Tension in the body is stress. As Pilates teachers, you can see the tension of the tissue in the body in front of you. Sometimes it manifests in rotational patterns, swelling, or one side dominating, held breath, unequal use of the body, disconnect to the core, etc. When the client continues to work in these patterns – it is a imbalance, and will lead to more imbalances and compensations.
In The Roots and Philosophy of Dynamic Manual Interface: Manual therapy to Awaken the Inner Healer by Frank Lowen, discusses what are compensations (pg. 41):
“Jean-Pierre Barrel said, “We don’t cure anyone–we assist them with their compensations.” To live is to compensate.
I adopted his philosophy that “symptoms do not appear until the body’s ability to compensate has been used up.” It isn’t until we can no longer compensate for our stresses that we start to get sensations of discomfort and pain. When a person experiences symptoms, (e.g. pain, itching, dizziness, weakness, spasm, fatigue, etc.) it is usually because he or she has developed a series of patterns and restrictions to which the body has accommodated but can no longer compensate for.”
What do we do with these restriction patterns, how do we as teachers begin to address them?
6 Steps to address restrictions in the fascia:
I will use footwork for the following example: one knee extends before the other knee on the press out during the concentric contraction.
- Awareness – if we see a pattern that is stuck, we should ask questions, some of mine are: I am noticing your left knee is extending first then the right knee. Do you feel that? If they say no, Watch your knees as you press out the reformer, can you see the left knee extending first? If they say, yes I can see that, but I can’t feel it. Then we have to help them in step 2.
- Tactile Cueing – I am going to place my hands on the tops of your knees, now press out and notice if you feel the left knee extending first. Usually they will say, Yes now I feel that. I might continue to keep my hands on their knees or if I see another restriction in the ankle or the hip, we might work on that.
- Re-pattern – Let’s figure out what we can do to gain more motor control, connectivity to the pattern. This is where your intuition as a teacher will start to come into play. Here are some of my tactics: Let’s lighten the spring tension. How does it feel? Or Let’s make the spring tension heavier. How does it feel? Verbally cueing the client to press out with the left leg more. Lead with the left leg. Do you feel more balanced movement?
- Asymmetrical movement – If the left side is continuing to lag, I might try some single leg work on that side only to “wake up” the connective tissue and then go back to the press out on both legs. Oftentimes I will have the client use the jumpboard for footwork to give more stability to the foot.
- Pattern Journal – keep a journal of what you are seeing, most likely these patterns are consistent.
- Create a space of positivity and trust – a collaborative environment, where the client and you can work together on the patterns, emotions, and body attitudes that come up. Encouragement is a place of great support.
The tension in the tissue can be changed by the Pilates sessions that we teach, we can start to help with the compensations. This shift in patterns changes the internal environment of the body quite quickly. Understanding the client’s history will help with the patterns.
Frank Lowen also states (page 42),
“I have never found an injury that was not connected to numerous old patterns in the body. In other words, there is a predisposition from a person’s history toward injuring certain areas, toward forces being directed on fault lines, even in an impact.”
I too have observed that injuries of the past are “fault lines” for patterns and avoidance of movement. Have you observed that in your teaching?
One final quote from Frank Lowen,
“Each body inherently knows how to correct itself, given the opportunity and support.”
ps. I am teaching a teacher virtual workshop Sept. 20 9:30-10:45 AM PST. I would love for you to join me, spece limited.