Working in a field that is just beginning to develop is both varied and exciting. Recent scientific development has led to many medical advantages which we all benefit from. What is emerging now is how those medical advances work best alongside an attitude that embraces the health of a person as a whole. Aristotle’s observation that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” is the basis of a “whole health” approach. This approach considers all the body systems and their inter-relationships. The movement that we do in the studio has always been informed by the latest research in an information exchange between body and mind. The movement we practice in class could be described as 'mindful' – the practice of listening and translating what is being taught into bodily actions requires us to be present 'in the moment'. In particular we focus on breathing to stimulate the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) to enable everyday healing maintenance within our bodies. The relaxation at the end of class takes this a step further and recently we introduced an emphasis on articulating the spine.
People often remark that they arrive for class in a relative state of anxiety and leave with a completely different frame of mind. Concentrating on finding particular muscles and focusing on slow, precise, and detailed instructions has served as a break from the anxieties they arrived with. It seems the Pilates-based movement education we practise in the studio benefits us both physically and mentally.
After a wonderful start to the term, teaching in the studio is advancing apace– I'm always amazed by the progress everybody has made. As we are well into the term now, we are learning new ways to stretch both our minds and our bodies.
One of the people I have been working with on a writing project is a spinal surgeon specialising in reconstructive surgery. He is supportive of any movement which segregates the bones of the spine. His opinion is heartfelt as he has witnessed such horrors when the spine has fused and been operated on, sadly to no avail. In his experience the pain is rarely reduced by such operations. Bearing this in mind, recently we have adopted the spine curl in class as a form of punctuation mark. It can act as a filler, to ensure you keep moving. It can also act as a replacement when you know the movement being taught is a little too challenging for you, and at times it can offer relief between more demanding new work.
The spine curl moves each vertebra forward into flexion from the base of the spine, whilst the curl up takes us into flexion from the top of the spine. The intention is to encourage movement that is fluid and deliberate, giving each bone a chance to move rather than them grouping together in an effort to speed through to an end point. Moving into flexion creates a curve forward whereas moving into extension takes the curvature backwards, for example when we rest the shoulder girdle on the purple ball and move into extension or through into extension in the diamond press.
Rotation can help segregate the vertebra too, and we have enjoyed some variations lying down, on the ball, in sitting and using the barre. Creatively challenging ourselves and our bodies! As we move we empower both our body and mind, and Pilates helps us build an inner strength which is interchangeable with mental strength too.
It's now time for me to move – will it be a spine curl or a roll down? Enjoy your day!