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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Pilates for Posture

Apr 30, 2013 03:53PM ● By Susan Clark and Amanda Olney

Our daily activities play a major role in keeping the body functioning as we age. Pilates is a mind and body activity that gives us the ability and core strength to cope with the stresses we place on our system. Whether lifting a box, sitting behind a computer or working in any position, Pilates trains us to keep our spine aligned properly and in correct posture.

Pilates and posture go hand-in-hand because the focus is on strengthening the core muscles in the abdomen, as well as how the muscles are contracted, which directly affects the posture of the individual. Different postural types affects the spine differently in terms of increased pain and decreased energy levels, due to the overworking of the body’s muscles. Incorrect posture can also cause digestive issues, chronic headaches, shortness of breath and poor circulation.

Poor posture develops due to misalignment of the spine in everyday activities. Three types of incorrect posture depend on how often spinal alignment is compromised.

Forward head posture pertains to those that consistently are required to look down. Students, computer desk jobs and those that work with their hands experience symptoms of neck pain, spasms and the increase of muscle tension.

Rounded (kyphotic) shoulders weaken the back muscles and close off the chest. This can be a genetic problem, but also a more pronounced forward head posture.

Sway (lordotic) back is an increased curvature of the lower back that creates low back disc problems and hip pain, which ultimately affects the neck. With Pilates, these postural classifications and their resulting symptoms can be alleviated.

The six principles of Pilates that help correct postural problems are centering, control, concentration, precision, flow and breath.

Centering comprises moving from the core, or the powerhouse, of the body during physical activity. A mind and body connection within each exercise presents a level of control over the muscle movement and provides concentration on proper muscle engagement.

Precision of posture during the exercise provides a better outcome with less exertion. When an exercise feels fluid, the senses and the body are working together. A smooth flow or transition from one movement to another decreases the risk of injury and connects the body in an integral way.

The Pilates breath increases control over the core muscles and strengthens the diaphragm in order to give power to the movement. Breathing is the most important principle of the Pilates methodology. Controlled breathing in Pilates lessens anxiety, reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. By following these principles, a person is able to maintain their spinal mobility, strength and flexibility.

Proper alignment of the body is imperative in Pilates and in the health of the spine. Maintaining this neutral spine alignment in daily activities and structured exercises will prevent injuries and increase the benefits of physical exertions. The true definition of neutral spine is when the head, shoulders and hips are stacked in a way that creates a natural plumb line. Once in the natural plumb line, gravity presses on the joints in their correct placement.

If the plumb line is impaired and placement is incorrect, gravity hinders the body and can create dysfunction of the joints. When in correct alignment, the head places 12 pounds of pressure on the spine. If the head sits forward at all, the pressure increases to 30 or 40 pounds, creating spine and neck pain. This compromises the integrity of the spine and the overall health of the body.

For the professional athlete, the weekend warrior, those seeking a pain-free lifestyle and individuals that practice Pilates as a physical therapy-oriented rehabilitation, the combination of Pilates principles and their implementation into daily activities promotes a well-balanced life.

Susan Clark, owner of Pure Pilates, is a certified Pilates instructor, GYROTONIC instructor and  physical therapist assistant. Amanda Olney is employed at Pure Pilates located at 221 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL, 32561. Connect at

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