Pilates is all about moving efficiently. 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.
Most of us know good posture when we see it, and we are inspired by how free and strong it makes a person look, but there are so many reasons to attend to ones posture I think it is worthwhile to take a moment to get really motivated.
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
Now that you are thoroughly convinced that attention to posture is not just a mother's wish, here is an alignment checklist you can use to work with your own posture.
Posture and Alignment Exercise:
- Begin standing. Stand with your feet and legs directly under your hips. Your legs and feet are parallel, and your knees are pointing forward, straight but not locked.
Get details on good leg alignment
- Balance Your Weight. Adjust your body so that your weight feels like it is falling directly through the middle of the foot. A good way to do this is to rock slightly forward and back on your feet, making the movement smaller and smaller until you feel your weight is balanced over the center of your foot.
- Activate your core muscles. Lightly pull your abdominal muscles in and up. As you do so you engage the pelvic floor muscles as well. You are going for a feeling of aliveness in the core. Just this move is usually enough to improve one's posture significantly.
- Drop the tailbone. Activating the core will allow you to drop your tailbone down toward the floor. This is a neutral spine position, where the natural curves of the spine are present without tucking or hyper-extending(sway back) the pelvis. A popular image is that the pelvis is a bowl of water and you don't want the water to spill out to the front or the back.
- Relax and open your chest. The chest is not caved in and not thrust out, just resting easily. There is a small point at the bottom of your sternum, and that, like the tail bone, should be pointing straight down.
- Shoulders down, broad back. Allow your chest to drop and open as your back expands. As this happens and you feel the support from your core, your shoulders drop away from your ears and your shoulder blades slide down your back. Cultivate a posture whereby the your core is holding you up, not your shoulders!
- Ears reach for the sky. Your head and neck are completely supported by your core and easily float above your shoulders. Imagine that the tops of your ears are reaching for the sky. Your gaze is straight forward, with your throat open and chin resting naturally.
- Review the line up. If you were seen from the side your body part line up will look like this:
I suggest going through this posture check list as many times as you can during the day. It is an especially good exercise to do once you are warmed up, or even after a workout, when your awareness is heightened and core well engaged.
All Pilates exercises will help you develop your core strength and awareness, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Pilates Exercises to Support Good Posture
Another important aspect of working with improving ones posture is breathing. Good posture allows us to breath deeply and fully. Similarly, breathing well is essential to good posture. Here are some ways to work with breath and alignment:
Now that you have your standing posture figured out, it's time to look at your workstation setup.