I am just curious as to why pilates encourage/force such cervical flexion.
Being in the therapy and fitness industry for 25+ years, I specialize in spine health. I teach neutral spine, meaning head, shoulders, hips on the floor at all times. Most adults have or develop a forward head posture over time and I just don't understand the concept of Pilates that encourages unnecessary cervical flexion. As a perfect example, all you have to do is look at the most recent edition of IDEA Pilates Today "Uniting the Industry: Transforming Stories". Granted I did not read the whole article, but that picture hurts my neck just to look at; as I see an older lady standing with her head in that position...Why?
I can't speak for all of the pilates methods that are being taught. I can only speak about Stott Pilates where I have taken my training.
The backbone of a pilates (at least on a individual basis is a postural assessment). Without the assessment one can't design a program appropriate for that individual's posture.
All I can say is that a pilates instructor or a personal trainer for that matter will choose exercises that are appropriate for the client based upon subjective and objective assessments.
However, biomechanically, exercises such as rollover place the cervical region in excessive flexion.
Placing our bodies in a pose that is creating shortening on one side of the joint will always elongate the opposing side.
The problem with prolonged poses is that this is a static stress that if peformed over and repeatedly, is similar to a repetitive strain injury(RSI). Placing stress on the connective tissue, primary ligaments(which attach bone to bone and SHOULD NOT be taken to end of range),
disc and the joint.
Moderation is key and more importantly, apply the appropriate exercises with the client and always modifications should be made to accomodate the pathology or past medical history or injury.
I just practiced my own words and found that with great effort I can barely touch the FLESH of my chin down -- much less the BONE -- when I really lengthen my neck first. There is about a finger's thickness of distance between my chin and my chest/clavicle area.
Our challenge as instructors is to guide people through the process of attaining the proper form to do the exercises safely and effectively so they may improve over time. I teach mat to a group class of over-45 women (an age bracket which includes myself) and options and modifications are given for nearly every exercise. We don't do Rollovers or Rolling Like a Ball at all because the floor surface of the classroom isn't appropriate. There is great brilliance in the "original" Pilates mat routine but I believe like others here have stated that most people will benefit from a tailored, modified program, and that's what I was taught.