Alignment – What is it?

by Kaethe Birkner

What is Alignment:

The definition of alignment is the arrangement of something in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions. Physical alignment is all about the placement of the bones of the body and their relationship to each other.

Posture is a part of physical alignment. Most people consider posture to include the upper body and shoulders. Physical alignment is about the whole body. So, while posture is part of physical alignment, physical alignment encompasses more than just posture.

 

Benefits of Good Alignment:

There are many benefits of good alignment. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Pain reduction
  • Injury prevention/recovery
  • Better joint mobility
  • Creates space in the body’s joints for improved function
  • Better mobility overall
  • Improved muscle engagement and flexibility
  • Promotes feelings of being taller, moving easier, feeling more balanced, etc.
  • Reduces overuse of muscles and joints and distributes load more equally

 

What is Good Alignment:

Good alignment is all about lining up the bones of the body to their best possible places. It is about stacking up joints and fitting bones together so that they aren’t permanently twisted, bent, or crooked. It is making sure joints are set in a way that creates space and gives them room to move. The goal of good alignment is to make a person’s movements feel easy and light throughout the body, like a skeleton hanging in a science lab.

While the overall goal is the same, the exact look and results vary greatly depending on individual capabilities, genetics and their personal habits. For example, everyone has a slight curve in their lower lumbar that should be maintained. However, how much of a curve each person has is very individual.

 

Misalignments:

There are three causes of misalignments:

  • Injury
  • Genetics
  • Habits

Misalignments due to injuries and habits can be improved or fixed through body awareness and muscle relaxation and engagement. Misalignments due to genetics can often be improved upon or fixed, but, even when they can’t, awareness of these misalignments can help prevent them from progressing and makes a person more able to counteract some of the issues that may arise due to these genetic misalignments.

Misalignments don’t often exist in a vacuum; a misalignment in one part of the body can negatively affect other parts of the body. This can either create additional misalignments in other areas or create pain or injury. An excellent example of how a misalignment in one part of the body can negatively affect another is a true story we witnessed. In this case, the client was twisted to the right in her hip and spine. Because of this twist, her right glute didn’t want to activate. Her ankle then became tired due to overuse because it was not getting the support it needed from the right glute. In the end, she sprained her right ankle doing a simple task because the ankle could not do any more and eventually gave out. It was an injury that was caused by misalignment of the hips and spine which resulted in loss of activation of the right glute. This injury could have been prevented if she had addressed this misalignment sooner.

One of the most well known misalignments is widow’s stoop. While, traditionally, this is seen as a problem brought on by age and bone deterioration, the computer age has proven that it is not just a problem for the elderly. The greatest cause of the majority of rounded backs now is the consistent habit of being rounded in the shoulders and upper back and dropping the head when using electronics. It is becoming more common and affecting younger people. This habit can get worse over time if not addressed. This misalignment can be improved through consciously working on improving alignment habits. When something like bone deterioration is a factor, results of working on improving alignment may be hindered. However, any work to improve a habitual misalignment can reduce the overall misalignment by some amount, even if it only prevents it from progressing and getting worse with age.

Another excellent example of a common misalignment is scoliosis: a sideways curvature of the spine. Scoliosis is a genetic misalignment. As with most genetic misalignments, there are varying degrees of scoliosis, from very mild to very severe. One of the most commonly suggested ways to manage scoliosis is to take ballet classes. The reasoning behind this is that ballet works on building strength and, unlike most other sports, it also focuses on alignment and body placement. Some degrees of scoliosis can be cured through this or similar fitness and alignment work. However, even when the degree of scoliosis is bad enough that it cannot be cured, continued work on alignment and appropriate strength building and stretching exercises, can help prevent other issues, like hip pain, that may otherwise arise due to this genetic misalignment.

 

How to Improve Alignment:

The first step of improving alignment is becoming aware of one’s own alignment: the good and the bad. There are many ways people become aware of misalignments, sometimes through self observation but most often through a doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor or fitness instructor. Once misalignments have been recognized, an exercise and stretching program can often be devised to help improve alignment. In some cases, surgery is recommended or needed. However, more often than not, especially if the misalignments are not genetic, it is a fitness and habit building regimen that is most successful at improving alignment.

 

What We do at Urban Fitness:

We at Urban Fitness believe good alignment and alignment awareness are a very important part of healthy living! We use our alignment knowledge to help improve the lives of all our clients. We understand that good alignment is extremely important for easy and pain-free (or reduced pain) movement as well as for general joint health and injury prevention. Most people (including us) have some sort of mis-alignment which is frequently habitual. We create awareness through personal notes and discussions with our clients about their individual alignments. When misalignments are small, we simply make corrections during the client’s typical exercises to help improve and correct these small misalignments. When misalignments are more severe or are causing or contributing to pain, we create a strength and stretch program meant to help correct these misalignments. We also work with our clients to create new daily habits and thought patterns to help improve their alignment both in and outside of their workouts.

If you are interested in learning about your personal alignment, call and schedule your free alignment consultation today. Schedule your free 90 minute consultation.

 

This blog was contributed by our Pilates guru, Kaethe Birkner. Kaethe is a certified Pilates instructor through Balanced Body and dances ballet professionally at Continental Ballet Company. She has been teaching Pilates since 2012 and has been taking Pilates since 2004.

 

 

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