NERD ALERT! Just for reals, plain and simple ... nerd alert:
We both have a fascination, or infatuation, with words, and signs / symbols / semantics in general. Language and communication is important. It's especially important to movement teachers when according to the University of Pennsylvania 70% of all communication is transmitted via body language, 23% is voice tone and inflection, and only 7% is word choice. So, while word choice is important (try to issue instructions without them) non-verbal cues and the ways in which we use our body to communicate are more important when a person communicates with another person or group. The way we carry ourself and the movement choices we make (consciously or unconsciously) are our first and lasting impression.
Our bodies tell our stories. All of our traumas / injuries / experiences / successes / highs and lows / choices and memories are carried by and represented in our body and movement quality. A huge portion of what we do as Movement Professionals is assist our students in recognizing, challenging, and re-interpeting their life-stories through their body ... so that not only are they better skilled movers, but better skilled communicators. The amazing thing is that each of us are already doing THAT via simply teaching the movement skills we teach every day, regardless of if they could be classified as Classical, Contemporary, Modern, or some other form. You don't need another certificate to accomplish it. You don't even need to address it, but you should be aware of it.
So, while from the outside it may appear we're simply teaching fitness, exercise, movement, Pilates, or however you like to label it and/or do it ... the fact of the matter is that we're helping people to become more aware fully capable versions of themselves. We are helping people to become conscious of the body language/movement choices they are making unconsciously every day, and allowing them to shift their choices to a more conscious state via the Practice of Contrology. Recognizing that is The Shift.
Really hardcore NERD ALERT:
We don't know that it would surprise or challenge anyone to think of language as a series of signs and symbols. We have alphabet characters that represent sounds we can make. We can string together alphabet characters, like we do with sounds, in order to create words. We can put together groups of words to create sentences like the ones you are reading now. Sentences become paragraphs, and chapters, and stories. We become informed and inform others via the signs and symbols of language.
Over time those signs and symbols can and do shift as cultures, and the needs of those cultures, change. Language is living, and when it is no longer relevant to a culture it is known as a dead language. It no longer serves a purpose. Consider this, years ago the # was called a pound sign. Ask most people what it's called now, and # is clearly a hashtag. Cool has a lot of different meanings. We even invent words to describe things that are currently necessary to describe, like "selfie." And only a handful of people are still "the cat's meow." However, the root of language has stayed the same and adapted to cultural needs over time.
We can create and change language, because language at its core, is truly just a system of signs and symbols we chose to represent things we observe, do, experience, and know about ourselves and the world around us. For example, if I write the word "apple" we each immediately create a visualization of what I meant when I wrote the word. Some of you thought of a red apple, some a green apple, some may have visualized an apple tree, or even an Apple computer. Here's the thing, you can do that because the word "apple" is just a symbol for a thing ... it's not the thing ... and so we're free to interpret the symbol in a number of ways. (We know, we warned you with the NERD ALERT)
The reason that's important to consider, and paramount to THE SHIFT, is because exercises are just arbitrary names for indisputable actions and ranges of motion that are achievable and important to the average human body (pathologies aside). We've decided to call those actions and ranges of motion: Movement Potentials.
The inarguable Movement Potentials are: Flexion / Extension / Lateral Movement (including lateral flexion, abduction, adduction) / Rotation / Static /
When discussing exercises we're truly looking at the experience, exploration, challenge to, and expression of these Movement Potentials. The Shift is an urging to move away from viewing exercises as something to be done Right vs. Wrong ... or the comparison of how your movement rates against another's movement ... or how it "should" be in regards to some ideal imposed standard. In real people talk: If there was no name for a sit-up would you still be able to do it? If the word "plank" never existed, would we not be able to do it? These are simply words/symbols describing inarguable Movement Potentials that we can all observe. The Shift is the encouragement of, and permission to, explore these Movement Potentials as skills to build so they can be built upon in order to perform more complex and interesting tasks ... whether that's more nuanced Pilates' patterns/exercises or other forms of fitness and movement, sports, dance, play, or just life. The Shift is a suggestion to explore Movement Potentials through the lens on the philosophy of Contrology.
We'd also like to point out that often we stunt our student's exploration of Movement Potentials because they don't fit into our paradigm of what those potentials should look like, or where they should end. We'd like you to consider further iterations of movement, or where exercises (slices and views of movement potential) fit in on a larger spectrum of movement. For example let's look at a classic bridging maneuver. Regardless of whether you plank or articulate in and out of it (both of which are variables of the movement and each has its own unique quality) many teachers utilize the movement for gluteal or hamstring strength, or hip-flexor "opening," or to simply warm-up the body. We're asking you to look at the movement and its potential. What are you teaching a student to do within that movement, and where does it lead to, and what is it an expression of? When we look at bridge we see the Movement Potential of extension ... so we're asking you, the teacher, to consider allowing the body in front of you to explore leg / arm / spinal extension ... to what end? Depends on the body. What if that student got so good at bridge that it became a wheel maneuver, or a back flip scenario? Is that wrong? Or is it simply a further iteration of the movement you're already teaching? There's no goal within the Movement Potential other than to experience and explore it. No body is better or worse because theirs looks differently.
The Shift is an encouragement of, and permission to, explore these Movement Potentials as skills to build so they can be built upon in order to perform more complex and interesting tasks and patterns ... whether that's more nuanced Pilates' exercises or other forms of fitness and movement, sports, dance, play, or just life.
We see the 34 Mat exercises as akin to the 34 letters of the alphabet. We learn the alphabet so we can make words ... sentences ... and stories in order to better express ourselves; to tell our life story. The syntax, semantics, and even symbols might change over time, but the root (the letters) remain the same. Begin to view exercises, and more specifically the Movement Potentials that the exercises challenge and express, in a similar way you'd view language. There's a source (the ways in which a body can move) but they shift over time to accommodate modern people and their needs/experiences ... or they run the risk of becoming irrelevant and dying off. The way we learn to move is the way we learn to express ourselves ... the richer the movement vocabulary the better we come to know and communicate our experiences.
- As an experiment try going an entire working day without saying the word Core or Abdominals/Pelvic Floor. Did your students execute movement better / worse / relatively the same? How did they feel? What did you notice?
- Listen for a negative cue you routinely use (e.g. Don't do ____, Don't hold your breath, Don't let your shoulders become tense). Can you find a way to positive cue to achieve that same request (e.g., Please do ____, Allow yourself to breathe freely, How soft can you make your shoulders)? Better yet, can you find a movement that will do the cueing for you so you might use less words?
- For an entire work day attempt to NOT name a single exercise, and instead cue the movements of the exercise with as few words as possible. It's just a single day and it's a worthwhile experiment in understanding the bullet points of movement.
- As a communication experiment try matching your student's positions in space - if they are on a low piece of equipment, crouch down next to them / If they're sitting, you sit. Try engaging in soft eye contact when speaking with them. Then consciously choose the opposite - stand when they sit / look away or stare into their eyes. Notice how your body language affects your students session, or not.