Pilates for the Body and Brain

“Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your mental and subconscious activities.” (Pilates 1945)

Above is a direct quote from Joseph Pilates explaining what he expected from the method that was later named after him, Pilates. Everyone agrees that we grow concerned about our physical limitations as the body ages. With age and decreased activity our neuromuscular connectivity becomes altered. By neuromuscular connectivity, we mean the brain to muscle connection which helps us coordinate movement and function.  We develop altered and ineffective movement patterns, which often lead to pain and dysfunction. Pilates is a method of training that, through it’s focus on postural stability and alignment, can stimulate and re-program our system to improve quality of movement.

By connecting the brain to the body as we move it, conscious movement gradually becomes automatic or subconscious. This is sometimes referred to as motor learning. For example, a slumped posture might feel normal due to the years and years of poor sitting habits. As we initially correct the slump by bringing an awareness to it, it feels awkward and requires repeated reminders.  Over time however, the brain inputs the sit and stand TALL reminders into the body as a constant, and the body realizes the change. The culmination of this process results in the slumped posture beginning to feel abnormal, and the sit and stand TALL posture normal. It becomes no longer a conscious effort but a subconscious one, much like blinking the eye.

In a typical hour long Pilates session clients are continuously directed to focus and connect the brain to the body. The result of increased conscious and subconscious brain work facilitates a natural shift towards the desired effect.  At Baudry Therapy Center, we use a holistic approach to wellness, including comprehensive Pilates methods to improve  form and function for active movement.

By Kathy Koehl

Pilates Instructor at Baudry Therapy Center

strength, balance, motion…for fitness, for life

Got Balance?

You might be asking yourself…why should I care about my balance?   Balance is necessary for all activities. When our balance decreases, so does our ability to do things. Many people complain that their balance is bad or not what it used to be.  Balance involves not only equilibrium but strength, vision, and a movement awareness called proprioception. Try this simple balance test:

Stand on one leg with the opposite hip flexed to a 90 degree angle, parallel to the ground (like a flamingo).

Ask yourself the following:

  • Can I do it?
  • Is there a difference on the left vs. the right?
  • Is it easy?

If this was difficult, or if there was a difference between the right and the left, you’ve already identified a balance issue.

If this step was easy, try closing your eyes and performing the same as above.

  • How did you do with your eyes closed?
  • Were you able to do it?

To have good balance, I’d like to see you be able to stand on one leg with your eyes closed for at least 10 seconds… 25+ seconds would be excellent.

So, why was it harder to do with your eyes closed?  By closing your eyes you eliminate your vision, which helps you balance, and challenge your proprioceptive system—the sense of body position also known as body awareness. We all have it, some maybe more in tune than others, but we can all develop it with practice. Taking away your vision also helps to identify specific muscle weaknesses which play a big part in balance issues.

Any loss of balance could be caused by a limitation in flexibility, joint mobility, or strength in the ankles, knees, hips or even the spine.  Old unresolved injuries can lead to balance issues. If you were unable to stand on one leg with your eyes closed for 10 seconds or more, you should work on your balance. Poor balance limits your ability to enjoy life… to get into a boat and go fishing, play golf, climb a hill, play with your kids, or grandchildren.  Having great balance will improve your ability to perform your everyday activities and tasks.

Anyone can improve their balance. Practice makes perfect, so everyday it would be beneficial to work on standing on one leg to improve your balance.  Be sure to practice on both legs!  Practice it while performing normal activities like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes.  With consistent practice, you will find that your ability to balance will dramatically improve.