THE SIX PRINCIPLES OF PILATES - by DANIELLE MCCULLOCH
Through Dynamic Embodiment training, I have filled out the principles in the language of DE–SMTT that includes Bartenieff, Laban, and Body Mind Centering. There is always more to say, but below is just to give the idea that a movement practice can be very rich.
CENTERING is available to us when we have the ability to weight sense and actively release weight into gravity. This is grounding. We feel ourselves in relation to gravity, so once we can ground, we can center. Centering as the ability to organize around a perceived midline, to quiet our minds, and to ready ourselves for possibilities. This is also referred to as neutral. Efficient use of stability and mobility greatly aids centering as does breath.
CONCENTRATION Where is your focus? I look for how attention and intention move into action. For this, an introduction to sequencing may be important. The practice demands that you pay attention to what you are doing. I encourage keeping one’s awareness with the whole body, room, and space around us while attending to one part or idea. While focus is important, it is not always very functional to be so concentrated inside that you cannot see what is in front of you or at least know whether you are moving towards or away from something. Being present to others while experiencing oneself can be a tricky form of concentration. Always bring focus back to the whole. We are modulating the inner self with the outer environment. Eventually we don’t have to think and visualize so much. We can let it go and enjoy our own experience of moving.
CONTROL works very well with Bartenieff’s principal, stability/mobility, as well as focusing on body systems. Controlling through the bones provides a frame work for movement, through the joints provides articulation, and ligaments bring clarity. There is our brain, and then there is the mind which is everywhere in our body. With control, we master our whole selves to move consciously, to the best of our ability, toward our desires. We go get what we want. Control is not about body dominance. It is about full bodied, conscious living.
PRECISION engages the nervous system through our desires whether it is the pure enjoyment of moving our whole body, or in life when we clearly want something and our whole being conspires to get it. What do you want? Where do you want to go? Having a clear expression of the patterns of total body connectivity also known as developmental movement patterns, can bring precision, effortlessness and grace to movement.
BREATH will happen whether we are aware of it or not. Paying attention to it usually makes us realize how much we hold it. A shallow inhale will restrict the needed oxygen intake and an incomplete exhale will restrict carbon dioxide release. Learning about lung respiration and even cellular respiration can teach us many things when we start to experience it in our own bodies. Some themes surrounding breath are inner/outer, giving/receiving, inspire/expire, birth/death, full/empty. Magical things can happen with full uninhibited ever changing breath. It is a dynamic support for all of our expressions. It is often challenging to keep the breath in flow while moving, when exercise or emotion gets difficult.
FLOW is also a principle of Pilates. We can look to our own fluid systems to teach us ways in which we can play with flow in our practice. When we are moving, flow is the baseline of our movements from which other efforts emerge. Our flow can range on a continuum from free to bound. Pilates tends to favor bound flow to support the specificity of the exercises, but this does not mean we should make more effort than is required for the movement. We can play with free flow in between the exertion of the repertoire for recuperation. We can keep continuous flowing movement while shifting the flow, time, weight, or space efforts. Shape Flow Support in Laban connects us back to breath as the underlying growing and shrinking of the body supporting all further movements. Shape Flow is movement based on our inner attitude towards self. Shape Flow reflects what’s happening inside, modes of shape change bring us in relationship to our environment. As we practice a continuous flow in the exercises, I am looking for a dynamic relationship between self, and the environment. Hopefully that translates into fully present, honest, spirited movement.