Forward Equals Backwards Series #3

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

Forward Equals Backwards and You Own It: Balance and Coordination

By featured Guest Writer Diana Bailey

The Popular Equipment: Easy to Learn and Portable

The number one balance challenge in this studio, based on ease of learning, is the foam roller. The variety and unique core strength challenge this auxiliary piece offers are of the highest caliber. The roller offers work that can be both engaging, and in light of the diverse skills needed, astonishingly difficult to master. It is easy to see why clients love it.

The BOSU lessons are more devious because balance is challenged in all directions at once; Up and down, side to side, front to back, and rotation. It can be used seated, prone, supine, kneeling or standing. It is more difficult to stand on it without shoes, and when it is less inflated. The safety issues are nominal, but this does require a higher degree of core stability than the roller. To get the best training, the directive is to consciously disturb the balance—and if lost, work to recover–rather than attempt to hold stillness.

Comparatively, on a danger scale of 1-10, the roller is a 2, and the BOSU can be up to a 5. For the sake of perspective, aerial dance, climbing, or slack line work can be a 10. The best training for the most people takes place in the 1-5 range: Nominal safety issues with great mental/physical difficulty. The floor is a piece of cake after standing on a foam roller or a BOSU!

The bonus of both pieces is that, after a few simple instructions, they teach self-regulation and correction by speaking directly to the part of the mind that governs motion. Poor alignment choices or missed timing result in a restart with improved chances of success. Unlike a treadmill or stationary bike, these offer no surface for clothing to hang on or cover. They lurk in the corner, always in view, inviting use.

The roller and BOSU are a fun way to learn about and improve the following:

1. Core stability and flexibility
2. Balance and Coordination
3. Arm and Leg freedom
4. Breathing and relaxation in motion
5. Mental focus and stillness
6. Posture—especially head, neck & shoulders
7. Hunching or swayed back
8. Stiff shoulders
9. Deep abdominal strength
10. Spatial reflexes—knowing how to “land on your feet”.

In this region of the US, ice is a major cause of injuries. Clients have commented on the difference even a few sessions of training have made in their responses to a sudden, uncontrolled loss of footing. Skiers notice improved awareness of weight shift and greater control. The compass that keeps us responsive to challenging moments becomes more internal as balance and coordination improve. The applications range from developing the confidence and stability to walk easily down a set of stairs without the need for a hand rail, to improving the layout portion of a back flip in a gymnastic routine.

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.