A Joseph Pilates foresaw today’s trademark collapsed slump when he wrote, “civilization impairs physical fitness.” The hunch or slump is a passive state in which abdominal muscles, including the deep corset muscles that support our posture, are totally asleep.
I Keep Reading That Today’s Habits Sitting at a Desk, in The car Ttc Contribute to a Hunched Posture So Why do We Still Perform So Many Forward Flexion Exercises in Pilates? Photo Gallery
It is sometimes claimed that Pilates matwork is too flexion biased and may contribute to what seems like a modern postural epidemic. Indeed, 87 percent of the matwork repertoire involves flexion movements. However, before we make any assumptions about Joe’s work, we need to draw some distinctions between passive and active flexion.
First, many of the flexion-based exercises in Pilates are designed to shorten the distance between the sternum and the pelvis—that is, to maximize the degree of flexion in the trunk. Many of these exercises are taught in such a way as to create a “retaining wall” effect around the waist; in other words, the entire group of abdominal muscles, which spans the waistline from front to back, are recruited to produce a lengthened and supported waistline that holds the abdominal organs and spine in an upright position.
So the idea that flexion-based exercises will worsen a hunched posture is not entirely accurate. The hunched posture is actually more commonly associated with weak abdominals. Forward flexion is one way to strengthen the abdominals and improve the “lift” in the chest. (A great side effect of this is that our abdominal organs can function with greater efficiency.)
What’s important is that the entire abdominal group is awakened. A well-trained instructor will develop a routine that includes movements in all planes so hunched postures will be managed with doses of flexion, lateral flexion, rotation and extension. The exercises’ purpose is to increase strength, flexibility and joint mobility so that daily activities can be performed with “spontaneous zest and pleasure,” as Joe wrote. Also, exercises like Swimming, One Leg Kick, Double Leg Kick, and Rocking provide antidotes to any excessive flexion.
It is often forgotten that Joe wrote about “companion exercises” in his book Your Health. A companion exercise is one that counterbalances the effects and range of movements of the exercise performed before it. The end result is a well-balanced musculature.
So keep flexing, folks, but work with awareness so that the flex is performed using the full suite of abdominal muscles to create a true support “center.”
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