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

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By Alexa Thorson

Curves, Twists and Bends: A Practical Guide to Pilates for Scoliosis is a useful introduction to the topic from Annette Wellings, a Pilates instructor with major scoliosis, and U.K. master Pilates teacher Alan Herdman. The book is a useful tool for addressing scoliosis through exercise, both for those who have the condition and for Pilates instructors with scoliotic clients. Wellings makes it clear in her introduction that the exercises in this book “are not designed to restructure the curve,” but to enable the spine to be “as healthy and supple as possible.”

Wellings and Herdman have assembled a set of 34 exercises primarily focused on stretching and lengthening, that are appropriate for people with symptoms ranging from mild to severe scoliosis, and even for the general population. I often incorporate similar exercises in my mat classes to warm people up before harder Pilates choreography. This book does not address Pilates equipment or even the classic Pilates mat choreography.

Curves, Twists and Bends is structured in three parts. The first, called  ‘Understanding and Awareness’ is a straightforward, uncomplicated overview of the condition of scoliosis, and a discussion of curve patterns, with an explanation of how to identify different types of scoliotic curves, complete with drawings. It even includes a section on “the psychology of scoliosis.”

The second, called ‘Exercises for Flexibility and Posture’ establishes a set of exercise principles that Pilates instructors will find familiar, such as pelvic stability, balancing dominant and weak sides of the body, and de-rotation of the pelvis, ribs and spine. The exercises are very basic and are probably most useful for people new to Pilates. Instructors also might find the presentation toward scoliosis useful. Under the heading “Watch Points,” Wellings offers suggestions for effectively performing the exercises on one’s own, which is helpful. From my own experience with mild scoliosis, it is sometimes hard to know without an outside eye if I am unwittingly twisting or rotating in my dominant pattern of movement. These “Watch Points” would make great cues for working with clients. Also, she specifies safety precautions if the reader has certain injuries or has a spinal fusion.

There is definitely room for improvement in terms of the exercise illustrations. The exercises are illustrated with simple stick figure drawings, with arrows for direction of movement. Because they are so simple, they can be confusing. Photos of people performing the exercises or sketches with more detail (perhaps with the muscle groups clearly delineated) would enhance the exercise section.

The third part is called ‘Strategies for Living with Scoliosis.’ Here, Wellings makes suggestions about food intake and offers various ways of sleeping, sitting and carrying bags. Some of this will not be new for an already health-conscious person with scoliosis. She also includes fashion tips in the form of a 10-page section on how to dress or not to dress around scoliosis.

Curves, Twists and Bends also includes a section of case studies at the end, which I found very moving. There was a range of personal stories offered, from young adolescents and to older people with scoliosis. Some had been surgically treated and others decided surgery wasn’t best for them. Wellings also shares her own experience of recognizing the onset of her scoliosis. In a sense Curves, Twists and Bends is part of her personal exploration of living with the condition.

Wellings, who worked as a linguist and artist in Australia, sought ways to cope with her severe scoliosis and studied rehabilitation Pilates with Herdman in London. Herdman introduced Pilates to the U.K. in 1970. He trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance and was invited to New York in the 1960s to study Pilates. He has written or co-authored more than five books on the subject, including The Pilates Directory

Alexa Thorson is a Pilates instructor in New York City.
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Reader Comments (3)

Hi, is there an online/e-line version of the book pls?

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