Pilates and moving your body in all ways fun and challenging is a whole-body experience. This experience is movement in multiple dimensions and our spine’s architecture supports three-dimensional movement. As teachers of movement, we think of flexion/extension, lateral bending and rotation – the three-dimensions. However, there is so much more to how the spine moves and what forces influence the spine. Understanding and seeing movement mechanics is necessary for guiding, cueing and training clients.
Biomechanical language can be very complex. I call it doing the math. How does this information translate when there is a person moving in front of you? That body has its own unique movement patterning or habits. And it begins moving from its own alignment, not the biomechanical model that describes movement occurring from the ideal joint alignment. If your person is in flexion, how are they able to achieve the movement of flexion? They are already there. Or how about the person who has a significant spiral pattern in their body? They will always prefer to move into their spiral of ease. Thus, the training affect may be limited.
What is a teacher to do? There are a number of approaches to help train a person functionally while assisting a change in their structure through movement. The apparatus environment can be organized in a way that enables the client to move in a different way automatically, meaning they have no other choice but to move into the direction that is not their normal way. In the Pilates environment we have many pieces of apparatus plus many small props.
We need to take a step back and understand basic knowledge of movement mechanics: how the joints move, what the bone motions are, identify the tensions in the body, figure out what is restricted them? Seeing movement is more than “the shoulder is high” or “the pelvis is moving during a leg circle”. It is noticing the femoral head and its relationship to the pelvis and the foot. What movement environment will enable the femoral head to change its motion? What else in the body is affecting the hip?
Here is a nugget is to think about: the femur can move relative to the pelvis (leg circle) and the pelvis moves relative to the femur (bridges). Try this sequencing: side lying leg work with the precise movement occurring in the hip joint (medial glide) without the help of the ilium or spine. Then change the environment from lying down to standing (side splits on the Reformer) and in quadruped position (cat on the chair or push through bar). Carefully, watch and guide the hip joint to move properly.
One catch: if there is a restriction in their foot. If walking with the restricted foot the hip issue most likely will return. Having the skill set of understanding the influences of the periphery, the environment and the structure and function of the person – not the ideal – will make your efforts clearer, interesting and more effective for the client.
Only knowing, sensing and seeing how the body is designed to move and how the person in front of you created their own design will enable you to affect the greatest change.
Madeline will be teaching an intensive pre-conference workshop called “The Spine by Design” at Balanced Body’s 100th Pilates on Tour conference in New Orleans this July. Learn more here.