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
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’