Have you ever noticed that when you step in front of a mirror, you instinctively pull your shoulders back just a little bit, adjust your posture, and stretch your neck? Just a mere glimpse of yourself can activate a natural impulse to stand up a little straighter. On some level we know it is important to stand up straight as it has as many mental benefits as it does physical. Wouldn’t it be great if we could train ourselves to stand that way all the time?
Pilates is one method that can help us to stand up straight. While is often associated with dancers, it has a long history of being a mind body practice that encourages balance and stability, with fluidity of movement. Its founder, Joseph Pilates, was of German Heritage. The son of a gymnast and a neuropath, he began his work with patients in WWI. Using a spring from the hospital beds, he helped veterans regain their core strength and recapture an ability to pull themselves up out of bed. From this concept, he developed a spring-like pieces of equipment called the Cadillac to help achieve the same results. He also suffered as a child from rickets, a vitamin D deficiency that can cause bow-leggedness, which may have been a motivating factor in his career. He had to overcome imbalances himself and had the objective of body alignment and movement precision.
The Pilates method has 5 basic principles that are in correlation with posture, alignment and functional movement. They are
- Pelvic Placement
- Rib Cage Placement
- Shoulder ( Scapular) Movement and Stabilization and
- Head and Cervical Placement.
Once these principal are learned , the practitioner repeats the movements in specific form and develops an awareness of how to sit, stand and move through space. As the body is placed in proper alignment there is less chance of injury. It also reduces compression in the spine and ease of movement follows. By developing strength and stability within the core, pelvic area, and neck, in addition to increasing shoulder stability, we begin to move with fluidity, ease and grace.
The best outcome of consistent Pilates work? The same good posture that is developed can spill over in your daily life as it improves engagement in other exercises and activities. Today, many world class athletes incorporate pilates to their work-outs because it benefits them in so many ways. Our habits, occupations, traumas, injuries and just the natural aging process cause our bodies to move away from proper posture and alignment. Learning the Pilates principles can bring your spine back into alignment, and correct imbalances.
So where do you begin? There are many forms of Pilates: matwork , breath work, or using the reformer and other apparatus and none of them are exclusive to certain ages or genders. The best way to begin exploring Pilates is to call and consult a pilates specialist. Inform them of your background and your specific goals. Pilates is an incredible tool to that has been used for osteoporosis, herniated discs, stenosis, and helps prevents further injury. It can also give you good posture, self confidence and improved body awareness. So step up, and straighten up with Pilates.