Posture Perfect: Matters of Alignment

Posture is the alignment of our skeleton within the body.   Pilates teaches us how to consciously discover our natural or neutral alignment throughout the body.  Given enough practice, we transfer these experiences so our everyday life so that our alignment is now subconscious.  This is true for both good and poor posture, as  “practice makes permanent.”  An better phrase for posture is that “precision makes perfect.”

Ideally, our posture begins with the deep inner stabilising muscles of the head, spine and pelvis.  Good alignment allows us to move efficiently.  It also corrects imbalances in the body; improves organ function, relieves compression of organs and fully oxygenate our blood.

Poor posture causes strain, pain throughout the body, headaches, and tired muscles.  Organs within the body are compressed and blood flow is constricted.  Our breathing is also inhibited which decreases oxygenation throughout the body.

All Pilates exercises require correct alignment during the set-up of an exercise,  throughout the exercise and until the exercise finishes.  Correct alignment begins a with neutral spine and pelvis, working with the natural curves of the spine.  Our neutral pelvis is found when the pubic bone is level with the pelvic bones.

The relaxation position is good for finding neutral spine and pelvis, as we have multiple points of contact to receive feedback and assist our proprioception.  Exercises such as the compass and clock are good for learning about the range of motion and positioning of the pelvis.

Standing correctly is more difficult as we have fewer points of contact, but we can easier see where our posture needs work.  Our head should be balanced on our spine, with no tilting, shoulders level, arms relaxed. Our are hips are level and stacked underneath our shoulder joints.  Our legs and feet are aligned under our hip joints, with the feet spread on the floor.

marionette-e1373798896900Whenever I consider correct posture, I imagine myself as a marionette. My head is lengthening upwards and my feet are opposing the floor.  If my joints are not aligned correctly, I’m just a pile of mush and unable to move.  If my head and feet are in opposition, my  head is erect, spine lengthened and pelvis is in neutral.  My legs are hip width apart, and feet on the floor.  While there is no puppeteer pulling my strings, I have the use of my inner stabilising muscles to keep me erect and alignment correctly balanced.

I discovered many things about my posture with much practice.  I already knew I had knock knees, but discovered that exacerbated the tightness of my lumbar spine, because my pelvis was out of alignment and tilted backwards.  Now, not only do I focus on keeping my pelvis neutral, I practice standing correctly whenever I am waiting for a bus and queuing.  I think it’s becoming second nature.

How do you check for, or practice, good posture in your body?

Post Author: Marie Benedict

Marie Benedict is an experienced sports instructor who is a certified Body Control Pilates Mat Instructor and Badminton England Level 2 Coach. She is currently developing Pilates for Racquets and other specialised Pilates courses in partnership with Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club. She was honoured as Epsom and Ewell’s “Coach of the Year 2011,” and was short-listed for Active Surrey’s “Coach of the Year 2011.”