How do you create different movement paths?
This, for me, sums up my overall take-away from the pre-Development Workshop on “Spirals rebalance” which was tought by Nathan Gardner, long-standing teacher within Body Control Pilates.
- What does it mean “to create different movement paths”,
- why should you consider it – and more importantly –
- how do you do it?
Nathan used a great metaphor to describe the overall concept of movement paths which made a lot of sense to me:
Imagine you are standing at the edge of a clearly defined field with no paths. And all you always do is walking back and forth onthe exact same path to the other end of the field in a straight line. Always the same path moving in the sagittal plan. You clear a path for yourself in this direction.
Now sometimes, you also walk sideways to the right and the left and you clear a path there (frontal plan) and sometimes you add a little rotation as you walk (axial plan).
So after a while your paths (the grey areas) might look something like this “elaborate” drawing ;o):
Notice where there isn’t a path – all the white area. All this is movement potential which you get by e.g. combining movement paths and different starting positions.
So this is what I would like to explore in this blog post with you:
- All movement happens in circles/spirals
- Explore the full kinetic chain in your movement
- Deviate from neutral as your starting position
All movement happens in circles & spirals
There is not a straight line in our body. Our bones are slightly rotated or rounded. So even though we move forward in a straight line, inside our body our bones move in spirals in relationship to each other.
You might have heard of the 3 planes of movement:
- Sagittal plane which creates flexion and extension
- Axial plan which creates rotation to the right and rotation to the left
- Frontal plan which is lateral flexion (side-bend) to the right and lateral flexion (side-bend) to the left
Each joint in our body has the potential to move in 1 or 2 or all of the planes, depending on the joint. For example:
The hip joint: Stand up on 1 leg and move the other leg around exploring which movement potential the hip joint has. You will find it moves on all the planes because it is a ball-and-socket joint.
Now try the same with the knee joint. You will find that movement in the joint is limited very much to flexion and extension and a tiny bit of rotation when the leg is lifted and the knee is bend. That’s it for the hinge joint.
Naturally, we move in all planes of movement – or we should – but modern life has reduced us to moving in 1 plan mainly, i.e. the sagittal plan.
The important take-away here is:
- don’t try to force doing a movement with a joint which the joint isn’t built to do – that’s when the problems can start
- take advantage of the full movement potential in a joint
- combine movement planes
So even though you learnt knee folds lying on your back in parallel (sagittal plane), try adding a little lateral or medial rotation (axial plane). This will keep the hip joint very happy and lubricated.
Explore the full kinetic chain in your movement
The full kinetic chain? What is this? Try the following to explore 1 of the kinetic chains in your body:
- Stand up, feet hip-width distance apart (why this is a good starting position for good posture is worth exploring on its own) and do what ever you do to stand up straight
- start lifting your left arm forward and up towards the ceiling
- keep going with your arm into full shoulder flexing and pay attention to what the rest of your body wants to do – at this point it is a good idea to erase completely from your mind what you have ever learnt about keeping the rest of the body still
If you managed to “forget” keeping your body still while lifting the arm, you might have noticed the following
- your neck started extending
- your gaze might have shifted upwards
- your upper torso started extending
- your hips shifted forwards
- your weight shifted forwards
which is all very functional and normal for the body to do.
- Now do the reverse and lower the arm towards the floor.
- Keep bringing the arm backwards into full shoulder extension and pay attention to what has happened in your spine, hips, knees and ankles.
Are you on your way into a roll down-ish movement with the arm extended behind you pointing up towards the ceiling? Again, this is normal for the body to do.
The kinetic chain – the domino effect in your body
So the kinetic chain means that you start a movement and the body reacts to this movement, like when you tip dominos. You find these kinetic chains in rotation and lateral flexion as well. Kinetic chains can go from 1 movement plane to the next.
At this point you might ask: “Should I never again teach lifting an arm without holding the rest of the body still?” You should teach this – at least this is my opinion. Because it is important to explore what movement you can do in a joint. You simplify a movement and as pilates teachers we are very good at this. It makes it easier for a client to understand an exercise.
Having said this, I think it is important to remember including teaching movements along the kinetic chains in the body because this is the functional way the body moves.
So how could you use this information in your classes? My guess is that your are actually already doing it but maybe having been aware of it. Here are a few additional suggestions you might try out:
go from roll down into standing back bend (play around with the arm positions in back bend)
in your side-bended position, let’s say to the left, shift your hips to the right and in a smooth transition go over to the other side without stopping in the upright position.
- lie on you back, knees bend more than hip width distance apart and feet on the floor – arms are out to the side, palms facing up
- move both knees to the left moving them only in your hip joint, then lift your right pelvis side up and let you knees move further towards the left and towards the floor – you will feel you spine moving into rotation and then extension
- turn your head towards the right and let your right arm glide out and up towards your right ear and let your spine extend further as your right arm goes overhead
- reverse the direction of the movement
Basically, you can take familiar pilates exercises and explore where the movement will take you if you don’t stop it as we were taught to do.
A brief note of caution: Stay safe with your beginner clients.
Deviate from neutral as your starting position
Consider this: Every movement creates a trace in your brain which means your brain remembers this movement. So next time you do the same movement it is much more familiar and seems easier to do. Right? And if you repeat it again and again it becomes easier and easier. That’s good, isn’t it?
Or is it? The question is, if there is any improvement in the movement when it becomes easier.
The problem with our brain is that it is lazy, it wants to be efficient. If a movement is familiar to us we go on auto pilot “oh, it is that round cat/sway cat again” and off we go into familiar movement territory.
Have you seen the auto pilot switching on in your classes when you say e.g. “let’s do a round cat/sway cat”? I have. And when this happens, I know it is time to change things a bit, to challenge my clients’ brains into confusion. So try this:
- Go into 4-point-kneeling and do a couple of round cat/sway cat (aka cat/cow)
- Now bend your right elbow until it is resting on the floor, the left elbow stays straight – your upper body is now in rotation, your starting position is slightly twisted.
- Repeat the round cat/sway cat
How was that?
Chances are good that you had a new movement experience. Your brain switched from auto pilot round cat/sway cat and paid more attention because the starting position was different and the exercise felt different.
- Repeat the twisted starting position on the other side
- Go back to the “normal” 4-point-kneeling round cat/sway cat starting position in neutral and repeat the round cat/sway cat movement
How was that? Did the “normal” movement feel better? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
I would like to stress that there is nothing wrong with starting from neutral at all. It is a great reference point for your clients. However, once you have established this reference point with your clients, change it to keep your clients engaged
To round up
- Combine different movement planes, when appropriate
- Make the movements bigger, meaning combine movements and explore the kinetic chain
- Try changing the starting positions from neutral – what about starting in rotation, extension, lateral flexion etc.
I am curious to how this worked for you.