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Learning a Second Movement Language

By Darcia Dexter Negrin, GCFT

“You want me to what???” The instructor repeats, “Scoop in the abs, slide your ribs down the front of you, shoulder blades down the back of you and BREATHE.” Little did I realize, that was only the preparation for the hour that followed. We moved from one exercise to the next at what felt like lightning speed. Some had fairly straightforward names like the Roll Up and Spine Stretch Forward, others like the Swan Dive, Saw, and Seal Puppy did not hint at what the position or purpose might be. Who were all these people around me with great bodies and how did they know what “going into the Hundreds” meant?

I was doing my best to keep up, however as a Feldenkrais® practitioner new to Pilates, it was a shock to my system. For ten years I had embraced the ideas of going slowly, doing less and resting often during a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® lesson. When I worked with a practitioner one-on-one during a Functional Integration® lesson, I was reminded through gentle touch and specific verbal cueing that letting my belly and inner thigh muscles unclench allowed for greater fluidity in everyday movements such as sitting, standing, turning and walking. To scoop in or let go, that is the question.

Like learning a second “movement language,” going through the Pilates training helped me to understand when to do what and why. I could feel that the movements were similar, but what was different was the intention. On the surface they appear as diverse as Spanish and French however, at the core of these methods is awareness and attention, strength and flexibility. Clearly they are rooted in similar thoughts and ideas, much like Latin provides the foundation for Romance languages. Words like “control,” “flow,” “concentration,” and “precision” are often used in association with Pilates while “slowly,” “gently,” “explore,” and “imagine,” more aptly apply to the Feldenkrais Method.

Pilates fulfills its promise that “…in 10 sessions you’ll feel different, 20 sessions you’ll look different, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a new body.” After six months of intensive training, followed by six months of observation, student teaching and regular workouts, I could keep up with my Pilates classmates and fit into clothes I hadn’t worn in years. The Feldenkrais Method never gave me the “bod,” but it allowed me to stick with Pilates in order to become proficient in, and still learning, the two languages.

Being able to use the Feldenkrais Method to teach a Pilates class gives my students more options on their Pelvic Curl or Chest Lift, less shock of physical multi-tasking, and the support to find their own language through movement.

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