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johdiblog ballerina jan2016

by Johdi Woodford, Little Bird Pilates

Alignment is how the body moves; how the various parts move alongside each other to ensure that there’s no friction or restriction. Posture is static, it’s how you choose to hold your body when you’re not moving and it’s probably been influenced by your culture, your background and the activities you do.

Compare a ballet dancer to a footballer, for example. See the 2 photos in this article if you’re in doubt as to what the difference may be.

Alignment is more important to work on than posture because, with correct alignment (note I didn’t say ‘good’ alignment) what you are actually working towards is bringing all your muscles back to their optimum length, and (re)educating your body as to its best position for pain-free movement.

And why should you care? Because when your musculoskeletal system is aligned, all your body systems can function properly, for as long as possible, with the least amount of unnecessary wear and tear. Sounds good, right?

As human beings, we’re very well engineered but we tend to only concentrate on deliberate movement; a ballet dancer will adopt her stance, a footballer will assume his position and like that, they prepare their body to move optimally. And yet, when we move daily, we’re extremely thoughtless and passive, we don’t put so much concentration into how we sit or stand and that’s what we do mostly. We stand horribly and sit even worse, so here’s how to fix that, here’s a quick exercise to try as you read on. This is best done in profile in front of a mirror so you can see how you line up:

  • Sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, arms down by your sides. This may not work for you, so you can bend your knees/cross your legs.
  • Pull your upper body away from your hips straight up to the ceiling
  • Pull your head away from your shoulders making sure your chin stays parallel to the floor
  • Pull your head over your rib cage
  • Place your rib cage over your hips
  • Make sure your ribs are parallel to the floor, you shouldn’t be dipping down – slouching, or thrusting up – leaning backwards.
  • You should feel your weight sitting evenly on your bum cheeks, and then lightly through the back of your legs and into your heels.

johdiblog football jan2016

How are you feeling? Nearly there, keep breathing and relax – ie, don’t get all tense as you sit. Now you’re straight, although you’ll notice you still have curves in your back, which is good, you want to keep those, they’re your shock absorbers!

We’re going to keep going to make you long now:

  • Create as much space between your heels and your butt bones as you can, let the front of your thigh go and lengthen from the back of your leg, using your hamstring.
  • Drop your shoulders, soften your jaw and your ribcage, and don’t hold your breath.
  • Look in the mirror. You’re hopefully more aligned than you would be without all those cues above.

You may feel a bit uncomfortable if your body has never experienced this position before. If you’re not sure, put your bum against the skirting board and lengthen your back up the wall, the back of your head may brush the wall if you have fluffy hair, but your head should float over your ribs, not be stuck against the wall. Got it?

  • Now stand up and try to stand straight too.
  • Move your body weight forward, so you can feel the ball of your foot and your heel equally, rock back and forth and side to side to feel where your centre is.
  • Float your head as far above your ribs as possible by lengthening your spine.
  • Bring your ribs parallel to the floor, don’t puff your chest.
  • Unlock your knees and let your arms hang down your side – don’t pinch your shoulder blades together in your back.
  • Relax your chest, breathe.

Look in the mirror, and smile because you look good and you look as nature intended you to look. Your back isn’t dead straight, you’re not cocking your head up, or sticking your ribs out, in other words you’re standing naturally and correctly.

So again, we’re well engineered, and really, unless you’re working cramped over down a mine shaft, or are condemned to changing high-hanging light bulbs all day which would require your head to crane backwards for long periods, you’re probably going to manoeuvre your body into a position that feels right for you. You may find though that long hours at your computer, or in your car, lead to stiffness or even pain in some areas of your body, so stop, move, and realign yourself using the pointers mentioned above. You’ll be improving both your posture, so what you look like when you’re still, as well as your alignment - how well your body supports you when you want to move, so you’ll look better and move better – enjoy!

Author's Bio

johdi biophotoJohdi Woodford

Johdi was born in Zimbabwe in 1979 and discovered Pilates in 1999 when a leg injury ended her marathon running career and an osteopath suggested she try Pilates. She began to practice Pilates regularly in every country she lived in and, having arrived in Switzerland in 2004, and having worked in the Marketing & Communication sectors, she decided to make her passion her career and trained to become a Pilates Instructor after the birth of her first child. She has been certified with the Pilates Institute in Geneva and London and teaching since 2010. Her training includes workshops on Pilates for pre and post pregnancy, Pilates for seniors, as well as special sessions led by physiotherapists on the rehabilitation of the back, shoulder and hip girdle.

Johdi opened Little Bird Pilates in 2014 with the aim of sharing her passion for intelligent exercise to a wider audience. Her main aim is to help people, of any age and any sporting background, to find freedom of movement, and gain strength and suppleness without pain and discomfort, which then improves their daily lives. Johdi regularly attends workshops and seminars in order to continue to deepen and broaden her knowledge and technique.