Embodied Pilates Whole Body Movement And Core Concepts Series

In Pilates, yoga and other movement practices, we often study how a certain movement looks, feels, and how to do it correctly. This approach to movement creates unnecessary tension to "do it right". We look outside of ourselves for someone to give us affirmation that we are on the right track. We often study about our anatomy and movement potential from a bio-mechanical, pieces and parts, cadaver-based perspective, that takes us further out of our own experience as a whole person.

At Pilates Center of Austin, we are dedicated to inquiring into a deeper awareness of our natural bio-intelligence…the deep intelligence that moves us, and is connected with all of nature. By cultivating an awareness of our bio-intelligence, WE BEGIN TO BE AWARE AS A BODY , and movement as growth becomes our playground. We open ourselves to moving toward practices, people and situations that enable us to grow….resonating with our larger integrity and creativity as human beings in a complex world.

This way of being with ourselves is called "Embodiment"….the structure, thought and form of who we are…….which includes the pattern of breath that is breathing us, the shape of our attention, and how we organize our perceptions. The key to embodiment is that we must go inside ourselves to notice and become aware in order to shift habitual patterns. Once we begin to let go of old habits THAT WE DO NOT NEED TO DO, we create real growth and shift our conscious awareness. We move from "exercising" to "energizing".

Come join us as we explore familiar Pilates movements through the lens of "core coordination" , which is very distinct from "core control". We're taking off the parking brake of "pulling the navel toward the spine", and opening to "whole body movements" that nourish, restore and strengthen our whole being!

Emily With Stretch-Eze Band…Comparing Moving With Tension Or EFFORT WITH EASE

"Emily With Stretch-eze Band…Comparing Moving With Tension Or EFFORT WITH EASE"

Thank you, Emily Mokwunye, graduate of my Passing the Torch Mentoring Program, for this fabulous exploration with our favorite “Stretch-eze Band”. Emily is comparing “moving with tension” through “Core Control”…hardening the abdominals, neck, shoulders, etc……and “Effort with Ease”…through “Core Coordination”….whole body tensegrity from feet to head.

The bigger question Emily is exploring is…how does this exploration WITH the Stretch-eze Band give her a greater awareness and deeper access to these fascial tensegrity connections in her Pilates matwork, WITHOUT the band?

Emily begins with….“I’m finding width of my feet in band, which supports my foot to head connection. I’m noticing that when I let my feet reach gently into the band, my upper body naturally rounds off the mat…which is what we call “heavy head in the hands” feeling in the Pilates matwork.

“This is a ‘yielding/release’ into gravity’s support, without over-yielding (collapsing). My shoulders feel free, and my Range of Motion has increased through my shoulder joint.

“If I bring my head forward and don’t yield, holding my head from my neck muscles, and pulling my chin down, then I feel a lot of tightness in my shoulders and can feel a reduced Range of Motion, and tightness in my ribs…it feels like my whole body is hanging off my cervical tissue. This would be like ‘pulling my belly in’….so the Stretch-eze band is not assisting my lift and I am over-efforting and over-recruiting muscles that do not have to work so hard! You can hear it in my strained voice!

“When I come back to “yielding” to gravity, allowing my head to rest in the band, and feel its relatedness with my feet, it gives me a lot of freedom in my neck and shoulder muscles and a larger Range of Motion in my shoulder joint, and a whole body feeling!”

Wow, and you look a lot more comfortable in this mat exercise, which will greatly affect your ability to be in flowing movement! Thank you, Emily!

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"Wendy Explores Her Fascial Body’s Elastic Recoil and an UPSIDE DOWN ROLLUP!"

"Wendy Explores Her Fascial Body’s Elastic Recoil and an UPSIDE DOWN ROLLUP!"

When Ida Rolf created Structural Integration (Rolfing) Bodywork, she called it “Spatial Medicine” because it wasn’t about “fixing”people…it was about engaging with the weblike fascial body to release, realign and balance the whole body spatially.

This is why I became a Structural Integration Practitioner years ago…to further understand how our fascial neuroplasticity relates to how we move and can change ourselves in the gravitational field. Professor Serge Gracovetsky, a fascial research pioneer who I met at the First Fascia Congress in 2007 in Boston, states in his research that collagen/connective tissue takes 1/3 of a second to stretch…so that means it needs oscillation and stimulation to not overload and deform.

I love using the Inversion Table at our studio to heighten clients and teacher awareness of their own fascial system’s ability to support their muscles and bones in a biotensegrity re-balancing. As we explore engaging with gravity’s “Down the Back and Up the Front” natural forces, by how they use the Inversion Table, often a powerful awakening happens in how they begin to see themselves in life.

In this exploration, you will see that I am allowing the Inversion Table to fully support my relaxed ankles, and using a stimulating fascial oscillation of rocking back and forth as my breath lengthens through its natural inhale back and exhale forward…feeding my fascial body’s elastic recoil stretch and release.

I pause with my feet engaged toward the ceiling, and gently spiral in each direction from foot to head…and then from the “Down the Back” of my feet reaching energetically through the ceiling, my inner ear spine begins to round forward “Up the Front”…supported by my arms connected to the “waterfall” of breath, fascia and gravity.

This DELICIOUS sensing of being with gravity as a partner is one we can take into any movement, and any discipline..yoga, Pilates, Alexander, Feldenkrais, dancing, running, etc.

I invite you to reawaken your fascial body’s natural springiness as a human birthright…it’s a quality of life functional awareness that we can revitalize at any age!

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How Does Your “Embodied” SWAN in the Pilates Matwork Build… Baby and Big SWAN on the PUSH THRU BAR

How Does Your “Embodied” SWAN in the Pilates Matwork Build… Baby and Big SWAN on the PUSH THRU BAR

How are you “Setting Yourself Up” before you exercise? Is your “SET UP” one of tension or ease? By asking these questions, you can see if you are allowing “Gravity” to support you, which creates “effort with ease”….or, if you harden your abdominals, tighten your gluts or pull your shoulders down, you are “setting yourself up” by beginning your movement with “tension”.

I am joined today by Jae Hoon, a professional dancer and Pilates Practitioner at our studio. Jae Hoon is discovering how to release long held “tension” habits which have been the source of injury in his dance career.

Jae Hoon: “I am noticing the huge difference between SWAN coming from muscular force, which creates stress in my low back and cuts off spatial and energetic connections in my Central Core.”

Our 3Core Connections Perspective is a powerful way of getting in touch with how the Lower Body’s GROUNDING (Lower Core) works with the Upper Body’s LIFT, SUSPENSION and REACH (Upper Core)…through the support of the Central Core’s BREATH!

Let’s take a look at SWAN on the MAT and how it can build to SWAN DIVE:

By looking along the floor and up the wall, Jae Hoon is moving from his natural spinal extension looking from SOFT EYES which widens his chest, spine and hips. His “Down the Back” release of his shoulder blades, sitting bones/tailbone to the tripod of his feet, allows a natural uplift to occur from his “Up the Front” support of inner ankle, inner thighs, front of his pelvic floor along the front of his spine to his inner ear.

Jae Hoon: “ I have a feeling of VASTNESS – so spatial”

As I give Jae Hoon a little support along the front of his spine around his belly suspenders, he gains a deeper awareness of his “Shoulder Blades waterfalling down to meet his Internal Belly Suspenders lifting up the front”….which is a deeper understanding of an updated “NEW POWERHOUSE BREATH” support.

From this place of deep support, Jae Hoon can reach one arm forward and up into SWAN DIVE and you can see the BIOTENSEGRITY of his hand and head to foot connection!

From there we look at BABY and BIG SWAN on the Cadillac Push Thru Bar:

For BABY SWAN, as Jae Hoon bends his elbows, he widens his chest and the bar meets his head lifting…he inhales there, and then exhales to release down…rooting his arms to his breathing spine! Be sure to do this to both sides.

To lift higher into BIG SWAN, after bending his elbows and feeling a widening spatial awareness, his shoulder blades rotate naturally allowing his arms to fully extend up into BIG SWAN. His Belly Suspenders lengthen and widen to allow CORE COORDINATION throughout his whole body from hand and head to feet. WHAT A LUSCIOUS FEELING and GREAT WAY TO WORKOUT!!

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KNEE STRETCHES ILLUMINATED: Discovering Your Body’s Natural “GROUNDING”…and “DOMING SUSPENSION”

KNEE STRETCHES ILLUMINATED: Discovering Your Body’s Natural “GROUNDING”…and “DOMING SUSPENSION”

Let’s explore a distinction of our 3Core Connections Perspective: “what’s just enough effort for the movement” with Jae Hoon, a professional dancer and PCA Practitioner, who is very excited to deepen his understanding of “embodied Pilates” as he is working at PCA in our mentoring environment .

Jae Hoon: “my most important exploration with Wendy right now is how to find “just enough effort for the movement by discovering “relaxation through breath”…and how that natural breath pattern is affecting and facilitating my movement and helping me connect with gravity as a partner, instead of “fighting gravity”…so my knee feels much better! “I used to hold my ribs like a “cage”…I was still breathing, but was very “held” with tension.

“Now, with this whole body approach, my body was shaking because I let my body move with gravity’s support, so I am able to “breathe” from a softer place…and the flow of my spine was enabling me to ground through my hands and feet while letting my deep abdominals move and lift!”

Wendy: this is so beautiful, Jae Hoon! And you could all see that Jae Hoon was discovering his “Domes of Uplift”, which we also call the “Hover of the Spine in Flexion” in the Fascial Dog Flow Series.

In Knee Stretch Round Back, with a gentle, flexed “C curve from head to tail”, as he inhaled, his back opened and elongated to his “doming breath”, and as he exhaled, his belly wall was able to naturally contract by “doming” into what we call the “Front of his Back” … embracing his primordial psoas midline.

Moving gently into Knee Stretch Arched Back, as his spine elongated along the front from tail to inner ear, his Hamstrings found a primal connection to the front of his spine (Front of his Back”, creating a deeper relationship for the next progression effort of “Knees Off”

Gently curling back into Round Back, with the deeper understanding of the Hovering/Doming spine (like a jellyfish buoyantly floating up in the water)…it becomes easy to ground into your hands and feet, using “what’s just enough effort for the movement” for KNEES OFF…so your legs are able to float gently back and forth connected from foot to head and hand!

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Wendy Teaches Breath and Movement Awareness to 3rd graders at Magellan International School

Wendy Teaches Breath and Movement Awareness to 3rd graders at Magellan International School

Thank you to Melodee Issa, a graduate of our CoreConnections ® Pilates Teacher Training Certification Program (1996-2006), for inviting me to visit Magellan International School, where her daughter, Isabella, is a student in the 3rd grade.

Students were studying about the systems of the body, and I was invited to help them understand the musculoskeletal system. Rather than just talk about muscles and bones, I knew it would be powerful for them to see how the muscles and bones are supported by HOW they use their bodies in relationship with the gravity field, supported by BREATH!

We played with how BREATH supports posture and movement, and they learned how to self-calm when they felt stressed, how to clear their nose when it is clogged, and how breath affects their emotions and health. "Nasal breathing" is KEY to calming the mind and body… the air moving through the nasal passages is warmed, filtered and cleansed before it enters the lungs, which is very different than mouth breathing. I invited them to HUM a tune as they exhale: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", then inhale through their nose….humming produces nitrogen oxide which expands the blood vessels and increases blood flow. THEY LOVED IT!

I gave each of them a SURPRISE mini "Breathing Ball" at the end to remind them that breathing properly is our most important function. Thank you, Melodee, and the students at Magellan International School, for giving me the opportunity to be with you and share my passion and joy of being guided by our innate biointelligence!!

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Diana Discovers her UP THE FRONT, Internal Lift from Grounding, DOWN THE BACK

Diana Discovers her UP THE FRONT, Internal Lift from Grounding, DOWN THE BACK

In Pilates, we often speak of defying gravity by lifting the spine from a skyhook, or pulling the navel to the spine and lengthening, yet each of these ways of cueing create unnecessary tension.

Diana Martin is a recent graduate of my Passing the Torch Mentoring Program, and during the program she met with me to explore how our distinctions of DOWN THE BACK and UP THE FRONT, can create a deeper understanding of internal connection and postural clarity, with less effort.

We explored this distinction on the Pilates High Chair, with a 4" block under her standing foot so she could fully straightening her pumping leg, and find a connection that is hard for her…how her foot relates to her head/neck….or as we say it in the 3Core Connections Perspective…how the Lower Core relates to and supports her Upper Core, through the breath support of her Central Core. Looking at a challenging movement this way helps teachers and clients alike to experience that "yielding to gravity" needs to happen before internal lift through the upper body, can be effortless.

What is important to hear is how, in the beginning, Diana is having difficulty sensing her head's connection to her feet, without feeling like she is over-efforting in her hips, abdominals or shoulders. She's familiar with the "sitting bones to heels connection" and how that relates to her hamstrings and low belly lift. What is difficult, is relating those connections to her upper body.

A shift happens when, by listening to her body's guidance, I assist her to begin to "sense" how her inner thigh works with her hamstrings grounding through her feet, and the lift through the front of her pelvic floor, connecting the back of her leg to the front of her spine.….and then when I stand up next to her, she remarks that she just got a deeper understanding of her DOWN THE BACK's relationship. This sense of "yielding to gravity" through her feet immediately ignited her UP THE FRONT connection from foot to inner ear!

What is fascinating is that mirror neurons in the brain fire when we watch someone do something that we want to learn, so when I stood up next to her, she GOT a deeper relationship to standing up from foot to head, because that is a human movement patterning that we KNOW on a very deep level, and have just covered over with other compensation patterns.

Diana began to sense her Upper Core spine through the inner ear more deeply supported through her feet (Lower Core) and breath (Central Core…with an updated Powerhouse), which allowed her to sense her head and arms floating. You can see her body shifting as she is speaking! It's a very powerful experience for her and has shifted how she is in her body on every level.. Thank you, Diana, for sharing your process!

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Discovering Your Embodied Teaser with the Pilates Cadillac Push Thru Bar

Discovering Your Embodied Teaser with the Pilates Cadillac Push Thru Bar

The Pilates Teaser is so much fun, yet can be a problematic exercise….

  • How to have a strong center without a tight back?
  • How to straighten your legs in the air without losing your internal lift and gripping your shoulders and neck?

Addressing these concerns are great reasons why the various spring-based Pilates apparatus that Joseph Pilates created are so important. Today we will use the Cadillac Push Thru Bar and spring to help create "lift", but first we "yield" into the mat to create a grounding for the body to discover its natural lift.

This way of being with ourselves in movement is called "tensegrity"…a tensional integrity of whole body movement in relationship with gravity and space, where the connective tissue/fascia supports the muscles, bones, internal organs, etc., in flowing movement. The tensional integrity of the spring on the Push Thru Bar "speaks" to the connective tissue/fascial web that connects the whole body to its environment, and when we allow breath, rather than habit, to support the quality of our movement, our perceptual and sensory fields are enhanced.

When we yield into gravity, and allow the "waterfall" of the exhale "Down the Back" to support our arms reaching, a natural uplift occurs "Up the Front", from inner ankle to inner ear, that supports fluid movement… our hip joints open as our legs connect more deeply to our spine and diaphragm, our throat softens so we can talk while moving, and a feeling of floating and nourishment, with no extra effort or judgment is present.

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Is the Set-up of the Classical Pilates Matwork ..Rolling Like a Ball..
Good For YOUR Body?

Is the Set-up of the Classical Pilates Matwork ..Rolling Like a Ball.. .Good For YOUR Body?

Are you setting up your body with "tension" or "ease" for movement? Even though I know the Classical Pilates matwork through the advanced level, if I don't listen to my body and instead just move from one Pilates exercise shape to another, doing it the "right way" according to a photo in a book, I don't feel that I am helping my body to re-calibrate and unravel compensation patterns.

For instance, in the Classical Pilates advanced version of "Rolling Like a Ball", my knees are drawn tight into my chest, and heels pulled close to my sitting bones and arms firmly hold my body tightly together. What I find in this "set-up" is that it doesn't feel functional to MY BODY. It feels too compressive and focused just on an isolated abdominal movement, more than a fascial , whole body breathing movement. Because my purpose with my movement practice is listening to my breath and deep biointelligence guiding me in movement, what feels great is (and of course, this is happening quickly as a flow as it becomes more embodied):

  • Sensing weight into my sitting bones and feet (yielding to support of gravity)
  • Pressing my shins gently into my hands, as I roll back slightly so my tail and sitting bones round my spine in a capital "C" from head to tail (discovering relationship of Down the Back "gravity/grounding" and Up the Front, relationship with "suspension/space")
  • Sensing the support of the internal connection of breath (shoulder blades waterfalling down , and internal belly lifting up – a new embodied powerhouse)
  • From that feeling of internal connection , the INHALE lifts my feet to roll back and the EXHALE, keeps me connected, as I roll forward to balance with feet off the mat.

This internally connected feeling is a contextual one that feeds my way of being in the world….along with assisting my transition to the next movement …with just enough effort for the movement. Keep asking yourself as you move…is my neck soft? Can I look from side to side? If you can't, you are over-stabilizing and your neck, shoulders and back are suffering.

Is your approach to movement "relational" to what YOU need? Pilates is intended to be about flowing movement , where one gains awareness of how to help themselves. When we learn how to partner with gravity and space, rather than fight gravity with too much muscular effort…hips and backs open, necks get free, and shoulders release.

We discover, over time, that how we orient our bodies in relationship with the gravitational field, prior to an action, can create a deeply nourishing, human experience.

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UNWINDING SCOLIOSIS…By Using Yourself Well, As A Human Being (Part 2 )

UNWINDING SCOLIOSIS…By Using Yourself Well, As A Human Being (Part 2)

F.M. Alexander (the Alexander Technique) wrote a ground-breaking book " The Use of the Self", in 1932, about his "revolutionary" theory of movement. In it, he shared that, as a professional actor, he completely lost his voice..and through his awareness studies, pioneered a method of improving "how he was using himself" in all positions and movements. He cured his vocal problems without medical aid!

As we spoke about in Part 1, Scoliosis is usually approached as a problem to be "fixed", rather than an opportunity to gain a deeper relationship with gravity, yourself, one another and our environment. In this segment, Adrian and I are exploring how the sitting movements we did in Part 1 transition to kneeling, standing and walking.

Adrian is beginning by sitting in Hero or Cowboy pose, resting on her inner ankles and her heels releasing out, which encourages her spine to release toward her heels…opening her feet and unwinding her spine's relationship with her feet. She senses that she can release each sitting bone toward each inner ankle in a figure 8, spiraling pattern of movement, which continues to release her spine.

Adrian then moves into Toe Sit, resting on her metatarsal heads with her heels releasing back..this primal pose is one that cultures around the world use as a ready position for standing up. She reaches back through her whole foot as she brings her hips forward into a kneeling position..this position opens her hips and connects her legs more fully to her upright spine… getting her body ready for standing.

She then slides one foot forward, into a lunge position, and steps off the back foot, onto the front foot which lengthens her spine forward to a standing position. This is a movement sequence that is very strengthening to repeat often by coming back to Toe Sit and repeating with each side of the body to lunge forward and step off the back foot onto the other front foot. Getting down and up from the floor is deeply strengthening to the whole body and is deeply missing in our chair sitting culture.

Adrian then begins to weight shift from one foot to the other by standing in place and walking from foot to foot. I assist her awareness by placing my hands on either side of her sacroiliac joint, so she can sense the contra-lateral movement between each foot taking weight, allowing her pelvis and ribs to counter-rotate. Since she is sensing this movement, rather than asking me to tell her what to do…it becomes a very rich experience for her to notice where to slow down and allow gravity to support her internal movement from foot to head. I also assisted her by placing my left hand on her left inner thigh and my right hand on her right outer thigh which supported her to find her midline from foot to head as she moves.

Adrian then placed a theraband behind her pelvis, where my hands had been, and allowed her arms to support the natural movement of her pelvis and ribs in relationship with one another in a walking motion – deeply sensing her "Down and Back" and "Up the Front" support. She can now re-create the movement by herself for her home practice….taking this awareness of WALKING into her life.

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UNWINDING SCOLIOSIS…By Using Yourself Well, As A Human Being (Part 1)

UNWINDING SCOLIOSIS…By Using Yourself Well, As A Human Being (Part 1)

I'm very excited to recommend a new book "Move your DNA..Restore your Health through Natural Movement" by Katy Bowman. Katy has come to the same conclusion that I have been studying and teaching for 20 years. ….that "WE ARE HOW WE MOVE". When we stop treating ourselves as objects to be trained and fixed by "exercising" for short bursts of time..as a "human doing"…… and remember how to "energize" and MOVE in ways that open us to our "human-beingness", we discover that our bodies are designed, from conception, with an ability to self-regulate and self-heal, till the day we die.

Scoliosis is usually approached as a problem to be "fixed", rather than an opportunity to gain a deeper relationship with gravity, ourselves, one another and our environment. As you can see, my client, Adrian and I have developed a way of approaching her "scoliosis" so that SHE is the EXPERT in her own body… and I am one of her guides on this path.

In this Part 1 segment, and next in Part 2, we are showing how we use human movement patterning postures which I have used for many years, and have experienced profound results in practicing. Osteopath, Phillip Beach, re- introduced many of these primal postures as "Archetypal Postures" and "Erectorcizes" in his 2013 and 2014 workshops with us in Austin and around the U.S.

Adrian is using the Wall for feedback…we could also use a pad behind her back …..either on the more convex right side of her upper spine, which can open the concave left side to breath or on the concave side which can encourage a deeper relationship of breathing with the wall and pad's support….ask the person to give feedback as to what makes the greatest difference.

Adrian is sitting first in Toe Sit, on her metatarsal heads and heels, which encourages her spine to release toward her heels..this is a major unwinding of her spine. Hero (Kneeling Posture) is the next pose, in which Adrian sits inside her inner arches with her heels releasing out…still with the focus of settling down and allowing her spine to find it's natural 2 directions from earth to sky. This is a process over time, and sometimes requires padding under ankles, or behind the knees to allow your spine to release. Notice that Adrian is "sensing" her body and its relationship with gravity, as she uses the pose to meet her needs.

Adrian then moves to 1 Leg Hero(Cowboy Pose) and is challenged in allowing her front foot anterior ankle to soften at the Tibialis Anterior…this ankle release allows her heel on that side to release back and her foot to open more fully into the ground. Coupling this with allowing her hip that is off the ground to release toward the floor speaks directly to grounding her spine "Down the Back", and enlivening the front of her spine Up the Front"

When Adrian returns to Toe Sit and then Hero, her back is more open to breath and she is more comfortable with resting down…she then moves to "looking far and near"…which is a distinction that we teach at Pilates Center of Austin to awaken the intrinsic spine. While sitting down, Adrian looks ahead with "soft eyes" and then looks down the wall and along the floor toward herself, rounding her body into an embryo shape….without skipping spaces..this "soft looking" encourages her intrinsic spine to enliven and breath opens her back.

Then she looks "near to far"…along the floor…up the wall…along the ceiling…as far as she can both sit down and look comfortably… to feel a deep internal lordosis from sacrum to occiput. She then gently drops her chin and looks forward, while still sitting down with a "new internal lift" that has emerged.

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WAKING UP NEW ACCESS to PILATES' Leg Circles with IYENGAR's Yoga Wall

WAKING UP NEW ACCESS to PILATES' Leg Circles with IYENGAR's Yoga Wall

We often hear comparisons about yoga and Pilates…which is better, how they differ, which "should" you do. What is often missing in these conversations is the HUGE difference it makes to approach and support our body's with awareness..whether we are practicing yoga or Pilates.

Body wisdom is innate, whether we are practicing yoga or Pilates. The question is… "are we allowing our biointelligence to GUIDE us", or are we "CONTROLLING our bodies" by over-stabilizing our abdominals…or never slowing down enough to take the time to change long held tension patterns.

We're using the brilliance of the Yoga Wall strap support in standing balance, to release pelvic tension, and ignite the intrinsic support of the Hamstring and it's relationship with the standing foot, the foot on the wall…and the internal lift along the front of the spine. When we soften our knees, just enough, we create SPACE in all the joints along with deepening our body's felt sense with gravity from foot to head. This experience releases tightly held joints, and creates a deepening awareness of the distinction"Down the Back, Up the Front" from each foot to each inner ear.

When we apply this experience on the Yoga Wall to Pilates Leg Circles (using the wall for feedback), beginning with a "set-up" of lying down with both feet on the wall, the body has a felt sense of safety and support to begin the exercise, which creates a deeper relationship with gravity from foot to head. When we bend a knee from this "setup", the hip flexors don't have to grip, because the tailbone is released to the grounded foot "Down the Back", which opens the hip joint "Up the Front" for whole body movement. We've created a NEW "conversation WITH our bodies….rather than doing something TO the body by over-stabilizing, and creating tension. It doesn't matter what you are doing….it matters HOW you are doing it! Your body doesn't know "Pilates" or "Yoga" it only knows MOVEMENT!

This "embodied" way of being with ourselves, within the gravitational field, is what all the great body bodymind systems are based on…yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Alexander, Continuum, Body Mind Centering, Aston Patterning…..and it is what Phillip Beach is referring to when he speaks about "biomechanical tune". When our joints can let go into being supported by gravity, along with the tensegrity of the connective tissue/fascial web, from foot to inner ear, we experience the powerful, self-regulating, self-healing, FLUID dimension of our body's brilliant biointelligence!

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Anne Embodies her Innate Biointelligent Midline with Bridge on the Wall

Wendy: Anne Embodies her Innate Biointelligent Midline with Bridge on the Wall

It was so special to be with Pilates teacher, Anne Fontenot, who traveled from Corpus Christi, Texas, for a week-long Personal Intensive designed just for her. As you can hear from Anne, her week with us at PCA was a very potent experience, where she moved away from a biomechanical "core control", tension-producing way of being….and discovered her innate biointelligent "core coordination" access to her whole body. As a result, her Pilates practice was transformed from one of "hard work" to one of "effort with ease".

With "Bridge on the Wall", Anne is first of all noticing if her distance from the wall allows her to sense her natural yielding to gravity… "Down the Back" (shoulder blades waterfalling down toward her sitting bones/tailbone through opening her feet on the wall) …which naturally ignites "Up the Front" (inner ankle, inner thigh, internal belly/front of pelvic floor and spine to the inner ear), as she presses gently into her feet. If she was close, or too far away, she might feel the need to over-tighten her gluts and abs when she pressed into her feet to lift her hips.

While allowing her spine to release and chest to widen, and softening her face, jaw and neck, Anne rolls a heavy yellow ball gently across each side of her front torso, accessing a feeling of "softening and widening her spine and back" by massaging her front body. Anne had noticed, in a private session with me, that her left front rib tends to be more forward than her right. She noticed that by rolling the heavy ball gently in that area for a longer period of time, her back has opened, and allowed her rib to release and breath to soften into the area where she was not breathing. Remember that bone is mineralized connective tissue/fascia, so it responds to touch. I've always been inspired by Deane Juhan's quote "when we touch the surface…we stir the depths".

This "pre-movement set-up" allowed Anne to partner with gravity with "just enough effort for the movement" . As she pressed gently into her feet on the wall, her tail curled naturally, her back softened and widened, and, as her spine lifted, her belly wall fell back naturally toward her psoas/primal midline..from foot to inner ear. Even with using her arms, she was able to access her Upper Core support that allows her face, throat and jaw to remain soft and her neck could move freely. She was thrilled that this feeling of moving from her natural biointelligence gave her access to more difficult inversions: Rollover, Jackknife, Shoulder Bridge to High Bridge, and so many more! Try it for yourself! HAVE FUN!

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Discovering Your Fluid Pilates Body with the Inversion Table and Gravity as a Partner

Wendy: Discovering Your Fluid Pilates Body with the Inversion Table and Gravity as a Partner

In Pilates, we have traditionally spoken about "opposition" as getting longer from foot to head. What I notice is that when attempting to feel this relationship, most people create tension in their bodies "in order to get taller". This way of being with ourselves is based on "fighting gravity", treating our body as a machine and "doing something to it" in order to get a result.

When we stop fighting and learn to partner with gravity, we discover how yielding to the earth's support nourishes and resources us. Additionally, this fundamental principle of "yielding" allows our natural energetic lift to wake up. At Pilates Center of Austin, we call this yield to gravity (relationship with grounding) from your shoulder blades down to your feet… "Down the Back" , and the natural uplift (relationship with space) that occurs from your inner ankle… along the front of your spine to inner ear… "Up the Front".

Today I am sharing with you why we have an Inversion Table as a fundamental teaching apparatus at our studio. Most people are afraid of falling…and falling backwards is even more scary. Our philosophy at PCA encourages you to listen to your body, honoring the natural pacing of its deep biointelligence, rather than "doing something TO your body" from a controlling, tension-producing place that can create right/wrong judgment.
By beginning with a mild inversion, with the strap in place to stop the carriage, your sympathetic nervous system response of "flight/fight" is not triggered…. you discover that your spine can lengthen and your back widen naturally, and you are in charge of the amount of inversion at every moment. This self-calming approach stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system response of "rest/digest". Over time, we have noticed remarkable changes occurring that allow clients to build confidence, trust, embodied presence and a deeper relationship with their innate biological intelligence …which they take with gusto into their embodied Pilates workouts!

As you get more comfortable with playing with gravity, you can try this challenging movement sequence. You can see that I have played with the inversion table for many years. As I sense the weight and support through my feet, I begin "bouncing off my bones" through my feet…which energizes my fascial body to elongate, open and widen with breath. My inhale is powered through my arms as they float rhythmically in concert with breath support. I'm "riding the wave of energy"….my body is like one fluid muscle, supported by the crystalline matrix of fascia moving bones. I have no desire or need to harden my "abdominals"….just sensing fluid movement from foot to head.

Then I'm upside down, sensing the relationship of foot to head and I spiral from one side to another….and with my feet rooting through the ceiling "Down the Back" from my shoulder blades to my feet, I feel an urge to "Roll-Up" from head to foot "Up the Front". My back is fluid and open, and my belly wall falls back to support my curling spine …there is an ease and flow to the movement. I'm not "fighting gravity"….gravity is my partner…just like yin and yang, inhale and exhale. WHAT FUN! Come play with us!

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Wendy works with Tokyo BASI Pilates teacher, Yumi Ishii

Wendy works with Tokyo BASI Pilates teacher, Yumi Ishii

I am so happy to have Yumi visit us in Austin for a Personal Intensive. I met Yumi last year when I was teaching in Tokyo….she is here with us at PCA to go deeper in her understanding of how Pilates can become "effort with ease" by partnering with gravity and letting go of over-stabilizing her abdominals and joints.

As we explored Pilates Footwork on the Reformer, Yumi noticed that, just by placing a folded blanket under her hips, she discovered more space for her ribs to expand naturally and allow more breath into her back, which softened her hips and her neck and shoulders. This way of being with ourselves is natural bodywork, which I feel is the true vision of Joseph Pilates.

Also, by placing a small, foam ball between her heels, and holding it gently, and then releasing her heels into my hands, she noticed that she got a deeper understanding of the "waterfall -Down the Back" into her feet, and natural internal lift "Up the Front" from her inner ankle, through her inner thighs/internal belly/front of the pelvic floor & spine to her inner ear. This spatial quality of noticing what size ball "wakes up internal lift" also corrected her internally rotating knees, so that when she began Running Footwork on the Reformer, her heels could release more completely, supported by the internal lift from foot to head.

This exploration is very different than "squeezing a ball" between your inner ankles or inner thighs. How are we "having a conversation WITH our bodies" rather than "doing something TO our bodies", so that we wake up the deep intelligence of the body …..where bio-intelligence supports biomechanics! We are exploring and moving in our bodies as a living process, rather than objects to be trained and fixed.

Wendyが共にワークをした東京BASI Pilates Teacher,Yumi Ishiip

Personal Intensiveの為にYumiがオースティンを訪ねてきてくれてとても嬉しいです。私がYumiと出会ったのは昨年、東京で指導をしていたときでした。YumiはここPCAで私たちと共に、より深い理解を進めています。ピラティスがいかに"楽さと共に努力する"ものになることができるか。それは重力とパートナーとなり、腹筋群や関節の過安定性を解放することによります。

ReformerでFootworkを実践している時、Yumiは気づきました、折り畳んだブランケットをお尻の下に敷くことだけで、肋骨により空間を感じ、自然に広がり、より多くの呼吸が背中に入ってきたのです。そしてそれは、彼女の股関節、首、肩を柔らげました。これこそ自然なボディワークです。私達自身がそのままである、そのまま在る、これこそジョセフ・ピラティス氏が描いていた本物のビジョンだったのではないでしょうか。

そしてまた、小さな発泡ボールをかかとの間に置き、優しく挟み、彼女のかかとを私の手の中に力を抜き預けた瞬間、彼女は気づきました。足元へと"滝の流れ-後ろが下がる"という深い理解です。そして、自然な内側からの引きあがり"前が上がる"感覚も、それは内くるぶしから、内もも/腹部内側/骨盤底筋群前側と背骨から内耳へと。この空間質の気付き、このサイズのボールが"内側からの引き上げを呼び起こし"、また、膝の内側へのひねりを修正したのです。ですから、Running(という動き)をやり始めた際、かかとをもっと完全に解放することができたのです。これは足元から頭までの内側からの引きあがりに支持されています。

この発見はかかとの内側や内腿で"ボールを潰す"こととはとても違いがあります。どのように私たちが"私たち自身の身体と対話するのか"それに対して"私たちの身体に対して何かする"ということ。私たちは身体の知性を呼び起こしているのです。それは、bio-intelligenceがbio-mechanicsを支えているということです!私たちは矯正され治されるべきものの中に生きているのではなく、生きものの過程として、自分達の身体の中で発見し動き続けているのです。

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"Long Sitting" Turning on the "Lights" of Your Internal Support

"Long Sitting" Turning on the "Lights" of Your Internal Support

We all know that the way we sit can support or hurt our backs, however, we usually approach posture from a "right way or wrong way". We miss seeing the relationships that awaken us to our natural internal support – how gravity and space can naturally support us.
In this video, you will notice that I am folding forward from my hip sockets, sending my sitting bones/tailbone back, so that I am sitting on the front of my sitting bones, and allowing my inner ear to float forward, without rounding my back. This places my weight over my feet, into the back of my legs and pelvis, and frees up my spine. By allowing my inhale into my back, and pressing gently into my feet to sit up, then exhaling to allow the "waterfall" of my shoulder blades to melt down my back, I connect my "shoulder blades with my internal belly", and wake up my natural internal support! Repeat this movement 3 times and feel more open in your back, free in your spine/shoulders/neck and grounded in your feet with each sequence.
Practice "Long Sitting" at your desk at work, in your car, in front of your computer, while studying, reading…you will feel how you are re-calibrating your neck, back and hip tension, and creating space to re-ground and balance your body in any environment!

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Wendy Recommends Her Favorite Prop: Stretch-eze®

Wendy Recommends Her Favorite Prop: Stretch-eze® The Ultimate Full-Body Resistance Band

Are you still struggling with Pilates exercises that cause you to feel pain, discomfort in unresolved problem areas, or do you feel stuck and aren't really progressing? Would you like to feel more flowing motion in every movement? Would you like to feel your spine supple yet internally strong and centered enough to support any movement of your arms, legs and head, even in the most advanced movements?

Well, I'm inviting you to move beyond the "belief" that "props are not part of Pilates". Add the Stretch-eze® band to your repertoire, and begin exploring how you can use the band to gain a deeper awareness of how to connect your arms and legs to your natural Powerhouse ( the movement of your exhale….as your shoulder blades and lower ribs funnel down toward your navel center, notice that the internal lift of your pelvic floor and deep belly moves in and up…..and now just allow your inhale to happen naturally). Become aware of how incredible the deep intelligence of your body really is, and how, by releasing your arms and legs into the support of the band, you can create space for your body to move into areas that were previously too compressed, tight, or painful.

You'll notice that the bands are sized according to people's heights, yet, I find that it is also valuable to use a bigger or smaller band, depending on what my body feels is needed for the movement in order to feel open, connected, with no neck tension. Please let us know what your experience is with your band!

You 'll also notice that, under the Community Partners link on our website, we contribute a portion of all of our sales to local, national and global organizations that support at risk children and adults. By purchasing your band through our website, you are contributing to people helping themselves. Thank you for your partnership.

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Tensegrity Spirals – Flowing with Your Body's Bio-intelligence

Tensegrity Spirals – Flowing with Your Body's Bio-intelligence

These are 2 movement patterns that Phillip Beach, New Zealand Osteopath and author of "Muscles And Meridians: The Manipulation of Shape" shared with us last year in Austin. I have re-named them "Tensegrity Spirals" because of the way one feels the tensional-integrity "tensegrity" of how the connective tissue body supports the muscles and bones in a continuous tension. It's like the bones (compression members) are floating in a sea of connective tissue, from foot to head and hand.

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Wendy explores "How 'Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly' is a more embodied 'Pilates Powerhouse'

Wendy explores "How 'Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly' is a more embodied 'Pilates Powerhouse'

When we allow our bodies to sense weight, we naturally "yield" to gravity's support. By allowing your ribs to naturally gather on the "exhale" toward your navel center, you allow your body to naturally "inhale" as a reflex. This inhale from a deeper place of yielding to gravity, naturally allows your back to soften and widen, your abdominals to move with your breath, and your diaphragm to fully expand and contract.
There is not one way to breath….by getting in touch with our natural breath, we access an adaptive way of breathing that supports any movement….from slow and gentle to fast and aerobic. Your body will regain its childlike responsiveness, and adapt to what is needed at the time. But first we must learn to listen to our body's deep intelligence.

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Wendy, "Are you Creating 'Tension' or 'Ease' when You Move?"

"Are you Creating 'Tension' or 'Ease' when You Move?"

When we allow our bodies to "yield" to gravity's support as our pre-movement, we create a nourishing and restorative way of being with ourselves .…even in the most difficult movements. When we "pull our shoulders down and our belly's in" we create unnecessary tension.

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Wendy Demonstartes the Stretch-eze

Wendy demonstrating "Standing in the Band"…using the Stretch-eze band by Kimberly Dye

(bands available for sale at Pilates Center of Austin – very important support for Pilates matwork…..soon to come!)
In this exploration "Standing in the Band", Wendy is opening to whole body breathing by softening her elbows and knees to breath, as Down the Back "waterfall" grounds her shoulder blades/sitting bones/tailbone and feet and Up the Front "internal lift" naturally awakens her inner ankle to inner ear….freeing up her ribs/shoulders/arms and neck!

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3Core Connections® Roll Up

Marcos Apodaca Demonstrates 3Core Connections® Roll Up

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