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Are You Struggling for Perfect Posture?

Posture is usually mentioned as one of the goals of a new student when they come to the studio for the first Pilates lesson. These are some comments that have been told to me over the years:

“I have been told by my teacher that I have the wrong body type to do Pilates or Yoga or to run. These things are bad for me.”

“My PT told me that I am sleeping incorrectly and that is why I have this problem.”

“Can you give me one exercise that will fix what is wrong with my posture?” “It is just the way my family genetics are…”

“It is my backpack, my computer, my purse, my toothbrush, my dog on leash, and my spouse.”

“My posture sucks.”

After these comments, the client will suck in the abdominals, lift the ribs, lock the shoulders downward and hold the breath to maintain a position that they image is better.  Of course, this can only be maintained until the muscles tire or the mind drifts.

Can posture be the natural result of moving with freedom and ease in the body?

When I was a child, I did get information regarding my body alignment.  No one was concerned about posture unless I had been a naughty girl.  Then I would be admonished to sit up straight and eat my asparagus.  Or, I should wipe that scowl off of my face, pay attention, and stop slouching.  Posture cues usually indicated that I was not behaving in the appropriate manner.  The behavior modification included a few military cues in a very loud voice. My image of good posture was associated with people who were models of the normative consensus which included proper body positions.

Now, I wonder how many people have made the association that bad posture implies that something is wrong with them.

I was also told that my back was so arched that I could balance a glass of water on my buttocks and never drop a bit during the day due to my arched back.  Later, I went to dance class and I soon learned that if I wanted to garner the approval of my teacher, I would need to tuck my buttocks and square my pelvis.  The posture was performance related and is associated with what is known as the aesthetic line in professional dance.  I started teaching Pilates.  Many of my teachers were dancers.  I learned to cue movement from mentoring with fine teachers who had mentored with Joe Pilates.

Eric Franklin was standing in my studio teaching Pelvic Power.  It was the first workshop that I had attended on the Franklin Method.  Eric made a comment that I will never forget.  He said “I am going to tread on some sacred cows of movement cues that were taught to you by your teachers.  Unfortunately, if the cue is not equivalent to the way the body is designed, the result may create discomfort and injury. Good function leads to health and long shelf life.  Therefore good movement teaching is based on functional anatomy and science.”

My goal for the next phase of my teaching began five years ago after that workshop.  I realized that there were many sacred cows in my pasture.  When I teach workshops now, I seek to look at each piece and find a common truth in the exercise that will work for any teacher of any lineage.  There is not right or wrong choreography.  There is the way the body moves and the exercise can be done with respect for structure.  I am still working on this goal in every exercise on all of the equipment.  Sometimes the cows get smarter!