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Pilates Principle: Precision

Precision is NOT about perfection. Instead, the Pilates Principle of Precision is better described as excellence.

Source: https://www.excelatlife.com

We all get tempted to strive for perfection, because perfection is good, it pleases others. However, perfection will come at a cost, in this case it could cost you access to your body, your learning and your ability to move forward in your movement goals, whether they be to heal, improve or perform.

Precision is energizing and efficient which will leave a positive impact on your body, mind and spirit. Through precision there is an ability to reproduce the movement consistently, with ease of motion.

Your body has it’s own unique language, learn to listen, interpret and respond with precision. The practice of precision brings you into yourself and offers a space to better understand how YOU move and feel in your body.

Precision is where excellence can be found.

Pilates Principle: Concentration

At our studio we apply the principle of concentration as an awareness around what is, what can be and how you plan to move towards it. We do our best when teaching movement through Pilates to speak to what you are doing well, when you’re doing something well and how to do more of that instead of drawing your attention on what NOT to do.

This allows the principle of concentration to orchestrate beautiful strong movement patterns in many planes of space, creating a natural ability to access these patterns in real life.

The full article the next portion of this blog quotes is found at www.selfgrowth.com written by M. Tamsin Thoren.

“Rael Isacowitz, founder of Body Arts and Sciences International (BASI) divides this principle into two parts, awareness and concentration. He regards “awareness as a state of mind — of being mindful and feeling the movement” and concentration as “a more cognitive process of understanding the movement.” (Isacowitz, 9)

Awareness is the initial realization of the body, where it lies in space, how it moves, and any tightness, misalignment, weakness, habitual movement patterns or other imbalances that we may have developed throughout our lives. That initial awareness is critical to achieve a baseline from which to progress. Our muscles and joints contain proprioceptors that tell our brain where we are in space and how far a joint can move before injury. Over time, we train our proprioceptors to feel that misalignments and limited range of motion are correct and representative of our body’s full potential. In order to change those patterns, we must first become aware.

Concentration is viewed as the “bridge between awareness and movement” (Isacowitz, 9) Once you have established your baseline, it is essential to bring that same awareness into every movement. Checking in with your body periodically can help to develop your concentration. If you find yourself thinking about something other than your workout, scan your body, especially those places you are working to retrain, and notice if they are engaged, relaxed, stabilized, or moving as they should be in the exercise. By bringing your awareness and concentration to a particular muscle you facilitate the firing of that muscle. Where patterns exist, it can be difficult to work the correct muscle(s) even with intense concentration, but nearly impossible without that attention. If you don’t know what you should be focusing on in a particular exercise, ask your instructor.

Remember to keep it light, you can over-think things. If you become tense or frustrated, let it go.”

Pilates Principle: Control

As instructors, we guide you through movements, we are doing more then simply counting, some may even suggest we cannot count …

Here’s what we do instead: we are always observing what your body needs. 

We use other movements and equipment to introduce, correct, challenge or reinforce the specific movement patterns your body needs to create balance of strength, stretch and control.

Pilates Principle: Control

Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. No body part is left to its own devices. It is all a conscious, deliberate movement that the mind is controlling. Control is performing a movement with fluidity, which can teach you how to move more gracefully and efficiently.

Here are a few ways for you to utilize this principle in your Pilates Practice:

  1. Determine the objective of the exercise
    • practicing on your own? decide on what your intention is for moving through the exercise BEFORE you start, stay with that idea for the duration of the movement
    • practicing in a class? if it’s not been made clear, always feel welcome to clarify with your instructor where your mind is best served to attain control within the movement
    • practicing in a private or semi-private?  like in class if unsure ask ~ OR ~ if you have a specific focus or item of control let your instructor know, together amazing movements will take on new shape and purpose
  2. Quality not quantity
    • the concept of quality not quantity within the Pilates Principle of Control is that you need to wrap up the movement BEFORE your mind wanders. If you are going through the motions to check the movement off a list ~ OR ~ if  you become aware of your mind wandering simply bring it back to your original objective
  3. Focus on what you DO want
    • attempting to use the Principle of Control around what you do NOT want creates tension, restriction and movement that is a little staccato 
    • determine what you DO want use this positive mind centered action as your control

In summary, the Pilates Principle of Control is a conscious choice to practice, steady and hold the mind around a positive objective. Motion Meditation.

Pilates Principle: Centering

There are a few layers within this concept.

Traditionally, this concept of centering relates to the core and the muscles of the core, in Pilates this is referred to as the powerhouse, physically bringing the exercise focus to the center of the body. Centering can also refer  a feeling of balance within or the eternal spring of energy from which all movement emanates.

Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from the center.

Centering as a kinesthetic concept takes into consideration the fact that each person is built differently and has an individual center of gravity.

Taking away all other variables (lifestyle, injuries, goals, etc.) your build alone will distinctly affect how the exercise feels and how difficult or easy it is to execute. Sometimes receiving the label ‘lacking strength’ when unable to execute a movement is incorrect. The lack of success may have more to do with your distribution of body weight and build not so much your ability.

So, when unable to execute a movement right away, hold your judgements off.

Instead, stay curious and source which part of and how you could apply the principle of centering it a progress or helpful way. And as always ask for guidance from your instructor, remember Pilates is a practice.

Your Pilates Practice is Cross Training

for living your best life.

Through the Pilates approach to movement we can help you keep doing what you love best.

Not only can the Pilates approach to movement keep you doing what you love, through practice you can improve how you do what you love to do best.

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The foundation of the Pilates approach to movement is based within the abstract  concepts of six principles:

Precision ~ Centering ~ Control ~ Concentration ~ Flow ~ Breath

We will take each of these principles apart in separate blogs to express just how you can best utilize these principles in your Pilates Practice.

In the meantime, this is a fun article, found at www.verywellfit.com, to read How to use Pilates in Cross Training

“Contrology <Pilates> develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.” Joseph Pilates

Understanding Spring Tension

The type of spring that is used on Pilates equipment is called a “tension/extension spring”. When this type of spring is stretched from its resting position, it exerts an opposing force proportional to its change in length. In other words, the more you stretch a spring, the more opposing force it provides.

Pilates Style Article by Rael Isacowitz

www.pilatesstyle.com

“In Pilates, sometimes less springs will translate to more load on the muscles and vice versa. For example, when doing the Side Split on the Reformer, one light spring means to a lot of load on the hip adductors (assuming the exercise is executed with the utmost precision and quality). If extra load is added, not only will the load on the hip adductors decrease, at some point, more work will transfer to the hip abductors.” Rael Isacowitz

Click the photo to read the full article by Rael Isacowitz, MA.

Rael has been practicing Pilates for more than 30 years and is recognized internationally as an expert in the field. In 1989, Rael founded BASI Pilates®, a comprehensive Pilates education organization represented throughout the world.

Merrithew Article by Sarah Baker

www.merrithew.com

“Spring tension will also allow for there to be tension through the full joint range, and on both the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement. In addition, unlike traditional weight training, some exercises can actually be made more challenging by decreasing the spring tension on the Reformer, rather than continually increasing it.” Sarah Baker

Click the photo to read the full article by Sara Baker, PT, MS, OCS

Sarah is president of Inspire Health, Atlanta, Ga, an organization providing physical therapy, Pilates, and wellness services with two locations in the Atlanta area. Baker received a bachelor of science in cellular biology from the University of Georgia, and a master of science in physical therapy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She specializes in spinal conditions and neuromuscular re-education. Inspire Health is a Merrithew Licensed Training Center and Baker is a STOTT PILATES Rehab Instructor Trainer.

Mind Your Words: Body Mapping

Professionals who play the role of being your Guide Through Movement (Pilates, Yoga, Functional Fitness, etc …) use a third person perspective of observing your body from the outside WHILE using our words to construct a narrative that gives you the opportunity to perceive yourself from the inside.

In doing this, we focus your awareness, we create an opportunity for you to practice the skill of conscious attention.

Body Mapping

BODY MAPPING IS INTENTIONAL RELEASE WORK

Conscious Attention: what’s in it for you?

Improvement of your overall body function. Avoid the stress your day to day activities (which include working out) creates in your body resulting in habitual movement patterns that do not serve you. Once a movement crosses into the habitual realm you are giving up voluntary control. Involuntary conditioning decreases your body function or potential function, it lays the ground work for chronic ailments, dysfunctions and leaves you with a rigid body.

Body mapping, intentional release work, creates a space for learning. This learning expands your range of action and your perception of available action, resulting in a greater range of movement, strength and ability. If the skill of conscious attention during movement (sensory-motor system) is practiced through out your life time you have opportunity to avoid the habituating effects of stress.

Two of the ‘guru’s’ of these methods are:

Thomas Hannah: Clinical Somatic Education

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais: Feldenkrais Method

At KW Art of Fitness our base of this concept is drawn from Integrated Movement Therapies (IMT)®, from the Pilates educator Second Wind Pilates Plus, Danielle LeBlanc.

But I just want to feel my “core work”?

Oh you will.

BUT

You must also be willing to first address the practice of perceiving minimal sensation, minimal movement – thus creating new sensory feedback, new clarity of movement. The unknown becomes the known. Undiscovered opportunity of functional strength becomes discovered and you will have access to voluntarily eliciting effortless effort.

So, how do I do this thing called body mapping?

It all starts with breath, YUP … breathing again ….

and IMAGINATION ….

Cortical Activity During Learning

Movement, Imagery, Active Increase …

Our thinking directs our movements. Your imagination (mental pictures) will cause the deep muscles to come into action.  This conscious access to your body is underneath the superficial layers of muscle. Therefore, you will not feel them work in the traditional sense. If, in fact, you get a work sensation then you are doing, not thinking (imagination), thus defeating the purpose.

At our studio we intentionally drop in moments during your time with us to search out these body mapping opportunities. Sometimes we make it obvious, while other times we sneak it in ….

Learn more about how we specifically create these opportunities for you to explore this world of voluntary consciousness through body mapping.

Join us for the workshop: Stretch for Strength, Release for Range.

Thursday, November 29 from 5:15 – 7 p.m.

We are also running the same workshop for movement professionals, which will dive into cuing (using your words) to help elicit this idea in people whom you are guiding others.

Saturday, November 24 from 10 – 11:45 a.m.

Pilates, Yoga, Cross Fit, Strength Conditioning …

Call your pursuit of fitness and function by whichever label suits; just remember your pursuit will be better served if you take the time to also potentiate your efforts exerted by learning voluntary control (fluid, responsive, supple, efficient movement) – Body Mapping …

Mind Your Words: Isolation is a Myth

Myth: a widely held but false belief or idea.

Isolation is exactly that, a myth.

"The whole body participates in every movement" Irmgard Bartenieff

I made the statement in my last Mind Your Words blog that every energetic expression of movement has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.

Part of the complexity of the action is when the brain/body sorts through which muscle(s) will pull(agonist). Which muscle(s) will simultaneously lengthen (antagonist). AND the Movement Instructors favorite place to play; which muscles will act to stabilize the joint around which the movement is happening (synergist).

The complexity the brain/body sorts through also includes what order these actions occur in during movement.

Your brain and body systems know this already. Spend time practicing bringing your ATTENTION to the entire body participation. As opposed to, bringing your attention to the one muscle that happens to be just ONE of the MANY muscle participants.

The body and it’s actions are a highly sophisticated and complex living network.

Every action imposed on the body has three components.

An antagonist muscle, the agonist and the synergist.

For example, during a biceps curl, the triceps is the antagonist muscle. This muscle lengthens as the biceps contracts (agonist).

The synergists stabilize a joint around which movement is occurring and helps to create movement. The nervous system is the conductor of this awesome orchestra.

As a Movement Instructor, we first look for a persons ability to bring their attention to the SYNERGISTS. We then will ask you to challenge the synergists. This challenge occurs via a larger range of motion, more force/tension, or by increasing time within the exercise (endurance of the synergists efforts).

The above request from your instructor results in you feeling the burn or work sensations in a specific area —- for example the ‘glutes.’

Generally speaking, if all your attention is on the “one” muscle you think is being isolated the tendency is to “clench and go”. This creates many future problems.

Sarah Eby, of Roots Physiotherapy, will in a later blog help us understand the importance of muscles that SLIDE their fibers long and short instead of CLENCHING and how our nervous system is an essential piece of the puzzle!

Ever wonder why your Pilates/Movement Instructor sometimes **sighs** or rolls their eyes when you ask in the middle of the action(s) what muscle am I using?

A picture is worth a thousand words: under the surface “glutes”

Anatomy of the gluteal muscles in the human buttocks Canvas Art - Stocktrek Images (16 x 14)

So, NO, you will never spend time at our studio “working your glutes.” You WILL spend time challenging yourself through movements that DO incorporate the ‘glutes’ and all the layers beneath. These challenges will allow the brain/body to orchestrate their action at the correct moment in time. We will help you discover the MAGIC of movement; how to get out of your own way.

We will teach you how to use the power of ATTENTION to get what you need from an exercise INSTEAD of encouraging the myth of isolation to carry on in your mind.

Did you notice that we’re ONLY talking about muscles?

When speaking of exercising our complex living network, we also need to consider and respect many other participators.

To name a few of the other factors that come into every movement:

Nerve pathways

Blood flow

Fascia

Neurological system

Bones, joints, ligaments

Spinal cord fluid

Lymphatic system

Immune system

Sensory proprioceptors, etc.

This above list is why our studio instructors collaborate with Physiotherapists so often.

In lieu of going on, let me pause and instead ask:

Are you seeing how ISOLATION becomes a MYTH?

Definitions:

SYNERGIST: a body organ, medicine, etc., that cooperates with another or others to produce or enhance an effect

ISOLATION: an instance of isolating something, especially a compound or microorganism

ATTENTION: the mental faculty of considering or taking notice of someone or something

CLENCH: (of a muscular part of the body) tighten or contract sharply, especially with strong emotion

 

 

Teach Don’t Tell

For the Pilates participants who may be reading this, the perspective below offers a glimpse into part of what goes on behind the scenes;

the mind of the instructor;

the person who can NOT count to 10 — forwards or backwards 😀

The aim is to clear up just why we, Pilates Movement Instructors, are so darn persnickety, and why we take our storytelling skill so seriously!

Patience

Teach, Don’t Tell

Movement Instructors connect words with actions, simultaneously offering relevant reasons to motivate the participants intention and attention to said action. We are fostering intelligent communication for connection between teacher and client; the cues we use are meant to describe and inspire the idea of a movement that has energetic expression. This is our art.

Our underlying quest as instructors in our storytelling skill is for clients to experience success. To feel like the time spent pursuing quality movement was a worthwhile endeavour.  Sometimes, this pressure surrounding the self created quest takes our storytelling skills down a notch. We find ourselves relying to heavily on anatomical details or ‘feeling’ the exercise/movements, in a specific area or repeating go-to phrases the industry has latched on to.

There is a danger in being too anatomical or too focused on what or where someone “should be feeling” an exercise. Let’s face it; some of us don’t care what moves who where, some of us feel to much and even more of us don’t have any feelings at all …. AND we’re all snowflakes, each one of us different, with different needs and goals.

When the Movement Instructor and the client can get out of our own way and step cleanly into the moment in front of us, the body systems and the brain know how to move, the story is being told, teaching action is happening, the magic takes place …

Motivation and the Pleasure Seeking Brain

The pleasure seeking brain is continually searching out and repeating action that makes life easier. When action results in making life easier the brain categorizes the action as pleasure. The pleasure causes the brain to look for ways to groom and groove excellent movement patterns, this becomes motivation.

Storytelling skill (cueing) aims to borrow that instinctive desire and drive the individual to continually ‘tidy up’ movements, until there is the awesome moment of “effortless effort”.

“Effortless Effort”

What?! (Insert eye roll here…)

Pilates is designed to give you the opportunity to work better, THEN harder, while encouraging participants to always avoid working harder then is necessary.

Clean (i.e effortless effort) movement demands efficiency, Pilates teaches that, grooms that, and ultimately what was once your workout becomes your warm up.

As Movement Instructors we endeavor to:

Step up, be prepared to explain an action in several different ways. Explore cueing until you see the action being understood or you see the light bulb going off behind the eyes of the client.

Work towards understanding how the client learns. What brought the client through the door in the first place? Why do they keep coming back? We need to learn to adapt our cues and expressions to match the person in front of us.

Be clear. We all have our ‘go to’ expressions. For example: belly button to spine. Let’s make sure we first express what we actually are asking for. Avoid relying on and assuming a phrase will always inspire the correct action.

Address complex action simply. Sometimes the list of cues are LONG, be sure to highlight a priority. In other words, emphasis what shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to accomplish another action further down the list of cues.

One of my favorite teaching moments is between breathing and action. If the effort to create an action causes you to hold your breath, the sacrifice is too great. In other words, if you catch yourself holding your breath, reign it in, work only as hard as you can breath consistently.

Teach, Don’t Tell

Simply means exploring with clients to learn what to say in order to help someone organize and co-ordinate a movement. Look at what happens when the client does what you asked them to do.  Then identify and address perhaps TWO of the most important corrections according to their demonstration.

Both the Movement Instructor and the client need to allow for room to grow into the actions. It takes time for the brain to instinctively and confidently adapt movement patterns. Every energetic expression of the teachers cue has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.

Your brain and body systems know this and will learn to re-organize itself according to the brain’s pleasure response.

Client

As Clients, You Can Help Us Be Better:

We need you to speak up when what we’re asking for sounds like a foreign language.

Do you keep hearing a phrase that you feel or think is wrong for your body? Ask the instructor to explain themselves or to paraphrase what they are saying.

If you’re given a bony landmark or a muscle or a feeling/sensation as a reference point, speak up if that reference point is even a little bit foggy. There are hundreds of ways to describe an action.

Be patient with yourself, it’s just Pilates. #gregpember