Pilates and Chiropractic; Different means towards the same end...Optimum Spinal Alignment
Posted Feb 23 2010 12:00am
By: Joanna Hoch
If you enjoy the way that your body feels after receiving an adjustment, chances are you have wondered what else you can be doing in your life to further beget that refreshing feeling of when your body is in proper alignment.The Pilates method is a modality of exercise that will do just that.
Perhaps you have tried activities like lifting weights or running to feel more vital and fit, but these activities on their own seem to leave your body with various aches and pains that almost negate any perceived benefits.The problem in these instances is so often discernable to poor movement mechanics caused by muscular imbalances, limited range of motion in the joints, and a lack of core strength.Pilates is a low impact form of exercise that will work toward correcting imbalances in the body, increasing the range of motion in your joints, and strengthening the muscles of the core.
I have found with many of my clients one of the most immediate and valuable things a regular Pilates practice cultivates is improved body awareness.When practicing the exercises of the Pilates method, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the position of the spine.Often you will work in a position that is referred to as neutral spine, which allows for the natural curves in the sacrum, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and cervical spine. It is generally the safest and strongest position of your spine from a structural standpoint.In order to do this, you must learn to feel the difference between when you are in neutral spine and when you aren’t, which can be difficult in and of itself, when factors such as tight hamstrings or tight hip flexors can influence your ability to even get into your neutral spine position.Once you are able to achieve neutral spine, Pilates exercises begin to teach you how to hold yourself in that position by using your breath to engage your deep abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis, also known as the core muscles.Chances are if you have ever mentioned having back pain to your doctor, he or she has suggested strengthening your core, with or without further suggestion on how to do so.The core muscles can be tricky to activate, which is why so many of us are weak in that regard, even people who are otherwise very strong can still have weak cores.Many of the fundamental level Pilates mat exercises will cultivate a strong and stable core while at the same time stretching and strengthening the muscles in and around joints especially the hips and shoulders.
Learning how to bring your spine into neutral and having the core strength to support it in that position, ultimately causes a chain reaction of sorts, allowing the rest of your body to come into a more neutral position as well, which will over time cause your overall movement mechanics to change and improve.The increased body awareness that you can develop by practicing Pilates will translate into the ability to perform many physical activities, such as lifting weights or running, more safely and effectively than before.But more importantly, you will feel stronger and internally supported in activities of your everyday life, such as walking and sitting in a chair, like you just got a really good adjustment that lasts.
Joanna Hoch is a Tier 2 trainer at Equinox Fitness San Francisco, ACSM certified personal trainer, graduate of Balanced Body University Pilates teacher training program, Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher, and WKC kettlebell fitness trainer.