What Exercises Can I Do to Improve My Alignment?
When designing a building, an architect must create a strong, stable and balanced structure. Even one alignment error in the building structure might adversely affect the entire building's internal operations, such as plumbing and electricity. Your body requires the same sort of stable structure. The alignment of your bones and joints influences your biomechanical, neurological and physiological systems.
Your deep core muscles control balance and spinal stability, but your ability to engage them depends on correct alignment of your pelvis. The pelvic clock provides subtle but effective alignment training for your pelvis and lower back. Lie face-up with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Begin in the 6 o'clock position, keeping your tailbone on the floor and maintaining the natural curve in your lumbar spine. This is the neutral spine position. Pressing your lower back into the floor puts you in the imprinted position. As you press your left hip into the floor, your pelvis assumes the 3 o'clock position, and pressing your right hip into the floor brings you to 9 o'clock. Practice clockwise and counterclockwise rotations.
While the pelvic clock enhances awareness of the position of your pelvis, the bridge helps you sense the alignment of each of your spinal vertebra. Lie supine, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Center your neck, so that the top of your aligns with the base of your spine. Tilt your pelvis so that your pubic bone moves toward your navel. Return to the starting position. Next, lift your pelvis and lower back. Return to the start. Each time you perform the movement, lift a few more vertebrae, until you form a full bridge. On the return movement, try to imprint each vertebra into the floor.
Heel slides, a Pilates-derived exercise, helps with leg, knee and ankle alignment. Lie supine at the edge of an exercise mat. Bend your knees, place your feet on the floor, and put a towel under your right heel. Slide your right foot along the floor to straighten your leg, then slowly draw it back in. Keep a neutral and stable spine throughout the entire exercise. With each repetition, imagine that you increase the space between the top of your leg and the bottom of your pelvis. Ask a friend to watch you during this exercise, and note whether your knee stays in parallel alignment, or if it rotates inward or outward. If your leg rotates, have your friend gently guide your knee into parallel alignment.
The word posturing describes the way people assume a body position that expresses a specific attitude. Chronic posturing may eventually cause permanent postural alignment, even when you no longer have the attitude that inspired the posture. If you spent your teenage years hanging out with the tough kids, you might have developed a typical lean into one hip posture. The tripod-balance exercise helps you break the habit. Kneel on all fours, and ask a friend to align a dowel or yardstick so that it reaches from the top of your head to the base of your spine. Maintain a centered alignment as you lift your right leg and left arm, and then switch and raise your left leg and right arm. Practice until you can prevent the dowel from falling off your back.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.