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Technique Thursday: Mastering Scapula & Shoulder Alignment for Pilates Teachers


Anatomy of Balance: Ideal Scapulae Placement Visualised
Optimal Scapular Alignment: A Model of Perfect Posture

Welcome to Technique Thursday! Today, we're delving into the critical topic of shoulder alignment and placement, a cornerstone of Pilates practice that influences the effectiveness of our movements and the overall health of our clients. As Pilates teachers, we understand the importance of scapular alignment, but we're also acutely aware of the postural challenges that each client brings to the mat. Achieving the "perfect" alignment is an ideal, yet our goal is to find the best achievable alignment given the individual's current posture.


Understanding Scapula & Shoulder Alignment

In an ideal world, shoulder alignment in Pilates involves positioning the scapulae so they are neutral, stable, and engaged without being overly retracted or protracted. This placement allows for optimal movement and strength of the arms and shoulders, ensuring that exercises are performed with efficiency and safety. However, the reality we face is that many clients come with postural imbalances that need careful, tailored adjustments.


Adapting to Postural Challenges

  1. For Kyphotic Postures: Clients with a rounded upper back (kyphosis) often struggle with mobilising their shoulder joints and stretching their chest muscles. Before striving for perfect scapular alignment, focus on gentle mobilisation exercises and stretches to open up the chest and encourage a more neutral spine alignment. This approach helps in gradually improving shoulder alignment.

  2. For Hyperlordotic Postures: Clients displaying excessive lumbar curve (hyperlordosis) may have a forward-tilting ribcage and pinched scapulae. In such cases, emphasis should be on exercises that encourage a posterior tilt of the pelvis to realign the ribcage and release tension in the scapulae. Finding a balanced scapular position requires patience and consistent focus on core stability and spinal alignment.

  3. For Various Postural Types: Whether dealing with a flat back, swayback, or any other postural peculiarity, the objective remains to achieve the best scapular position possible. This involves a thorough assessment of the client's posture and customising exercises that promote scapular stability and mobility without exacerbating existing imbalances.


Fine-Tuning for Alignment

When considering the finer details of alignment, it's also crucial to look at the orientation of the palms. Proper scapular alignment typically aligns with the palms facing towards the hips, a position that might be compromised in traditional Pilates exercises, such as the Hundred, where hands face the mat. This discrepancy highlights the necessity for adaptive teaching techniques to ensure that alignment is not sacrificed for the sake of form.

In conclusion, as Pilates teachers, our expertise lies not just in teaching exercises, but in adapting and moulding these exercises to fit the unique bodies in front of us. Achieving perfect alignment is a journey, both for us and our clients. By focusing on the best achievable alignment, we honour the principles of Pilates while respecting the individual needs of each client, guiding them towards greater strength, flexibility, and balance.

Remember, Technique Thursday is about more than just techniques; it's about building a deeper understanding and connection with our practice and our clients. Let's continue to learn, adapt, and grow together in our pursuit of teaching excellence in Pilates.

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