Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Perception and Pilates: Part I

About two weeks ago, my buddy Jack (my business partner’s son) created an anatomy book.  It’s not too surprising to us how much this four year old knows about the body.  He has grown up at The Pilates Studio after all, and we are body people.  Seriously, Jack started Planking before it was an internet sensation, but this anatomy book has astounded us.  This anatomy book is the kind of artifact that his mom will keep forever. It’s both a work of art and a depiction of this young one’s perception of the body.  I was surprised by the accuracy of the drawings, and have spent the last two weeks thinking how did he know that?  And then I’ve been wondering, how can Jack’s perception of the body inform connections in my own?

For instance in this picture of Jack’s hand:

How did Jack know how many bones were in each finger and even more how did he understand what the joints of the hand look like?  Clearly Jack hadn’t taken an anatomy course, which is where I remember learning about such things.  When Laurie asked Jack how he knew how many bones were in his fingers he rolled his eyes the way only a four and a half year old can and said, “Mom, one, two three!” as he bent his fingers at the knuckles and pointed to each bone.   How could Laurie not know that there were three bones in each finger, “DUH,” was certainly implied. 

What can we learn from this?  What if we just observed our bodies?  What if we watched them like a four year old watches his body?  Would we know more profound things than those we learned in biology class? 

Here is Jack’s picture of the brain complete with brainstem:

Is our brain just a bunch of squiggles?  When I think about what I know about the brain and all of its connections, I think Jack’s drawing has some conceptual accuracy.  I imagine that the lines swirling around in this depiction of the brain are all of the electrical connections in the brain.  Synapses firing and sending signals…I wonder if Jack has combined what he sees and what he feels.  Without the corruption of knowledge can Jack feel the messages being passed in his body?  Could we if we tried?

And finally what can we learn from Jack’s picture of the Ribcage

If we think that size is a depiction of importance.  Jack’s intuition shows how important he thinks the ribcage is.  Jack has a huge heart, and I can imagine that he feels the world more than he thinks about the world. The ribcage must be protecting something important…This, of course, might be reading too much into a giant picture of the ribcage created by a four year old, but this is how my brain works. 
Looking at the body is one of my very favorite things, but even more winding my way through someone else’s mind wondering how they see the body is what makes me a teacher.  The perception we have of our bodies informs the perception of our movement, and stepping out of our own perception into that of someone else’s is the best way to expand our thoughts and understand those around us.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A PMA-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

You may have noticed that This blogpost is part I...Next week, to continue our "Perception and Pilates" series, I shall wind my way through the paintings of our very own Jennifer Sussman.  Her series is entitled invented body systems, and well  I can't wait to let the connections flow.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How my Anthropology Minor makes me a better Pilates Instructor

Many years ago, (I believe I was a sophomore in college) I took a course at Western Wyoming College entitled, “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology.”  To be honest, I am not sure why I signed up for the course.  At the time, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t even know the definition of the word Anthropology. 
But for whatever reason, I was registered for this course, and on the first day I went.  The professor Charlie Love, gave a lecture of which I remember little, but one thing he said stuck with me, “In your heart you know you are right.”  A very empowering statement until he went on to describe the conflict that occurs when what you know to be right in your heart is different than what another person knows to be right.  Is your heart any more correct than the other hearts?

And with this began a journey of this thing we call cultural anthropology…Deconstructing constructs and questioning everything…I soaked in all of the information that I could.  Every elective I took (I was a dance major after all) was related to anthropology in some way.  It was my interest and my passion, and at the end of four years I completed my degree, A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in Anthropology.  How’s that for practical????  But wait…It in fact was a very practical degree, but I couldn’t articulate why until recently. 

From there, my study of different cultures continued through the eyes of Laban Movement Analysis and of course I got a day job teaching Pilates. (A girl’s got to make a living)  But something happened in these formative years.  My worldview changed.  Without trying, I learned to see with some insight into the worldview of others.  I didn’t know this made me a better instructor, and honestly I hadn’t made many connections between Anthropological thought and effective teaching until this many years later when I took a Polestar Pilates continuing education course taught by Helen Masin of the University of Miami.

The course entitled, “Communication Skills for Pilates Teachers,” sounded fascinating, but I didn’t know that it was going to be like going home.  I didn’t know that I would be talking about mini ethnographies and worldviews.  I didn’t know that I would be learning about active listening and Neuro Linguistic Programming.  But most importantly, I didn’t know that I was going to be reminded of Edward T. Hall and the amazing qualitative research he did on nonverbal communication.  Of course this took me to my bookshelf, where I have all of his books!  There will be some revisiting happening soon!

As always after a course, I come to the studio with different eyes.  This week it was how am I adapting my worldview hour to hour…

How might a session with Avery, (check out the videos below,) be different than other sessions?           

In this picture my clients are experiencing MY worldview: We could save the world if we would just take care of our feet! 

The most important thing Helen Masin said, “Approach every interaction with curiosity.”  How exciting is that?  My curiosity is what gets me through the day!  Who knew?

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A – PMA® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio