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Seeking Balance, Part II: Body in Balance


“Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities.” -Joseph H Pilates, Return to Life

The body is meant to work as a cooperative system. Every muscle in the body has a friend that does the opposite job. And no muscle has to work in isolation – lines and systems of movement from head to toe ensure no one part has to carry the responsibility or burden of a movement. In this scenario, everything we do is whole body, and everything is supported, coordinated, and smooth. Of course, that’s the best-case scenario. Life doesn’t always work like that, right?

Because we tend to do the same movements and the same postures over and over without remembering to counterbalance and go the other way or do something different, we tend to get into a rut. Repetitive stress injuries can come from here. Before you know it, one side of the body is way stronger or tighter than the other. Or your knees don’t straighten all the way. Or your elbow hurts when you do that thing you do a gazillion times a day.

We could get into some serious science here. We can talk about muscle imbalances and structural vs. functional faults that lead to pain. There is a really big industry created around our pain and what it is and why it is and what should we do about it. And I spent the last week going round and round about what to include in a blog about the body and why it’s important it be balanced.

And what does that mean, for our body to be in balance? Well as I said, I think that can vary greatly depending on whom you ask. But since it’s me talking, I’ll give you my take, and it’s pretty simple.

The body wants to work with moderation.

The longer I live in this body and work with other bodies, the more convinced I am that the key to health is in moderation, or balance. If you enjoyed an awesome meal last night, go light today to let your body work on that big digestive job. If you sat at a desk all day, do yourself a favor and move. If you really overdid it at the gym or with the yard work, be sure to give your body the rest it needs.

Pilates does such a tremendous job of balancing the body. It systematically works your spine in every direction, opens the range of motion in your joints, and gives equal time to each muscle system and its opposite. It’s why Pilates is so invigorating! We didn’t grind away on one part until it was exhausted – we squeeze and release each muscle, each system, and each joint until they feel easeful, efficient, and effective. In short, until the body feels awake and balanced.

So the body is meant to work as a whole system. If we show preference to one part over another (or simply lack awareness that we’re missing something) we create imbalance. The more uniformly the body works, the more efficient it becomes, and the more healthy and strong we feel. A body in balance is capable of anything. A body out of balance tends to ‘grind the gears,’ as I like to say.

What do you do to help create the feeling of balance in your body? For me it’s Pilates!


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