Does the Pilates you are doing suit your posture type? Do you know what your posture type is? Practicing Pilates perfectly for your posture type is what is really going to give you fantastic results. Whether you’re an elite cyclist or struggle with general neck and back pain you could improve your posture through Pilates.
According to physiotherapist, Kay Twiddy, this was one of the main take-home points for her when attending the Pilates Academy South Africa’s Intermediate Pilates Matwork course. “I spent six days training with Pilates expert, Katya Kinski, a former ballet dancer who has been teaching Pilates for over 20 years. We learned to fine-tune our posture analysis, discussed how to modify exercises for specific posture types, and perfected our breathing technique, all on the first day!” says Kay.
Despite common beliefs regarding posture, there is no evidence of one optimal posture or that being in anything other than this “optimal posture” will lead to back pain. Natural variations in spinal curvature are normal and there is no one spinal curvature that is strongly associated with pain (Slater, 2019).
We’ve all been told that we should have good posture but what does that look like and more importantly what does that feel like?
Ideal alignment is what we’re all aiming for - within our individual anatomical variations of course
Most of us however fall somewhere outside of these norms. Here are some of the more common types of posture we see.
These posture variations for the most part have to do with our activities of daily living (ADL’s). Whether it is sitting behind a desk, driving in our cars or the repetitive movements of the workplace, these all have a way of shaping our postures. For example, if you find yourself in a forward hunched posture for a large portion of the day, the muscles on the front or anterior part of the body will become shortened and tight, while the muscles on the back or posterior part of the body can become lengthened and weak. This pattern of muscle imbalance can lead to a number of postural pain problems including neck pain, shoulder pain and upper back or thoracic pain.
Two separate research studies conducted in South Korea showed the importance of exercise in posture correction and reduction on back pain. They found exercises focussing on breathing control, mobility and stability of the spine, and shoulder blade control were effective in improving overall function and reducing pain (Jang, 2019) (Park, 2020) Another study demonstrated the importance of re-education of lumbar stability through exercise is key in improving the structure and overall function of the lumbar vertebrae (DH, 2021).
Doing Pilates for your posture will take into account these shortened and lengthened muscle groups and tailor the exercises to help sculpt those muscles towards that ideal alignment again. Implementing the Pilates principles of control, centring on the core or powerhouse, concentration, and precision as well as flow will help you to achieve your fitness and physical goals. (Jang, 2019). Research has shown that in order to get the most out of Pilates your instructor should provide education throughout the Pilates programme (Amaral, 2019).
Pilates can be done as prehab (preventative rehabilitation) or training to avoid the onset of pain. As you work on the muscle groups that are neglected during your day you can sculpt your posture towards the more ideal alignment. Under the guidance of a physiotherapist, it can also be utilised in the rehabilitation for several conditions with excellent results allowing you to not only to reduce your pain but also to get to the bottom of the cause and decrease the chance that the pain returns again. Thirdly, it can even have benefits in improving your sporting prowess. Your golf game, cycling or running times may improve as you learn to recruit the correct muscles and improve muscular control, strength, and precision.
To finish with a quote from the founder, Joseph Pilates:
“Physical Fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”
Amaral, D. M. (2019). Examination of a Subgroup of Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain Likely to Benefit More From Pilates-Based Exercises Compared to an Educational Booklet. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Therapy, 1-32. doi:0.2519/jospt.2019.8839
DH, K. (2021). Effects of lumbar stabilization exercise on multifidus muscle. Journal of Convergence frot Information Technology, 223-229. doi:10.22156/CS4SMB.2021.11.10.223
Jang, H. H. (2019). Effects of Corrective Exercise for Thoracic Hyper kyphosis on Posture, Balance, and Well-Being in Older Women: A Double-Blind, Group-Matched Design. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 43(3), E17-E27. doi:10.1519/JPT.0000000000000146
Park, S. a. (2020). Effects of Posture Correction Exercise on Muscle Activity and Onset Time during Arm Elevation in Subject with Forward Head and Rounded Shoulder Posture. Journal of Korean Social and Physical Medicine, 29-41. doi:10.13066/kspm.2020.15.3.29
Slater, D. K. (2019). "Sit Up Straight": Time to Re-evaluate. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 49(8), 562-564. doi:10.2519/jospt.2019.0610