What a great question I received by email this week! And Oh MY….are there contradictions in the world of Pilates. I can’t pretend to know all the answers, and I am always interested in learning more and improving my understanding (as well as my ability to pass on correct information to my students.)
Here’s my best advice to all teachers & students out there….
1. Never stop thinking things through.
2. Try different versions, techniques, and modifications to see what agrees with your philosophy about the work.
3. Be open to new ideas.
4. Challenge & question things you’re not sure are right.
5. Search & research to find the answers to things you are unsure about.
6. Take the best that other teachers have to offer that makes sense to you, and leave the rest behind.
If I think about my understanding of Pilates 14 years ago, vs. what I know now – there is light years of difference. But even so, when I hear things that contradict how I teach – I still doubt what I know sometimes. Plus, I am completely secure in my belief I’ve got lots more to learn about the body.
So…Here’s the question I was asked:
“How do I ask this question succinctly? (It will be difficult!) You speak of the incorrect use of the thighs when speaking of the psoas. What about when you are rolling up or rolling down from standing? The venerable Mary Boyd advocates using the inner thighs along with the pelvic floor and navel-to-spine. I get confused–there are contradictions in the field! Please advise. THANK You.”
My Response: As I read back over my psoas article, my usage of the word “thighs” was mainly in reference to the quadriceps muscles, in particular the Rectus Femoris as it tends to be the over used and inefficient hinger of the leg/pelvis.
For me the Pelvic Floor is a given starting point on every exercise as it provides support for elongation of the spine and freedom for hip movement.
While I used to cue navel-to-spine, personally, I’m looking for everything from the crotch to the navel to be pulling towards the spine (for a flattening band of support for the low back and belly). Some folks are really good at just pulling the belly button to the backbone with a pooch below. If your teacher is getting the correct action from your body with that cue – it’s working.
Rolling Up or Rolling Down – whether you’re standing or doing the Matwork Exercise Neck Pull or the Roll Up I agree that the inner thighs are active – not a death squeeze, but definitely energized. (It doesn’t matter whether the legs are together or apart there is still “action” in the inner thighs.)
In reference to the inner thighs and psoas…In my opinion, I don’t think that squeezing the inner thighs harder is going to keep the quadriceps out of the equation so the psoas can do it’s job. There should be some life in the inner & outer thighs, but the engagement through the glutes & hamstrings will be more important for the support & action of keeping the legs down on the floor to articulate through the spine and pelvis when rolling up & down when laying on the back. Same would be true in a standing position (only it might feel easier here since gravity is helping hold the legs still.)
The short & condensed version…I don’t think the information you feel is conflicting really is! I agree with what you’ve been told. And we all have to remember that with so many parts and pieces to think about during a Pilates workout, you’re teacher can’t possibly pick on, or correct everything every time. Some days you might be reminded more about the pelvic floor, other days what the abs are doing, or the glutes & legs, or the psoas, or the movement of the pelvis, or the breathing. Plus – once you understand and are doing some things well, we tend to start reminding you about other things to keep tweaking your technique – until there is nothing left to remind you of and you’re brain and body are beautifully connected for efficient movement!