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After teaching for many years, I recognized an unusual reaction to the word posture from many students. Bruce King told a group of workshop attendees in Boulder that, “Movement in correct alignment produces correct muscular development”. My doctor friends told me that the meaning of this was that postural correction was imperative within exercise to produce maximum therapeutic results. In gymnastics coaching and dance training, I often joked that the first five years were spent teaching the students how to stand up with good posture before beginning to take a step into a trick or onto the dance floor.
So how could something so basic and good evoke reactions ranging from emotional stress to intense rejection? Could it be that for some people the word posture is connected to an event or stress that is not perceived as good? I pondered.
My first postural correction when I complained about eating liver and onions, involved a disciplinary injunction to “Sit up straight and wipe that frown off of my face!” I am not certain how sitting “straight” would change my preference for a food that I found disgusting. The dissatisfaction of the food was the cause of the slump. Smiling was not going to help anything and I am stubborn. I still do not eat liver. Liver and the word posture in my psyche did not equal good feelings.
I have since learned that extreme emotional distress will cause poor posture that is often described as the body language. Frequently the communication is one of mistrust and repressed feelings. When teaching these people, care must be taken to evoke better posture by presenting movement and alignment with positive imagery and kindness. Pilates teachers are not qualified to treat any condition with therapy that involves emotional counseling unless we are licensed psychologists. We can become skillful in positive reinforcement and encouragement. Your teaching job will be easier and you will experience greater satisfaction and results.
Many psychologists and some psychiatrists have come to the studio for Pilates. In conversations, I have discovered that many of these therapists have similar maladaptive compensatory posture from job related activities. It is common knowledge that computer technicians will have poor posture from extended work in one position. I have discovered that many people who practice “active listening” assume a posture that is inviting and less threatening. This posture is a passive and intent slump. Think of this position as a satellite receiver, the body is concave and listening. This position is often not a conscious tool for patient treatment and it goes unnoticed. These therapists who know about Pilates consider the movement “cross training” for their jobs.
Posture is a good word and results in health, vitality and grace in movement. Pilates is a wonderful tool for strength, flexibility, mobility, and endurance in the physical body and in emotional and mental health.