By Geneviève Nedder, Pilates Instructor
Life doesn’t happen in a straight line. It’s cyclical or more of a spiral if you will.
These days I think of life more as a spiral than a straight line. Life does not come with a directional map and step-by-step instructions. I’m embracing a more circular, softer approach. I’m doing the same in movement and in my approach to Pilates, Dance, and Yoga.
To borrow a thought from one of the greatest and oldest movement disciplines of all time, Tai Chi, in movement we should “…Seek straightness from the circle…”
Spiral Movements Help to Increase Body Awareness.
When I was dancing consistently (5 or 6 days a week), spirals and circular motions were not something to which I gave conscious thought. When dancing (which was mostly Modern), my body had the luxury of spiral, circular and flowing continuous movements with or without choreography—for example, spinning, rotations, arching in various planes, etc.
Be Open to Moving Your Body in Different Ways
I encourage you to be open to the benefits that develop as a result of moving your body in different ways. Be open to your body’s innate ability to self-correct. Notice and learn from its infinite and intuitive wisdom. Allow space for new ideas, body sensations, and experiences and notice how naturally and easily the breath can move the body. One of my Pilates mentors used to say “Let the inhalation be the inspiration to move.”
Consider the spirals (circles) in your movement practices this week. Of course, if you’re in Pilates mat class spirals may not be as obvious as somewhere else. It’s more of a linear movement experience. Having said that, I don’t mean to imply that Pilates is two-dimensional.
Spiral Movements Require Moving the Spine Through Several Planes
Contrary to popular opinion and the ongoing fitness world debates about this, Pilates is far more than a linear two-dimensional system. Anyone who works on the Spine Corrector or advanced Short box will identify with this. Even in Mat class we have opportunities to practice spirals and experience our muscles literally spiraling around the spine.
Our spines need to move in all directions. Spiral movements require moving the spine through several planes and may include lateral flexion, rotation, forward flexion, and depending on the specific exercise the spiral could include a spinal extension. Putting them together is the challenge and fun!
Spirals vs. Linear Movement
I do want to distinguish the difference between a spiral, circle movement experience versus an exclusively linear one. Incorporating more spiral movements frees the spine and creates greater articulation and overall spinal health. Joseph Pilates said, “We are only as young as the health of our spines…”
Spiral, circular movements also allow for greater freedom throughout your body and helps create space in your joints. Movement in Pilates as in Tai Chi comes first from the mind’s intention to move, then from the energy (created in part by inhalation) within our bodies as directed by the mind’s intention.
If we can intend that the energy that causes the movement be spiraling (moving in circles as it moves straight) then great internal and external strength is developed. This is true no matter how straight the movement looks on the outside of our bodies. Continue to move your body and increase your spinal flexibility with this concept and you will discover yet additional benefits.
Spirals: Seek Straightness From the Circle
This method of moving spills over into the way we live. Slowly we discover an inner wisdom. Seek straightness from the circle and see where it takes you!!
Please leave a comment to let us know how you incorporated spirals into your life this week.
Genevieve Nedder is the Owner and Founder of Body Fundamentals, Inc., an exclusive Pilates studio in Tucson, Arizona. She leads Movement and Wellness Workshops and Retreats several times a year for clients and Pilates teachers.
Her blog Changing Through Movement is a place for the Pilates and Wellness community to expand and cultivate their physical and spiritual wellbeing.