All posts by Marie-Claire Prettyman

Perspective

Noun – a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.

This word, ‘perspective’ has be rattling around my brain for weeks; possibly months.  Every situation that I have found myself in that has been ‘difficult’ has been interrupted by the thought of this word, ‘perspective’.  I don’t know why – but it’s been a constant so I decided to explore its connotations and understand why every time I close my eyes I just see these letters, ‘P.E.R.S.P.E.C.T.I.V.E’.

I’m a sensitive soul, many people don’t know that, or indeed believe that; but I am.  Words hurt me, people disrespecting me hurts. Listening to the news, that upsets me (so I don’t); thinking that I’ve done something that somebody didn’t like or enjoy really hurts!  Mostly, because I love my job, I love people and I’m a good person.  People have said wicked things about me that I haven’t been able to defend it because I’ve been so upset, and then people have hurt me through indifference and condescension.

Recently though, I have felt a bit different.  There was a trigger, someone I used to love very much disrespected me beyond belief and for the first time in my life, I stood up for myself.  Very empowering; but, it made me look again at how I have allowed people to treat me, purely because I do not like confrontation.

My ‘perspective’ was always that I if was nice to people that they would like me back.  Sometimes, people are viewing me (and you) through a different pane of glass. Perspective to me; is like looking at the world and people from one side of a window.  What you say and how you feel, is probably the same as the other people on that side of the window.  However, there are people on the other side, and they view the world very differently.

It’s like looking out of your sitting room at a person across the street who is looking right back at you.  That person sees you (maybe) looking lonely, or nosey, or irritated, or waiting for someone….you don’t know how they are interpreting the view.  You see that person staring at you, are you afraid? Are they admiring your home or are they envious of your home and feeling the need to take it away from you?  You don’t know.  We don’t know how anyone views a particular situation until we are faced with it.

I’ve been hurt in life because people have not seen the world from my side of the glass.  But there are people who sit on your side of the glass.  Remembering that each individual’s perspective is built up over years of experiences, their childhood, and their relationships with both friends and lovers is important when trying to move forwards in life with other humans.  Their journey is not yours and yours, is not theirs.

If you work closely with people or alongside them, and you find that you do not understand that person’s perspective, I recommend talking to them. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Try and see what it looks like on their side of the glass and allow them to get to know you a little?  It doesn’t always work though.  I have found that I have been unable to shatter the glass between myself and others in the past, so understanding another individual’s perspective may mean that you walk away from them.  That’s OK though, because you’ll feel much calmer for knowing how their particular flavour of human-being evolved and maybe appreciating that there are more factors involved in their attitude than just YOU.

These days, when I am faced with an uncomfortable situation e.g.

a) I’m being told that something I did was not enjoyed by one person or,

b) someone doesn’t like my attitude for some reason or,

c) I feel disrespected by another human,

I see the word ‘PERSPECTIVE’ and try to apply some principles.

a) It was only 1 person! Did everyone else enjoy the session? Yes. Ok, then maybe that person’s perspective was being influenced by expectation and previous experiences or they were simply having a bad day. My perspective on my side of the glass, is that I have thought about my work and decided it was either, absolutely fine or I could have improved in a particular area.   But I’m safe to consider this on my side of the glass, looking out at the world from my side of the window, with others like me.

b) If someone doesn’t like me, maybe I remind them of someone nasty. Maybe I’m too loud and they are a quiet person and they felt annoyed by my enthusiasm. That’s OK, introverts have huge power and are the ‘great thinkers’ of the world.  I could learn from that feedback or just enjoy being me with those who love me.

c) Did I let this person disrespect me? How and why?  If so, then I need to re-think my strategy for taking care of my well-being around that individual OR, have I overreacted?

The glass (perspective) will protect you and provide strength when faced with humans who have a different point of view.  Visualise it and use it to keep you safe as you try to connect with those from a different journey. Shatter it if you want to and if you can but if you like a quiet life, stay on the side you understand.

Much love to everyone and remember that maybe ‘it all comes down to ‘PERSPECTIVE’.

 

 

Mind & Body ‘Exercise’?

So what’s been happening?

I read an article recently written by a local Yoga teacher, in which she expressed a sense of feeling ‘lost’ in the world of Yoga at the moment.  In a moment of time where people post pictures of themselves in extraordinary poses (which in itself seems very anti-yoga and extremely egotistical) on social media, a moment of time where people are ‘performing poses’ in heat or at speed on order to burn calories and get more flexible, she wrote about watching a practise she is passionate about become less and less about finding a moment of stillness and peace in postures and the evolution of strength on body and mind as a result, and become more about showing off and pushing the body further and further towards physical trauma.

I couldn’t have agreed with her more.  Not only have I watched Yoga become lost in a fast and stress fuelled, ego-driven social environment, I have watched Pilates go the same way.

I first fell in love with Yoga in 1997, when I was attending classes with my Mum.  Having suffered from profound anxiety, which I only found relief from in running; I felt that Yoga offered me a gentle and soothing hug type of exercise!  Here I found movement that made my muscles feel relaxed but strong, and the attention given to each pose demanded concentration and stillness with deep and powerful breath work.  During Savasana, I felt my poor tired body fall heavily into the mats and let go of the pressure to be skinny after suffering from an eating disorder for the previous 3 years.

In 1998 I had my head turned by Pilates while studying Sports Science.  The biomechanics that became my life’s work seemed to be applied more to the Pilates practise than to Yoga and as such, I postponed my Yoga Teacher Training until much later and trained to be a Pilates Teacher.

But as I honed my skills in the Pilates studio that I established in 2003, I watched Yoga go the way of the fitness industry, with so much emphasis on getting skinny, getting ‘more bendy’, achieving the next physically challenging balance or contortion or worse, promises that participants could ‘get a better sex life!’ Hello?

I was upset with Yoga for letting this happen and I dug my heels into the world of Pilates; dedicating my work to supporting people develop the most functional, pain free and strong body that they were capable of.  I have worked with the very young to the very old, from the super fit, to the very poorly and I have used the Pilates principles to adapt movement to suit the person or persons that I had in front of me.

But now, I see Pilates being stripped down and disrespected in the same way that Yoga has been.  Recently I have heard stories of Gyms teaching Fitness Professionals with no Pilates qualifications, how to use a reformer so that they can run group classes.  You can now learn the apparatus, before learning the mat work. There is ‘hot’ Pilates, for burning more calories, I saw an advert for doing Pilates on an angle so that you are working your body against gravity for increased muscle work and so on.  I am not against progression, far from it; but in both practises, it seems that the original point of them has been lost.

Yoga is a peaceful and energising practise that gently strengthens both body and mind; while Pilates was developed for the same purposes, Joseph Pilates also adapted movements from Dance and Gymnastics as well as Martial Arts to prevent pain and discomfort caused by bad posture. He emphasised muscle balance and adapted exercises to suit the person or persons that he was working with.

I have also noticed recently, a misuse of the title ‘Classical Pilates Teacher’.  Classical Pilates Teacher, does not mean just teaching the strong, powerful and dynamic exercises made infamous by Romana Kryzanowska and Lolita San Miguel et al.  Classical Pilates/Traditional Pilates means, using the principles and adapting the exercises to suit the person you are working with i.e. exactly what Joe would have done.  Now don’t start yelling at me about the classical repertoire, I am well aware of it; I just think that the language being used is driving some restriction in people’s methods and that they are hiding behind set sequences rather than adapting for each client.

The people, who participate in Pilates today, are not the dancers and the gymnasts that Joseph and Clara worked with in the 1950’s and ‘60’s.  We work with people who sit for 8 hours a day, then sit in a car, then sit on the sofa.  They may do a class once a week; they need movement adapted to suit their bodies and help them be the best that they could be using a ‘modified’ version of the original exercises.

Traditional Yoga is also guilty of ignoring science/biomechanics and some teachers are still trying to squeeze their participants into poses that are fundamentally unsafe. Twisting the knees and sending shearing forces running up through the spinal column. Yoga can also be modified to suit the participant.  You may say that Bikram and the like is a modification for the super fit, but if the original principles have been lost, is it still Yoga?

I am not against an evolution of a practise to make it better; but I do have an issue with taking something peaceful and mindful and making it too fast, too soon, for most people.  I have an issue with squeezing people into a room to participate in a technique which has long been considered appropriate for back pain, only to have the person leading the session be an unqualified individual teaching movements by rote with no accounting for individuality.

I finished my Yoga Training only so that I could start teaching a practise that I fell in love with so many years ago, in the way that it was originally intended; with postures progressing gradually as your body relaxes and strengthens, as your mind learns to settle and calm and your understanding of the practise evolves.  I have returned to teaching Pilates privately and training teachers in both disciplines to understand the that the point of both was control and breath, in Pilates; muscle balance and in both, flexibility and strength.

I think here, in some cases, commercialism has overtaken the underlying principle of being healthy.  Drinks to help build muscle, which otherwise probably wouldn’t be there because it would not be that body’s natural state.  There are adverts for pills promising quick weight-loss, promoted by models of slim build. People shouting on social media that their technique will get your bigger muscles and less fat and a better marriage and more money…..

I digress.  My point is, in this world that seems to be getting faster and faster, Yoga could be providing a moment to reflect and be quiet and be strong in order to cope with it.  I don’t know if I would have developed the inner strength that I found to get better and dedicate myself to movement and helping others; if I had not been taken to Yoga at 17 by a Mum who was at her wits end dealing with her exhausted and fragile daughter.  Pilates has the power to refine and balance the human body!  How great is that?  But, it is only going to do that if the technique is applied to the individual who has taken the step to include Pilates in their life.

I cannot stop either discipline from being stripped apart and re-packaged as being ‘the next big thing’ for weight loss or muscle gain, but I as I look around me; I am more and more sure of what both practises mean to me and as such I will continue to train considerate and knowledgeable teachers, and work respectfully with each of my clients. They are all different, after all.

 

 

Opposition:  The ‘Other’ Direction.

I have worked with the human body for nearly 20 years; in the water, as a Swimming Coach and Aqua Teacher, on land as a Personal Trainer and Dancer and on the mat as a Pilates and Yoga Teacher.  Ok, so I work on the apparatus too with Pilates but to squeeze that in as well would have ruined the flow of the previous sentence! The point is, my whole life; I have worked with human movement.

My passion for movement was cemented when I studied biomechanics as an undergraduate and have continued to lecture and teach in the field ever since at Universities, workshops for the Fitness Industry and woven into my Pilates and Yoga Teacher Training courses.

It was Newton who originally stated that ‘for every action; there is an equal and opposite reaction’ Opposition -What goes down; must go up.

When I did my first Pilates teacher training qualification many, many years ago; I remember that emphasis on length.  Lengthen, out through the crown of the head.  Lengthen, through your leg.  Lengthen, through to your finger-tips.  But as I watched my participants, and then later; my students interpret that, I noticed that something was missing…..the ‘other’ direction.

In both practises (Pilates & Yoga) I watched people lengthen furiously out through their heads and throw their ribs forward enthusiastically into an almost ‘military’ stance.  I watched people stretch their leg out of their hip and throw the pelvis forward from the effort.  There was no base from which this length could grow.

It was like a plant being pulled by its stem out of the ground, the roots failing to hold it secure.

A plant needs strong roots to stay firm on the ground.  So does the human body.

As an analogy, I found this worked best in sitting or standing.  Cue people to ‘grow roots’ out through their feet or through their sitting bones and the feel the spine lengthen from that strong and stable foundation.  This was easy for people to feel, but they needed to really think about it.  They needed to be mindful and aware.  With awareness they could transpose the sensation of growing roots, into lengthening out in opposite directions with a strong and stable centre (the centre, becoming the rooted body part).  It was from here that my style of teaching evolved into;

The Opposition Method

It’s not just about action vs reaction; it’s about being mindful in movement.  But, more than that; much more, it’s about respecting the fact that as humans, we have different bodies; developed through the evolutionary power of genetics and the modern world influences of work and lifestyle.

As a new teacher, I found myself forever trying to manipulate people into a Pilates or Yoga-shaped box.  The idealistic ‘neutral’ or ‘correct’ posture or pose, which is merely a guideline and does not account for learned behaviour and DNA-imprinted characteristics.

For many years now, I have worked with people; respecting their natural form and working with it to help that body be the best that it can be; not forcing it to be a projection of assumed perfection.  My method of teaching evolved into something much more gentle and forgiving of what it means to be a human with a body, much more functional and analytical.  This approach allowed me the privilege of working with sufferers of neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  I work with the elderly and children.  I teach movement, call it whatever you like; Pilates/Yoga – I teach people how to move, breathe and just ‘be’ in their body.

This method of thinking, moving, feeling and being human, is now available in guideline form, published by Panoma Press and available for purchase through their website

www.panomapress.com

& mine

www.themovementspecialist.co.uk/shop/

until 2016, when it will be available from Amazon and in all good book stores.

Pilates at one end; Yoga at the other and the principles of sound mechanics and mindfulness woven throughout…

Opposition in Pilates & Yoga – Newton’s Third Law meets Mindfulness.

Marie-Claire Prettyman  – ‘The Movement Specialist’

www.themovementspecialist.co.uk

 

Yoga Master-class

I had a fantastic time in Devon last weekend teaching an ‘Introduction to Yoga’ master-class at Teign Fitness’ beautiful new studio.  When the subject of this session was first discussed, I though it wouldn’t be too difficult; after all, it’s just an introduction right? Wrong.  When I sat down to put the handout together, I realised that I didn’t know where to start and then when I did get going, I didn’t know where to end!

Yoga is so multi-dimensional, the breathing practises or ‘pranyama’ on it’s own could take a whole day (or a lifetime) to explore.  Then there’s the hand mudras (which I am personally fascinated by), what about bandhas (locks) and chakras?  What about the different ‘styles’ of yoga, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Hatha? And all of that is before you’ve even started looking at the postures!

So what is Yoga?

Yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit.  Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to create an awareness of ourselves as individualised beings, intimately connected to the unified whole of creation.  In short it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

This art of right living was perfected and practised in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of the yoga philosophy were written in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in approximately 200 AD.  This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an 8 step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoy lasting peace.

Fitting that into 2 hours was a challenge.  In the end, I decided that what I wanted the group to leave with, was an understanding that Yoga was so much more than a form of exercise; for which the western world adopted it in the 1980’s. So we discussed the origins and practised basic chanting, pranyama, asanas (postures), mudras, bandhas and chakras.  We finished with heart chakra affirmations and a guided relaxation.

I hope, that the group left with open minds, and hearts; with their bodies feeling stretched, challenged and then settled.  I hope, that maybe some of them, will look up the 8 limbs of Yoga and seek to explore the concepts further and embrace some of them as a life choice.  I hope, that they will invite me back to explore this diverse and spiritually enlightening practise further. In the meantime, I will continue to improve my own understanding of Patanjali’s work and how it can help me be a better human.

If you would like more information on this or would like to book a master-class at your venue or a private session email: marieclaire@themovementspecialist.co.uk

 

Understanding Chronic Pain-The Role of the Fitness Professional

I actually wrote this for the Women in Fitness Empowerment blog but I thought I would share it here as well, much of it (about me) you may have read before…

I write this article, from both sides of the coin these days; an unfortunate irony, you might say.  I started life in the Fitness Industry in 1998 as a Health and Fitness Instructor at a hotel club gym.  I have taught swimming, aqua, ETM, dance; a keen club athlete and competitive latin and ballroom dancer. My degree was a predominantly Biomechanics, Sports Science BSc and I have been back in the last few years to lecture on the very same course.  I trained as a sports therapist and then I opened my first Pilates and Fitness studio in 2004.  In 2008 I joined forced with Fitness Inspired Teacher Training and authored their Pilates course, which I continue to tutor as well as the Yoga qualification. I then expanded the studio in 2011 to larger premises with an apparatus studio and Yoga studio, 2 treatment rooms for sport therapy and physiotherapy.  I was well educated about fitness and health, physically fit and invincible, or so I thought…

My background is relevant, because you have to understand; that when I slipped in leisure centre in 2014 and fractured my spine, I never thought that 18 months later I would be writing this having just spent 2 hours at a Pain Management Information lecture, for people who suffer from chronic pain.  I have worked with people who have suffered from all kinds of physical dysfunction; from Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, to pre-op and post-op surgery participants.  I have also worked with people who have suffered chronic pain and I have to admit; I didn’t get it.  I thought I did, but I didn’t.  I do now…

Hands up who has been guilty of thinking that those people who have complained constantly of pain in certain area of their bodies, were hypochondriacs?

‘It’s all in their heads’,

‘They just like having an identity’,

‘If they just lost a little weight or exercised more, they would be fine’….

I can assure you, it’s not ‘all in their heads’, and no one enjoys being in constant pain.  It is miserable, let me tell you and people often end up suffering from depression or anxiety as a result.  As for exercising, it is scary to undertake an activity that might render you incapable of even moving for several days! Chronic pain sufferers NEED to protect themselves from activating their pain responses, read on to learn more.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is defined as ‘pain that lasts longer than 3 months’. Some experts define it as lasting longer than 6 months.

Chronic pain usually follows an injury or illness which causes movement inhibition and reduced flexibility; but most injuries or illness related symptoms resolve within 8-10 weeks. Residual pain is often the result of a hyper-sensitive nervous system.  So, pain in the area that the sufferer indicates as problematic, may be structurally sound; or at least, not requiring surgical intervention. The pain felt is inconsistent with the degree of structural dysfunction; it is significantly higher because the pain system is in overdrive.

The pain is real; but pain is initiated by the brain because that it what controls our neuropathy. So brain re-training can assist in reducing pain, but this is not to be confused with having a mental health disorder.

Pain sufferers will often use analgesia to help supress the nervous system and reduce the pain signals from the problem area, but one of the most relevant approaches that I have heard was from Prof. Eyal Ledermann (Osteopath); at a lecture at Westminster University in 2011,

‘Chronic pain sufferers should be encouraged to move, but only within a pain free range’

What he was saying, was this; movement is important for general health, muscular health and psychological well-being, but if movement initiates pain; we create an association between certain movements and discomfort.  The pain system will naturally, increase the signals to the brain warning of potential injury, limiting the individual’s capability to move freely.  But, if we offer movement practises that are pain free, we disassociate from the pain and it allows the pain system time to‘re-set’, i.e. brain re-training.

Many pain sufferers are taught to ‘pace’ i.e. consider activities which aggravate their pain system and limit the activity to within a pain free time scale. E.g. working at the computer is fine but after 30 minutes the back starts to hurt.  So the sufferer will pace their activity and only work at the computer for 20 minutes, so as not to facilitate an inappropriate pain response from the nervous system.

As fitness professionals, we have an important role to play in helping sufferers of chronic pain manage their symptoms.

  • Empathy: Chronic pain is miserable; no one chooses to live that way. Be gentle in your approach, considerate; listen to your participant and let them guide the session.  They know their bodies.
  • Well-being: Re-consider what the aim of your work is with a chronic pain sufferer. The only objective they have is to live without pain.  Find movements that do not cause a pain response and work within those parameters to ensure an endorphin release; to manage low mood.
  • Inclusion: Chronic pain is socially isolating, the number of activities sufferers cease as a result of needing to protect them from pain is extensive. If a sufferer has made the decision to take charge and participate in an activity, try not to make a judgement about their lack of physical ability. It may be very upsetting for them to feel inhibited and less able than others, your positivity and enthusiasm can be extraordinarily powerful.
  • Pace: Allow your participant to decide when they’ve had enough. Pushing a chronic pain sufferer will have neuropathic consequences, so support them and appreciate that they need to work differently.

Overall, understanding chronic pain will make sure that sufferers feel safe with you as a professional both from a physical and emotional perspective.  Be kind, be gentle, be considerate and chronic pain sufferers can potentially start to manage their symptoms and improve fitness levels without fear of aggravating their over-active nervous system.

As for me; I had to give up the Studio I have devoted over 12 years of my life to.  Teaching Pilates and Yoga every day, was driving my pain responses too high and the pain killers I was taking led me to push myself too hard; and tear a disc.  I now work specifically, with people suffering from illness or injury that is preventing them from participating in activities that they enjoy.  Using Pilates and Yoga practises, I am supporting their rehabilitation and aiming to get them back to functional movement.  I also support others in the industry that are working with injuries and pain through Mentoring, Tutoring and Team Training.  For more information about my work, or if you’re are looking for professional support go to;

www.themovementspecialist.co.uk