Simplicity = Understanding
If it’s complicated, it probably isn’t correct.
The hierarchy/pyramid of “correctness” or Truth: Simple is on the top and Complicated is on the bottom.
If it takes more than three short sentences to explain…you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Wow! That was a loaded introductory paragraph!
This statement I’m making applies to all of Life…including Pilates.
You see…though aspects of existence, including movement, appear complex, they are truly simplistic and minimalistic at the core. The building blocks of anything are not intricate. Everything can be broken down into basic components. If you can’t break it down basic components, then you don’t actually understand it. That’s OK…just means there’s more work to be done.
How does this apply to Pilates?
When a client asks “why do we pump our arms in The Hundred?” The answer ought to be simple:
The rapid, big movement of the arms challenges your ability to stabilize your torso and outstretched legs and revs up your cardio-vascular system.
Any more complicated than that…you don’t really know the answer.
More study in the right places.
Look for simplicity.
Along the same lines, the answer for “my left hip, right shoulder and neck hurt…also my right ankle and sometimes my knees. What’s wrong with me?” It’s not 5 separate ailments. It’s one. Which one? All. We’re a completely connected organism. Any imbalance to one area is an imbalance of the whole. Pain in one area always begets pain or dysfunction in another in the action of creating balance…even if that balance also creates pain and discomfort. So the answer to your client…”nothing is wrong with you. You are human having a full body response to being imbalanced. Good thing you’re here!” And then what will you focus on? Each of these areas separately? No. That would be complicated. Go to the fusebox of movement and stability in the body…the pelvis and spine…and you will be able to address all things at once:
Is it that simple? Yes.
Does she have an abdominal connection?
Are her lumbar vertebrae mobile or immobile?
Are her femoral heads free in their acetabulum or stuck?
If mobility and freedom…then continue with that moving up the spine and down the legs.
If immobility and stuck…then your answer is clear. Start to stabilizing the pelvis and mobilizing the lumbar spine and/or the femoral head.
And this brings me to the most simple of all statements: That mobility and stability at the pelvis is the most important place to start with everyone. EVERYONE.
The human body is far more simplistic that you think. Yes, yes, everyone is different, but…everyone (everyone) is the same. As much as we hold our individuality dear (especially in my country, The USA), the truth is that we’re all the same. We all have the same components. Sure, sure, some people have wisdom teeth, some don’t. Some have psoas minor and some don’t. Some have their sciatic nerve running through the piriformis muscle, some don’t. Also, some have body parts removed. Some have one ailment, some have another. Some have many ailments. The variables of each person’s imbalances are innumerable. Still…we’re all the same and all designed to physically behave the same way. Our components are really the same.
With that…no matter how many apparently complicating variables there are…we must address each person’s body the exact same way. If the joint between sacrum and lumbar spine (L5-S1) and/or (but likely “and”) the joint between acetabulum and femoral head don’t move and don’t behave as joints any longer…that will be a sure sign of dysfunction across the body. That is for every body…everybody.
You might intuitively believe that the body is responsive…but do you really believe it and know it? Study Biotensegrity (prepare yourself for my next articles on it). Because our bones are suspended in the tension web of our soft-tissue, any force against or on one part of our body will elicit a response from the entire body…the entire organism. Dr. Stephen M. Levin is the leading researcher on how this applies to the human body. I’m a proud to call him a colleague and friend. Read his papers, commentary and more at www.biotensegrity.com
So…applying simplicity to Pilates today:
Just look at your client and note movement or non-movement in L5-S1 and in the acetabulofemoral joint (hip joint). Are these joints able to move in all directions? Are they stuck in some. Can your clients make the choice to stabilize them when desired to mobilize something else? If the answer is no to any aspect of those questions…then you most focus on that primarily. In fact, if you use the most basic exercises in Pilates in the first sessions…that will tell you all you need to know about what is and what is not working well in your client.
Do not concern yourself with why you client’s shoulder is “stuck” until you are thoroughly satisfied that s/he has great mobility, ability and stability of L5-S1 and in the acetabulofemoral joints. The shoulder will stay stuck until those joints are mobile, back and abdominals are strong and able, upper leg muscles and hip/glutes are strong…then we’ll see how the shoulder responds.
Here are some exercises that are basic that will help you focus on what is and what isn’t happening with your client:
Footwork, Leg Cirlces/Frogs, Elephant, Knee Stretches, Running and Pelvic Lift:
Keep the pelvis and spine stable while you mobilize the acetabulofemoral joints.
Femurs should move without moving the pelvis.
Round, Straight on Short Box:
Keep femurs stable, mobilize the acetabulofemoral joints
The Half-Roll Down, The Roll Up:
Keep femurs stable, mobilize the acetabulofemoral joints L5-S1 and the rest of the spine
Single Leg Circles and Abdominal Series:
Keep the pelvis and spine stable while you mobilize the acetabulofemoral joints.
Spine Stretch Forward and The Saw:
Keep pelvis and legs stable while you mobilize L5-S1 all the way up to the skull.
Does that make sense? That is the most important thing to start to recognize and then focus on. What does it take for your client to get it? A lower abdominal abdominal connection, back muscle connection and leg and gluteals connection. The glutes not by squeezing them (because that doesn’t strengthen them…only jams joints) but by pressing straight legs back against the mat, working to straight legs on the footwork exercises on the reformer while the reformer moves the entire time the legs are moving…
These are great places to begin.
How long do you focus on this stability and mobility? Until your client (or you) get it.
Nothing gets accomplished buy bopping around from one theme to another. Be simplistic…focus on the most important thing first. You can find this action or stability in every exercise (or legs, pelvis and spine stable while you move the arms)…focus on it in every exercise.
Please ask me questions. This is a rather broad topic that i just hit on. Again…it’s not difficult. It’s simplistic. That doesn’t mean easy…just not complicated.
****Thank you for taking the time to read and continue your education in this way! Here are upcoming workshops and session information:
Here’s what’s coming up in the next few months:
Full details are on my website under “Workshop Calendar”: http://www.TheVerticalWorkshop.com
Boston and Northborough, MA, USA: April 20 & 21, 2013
London ENGLAND: April 26-28, 2013 (Pilates on Tour); sessions at Pi Studios
Rhinebeck, NY, USA: May 19, 2013
New York, NY, USA: May 28, 2013
Chicago, IL, USA: June 1, 2013
Denver, CO, USA: July 12-14, 2013 (Pilates on Tour)
Again, full information on all of these workshops is on my website: http://www.TheVerticalWorkshop.com
Please keep your eyes peeled for upcoming products I will be introducing to continuing your education from your own home with the aural rhythm manuals, webinars, videos, manuals and more!
If you have any questions about Pilates, injuries, biomechanics…just email me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com I will always work to get you answers.
Thanks for taking the time to read!
– Shari Berkowitz
The Vertical Workshop
Pilates Teacher Blog:
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