At the Pilates Centre, we’re often asked why there is so
much emphasis on technique and form. I imagine that some may expect us to work
on detail and technique simply because we’re associated with ballet and most
instructors are current or former dancers. In reality, the form we strive for
in Pilates is, simply put, for better health.
For example, we often talk about “neutral posture” or
“neutral spine” in Pilates. This idea is different for everyone, as we all have
different shape and different measurements and can’t all fit in the same mold.
The neutral that we, as instructors, are looking for is the position with the
most efficiency and the least strain. Think about a man standing with his bones
properly stacked in plumb line. This is an easy position for the body, as the
skeletal muscles expend very little energy to stand in this neutral mode. Now,
take the same man, and move his head forward as if he is late for a very
important date. Suddenly, the body is working much harder; the head is heavy,
and pushing the head forward in space creates a forward momentum. The body then works to prevent falling
and the muscles heat up and use energy. Some of the muscles are not in ideal alignment;
the length/tension curve is now shifted. This means that the muscles of the
neck are in a less efficient position. The sacromeres–the units that contain
little bands of muscle fibers that must connect in order for muscle
activation–are either compressed or stretched. And the man now has to expend
energy to hold his head up, as the head should have been easily balanced on top
of the skeleton. This is just the beginning. Remember when your mom said to you
“Stop making that face, or it will freeze that way”? This is very true when it
comes to your posture. These postures can become permanent, and the damage
accumulates. Muscles become short or long; the ligaments take on unusual slack
or strain; and the joints are constantly facing more pressure on one side of
the body over the other. The end result? Pain. This posture dysfunction can happen at any place–spine,
shoulder, hip, etc.– and the mutual goal of the Pilates Centre team is to help
our clients find their most healthy posture and gain strength and flexibility
from that point. Of course, good posture is pleasing to the eye, just like the
lines of a beautiful dancer. And like the professional dancers, all of us want
to move through space with grace and ease.
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