The Balance of Every Day Movement
During our in-studio Pilates practice, we seek symmetry and balance. We find this through practice of our standing and centering cues and conscious movement patterns. We draw all parts of the body to attention, fortified through centered strength, and work the appendages in unison or independently.
As I’ve previously discussed that life is rarely balanced moment to moment. The movements of life outside the studio are similarly imbalanced and asymmetrical, be it by design or habit. We lift, write, brush our teeth, hold our bags, and initiate movement patterns throughout each day from one side or the other. Force of habit and muscle memory allow us to do these things, almost mindlessly, to allow our conscious brain energy to focus on other things.
We may carry the benefits of our studio practice into the world by calling upon one of the key Pilates principles – Balance, or symmetry— and applying it to our everyday movements mindfully. This can be accomplished through a simple yet challenging initiation of awareness and self-assessment. By simply tuning in throughout the day, we can make small adjustments that will positively influence our physical well-being.
When climbing a flight of stairs, ever notice if you lead with your right or left leg? Most people tend to “lead left” or “reach right.” Consider how this pattern might affect the pelvis, spine, shoulders, and gait patterns. Take note of how you initiate a step or stair climb. At the next opportunity, mindfully mix up your standard pattern by leading with the opposite leg/side than the habitual “go to” side.
Similarly, do you carry bags, open doors, or hold the hand of your special someone with one hand/arm/shoulder more than the other? After noticing your own patterns, switch it up. Is your desk arranged to support your dominant movement patterns? You know what to do. It may be a bit chaotic at first, but you’ll surely notice exactly what you are doing and why.
This mindfulness doesn’t need to always happen when in motion. While standing in queue or sitting on hold, run a quick body scan to identify if you are weighted more on one side than the other. Is your pelvis placed vertically or are you tucking or extending the lower spine? Are your abdominals engaged to support the spine and back musculature? Are your shoulders forward, hiked up to your ears, or placed down and engaged as if you are holding a taut towel?
If you’ve time and a little patience to spare, try adjusting your morning routine by brushing your teeth or lifting your drink with the non-dominant hand; take a different route to work, or park in a different area of your destination lot than usual. (Yes, you may need to spend some extra time to find your car, but that’s part of the fun…)
When moving from one task to the next, take a moment to connect with yourself. How do you feel physically and mentally? Is your breathing shallow or deep? Perhaps even take a few deep breaths or perform an impromptu percussive breathing session. Check in and check out what feels off. Notice the quiet alerts before some issue starts screaming for attention.
As you become better at connecting with yourself, connect with those around you. Take a moment to ask and really listen to how colleagues or family members are. Make eye contact with people – friends and strangers— as they pass or during brief interactions like ordering food or paying for something at the grocery.
Noticing the small things, mindfully adjusting habitual movement and really connecting with yourself and others will all help create more balance outside the studio – it is Pilates for life!