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Reflecting on Posture in Pilates: A Balanced Approach

Focused dancer refining posture and alignment at the barre, embodying elegance and discipline
Graceful dancer at the ballet barre, perfecting alignment with poise and precision

In today’s Technique Thursday, let's delve into an age-old concept that's as relevant today as it was centuries ago—posture. The idea of posture often conjures images of 18th-century rigidity, an era when the societal norm dictated a stiff, overly upright stance. However, the conversation around posture has evolved, especially within the realms of Pilates and movement practices.

Recently, I encountered an article that presented posture in a dichotomy: the antiquated notion of forced uprightness versus a more natural stance. This got me reflecting on my own experiences and teachings, particularly during my time at a Graham dance school. While the school was a bastion for exploring movement, a daily ballet class ensured we understood and practiced correct alignment before venturing into more fluid motions. This early emphasis on alignment has always resonated with me as a fundamental aspect of Pilates teaching.

Our modern lifestyle, characterised by prolonged periods of sitting and screen time, has undeniably impacted our posture. Walking down the street, one can't help but notice the prevalent forward flexion—a stark deviation from natural alignment. This observation becomes even more apparent in the Pilates studio, where many clients lack a reference point for understanding alignment. To bridge this gap, we often use the wall as a tactile feedback tool, helping clients visualize and feel the alignment we aim to achieve.

This brings us to a crossroads in our teaching philosophies. Do we adhere strictly to the principles of alignment, or do we allow for a more laissez-faire approach to movement, even if it means accommodating poor posture? In my opinion, the answer lies in balance. In the Pilates realm, having a framework or a reference point for alignment is crucial. It’s not about enforcing a rigid structure but providing a foundation from which to explore movement safely and effectively. This approach does not limit freedom; rather, it enhances our ability to move with intention and awareness.

The debate over posture is far from settled, but as Pilates teachers, we play a pivotal role in guiding our clients towards healthier movement patterns. By blending historical wisdom with contemporary understanding, we can foster a balanced approach to posture—one that respects the body's natural tendencies while striving for alignment that supports overall wellbeing.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of posture in our teachings, let’s remember the importance of offering a structured yet adaptable framework for our clients. In doing so, we honour the legacy of Pilates and the continuous evolution of movement practices.


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