How to Improve Alignment
What is alignment? How to Improve Alignment? According to Merriam-Webster, alignment is
The proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other
When it comes to the human body, alignment means that we are keeping our various body parts in a straight line- from the head to shoulders to hips to heels- as much as possible. Our bodies have a correct posture that they are built for and intended to hold. Exercises are practical applications of that posture, and can help to strengthen the muscles we need to find it.
Positions to Improve Alignment
If you’ve been to a Barboza Method class before, you are familiar with the concept of using the wall and floor as a map for how to improve alignment. Working through exercises while using the wall and the floor as a guide to keep your body straight will help to strengthen the muscles you will be using. It is also important to apply what you learn outside of class in your everyday life.
Start by laying on your back on the floor. Keep your feet on the wall and press against the baseboards so you stay flat. You will squeeze your glutes and tuck your pelvis underneath you, as if to connect your tailbone to your heels. Your lower back should be pressed into the floor so that there is no gap or arch in your back. You will keep your shoulders back and down against the floor, and your head will rest in alignment.
Read Also: Health Benefits for Improving Body Alignment
When sitting up, whether in a chair or on the floor, your body should form a 90-degree angle. Your shoulder blades should be pulled back and your shoulders dropped down away from your ears- no shrugging! Your hips will sit directly below your shoulders, and your legs will be extended straight out in front of you. Make sure that you do not sink into your lower back and let it curve; keep it straight.
It is important to be able to transition your correct posture from the floor to a standing position. You will know when you’re in proper and how to improve alignment when you can look in the mirror and see that your back is straight, with your shoulders connecting directly down to your hips, and your hips are directly over your heels.
In your lying-down position, you may try an exercise called one-line drops. Your body starts in one line, with your legs together and toes pointed. Start with your feet against the wall, as explained previously, and then lift your legs off the wall by engaging the quadriceps on top of your thighs. Lift the legs together all the way to a 90-degree angle, where your toes should be in line with the ceiling and directly above your hips. All the time, your lower back stays pressed into the floor. Next, lower both legs together back down to about one inch off the floor.
When you are sitting up, your body should form a right angle, as explained previously. For a marching exercise, your arms should be lifted up by your ears with your palms facing each other. While your back stays straight, so do your legs. Start with your legs extended out in front of you, and the backs of your knees touching the floor. Alternate lifting one leg at a time off the floor, as high as you can go while keeping the knee straight and not hunching your lower back.
One of the best ways to how to improve alignment while standing is to simply stand and balance. Start by looking in the mirror to set your posture correctly. Keep your shoulders back and down, aligning directly over the hips. Squeeze your glutes and tuck your pelvis, as if you still had the floor as a map to keep your back straight. This should also align your core in the front abdominal wall, bringing the hips and ribcage onto the same plane. Shift your weight out of your heels and into your toes. To begin balancing, lift your heels off the floor so your body weight is in the balls of your feet. Open your arms to the side, in line with your shoulders, and balance. You will notice that you will wobble less when your body stays aligned from top to bottom.
Benefits of Proper Alignment
Proper posture and alignment helps us throughout our lives as we sit, stand, and lie down in positions that are the least strenuous on our muscles and ligaments. According to the American Chiropractic Association, correct posture also helps us
Keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain
We can also minimize the likelihood of injury by reducing the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together. After learning how to improve alignment, muscles and internal organs can work more efficiently, maybe even using less energy and reduce muscle fatigue. It also helps to prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.
Do you ever get headaches? Proper body alignment can help prevent those, too. According to Mayo Clinic,
Poor posture can strain the muscles at the back of your head, neck, upper back and jaw. This can put pressure on nearby nerves and trigger what are known as tension-type or muscle-spasm headaches
Pain or discomfort in almost any other muscle or joint can be aided by correcting your posture. By hunching and slouching, you allow your muscles to weaken or become tight and inflexible. Knee, hip, and foot pain may be helped by walking with proper posture. Take steps with a stride that matches the span of your shoulders. Walk heel-ball-toe, pushing off the back foot when you take a step, and making sure that your big toe makes contact with the floor. This will help keep your balance and a straight-forward path.
Practice keeping your shoulder back and down in every position; sitting, standing, or lying down. It may be uncomfortable at first, but your muscles will strengthen over time and ultimately be trained to hold you up with correct posture.
Muscle memory is the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought. It comes as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.
When your body learns what it feels like to hold a certain posture, it will feel easier and more natural over time to return to that position. Muscle memory will keep you aligned when you are not actively doing the exercises described previously. It will also make you want to return to the correct alignment because your body feels so much better when you do. Once you have found a neutral spine and taken stress away from your upper and lower back, you will want to avoid curving and arching your back as much as possible.
According to Medium.com,
quite a large range of brain areas seem to be responsible for skill memories.” For instance, “areas in the motor cortex [are] the part of the brain which sends signals to the muscle of the body and is responsible for planning and executing movements
Research has shown that the earlier you start exercising for longevity and to learn how to improve alignment, the better. As you grow older and continue implementing the practices you have learned, you will be able to reap more of the benefits of muscle memory for longer.
Why not start the process of realizing how to apply proper alignment in your life and how amazing it can your body feel?