How's Your Posture Doing?
Take a second to observe your posture. How are you sitting or standing right now? Wait a second…don't try to fix anything - at least not yet! Are your shoulders slumped forward? Is your head jutting ahead? Is your back overly rounded or arched? Are you slouched down in your chair or standing much shorter than your actual height? The way we carry our body while we sit and stand is important to our spine’s health and is a reflection of and a contributor to our overall health. Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, focused on whole body health, commitment, and breath. He said, "If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young." Through Pilates, we can have a flexible young spine at any age, gain total body alignment, and have great posture!
Most likely, we all agree that we would like to have proper posture, but how the heck do we do it? How do we get a young spine, a pain free back, and better whole-body alignment? And more importantly, how do we maintain it? It might sound too good to be true, but it is very possible. One of the best ways to do this is via Pilates, which emphasizes exercises to strengthen the “powerhouse” or core muscles in the center of the body that support our everyday movement.
Admittedly, many of us aren't even sure what "good posture" is. When we were younger we might have been told, "Stand up straight!” or, “Get your shoulders back!" - both of which probably made us just hinge our joints and lock into bad habits. Pilates exercises, emphasizing spinal articulation and abdominal strength, help us learn how to stand correctly and find ideal alignment and posture - ensuring the longevity of a young spine.
In Pilates, we emphasize proper posture and alignment while finding a neutral spine, meaning we maintain the two natural curves of our spine - one behind our necks, our “cervical” spine, and one behind our low back, our “lumbar” spine. These curves over time or due to alignment issues become increased or decreased. For example, when we are using a computer, driving, or doing other “forward” looking activities, many of us tend to stick our heads too far forward. In fact, bring your awareness to your posture and check in with yourself right now, or the next time you are driving or at the computer.
Here's an easy trick to start with - put your Pilates Party Hat on! The "Pilates Party Hat" Is a concept that was introduced to me in California during my Pilates training program. Imagine for a moment that you are wearing a party hat on top of your head. If you push your chin out, the elastic strap on the Party Hat might jump off your head. If you pull your chin too far in or down the elastic might dig into your neck. Therefore, in order to keep your hat on correctly (and to look like you’re having as much fun as possible), you have to line up your ears with the sides of your shoulders, and most likely will need to push the center of your chin down and back a bit with your index finger. Voilà! Now your upper back posture is ready to go.
If you are interested in learning more about how to maintain optimal spine health and gaining proper posture with a general efficiency of movement, please consider our Pilates classes at The Movement Factory, located inside the Lake Erie Screw Building (website: www.themovementfactory.com). We have small group Pilates Mat classes and Pilates equipment classes, and also offer private and duet sessions for even more personalized attention with certified Pilates instructors. Our clients have been impressed with the drastic improvements in their posture, the pain-free lifestyles they now lead and the lack of injuries in their bodies! As Joseph Pilates also said - "A man is as young as his spinal column."
Owner, Head Instructor at The Movement Factory