By Tina Paul
Week Two: The Rhythm, Ebb and Flow
These days, I feel as though I am eating, sleeping and breathing Pilates. I’m preparing every day for my upcoming session, and during which I’m still feeling the effects of the last session. I calm myself and focus before I enter the studio, and once I’m there - that’s my therapy. Mr. Pilates referred to his method as the “ultimate control of body, mind and spirit.” And it is just that – so much focus must be applied to the rhythm that all else falls out of concern during that time frame. When I leave the studio, I leave consciously happier, more awake and more aware of my body; so much so that I find myself pulling in and up while I am driving, or even sitting at my desk.
I have learned over the past 3 years that Pilates never does get easier. I get stronger. I’ve gained strength slowly at Bodywise, but it’s through this intensive that I believe that I’m going to actually see results. Last week we took “before” shots. While it’s clear that I need a tan, what’s far more interesting is how I hold my arms, shoulders and hips. We are aware through past sessions that my ankles are weak due to running injuries and my left side in general is less strong and flexible (for reasons I do not understand). This lack of strength relates to difficultly in rotation of my hips in certain positions, or less ability to keep grounded. When this happens, my body tries to compensate for the lack of strength by bending at my wrists, for example. A very similar compensation happens in my right ankle when using the strap.
With more strength building every day, comes more knowledge of my body’s capability. I am a visual learner, and often need to see the exercise performed for me if I do not understand it. This week, Erin showed me how to properly do Horse on the Barrel. Though I’ve done Horse since I’ve started at Bodywise, it’s always been extremely difficult for me to fully access the position. Once Erin showed me, I tried again, and during my final attempt I felt as though I “got it.”
What I really think is going to supplement my goals of this intensive, however, is learning more of the “why’s” of Pilates, though I hear that sometimes that isn’t as important. In Pilates, everything is always turned on. You are constantly working your powerhouse and thus, your body. But Contrology is about more; it’s founding principles include breath, concentration, center, control, precision and flow. Understanding that I need to exhale when I return upwards from Rolling Like a Ball because it allows me to contract my abdominal muscles more allows me to gain more control over the exercise and ensures that I’m activating the correct muscles. Too easily can Pilates become passive; if I lose focus for one second, I’ve likely shifted off of the path to my goal.
On a couple occasions this past week, I had an “AH HA” moment! One of which was during Open Leg Rocker on Tuesday night’s mat class. I was very focused with my breath, powerhouse and the lifting of my sternum, and at the end of the exercise, I was beaming with excitement! I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t rocked off to the side of my mat (because I always end up crooked), or that I was still holding the exercise with such lift and flexibility! It amazes me that with a little bit of commitment, I can begin to achieve my goals quickly.
The moments when I feel accomplished carry me over to other days in which I’m not at my best. I’ve been in the studio a lot (for me) lately, and on Thursday my body was feeling fatigued. Some of the more advanced exercises that I was asked to complete seemed nearly impossible. On the Wunda Chair, I thought “you want me to hold this foot pedal up AND lift into a bridge position, WITHOUT putting any pressure on the pedal and while keeping my heels lifted?” But then I focus, get back into my core and I just do it.
I’m learning that my Pilates practice is about the ebb and flow. When I make a strained face during an exercise, I smile when I relax; and when it gets harder, I get stronger. But what doesn’t seem to change amazes me the most – I look forward to my Pilates sessions EVERY time, and I’ve never felt that about any other form of exercise! More time, more practice, more Pilates.