The Journey to Your Core through Pilates
If you know the difference between Pilates and yoga then you may consider them different for their spiritual and biomechanical aspects. Yet we know well that we can discover the spiritual journey in life at any time, it just depends on what resonates with you at that time in your life. It's all about connection. From my depression journey, Pilates was the first stage of recovery - I began to connect with me.
Awareness Creates Alignment
Joseph Pilates called it 'Contrology' and the principles in his book 'Return to Life' were based on a holistic and naturopathic approach to how we should live in the modern world. Pilates was my entry to mind-body living after my first shoulder dislocation.
I loved discovering the detail of movement and alignment. The control of my hypermobility and injury prone body. The physical awareness was something that I could bring to all my movements and general life. This translated to an awesome discipline for me. I became more controlled in my body and how it felt as muscular effort and bony alignment of the joints. This is a step towards awareness.
You can only awaken on the inner journey through becoming aware of what you do. From awareness, you can make the choice to change your actions and your life. My Pilates spiritual journey came through stages over a decade of dedicated practice.
Hidden depression is beneath awareness. It pretends you are happy with the satisfaction of the ego's desires. But repeated hip and shoulder demonstrated that I was not aligned. Shoulder issues showed my poor self-love and boundary setting. Hip injuries the forcing of my life's direction as a lawyer. Improving my postural habits was changing my mental awareness of my thoughts controlling my movements.
WHEN STANDING STILL STOP & CHECK IN WITH YOUR POSTURE - WHAT IS IT DOING? DO THE BONES STACK? ARE YOU MUSCLES EASILY SUPPORTING YOU WITH GENTLE STRENGTH? MONITOR YOUR POSTURAL SENSATIONS & HABITS
Focus on Your Body in Pilates
CONCENTRATION on what you are doing with your muscles in Pilates - both activation and coordination. This is a neuromuscular or mind-body connection as we call it. If you practice on Pilates equipment you will quickly notice that without focus the springs slam hard and you will fall off (and possibly hurt yourself). FOCUS is a must!
FOCUS on your body's actions brings you into your physical body. This is GROUNDING and important for becoming PRESENT to this life. When we run around in our heads there is a lack of connection to our physical body and presence on this Earth.
A depressed mind is a very over-active mind ruminating on rubbish thoughts and feelings. Pilates gives the mind something to focus on that is otherwise - what is your body doing? This distraction gave me energy as I drained myself less with negativity.
TRY IT: CONCENTRATE ON WHAT YOUR PHYSICAL BODY IS DOING NOT WHETHER IT IS PERFECT, RIGHT OR WRONG. JUDGMENT FREE: JUST WHAT IS IT DOING AND IS THAT AS YOUR MIND INSTRUCTED IT TO DO? IF NOT, GET THE TWO TO WORK TOGETHER.
The CORE Focus
The CORE is your command centre. All movements originate and come from this centre. You must understand the relationship of the limbs with this powerhouse or you quickly get into a tangle. We direct all movement from the core. It should be balanced as strong, supple, controlled and fluid. Responsive to all demands around us throughout our lives.
Life is the same - when you let the external world dictate your direction and purpose then you quickly unravel into someone you are not and health issues pursue you. If your core is too rigid then you will lack fluidity and ease in your life. You become less resilient and buoyant.
Recent studies show that the Gut is our command centre for intuition too, so it is our intuitive guide of what aligns for us. Good gut health is all the rage with kombucha on tap in some cafes for healthy gut flora. As with alignment to your inner Divine nature, it comes from the core of who you are directing your daily actions in this lifetime.
Depression had my core unstable. The ego was strong and a plank no challenge for 10 minutes, my outside was a success! After my accident during Brain Wave Treatment, we discovered that it was the preparation for the Pilates Rolling Like a Ball exercise (see left image) that transformed my FOCUS to my CORE. For at least 5 minutes a day, I held this core balance, focused my breath to be calm, shoulders relaxed and drew the core in. This calmed my brain waves and gave me more mental clarity.
FOCUS IS ABOUT TIME AND PATIENCE WITH CALM BREATH AND EXPANSIVE SENSATIONS. ROLLBACK OFF YOUR SIT BONES BALANCING ON YOUR TAILBONE. ROUND YOUR SPINE LIEK A BALL SHAPE PULLING THE NAVEL INTO SPINE. LIFT FEET OFF THE GROUND AND RELAX YOUR HANDS ON YOUR SHINS. TRY TO ROLL BACK OFF YOUR TAIL UNTIL YOU FEEL THAT YOU WILL FALL OVER. HOLD IT THERE BREATHING CALMLY WITH SOFT NECK & SHOULDERS ALL TENSION TO JUST BELOW THE NAVEL. HOW LONG CAN YOU HOLD IT FOR? TRY TO GET IT UP TO 2 MINUTES! •Do NOT do this exercise if you have lumbar or spinal issues
Flow and Fluidity in the Dance of Life
Pilates uses up to 10 repetitions of a movement series. These are not a fitness of 'reps' but to refine and perfect the flow and fluidity throughout the range of the movement. The goal is to move with efficiency and grace throughout all of the series of shapes. A benefit is that you burn the most calories with least risk of injury and looking at your most elegant!
Life is a balance of allowing yourself to flow. To choose the path of least resistance, the one where you can be graceful and allow your beauty to shine through. This gives you more energy for more joy.
I was controlling. I love order and colour-coding, but it was planning every moment of my life to fit in work, fitness, family and social life. I had no time or space for freedom. It was jam-packed. Rigidity in the schedule is the restriction of freedom and who you are. This translated into running to work where I would 'brace' my core as I undertook the high-impact movement rather than an easy or graceful bounce. The transitions in the full Pilates repertoire are the 'dead space' between the stars of the show and this was the key - what did I do at this time? Was there still grace, ease and control in the transition? Could I reside here and wait in this SPACE?
WHATEVER MOVEMENT YOU LOVE TO DO, BRING YOUR ATTENTION TO THE MOMENT IN BETWEEN THE SHAPES. CAN YOU RESIDE IN THERE? HOW DOES IT FEEL IN THE MOMENT WHERE THERE IS NO PURPOSE OR INTENTION?
Precise Movement = Intention of Your Life's Purpose
Particular muscles are discovered in Pilates. The movements are intended to target specific muscles. You meet parts of your body you never knew could work or hurt. This makes it difficult for many newbies who cannot see or feel what is intended with ease. More patience and perseverance are required! Cultivating patience and perseverence without rigidity is a balancing act.
Precision is also being fully present to the moment for all it contains. When you are present you are aware of all the precise elements that the moment contains within it. This richness is specific and you can become overwhelmed with all these elements.
Overwhelm in life can lead to indecision and a lack of clarity about what you want. You get lost and set goals that do not serve our inner Self. To live a purposeful life you must have clarity in our intention that aligns with your inner voice.
Depression is being lost. I lost my dreams of healing people and a life of love when I worked endless hours for the satisfaction of my mental abilities. I was lost in the next moment of intellectual pursuit. During my Pilates practice, I had peace, a purpose and intention for that period of time in the execution of my movements. Always aware that owning a retreat business and teaching Pilates was my retirement plan I had set my intentions with precision for my future during these classes. I connected with my teachers and I offered myself as a student for teacher trainees to practice. These connections were vital to my career transition from lawyer to Pilates teacher and fundamental in my recovery.
SET A PRECISE INTENTION FOR YOUR PHYSICAL PRACTICE FOR 1 MONTH. EACH TIME YOU PRACTICE REMEMBER THIS INTENTION. THEN PLACE YOUR FULL INTENTION INTO THE PRECISION OF YOUR PRACTICE INTO EVERY TINY DETAIL OF YOUR TOES AND FINGERS. TAKE CARE WITH YOUR INTENTION TO BE PRECISE WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION TO YOURSELF.
The Synchronicity of Breath to Play with your Ego
Breath is the first principle in Pilates and in many ways the most confusing. Pilates plays with the breath to make the movements harder or easier. There is a specific technique taught to activate the core muscles that can baffle many minds: you 'purse' the lips or slightly force an exhale to find the abdominal engagement. The inhale is three-dimensional to fill the lungs fully with clean nutrient rich oxygen and prevent the shoulders from becoming tense so you could backbend with ease. An exhale releases all the toxins, is great to round the spine in abdominal work and drawing inward to a calmer state.
Breath creates calm and relaxation in the body when used properly. It is the bridge between the mind and body, that connects your motion and energy through your emotions. How does the movement feel in your body? What emotion does the movement create? If you change your breath does it change your sensation? This is how Pilates plays with your mind-body connection deepening the journey of your understanding of what is happening inside you.
The ego is our manifested physical body. It is the 'I' in this life and the driver for physical experiences in this lifetime. As Pilates said:
Thus, the ego is the breath. The two are inextricably interconnected in your experience and existence in this physical life journey. If you want to live a purposeful life then you need to understand your ego, and in turn your breath. To play with your breath is to play with your ego and discover the joy of this lifetime.
At my most depressed times, all I wanted was to stop breathing. No drama or fuss about it, just simply to end the ego's grasp over me. My true understanding came through teaching Pilates breathing to my clients in that state of overwhelm. Leading someone through movement as an exploration of breath-led movement where all sensations should be experienced without judgment, but a tool for what level today your body wishes to work at. You see the sensations for what they are and meet the ego for how it wants to rule you that day.
USE A 10 MINUTE SEQUENCE YOU CAN PRACTICE EVERY DAY. REPEAT IT EACH DAY TWICE WITH REVERSED BREATH PATTERNS. DO THIS FOR 30 DAYS AND DISCOVER THE CHANGES IN THE BREATH AND YOUR BODY SENSATIONS OVER THE TIME. ARE THERE MORE PLAYFUL DAYS THAN OTHERS? DO STRESSED DAYS CORRELATE TO A TIGHTER BREATH?
The Spiritual Paths
My depression had several spirals of crisis, but during the first as a teenager, I could not enter philosophical discussions about the vastness of the universe or ideas of existence. I would get lost in the abyss of nothing and despair would take hold pinning me to inaction. As such, a spiritual path was not 'safe' for me to enter. Pilates placed me on a mind-body journey that nudged me gently. It opened me in a manner that was safe for my ego to contemplate, it slipped the spiritual living under the door.
There are many routes and disciplines that we can follow, but you must choose what is best for your soul. My approach to wellbeing is to discover what works for you. Molly shares yoga therapy as this has been a blessing for her. We work with the individual because we are each on our own journey home, our souls connect with those who are to guide us on this spiritual path of this lifetime.