Have you ever had the experience of hearing your Pilates Teacher talking about one of your body parts, asking questions such as whether you feel it moving, or maybe asking you not to move it, or asking if you feel the position of one body part in relationship to another body part? I have.
I remember laying on my back in a Pilates Mat class when the teacher asked me, “Or, do you feel your left foot placement in relationship to your left hip?” I lifted my head up so I could see my left foot, and the teacher said, “No, don’t lift your head up. I want you to feel it without looking.”
Remember the famous saying, ‘Out of site, out of mind’? Sometimes if we don’t see certain things, we don’t really think about them. Let's revisit that Mat class where I was scolded for looking at my foot placement. I wasn’t aware of my left foot because I didn’t see it. This is where the mind-body connection skill will help in this quandary. The mind-body connection awareness didn’t start developing overnight for me. It takes time and practice to develop. In fact, it is still a work-in-progress awareness for me as I continue to work on improving my mind-body connection every day.
Recently, I was teaching a Mat class and my students were in the exact same position I was in when I my teacher told me not to look at my foot. They were also laying on their backs performing the exercise called, ‘Single Leg Circle’. I asked them to circle the right leg up in the air without moving their left leg and pelvis. My students continued to move their left leg as well as their pelvis. I made the suggestion to make the circle smaller so the left leg had a better chance of not moving involuntarily. That didn't work either. I realized my students were not aware of the involuntary movements because they could not feel it moving, or see it as they were looking up at the ceiling. In "Single Leg Circle" the circling leg overpowers the small involuntary movements of the non-circling leg and pelvis. The crux of the matter is that their minds are on the circling leg.
I came up with a plan. I positioned my students with their backs up against the Spine Corrector to do the same exercise, 'Single Leg Circle'. By doing this I elevated their torso high enough for them to see their left leg and pelvis. I asked them to use an elastic band to support the circling leg. Then, I asked them to look only at their left leg while the right leg is circling. As we began the exercise, I asked them to look all the way down to their toes to watch and see if their toes were directed straight up towards the ceiling, or did they move slightly in response to the direction of the right leg circle. There were a few students' replies, "Oh yea, I didn’t even realize that". Then I asked them to watch if the left knee was responding to the right leg's circling movements. A couple of the replies were, "My knee bends a little when my circle leg goes up", and "My knee rolls from side to side a little". Then we looked at the left thigh and found that some of their thighs rolled from side to side in a similar manner to the knee movements. Lastly, we looked at the pelvis, and found that some of their pelvises moved too.
Seeing is believing! When the students were in a position that enabled them see the left leg and the pelvis move, they were able to begin being aware of it so they could do their best to control and correct it. For example, when they saw their toes on the left foot moving at a slight angle to the left, they paused the circling leg and then corrected the left foot toes position directing them back towards the ceiling. When they resumed the circle, their focus was now on the position of the left foot toes. They were able to find the muscles required to maintain the toes directed towards the ceiling. After a few repetitions and corrections, the mind was able to register the sensation that the body feels in correspondence to what the eyes were seeing. Once they established that connection, I asked them to lay down on their back again to see if they could maintain the mind-body connection without relying on the sense of vision. Everyone improved.