Can Pilates improve your posture?

April 29, 2021
Pilates improves posture by lengthening the spine

Pilates can ABSOLUTELY improve your posture!

Hi everyone! I’m Kim, long time Pilates and fitness instructor. I’ve had my own personal journey with trying to improve my non-genetically blessed posture (see below for my story) and I’ve found that Pilates has been the most helpful form of exercise out of everything I tried.

Pilates is the perfect regime to work on improving posture and structural alignment. Poor posture can be caused by slouching, hunching over devices, stress or structural imbalances such as scoliosis.

The emphasis on core strengthening, flexibility, and correcting muscle imbalances makes Pilates a perfect exercise option for anyone suffering from structural imbalances or from the stresses of everyday life.

(Note: before starting Pilates, we recommend seeking medical advice to rule out any serious spinal conditions).

Pilates assists in improving posture by:

  • Improving core strength
  • Improving flexibility
  • Correcting muscle imbalances
  • Focusing on balance and stability
  • Focusing on postural alignment

What is the core?

When people think core, they think only of the six pack muscles – but when Pilates talks about core, we mean your entire torso – abdominals, obliques, back, chest and pelvis.  The beauty of Pilates is that we don’t just work one muscle group in isolation – we train the core to work together effectively to strengthen and correct any imbalances and misalignment that may cause pain.

Pilates encourages positive posture habits

A regular and consistent Pilates practice also helps to ensure that focusing on good posture and alignment become second nature.  I recall one Pilates mentor at the start of my Pilates journey say repeatedly “We need to get Pilates into your body” – meaning that the movement patterns become so ingrained the body naturally defaults to these patterns and alignment.

Pilates works the entire body

There are so many different moves incorporated into a Pilates class that we always ensure that you are getting a full body workout.  Either mat or reformer Pilates at PPF will always start with the core – as a warm up but also to ensure the core is activated before we branch out to the rest of the body.  The core is the foundation for all movement.  Then by training a balance of arm and leg exercises, we continue and enhance the focus on balance and alignment.  Each class is different, each instructor is different, so every day in every class, you are getting a variety of movements, all with the same common goal to strengthen the body evenly and in balance.

My story – not all Pilates instructors are born with natural flexibility and perfect posture

You may have noticed if you have been in a class with me or after watching my online classes, that I have very limited movement, particularly through my spine. I was lucky enough to be born with the trifecta of spinal conditions – kyphosis, lordosis and scoliosis.

Kyphosis is an exaggerated, forward rounding of the back – those rounded shoulders – this is inherited as my Dad and both his sisters have exactly the same condition. Lordosis is the excessive inward curvature of the spine in the lower back – think duck butt!  And finally scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine – rather than being straight up and down, my spine makes an S shape through the middle of my body.  Effectively my spine curves forward, back and side to side.

Now you’d think with all those curves, I’d be super bendy and have heaps of movement through my spine.  Unfortunately, it is exactly the opposite.  Although instinctively I could tell from my own experience, a little research proved that having a mis-aligned spine causes the muscles to work harder to keep the spine stable, causing some muscles to lock up tight and other muscles to be overstretched and weakened.

As a teenager, my mother dragged me along to a specialist to help relieve the chronic pain I was suffering, only to be told that surgery involving a rod down my spine to straighten me out was my best option.  I remember his words: ”If you don’t, you will be in debilitating pain by the time you are 40” (Happy to say this is not the case!)  Swimming was my only other alternative but what these experts failed to take into account is that to swim effectively, you need to be able to rotate through your spine to breathe.  Maybe if I’d persevered, swimming may have helped but I was at real risk of drowning constantly!

Then along came Pilates and I found a way to move my spine

..without drowning!  The focus on postural alignment was exactly what I’d been looking for and I just wish I’d found it so much earlier in life.  Many high impact activities are actually detrimental for scoliosis sufferers as the risk for spinal trauma is quite high.  Pilates’ non-impact approach enables me to build strength and improve my posture without risk of additional injury.

Note:  Pilates cannot cure scoliosis, kyphosis or lordosis – but regular consistent practice can help to alleviate pain by keeping the muscles mobile and limber, and reduce muscle imbalances.  

And I can attest that Pilates helps keep me relatively pain free – I can’t imagine where I would be without it.

If you liked this blog we think you’d like our post on Pilates for Lower Back Pain.

Click here to start creating good posture habits and come try Pilates with us today!

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