Exercise of the Month: ZEN•GA® Mat and Reformer Exercises for Better Posture

Pilates exercises can help improve posture by strengthening the deep muscles and stabilizing the joints and tissues that support the head, neck and spine.

According to one study examining the effectiveness of Pilates for posture, researchers found that participants who practiced mat Pilates exercises regularly (three times a week for 12 weeks) improved their postural alignment and muscle mass and reduced their body fat.

There are a few common attributes of good posture. In general, when sitting or standing, the spine should be in neutral, shoulders level and rolled back, core slightly engaged, chin parallel to the floor, and body weight distributed evenly over the feet. This also applies when sitting.

There are many benefits to maintaining good posture, including preventing back, neck and shoulder pain, reducing the risk of muscle strains and injuries, and ensuring the body continues to move efficiently.

As a Pilates instructor or mind-body specialist, you should encourage your clients to become more aware of their posture and alignment to help them develop positive habits for everyday life. Get them to think about how they hold their upper bodies, where they experience tension, what poor postural habits they’ve developed while at their desks or on their phones, and how they can make small adjustments throughout the day to improve their posture.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health reports that an extremely hunched posture, known as hyperkyphosis, affects up to two-thirds of senior women and half of senior men. Hyperkyphosis has been associated with back pain, weakness and trouble breathing. The good news is, one study found that after a six-month yoga practice, older adults with hyperkyphosis showed significant improvement and less rounded shoulders.

So, it’s about time to start moving.

Merrithew’s ZEN·GA® modality fuses elements of Pilates and yoga, both of which have been proven to help improve posture, as well as martial arts and meditation.

This Exercise of the Month is brought to you by Merrithew™ Lead Instructor Trainer Kanako Funabashi, co-founder of Sky Pilates Tokyo, a Host Training Center in Tokyo, Japan.

She will teach you two ZEN·GA exercises, one that focuses on thoracic mobility and another that focuses on scapulae isolation, to improve posture. She also provides some handy teaching tips and modifications to use with your clients.

Tips

  • Maintain a neutral pelvis and spine during both exercise
  • Use the Mini Stability Balls™ to create proprioceptive feedback, provide support, improve alignment and as a tactile cue
  • The ball you choose depends on the client’s body size; you may need to make adjustments by deflating the ball or opting for a different size to support them
  • Encourage clients to use the ball to become more aware and in tune with their natural breath pattern
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