When I’m walking around or standing about a lot, my lower back often starts aching, and only curving my lower back round into a C-shape helps, ideally while having a nice sit-down.
I’ve been going to Pilates once a week for two years now, although I have missed a few weeks here and there, sometimes even through no fault of my own. The instructor told us around November 2016 that she could see improvement in us all, both in our ability to do Pilates and in our postures. I didn’t think I’d changed my posture that much, but I must be doing something better.
Nevertheless, I spent a week of December in London, and had to do a lot of walking and standing about. Predictably, my lower back started aching. But then I remembered what my Pilates instructor had said about posture, so I changed my posture deliberately to how she told us to stand during class, paying particular attention to the tailbone, as described in point 4:
Posture and Alignment Exercise
- Begin standing. Stand with your feet and legs directly under your hips. Your legs and feet are parallel, and your knees are pointing forward, straight but not locked.
- Balance Your Weight. Adjust your body so that your weight feels like it is falling directly through the middle of the foot. A good way to do this is to rock slightly forward and back on your feet, making the movement smaller and smaller until you feel your weight is balanced over the center of your foot.
- Activate your core muscles. Lightly pull your abdominal muscles in and up. As you do so you engage the pelvic floor muscles as well. You are going for a feeling of aliveness in the core. Just this move is usually enough to improve one’s posture significantly.
- Drop the tailbone. Activating the core will allow you to drop your tailbone down toward the floor. This is a neutral spine position, where the natural curves of the spine are present without tucking or hyper-extending the pelvis. A popular image is that the pelvis is a bowl of water and you don’t want the water to spill out to the front or the back.
- Relax and open your chest. The chest is not caved in and not thrust out, just resting easily. There is a small point at the bottom of your sternum, and that, like the tail bone, should be pointing straight down.
Shoulders down, broad back. Allow your chest to drop and open as your back expands. As this happens and you feel the support from your core, your shoulders drop away from your ears and your shoulder blades slide down your back. Cultivate a posture whereby your core is holding you up, not your shoulders!
- Ears reach for the sky. Your head and neck are completely supported by your core and easily float above your shoulders. Imagine that the tops of your ears are reaching for the sky. Your gaze is straight forward, with your throat open and chin resting naturally.
- Review the lineup. If you were seen from the side your body part line up will look like this:
It might sound a bit like nonsense to you, but give it a try if you suffer from back pain. The result I got from standing with my normal posture to standing with Pilates posture was instant relief. There was a small amount of residual ache for a while, but it was such an improvement, I try to use that posture all the time now — especially after I realised my belly and my bum look better!