Forward Equals Backwards Series #4

 

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

By Diana Bailey

A Simple Coordination Exercise to Enhance Postural Balance

People fall forward into space primarily because forward is the direction of habit. Studio experience reveals that most of us have very little idea how to communicate with muscles to change our own habits of motion. Posture, balance, and coordination all suffer from inefficient, repetitive usage and poor alignment. The result is often painful, and even damaging to the places that allow movement: the joints. Knee, hip, back, and shoulder surgeries have become common at a much earlier life stage.

Walking postural alignment can be more easily understood and naturally improved if the focus is to reverse the motion. When forwards equals backwards, you own it.
Try this simple exercise:

• Walk five steps forward and five steps backward.
• Repeat it for about 3 minutes.

The only goal, especially in the beginning, is to do it until there is no perceptible shift forward or backward in the spine or the head when the direction changes. Walking backwards helps the body to remember hip extension, and spinal length; that means people can easily and accurately stand up taller when they walk backward. Over time, this exercise calls attention, via cueing from the teacher or a partner, to the depth and ease of the breath, the placement of the feet, the swing (or immobility) of the arms, the movement of the shoulder blades, and finally, the carriage of the head.

How does it accomplish all that? The exercise invites the brain to compare sensations to direct the learning. This is the simple rule of the mind to foster the connection necessary for the development of coordination. The part of the brain that develops physical dexterity does not learn from words alone. It learns from comparing sensation and accurate directions (brain bridges) about the sensations, rather than external judgments or corrections that often fail to center attention on the feel of the body in motion.

The role of the teacher is to engage and inspire the student to investigate this aspect of equal and opposite as it applies to their body. This develops remarkably precise individual self-correction by connecting personal awareness to physical sensation. Demonstration to inspire or create a working example is useful so long as the mindset remains on individual improvements and abilities.

Effective teaching of balance and coordination shapes the thoughts to focus inside, and learn from what is felt. The application to life is graceful self-carriage evidenced by the ability to accurately respond in the transition from one physical challenge to another.

 

 

Forward Equals Backwards Series #2

 

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

By  Guest Writer Diana Bailey

The Guiding Principle: Consistent, Progressive Practice

Nobody builds a bridge over a big river in a day, and the same premise applies to the link between body and brain.

Balance and coordination require attentive repetition for gains to be realized. The question to keep in mind whenever approaching a new endeavor is:

Can I reverse this?

To move with efficient alignment and control carries greater value over the long-term than reactive or hurried half measures. The goal is not to complete some training exercise. It is to understand how it feels to do it. For example, sitting down is the backward part of standing up. If the body is allowed to flop into a chair, and push-off the arms to avoid the legwork of rising, trouble is on the way. Controlling the sit down will markedly improve the stand-up.

Toying with the idea of ending exactly where the movement began brings attention to support and control. It builds length, range, and economy of effort. While there may be times this is not possible, the ability to reverse a motion does more to build great body awareness than any other. It changes the intent, and redirects the mind from an incessant fascination with forward being equal to finished, mastered, or complete. Concentration on reversing builds accurate focus.

The quality of the transition dictates the state of arrival. The more seamless the transition, the more flow in the movement itself, and from one motion to another. This view changes the goal from end result to sensation and awareness. Once this key to improving balance and coordination has been turned, the body can find home in difficult circumstances. Venturing out does not mean getting lost because the agreement is to seek the center rather than finish. Fitness could be defined, after all, as the ability to “take up your space” in any direction with nimbleness and grace for as long as necessary.

At first, the body and mind must learn: How much of the self can be vitalized and recruited to retain balance? That means the activity may feel like a great deal of work.

Then, once the foundation of strength and alignment has been established, the lesson reverses: How little can I use to keep balance while concentrating on the coordination part of a challenge? Now the value of increments gains depth. It is discovered that time is part of balance; that little things become big; that everyone falls, and the real question is are you free to fall with awareness?; that relax does not mean fall apart; that letting go is for the grip of the mind.

Optimal balance and coordination invites focus, or one-pointed attention of the mind rather than detailed direction from it. The part of the brain that governs movement is distinct from the part that unravels language. Too much direction slows down learning and stifles responsive body usage. This training is a faith and letting go exercise for the brain.

It is curious or possibly even painful to discover at a critical moment that the mastery of a motion was assumed rather than actual. Reversing movements allows the connection to build with solid information about the entire process: that translates into flowing ease under “real time” pressure. The learning curve on this is individual, and the common denominator is practice. There is no substitute.

 

 

Forward Equals Backwards Series #1 Balance

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

By featured Guest Writer Diana Bailey
It is surprising to find that balance is more often explored and defined by how it is lost than how it is maintained. How do you figure out what something is when it is most often explained by what it isn’t?

In a perfect Pilates world, balance is the dynamic play between opposing forces that allows for responsive, unrestricted freedom of movement. Coordination is the ability to solve the balance puzzle that has been presented with nimbleness and grace. An example of this distinction using an activity would be: Balance is the ability to swim. Coordination is the number of different strokes you can use to swim. Both are amazingly improved with accurate practice.

The most helpful statement about balance and coordination training is that: If the challenge is both purposeful and achievable, the results are phenomenal. Consider how a baby evolves from rolling over, to sitting up, to standing, to cruising, to finally taking the few first steps without the support of furniture. There is never a moment of permanent futility, only repeated efforts to move within a graduated level of difficulty. The sum total of the work is a command over muscle and nervous system. From a child’s view, there was never a question of success or failure, good or bad balance, coordinated or uncoordinated gesture; only curiosity sparked by desire.

Basic Types of Balance Training

Results fuel enthusiasm! At first, balance training that challenges the body’s ongoing ability to adapt and respond while in motion carries great psychological value. Effort is rewarded with quick improvement. Playing with where and how to land while jumping or running is a great example of learning on the fly. This is part of the fun of trail running, stream crossings, dance and gymnastics. Momentum provides the opening to err completely and still possibly recover, or to reset and do it again. This is the essence of over exaggerating to teach: In this case, to build faster, more accurate communication between the brain and the body.

The more the body is allowed to self correct in a manner that builds physical awareness, the better the result.

The next step in the ladder of balance training is holding a single position, perhaps on one leg. This would be much like the childhood game of Freeze. Holding balance absent momentum may be frustrating for some because it actually takes a great deal more strength to hold still. Momentum provides the opportunity to “cheat”, or default to favorite habits of body usage. Devotees of Pilates, Yoga, Dance, and Martial Arts are often challenged with exercises that remove momentum in order to provide the opportunity for the brain to re-establish a conscious link with deep postural muscles. Efficient posture provides the frame for articulate body motion and use. Students discover the inherent value of this work when there is a sudden test. Awareness, and the physical skill to apply it, brings ease and grace to the response.

While genetic and overuse issues can be a factor, falls and resulting injuries are the number one reason for interrupted training, loss of fitness, and even loss of independence. Basic life moments, such as being able to put pants or socks on while standing, descending stairs, crossing icy  walkways, or climbing up and down a ladder, all speak to the need for balance and coordination. Including this type of work in daily life as well as your fitness program is easy with a few simple guidelines.

 

 

The Purpose of a Bind is to Discover There is no Bind.

Diana Bailey Essential Motion PilatesBy Guest Writer Diana Bailey
Part I

The deep “binding” stretches of Pilates and Yoga challenge body and mind to learn balance in their work together. Releasing chronically held tension takes the patience of repeated invitations and acceptance of the often minimal response. Dissolving the tension is the immediate goal, and certainly the most obvious one. Yet, the lesson goes deeper than bodily flexibility if the purpose is to discover no bind.

Each time physical tension is approached with respect and tolerance, it yields a bit. The realization may even occur that there’s nothing particularly wrong with being in a bind. This is often when the bind yields the most. One student described stretching as “The practice of being voluntarily stuck.” He was absolutely accurate! The process to gain lasting flexibility asks us to engage in the following work if the goal is no bind:

• still the mind in order to be attentive to the body
• feel for the release or change
• move purposefully into a link of breath
Repeated stretching underlies the discovery that the ingenuity to get in and out of a bind exists. You are not really stuck if you are learning. This is the study of increments. Flexibility builds in increments. It is remarkably helpful to use the guidance of a professional until the nature of stretching with respect for the body is clear.
The barrier of inflexibility is not broken, it is dissolved.

The body responds best to the approach of seeking ease by gently and consistently moving at the edge of ease rather than the edge of pain. A focused, quiet mind is willing to do without trying hard because it understands how critical this is to long-term success.

Flexibility is only a quest for the discovery of wiggle room, after all.

So What Shapes the Mind? – Part 2

Diana Bailey

 

Part two: Focus of Intent

 

Is it a great thing to learn to deal with discomfort? Yes! Because eventually you may discover that there are very few real emergencies in life and fitness training is not one of them. The acceptance of discomfort opens the door of physical possibility. It is not an end all, be all. Pushing too fast and too hard is the mistake of an inexperienced or un-attentive mind. Strength, endurance, power, and flexibility all build in increments. So do the mental reserves to productively govern the body’s building process. Staying fit and healthy is a marathon, not a sprint.

Some time-tested avenues to develop focus of intent for physical training, the second aspect of mental toughness, begin with the following three practices listed in order of priority:

• Calm, even, consistent breathing… It does not matter if it is fast or slow, percussive or silent; just equal out and in without being held. Holding the breath means you are overreaching or working too hard. Back off and quit building tension. Avoid injury. Breathe.

• Non-reactive thinking…that means to challenge yourself without judgment. There’s a big difference between doing something you later decide was stupid and thinking you are stupid because you did something that didn’t work. Give it a shot. So what if you lose balance or fail? Don’t buy in to somebody else either, there’s no comparison here. You will learn about your own edge by finding it, not by comparing it to someone else’s.

• Wholehearted doing without attachment to the result…that means to give it your all. Whatever that is on this day, you accept the outcome so as to be able to continue forward. If an injury has you on the sidelines, then have fun watching movies or researching a good health practitioner to help you. If it feels as though you can work harder than you planned, do that. Honor your purpose.

Achieve these three touchstones regardless of the circumstances in a given moment and you have a focus of intent. This is learning to respond rather than react. It is best to practice the first one (calm, even, consistent breathing) no matter what. Never, ever sacrifice the breath to achieve something. It is critical for staying healthy and grounded in the body’s wisdom. Trust your breath to show you your edge. If you can’t breathe in the way described above, you’re way past it. Add the other two as you can while preserving and maintaining an even breath.

Mental toughness knows mistakes happen, setbacks occur, problems can develop, and it embraces them all as part of a bigger perspective. Cling to nothing but what is right in front of you in this moment to do. Pay attention to what your body is telling you instead of ignoring it. Pain is nature’s way of letting you know something is wrong, not that you lack toughness, or that you will never get fit. Drop that mental bully and pick up the three touchstones instead. That boot camp class gets a lot more interesting if you are showing up with your three buddies in mind.

Training that works over the long-term becomes the evolution of desire and discipline in personal action. It is a gift to know your body well enough to challenge your individual comfort zone secure in the understanding of where there is the room to work and what is best left alone on this day. The gift of mental tenacity cannot be given. It is only earned with time, repeated effort, and attention to results.

 

So what Shapes the Mind -Part 1

Diana Bailey photo

“The mind shapes the body.” – Joseph Pilates

So What Shapes the Mind?
Part One: Clarity of Purposeimage of water, mountain and clouds

How does repeatedly pushing and beating up the physical body to the point of failure, injury, breakage, or loss prove anything other than perhaps a compulsive tendency of the mind? If you let the mind goad you into over training and abusing your body with the belief that enduring pain will somehow teach you to be tough, then you will certainly endure pain… and maybe you will get tough.

The body is often the first target for proving mental toughness. Yet, proving something is not the same as owning it. You’re not necessarily tougher than the next person because you suffered, pushed, or forced more than they did. What if there was a way to build mental tenacity without engaging in so much bullying and brute force? What if you had a way to possibly enjoy the doing instead of having to “gut it out”?

To care for the body as a loving, attentive parent would care for a young child is to acknowledge the spirit that resides within. Investing the time and effort to listen to your own needs and understand the reason you chose to do something pays big dividends. All worthwhile goals stem from this fundamental research.

A word of caution about clarity of purpose: Avoid the temptation to add, mix, or adopt the motives of others. This can bring less than stellar results because you just can’t change yourself for somebody else, not over the long-term. An example of adopting another’s motive would be deciding to take up running because your spouse noticed you’ve gained weight and suggested you run to lose it because that’s how they lost weight. Contrast this with deciding on your own to take up running because you want to feel better, increase your ability to recover from other activities, or have some fun with a friend. In the first part, you didn’t decide you needed to lose the weight. Someone else did. You just decided to run to stop being a target for their judgment. Not a motivation for great results because the motivation did not come from you. The second part is an example of decisions that are clear and personal. These are great motivators.

The most important part of shaping the course your training will take is choosing a purpose that truly inspires you.

This is the key. The mind does shape the body, and the spirit keeps it. Check in with yourself regularly. Authentic personal desire provides the wellspring for developing and refining clarity of purpose. This is the first step toward owning the gift of mental tenacity

 

 

“Peace can only be found in right now.”

Peace and bhudda…And What will that Bring You?
Sorting out the Story.

By Featured Guest Writer Diana Bailey

It takes practice to train the mind to let go and engage right now as real. Human beings spend a lot of time telling stories about reality rather than seeking to genuinely embrace

What is real? Living in the wreckage of an imagined future devastation, or getting stuck in events from the past, steals the present.

This widely cultivated habit of judging, speculating, criticizing and regretting that has taken most of us a lifetime to entrench and refine seems to be less about observation and more about summation. It is the pervasive belief that if we can just figure it all out, there will be peace. Ask yourself if this approach has ever actually brought you peace? Of course not! It is an axiom of life that problems do not get solved with the same thinking that created them.

Many of us enjoy and cling to the idea that everything has a place and a place for everything.
That’s true if you’re talking about a desk and office supplies. So naturally, we expand this to organization of the self. The mind wants to know in order to control and limit feelings of insecurity. If it’s all in a box or category, it has been decided. Forever! There is no chaos, no unpredictability, and no unknown. All the pictures get filed for instant recall and programmed with their companion behavior. Then we carry the script around for constant reference so we can react. The price paid for this “automated” approach to the world is huge. Underneath it all is the desire for connection and peace.

Addressing this fear of the unknown by endlessly fussing over how to place events in a personal scrapbook—already overflowing with a lifetime of judgment and speculation about our supposed relationship to everything—is overlooking one simple fact:

This action puts limits on life that life didn’t put there.

It steals the joy of discovery and drowns creativity. The blinders get so big it’s hard to see anything at all. Nothing is new or different or special or genuine or surprising or worth the risk anymore. Perpetuating a rut with this type of belief system is equivalent to living in a grave with both ends knocked out.

How can there be wholehearted engagement if the deeply held belief is that to define, categorize and dismiss– or to imagine, speculate and pretend– answers everything?

Peace can only be found in right now.
Life is rich in experiences, while material things come and go. The depth and richness of living comes with being willing to meet life on life’s terms rather than constantly attempting to get life to sign off on your contract.

 

This question of …”and what will that bring you?” …is a way to sort out what you truly desire from your current picture of reality. It provides the invitation to explore the difference between superficial wants, your deepest needs, and the purpose behind your actions. It is not just for deciding whether or not to buy a car, but that may be a great place to start using it.

Checking in with your self is the key. It keeps the dance of life alive without buying in to the ebb and flow of circumstance. The action that arises from genuine engagement of this sorting effort can, with time and practice, create an abiding outlook on the nature of it all.

Oh yeah, and there is peace….and what will that bring you?

 

Previously Published January 2013

Strength and power, are they the same?

Strength and power are often confused and have been used at times interchangeably in the world of exercise. It has been helpful for me to understand the differences and their role in “training” by pairing each with their balancing partner.

The partner of strength is flexibility. Strength is like a bridge. Flexibility is like a rubber band. Without flexibility, the body acts more as a static structure and the limitations on movement often result in injuries. Too much flexibility and the body can move beyond its natural capacity with injury again the result. The middle ground with this pair shows up in life as improved posture with more efficient, graceful motion. It just plain feels a lot better to move with freedom and confidence. This is what strength and flexibility have to offer when they are in harmony. In this pair, the fitness is relative to the dynamic balance between the two.

The partner for power is endurance. Basically speaking, power is being able to do something once, endurance is being able to do it again, and the mark of fitness here would be having the choice. A car that only has a gas pedal and no brake clearly has an issue with driveability. So it is with a body that has one of the pair substantially more available than the other. Too much endurance training and repetitive motion injuries occur. Too much power training and shock load injuries occur. What power and endurance offer when in harmony is performance.

The question is not “Do I love a Ferrari?” Of course I do. Performance is a seductive distraction. The question that supports long-term enjoyment of the car is am I willing and able to find the balance that works? That means to drive it like I want to keep my license.

 

Diana Bailey

Pilates & Movement: Learning Your Body’s Natural Language

Geneviève teaching in TucsonI’ve had the great pleasure to learn my body’s natural language over the more than twenty years of practicing and teaching Pilates and movement, the last 15 while running a small business in Tucson.

The human body is a terrific teacher. It is also a miraculous, complex mystery that most of us know very little about. In a world focused on external results and mind identification, it’s important to stop the mind, and find moments of stillness. Trust your body’s wisdom. “Thinking it through” or strong determination on their own cannot force this knowledge of wisdom from the body. It must be experienced through a connection to stillness and internal energy.

As I begin my 20th year of Pilates, I’m most inspired by the body’s ability to change and heal, thereby leading us to a transformation of some kind.

Our bodies are constantly healing and regenerating.

My own healing and transformation continues to inform my teaching and the way I move in the world. Learning through teaching is a gift. I have the honor of sharing this with students and teachers, individually, and in group and workshop settings.

The external changes, including improved flexibility, better posture, a strong core, defined muscles and moving gracefully, leave students feeling empowered, confident, happy and hopeful. They have a greater level of certainty about other types of exercise and their self-image in general.

A piece of movement, integrated, connected to breath, centered in the body, is a beautiful thing to see and a profound way to experience your creative and natural self.

Geneviève in Tucson studio teaching.Pilates, like many movement modalities, is taught in different ways from varying style perspectives. It’s important for students to find the style that works best for them and a teacher they feel comfortable with.  I believe that with strong technique, freedom follows. Being a passionate student of the piano and language, I compare learning the fundamentals of movement to learning the fundamentals of playing an instrument or learning a new language.

It’s a step by step, many-layered process. Layer upon layer upon layer.

When learning an instrument or language, including the “language” of movement, the fundamentals are essential. They lay the foundation for everything that comes afterwards

 

Keep breathing and moving!

Geneviève

 

 

An excerpt from The Unexpected Cure, an article by Geneviève Nedder, previously published October 29, 2012.

Tai Chi for pain relief Part 1

Sarkice Nedder Tai Chi at Body Fundamentals studio
 By Guest Writer Sarkice Nedder

Tired of the constant pain in your body?

” Do you wake up with your back aching, knee pain, muscle and joint pain?
Do you constantly rely on painkillers or ibuprofen and other NSAIDs for relief? Are you worried about the effect it has on your kidney and liver but you just cannot get through the day without somehow minimizing the pain? This is the story of so many of us; the young, the old, the active and the inactive of us. So what can we do? There is an answer that works for many of us but it takes some initial effort on our part.
For centuries Tai Chi has been promoted as a means for longevity and health. What most seem to ignore about Tai Chi is that it creates a natural elixir to relieve pain. Sure exercise helps relieve pain,- but that is not really all that Tai Chi is. It is different and maybe I can explain some simple differences.
It’s called internal energy “chi”.  The purposeful use of moving energy throughout the body in a painstakingly slow manner has miraculous effects. Maybe the word is not miraculous but what would you call it? If I wake up after a night of pain and can barely walk, with every step actuating the agony throughout my muscles and joints and then I do something very slowly called Tai Chi and thereafter, I have no pain and feel able to live the day without those NSAIDs and pain killers what would you call it?”
 
Tai Chi Group Classes with
 Sarkice Nedder

 Tuesdays, 7:00-8:00 am

4265 N. Camino Gacela  (Catalina Foothills, Tucson)

Cost: $18 per class

Private Sessions available

To register, contact
Sarkice  directly.
(520) 577-2422

[Tweet “If your dedicated it will take about a year to perfect the beginning use of the chi. I told you it would not be easy! But once learned it is simple and requires only dedication and consistency. Please note there are many styles of Tai Chi. I prefer the Wu style and the 108 moves of its long form. I prefer it because its emphasis is on energy development and small movement.” ]

“Live longer and happier pain-free.”
                               – Sarkice T. Nedder