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Curves, Twists and Bends: A Practical Guide to Pilates for Scoliosis

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  • Posted October 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

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    Unhealthy spines curve, bend and twist. Pilates exercises can slow or halt further deterioration.

    What is scoliosis? ***

    What can a sufferer do about it? ***

    These are the two overriding questions posed by CURVES, TWISTS AND BENDS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PILATES FOR SCOLIOSIS. The fast-moving little book has two co-authors. Annette Wellings went to work on her own scoliosis at age 37. Ten years later, strengthened muscles and stretching exercises had given her a better posture including squared away shoulders. Pain had pretty much vanished as well -- except when she skipped her exercises for a few days. Alan Herdman introduced Pilates to the U. K. in 1970. My impression is that Herdman worked with Wellings primarily as her Pilates teacher and as a consultant on how to tailor Pilates exercises to the needs of scoliosis sufferers, e.g., identifying which Pilates exercises to avoid as too strenuous or contorting. Someone, I could not find out who, produced scores of stick figures and line drawings to illustrate text and exercises. A notable strong point of the book-- those drawings. Very practical and much appreciated. ***

    Scoliosis appears in minor or major forms. Non-structurally, "it is almost always reversible." Structural scoliosis "involves a spinal curvature that is always present." Scoliosis usually starts slowly and without pain. The cause is often "idiopathic," i.e., unknown. Typology divides scolioses in terms of their location along the spine, the size of the curves, the degree the spine actually twists or rotates and in other ways. ***

    Some sufferers from scoliosis accept their condition fatalistically and helplessly. They can become convinced that they are ugly and wilt forever under peer distaste. Others determine to do the best they can to manage their ailment, at least to keep it from getting worse -- through systematic exercises -- and build a holistic life style designed to maximize their health and minimize the visual impact of their misshaping on others. ***

    What can be done to mitigate structural scoliosis? Strengthen muscles through systematic exercise. Especially watch and work on any "bossy" muscles. These appear as "a dominant muscle block" on the side opposite to the curve of the spine. Bossy muscles tend to be "strong, tight and overworked." On the other side of the overly curved spine are relatively underused "weak" muscles. Balance and symmetry between bossy and weak muscle groups is an achievable goal of gentle exercises such as presented by Pilates and tai chi. Many factors, however, are at work against muscle balance. They include lifting weights that are too heavy, carrying bags on one shoulder, insufficient sleep and poor working postures. The book presents 34 illustrated Pilates exercises to build up weak muscles. Also presented are tips on what to eat, how to sleep, loose dressing, sensible shoes and creating one's personalized framework within which to minimize scoliosis damage. ***

    All in all, Annette Wellings and Alan Herdman have written a winner. They write clearly and simply. Their illustrations are sketchy but easily understood. The exercises (such as I have tried) are painless and achieve the results they say they will achieve. A perfect little book for what it purports to do. -OOO-

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