by Dr. Sylvia Lim, Ph.D. Dr. Sylvia Lim teaches alignment and movement in Durham, NC. With training in cultural anthropology, public health, biomechanics, and dance, she is uniquely positioned to see the cultural influences on our health and on our bodies.
Why is good alignment so crucial?
Without proper alignment, your bones cannot receive the appropriate signal to build bones that will support you. This is true whether you are walking, standing, or rebounding. If you think of your spine, each successive vertebra is bigger than the one on top of it. That's because it was designed to bear the weight of successively heavier loads. The pelvis has an even greater mass, as it was designed to bear the load of everything above it. If your baseline posture is not vertical, meaning each of your bones is not in position to bear their appropriate load, the quality of your squish is compromised. Take the example of an individual vertebra, it was designed to bear the load of all the vertebrae stacked on top of it. Say that stack is such that some of those vertebrae are a little forward and some are a little back of their ideal positioning. Now it no longer bears the full load, and the osteocytes will get the message that they needs to build bone in that vertebra for say, for 80 percent of the true load. Then your body gets to work to build bones that are only strong enough to support 80 percent, not 100 percent of you in that spot. Consequently, osteoporosis and compression fractures of the vertebrae occur in those places where the position of your body has not given your bones the appropriate signal. This is also what happens in long-distance cyclists in terms of pelvic fractures. The full weight of the spine was not being transmitted to the osteocytes of the pelvis, and so they were cued to build a pelvis that was able to bear considerably less weight.
You have to remember that weight, given you live in this field of gravity, is something that is measured vertically. That is why bathroom scales will have stickers that say, "Please do not place on an inclined surface." If you want to have fun with your weight, you can put your scale on a sloped surface and step on. You'll find that while your mass is the same, you can vary your weight depending upon how vertical (or not) you are. Likewise, you have a certain amount of mass that your bones need to be able to support. If you are not in alignment, your bones will think you weigh less than you do. While this may offer some temporary flattery for your ego, it doesn't bode so well for your bone density. To have proper bone density, you need to show up with your full weight!
The other reason that being vertical is important is because of the way the force of gravity works. If the bones of your upper and lower legs are vertical, when your foot strikes the ground, the vibration will go up your leg, sending signals your osteocytes. Given the weight of the body above the leg, the force will generate a certain amount of compression in the bones, again signaling bone generation. If the bones of your legs are angled, the force of gravity will result in less compression (a smaller signal) and more torque. When are the legs not vertical? Common instances are when you stand with your legs wider or narrower than the width of your pelvis, when your knees are bent, or when you wear a heel. Imagine you are holding a pen horizontally in your hand. You place two fingers directly opposite one another, so that one is on top of the pen and one is below, and squeeze the pen. If your two fingers are truly opposite one another (the force applied being is vertical), you are squishing the cells of the pen. If you were to place your fingers slightly askew, so that one on top of the pen is slightly to the left and the one on the bottom of the pen is slightly to the right, pressing your fingers down into the pen would result in something slightly different. Instead of the remaining stationary, the pen starts to rotate, and now the cells of the pen are not being squished nearly as much. How does this translate to your body? The more vertical your legs, the more the force of gravity will generate an osteogenic squish. The more angled your legs, the less squish the bones get with each impact. (The torque generated also helps wear away at you knee cartilage, but that is the subject of another article.) Likewise, if your upper spine is rounded forward, gravity will transmit less squish to your vertebrae there and help you round forward even more. It used to be thought that osteoporosis caused hyperkyphosis (the rounding of the upper back that typically occurs with age, particularly in women), but now it is known that suboptimal back posture is what causes osteoporosis at those vertebral sites.
Rebounding with Alignment
Rebounding is a wonderful way to keep your bones healthy. The activity of bouncing on a high quality rebounder produces exactly the kinds of signals that are optimal for bone growth - the osteogenic squishes are done frequently and are neither too hard nor too soft for your system.
So what are some ways to rebound with optimal posture so that you can maximize your bone-building benefits? To start with, check your stance. Make sure that your feet are parallel, pelvis width apart and that your knees are tracking over your toes. Try a gentle Health Bounce or Stomp and see if your lower legs are vertical as they sink into the mat. As a further step you might consider using light (2.5- to 3-pound) ankle weights. Because the weights are wrapping around your ankle, the easiest thing for your body to do will be let your legs be vertical as it would be excess work to do any other way. When you do a Health Bounce or Stomp on the rebounder with the weights, donít concern yourself with lifting the foot very high off the mat. Just let the weights help cue your lower legs to go straight down. For those of you with balance issues, this is a wonderful way to cue your body into feeling grounded. Aside from helping you be vertical, the ankle weights help you to descend a split-second before you normally would, thereby gently lengthening your psoas, the deep muscles directly in front of your spine that are chronically held tight (If you are not vertical, they have to kick in to hold you up!)
Rebounding in good alignment is one of the best things you can do for your bone health, particularly for the health of your vertebrae and hips, two of the most common bone loss sites. The rebounding action itself, with its repeated gentle squish, is wonderful for cuing your osteocytes. However rebounding with good alignment increases the health-promoting benefits by improving your balance, training your muscles to relax, and improving the osteogenic response throughout your body. Think of it this way: Daily rebounding with alignment lets you enjoy a multitude of health benefits, and it trains you to continue receiving those benefits every time you take a step the rest of your day.
Alignment work and Training accessible to QiBounding customers:
Rebounding Trainer and founder of the QiBounding method, Sylvia Dreiser Farnsworth, is a movement educator since 1983. She is one of the first certified teachers of the Alexander Technique in Germany.
Sylvia teaches correct alignment as a basic building blog of all QiBounding Online Classes. Also, every customer of QiBounding receives free access to a training series called "The first two weeks of Rebounding" together with their rebounder purchase, in which they are taught the correct alignment and use of the body when rebounding. In addition to this training, every customer has the possibility to set a a complementary fifteen minute coaching session with Sylvia Dreiser Farnsworth during the first two weeks of their rebounder purchase.