Pilates Bracing and Collapsing
By Anita Seiz • October 10th, 2010 • 5973 Views
When I’m working one on one with clients, so much of what I observe is coping mechanisms. When I’m taking someone through a movement process, I can see whether they are comfortable and supporting themselves well, or if they’re struggling. The former usually happens when there is familiarity and the practice has laid down the pathways that provide connectivity. When I’m introducing something new, I often observe either bracing or collapse.
Bracing is tension - tissues activate even if they’re not part of what is being called upon. A few common bracing patterns are butt gripping and shoulder shrugging. This has an overly active quality to it...too much is happening. I’ll use the example of bringing your pelvis up into a bridge. The tendency here is to grip the feet, grip the butt, grip the shoulders, even grip the jaw. Overstimulated! All that is happening is a mild hip and shoulder extension. We’re displacing the weight of the pelvis into the feet and shoulder girdle. Do we need to grip our whole body? As my one teacher used to say, “We’re not moving a fridge!”. By first accessing the ground through our feet then increasing pressure through them, our pelvis will unweight itself and become suspended. Down to go up. Grounding cannot happen via gripping. Grounding instead requires an opening to support (gravity) rather than binding and bracing which cuts us off from support. Once a client trusts the opening to support and accesses a bit of spatial intent (the direction of the pelvis is going upward) then the movement becomes quite easeful. No need to grip!
Collapsing is on the other end of the spectrum...not enough is happening! This can be due to fatigue, atrophy or lack of innervation. Under stimulated! Tensile forces need to be dialed up a bit here...perhaps through oppositional energy. I’ll use the example of a slumpy spine. This is a very common collapse pattern - the pelvis is rolled back in a posterior pelvic tilt, ribs are sunken in (kyphotic thoracic) and the head is shearing forward. This may seem strange but a collapse pattern creates a lot of tension since the curves of the spine are out of balance. The spinous processes are strained, the diaphragm and organs are under pressure and our brain stem is being pinched. Backaches, poor digestion, shallow breathing, headaches - you name it. Yikes! As soon...
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