Ideal Alignment

Body alignment from the side.
Body alignment from the side. solar22

Body Alignment Definition

Body alignment refers to the way the parts relate with the whole to create your posture.  It can be balanced (often called “ideal) or out of balance, which doctors refer to as malalignment. 

The National Osteoporosis Foundation says that body alignment is the way in which your head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all relate and line up with one another, adding that proper alignment is a way to reduce stress on your spine.

  Plus, they say, good body alignment helps you have good posture.

Ideal Postural Alignment

A key operative concept in body alignment is the notion of ideal alignment.  Ideal alignment is a standard  (and mostly theoretical) position in which all joints are balanced relative to the others.  It represents the most mechanically efficient positioning for the body. 

Why is this important?  Because when you are in good alignment, you use less energy on any given task and the muscles around your joints don’t strain as much while you do them.

To determine the state of your body alignment, posture specialists (i.e., physical therapists, some types of holistic practitioners and others) compare it with the ideal standard.  A plumb line is used as a reference  When being assessed, you’ll stand next to the plumb line and the evaluator will compare the relative positions of the: 

  • ears
  • shoulders
  • spine
  • hips
  • knees
  • ankles
  • feet

If these parts are not lined up with the plumb line, it usually signifies misalignments in one or more areas. 

According to Florence Peterson Kendall, Elizabeth Kendal McCreary and Patricia Geise Provance, who wrote Muscles: Testing and Function (with Posture and Pain,) the best way to understand posture and  alignment is by looking at joint positions – and gathering visual information about the planes into which parts move, as well as the axes around which the movement occurs.


Kendall, Kendall, and Provance say that certain principles regarding the habitual positioning of joints can be applied when determining if and how posture needs some assistance back into the standard, ideal placement.

For example, some muscles become chronically stretched while others become chronically tight.  This is based on the positioning of joints, as mentioned above. 

If the bones of a joint happened to be separated from one another (and this effect is usually slight, but nonetheless impacts your posture) it predisposes the muscles in that area to become overstretched.  Overstretched muscles generally don’t do a good job of contracting and/or keeping tone, which means their power to move parts and their contribution to joint stability becomes diminished. 

Kendall, Kendall, and Provance say that stretch-weakness occurs in 1-joint muscles that cross joints with this separated positioning going on. 

On the other hand, they say, if a joint is chronically misaligned in a position where the bones are held closer together, an adaptive shortening of the muscles in that area can occur.

The good news is that muscular imbalances such as these can quite often be addressed by stretchingstrengthening, and developing core strength, along with developing good sitting, standing and resting posture habits.


Proper Body Alignment. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Accessed Jan 2016.

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