Thursday, June 28, 2012

Before I did Pilates I…Book Review week II

Last week I talked about two contemporaries of Joseph Pilates that informed the way I teach movement.  This week the book review continues with three books that accompanied me around New York City many years ago.  They were a large part of my life when I was becoming a Certified Movement Analyst by the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS).  These books were part of my consciousness when I was becoming acclimated to the subway system in New York City.  They followed me as a dancer in a small children’s dance and storytelling company. They went with me to two day-jobs, and several babysitting gigs.  These books followed me between China Town, the Upper East Side, Union Square, and Harlem.  One of the best parts of my time in New York was being followed around by ideas from Peggy Hackney’s Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals, Irene Dowd’s Taking Root To Fly,  and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Sensing, Feeling, and Action.  I learned the importance of the Patterns of Total Body Connectivity, how to view the foot as an explorer of the earth, and how to move from the floor to standing with efficiency and power. 

And it was at this time that I learned how to teach movement.  Since then, I have done many Pilates trainings, several of which were absolutely wonderful, but I sincerely believe that my work as a Pilates Instructor is informed by learning to teach movement not exercise!  When a person is teaching movement, then the method of movement that she is teaching becomes moot…It is the way the movement patterns are communicated, the way that every movement is seen as something the whole body is doing rather than something the knee is doing.  It is the way the breath is incorporated.  I remember when I first learned Pilates, my frame was the Bartenieff Fundamentals, and I would find myself thinking what a great way to teach the head tail connection, or what a fabulous way to strengthen the heel-sitz bone connection.  I teach Pilates, but the depth of my teaching is shaped by many other ideas as well. 

Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals, by Peggy Hackney was released when I was in the Laban/Bartenieff certification program.  I remember excitedly ordering this book (which to a starving artist was not cheap).  I was so excited to read the clarity in the language.  Peggy Hackney’s ideas are complex, but her explanations are simple and easy to digest, which is quite different from the traditional Laban Movement Analysis literature.  At the beginning she writes about her mentor Irmgard Bartenieff, and the story can bring tears to your eyes.  She creates a context for her work with Irmgard, and she talks about movement with both passion and empathy for the stories that bodies tell.  I still use this book at the University of Hartford.  I have the first edition and the binding is worn, but I refer to it constantly both in my teaching and my writing.  

Taking Root to Fly by Irene Dowd is an anatomy book, but there is nothing traditional about it.  In this book our feet are roots and our movement is flight. It accurately describes the body with metaphor and imagery.  Irene takes her descriptions of anatomy out of the industrial age and back to nature.  She describes anatomy in relationship to movement in a nuanced way.  The knee joint becomes more than a simple hinge seen on a doorframe, Irene explains the three dimensional movement of the knee.   Irene taught me how to see the body without judgment.  Movement patterns are not right or wrong, they are strategies, and if you want to create change in the body, you must first decipher the purpose of the strategy you want to change.  In movement there is no right or wrong…

Sensing, Feeling, and Action is a collection of articles by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.  From this book, I learned developmental patterns; I learned that when we think about movement we must also think about the movement of the circulatory system, the digestive system, and the nervous system. Our bones and muscles are just the beginning of movement.  How do our organs react to abdominal strengthening exercises?  How do muscular imbalances affect digestion?  For the purposes of categorization we have named individual systems as if they are separate from each other, but are they?  Have anatomy books that separate the body into individual parts led us astray? What happens when you put the individual systems back together?  I believe it was at this time in my life that I learned and fell in love with the word Gestalt: the whole is not a sum of its individual parts.  Bonnie’s book explores this idea with creativity and great clarity.

There you have it!  Why do I see the world the way that I do? Well certainly I can’t contribute my entire worldview and expertise to three books, (which is why next week I am going to talk about a few more) but it is always interesting to think about a time in your life when a few books are important and what effect they have on your view of the earth along with the life that lives here.  Next week it’s all about fascia with the work of Tom Myers on the forefront …I’ve taken a course from him and I love his work…be prepared next week we’re talking about fascia fascia fascia!!!  

Thanks for reading
Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Director of The Pilates Studio  

If any of these books sound like must haves please feel free to visit The Pilates Studio’s Amazon Store!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anatomy, Movement, and Pilates Books Oh My!

Have you ever witnessed a pilates session in which I excitedly ran over to the bookshelf, pulled out a book, and turned the page to a picture that illustrated what I was trying to say.  Have you chuckled with me about Tom Myer’s article entitled,  “Psoas, Psubstitutes.” (I’m chuckling a little bit right now, what a fabulous title!)  As a Pilates and movement instructor, I am lucky that my love for books and words has been so very beneficial to my teaching.  Whether I am exploring the right side of my brain with imagery and pictures, making analogies to the functions of the human body, or stepping into logic, functional strength and kinesiology, there are many books that have aided in my teaching.  I have spent many lunchtimes at Esselon cafĂ© lost in a book, thinking about and loving movement.  You’ve all heard me talk about my favorite authors, my friends as I call them whether I’ve met them in person or not.

In this next series of blogposts, I want to give a short review of a few of my favorite resources.   In this post, I will write about two books in which the authors worked during the era that Joseph Pilates developed his method.  This list is by no means complete.  This is my lineage.  These are my influences.  These are the books that I explored when I was learning how to teach movement.  There are so many more out there and I can’t wait to become influenced by other movement thoughts, after all the breadth of our knowledge is always just beginning.  I am often surprised when people ask me about Pilates, and sometimes they don’t even know that Joseph Pilates was a person.  They ask me “Who made up Pilates?”  And I say, “Joe Pilates.”  They say, “Come on, really?”  And well, I’m telling the truth.  Joseph Pilates developed Pilates!  He was one voice of many that were visionaries in the world of movement.   Mabel Todd and Irmgard Bartenieff were two others that graced my education and experience.

Joseph Pilates developed his work in the early 20th century at a time when the world saw many breaks from tradition in the arts, the view of the human mind, and the field of health.  People started seeing the body and the mind as intricate partners and equals as opposed to separate entities of which the body was a lesser.  Movement was being observed and given meaning.  Dance Artists were exploring real human emotion and thought as opposed to archetypal narratives.  Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States in 1925 and amid this transformation of thought, he continued to develop his method, which he called contrology.  He wrote about his work in his book Return To Life. In this Book Joseph Pilates outlines his life’s work including exercises, and the way he viewed a healthy lifestyle.   

Another Pioneer, and a “friend” that holds a special place in my heart is Irmgard Bartenieff.   She immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1936.  Her book Body Movement: Coping with the Environment was the book I carried everywhere when I was in Certification Program at The Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies.  Irmgard brought the theories of Rudolf Laban to the United States.  She was a physio therapist and dance therapist, and her work is what founded the Laban/Bartenieff Institute in New York City.  I never met Irmgard, but in the stories I’ve heard I think that she was the kind of movement teacher that would put you in places where learning was the only option.  She taught with movement.  If a student had a question she would get them moving so that the student could find the answer.   All questions were answered with more inquiry.  Irmgard Bartenieff developed the Bartenieff Fundamentals™; a series of exercises and movement patterns that encourage movement efficiency and connectivity.  From Bartenieff’s work, I learned the heel-to sits bone connection, the beauty of the spiral, the importance of the breath and developmental movement.  I learned how to fly along a diagonal, roll like a child, and stand like a human being.  Through her eyes I discovered the theories of Buckminster Fuller.  I learned her work at a young age and I am forever grateful for the eyes and observation skills that Laban Movement Analysis and the Bartenieff Fundamentals gave to me.   

Mabel Todd wrote The Thinking Body in 1937 and it was reprinted in 1968.  Mabel Todd brought the following to the moving professions; “It is as profoundly true that we are as much affected in our thinking by our bodily attitudes as our bodily attitudes are affected in the reflection of our mental and bodily states.”  Have you ever come out of a Pilates session feeling better than before? Or more simply, what do you experience after a ten minute walk in the sunshine?  Movement is so important in our lives and Mabel Todd was a pioneer in this understanding.   Her work was one of the first to use imagery to teach movement.  For instance, if someone said to lift your arms, you might have an idea of what action to take, but if someone said lift your arms as if you are an eagle spreading his wings, you might move differently.  This image brings a certain amount of expression to the movement.  The movement becomes more than a simple action explained by the biomechanics and kinesiology of the body.  It becomes an expressive movement with depth and meaning. 

I read Mabel and Irmgard’s books long before I ever learned Pilates, and it is through the lenses of the Bartenieff Fundamentals ™ and a mind body connection that I learned the Pilates Method.  Does this affect my teaching?  Are we all a product of all our influences?  Absolutely…Stay tuned for next week when I speak to the books that come out of the Laban/Bartenieff lineage!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Director The Pilates Studio

P.S.  If any of these books seem like the right read for you, then follow this link to our Amazon page, where they are all easily accessible.  You can also follow the link to all of the small apparatus on the amazon site.  Have you ever wanted to send a foam roller to your friend or family member?  This easy link makes it so very possible!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pilates, Laban, and Communication

This Friday June 15, I am going to have the pleasure of collaborating with Jeff Rock and Doug Foresta at a men’s retreat entitled: How To Get From Where You Are
 To Where You Want To Be 
(Even When There’s Stuff in the Way) At this retreat I will give a talk about non-verbal communication strategies based in the theories of Rudolf Laban.  The retreat is in Belchertown and promises to be a day of interesting ideas and collaboration.  For more information visit the website for Swift River Coaching.  If you have interest in attending this retreat it’s not too late there are a few spots left, call to reserve your spot, 413.283.6376.   If by chance, you have interest in this retreat but June 15th is too close, then never fear.  Jeff, Doug, and I will continue our collaboration further to bring the retreat to you again on July 21.  Stay tuned for more information. 
First, who is Rudolf Laban? He was a man who developed a system of movement analysis.  Dancers, actors, physical therapists, dance therapists, and psychologists have used his system among many others.  I came to this work as a dancer and continue to use it in my every day communications, and movement education.  Rudolf Laban and Joseph Pilates were contemporaries and collaborated in England after World War I.  His system is analytical and relates the movement of the human body into the world that surrounds it. 
As I was preparing for this talk, I thought I would share some of these ideas with the readers of The Pilates Studio’s blog.  Maybe you might want to go to the retreat this Friday or on July 21, or maybe just maybe you’ll want to have a conversation date with me about Laban Movement Analysis.  Though you should know that nothing brings out the fast talking nerdy side of me like the theories of Rudolf Laban.
In a world of miscommunication, what if we filled our toolbox with every communication skill?  Movement is meaningful in all of its forms whether it is the performance artist in downtown New York,  the comedic movement genius of Steve Martin, the nurturing parent, the angry lover, or the charismatic leader, every movement we make has meaning.

I love observing animals because movement and posture is often the only way that they have to communicate...How much meaning does the dog's tailwag have?  What do you know is coming when a cat reaches its paws towards you?  What about the shaking of a mouse or the gentle nip of a parakeet?  Without words our human bodies communicate in much the same way.   Sometimes this non-verbal communication matches the words we are saying and sometimes it does not.

It's takes a talented photographer to catch meaning in photographs because the meaning in movement happens between the stillnesses.  The way our body moves from shape to shape has as much meaning as any posture we find.  Imagine a child jumping out of a chair when it's recess versus that same child who's been called up to the chalkboard when he doesn't know the answer.  What about the person that leans forward to hear the conversation better? Or the person that takes a step back and assesses a precarious situation?  What if a person yawns at the end of a long day right before spreading out on the couch? Consider, the person who might suddenly clasp her hands in front of her.  It is more than posture that communicates it is the change in posture that creates meaning.   

Moving on from shape, let's think about the way in which we express ourselves.  What is our relationship to the world around us and how do we feel about it?  How do we express those feelings to the outside world?

If you know me, you know that, I fail to see that which is black and white in this world. This may be why I resonate with Laban's theories so well.  When speaking about our relationship to the gravitational pull of the earth nobody is floating and nobody is cracking pavement with each step.  Yet if you think about it, you can imagine the person whose gestures move through the air as if riding a slight breeze.  Or another person that moves with a commanding power like the wisest of lions. 

Have you ever met the person that is rushing everywhere she goes, or the person with a sharp, fast wit?  This person might be using quick time in his or her relationship to time as it passes.  There is also the person where it seems that time doesn't exist...Her movements might ride the breath making the most of every inhale...Feeling every movement...Nothing is skipped everything is noticed.  

What is the person's relationship to the space around them?  Is he taking it in as if there are eyeballs all over his body? Or is she so focused on one item that the space outside of this item almost disappears from her awareness?

Is someone's movement so connected that he or she never seems to pause or find stillness, and if so, if you asked could he or she find stillness?

Find a conversation to observe.  What do you see?  And for more information contact Jeff Rock of Swift River coaching to learn about this fabulous insight opportunity.

Thanks for reading!
Katrina Hawley
Co-Director The Pilates Studio

Saturday, June 9, 2012

And the winner is….

We don’t know, but what fun it has been trying to decide.  Over the last two weeks the mirror at The Pilates Studio has been covered with possible names for “the kitchen area.”  Everybody wants to put in his or her two cents.  We called it a “name the room contest” and we just can’t decide!!!

In reality the best part of this entire process has been seeing the excitement in the studio.  It is very clear that everyone loves the ambiance of the new furniture.  Many conversations have happened after Pilates classes.  People relax in the new room.  Drink tea and connect to others, and better yet everyone sees how important that can be. 

Everyone that comes to the studio understands that movement is magic, and the continuing to move is important.  But the people that come to the studio understand that there is more to movement than just moving.  There is connecting to other human beings, sharing stories, listening to joys and sorrows.  Something special happens at The Pilates Studio that you can’t get out of a Pilates video.  That is what this process illustrated more than anything else. 
Here’s the list so far!  What do you think?  Let us know!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Director The Pilates Studio

The Lounge
The Waiting Room
The hang out zone
The Tea Room
The Den
The Tea Lounge
The Tea Zone
The Cozy Cove
The Oasis
The Groove Cave
The Snuggery
Laurie’s Lair
The Lizard Lounge
The Living Room
The Tea Cozy
The Table Top Lounge
The Womb Room
The Tea and Tranquility Room
The Bar
The Comfort Zone
The Clara Room
Lighten up Lounge
Link up lounge