Though I’ve never knit a stitch in my life, when my Pilates teacher cues me to “knit my ribs,” I know exactly what to do. If you’re not so sure, here’s Penelope to clue you in!
Take your hand to your sternum, that big bone in your chest below your collar bones. If you walk your fingers down your center line to what human women call the “bra line” (guys, it's right underneath your pecs), you’ll feel your ribs separate as they give way to the fleshy part of your abdomen. It’s exactly this space, where your ribs start to separate, that we’re referring to when we cue to "knit the ribs."
What that cue really means is, “engage your upper abdominals so you’re not arching your back,” but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. By evoking the image of knitting your ribs together, you can imagine the two sides of the rib cage drawing towards one another and meeting in the center line.
If you take your arms above your head and back behind your ears a bit, your tendency is to lift your shoulders and “open” your ribs — meaning letting the two sides of your rib cage separate. This is what my mama is doing in the picture on the left. If you take your arms a bit further forward (and this placement varies depending on your anatomy and flexibility), you can drop your shoulders down and use your abdominals to pull the sides of your rib cage together, as in the picture on the right. And voilà, you're knitting your ribs!
There’s no such thing as a stupid question in Pilates, so even if you’ve heard a cue a hundred times but aren’t sure what it means, ask! Chances are there’s someone else in class who will be wondering, too.