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Workshop #1166

Developing Your Eye

75 min - Workshop


Clients think we are magically endowed - “how did she know that?” It’s merely that we see patterns of restriction obvious to the trained eye. This workshop is further “eye training.” You will examine common patterns, learn how to trace problems to their origin, and find solutions you can use within a lesson.


- To help participants see postural patterns and movement limitations more quickly and have easy tools for corrections

- Discuss skeletal alignment and how improving alignment will improve Pilates efficiency

- Focus on the spine, with an emphasis on tails and heads

- Apply these concepts to Pilates exercises

What You'll Need: No props needed

About This Video

(Pace N/A)
Sep 06, 2013
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Chapter 1

Why Your Client Thinks You're Brilliant

I'm Ruth Alpert and well, there's a reason why I wanted to do this workshop. Originally I teach mostly elderly people or people recovering from injuries. Um, I was trained by Michelle Larson to be her backup with her injured clients. And much of my work has, and because of my own background, much of my work has been with, um, bodies that are not already well-trained. And very often I'll, you know, give some, I'll make a correction on one my clients. And you know, the client will say, how did you know that that's, how did you see that? You know, like, do you have x-ray eyes? And you know, for us teachers it's like, well, you're doing leg circles right in the straps and one leg is doing a nice circle and the other leg is trying to get to Czechoslovakia. And it's, this is not rocket science to see that the legs aren't even. But for the client who's unaware of their own movement, it really does feel like magic. And, and so the title of this workshop was, you know, how to see how, how, why your client thinks you're brilliant and why your client thinks you're brilliant is really because you see what they can't see.

And the idea of developing your eye, um, for me is what makes the difference between an instructor and a teacher. And to quote Eve Gentry, um, whose lineage I'm in. And this is a direct quote from the film that Maryanne Kessel and Michelle Larson made about eve, which to the viewing audience I highly recommend you get a copy of and see, it's a brilliant film. At the very end eve says, do you want to be a conveyor belt or a teacher conveyor belt? Meaning do you want to just convey exercises or do you want to be a teacher? And I've always taken it on to really be more of a teacher.

And so what makes a teacher for me is how well you can see into a body and how you train your eye has a lot to do with teaching for many years. And by your thousandth body you see more than you do. At the beginning and also studying other things. Um, I think it's really important to continually be a student, which obviously you guys think so do, otherwise you wouldn't be here. Um, but you ha, you know, the, the more experienced we get as teachers, the more we forget what it's like to be inept at something. And I think it's really important to go do something that's new for you that you're not good at. So you remember what that beginning level feels like. Um, so anyway, I've studied different things and I throw all of that into my teaching.

My original name for this, which is just my own pet nickname, but it's so cute. I have to tell you what it is. It's I'm seeing is believing or how to spot those pesky patterns that prevent proficient PyLadies and proceed towards perfection. That's how this whole workshop started. I thought that line when I was walking on the beach one day. Um, so there are two things for making a good teacher there is developing your eye. But then there's also the piece about asking the right questions and that has really shifted my teaching and taken me much further than I would have expected.

I've learned to ask a question and let my client talk. Your client has all the information in their body that you need, right? You don't have to know what's going on. You don't have to have the answers. Um, here's an example. I was teaching an older man this many years ago and it was in Santa Fe when I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 20 years, and that's at 7,000 feet altitude. So I would start everybody with breathing because breathing in that altitude is like already an exercise. So I asked him to exhale, you know, work with this breath and he exhaled and its ribs got bigger and I'm looking it back on, no, that's a new one. I haven't seen that before. It's good. Again, wait, don't want you to see that again. Take a deep breath in and exhale.

So I didn't do it two or three times and I'm going and then I just opened the discussion and I say to him, that's very curious. Most people when they exhale their ribs go down, yours are going out. I'm, I'm really intrigued by that. Did anything ever happen to your ribs? And he goes, oh, oh, I completely forgot when I was seven years old, I had a collapsed lung. Right. So his ribs were holding up the structure because inside the ribs was not doing its job. And it said, you go into some immediate pattern and it stays the rest of your life.

And then it was 65 at the time. So we worked a lot with that. You know, he told me I didn't have to guess what was going on there and he telling me that it was this old pattern that was stuck in his ribs also told me that we could change it, right? That it wasn't a broken bone or a surgery where they cracked open his ribs and it was going to be a given. So ask questions and let your clients tell you their story. And that then makes you look brilliant because you know exactly what to do about it without having had to guess what was going on.

So, um, I have to tell you another story about him. This is an anecdote, but it's hysterical. So we worked with his breath. I gave him all different kinds of things to get his ribs to drop. Finally, one day he looked over in the corner and he saw the therabands and he had this great idea. He went over, he tied a theraband around themselves so he could feel his ribs against the theraband. So he's breathing away and all of a sudden his eyes get this big and he looks at me and he goes, oh, oh my gosh, is this what you women have to wear on time? I, I felt like I had just entered heaven.

It was like one man on the face of the earth now understands how we're like constricted. Anyway, he was, it was one of those teaching moments you never forget. Um, so what we're going to look at today in terms of I training his spine. So much of Palladia is a spine generated, spine focused. Um, and there's confusion about spines. I don't know if it is for you guys, but there is generally confusion about spines in the world, certainly for your clients. Um, so we got Lucy here. She is a female model. They did not make female models two years ago.

They've just started and I bought her two years ago. Um, the spine is the oldest part of us. You could think of his spine swimming through the ocean, um, with the load at the bottom and a correctly aligned spine has waves in it. And I know we're in an era where the thinking is changing. We're allowing the waves back in the spot. We're allowing the curves back in where they didn't use to be.

So this might be preaching to the converted here, but, um, instead of saying curves, I think of the spine as waves and Tuttle. It's really easy to have that image here. Emily Conrad, who's work is continuum and I did that work for 10 years. Um, she used to talk about our spine, our bodies basically being a vehicle for the ocean to carry itself on land. And the spine still has ocean waves, right? But it's still this. So I have a little, uh, trick little toy that I did very, um, preempt really earlier today. These are actually, it goes like this.

And what I want you to do is this is the normal, the one on the right is the normal curves for the spine. And I want you to take your finger and trace it over and over again just up. You can go up and down, you can start at the top and go down. You can start at the bottom and go up. Either any way is fine, but just get the rhythm of those curves through your finger. And I'm technologically in, in a neanderthal, so I couldn't figure out how to um, expand this on my home machine. So you might have to use your pinky because your big finger might be too big, but just if you were to sing it, what would it, what would it sound like if it were a song? If it were a sound, we have so many nerve endings in our fingers that often when you trace something, you get it really quickly. Then go to the other one, which is a flattened spine, which is sort of the sort of a flatten Stein the best I could draw and trace that and notice what that feels like. What, what tone or sound that would have any feedback, any, uh, I should say this right away.

I really encourage interaction. I'm not a lecturer, so talk to me putting Sony and, and the flat one everybody is saying was monotone. Yeah. One dimensional. One dimensional. Yeah. So you want those curves. You just don't want them tidal waves, right? They don't need to be big breakers, but they do have this lovely wave spiral. Su, another thing I should say about the way in which I work is that I am very attached to bones. I love bones. I understand. I'm bony. It helps. Um, but for me, I don't address muscles, muscles or I do sometimes, but in general to do any simple movement, like even reaching for a glass, many, many muscles are involved, right? We can't micromanage muscles.

And when we do, boy do we get in trouble. I'm really well trained to be very specific about muscles and it can drive everybody, including me. Nuts. If you go to bone number one, it's easier to spot quickly because bones are landmarks in a body. And the other thing about it is, um, all, all those cysts, this is a derive from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen's work. Uh, body mind centering that each body system underlies the next. So if you're hot, so the muscles are on top of the bones or underneath the organs are under that, the fluids under that, I might have that little wrong. It's been many years since I did that work. But in other words, if you're having a problem with muscle, give direction to bone, the muscles won't be getting, uh, micromanaged, right?

They won't be getting all this information and they'll just relax and work efficiently. If you're having a problem with bone as it, um, then go to organs, organ support bones. In my example of my client with the collapsed lung, his bones, he no longer had the organ support. So his bones were taking on that job. But if you know, I with him, I couldn't have gone too long cause I didn't know what his left lung was doing. But you can move from your organs and then your bones will fall into place.

An example of that, um, in the way back we used to do grumpy a in second position, sending our ovaries and torn knees. And when you have that focus, your pelvis pump just falls right into place and you don't have to fuss with it at all. So, uh, so I like to go to bone in a Palladio's context. It's the simplest and most direct.

Chapter 2

Dog Tail, Duck Tail, and Elevator Tail

What I want to move on to next is one of the things we don't realize and for those folks at home or for you guys, you can look up on the Internet, spines and pelvises and you'll see all uh, really nice pictures. Um, how the pelvis hangs to really be right up on the sitz bones. The pelvis is actually tipped. We're not this way. We're actually this way.

The sacrum in some of the pictures I've seen is almost horizontal. Non On Lucy. Sorry. But um, there the sacral curve is something we don't focus on. And especially your clients when they lie down because it feels like everything's touching the floor and the floor is flat. People assume their back is flat or straight.

And so it's very interesting to really get a sense of your sacral arch, sacral arch and the lumbar curve and thoracic. Ooh, all the way up. So we're gonna um, I wanted to start with heads and tails in particular. Um, okay. I know what's tickling my brain. Here's something that Michelle was used to say and I just want to put this out. We all steal from each other, right? We all steal material and teaching ideas and exercises and everything else.

Michelle used to stay steel only from the best and acknowledge who you got it from, which is why I keep name dropping in this workshop of where I got stuff from cause I really do try to honor that. Um, so this next piece about tales, my Alexander teacher, Robin Avalon, has this really clever way of teaching to kids and getting the idea across very, very quickly. There's dog tail, like bad dog with your tail tucked between you, your legs, duck tail with a tail hyper extended. And I've included added one called elevator tail, which is going straight down. So everybody stand up for a moment in plays. Every phone, not every it's getting better, but in the past years, whenever I would put my hands on a [inaudible] body, what I found is the tail going straight down to your heels because that's our image. We're starting to talk more about tail. Um, it's sort of bleeding into the pilates world. Coccsyx is the official name, but try to say that 20 times an hour. So I just say tailbone, um, when it's anchored straight down, and I'm not talking about opening the hook, I'm talking about using the curve of the tail as if there's a finger inside, anchoring it down. Okay? So please do not misunderstand and try to take the tip of your tail straight down. So it's as if somebody is just sort of anchoring you as if it's a hook with your tails straight down. So let, before we do that, figure out what each of you do. Where, what in those different patterns, where's your habitual, just your habitual place. Think about balancing your checkbook. Think about something on your to do list that you're not in love with doing.

And then check back in with your body. And where are you on your tail? Your little dog. Hold on here. I'm a little duck. A little duck. Little Duck. Come stand here. Let me see. Come stand in the middle.

That's cute. I'm just checking to see how accurate you are with our perception. Right? It could be. Yeah. Actually you're pretty centered. Really? Yeah. Yeah. Uh, your tail is pretty centered where you lose it as higher up.

Well now I'm trying to fix them. Yeah, I don't, that's where I wasn't mad ago. Yeah. Think about, yeah, there it goes. Yeah, it's okay. Yeah. Right, right. Um, you know, so if you were to exaggerate the dog tail, it would go into a full talk, like, right. You know what our clients do. Yeah. And then everything on top goes kerflooey. But for the purpose of this workshop, and for those of you at home in case you're absolutely perfect, but you want to try on these different patterns for size, go into exaggerate the dog tail just a little bit and notice what that does to your hip sockets and glutes, quads and then anything else head right. So flat back versus walking around like this. Yes.

Or just a tail Tucker [inaudible] because you can tuck your tail but not be flat up here. You can talk your tail and be quite curved, right? So the, it gets, you know, different permutations of it. But this is going to have a lot of ramifications in footwork, in all in legwork. Any time you need to actually have a hip socket, you're not going to have one. Not only that, but I'm exaggerating a bit for the camera. But if you're really here, what was that pot? It just flew out. Um, your hip socket. Oh, you're so as is gonna be pulled forward, right? The head of the Femur is actually going to be forward in the socket, right. A little bit, which is going to Yank on the SOS. So as is connected to diaphragm, therefore your breathing is going to change.

So if you ever work with singers, this is going to be huge to get there. Them out of tucking because their diaphragm can't have their full excursion. And for us all this social stuff. Okay, next pattern is tail hyperextending duck tail, which is I can do this real good, right? And again, and take it on for size, but be careful. Don't do anything that hurts. But again, just so that you know what your clients are walking in with, what happens in this pattern. No ribs, right? Yeah.

And it's hard to engage a Donald's cause everything starts spilling and then what's the correction you give? Oh, the ribs are sticking out, knit the ribs together, right? So then you get another tension pattern on top of the first tension and you're really going to be lost. Um, you also tend to accumulate congestion right back here, um, or anywhere along the back. So then let's do elevator tail. So your tail is dropping down like appropriately. And I did this for years thinking I was correct.

Um, so your tail, it's not tucked under, but it is dropping straight down. What does that feel like? Normal. Something else might be okay. Feet more rooted into the ground. Feet Front, back, more balanced from tobacco on feet, right? And it just kind of notice a little something in my sockets.

Just a little opening. Have just a little more softening, a little softening in sockets with tails, straight down and more balanced front to back on your feet. And less tension than the other two which were exaggerated. Well, not necessarily less tension. I feel some diagrammatic tension in the front. Diaphragmatic tension in the front for you. Four more pell. You feel your pelvic floor more with your tail. Straight down. Okay, let's do a fourth version with your tail dropping down.

But behind you, so, and you guys being close to the ocean here, we get to actually walk on the beach and dragged seaweed behind us, which is really fun because then you see, you really see a tail. It's a little big. I could've cut these down, but your tail behind you, right and again, when I'm talking tail to be really clear about it, it's probably more really the base of your sacrum or again this hooking in here so that your tail, because when you're, again, we're not here. This is tail straight down, right? If you're really on your sitz bones with a lumbar and sacral curve, if you were to extend this angle out, it would come down to about there. Does that, do I have them centered there? If you were to take your, the line, the angle of your sacrum and extended down behind you, it would be like the third leg of a tripod. Right? So you're so wouldn't be straight down between your heels, which is better than the other two because at least you have the down component but it's actually slightly behind so try that on for size.

Okay, so immediately like Piriformis and get Malley's those search release. Okay. First comment immediately. Piriformis and Gemelli. Melis I was calling hip rotators early twins rotators, the hip rotators release start to relax. Exactly. I know there are certain muscles in the body that are just twins. The Camilli's, they are the Italian twins.

Anybody else? Notice anything less tension in your front in here. Right. Balanced again. So now go. Yeah, even more balanced. So just because the tail straight down didn't feel bad. Go back to that and play, go back and forth a few times between. Let me really get it for you. Go into my old dancer thing there.

There's tell straight down and there's tail slightly behind. Yeah. And for me there's less dive medic tension in the front. Les Dire from front diaphragmatic tension. But I did definitely feel the release across the hip. Yeah. And immediately the first thing you feel is the release of the rotators. Yeah.

So go back into that tail straight down and really feel now by comparison the tension that's actually in that one. And we're not even talking about thoracics and ribs and heads and you know, it gets very complicated on not, but just from this bottom place. Here's another thing. Um, with your tail straight down, pick up your leg. Just normal. Just to pick up a link. Put it down, good tail behind you dropping down, but behind you pick up a leg. Yeah, easier, right? How low you got hip socket. So here's the thing, we create so much of our own tension and then we go to [inaudible] and we're working with muscle energy and spring resistance against and alignment that's already getting us more tense.

So when your client is, you know, doing leg circles or knees stretch or any of those things where you need a hip socket available and you're not getting that response from your client, look at what they're doing with their pelvis or with their, the angle of their tail. Um, so just because I brought the use, I know you already got it, but you folks at home, Kmart special, go get one and just take a walk. I've actually found this, um, very useful but stay within the window frame for the camera. Um, for clients who really need a tactical visual sense. So hold it at the base of your sacred. If you hold it too high, it won't work and feel the lateral sway that's in there because that's what these are good for. You can feel your tail angled back as a, um, as a placement thing, but you'll feel the movement of it through these. Or if you're on a beach, seaweed on a beach is really cool cause there's weight to it. You excuse me, upside down.

Oh I put a special curve in those tails by you're storing them in my garage for two years. So I always have one of these handy. You know, if a client is just not getting it, it's really quick, really quick way you can get a bit of that. And then syncing that wave of the tail behind you will further release the pelvis actually cause then the pelvis starch doing that weight shift when you walk. Um, you can do the same thing, you know, with the different tales and check out your breath and that'll tell you also where the tension limps. But you all found that we don't need to go over that. So it's a quick, using these, you know, different tales is a very quick way to correct your client. You know, you may need to lay the groundwork and have them do some of this. And then you know, they're in the middle of a nice stretch one and two, right? And for knee stretch one, you do want a dog tail.

So you can just say dot. More dog tail, more dog tail in the Little Hood, right? Or, or most everybody can do that. What I find problematic is the flat back, which, and with my clients, I don't even go into arch back. Um, but even just finding the release here to go into plot back, you can say, you know, pick a tail that would do that. And it's a shortcut.

Chapter 3

Integrated Movement Through the Spine

At this point we're going to go into some mat work exercises, uh, to look at the movement of spine. But it's not when you're in your listening thinking head, it's a transition to get into your body.

So I'm going to give these folks a little bit of a warmup to make that connection in. Please give yourself a warmup at home. If you don't like mine, you don't want to jump from your head into a full out Palladio's exercise cold. I'm not a good idea. Okay? So take a deep breath in. When in doubt, go to your breath and exhale and breathing in and breathing. Yeah, and breathing in and out. And let's go into the breath. The percussive breath pattern from the hundreds. Okay.

Keep going. Get as much movement out of your rib cage as you can. Don't worry about pulling in your abs for right now, you're just trying to get your diaphragm going. Diaphragm is connected to five of the seven body systems. You get the diaphragm warmed up and it's a shortcut to warming up your whole body and just stop before you hyperventilate, please. Good.

And now go into a different breath pattern. Take a deep breath in and you're going to hiss it out and inhale and again, expanding your rib cage in all directions and exhale. The hundreds breath pattern is an excitation to the nervous system. The hissing exhale is a common to your nervous system and it's great to go back and forth between those two. So a couple more of the hissing and then go back into the hundreds.

If you know continuum, you could go into the who breadth instead of the hundreds. Good. And then back into the hundreds again in two, three, four. And make them as fast as you can. Small and fast. Really pumping iron for the diaphragm, short and Staccato. [inaudible] good. And then go into a complete hissing. See if you have any more, um, volume or expansion and depletion in your rib cage, not depletion. Any more movement in your rib is what I mean.

Descent. That's the word I'm looking for. Oh, there was a name for an opera. The descent of the ribcage. Okay. Bring your knees up into your chest.

Take whole class for your hands and just rock. Give your lower back a bit of a massage. You can do circles, you can go side to side. You can pulse forward and back. Anything works here.

And then let your hands go and easily kick your lower legs. Shake out your ankles up to the ceiling and Jiggle. Oh well the la La la, la, la, la. No, no, no, no, no, no. Good. And then kick your hamstrings again. If your heels reach that far good.

Plots your feet down and let your knees drop to one side and fall to the other side. Very easy in your joints. Just putting a little tiny spiral in your spine. Good. Come back to center and just let your head roll side to side and take hold of your forearms. Leave your elbows clear and full elbow circles. I think of these as the reader's digest.

Condensed version of full arm circles. Gets your [inaudible]. It's moving but doesn't knock out your name. [inaudible] because it stays contained. Face Henry verse. Okay, so how does that do? Are you in enough to do a roll up?

Yeah. Okay. Lengthen out your legs. Let's do arms overhead. So here, um, the hundreds in the mat work would be the first spine, first full body movement. But I'm going to jump to the roll up because that's very particularly spine and let's think about it. So arms come up overhead to the ceiling. I'll give you the easy version and you inhale and roll yourself up and let's see how you move through your spines and do your version of the Rola whatever you want to do. Just do two or three of them so I can take a look.

Okay. And roll down and rest for a moment. Amy, why don't you stand up for a moment and I want to show to the side. Come, come stand here. Amy has a sacral arch, which is very nice and it's, it's a strong sacral arch, right? Her sacrum is curved so that her lumbar is curved. Come my down here. And so do I. By the way, many people have a flat or sacrum. We'll see. Neither of you do. I can actually put my hand under here, right?

It doesn't go all the way down. This isn't normal and neutral and her appropriate curves given the shape of her spine. But what do we tell our clients in the roll-up? We say curl up through every vertebrae. Let every vertebrae touch the floor or different words like that. Well, for your, for these vertebrae to touch the floor, make them touch, she has to go into a massive Tuck, right? What happens? Did you see, uh, relax? I'm going to do this. That's fine. Again, put your uh, lumbar down. It's going to gum up this hip socket like nobody's business.

Now try to do a roll up from there. Right. She can, she has to muscle her way through. Is any strong enough she can pull it off. But essentially it can't happen. She is overriding her body to do that. Either the legs pop up or they don't get up.

So each entry would pad people. In other words, we're going to bring the floor up to your spine so that the spine gets tactical feedback but doesn't have to, you know, go all the way to China to find it. So let's try that. I don't know if you need one or folded over more. Let 'em let me fold it over. Okay. Was that in the right place? No. Then it's too much.

Yeah. Or uh, wherever you need it. Put it where you want to put it in the lumbar curve. Is it in the lumper? Yep. There you go. Is that too much pad? Cause okay, we'll find out. We'll find out. Ken Did Carol.

It's magic roof Todd off. Right? And your client thinks you're brilliant and all you did was put a pad under their low back, right? It's anatomical. There's nothing wrong with her spine. It doesn't need to straighten more. She tries to straighten her curves, she's gonna create 10 more problems. So then, yeah, I mean gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Right? Makes me want to do a few more. Well, keep going be my guess. Um, so this is like really huge for people. Very, very huge.

There are people who, you know, do full out [inaudible] teach it, but our closet, non roller uppers, right. You have to stay in the closet about it because how can you be a [inaudible] teacher not roll up, right? I mean it's like one-on-one and, and this can be really life changing. So essentially Eve gentry who is brilliant, I stole it from her, from Michelle through her. So here's the thing about props though. This is going to retrain her body to understand how to move fluidly, but it's a prop. She eventually, you don't want to get attached to props. And I see that a lot.

People do modifications and then the modification becomes the exercise that stainless pilates works in its original form. A modification is totally valid, but it has to, you have to know that you're trying to get them to the full exercise and you're modifying it as a stepping stone stepping tool. No stepping stone step to get there. I get my cliches all bombarding at once. You don't want to be in my brain. So what happens, uh, come up, let me demo this.

Next thing I to have the same kind of spine, right? I also, you can drive a truck under my arc. What I've learned in my roll up is I just don't touch the ground. So after using the towels for long enough, my, my muscle memory tells me where to go and I'm just don't even pay attention to the fact that I'm not touching bottom. You're still articulating. Thank you very much. Exactly. The point is articulation. What this exercise is about for me is integrated movement through the spine.

Who cares where it is in space? Every single spine is different, right? You're not gonna, it's not going to look the same. Um, I assisted Michelle Larson in what, 11 years of teacher training and in Precor dynamics, her spine does not have the curbs. Mine does. Her spine is much flatter. She can give the direction, feel your vertebrae on the floor. Didn't work for me, you know, and everybody in who we would see in workshops. It's a different story. So I don't teach by shape, right? I teach by intention and integration.

What is it for that body that's getting integrated movement rather than tell that body where to go in space. Let your nervous system can figure that out.

Chapter 4

Everybody Has a Different Shaped Spine

We're going to bring Layla up because she has a slightly different issue. So come on up. Layla also has a sacral curve and m lumbar curve, but her issue is much, uh, fewer vertebrates. It's a much smaller area that needs padding.

So we took a washcloth and folded in half and let us show us where you need it. Yeah. So we're, I need contact, right? Low back right there. So now I feel every vertebra you can feel every vertebra without that. Yeah. Do one without it, without, she's very well trained. She's very strong. And she can do it. So I get [inaudible] the whole sake firms down, right.

And then the next three, so the first three of my, maybe, maybe I'll for real five is down. And then there's about three of them's three segments that just don't get contact and she's learned to work around it just so fine. So do a roll with without it. It would be nice to have it, but I don't get it. So I'm, I'm contacting here, I feel a lot of feedback for the mat right here. [inaudible] and then about three of them lift at the same time.

Okay. Right when she gets to that spot, something else happens somewhere else in her body. Sure. Let's put this back down where you need it. Uh, uh, go ahead and roll back down all the way. Good. Now put this where you need it. So the point I want to make here is that, and I don't know if this is true or not, I'll ask you, even though you've learned to do it without the towel, does the towel change any degree of tension that you feel?

Absolutely. There's less tension here at that point. Less tension here at that point. [inaudible] palm moment. Right? Right. And that she can do it, but the tension goes somewhere with the towel. It just gives her nervous system a little less work. Right? Right.

Her nervous system can stay a little more relaxed so she can feel the movement as more fluid. And that's why I think it's useful even if you don't, even if you've learned to accommodate, right. What the towel does is speak to the nervous system and, and that's actually very useful. I think. Um, the other piece, uh, that we were talking about around this, everybody has a different shapes, spine, right? We, all of us in this room have a lumbar curve and a sacral arch naturally. Plus we've learned to not inhibit it. So, you know, it's functioning for us, but we're all shifting those waves at a slightly different point. We all have slightly different tension patterns within it. So I, again, I said this, I'll say it thousands of times.

I do not teach by shape. I do not tell you what kind of curve to make, right? I'm looking for the curve for this spine or for Amy's spine or for your spine that has integrity with the least tension, right? So somebody with a more flexible spine is going to have a much deeper curve. Don't mimic my shape, don't you know, it's very tricky to demonstrate and have all your clients try to mimic your own shape for things. So your eye as a teacher is to look for where their attention is.

And another piece about looking at tension, it will show up in a place that's not usually not where it's originating. Look below it or look above it, right? It's the sibling effect, what I call the the sibling sibling syndrome. The sibling who does the mischief gets the other kid in trouble, right? And the other kid complains and barks about it and then the parent comes and scolds the kid who's making the most noise, where really it's the kid that is, you know, the other kid is the one that initiated the mischief. Well, this might be initiating the mischief, but this is where it showed up.

So you're going to see this client, you know, if you were my client, I would look at you and I'd see all this neck and head tension and I would go to correct your neck and head this, right. Got this, I come here and then I can't go anymore. I can't, I can't get this down anymore. Right, right. So somebody else has to come in to help. Exactly. Right. So it's going to come. So then she's hauling herself up from her neck from her head because that's the only thing available. Hmm.

Right. But as a teacher, if I go to correct her neck and shoulders, I'm gonna be blue in the face before I get anything accomplished. Because that's not where the problem is. That's a bad a compensation pattern. Right. This will start helping actually fix the problem. And that's again, the kind of thing that makes you look brilliant to your clients. Because, and as I'm fond of saying, the more, the longer I teach, the more I realized that my job is to make my job easier. If I can see into your body and figure out what you need, I don't have to correct you so much, then I get to relax more. Right?

I don't have to say shoulders down, shoulders down every 10 seconds. So I've gotten efficient about my working with the body just so I don't have to work so hard. So I'm really lazy. Okay. Come on up. Um, the other thing I wanted to look at before we leave tails is sitting because there's a fair amount in pilates where you're upright. Um, things like hug a tree and rowing and other things. Ma, many people will be sitting back on their tailbone when you're actually upright on your sitz bones, your tail is free hanging. It's not touching. And for people, this is really hard to, you know, for your beginning clients.

Um, the other thing is the sitz bones are a rocker and there's a lot of surface on them. You can be in varying places on your sitz bones. So what I have people do, I have people sit on the edge of the reformer or, you know, we put a box under my feet. You could sit on the edge of this. Sometimes if something's too padded, you don't get bone feedback as well. So I take a jump board. Thank you. And I sit it on the edge of the reformer.

These are heavy ones and I have them sit on wood. If they're small enough to fit in this space and not me, I'm falling right off. Um, or uh, I actually had made a piece of wouldn't my little pads and those work really well too, but you have them sit and I'm sure you've all done this, where you roll forward and back on your sits bones. Can you do it on the maths comfortably or is that too much on your hip sockets? So here I am in toe shoes just to reach the floor. I have the world's shortest legs. Um, just roll to the back of your sits phones till you're on your tales and then roll through the rockers of them and remember that they're pointed slightly in unlike Lucy and, and roll too far forward.

So now you're in a ducktail, right? And you rolled too far back, you're in dog tail. And then find your sits bones somewhere in the center, wherever that is. Let's do that again. Roll back to you're sitting literally sitting on your tail and notice what it does to your spine, right? I mean, you'd forces you into a curl and puts a lot of tension in your back muscles. Have to all of a sudden try to keep you from falling backwards, come up into a duck tail or hyperextension.

And that also puts a lot of tension on your hip sockets and other places. So I don't know about you, but my clients have a hard time sitting up straight, right? I mean, there's an issue, there's, you know, heads or two forward or or this, the flexors can't really, I call them the big grippers, like the Constellation, the big dipper, you know, it's the big grippers here. These are too tight for them to actually find their sitz bones. So I do this thing of sitting on wood. Once you're really on the center of your sitz bones, you see if you can feel that your spine can be in its waves without a whole lot of effort. Does that make sense?

There's a sweet spot for each of you, a sweet spot right on your sits bones somewhere where your spine is just there. Your muscles aren't overworking to keep you from falling one way or another, and you can actually be here for a long time comfortably. This was a revelation to me when I found it a number of years ago actually. And this is where you do all the stuff from.

Chapter 5

The Head is Just Another Vertebra

So we're going to segue now into the northern part of the spine, which is contains your head.

So here's something that's very tricky for most of your clients. This is your head. Your jaw is actually not part of your head. The bottom of your head is the roof of your mouth, right? This is the bottom of your head, not your jaw.

If you think of your Chin as the bottom of your head, you're gonna get really funky movement of your neck, right? If you trace your chin all the way to your spine, it's going to be right in the middle of your cervicals. And when people think that this is where their head moves from, their leveraging their head as if there's a joint back here to do that and there's not, and you get very distorted movement. The joint that actually moves your head is uh, the occipital Khan dials these bumps that come out on the bottom of your skull, that sit in c one, right? See One goes this way. Um, my Alexander Teacher Robin Avalon talks about the side processes being a bicycle handles right?

That you actually steer from here. Very cool image. So here's a closeup. Have you, do you all know this? Have you seen this or is this okay? So it sits like this sort of mostly, and the movement come closer. Come closer if you need to see this is the movement of the head on the first vertebrae. Does that make sense?

So if you were to do it in your hands, these are the cups of the m c one. And this is the bump of the Occiput, right? Head sits on Oxford. Looking up is actually a forward movement. Looking down, it's actually a backward movement, right? Looking up, do this with your hands as you do it.

It's actually very useful. Looking down is backwards and it's tiny. It's not much movement to really be just in this very top place is a very small movement. What then happens after that is much, uh, goes down. Your spine is bigger. So again, right? It's just about that much. And if you look at the whole skull, it's like nodding yes, but it's very small.

Michelle's image often is rolling a marble with the tip of your nose. And I like to say at some marble folks, it's not a basketball, right? Your nose, the tip of your nose right about here, give or take, how long your nose is. No. Um, would be the point at which this is happening in your head. This is very, very small. So here's the thing, our nervous systems are set up to follow our heads. The brain, right? The central brain stuff, nervous system. That's how we're built. That head leads, body follows, head leads, body follows. So here you are doing a roll up, right?

And what's the first thing that you see people do? All kinds of things. They either do this or they, if they're thinking that their head is here, they'll do this. So everybody lie down and over. Tuck your chin, right? And then we give all these like Chin directions. Like put a ball there, put an apple there, put a grapefruit there. You know the fruit of the loom directions, right? So what happens when you talk in your chin? What happens to your cervicals and thoracics spine?

What happens to your spine? That's my question. It flattens out, right? Okay. Come back up to sitting. Well actually stay down there over flat and try to roll up. Try to do, go back to your role. Okay, come down. It's not very easy. You guys are so well trained. You could pull it off, but it's not easy. So come up just sitting. Okay. So here's the thing.

The nervous system knows what's required to do a roll up. It can organize your body beautifully, but your telling your body by giving it this direction to roll up. Well here's the nervous system. It's going, how did we reincarnate in another body that doesn't get it? She's telling us that we're doing a role, but what she's actually doing is taking all the slack out of the spine, flattening the curves, and asking us to curve the curves while she's flattening them. This makes no sense, but we have to do what the head says. We have to do it.

That's our job. So, okay, who's on board? We're going to need everybody on board for this. Okay. Glutes. Are you on board? And here come the glutes. Oh Yeah, look, we'd love to work. Who glues? Can we go now? Now can, can we tighten now? Oh, we love glue parties. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. So the glutes are okay. Glutes simmer down and then the so assay. Okay, we're there. So assets involved, any, but we're going to need a lot more and then the traps, right?

You're going to need, we're going to need everybody on board. The nervous system is putting out a red alert. Every muscle in the body is going to have to help. And the traps, the traps go, oh, excuse me. That's not my job. My job is to elevate the shoulder blades. I'm not supposed to haul the entire spine up. That's the job of somebody else.

If you want me to do that job and why do I always get blamed for everything, then they blame me because my shoulders are up. I'm sorry if I do that. You're going to have to pay me overtime. I want time and a half. And if you don't pay me time and a half, you're going to pay for it later. And you know what that means? Aspirin tonight, right? So you got this whole thing where to actually do a roll up, your entire body is going to have to do it. There's going to have to get in gear and everything tightens and everybody gets upset basically. And then you get all this fighting in your body right now.

Where is the union when you need one? That's it. We need a union for the body. So the idea of heads in a roll up is that you start from your nose and your head does not leave the ground. Alright? And then it's immediately into, I can't talk and hold my nose at the same time. Um, it's a very small movement for your head and then it's gonna go directly down your spine. So why don't they let you come back up again?

Okay, so I'm going to help you in the rollout. Here's your head. Okay, stop right there. Her pattern Laylas pattern is, here's your head. That beginning was beautiful and then our net keeps going, but nothing else has changed. So she has all curving her neck. Nothing else has moved, right?

So let's attach this head to a spine. A whole spine. So head. Yeah, you want to jump right off the table? Hang on there. Now drop into your thoracics. The next stuff goes so quickly. I don't even give messages to it. Go right to your thoracic and don't leave my hand. Don't leave my hand.

Keep your head back in my hands. Yes, there you go. And then come there. Keep your head back in my hands and just move. Don't go so slow. Just come up there she goes and curl back down. We'll do that a few times. You get to breathe XL somewhere in there. Okay. Oh, stop. Can you all see what's going on? Can you feel it? You can't cause it's your pattern. It feels normal.

So here's your head just that much. Let's just do that. There's your head, there's your head. Good. Now go right into your thoracic spine. Your neck will curl. Plenty. Yeah. Thoracic spine is late so that your neck curls to a disconnects from the thoracic. Right? You get too much nick curl and go. There you go. Go. Right. Whoa. You jumped, you kicked forward again. Your, it's a famous pattern. I have it as well.

I have it. It's famous. And partly it's um, it is your strategy. It's how you overcame the tightness. Ah, let's put the towel back for you. So we'll put this where you need it, which will already eliminate some of that tension. Good.

So head and then thoracics and just go right into your thoracics right now. Stay with my hands. Keep your head back and curl your behind your bra strap. Yup. And just go, that was better than curl back. Why do you submit to move if you go too slow, it doesn't work. And exhale. Ribs go down and curl. Right? Yeah, keep going.

Okay. Head back on my arm. There we go. Yup. And keep your head on my arm. Yeah, you get the idea. This is going to take something that will not fix overnight. Right. Right. To do it for yourself. I class, I make a hammock for my head and I actually put it where the weight of my skull is, not below, but really at the where the weight touches the floor. And then keep your head in your hands. Yeah. Yeah.

Almost too much in your neck already. Drop your head back in your hands. It's the, what's happening is in your thoracics [inaudible] they're not used to moving through as fluidly as I'm asking them to write. I need to go sooner. Yeah. One more time and then we'll um, put this duress. Use Your hands. It's not going to be possible without your hands cause I want to get your thoughts. Okay. Okay bear.

So try it, try it and see. And definitely use your hands. You will not, I won't be able to get up with my hands. Cause you're using, that's part of your strategy is to use your reach. Yeah. Nicole, it's not well that we're not doing netball. You are doing netball. I'm not asking for it. I'm asking for your head to stay back. It's still kicking way forward. Yup. Yeah. This is asking. Okay. A really good case in point. This is a teaching moment.

I'm asking too much of this body right now. It's too many changes at once to support her head back here. Throws her into your familiar neck pole, which just confuses the issue. So drop your hands right it. It's like little changes at a time. Don't overload almost. That was better. It's getting better. It's, you're still doing a lot of forward.

Oh go back down again. You're holding your breath. That's the other piece. And big excels. You come up good and go back down. All right, so how was it for you guys? I might have to play with that strategy. Yup. A lot of us have that same strategy as we haul from our heads. Yeah. That's something we hold from our heads holing head calling.

So here's the way I work on it for myself. [inaudible] I get this going so my head is really resting and right when I get to my Tufts spot, actually I do this like this, I practice it like this. Okay. And I stop because for me it's right here. That falls apart.

And so what I wanna do is that yours is not quite the same. You want to do this and I do that. So okay, I get to here and I just stop to identify what I'm doing and I go back down. It's a huge retraining of your neck muscles and your head to stay with the rest of the vertebrae. Railey Sokowitz once came to Santa Fe and did a workshop when I was still living there years ago and he said something that I have quoted him on ever since that the head is merely another vertebrae. It's a big one.

It thinks it runs the world, but truly it's just another vertebrae and it has to stay with all the vertebrae. It gets so egotistical. These heads bet. It really thinks it's not part of the spine and really it's just the north end of your spine. Your tail is at the other end. So where are the shows up in a really big way is things on all fours or a control balance stuff, right? You get this name come in name, Noun. You know, it's the nouns in numbers that go first.

So what happens when you're on all fours is people don't remember or they don't think that this length of their thigh bone and this length of their arms is not the same because we say tabletop and so they're trying to be totally horizontal. But really, let me have somebody here so that I can, um, uh, yeah, come on up so I can point and shoot. Okay, so her arms are longer, right? This length and this length is not the site. Same. So you're actually at a diagonal and I've started changing my language.

I don't say table top anymore because what happens is people put their heads, drop your head down as if it's tabletop. Like you're two. Well trained butt heads will be like somewhere here because they're thinking the head is in line with the sacrum. But really? Yeah, I'm going to rock you. Rock you head to tail. Sorry for poking right on your tail without asking. I just did it a little higher actually. Will.

How's that feel good? Yeah. Now that's the connected spine. Good. Now go back to dropping your head a little, right. What does that, how does that feel on your muscles? Heavy. Heavy, right. And bringing your head up in line. So I got her head and I'm feeling for her tail and there's a little mishegoss in her upper thoracics.

That's better. And Rock. Sorry for the grip here. Yeah. Yeah. There's right in here. That's a little blocking. Can you feel that? I haven't. Yeah. Well she has an injury now she tells me intake. Remember to do your intake. Okay, well I didn't see it. Yeah. What character you're doing.

What character? Actually this one is. Yeah, this, these are the bruisers I'm getting the um, you know, the football players or not gonna budge. Yeah, that's better. Good. And take it all the way back and then your tail takes you all the way forward. Cool. I've said to tell energy, that's the whole spine.

You feel that good. So again, I'm not going for shape. I didn't correct this part of your back by telling you to flatten or curve or open your shoulders or anything. I went for spine and the energy of your spine. Can I bounce you bounce. Sitting and bouncing on a ball is a great way to find it. You know? Can I feel the integrity of the spinal energy?

And then everything else will fall into place. You correct with shape and you're, and you get low. It's Amaz Maz, you'll be in there forever, you know? Okay, fix this. Okay, now fix this. Okay, this one. Okay. Put your head back. Okay. You know, and it gets crazy making.

That's probably covers it. Where we would go next if you wanted to go further would be to take this into the repertoire, right? Do a mat workout, do a reformer workout and feel where your own patterns show up and where they're inhibiting you. But these are the bony landmarks that are very handy. There's one last thing I want to say about this that I should have said earlier and forgot your most people think of their spines as from the base of their neck to the top of their pelvis, right? They, this is called the neck. It's not called the spine.

So then they think there's back or their spine is from here to here because then here it's called the pelvis. And I think it's really crucial that you teach your clients that the spine goes from the tip of the tailbone to the top of the head. That that's a full spine. And that movement in piles requires a full spine that, you know, in a rollback, for instance, you're actually starting, uh, um, the Cadillac, you're starting from your tailbone or in, um, uh, uh, tail curl. You're starting, excuse me, this is a really handy thing to do. Pull on your pants, goose, your tail. You'll feel it.

Tail starts the movement. You could do it as a pelvic, but if you want to, if you want to speak to your spine, you have to start from your spine, from one end or the other. If you start, what you see in the rollback is you start, people start from what they think of as their back, which is their lumbar and not from the tip of the tail. Or people start rolling up not from their nose but from their chimp or whatever it gets truncated. So that's really to round this, you know, come back to the beginning. What makes you look brilliant to your client is that you have a sense of a whole spine and you can see where they're cutting off and however you need to get there. You know, whether you have to use all kinds of pads and blocks and whatever else to get them to sit on their sitz bones so their spines can have integrity when they're upright or I'm showing pictures or whatever tool you use to get the entire spine movement will, um, will just be healthier for them and easier on you.

So go look, look good. That's all folk [inaudible].


Hi, i don't understand the ñame from the film from Michel Larson and Eve. Thank You for give me that information.
Fabulous love the thought of working with what the sacrum has cant wait to go through this with my clients.Thank you for a helpful and clear workshop
Thanks for the feedback Gaile!
2 people like this.
Ruth, you are a lovelly teacher! I really enjoyed your workshop!
This is a subject that I would like to hear more on!! Enjoyed it very much!
Thank you!
Hi Judith,
Technically it's the base of your sacrum, not the actual coccyx that is dropping down and behind. The coccyx needs to keep it's curled shape!! It's the natural angle of the sacrum, that if extended, would land behind your feet. Images can help: the 3rd leg of a tripod, a dinosaur or kangaroo tail..... or go online or find anatomy books that show how angled the sacrum really is - an image that is reality! I could not use some of my favorite pictures in the filming because of copyright issues, but there are some lovely ones out there.

have to break this up for it to post - read on...

Also, release your gluts, release any locking in your knees (by having a gentle wiggle in your knees, not a muscular bending). And, dare I say this, release any gripping in your abs! And release any gripping in your pelvic floor muscles, especially the image of sitz bones coming together. Gripping anywhere, actually, will make it hard to feel.

Not sure if this helps, or answers what you need. Feel free to contact me directly if you have more specific questions.

And thanks for watching it and responding!!
Thank you Ruth.It has made me look carefully at the shape of the sacrum.I love your workshop-would welcome more.
The name of Michele's documentary on Eve is The Power of Pilates
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