Effective Movement Training Calls for Conscious Awareness
By Apollonia Holzer
From Tai Chi and Yoga to Cross Fit and Pilates, there are several ways to improve the health of the body and mind. While each technique has varied strategies, each body has its own unique potential, needs and goals.
As a Pilates trainer, bodyworker, dancer and explorer of many workshops and studies for 14 years, I have accumulated extensive information on how to perform exercises; or movement, I prefer to say.
Bringing conscious awareness to our workouts and to our daily lives — before, during and after a session — creates common ground for observing different qualities and emotions we experience from inside and out, which can transform the habits of posture, and how we express and communicate with our environment and ourselves. Movement changes not just the body, but also the mind and spirit.
Our presence in working with clients creates the field for awareness andconsciousness. The body is a expression of our life. As soon as we work with the body, its patterns and expressions may change, fall back, or stay the same.
How can we determine a cause, when the same imbalance, pain or discomfort is showing up repeatedly? For example: the right side of the pelvic half is anteriorly tilted; the iliacus and quadriceps are holding, while the other pelvic half is posteriorly tilted; the psoas and hamstrings short.
To uncover root causes, bringing conscious awareness to daily life activities will give us insight on how our habits influence repeated imbalances. We can help our clients develop heightened awareness of their activities; including how they carry a bag, how they use their phone, posture sitting at a desk, limited vision or hearing on one side, or emotional stress, to name a few.
A session starts as soon as the client enters the room. There is a lot of information shown through walking, conversations and posture. How does a client perform these movements? Are they still moving as though they are at work?
It is not enough to know and just to tell our clients, “This exercise is for the Psoas…This is for the triceps,” etc. Often the correct muscle or joint is not doing the work because there is too much compensation elsewhere. Can we help them to experience what they are really doing, or not doing, as it relates to performing an exercise in the way in which we ask?
In observing my clients, I copy their movements to enhance my understanding of their body mechanics, and find the best way to support their body.
Observing other sessions is so informative. Some of the most helpful things I have learned occurred while watching teachers with their clients and instructors-in-training. Observe how teachers communicate with their clients; how they approach challenges and which props they use to alter the feeling of an exersice. It is useful to consider how the texture, material and shape of a prop can impact the performance of an exercise, depending on the client’s needs.
Each position a client takes in space in relationship to gravity has a different effect on the body and mind. In a supine, standing or prone position, the nervous system and the alignment have different reactions and directions of movement in space. To work on the same muscle group in different positions challenges different muscles as stabilizers.
For example: If I work on the rotator cuff muscles in a standing or sitting position, the humerus bone is in a different orientation to the gravity than it does in a side-lying position. The humerus bone can become an additional weight to the rotator cuff muscles depending on how gravity is influencing its position. Imagine adding different tools, such as weight or having the elbow on a ball while the client is seated. This would challenge the muscle to stabilize more because of the need to balance the ball.
Weight, balls, Thera-band, springs, space, floor…every material has a different texture and a different impact on our neuromuscular system. Various tools can be used for the same exercise, but our nervous system is responding differently to each one.
For example: the springs in Pilates on the reformer. When the carriage slides out, the springs create tension in two directions. Is our mind focused on pushing away from the footbar, or reaching the feet into footbar? Can we still resist and control the springs when the carriage comes in?
The way we use our voices in guiding a client through an exercise supports the dynamics of a movement and affects the nervous system. A calm and grounded voice can bring clients to a different presence and quality of movement. A dynamic voice can support and encourage them to move with strength. Depending on what state a client is in, when they see us, we create with our voice a field of support, consciousness and excitement. Using the voice with different intonation, such as in a melody, can have a profound effect on performing a movement.
Listen to your clients’ daily lives to understand the habits in their work and activities, especially when there is a continuation of a repeating pattern. Listen with hands on, and support the direction of movement.
Conscious awareness in movement can have a profound effect on a client’s entire life, not just their movement patterns. Let us see movement as an expression of the human spirit, and longstanding change can occur.
Lesley Powell offers in her Pilates teacher training program and workshops very instructively and valuable informations and details to conscious awareness in movement. Check it out.