Preventing Injury with Education
Pilates is a form of biomechanics, which is a science of the motion of living bodies—especially the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on skeletal structures. Proper alignment of the human skeletal structure is the way to achieve good posture. The concepts in Pilates are what makes this method brilliant, because its aim it to stabilize the integrity of the skeletal structure.
All movement should be initiated from the center of the body, beginning with the pelvis. Before any other part of the body can be aligned, the pelvis must be aligned first. It is stabilized by engaging the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse ab, and learning the roles of the Kegel muscles. Once the pelvis is stabilized, you can align your lower spine, mid to upper spine, rib cage, shoulders, head, knees, ankles, and feet. People can gain more mobility in the spine and hips once their pelvis is stabilized. Remember, you cannot align your neck if your pelvis is out of place. Biomechanics can be broken down to a formula that is the same for everyone, such as calculating the proper position of the pelvis when standing.
There is a correct posture, which I consider “neutral,” for standing, sitting, or walking. This includes synchronized muscle activation to stabilize our skeletal structure or move it correctly to extend the life of our bodies. This external formula is the same for everyone; it’s only how one gets back to neutral that differs for everyone. People have muscles that are too tight in one area, overstretching their muscles in another area. Or muscles may be overactive in one area while underactive in another. How people get their way back to neutral is the work of their minds connecting with their bodies. This is the pinnacle of what it means when you hear the term mind-body connection, at least in Pilates.
Since I can feel, listen to, and understand my own body really well, I want to share this information with others. People need to learn about their body mechanics early on, before they get injured—and even more so after they are injured. Prevention is sustainability and eliminates so many ghastly problems. The only problem with prevention is that it is hard to make money from something that is not broken. It took simple movements to correct my back pain, and one exercise to eliminate my shin pain, and I was able to jump rope again.
What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?
There is a big difference between Pilates and Yoga. Many people assume that the two are similar, but in fact they are theoretical opposites. Yoga is Eastern in thought, with concepts about chi, energy, meditation, chakras, poses, intentions, the heart’s center, stillness, and so on. It attempts to direct people’s focus to some subjective energy that flows through them. A Yoga instructor will say, “Energy is opening” when muscles stretch, whereas a scientist will say, “Endorphins are being released.” I like the way Yoga recognizes that one feels better internally. However, it is subjective in its experience and not universal for everyone. Think of Yoga as similar to an art form, such as Ballet or even Martial Arts.
Pilates has nothing to do with explaining or directing your inner world, energy, or subjective being. It is Western in thought because it focuses on the mechanics of the body and is scientific. Pilates contains the fundamentals of what will achieve good posture, including how to move most effectively. There is a starting point in Pilates that continues to build up information relevant to achieving structural alignment. Whereas Yoga focuses on many varying factors, Pilates focuses on the deep muscles that stabilize the structure of the skeleton. Take note that people who focus mostly on weight machines are normally only targeting the larger superficial muscles of the body—which can overbuild and pull the integrity of the skeletal structure out of alignment.
Yoga poses sometimes put the body into mechanically compromising positions. The poses can also stretch muscles that are already overstretched, or they can compress areas that are already overcompressed, especially the lumbar spine in the Warrior pose. Lower back pain can be caused by the pelvis not being in a proper position. People claim that Yoga is the cure for postural problems or back pain, but that is only partly true. Ligaments can get overstretched in Yoga, and once that happens, they stay that way and will cause joints to remain unstable forever.
Yoga instructors often use the word posture when they should more accurately use the word pose. This confuses people because they believe that they have achieved good posture by simply hearing the word. Being “upright and tall in good posture” doesn’t mean that one has achieved good posture. Even though this little cue can go a long way, it’s superficial information.
Physical therapy is helpful for people in addressing damage after injury or surgery. However, it fails to prevent future problems. Many issues of the body largely come from bad posture patterns that are present long before difficulties present themselves. Pilates from the “right” instructor will help in that department. Kids especially need to develop healthy moving patterns before they need to unlearn the bad ones that will form in their bodies. Since Pilates is appropriate for everyone, it should be appreciated for what it can contribute to the collective good. It helps people to understand how their bodies work, and how they themselves can develop healthier patterns for their bodies. Knowledge of posture and proper movement mechanics should precede all other physical activities.