“Physical Fitness is the first requisite of happiness. It is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body as well as a sound mind, fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily task with spontaneous zest and pleasure.” – Joseph H. Pilates: Return to Life Through Contrology
Pilates, as it is now known is based on Joseph Pilates’ system originally named Contrology (literally defined: the art of control). Control is also listed amongst the defining principles for Pilates movement. Obviously, Control and Pilates go hand in hand, like peas and carrots. So could there be such a thing as too much Control?
: to direct the behavior of (a person or animal) : to cause (a person or animal) to do what you want
: to have power over (something)
: to direct the actions or function of (something) : to cause (something) to act or function in a certain way
“Hi! My name is Laurel and I’m a Control Freak.” There I said it and I know that many of my Pilates peers are too. Welcome to the meeting. Here’s my confession:
Over a year ago, I was in the process of doing some serious self discovery work through a program, referred to me by a dear friend, called Magical Manifesters with Erin Stutland. Many of the exercises and assignments brought to light what my soul craved to be happy, how to dream big, and most importantly how to take the steps to make those dreams happen. Over and over in my process I realized that I need to be in an intelligent environment. A place where learning, teaching, exploring, inquiring, and going deeper are a constant. I always felt complete when working in a studio where a training program was happening or during the time I spent at an Intensive or workshop. My soul felt nourished and alive. My brain, body and cells were firing on overdrive. It was a high.
Through this process I started to uncover and become very clear as to what I needed to do and was given the tools to plan and take the steps to get there. I decided that I needed to uproot myself from my home of 15 years in Chicago. A big part of my vision has to do with being in nature and creating an environment that will be a constant source of learning, growth, and community. I knew that if I didn’t act on these dreams (and soon) I would be stuck contented, but always wondering what if. I was SO comfortable with my life in Chicago, but knew deep down that the only way to move forward would be to shake this up and lose the reigns of control that I was always holding tightly.
I am about 1 year into “losing control” in a sense and the process of working towards my BIG dreams. In some ways I feel that I have taken a few steps back, letting go in order to grow. I left my clientele and business relationships that I had built over those 15 years, rented out my condo, said goodbye to my amazing community of friends that became my family, and moved myself and my two furry kids into my parents home. I’m not gonna say it wasn’t SCARY, because it was (and still is). That’s the thing about dreams, if they are richly imbedded on who we are it should make us nervous and scared. It means we are invested in them.
I have found a similar theme in my Pilates Practice, “letting go in order to grow.” Control and Precision, two of the principles of the Pilates Method, drew me to the method and also became major things that were holding me back. I’m a type A personality, like many of the people drawn to Pilates. My body and mind take comfort in knowing the system and the series. I am always searching for precision and perfection in my own body. This has hindered me many times over my life. During college and after I struggled with my body image and an eating disorder, also a way for me to control.
As I came to Pilates I was strong and able, but I was holding some patterns that have taken an adverse effect on my body and practice. In looking for precision and control, what I gave myself was holding, gripping, tightening, tensing, and overworking. The gripping in my hips to “stabilize my pelvis” gave me SI joint dysfunction. The initiating from my pelvic floor (kegel) gave me a tight, overworked psoas and the hypermobility of my lumbar spine has lead to an abundance of tightness in my thoracic spine. I was not moving effortlessly, nor was I really in control. I needed to let go of my preconceived ideas of what my body should feel like to be engaged and also what it would look like exteriorly. I needed to trust my gut and instincts and feel the movement. Allow the movement to guide me rather than me guide the movement. Now in my practice I look for buoyancy and ease of movement within the work. I look for places I can let go, how I can feel my cells more than my muscles.
In looking at my keyboard I had an epiphany. Look at how the Control key is centered within the fn (Function) key and the Option key on my MacBook. Those same “keys” are available to me within my Pilates practice. Instead of trying to Control the movement, couldn’t I press the fn key and investigate the function of the movement and what is necessary to it? Or the Option key to explore how much tension and activation I really need? By exploring these keys, I might be able to release the Control key and find some new ways into effortless, more efficient movement. Control over the body and mind is neccessary, but at what cost? I’d like to ease up on the reigns of Control in my life and Pilates practice and explore my other Options to add in more Function. I crave to float gracefully and effortlessly through life and movement while being open enough to take it all in. Like a balloon floating on the breeze with a small washer tied to the string, as grounded and held down as I need to be in order to fly as high as I want to. I’m pursuing my Options and taking Control over my Control Freak Nature.