June is Posture and Proper Alignment Month. This is a great month to look at form and cue proper position during the setup and throughout the movement.
What is good posture anyway and why is it so important? Basically posture refers to the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to the ever-present force of gravity. Regardless of the position of the body; gravity exerts a force on our joints, ligaments and muscles. Good posture entails distributing the force of gravity through our body so no one structure is over-stressed.
In Joseph Pilates Return To Life Through Contrology, he states, “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates mind, and elevates the spirit.” Contrology exercises will result in persons realizing the sensation of “uplift”. How many times at the end of a session do you hear your clients tell you that they feel taller?
Sitting and standing with proper postural alignment will allow one to work more efficiently with less fatigue and strain on the body’s ligaments and muscles. Being aware of good posture is the first step to breaking old poor postural habits and reducing stress and strain on your spine.
What makes Pilates so important with respect to posture is that Pilates trains us to develop and use core strength, rather than holding our position with superficial musculature. Using the deep core muscles of the powerhouse (the abdominals, back, and pelvic floor) to support our posture allows the shoulders to relax, the neck and head to move freely, and relieves stress on the hips, legs, and feet.
“When performing exercises it is important to work in a Neutral Spine. There are natural curves in our spine that together give us the flexibility to handle everyday life stresses. As a result of these stresses, we tend to lose the natural curves that will shift our torso and extremities out of their desired anatomical position. This can result in the degeneration of joints and our spine, loss of flexibility and range of motion. Therefore it’s important not to force any one position. If the body isn’t ready to maintain the optimal position then the result will be a tightening of the muscles and ligaments surrounding that area. It’s accomplishing the complete opposite of what is intended. Appropriate cueing at the appropriate time will maximize the effectiveness of the cues we use.” — Power Pilates Manual
Benefits of Good Posture:
- pain relief throughout the body, including back and neck pain, hip pain, leg and foot pain.
- allows us to move efficiently
- improves muscle function
- increases range of motion
- takes pressure off of compressed organs
- improves circulation
- creates a trimmer appearance
- radiates an attitude of confidence
Here is an alignment checklist you can use to work with your own posture.
If you were seen from the side your body part line up will look like this:
- Tips and Precautions
Pull your abdominal muscles in and up toward your spine as you exercise.
Work with slow, controlled movements, breathing evenly, without holding your breath.
Tailor your number of repetitions and sets to your current level of core fitness.
- Articulate bone by bone
- Open the shoulders/lengthen through the neck
- Tips of shoulder blades remain on the mat
- Shoulder blades glide on the back
- Work the opposition of the movement throughout
- Tail bone reaches long
- Lengthen spine tall
- Spine Stretch
- Side Kick Series
- Spine Twist
- Kneeling Side Kicks
- Front Support
- Kneeling Abs
- Pulling Straps
- Chest Expansion
- Arm Circles
- Balance Control – Facing back
- Jump board
- Russian Squats
- Leg Springs
- Arm Springs
- Chest Expansion
- Roll Down
- Push Through
- Long Back Stretch