A Thought is Movement, Paul Rohrer

Greetings from 6200 feet. It is a great privilege to write for those who recognize the importance of movement. The very word defines change. A thought is movement. Movement of electrical impulses in the brain, referred to as synapses, which trigger ideas, thoughts and action. Action is what I am taking at this very moment. Writing the first (in what I hope are many) shared blogs with Genevieve. The most remarkable pillar of the Pilates “movement” I have ever met. Excuse me while I digress a moment to expound.

I met Geneviève years ago in Denver as an actress and a darned good one at that! As we got to know one another, I was able to let her know that as an extreme athlete in my youth, I had practically destroyed every major joint and their function in my body. Surgery was unavoidable for my knees and lower back but I was not about to let surgeons cut into my shoulders which I had torn some 20 years earlier. I was quickly gaining weight, losing mobility and in constant pain. Geneviève in her patient, caring and always supportive gentility, allowed me to discover the miraculous alternative to regaining mobility, strength and above all. . . HOPE! I know that is why each and every one of you reading this, love Genevieve. I mean, look at her! She still looks as young, vibrant and beautiful as the day I met her!

Thank you for taking that divergence with me.

Genevieve’s thoughtful and powerful introduction of how I would no longer need to POUND and JOLT and FORCE my ailing body into submission, rather through gentle stretching and simple motions, I could once again regain everything I need to feel better, look better and do better! All it would take (like anything worth much) is commitment, patience and a passion to CHANGE.

A blog entitled “Changing Through Movement” may then, by definition, be considered redundant. (Written in the department of redundancy department.) But that is why I love the title so much. We apply what we learn best through repetition. One thought of what you want to remember, means you will usually forget. One abdominal crunch . . . one look . . . one . . . “One is the loneliest number. . . ” But again I digress. The point I wanted to make before I so rudely interrupted myself, is that in our “microwave society” we want everything now. Great looking bodies, strong rapid-acting minds, mature, healthy and polite children (even though they were born last week and just pooped with a loud fart in their diaper) what the heck, they feel better! But the fact is, most pharmaceuticals are about as helpful as that diet soda and as is whatever excuse we use to be “right” instead of healthy, happy, loving and alive.

In these posts, I look forward to getting to know all of you better, as you are now somewhat aware of my sick, demented sense of humor – that like aging, we must all adopt or forever become cynical, depressed, anxious blobs of disgusting worthlessness bickering about why our lives are so bad, when we have the POWER to CHANGE, to MOVE, to love, live and laugh. Now stand up. Breathe deep and laugh. It’ll do ya good.

Sincerely,
Paul

paul--guest-writer

 

Mistakes, magic and success

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

By Diana Bailey
“A mistake is simply another way of
doing things.” Katharine Graham
Keep in mind that to give yourself permission to “not know” is a great gift.

Everyone loves the crystal ball.  A decision to suspend knowing makes space for magic.

Mistakes could be categorized as the process of learning what works for you, and what does not. The best way to find out is: Do it and see what happens! There are many professions called a “practice” because that’s what they are. The practice of learning, refining, teaching and coaching movement is no different. The key is not only practice, but what is learned from the practice.
People continually suffer from the idea that they “should have known” about something before experiencing it. That’s a great way to never live life at all. If you knew it was a mistake going in, of course you would’ve done something different! So, making an error doesn’t matter, but how often the same mistake is repeated certainly does.

Fear of criticism

First, fear of the criticism or blame that can surface when a mistake is made, especially if it’s happened before, can become confused with genuine danger to existence. So, we freeze or stay silent. Real solutions elude us, and progress stagnates. Inevitably, this reaction to a dilemma sets the stage for a rerun. The vital sense of engagement in life, including opportunities to make valuable contributions and truly share your talents, actually fades when fear starts making all the decisions.

Regrets

Regrets are interpretations of the past that cripple people in the present. The admonishment of “don’t screw it up this time” is a misunderstanding of the primary lesson of any mistake: To learn about yourself through a challenge rather than to control an outcome. The willingness to jump in and try again with a better approach ultimately determines more successful results than any other action. This willingness is a quality that great leaders share.

Consistency yields success

Consistency fosters an appreciation for the ebb and flow with all things. The lesson moves from head to heart when it is realized that no error determines someone’s value as a human being. Come rain or shine, plus or minus, praise or blame, proxy or default, success in any endeavor in showing up and doing what is necessary on that day and in that moment.
The study of movement, and progress in any fitness program for that matter, is simply refining the practice of working with each other and yourself. Getting out of your own way is to cultivate the habit of equal regard for both yourself and others. This is a triumph in any given circumstance.

The moment of truth after a mistake comes with the choice about what to do next…every time. It is summarized in three words: Do, Learn, Practice.

Previously Published April 2013

The Body as Teacher: What I’ve Learned Beyond the Power of Pilates

The human body is a terrific teacher; a miraculous, complex multi-layered marvel that most of us know very little about. In our Western world that spends so much time focused externally on the material world and identified with the mind, it’s important to consistently stop , find moments of stillness and quiet, and trust the body’s intuition and wisdom. Personally, I do this through daily meditation practice and by consistently moving my body in ways that allow for me to be more fully present with my breath and in my body.

I’m continually reminded that simply “thinking things through” or strong determination can force an outcome; however, it might not be the wisest one.  In fact, from a spiritual perspective, thinking it through and making things happen by sheer will are the least effective ways to encourage healing and nourish transformation.

Although I’m over twenty years into the practice of Pilates, and recognize the numerous benefits of Pilates, I continue to be most inspired by the body’s ability to change and heal, and transform.

My own transformation through movement and passion for mind/body medicine informs my teaching as well as the way I live and move in the world. It gives me great pleasure to share this with hundreds of clients, students and fellow Pilates instructors, whether individually, in small groups or in retreat settings.

It’s inspiring and rewarding to see clients empowered, confident and awakened to the experience of vibrant health  as they experience the external changes of  better posture, flexibility, a strong core, improved balance, defined muscles and increased grace of movement.  On a deeper level, the benefits of relaxation and sound sleep help to decrease anxiety and stress, promoting an overall feeling of ease and calm.

A piece of movement or a moment in time, even, continuous, connected to our breath, centered in our body, is a beautiful thing, and a profound way to experience our natural and creative selves.

Part Five of Five of the article: “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Geneviève Nedder.

The Foundation of a New Life Path in Pilates and Movement

A passion for learning more, understanding more deeply, drove me. In 1996, I met Ron Fletcher, a master teacher of body contrology, a master teacher of movement and dance for over fifty years. He came to the work after his own injuries while working as a professional dancer. His unique style of incorporating modern dance technique, percussive breathing (focused breathing using sound and rhythm) with the core of Joseph Pilates’ teachings, spoke to the artist and dancer still thriving within me. Of course, I related to his healing journey and charismatic teaching style as well. It felt only natural for me to apply to his company and training program. For the next decade, my life followed an energizing, focused path of national workshops, seminars and conferences with Ron Fletcher and his master teachers.

In 1998 I opened my first Pilates studio in Denver’s Capitol Hill. With much help and physical labor from my husband Robert, we converted first an apartment and later a condo into a small, private Pilates studio. I had the pleasure during those years to work with many athletes, actors and dancers in Denver community, and loved it!

After much thought, prayer and meditation, I decided in 2000 to move home to Tucson, Arizona and open a Pilates and Movement studio here. I had been away for school, work and “life” a long time and wanted to be closer to my parents. Modeled on the amazing instruction I’d experienced, my approach was to offer customized programs and personal attention focused on the whole person. Today, my Tucson Pilates studio still offers this same environment. I’ve added Movement and Wellness seminars; small group classes from beginning level up to those suitable for instructors, and frequently present off-site workshops, as well. It has been and continues to be incredibly rewarding. I am grateful to my loyal clients, family and the Tucson community.

As for my own health, Pilates healed my back, arm and neck, but I continue to suffer from TMJ “lock jaw,” headaches and ongoing upper back pain. The TMJ specialist I work with guides me with gentle jaw exercises, an appliance and joint injections to decrease inflammation and increase range of motion. Each time we meet, I  remain hopeful about my body’s ability to heal and repair.

I share this because it’s important for us to remember that the healing journey is ongoing. It’s a test of patience, discipline and the practice of acceptance.  Staying in the present and practicing present moment awareness is a tremendous help.  I remind myself constantly that healing is not linear and that it is a process, and as I encourage others to be gentle with themselves, I try to give myself the same gift.

 

Part Four of Five of the article: “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Geneviève Nedder.

The Healing Path of Pilates

Before surgery, the physiatrist recommended  Pilates as one way to help prepare for surgery.  He recommended Amy Anderson (A Living Art Centre), who specialized in Pilates rehabilitation. I’m forever grateful to Amy for introducing me to Pilates and setting me on the path of my healing journey.

I walked into Amy’s studio, looking around the small room filled with strange balls, barrels, beds and other odd-looking equipment. We spent the first several hours together “learning to breathe” and with her gently guiding me through the practice of simply lifting and lowering my arms. Next sessions focused on turning my head slowly from side to side, more breathing and more engaging of abdominal muscles.

Within sixteen sessions and four months, I’d show up to Pilates rehab sessions without a neck or back brace. I had more feeling in my hand and fingers than in years. In a few short months, Amy helped me build mobility, have less pain and most importantly, begin to reclaim my body.

I was elated. Something other than surgery worked and I was making it happen! Re-energized and re-focused, I continued Pilates rehabilitation and moved on to Pilates conditioning for well over a year. In Boulder, I entered a pre-pilates training program at the Pilates Center (Amy Alpers and Rachel Segal), and continued to be impressed with the results and newfound body awareness.

During my year at the Pilates Center, my low back pain disappeared completely. The Pilates regimen prevented the need for surgery. I was realizing the body’s ability to heal, how to recognize and listen to its wisdom, allowing the universe of information and energy to flow. I came to believe firmly in the transformation that can come when we allow the body’s natural healing process to occur and make the time and space to truly listen to our bodies.

Part Three of Five of the article: “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Geneviève Nedder.

The Best Laid Plans: The Life-Plan Derailed

The life I’d planned out carefully now seemed unattainable. I couldn’t exercise, dance, act, direct. Some days I couldn’t even drive a car. Forced to be sedentary, depression crept in, combining with constant pain to make even part-time work an endurance contest. I was thankful just to push through a day and even more so to sleep through a night.

The accident threatened to completely derail the reason I’d moved to Denver, a directing internship with the National Theater Conservatory, an acting school at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. I’d planned to build on my undergraduate studies in acting, and directing, to use the internship as a stepping-stone to a graduate directing program. That life-plan brought me to Denver.

Determined to find pain relief and continue to pursue my dream, I tried every traditional approach, including, physical therapy three times a week, and  steroid injections from a physiatrist. I also pursued non-traditional and holistic therapies  chiropractic treatment, weekly massage therapy,  and acupuncture.  I wouldn’t be satisfied with just a magic bullet, I wanted a sense of normalcy.

Because of nerve compression from the neck injury, I had very little feeling in my  left hand and fingers, and frequent tingling and burning.  Often I couldn’t pick up so much as a glass of water  without dropping it. Many glasses and dishes were broken during those first few years of healing.

The medical recommendations were overwhelming. The neurologist: pain medication and a back surgery to relieve constant low back pain. Plus, a rib resection to alleviate nerve compression. TMJ specialists: jaw surgery on my right temporomandibular joint. The physiatrist injected steroids and encouraged continued physical therapy.

It’s almost comical now when I look back at the array of appliances and props. A neck brace to drive and really, just move around, a bite-like retainer for my TMJ, a lower back brace to help with the pain and special pillows and medications to sleep.

Finally, in the fall of 1995, I gave in and decided to take the path of surgery. The first: rib resection in hopes of decreasing neck pain and possibly regain the use of my  left hand and fingers.

Part Two from the article, “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Genevieve Nedder.

An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformation

Imagine waiting for the light to change, top-down on your convertible, and singing along with the radio on a gorgeous Tucson day. Something makes you look over, and you see a large construction truck coming at you nearly head-on. You’re blocked in by other cars and can’t avoid the collision.

That happened to me in 1992. It was frightening to see that truck turning toward my driver’s side door and knowing I couldn’t escape. There I sat, completely exposed, and instinctively, I grabbed the rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror (given to me by my grandfather, Giddee Paul, years ago) and began praying for safety, protection. The next thing I remember, blurry and dreamlike, was policemen and paramedics surrounding me, and then I passed out.

That accident happened just two months before my graduation from UofA, leaving me with a long list of injuries: a herniated disc in my lower back, whiplash, severe increase in TMJ issues, chronic upper back and neck pain and terrible headaches. A professional actor and director, I had moved and danced my whole life, but now it was as though my body was betraying me. I’d request movement from it, and my body simply couldn’t do what I asked without causing pain. If it hadn’t been for chiropractic treatments and weekly massage therapy, I probably would have been flat on my back. The regimen gave temporary relief, but I essentially lived in constant pain.

Fast forward one year. A four-way stop in Denver, Colorado on a snowy February day. I’m hit again. A pick-up truck slides through a 4-way stop and  plows into the passenger side of my car, causing me to slide on the icy road and spin head-on into a tree. Once again, I struggled to focus through the noise of officers and paramedics, but blacked out.

When I finally awakened in a hospital bed, a doctor and a policeman insisted that I was “one lucky lady.” I didn’t feel lucky at all. I felt scared, aching and disconnected from a body I’d always counted on, but one becoming more unfamiliar with each passing moment. I now had a litany of injuries: fractured cervical vertebrae at C 3-4, C 5-6, a dislocated rib and a shoulder injury, My TMJ problems intensified as did low back pain. At 25 years old, I felt completely debilitated.

Part One of Five of the article: “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Geneviève Nedder.

Leadership – valuing mistakes

 

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

By Diana Bailey

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes,
smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”
-John Maxwell

We, as a culture or a corporation, don’t teach people to value their mistakes. The focus is placed on success rather than the learning process that achieves it.

Disdain and criticism are common responses to an error. The overall message is that mistakes are bad, disliked, wrong or stupid, and people who make them are too. That’s not much of a value since it absolutely flies in the face of reliable, objective experience from some of the most accomplished and successful people on this earth.

Hundreds of life stories acknowledge one simple reality:The final outcome in a situation is predicted by the response to the mistake over the mistake itself. Mistakes are a place to begin. Admitting one is a great start. Realizing how to use the lesson is a turning point. Acting on that insight begins with the courage to see rather than look.

“Mistakes are always forgivable,
if one has the courage to admit them.”
– Bruce Lee

Keep in mind that the ability to acknowledge an error by saying, “I was wrong” neither absolves someone else of wrongdoing nor concedes any degree of “rightness” to their actions. To admit that you did something that did not work out the way you thought it would acknowledges your decision about only your personal words and actions. That is the essence of both accountability and responsibility. Conversely, to say “You are right” means you agree with the actions, words, and decisions of another. Be aware of this distinction.
“People may forget what you did,
but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou

Right and wrong are not a teeter totter defining the balance of power or superiority in a situation, although this often appears to occur. People will go through astonishing contortions to claim the supposed righteous moral high ground, and feed the implied message because of the deep seated human desire to be valued and appreciated by others. Watch closely and notice how good and bad get piled on top to question belonging, community, teamwork, or friendship while like and dislike wrap it all up in a box to avoid further review by anyone.

This approach is lacking a critical reality check:
Respect and trust cannot be assigned, only given and earned.
Problems get solved more often when people are safe to express ideas. Being “right” does nothing to inspire learning or build creative problem solving skills because it directs the focus away from ideas. Giving your self permission to play or experiment, without necessarily deciding on the immediate value, builds confidence and invites others to engage their own ideas. The cumulative results of this approach are reflected in progress, potential, and solution.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
– Scott Adams

The person who listens, respects, acknowledges and attends to the issue rather than attempting to categorize anyone,including themselves, attracts solutions like a magnet. Leaving space for a situation to unfold or a direction to be revised is the art of life.

 Mistakes happen even in the best of situations. So expect them, accept them, and do something to fix ’em!

Real leadership knows that setting a course means decisions have to be made according to what works rather than individual likes or personal popularity. There is so much that defines what it is to be human that mistakes must come with the territory. Responsible leaders  admit it, accept it, and move on. No more and no less.

 

 

Taking it to the next level: The Wundas of Pilates Chair

So first things first: I am not an exercise fanatic. You will not find me at the local gym 5x a week, churning out cardio, lifting a multitude of weights or pushing the squats (as much as I fantasize about regaining my 30-year old backside, reality is…). That said, I’m “into” the Pilates Chair; specifically, the Pilates Chair Quartet class I’ve been taking at Body Fundamentals here in Tucson.

It started with exploring an alternative to the monotony of guilting myself into a gym workout a couple of times each week with limited results. I’m a marketing writer, which means a lot of sitting in front of a computer. Not conducive to fitness or flexibility. I’d done some Pilates in Seattle several years before and knew I’d enjoyed the variety and the class camaraderie. Over coffee one day, Geneviève Nedder suggested I try the Beginning class she’d recently developed and launched at the studio.

After only a few sessions, I remembered why I’d enjoyed Pilates so much. I felt so good after each session. Because there are only 4 of us in the class, Stevie (the instructor) could easily correct our form or suggest alternative moves to accommodate a bad knee or ankle, back injury or the like. Within weeks, I could see the definition in my arms, my hips were narrowing (!) and I was feeling more optimistic about anti-gravity effects than I had in years!

I’ve since moved to the Beginning / Continuing class for more challenging, faster paced work on the Wunda Chair (Intermediate is really fast and more suitable for those who are teacher level). I’m challenged in each class because every workout is different. Each movement and progression hits different areas, so you can’t “zone out” but need to remain very “in the moment” to complete successfully. That’s a great benefit of Pilates too, it makes me slow down and focus. I can’t think about what’s next on my to-do list or project deadlines. I have to breathe and pay attention in order to move properly.

I’ve committed to a weekly Beginning / Continuing Pilates Chair Quartet class and recently added a semi-private Pilates session to the mix. The visible results include a narrowing waist, more defined arms, and tighter glutes. Plus, I’m more flexible and have better posture. My most exciting achievement to-date? The Pike! I think of it as kind of an inverted push up. Very challenging, I feel really strong each time the bar rises a little higher.

Yes, I still (try) to work in straight-up cardio a few times a week with either a round on the elliptical, a walk or a bike ride, too, but Pilates has become my gift to myself, my health… and my anti-gravity efforts!

nora haileNora Haile runs her own marketing writing and communications support firm, nhaile communications, providing writing and online marketing support services to small to mid-sized businesses in Arizona and the Pacific Northwest.

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.