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 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 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.

7 Tips for Stress Relief at the Office

GenOffice stress is hard on our bodies. Deep in a project, we’ll sit with poor posture, have our computers at the wrong height or angle, and generally do not pay attention to our body’s needs. Here are seven of my favorite stress relief remedies for our hectic office lives.

1. Improve Your Seated Posture

Poor posture can add to your fatigue, inhibit breathing, and create chronic pain patterns. I know.  I’ve spent several decades rehabilitating from injuries and can undo a pain free day with a few hours of poor posture or shallow breathing. Old neck injuries from car accidents in my 20’s are getting worse with age and simply maintaining proper head position can make a big difference in my upper and middle back pain. Check your posture while working at your computer or looking down at paper work.

  •  Be careful about leaning forward in your chair.
  •  Lean back into your chair.
  • Use lumbar support whenever possible.
  •  Place your head in alignment often.
  •  Keep your legs at a right angle.
  • Uncross your legs now and always.  Crossing our legs twists the pelvis causing misalignments all the way up the spine.
  • If possible, allow your chin to be level (parallel) to the floor.

2. Release Low Back Tension

  • Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the floor hip or shoulder width apart. Avoid crossing your ankles or knees.
  • Reach 1 knee forward allowing your hip to move forward and then release.  I call this “seated hip-swish.”
  • Reach the opposite knee forward and release and continue this back and forth motion of your hips allowing your knees to scissor, 10 to 15 times.
  • Use a back pillow or any kind of lumbar support while working at the computer.

3. Breathe

Focusing on your breath is a simple and quick way to become centered, calm and increase your energy.

  • Slow your breathing down.
  • Lengthen your exhalation.
  • Learn Balanced breathing techniques  with or without meditation.
  • Practice Pranayama (Yogic breathing techniques).

4. Hydrate   overflowing glass of water

Even the smallest amount of dehydration can cause fatigue. Dehydration can also be a contributing factor to back pain.   I can’t emphasize strongly enough the importance to our overall health and vitality hydration plays. Even one day of dehydration can throw the body into imbalance. Try to drink 8-10  8-ounce glasses of water a day.  At the first sign of back pain, immediately drink a glass or two of water.

5. Stop and Stretch

Stop what you’re doing and stretch for 5-8 minutes. And breathe!  It will relieve tension, and help bring your awareness back to your body.

  • Neck stretches
  • Neck Rolls
  • Shoulder Rolls
  • Arms Stretches with Rotation
  • Triceps Stretch

6. Get Up and Walk!

Even a quick 2 minute walk can change your state and provide stress relief! Set a timer or your  phone, and give yourself a 2-5 minute break at least every hour, preferably every ½ hour.

7. Practice Gratitude

  • Think about something you’re grateful for.
  • Give thanks for family and friends.
  • Make a short gratitude list and look at it when you feel anxious, overwhelmed or stressed.

 

Pilates benefits for Cyclists

Pilates for Cyclists: Beyond Basic Bicycle Training

Several of my Tucson clients who are cycling enthusiasts have asked that I write a post that specifically addresses why Pilates is so beneficial for cyclists. Realizing that dedicated cyclists already commit to extensive bicycle training, here I’m highlighting benefits which not only help cycling performance, but also can help prevent cycling injuries.

Benefits of Pilates for Cyclists
  • A regular Pilates practice  increases core awareness and strengthening , enabling greater ease with positioning.  Much time is spent in a forward hinge when riding,  and knowing how to find and maintain a hinge without over using your back muscles is tremendously beneficial.
  • Proper  and specific  breathing techniques  provide additional support when climbing hills.
  • Cyclists gain greater “lat awareness” (keeping the lats engaged and drawing them down ), which helps maintain proper bike posture and keeps tension out the neck.
  • A Pilates practice  focuses on whole body movement and creates even muscle development, a huge benefit as cycling focuses on the larger muscle groups.
  • Pilates practice creates awareness of internal muscles not generally addressed in bicycle training, improving strength development and  safe use of the joints.

I encourage cyclists, runners, and all athletes – to incorporate  Pilates  into their training. Each sport practitioner benefits in unique ways, but commonalities include greater balance, strength and flexibility, as well as injury prevention.

Try a beginning Mat class or an Equipment  class to see the difference. Even the most fit cyclists discover muscles that they didn’t know they had after just a few sessions.

Keep moving!

Geneviève

 

 

 

 

The Pilates Method and Concentration

GenNedder_headshotbluetop“The first thing you’ll learn, doing the Pilates Method, is that the position and movement of every part of your body is interrelated and important. When you’re walking, how you place your foot both influences and is affected by the way you hold your head.

Concentrating on your whole body at once as it performs complicated movements is a formidable challenge, but it is a skill that will come to you, a step at a time, as you pursue the Pilates Method”.

An excerpt from: The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning.

How do you narrow your focus and deepen your concentration during your Pilates sessions or any mindfulness  practices? I begin with my breath and consciously placing my focus on a specific area of my body.

– Geneviève