Imagery is one of the most effective tools we use in teaching exercise to communicate the subtleties of good form. Often, a good image will integrate the body/mind effort much more quickly and accurately than word-based descriptions. Here, we are going to take a look at how the box image can be used to maintain length and symmetry in the torso.
Using the box image is important because we want to develop the body in a symmetrical, balanced way. This creates efficient movement patterns and musculature that safely supports the skeleton and organs. Conversely, muscular imbalances and lop-sided movement can lead to all kinds of unwanted compensation patterns in the body.
The Box Image
In your mind's eye, imagine that there is box that outlines that main section of your torso. The corners of the box are at the center of each shoulder and at the top of each hipbone. Your box might be a rectangle depending on your proportions, but the lines are straight: The line that runs shoulder to shoulder is straight, the line that runs hip to hip is straight, and the two lines that go shoulder to hip are equal length and parallel.
Whether you are standing, sitting, lying down or moving between levels, keep the box image in mind. It will help stabilize you shoulders and pelvis. It will also reveal, and help you correct, muscular imbalances that may already be present.
Clearly, many exercises will ask us to shift the lines of our box toward asymmetry, but the box gives us an extra degree of awareness about where and how we are doing that, and it provides a stable reference point to return to.
Note that in Pilates you may also find a similar image used, which is to work within the frame of the body. This is a little different than the box. When we talk about working within the frame of the body we mean that we don't move the limbs beyond the line of the joint (Ungaro, Pilates Body in Motion).