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An Exercise That Can Help With Body Alignment And Connection

By Sara McGlothlin

Unfortunately in our society, so many experience both a mental disconnection from one’s physical body and misalignment of it given modern day demands. According to Jaclyn Forrester, certified Pilates instructor and owner of Niche studio, Pilates is a method that can help reverse and strengthen both areas. “Intentionality behind movement brings in a sense of presence. Pilates is a technique that hones in on the mind-body connection.” Forrester explains. 

Growing up in the 90s, Forrester is very familiar with old-school methods of movement, from cardio machines to squat racks. After discovering Pilates, her views of exercise has shifted. She believes it is about “cumulative movement,” not necessarily about carving out this extraordinary amount of time to workout. She also adheres to the idea that as humans, we are meant to move our bodies every day. Modern day lifestyles can encourage the opposite, but when you understand that the “little things add up,” it can empower you to make small changes to yield results. In fact, she states that the ten minute videos on her online offerings are the most watched option. Mindset also matters: “Mindset is everything when it comes to establishing healthy habits. Which is why baby steps are important in order to build confidence for what you can accomplish. Start with where you are, and work up from there.” When you can pair a self-empowering mindset with baby steps to getting stronger, that can set you up for success. Pilates is one technique to help get you there.

Generally, Forrester describes Pilates as being “functional fitness that you can do in your everyday life.” Furthermore, it helps one focus on proper breath patterns, functional movement, and proper body alignment. If someone is new to what proper alignment entails, it’s a foundation for finding alignment through feeling. It’s why Forrester refrained from putting mirrors in her studio: “Pilates is about teaching body awareness and what that feels like, and how to fix it…you need to be able to feel it.”

Modern day technology – specifically a term called “tech neck” that results from the constant use of devices – is something that unfortunately encourages body misalignment. Coupled with the amount of time we spend sitting at a desk, watching television, or driving a car (among other sedentary activities), there is no wonder so many people are walking around with anteriorly rotated shoulders, scapular winging, and thoracic kyphosis. Forrester says that it is more challenging for people to be aware of the posterior (backside) of their bodies as we are simply more aware of the anterior (frontside) chain. Pilates can help with this as well: “Verbal cues are important to bring awareness to what is needed to work on technology posture. [For example], ‘even openness through the chest and the back.’ Sometimes you have to say the same thing a number of different ways to find what is going to resonate to make the proper adjustment.” Essentially, Pilates helps someone focus on very important posture muscles. One thing to keep in mind however, is that if the issue is anatomical, it’s not something to be “fixed” per se, but rather something to work with to improve alignment and body awareness. 

A more indirect result of making more of a mind-body connection is establishing a foundation for increased body positivity. This is where the internal work – in addition to the external, physical aspect – comes into play. Not only can Pilates (and similar forms of movement) help one become stronger, but also more confident in her body. Movement in general, but especially one that strengthens the mental association, can help build that foundation; it empowers you to be more in your body, developing a peaceful, positive relationship with it.

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