In the Pilates studio there should always be a lot of attention paid to alignment. Indeed, alignment is often posited as an additional Pilates principle. When our bones are in the right space in relation to one another then the muscles are free to do what they are designed to do. Humans living 21st century lives are allotted many challenges when it comes to getting our bodies into good patterns – we sit too much, we use phones and laptops almost all of our waking hours, we work in ways that demand a limited number of movements being done too many times, we don’t get nearly enough sleep due to a combination of all of those factors and the same is true for mental relaxation. The 21st century affluent westerner is almost guaranteed to be wonky and out of balance – over tight in some areas, just plain weak in others with a special place for lower back and shoulder dysfunction.
Our physical selves did not evolve to operate that way. We are mammals and we need to move. We should be taking our brains and bodies through a vast range of movements – crawling, climbing, running, walking, lying, squatting and lots of differing journeys between those states. Humans thrive with a mixture of team work and cooperation, playfulness and adventure, physical exertion and then lots of rest to recuperate. Instead we have jobs which fill up the vast majority of our waking hours and squash us into either too much sitting or too much standing, carrying out lots of small, repeated movements until muscles fatigue through over-use or wither away through neglect. Even our exercise routines are repetitive, stressful and tension building.
It is therefore quite a tall order to expect a weekly or even twice weekly Pilates session to undo all that harm, but as part of a wider picture, they can.
For me, it’s all about balance – the sweet spot in life when all the plates are spinning and none are crashing to the ground. I love my teaching but it is only one of those plates. I need to make sure that I protect the time and space around aspects of my life, too. I thrive if I am also dedicated to self-care – making sure I go to class with an experienced teacher, doing self-practice, walking the Pilates walk. Then there is keeping time for my family and friends, which is another form of self-care. I need to have fun – for me it can be playing with my dog, laughing at the occasionally witty idiocy of my offspring, going out to gigs or clubs for music and dancing. One of the things that I practise to ensure that I don’t get lost between all the needs of my business, my kids, my dog and all the rest, is called Desire Mapping – see daniellelaporte.com. I began it years ago when I was trying to work out how to make my life more bearable when it was all out of kilter. Essentially you work out not what you want to do, but how you want to feel when you are doing what you do. It helps me keep a handle on the overall picture and thus helps me create some kind of equilibrium.
One big and boring example is that of housework. I live with two teenagers, a Dalmatian and a strange white feline. My household generates a lot of mess. When the flat is unclean or untidy it messes with my mind – I want it to be my sanctuary. I find it difficult to switch off when it is in chaos. It is frequently in chaos. If, however, I devoted sufficient time and effort to keeping it spotless I would never get to class or out to the Heath or to my partner’s place. And housework involves much bending and twisting, especially in a small space. My body gets sore and angry if I do too domestic labour, in addition to the highly physical nature of my work. So, I have had to learn to park some of my desire to get the place clean and tidy until the need to move freely/get outside/go for class have also been met. Balance is a juggling act. Alignment requires ongoing attention. If we over-prioritise one area of life then another will suffer – we need to try to keep it all in motion, in a delicate, fluid dance of cooperation. It is not a fixed point, rather a state of dynamic equilibrium. Like a body after a really good Pilates class, with all the parts doing their thing because they have enough space to do so. . I find it a very interesting fact that humans crave certainty but our bodies thrive with a touch of instability. We often lock into our knees or our arms but actually a bit of spring, a bit of being as it were, poised for action takes more ‘effort’ but is physiologically more efficient and less damaging in the long term. We can’t have certainty but we can have balance, if we pay attention to our needs and are able to get them met.
The thing about balance is that it is a perpetually oscillating needle in my existence – there are so many variables and keeping them all in focus and tended to takes effort. A bit like balance in the physical self, no? And when I have spent an hour in the studio or just a few minutes listening to my core stabilisers lying on the floor in my bedroom – the needle flickers just a little less and I am more comfortable in my skin.
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