I would imagine that most people already associate Pilates with Posture and Alignment, but what does that really mean?
When working with my clients on their Pilates practice, it’s always my goal as an instructor to bring their awareness to their alignment. We all think we are straight! Otherwise we would sit and stand differently. We don’t chose to slump or hyperextend our knees, these are just habits we have formed over years. So, when it comes to changing our alignment is takes a great deal of focus and awareness in class to make the change and then build up strength and stability to sustain this alignment.
For example, I often get asked questions like: “what is ‘Neutral’ pelvis versus ‘Imprinted’?” “Am I tucking?” ”Should I arch my back?”
So let’s break down these alignment questions briefly. There have been a lot of changes to the practice of pelvis placement in Pilates over the years as we have gained a better understanding of how the pelvis works and how it relates to the rest of our bodies and ultimately our posture. Aiming for a neutral pelvis is going to assist in standing, stabilizing the pelvis and ultimately going to give you better posture when standing and sitting.
Let me explain. Lie down on a mat with your legs bent at the knee and feet firmly planted, sits bones distance apart. Take a few breaths while you bring your awareness to the pelvis. Where do you like to rest naturally? Feel the weight of your bones. On your next exhale, draw your low back down into the mat, and as you inhale allow your pelvis to rock away and gently arch your low back. Continue to rock the pelvis into an “imprint” (drawing your back down into the mat) and arching to activate your low back muscles. DON’T use your glutes!
After several breaths, come to rest where you feel the least amount of tension in your low back and where your pubic bone and hip bones are fairly level with the ceiling. This is your Neutral!
Why not use the glutes? Because that would be a completely different exercise! Imprinting for abdominal support should come from your Abdominals (surprise!) not your butt. We often add the glutes to a pelvic curl when moving into a bridge but not if we are going to be taking our legs into the air for 100’s.
Try both versions, add the squeeze of your glutes into the pelvic curl and feel the tucking under of your tail bone. Then try curling just form your low abdominals and obliques. Feel the difference? Something to think about next time you are in class.
Improving your alignment and posture is an ongoing process. Staying present in your classes and looking for ways to integrate the tools you use in class can translate to other activities like skating or running and improve how you sit and stand, and growing towards life-long postural health.