pilates inspired practice.
I believe awareness is feeling. It is questioning. It is the opposite of being on automatic pilot.
Awareness is what pulls me out of my spiraling monkey mind. I use Pilates exercises and other different movement methods as meditations to get free from my thoughts, worries and preoccupations of the moment. It also gives valuable attention to the body, the blessed vessel which carries me through life. I breath deeply. I stretch. I strengthen. My intention is to listen to what I need. Not what I think I need. But what I feel I need.
E.E. Cummings wrote: “A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling."
He goes on to say “And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking”.
I love this quote.
For me, movement, like poetry, is also feeling. It’s not knowing or believing or thinking that we are feeling something. It is a direct experience. When we get lost in only repeating movements with out sensing the movement, the overall experience of moving is severely limited and less effective. Repetition without awareness is a waste. If I move the pelvis repeatedly in the same way, like in pelvic tilts, what is the experience in the feet, the legs, the pelvis, the spine, the ribs, the neck, the head? How is the breath? I’m curious! Can it ever feel exactly the same? I don’t know.
The powerful and opinionated mind is well intentioned. But when it comes to movement, I encourage you to let the mind drop into the body, to be less goal-oriented. And since we could even say that each cell in the body - all 37 trillion - has its own kind of command center, the mind then is in fact spread out throughout our entire body and not only encased by the skull. Wonderful!
Feel the movement. Experience it. Is it boring? Fine! Pleasant? Great! Painful? What can you do to make it more pleasurable? Is it luxurious? A moment for gratitude! And this again does not mean that we avoid discomfort. But we don’t search for red hot pain or stay in the shape if we experience it.
If we are committed to being aware of how our movements make us feel, we are awake, we are present. We are making choices. We are patient. But if we move without feeling, how can we know when our form disintegrates or when our muscles are over-tired, or if the breath is stuck or the jaw locked? I can only know how it feels for me right now. And suddenly the experience becomes a conversation and not a task. It is alive.
This is how I hope we can continue moving together! With awareness. With feeling.
This series is designed to bring some awareness to the buttock/side leg area. Specifically the deep rotators and gluteus medius. Please, be patient! I often find that when we practice on our own we don't give ourselves enough time - the first few runs through the series will take a bit of time but eventually it can become a nice flow. Maybe you start with one or two of the exercises and gradually add more. Or perhaps one of them resonates with you more than another? Enjoy the process of learning what your body needs today!
standing breath with active feet
Begin standing with the feet in parallel. You could have a block or book between the feet as long as it puts the feet hip-width apart or just a bit less.
knee circles on all fours
Begin on All Fours. Breath is flowing throughout.
Repeat 5 times with the left knee circling. Then repeat on the right side.
You may feel some effort building in the buttocks as the knee circles. Move slowly and feel how the femur bone is rolling in the hip joint. If you aren’t able to come onto All Fours, play with a version of this action standing with the hands resting on the wall.
side-lying leg press
Lie down on the right side with the head resting in the bottom arm, knees bent, heels in line with the sitz bones. To find the starting position, stretch the top leg long and move it behind you on the floor. As the leg moves backwards, allow the top hip and upper body to roll forward so that the top hip points downwards and the top leg is internally rotated (toes point downwards). Feel both space and length between the top ribs and the top hip. Keep this space throughout.
Notice the upper leg bone rolling in the hip joint and keep the low back long. The focus is on the glute medius which will contract in the middle of the top butt cheek and is closer to the sacrum than outer hip. TIP: If you're not sure what's working to lift the leg, use the top hand on the buttocks to feel what area is contracting.
Stand on the right leg and use both hands to hold the left knee so the left leg is mostly relaxed into the hands and the arms are working to support the weight of the leg. The focus is on the right leg. Breath is flowing throughout.
Repeat at least three times and then change to the other side.
This is of course a balance challenge! Stay playful and notice the effort building in the standing leg - in the buttocks, perhaps also in the leg and/or calf.
To increase the difficulty, tip the pelvis further so that eventually you could look between the legs to the wall behind you!
tennis ball release
Try to stay on each side for at least 2 minutes. The breath should be full on the inhalation and soft on the exhalation.
time to stretch!
Take one of the two stretches below and repeat on both sides. Stay at least 10 deep breathes in each position.Try to feel even on the back of the pelvis and gently press the sacrum down towards the mat for a more intense stretch. Finally, check that the neck feels comfortable. Ideally the eyes are pointing towards the ceiling - it could be helpful and nice to rest the head on a cushion.
optional: repeat knee circles on all fours
Repeating the knee circles on all fours can give you feedback about how the exercises influenced your mobility. Perhaps it feels more fluid now, or the range has changed, or.....
Congratulations! You made it all the way through!