How To Make Your Movement Look Good And Feel Good With Dynamic Alignment.

BA:  I like the idea of observation, the observer, and the observed. We talk about the quality of movement versus quantity of movement and often I feel we are stuck in the quantity. We feel and see a quality movement, we don’t quite know how to identify it but we try to mimic it sometimes by trying to position correctly what we saw or interpreted rather than what really is happening in the movement.

Were they allowing themselves to move?  The idea of novice to expert moving, the novel mover will always over recruit, not sure where the organization is going to come from. I often think about riding a bike. From week one to week two they are riding very efficiently with no hands. This idea of moving from unconscious incompetent movement, not knowing what they don’t know, into unconsciously competent movement. 

Do We Teach Movement Or Position?

I love the idea that you can teach movement from a position. I think that’s really important for the Pilates teacher and physical therapists because so often everything is assessed in static. Does static alignment really tell us anything about movement? I want to preface this in the sense that most of us in this community work within the spectrum of pathokinesiology or performance kinesiology. We study the science of movement. As a physical therapist, I’m trying to restore movement to a level of function. As a performance practitioner, I’m trying to enhance their movement performance however I can with whatever tools I can use. 

EF: One great question is “what does the person want to achieve”? Obviously, if they come to you in pain, and they have an issue the number one goal is to remove the pain. This will mostly involve improving function and improving efficiency but interestingly, not always. Compensation patterns sometimes are the name of the game. If you have a broken bone or something like that, you have to do a “dance” around it. It might not be the ideal most efficient thing but it brings you out of pain. 

Let’s say you want to improve your performance. It’s one thing if we’re are talking about walking, running and the things were structured for but let’s say it’s dance, Pilates and yoga. Now, I’m going to contradict myself on a level here. You have form and you cannot get away from form. There is form!  If you want to be a dancer or demonstrate a Pilates exercise you have you show good form and this involves a position.

The question is: How can you teach the kind of forms we work with, but still maintain that dynamic alignment? 

Eric Franklin

Say the goal as a dancer is to look good in the mirror. What if it also feels good and is also efficient?  Learning how to create that would be the goal.  I’ve had conversations with people saying “Ballet wrecks your body”, but I disagree. Ballet can be a great exercise but you have to work on achieving those forms with good function and in dialogue with whoever is trying to achieve them. This is especially true if you look a the traditional forms. Dialogue doesn’t exist. You have the expert, the guru, and there is a sense of “this is how it is”. You have to get that form into your body and it doesn’t matter if it breaks. If it breaks? Next in line…So that’s the other extreme and we’re trying to be the nice ones here and say we can achieve that healthily. We need that dialogue and a lot of that world is not used to what we call student-centered teaching

BA: A lot of Juan Nieto’s language lately has been talking about tissue adaptation. We’re excited to see Ido Portal’s work and Mike Fitch’s work in animal flow. These practices are exciting, how they are looking at different ranges of motion and mixed martial arts. The body needs to go into these ranges over time and gradually increase the load in different directions and different planes. This ensures that there is tissue and neurological neuromuscular adaptation.

What The Client Wants

You said something earlier I love, “what the client wants”.  One of the things we use a lot at Polestar is the ICF model. What does the client want to participate in? How are their beliefs connected to this? Do they believe they should be participating in activities that they are not comfortable participating in right now? What activities does that involve? Is the demand on the body to participate in those activities where it needs to be?  So many questions!

For example, here are some things you need to be able to do to be a semi-professional ballet dancer. The body needs to be able to do these things, and this is where you are today. Perhaps there is there a big gap between where you are today and where you want to be as a semi-professional dancer. Oftentimes we keep thinking there is some kind of recipe that takes you from one point to another point. This is where anthropometrics come into play. There are many types and shapes and conditions of bodies. Longer or shorter torso, arms, and legs. How do you look at this idea in particular from a teacher’s perspective of receiving these different bodies and goals?  Can we progress safely but also take them to where they want to participate?  They want to do MMA or Cirque du Soleil, how do we help them get there?

Creating a Motivational Climate

EF: It definitely depends on what kind of martial arts. If it’s going to be acrobatics, gymnastics, or dance they could come in and you can say “sorry – not enough hip mobility, thoracic spine too stiff, you shouldn’t do this”. What you often end up seeing is someone doing ballet, and they have the “perfect” body but their movement is not interesting to look at because they are like a machine.  They “have it all” but there’s no sense of rhythm or space and no musicality. These are the important factors! 

There’s a sense of moving your body in space with a certain rhythm and grace.  Often you have to reteach people in that field why they even started to do Pilates. And why did they start to dance? Because they liked doing it! What has it turned into now? All those factors come into play.  It’s tricky also with different body types. 

If someone doesn’t seem to have the body type for an activity, I would still say “go for it!”. Who knows, they might have some other amazing quality which they will bring out in that form and blow us all away. 

BA:  We’ve seen this over and over again. Tenacity even in sports far exceeds the natural ability in people who achieve high levels of performance. I think especially in dance it’s their emotion and motivation and their passion. That’s why I always ask, what do you believe you should be able to participate in? What do you believe is not allowing you to do this?  I love to know what they think.  What’s their belief on why they can’t?  Do they believe their body doesn’t let them?  Is that a pre-conceived belief that controls the actual movement of their body? I happen to believe belief can do this in a lot of ways. How do we recreate an environment in which they can optimize their ability?  We may not know what that will look like, but we can give it a shot.  

EF: This is one of the biggies – creating a motivational climate! Creating a climate within which the student can excel.  Lean into that and forget about teaching technique and the efficiency and all that. Just create an environment in which they feel they can do their best. This is a completely different factor not related to “this joint” or “that fascia”. 

We say in Franklin Method “You don’t get what you want, you get what you believe”. 

Eric Franklin

You want to be able to do these exercises or dance steps really well but you don’t believe that you can do it.  We can examine what the client really believes in and then be careful with the information. We have simple ways in Franklin Method where we do a small movement like an arm gesture while you say “I love moving my arms – It’s really healthy because it really gets my scapula moving – it’s fantastic”. You say this as you do the movement and then you ask the question “how much did you actually believe in that?”.  And a lot of people say 80%, 50%, or no I don’t really love moving.

Watch #PilatesHour Episode 108 “Dynamic Alignment” With Brent Anderson and Eric Franklin. Learn more about the Franklin Method here.

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