dorsiflexion of the foot is toward the back (toenail side) of the foot
  • Medial = closer to the truck or core of the body
  • Proximal = part of the limbs closer to the core
  • Distal = part of the limbs farthest away from the core (hands & feet)
  • Lateral = sides of the body
  • Superficial vs deep = surface of body vs deeper in the body

Commonly referred to but little-known muscles:

  • Intercostals = the muscles between the ribs
  • Multifidus = the innermost layer of muscle in your back, responsible for the movement of the spine
  • Piriformis = deep butt muscles under the glute max that connect the spine and thigh bones
  • QL (quadratus lumborum) = important core muscles that help stabilize the lower back. They connect the lower spine to the pelvis and assist with movements like side bending and raising the hip.

Terms of movement

  • Flexion = bringing two body parts closer together (bending)
  • Extension = moving two body parts farther away from each other (straightening)
  • Adduction = moving an extremity towards the midline
  • Abduction = moving an extremity away from the midline
  • Lateral rotation = rotating away from the core or midline
  • Medial rotation = rotating toward the core or midline
  • Supination = forearm when palm is facing up
  • Pronation = forearm when palm is facing down

Okay, that was actually a lot! Don’t feel like you have to remember it all, it will stay here as a cheat sheet if you need it. Or, you could just ask in class any time you’re unsure. Teresa, Debra, Jayne, Terree, and Mandy all speak regular human English too. ;) And if I didn’t touch on something you are wondering, let me know!


Author Renee

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