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Biomechanic Insight

To ALIGN or to not ALIGN?


It is always interesting to see how the movement industry can change at the drop of a hat.

Some ideas stay strong and others fall by the wayside.

There seems to be a small movement away from alignment, which I naturally do not agree with, but there is a movement none the less.

But there is one burning question. Was there actually alignment to begin with? Alignment in itself is misunderstood, seldom seen and often missed entirely. It is easy to jump off the wagon if perhaps you might have not been on it entirely initially. Maybe you are a perfectionist and the alignment is killing you because people around you are so out of alignment. Maybe you understood it perfectly and are ready to try a new angle. Whatever the reason may be, are you for it or against it?

A penny for your thoughts!

For what it is worth, here are mine.

  1. I do not think alignment has been practiced effectively for long enough to say that we no longer need it. It is like ‘banting’ and ‘plastic surgery’ who knows what we will be like 50 years from now after doing either. The info is still too new to say what the long-term effects will be. So what happens if we discard alignment and just move…. I think we have seen more of this rather than 50 years of good alignment.
  2. Why is it thought that alignment takes you away from feeling the movement or connecting to your body?
  3. Are we not there to educate our clients about how they could move better because they actually have no clue initially about this amazing vessel that they roam the earth in?
  4. Why are we getting remarkable results with shoulders as soon as we focus on working them is better alignment and then educating the client about how to improve their alignment daily? And remember, they have been assessed beforehand and all movements were performed with poor alignment. Only due to a lack of understanding their own body.
  5. Were people really practicing good alignment to begin with before it was slightly discarded?
  6. By ignoring alignment, are we then not also ignoring the role various muscle groups play on specific movements?
  7. Are we ready to discard muscles completely then? Not sure what the need for them would be then? Fascia is a huge focus and people are talking less about muscles when again the understanding of anatomy in movement might not have been as strong.
  8. By discarding alignment, are we not then eliminating a vital thought process of a Movement Professional? That thought process that enables you to modify or assist exercises because you understand why the compensations and misalignment just occurred for that SPECIFIC CLIENT. Not to mention the development of your intelligence as a Movement Professional which then brings in that sense of gratification. But then again, this might not be everyone’s goal or cup of tea.
  9. How much proof is there that alignment would have negative results on a clients body, bearing in mind that alignment is also client specific? What my perfect alignment is and what my clients is might be very different.
  10. And lastly, what are the negative long term effects of working and moving out of alignment? I think we see this all over, even in Elderly Retirement Villages.

I think I would like to focus on 50 years of  good alignment before discarding it. It feels good, it looks great and the EMG says it does great. I have personally worked out of alignment in my dance career as well as in my training and yes, I have injured my shoulder, by back, my knees and my hip during these movements. As soon as I jump on the alignment band wagon, connect to the movement and feel the movement, I feel like my body says THANK YOU! 

Alignment does not have to be rigid or boring. It has a sense of relaxation, freedom and meditation when understood and felt. But step 1 is to understand and truly see it before really seeing the long term benefits of it. We can’t say it is not working, or it has little purpose if we were not implementing it effectively. Or discarding it too quickly.

I feel like understanding alignment is a big missing element in Training Courses, and this should be a part of any movement course. 

Sure there are moments where the body is not in ideal alignment and our body has to know how to cope with this. But surely if we do ALIGNMENT CROSS TRAINING combined with MISALIGNMENT MOVEMENTS we are setting ourselves up for some amazing functional strength. Combine it! It definitely won’t harm.

So for me the answer is TO ALIGN and create strength for when you DO NOT ALIGN!

Feel free to leave your thoughts.

Tanya Thompson – CEO and Pilates Unlimited – the Art of Movement

  • Marc Templeton
    Posted at 06:49h, 20 June

    Dear Tanya,

    Thanks for this post! As a healthcare professional (I am a chiropractor), I have always struggled with this concept. My thoughts are… are we really truly “out of alignment”? Is it not more of a restriction of motion that creates the alignment problem? If your body is not moving properly in one area it will move more in another to compensate for that loss. And what about genetics? I am sure that plays a bigger role than we often admit. I see it with my kids (my girls particularly, who are 5 and 4). The difference in their postures, base-line strength etc is incredible. My youngest is definitely stronger and “appears” to have better posture. So I think that confirms what you said (in some part)… “we are different and how I move is different to how you move, and it’s up to us as healthcare and movement professionals to recognise that”.

    Thanks again for your wonderful insight and all the information that you create!

    • healthytruthsblog
      Posted at 07:18h, 20 June

      Hi Marc. I agree wholeheartedly in the sense that motion restrictions are the greatest cause of misalignment, this is why I refer to alignment being relative to the individual and what they are capable of. Even my two daughters are extremely different in their body capabilities and alignment and strengths. We also cannot expect flat backs to achieve the same as a spine with enhanced curvature and this is where understanding the person in front of you as they move comes in. And that is the part that we really want to develop. A level of understanding of the body and alignment of an individual rather than a generalization. It is a huge pleasure and thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Shauna
    Posted at 10:20h, 20 June

    Hi Tanya! Could you give me an example of ‘Alignment Cross Training combined with Misalignment Movements’ and how that would create amazing functional strength.. for some reason I can’t wrap my head around that. I’m a little slow today..Ha Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

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