The fact is, no one has a perfect posture. Yes, there are those who benefit from a more aligned spine and therefore a better posture, but everyone has to who work at it, and Pilates provides the perfect mechanisms to do that. So what is Pilates and how can it help everyone, including athletes? Pilates is strength, flexibility and control of the body. To quote Joseph Pilates (Founder of Pilates) “A man is as young as his spinal column”.
WHAT IS PILATES?
Joseph Pilates grew up in Dusseldorf, Germany in the 1880s. He was unfortunately a sickly child who suffered numerous asthma attacks as well as rheumatic fever, which left him with an underdeveloped bone structure as well as distorted limbs. Joseph refused to let his health situation dictate his physical and mental capabilities, working hard to produce exercises that would correct and strengthen his body. The first of these exercises is more commonly referred to as mat work, later known as ‘The Art of Contrology.’ Evolving the exercise regime after 1st world war, Joseph worked in a hospital in The Isle of Man, helping the bedridden and wounded by strengthening their bodies and muscles, getting them mobile once again. Using bedsprings attached to a bedframe helped the wounded move more freely, whilst keeping their muscles toned. This equipment later developed to what is now referred to as a ‘Cadillac’.
HOW POOR POSTURE MAY AFFECT THE BODY
Posture is not just a matter of standing up straight, it may also affect good health. When organs are not working to their full potential, balance may be disturbed and the spine may incur injuries. Poor posture is not always down to habit, although repeating certain movement repetitively, can have an effect on the spine’s alignment. It may be due to the way a spine curves, for example:
- Lordosis – extended curvature of the lower back, which may cause lower back pain.
- Abnormal Kyphosis- affecting the dorsal area and commonly referred to as a hunchback, includes back pain, muscle exhaustion and stiffness.
- Scoliosis – sideward curvature of the spine. Symptoms may include, leaning to one side, ribs sticking out to one side, or uneven shoulders, which may cause clothes not to fit correctly. Adults often suffer from back pain caused by this affliction. (please note there are several types of scoliosis from genetic to habitual)
- Swayback – hypermobility beyond normal range gives the appearance of a swayback. This issue may cause chronic back pain.
- Flatback – lower back loses its natural curvature, which may cause severe back pain.
HOW TO CORRECT POSTURE WITH THE PILATES METHOD
Partaking in Pilates on a regular basis can offer the following benefits: healthy spine, even shoulders and hips and body weight dispersed evenly on both sides of the body. Initial work consists of a combination of floor work (mat) and the reformer which is a resistance carriage that moves back and forth along a track making the subject work within the apportioned space helping align the spine and strengthening the body. In some studios selected exercises may be introduced on the Cadillac, a table with springs which enables a person to exercise with the support of springs. The classical Pilates method is good for everyone, including athletes who want to improve their performance. Pilates will develop their alignment, muscle configuration, endurance, improve flexibility, and help coordination and balance, all aiding the prevention of injuries and potentially improving the body’s longevity.
Whether the class is a group or a private lesson, it is all about technique. Athletes have experienced many benefits from the Pilates methods, some of which include:
- Increased flexibility
- Muscle efficiency and balance
- Increased mobile movement
- Cognitive focus
Pilates is different from many exercise regimes because it concentrates on a whole body approach, using the core (the spine and surrounding muscles) as the key to strengthen muscles, align posture, and rescue internal organs from damage. Once the posture and the core start to correct, breathing, circulation, strength and mobility follow. Classical Pilates has many positive attributes for those who want to improve physical performance, as well as benefit health. The one thing Pilates possesses that no other method has is the ability to protect the body’s core, whilst pushing expectations and achieving results that a person may have not thought possible, especially those who have notably suffered from poor posture.
Being precise in movement is the key to success, so be sure to research a well established Pilates venue. To read more about the benefits of Pilates in athletes, please follow this link www.stack.com
American Family Physician