Joseph Pilates believed that we are only as young as our spine. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Joe Pilates created a complete system of exercises that, along with your Pilates trainer’s eyes and years of experience, can transform your body into an efficient well oiled machine – just as it was intended to be. Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.
Pilates Can Help With Muscular Imbalance
After working with many individuals, one common issue of muscular imbalance occurs in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Actually, when I ask my students if there are any special exercises they would like to do, neck and shoulders are always on the list.
In our current lifestyle, we find ourselves using our bodies in less than optimal arrangements (i.e. looking down at our handheld devices, sitting at computers and driving for extended periods of time.) All of these daily, almost unavoidable activities cause an imbalance of the upper back, shoulders and neck, and ultimately, a forward tilt of the head.
With the constant gravitational pull on the head leading forward, our shoulders begin to roll inward (internally rotated), creating a collapse of the chest and a rounding of the upper back. If this posture goes unchecked, it can lead to a condition known as kyphosis (illustrated in the image below.)
“Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.”
The shoulder joint has multiple functions and the muscles of the shoulder joint all work in concert to perform routine movements, so when one or more muscles are weakened from poor posture or when we develop imbalances in the core, some muscles become hyper-active to compensate for muscles that are weak due to being inactive or dormant.
This inefficient alignment can lead to pain in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Chronic neck and shoulder pain often cause many people to discontinue doing their favorite sport or activity.
Are You Rounding Your Shoulders?
Want to know if you are involuntarily rounding your shoulders forward? Here is a simple exercise to check:
While standing in front of a mirror with the heels together, toes slightly apart and your hands at your side, glance down at your hands.
- Ideally, your thumbs would aim forward indicating correct postural alignment.
- If your thumbs are turning inward toward your leg, then you may weak muscles in your upper and mid-back, leading to having too much internal rotation in your shoulders and a rounding of the upper back.
To see an example of this test and learn more about the anatomy of the shoulder joint, watch this video.
Notice an imbalance? Don’t worry – there are a few things you can try to help restore proper alignment.
- Visit the this website for some exercises you can perform to help restore balance.
- Contact your Pilates coordinator to schedule a complimentary session.
Now that you know that Pilates can provide some great ways to restore your body’s alignment, what are you waiting for? Don’t forget to share your Pilates practice with us using #FFCChicago!
Post written by FFC Oak Park Pilates Trainer Charles Little.
Charles Little is a Pilates trainer at FFC Oak Park. He is certified in Balance Body and the Pilates Teacher Training Program. His specialties include flexibility/stretching, weight loss, and toning and shaping. Contact Charles to set up a consultation by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Photo credit: image 1, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kyphosis/multimedia/kyphosis/img-20007874; image 2, http://www.spineuniverse.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery-large/wysiwyg_imageupload/3998/2015/07/27/kyphosis14672520_m_0.jpg