I remember my grade 2 teacher telling me to stand up straight and behave, my dance teacher telling me to lift my chest and look tall, or my singing coach saying to keep my shoulders down. When I look back it seems that my whole life people have been talking about posture all around me, but it wasn’t until I became a Pilates instructor that I really learned what the f*&# that meant.
Now in the coarse of a day I see a lot of bodies, how they move, how their unique, and how they compare to the textbook “ideal posture.”
When a client walks into the studio the Pilates instructor will usually do what’s called a postural analysis to see how the client holds themselves, and what blockages or tension one has in the body that are holding them back from optimal movement. The model is based upon the characteristics of an ideal posture as stated by Kendall and McCreary’s Muscle Testing And Function:
[…] The spine presents the natural curves and the bones of the lower extremities are in ideal alignment for weight bearing. The “neutral” position of the pelvis is conducive to good alignment of the abdomen and trunk, and that of the extremities below. The chest and upper back are in a position that favor optimal function of the respiratory organs. The head is erect and in a well-balances position that minimizes stress on the neck and musculature.
That all sounds amazing, but it doesn’t take a Pilates instructor to know how unrealistic that is! Think about your own body, can you scan all of the categories mentioned in the ideal posture and fit every characteristic? Probably not. The truth is, we use our bodies, A LOT! We’re hard on our bodies, we walk, run, dance, sit, stand, fall down, get up, and all these factors contribute to deviation from the ideal spinal alignment. The most common postural patterns are:
Genetics can also play a factor as well, if your Mom is kyphotic (shoulders roll forward, upper back rounded), chances are you will be too!
What can you do then to improve your posture? Here’s where Pilates comes into the picture, no matter what posture type you are, by strengthening your core you bring support to your spine, and will naturally over time stand up taller. By doing the right exercises for your posture type you can start to bring yourself closer to that ideal posture, and really see a change in your body! The fact is nobodies’ perfect, so the next time someone tells you to “stand up straight” just pull your core in tight and tell them, you’re doin’ the best you can with what you’ve got!
Got questions about posture? Feel free to ask me in the comment section of this post and Ill be happy to try and answer!