October 15, 2023
In this installment of Wellness and Pilates thoughts, we will begin with the idea to Deepen. You can catch up on any posts you might have missed here.
“Go deep, not wide.”
My mentor and president of the RPTT teacher training program, Alycea Ungaro speaks about going deeper into the system of Pilates instead of wider. This idea of going deeper is often about taking a piece of the work and exploring it more. This speaks to my desire to learn and understand as well as being a great way of parsing out some complicated movement. I think this approach can be used for just about everything in life, but also speaks directly to my minimalist soul. To me, less is more in Pilates, and it can be achieved brilliantly by going deeper into the many concepts and principles in Pilates. Think of it as the opposite of not seeing the forest for the trees, you can better appreciate the forest by studying the trees. “To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live” ~Albert Schweitzer
Declutter and/or downsize!
As I just alluded, for the last decade or so, I have been on a minimalist journey. Along the way, I learned that clutter is everywhere. It’s in homes, spending habits, how we structure and spend our days, habits, wardrobe, physical spaces like rooms and cars, digital life from social media to cluttered mail boxes, our minds which have increasing lost the ability to quiet, priorities, desires, portions, and possessions. Every item we have needs to be taken care of and that takes time. If you are looking for more time, own less. My journey began with a need to organize the world around me. I guess it can be viewed as a form of control when things seem out of control, but I prefer to look at it as making order out of chaos, which calms me. Over time I realized no amount of organizing will stick if you simply have too much stuff. While I continue to love organizing books and shows, I am often struck by how much unnecessary stuff we are being shown beautifully organized. I stopped buying into the notion of needing the perfect item for every occasion. Joshua Becker poses a great question of what I would use instead if I didn’t have the item in question. Once I realized that having less would not negatively impact my life in anyway and how much time, money, and stress I saved myself, I was a convert. Every time I donate, it feels great to know that items I no longer need will get used by someone who not only wants but perhaps needs them.
Diet does not refer to something you go on to lose weight. Well sometimes it does, but it is defined as the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually consumes. Therefore, your diet is what you watch, what you listen to, what you read, and the people you hang around. It’s not just food but is closely related to our relationships with food! There are so many obstructions in the way of us all having a better diet. Step one is becoming aware of them. There are tools that can help you with this. I am a fan of Lumen, which helps you hack your metabolism by simply being away of whether or not you are in fat burning mode and simple ways to improve it. Data is the key to understanding, and my favorite tracker is MyFitnessPal. These tools have been instrumental in seeing reality as opposed to what I would tell myself. We can detox or put our entire lives on a program to make better choices about what we consume in the interest of health and wellness. Going back to minimalism, one of my favorite books is Does This Clutter Make My Butt Fat. I was able to see the correlation very clearly, and grasp the notion that How You Do One Thing Is How You Do Everything.
One of the most iconic slogans of all time – Just Do It is a call to action for anyone on a wellness journey. There are other ways to move someone to action, “shit or get off the can” was a favorite of my fathers, but nothing inspires quite the way this slogan does. So let it inspire you to stop planning and start doing. Once you start things evolve.
We love a good double in Pilates. We have the double leg stretch, double straight leg stretch (lower lift), the double leg kick, and more. As a rule of thumb, doing a movement with both legs at the same time is more difficult than one at a time. This is why if a client’s back is not feeling great, we will stick with the single-leg versions.
My nemesis for memorizing the names of exercises and their order during my various teacher training programs. What goes up must come down – up stretch into down stretch, is how I finally memorized this duo of exercises!
Most of us aren’t dancers and barely know the difference between flexing and pointing, but demi-point is in the name of a few exercises, so for clarity it is rising onto the balls of the feet with a very highly lifted heel. It is not on the tips of your toes like Pointe. Get this right and certain exercises are transformed.
Mr. Pilates loved a dowel when designing his apparatus. We have them on the high mat, on top of the high chair, on rungs of the ladder barrel, and Swedish bars. We distinguish these from poles and pipes when referring to them in teaching. The most known are the dowels on the high mats, but even our short box poles when made of wood are dowels.
Daily Habits / Day
We are what we do repeatedly, so having a strong daily habit routine is a major stepping stone to a healthy life. Start simply with a strong morning routine of waking up, making the bed, brushing your teeth and downing a glass of water. You can build from there, but creating a series of things you do together regularly (also known as habit-bundling) will give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
A dynamic movement is the way we move from one location to another using our body and muscles. A dynamic movement can include one of or a combination of directional movements: (“Improve Sports Skills & Game Performance with Dynamic Movement Drills”). Pilates teaches us functional and dynamic movement which is so important as our lives grow increasingly sedentary. Rolling like a ball up to standing is one of my favorite exercises as it teaches a very useful life skill. As we age it is important to be able to get down to the ground and back up, ideally without our hands. This is one of the reasons we obsess about transitions.
“Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.”
Joseph Pilates believed that focusing on breathing was vital. “It is tragically deplorable,” he once said, “to contemplate the millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing.” So, we urge you to learn to breathe correctly! Pilates is generally in and out through the nose. You can practice deep breathing techniques for immediate calming effects.
Detox / Dose
We live in an increasingly toxic world. Anything you can do to limit your exposure to toxins works to get you ahead of the game. Think of a glass half full of water. Every toxin you encounter fills the glass more. When it spills over, we feel unwell. Many of our daily toxins are beyond our control, but what we store our food in, put in our mouths and bodies, and on our skin, can be controlled. If you need a little help clearing out the toxins Dose is one of my favorite supplements.
There is no such thing as an insignificant detail. I often tell new clients that Pilates is easiest the first time you do it and gets harder as you get better. It’s all about the details, and because Pilates is a complex set of movements, the details often get refined once the other parts click into place. It doesn’t mean you were doing it wrong; it simply means there is always room to improve and that comes from focusing on the details to wring more out of every exercise. Genius they say, is in the details. As in Pilates, so it is in life.
“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” (Hamlet)
While in the context of Hamlet, this can be interpreted as questioning if it is better to give up than face things head-on, I like the section in the middle. Sleep is so important for unleashing creativity and letting your subconscious take the reins. Sleep well so you know how to daydream and dream big dreams. We all know that dreams don’t work unless you do, so Dream, Plan, DO!
That quote was a follow-up to the famous to be or not to be quote, which is about life and death, but I like to see the fuller notion, which is when we stop dreaming, we die.
This list is less than complete, but a place to begin! Join us every 2 weeks as we dive into Pilates and wellness topics to bring you a little closer to your best self in a way that might be sustainable.
Each post will tackle another letter of the alphabet and 14 topics that begin with that letter. You can experiment with any or all the topics over the next 14 days and keep the ones that work best for you. Stick with it as we add the next letter. Before you know it, you will have a habit stacked your way to wellness one letter at a time.
The road to wellness is about the journey, not the destination. We often focus on the body, but true wellness is mind, body, and spirit. I’d like to be your wellness concierge in addition to your Pilates instructor.