Pilates and Posture
Pilates is a renowned for improving one’s posture. This is probably because at it’s core Pilates is essentially about moving from a place of stability. Our bodies are like a high-rise building, if the foundation is not solid and made from good material it does not matter how good a quality the external features are, the building will be problematic. Like a building, people can look strong on the outside but have zero stability. The stability we are talking about is your “powerhouse”.
Ballet dancers are a thing of beauty to watch. Sadly, not many dance for very long let alone get the opportunity to dance professionally. Often this stems from injuries that occur after years of pushing their bodies incorrectly. Often the movements in ballet involve lifting the legs and extending the hips beyond what is considered normal range. Our body, being as clever as it is develops unhealthy coping mechanisms when we force it into movements without using our powerhouse. These habits result in our movement muscles working overtime as they are trying to stabilize the body too. When your movement muscles overwork it creates wear and tear on the ligaments and joints.
The above picture is an example is of a dancer but the principle is the same overall. Without connecting and using your center to stabilize your body prior to movement you will fatigue your superficial muscles and in time damage your joints and leave your body open to further problems as one gets older.
Why We Should Improve Our Posture
Standing tall is attractive and it will make you seem confident and assertive. On top of that good posture has an anti-aging effect. As we get older we tend to shrink and round in our upper back and shoulders. Maintaining a good posture through correct exercises keeps one standing tall and proud. Joseph Pilates died at the age of 87. He stood just as tall and commanding as he did when he was a young man.
Improving your posture has many other advantages that are not just superficial. Correct alignment of the body keeps your organs in their correct place and allows them to function optimally. For example sitting in a slouched position is not good for our lungs and results in poor breathing. This shallow breathing uses your neck and shoulders instead of your diaphragm and intercostal muscles. This in turn affects your core in the long run since the diaphragm, pelvic floor and TVA co contraction is an important part of core activation. And as you probably already know your core is integral to whole body stability, function and anti-disease.
The domino effect of bad posture can occur from top to bottom or bottom to top. Our feet are often forgotten about yet they are so important. If you think about it your toes and feet are the first part of the body to resist gravity. Incorrect weight distribution on the feet and toes can impact the body from the knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. Simply correcting the imbalance of weight distribution has an alignment correction on the whole body. Footwork on the reformer is absolutely fantastic in this case as is the foot and toe corrector. Never underestimate the small stuff.
It has also been said that your emotions affect your posture and your posture affects your emotions. An interesting study found that people who over indulged in using Botox as an anti-wrinkle solution on the face developed depression. Since Botox disables the facial muscles people were unable to smile properly or show any emotion. This is an incredible example of how important the mind body connection is. Simply sitting up tall will give you a wind of energy.
Physically and emotionally it feels much better to be lengthened than compressed. This is why you pay much more for a first class ticket on an airline than for economy class. Space for the body to move and space for the bones, muscles and ligaments. Create that space by lengthening your body and your mind will love you too.
How Pilates Improves Your Posture
The Pilates exercises are designed to strengthen your powerhouse in multiple planes of movement that ultimately replicate daily motion on some level. Next time you do a class think about what movements you can replicate in your everyday life. Then do them with a focus on coming from your powerhouse. You may have to think about it at first but soon it will become subconscious thanks to muscles patterns and memory.
In Pilates you are never just shortening or only stretching the muscles. You are always working the muscles together. Yes, that means even the muscles stretching are working. You not only strengthen from your powerhouse but most importantly we lengthen from powerhouse. This creates an even and balanced pull on your bones which in turn brings the body into correct posture and alignment.
In summary I personally believe that if there were an exercise pyramid like the food pyramid we have that Pilates should be the first layer. It is the foundation upon all movement. From your desk jockey to your olympic athlete. From performance training, to basic movement for everyday life, all require good posture. This is because good posture is about balance and alignment. It’s about the body as a whole and every system it encapsulates. Pilates is all about functional movement. The method was designed as an internal cleanse, that ultimately lead to an external result of precision and balance in the whole body.