The Power of Coordination – mind body connection

Los Angeles – Photo Jody Domingue 2009

Let’s break down coordination – What is it, why is it important, and how to teach it in Pilates.

This is an excerpt from: Exercise therapy Christopher M. Norris PhD MSc MCSP, in Managing Sports Injuries (Fourth Edition), 2011
Proprioception is the awareness of the body in space. It is the use of joint position sense and joint motion sense to respond to stresses placed upon the body by alteration of posture and movement.

Proprioception encompasses three aspects, known as the ‘ABC of proprioception’. These are:  agility, balance and coordinationAgility is the capacity to control the direction of the body or body part during rapid movements, while balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium by keeping the line of gravity of the body within the body’s base of support. Coordination is the smoothness of an activity. This is produced by a combination of muscles acting together with appropriate intensity and timing (Houglum, 2001).”

Coordination is about the appropriate effort and timing. If the energy is too strong or too light, the movement won’t be successful. Some examples would be watching professional sports and dance.

Where are the areas that a client might need coaching with coordination?
1. “Rehabilitation from injury, or re-patterning of basic movement abilities which support psychophyscial security and basic functional/expressive skills.
2. Skill development requiring sophisticated coordination and phrasing of movement – to facilitate technical virtuosity” Making Connections, Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals by Peggy Hackney, pg. 20

Coordinated movement with feedback from an instructor is instrumental to both advanced student that seeks to challenge their virtuosity and develop the mind body pathways for the post-rehabilitation or beginning student.

In an advanced session, most of the class is coordination, flow, tempo, and fascia connection. I use combinations of two to three exercises to flow working on transitions. The transitions are typically where the student disconnects from their mind and body. I will demonstration the sequences with the transition and ask them to “mark” the movement. Marking is a term used in dance to help pattern the movement to the brain without using full muscular engagement (usually around 50% effort). The student/s have to be alert, open, and connected to their bodies. Another way to improve the virtuosity is to use hands on tactile cuing to deepen connections and open up fascia pathways which allows for more integration of the mind, body, and spirit.

I am very selective with my beginning students that we first embrace all of the foundation movements for at least 20 minutes prior to coordination exercises so they feel connected and confident in their bodies. I typically only teach 2-4 coordination exercises per class and ask them to practice 1 of those exercises at home. It is different each week. I also incorporate standing balance exercises at the end of the class to strengthen proprioception.

A way to challenge coordination for both advanced and beginning students is to change the emphasis of the exercise, rep, speed/tempo, rhythm, and spring tension.

Layering work – A lot of students know the exercises so well that they check out and not engage in the movement (I have seen this in both Advanced and Beginning students). Here is an example video of layering work for I created for Mid Back Series on the Reformer. A typical format is: Part 1 Movement A, Part 2 Movement B, Part 3 Combine A & B.
Give the clients permission to be playful with the movement, make mistakes, and even make their own variation. The initial focus on being open enough to try the combination. I tell them with practice coordination, does improve.

This week’s mini class – is a Classical Pilates Mat and Contemporary Pilates/Barre Standing Coordination.

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