At Advanced Balance Clinic, a major part of our treatment philosophy focuses on body alignment to help get people moving better. When we refer to alignment, we mean how each body part is positioned relative to each other. For example, if you are standing and you look down where is your foot pointed relative to your hip? Is in angled out, angled in, or pointed straight forward? You might wonder why we spend so much time emphasizing these subtle variations throughout the body.
There are several components to this answer. The human body is complex. We might be focused on alignment, but also realize this is far from the whole picture. Take chronic pain for example. A focus on alignment might be a good start for some people, but pain is much more complex than meets the eye. More and more research demonstrates that chronic pain has nothing to do with what we call “posture” and is not even not well correlated with disease state. For example, someone can have terrible posture or very advanced arthritis but have no pain. Others have perfect posture without arthritis and are in severe pain.
So why spend so much time worrying about alignment? Alignment is a tool we use to learn more about ourselves, our lifelong patterns of movement, and how to make our movement better. Take the example of becoming aware of where your feet are angled relative to your hip in your natural standing state. Depending on your foot position, you change the forces experienced by the knee and the hip as well as the muscle groups you use while you are standing and moving about. We want to stress that changing the forces through your knee does not automatically equate to an increase or a decrease in pain! However, the efficiency with which you use your joints and muscles very much depends on the position of your feet in this example. If we are looking to improve balance, the strength of the pelvic floor, or bone density of the hips the position of the feet becomes very important.
We use alignment as a way to get parts of your body moving that are often underutilized. There is no such thing as perfect movement, so when we focus on alignment our goal is not perfection. We avoid defining movement as “good” or “bad”, all movement is just movement. Our goal is to get you moving in new and different ways to help you learn how you might be able to change your movement for the better. The human body is complicated, and alignment is just one way to learn more about yourself.
Teaching alignment also brings the added benefit of mindfulness to movement. In teaching alignment, we also focus heavily on having a healthy learning process, questioning oneself, and problem solving. These are highly important skills at any age!
The focus on alignment also helps bring awareness to the fact that not all movement is the same. Different movement has a different effect on the body. So depending on your mobility goals, you might need to change the ways in which you move. To get started with alignment, check out our overview of foot alignment. Starting with the foundation is the best place to start!
We hope this clarified the discussion around alignment. Everyone could benefit from some type of alignment practice, whether you fall into the category of elite athlete or consider yourself a relatively sedentary individual.