In the first installment of this 2-segment series on Whole-Person Progress, the discussion centered around the Body segment of mind/body/spirit conditioning. The physical part of performing a more advanced exercise is not the only piece to consider. The Mind and Spirit both need to be taken into account as well. Spirit can be interpreted in different ways. Let’s take a look at how Spirit effects the learning of a more advanced exercise.
- Is the student in a good or not so good frame of Mind? People who have had a bad night’s sleep the night before, or who have fought with their spouse, had a bad day at work or is just out-of-sorts that day probably shouldn’t be learning a new, more challenging, with a more significant potential for injury if done improperly, exercise in that session.
- How fearful is the student? Retaking Snake and Twist as an example, a student who is afraid to put their feet on the foot bar and their hands on the shoulder blocks, facing down into the carriage and springs, is going to have a harder time learning this exercise without overcoming their fear first. Has this student been taught the basics of the exercise on the floor first, has the student tried just holding the set-up of this exercise with all springs loaded and not moving, has the student mastered Long Stretch and Leg Pull Front Facing? These tactics build confidence and work to dispel fear. The way to dispel fear is to build confidence from the ground up:
teach the exercise from the floor, master a preliminary exercise that has components of the advanced exercise, master the set up without moving.
- Does the student breathe properly? Breath is such an important part of advancement into the more challenging exercises. If the student is a breath holder, they will not have the power of the exhale to bring the carriage home in Snake and Twist and will have a difficult time overcoming this.
The final piece of a whole-person approach to progression is the Mind. Joseph Pilates was very adamant that it was the Mind that controlled the body, not the other way around.
- Does the student listen well? And are they listening well that day? There is a vast difference between “hearing” a cue and “listening to” a cue. Listening requires the student to be absolutely present during that moment and be able to process the cues that the teacher is giving them. If a student is listening to their own internal dialog (I call this listening to the monkeys in their head) rather than what the teacher is trying to convey, they are not going to be able to process the step by step directions needed to perform more challenging exercises.
- Can the student maintain focus and keep their body mentally organized, with all necessary connections, following all directions, well enough to perform more strenuous exercises? There are many times when a student has said to me, “You want me to do all that at the same time?” Again, taking Snake and Twist as an example, a student must be able to listen and process multiple step cues, maintain a centerline, have a strong and stable Powerhouse, keep their Scapular Connection, and breathe properly. A student who loses focus in more advanced exercises is going to risk injury.
The Pilates Method of Exercise can be a very effective tool for maintaining a healthy, well-balanced life. The exercises and equipment are so well-thought-out and make so much sense for anybody. It is fun, challenging, and utterly addictive. As Mr. Pilates says, “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.” He also said, “Remember, too, that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Patience and Persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.”
I believe that Intelligent Progression is also an important quality in the success of the worthwhile endeavor of learning Contrology.