Over ten years ago, In February 2009 I started a blog project called the MindBodyModerate. It lasted until summer of 2011. Initially the thought was to parallel wellness and movement to physics lessons, after all, life is the ultimate balancing act. Here’s one of the first entires from the project that is just as useful today.
From the archives of The Mind Body Moderate, February 6, 2009
There is no better place to take on the universe than from the CENTER.
Finding your own center can be a bigger undertaking than we often realize, but infinitely beneficial.
Have you ever known someone who has been fiercely into yoga or exercise, only to find that after years of practice, they have back problems?
This can be done when we overdo any activity, mental or physical, without knowledge of ourselves and without an awareness of a quiet, strong, and stable center point of balance from which to work outwards. We need one point of perfect stability. Depending on where you are in relation to your activity, gravity, etc., this point can move around. It is stable, but also must be flexible. Finding this is a challenge for the advanced athlete and the novice who just rolled off the couch for the first time, the philosopher, and the ADD adult who’s just trying to get their to do list done.
And so to get you on the good foot, I present a simple exercise to help find a center…I’ve always referred to it as DEAD BUG.
Lying on your back. Keeping the spine feeling long and heavy like iron from the base of the neck all the way through to the tailbone. lift the right knee (in a table top position) and the left arm up towards the ceiling, while keeping both shoulders and hips firmly down and even. Over a slow count of 5, take one long deep breath and simultaneously (and SLOWLY) switch arms and legs, while maintaining complete stillness and stability in the spine. That means, no tensing of the neck and shoulders or gluts. The belly pulls down to the back, the spine stays super long and stretched out, but does not move. Did I mention the slower you do this the better? Again the main arc: moving the arms and legs freely, but not moving the torso head and neck AT ALL. Let your breath help move your arms and legs. Inhale to prepare to move, and slowly exhale as you switch the arms and legs. Let the exhale carry away the neck and shoulder tension. Also allow the exhale to help tack you belly and spine to the mat. This exercise takes time and patience. If you are unable to keep your low back down, or it hurts your low back, prop your hips up with a pillow.
If you look at the 3 skeletons below. Your position should be similar to skeleton A (pillow under your hips will curve you slightly, which is ok for now). Skeleton B & C are what not to do. These tilts and shifts happen when the abdominal muscles are weak or unaware.
If you can do the dead bug exercise well - with smooth control and no neck, hip, or back strain, feeling the belly scooping connection, and coordinating your breath with the movement - then you are well on your way to understanding a substantial piece of the pilates exercise puzzle.