How to Do a Head Nod in Pilates? Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes

A head nod in Pilates is a key exercise. (Photo by Karolina Grabowska via pexels)
A head nod in Pilates is a key exercise. (Photo by Karolina Grabowska via pexels)
Ruby khanna

The head nod in Pilates, also known as Cranio-vertebral flexion, is a beginner-level exercise that works on the neck as well as the spine.

It's the first move in many advanced and equipment Pilates exercises, but it can be done as a part of your warm-up or as a stress reliever workout throughout the day too. Although it's a beginner-level exercise, it's not as easy as it might seem, so it's important to perform it correctly.

How to do Head nod in Pilates

You can do this Pilates exercise sitting or standing, but it's best to perform it lying down before beginning your Pilates session. Here's how it's done:

  • Lie straight on your back on a Pilates mat. Keep your knees bent and both feet on the mat. Make sure your legs are parallel to your hips and your feet in a line.
  • Keep your arms on your sides with your palms facing down, and keep your spine in its natural position.
  • Your face should be flat to the ceiling so that your entire body is straight. Let go of all the tension; relax, and take a few breaths.
  • As you inhale, lengthen your spine to open up the back of your neck – space at the back under the base of your skull. As you do that, release your chin down, and feel the stretch of the lengthening and opening move.
  • Do not pull your chin down.
  • As you exhale, return to the starting position, and on an inhale, slowly tilt your head backwards. This is a quick move, so you must make sure to keep the length and stretch in your neck.
  • Use your breathing pattern to feel the back of your neck supported.
  • Exhale, and return to the initial position.
  • Repeat the movement several times, and coordinate the exercise with your breathing.

You can do this exercise, and experience a head nod with several other Pilates workouts, such as a single-leg stretch, the hundred, wall roll down, etc.

Watch this video for reference:


Tips to Remember

Consider the following tips when practicing a head nod in Pilates:

  • When performing this Pilates move, always align your breathing with the movement.
  • Remember not to move your face while doing a head nod.
  • Do not pull your chin down. Feel this exercise as an opening and lengthening move.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To get the most out of this exercise, make sure to avoid these mistakes:

Not performing it when required

As this exercise is so easy, many people forget to include it in their Pilates sessions. Do not skip a head nod in exercises when necessary.

Not doing it correctly

If you are a beginner at Pilates, make sure to seek guidance from your Pilates trainer, and learn how to do it the correct way. Follow the steps accurately to avoid pain, neck or spinal injuries.


Benefits of doing Head Nod in Pilates

A Head Nod in Pilates is a major part of the spinal curve in almost all the rolling (down, up and over) exercises involved in Pilates. This exercise also helps protect your neck, and with regular practice, you’ll find that getting started with a head nod can make a huge difference in your Pilates session.


Moving your head down and forward can result in chronic poor positioning, which could lead to severe pain in the neck and head. A head nod in Pilates helps support your head while keeping your neck in a neutral position and prevents pain and any type of discomfort.


The Head Nod in Pilates is a fundamental move, but it should be done in the correct form to achieve its benefits. Generally, safe and effective for everyone, this exercise should not be performed if you have a neck or head injury or if you’ve had an injury or surgery. Also, if you are in your second or third trimestars of pregnancy, do not lie on your back.

It's best to consult your physical therapist or doctor to learn what all would be appropriate and safe for you. If you have any type of physical restrictions due to any health concerns, discuss it with your instructor before starting any Pilates exercise.

Edited by Bhargav


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