6 Impossible Things

Chest Expansion
Chest Expansion. Eyes are closed as many of us do, in order to stay completely focused on those 6 impossible things.

Me instructing:

“Okay, slide your hip bones up…”
“Let your shoulders settle down onto your ribs…”
“Find just a hint of that upper ab engagement…”
“Let the movement begin from your sacrum sliding down through your pelvis…”
“Keep your neck long…”
“Breathe in and move…”


“You want me to remember all that?”


“Yep, that’s Pilates for you, asking you to remember 6 impossible things at the same time.”

I’ll admit, channeling a bit of Lewis Carroll for any reason makes me happy.  Yet it is also so appropriate to this invigorating, maddening, wonderful, difficult part of Pilates:  the total body management through mental awareness, concentration, focus and control.

Those four things (awareness, concentration, focus and precise control) are four of the fundamental concepts of Pilates.  And we, cruel instructors that we are, ask you to use all four of them, all at the same time, while moving (and throwing probably a few other things into the mix, too).

It’s crazy, it’s difficult, and it’s training.

Pilates isn’t just a physical regime.  It is mental, it can be emotional, it borders on the spiritual.  Asking ourselves to hold within our consciousness these six requirements at the same time leads us to internal change.

Our mind/body connection is greatly improved.  We are actually focusing on what the body is doing, and with 6 things to remember at the same time, there is no chance that our minds can drift off to some other topic.  Rather like how we can balance one dish on our hand and have a completely focused conversation with someone no problem, but add two or three or four balanced dishes on top of the first one, and that conversation becomes a bit trickier.  More of our attention is focused on the physical part of what we are doing because we can’t simply rely on our trained physical habits.  The challenge is too high.

Naturally, as we practice our capacity increases, so we would think that this becomes easier, yes?  That the mind could start to wander because we’ve integrated these things?  We have the ability to hold all of it at the same time?

Ah, no.  We get better at actually holding all 6 at the same time but thanks to constant refinement, we never reach a stage where we are better served by letting the body go off working on its own without the mind there to help shape the best results.

Because of that constant, necessary integration of mind with movement, we create a stronger, healthier relationship between mind and body.  We create stronger, healthier bodies by involving the refinement and attention of our minds.  It’s beautiful synergy.

And so I will continue, when I get that special look as I ask for my students to remember ‘one more thing’ as they move, I will smile and say “yep, 6 impossible things at the same time”.

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