One of the fundamental body principles that I live and work by is that our bodies love us and will do their utmost to do what we ask of them.
The trick of it is in what we ask of our bodies. Too often we focus on the end result, the destination if you will, rather than the journey. We say to ourselves that we want to touch our toes when we bend or that the most important factor is to squat as low as possible.
And our bodies comply with these requests. In whatever manner they can. If the only parameter in play is to touch our toes, our bodies will bend our knees and overstretch our shoulders to get there. If the only parameter in play is to squat as low as possible, then the body will not worry about hip alignment or foot placement, it won’t care if it’s leaning too far forward or if it’s using all back muscles and no belly to do it.
Too often we give unhealthy parameters.
Put down for a moment the destination. If we’re not worried about when we arrive at our toes, but instead worry about how we’re going to get there, we will have a healthier time traveling.
Imagine traveling by horse back in the day. If arriving at the destination was the most critical parameter, you could ride your horse to floundering in order to get their fast. But rarely was the need so great as to do so. Instead, more time would be taken to get to the destination, in order to ensure that the horse (and you) arrived in a healthy, sound state. And if you had the luxury of a fair amount of time for the journey, you could learn a bunch of new things on the way, see new sights, have new experiences.
The same applies for the journey of Pilates. Don’t be in a rush to arrive at a destination. If we hurry too much we can injure ourselves. Instead, take the time to notice the journey. Give yourself the gift of making your health the most important parameter, letting the destination be a guide to which way to travel rather than the purpose of the travel itself.
Because the purpose of our Pilates journey is to be healthy in our body, not to do funky body tricks; it is to find greater bend in our spine, not necessarily to touch our toes.
The nice part is that if we keep working on getting better and greater and healthier supported bend in our spine, eventually we will simply touch our toes as a natural consequence of the work we’ve been doing.
So what parameters do you set on your body? Are you focused on the destination or are you exploring the journey?
In the touching toes example, consider touching the toes as a guideline for which direction you’re traveling in but focus on the journey of bending the spine, with control. So then the parameters become keeping the arms integrated into the shoulder girdle and creating deliberate bend in the spine with the abdominals and an engagement in particular of the low abdominals in support of the low back.
For squatting, what if it wasn’t about getting low into the squat but instead the parameters were to keep the knees aligned with the feet, to find deep flexion in the hip and to not flex the lumbar spine. And then let the squat fall (not literally) where it may.
When these types of parameters are placed on the exercise – journey parameters instead of destination parameters – we never really fail. Because we can fail to meet destination parameters, but the only way to fail journey parameters is to give up trying.