Posted by: Emma on: 24/05/2016
Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle's world-renowned 3Core Connections® Perspective teaches you how to decrease tension throughout your body—and improve your Pilates practice—by exploring the “core as a relationship with gravity, ourselves, others and our environment”. by Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle.
When I came to Pilates in the early '90s, I was already a longtime yoga teacher and holistic coach. Pilates had just started emerging, but for the most part, was unknown to the general population. I studied Pilates originally with Romana Kryzanowska, and then, my husband, Michael, and I established The Pilates Center of Austin, the first Pilates studio in the city in 1993. Although I came to see just how profound this work was, at the same time, I began to notice how very different I felt in Pilates than I had in my yoga practice…I felt very “held” in my "core." I didn't have the words for that feeling at the time, but it led me to inquire into a seminal question: Rather than a concept of "core," what is core from the body's perspective?
This exploration took me to study with great somatic teachers and pioneers in the fields of whole mind/body movement, neuroscience and energy medicine. What I began to see is that by reinforcing habits of effort and bracing with language like "navel to spine" and "pull your shoulders down" we're asking ourselves to place too much “effort” in the movement, leading to the over-recruitment and shortening of our muscles, which in turn, adversely affects our neck, back, shoulder and hip health. In contrast, by taking off the "parking brake" of hard abdominal “core control” and instead, accessing "core coordination," we discover the roots of our arms and legs through our “fascial” breath, in relationship with gravity and space.
As I studied, I began to see that the core from the body's perspective begins with our sense of balance and our perceived relationship with gravity. After years of searching for a way to articulate these distinctions, I discovered the most wonderful black-and-white anatomical illustrations by the 18th-century anatomist Albinus. The figures are engaged, gesturing, connected very different from the static depiction of muscles and bones in contemporary, dissective anatomy. These brilliant images proved to be the perfect, living landscape upon which to superimpose the energetic "connections," which would later become the basis for my 3Core Connections® Perspective. While mapping these connections, through what I now call the "3 Cores" ("Lower," "Central" and "Upper") onto my own experiential engagement with the effect of gravity on my body, my awareness of how I moved within my body came alive. My perception of anatomy suddenly became a “biointelligent” embodied anatomy, rather than a collection of “biomechanical” parts and pieces.
When we discover these core connections within, we beqin to experience the “core” as interconnected relationships—with gravity, ourselves, one another and our environment. We then learn how to "yield" into gravity's support. Our bones are more balanced in functional alignment, and so we feel less tension. We discover effort with ease in our movement, our practice, our daily life. This was the epiphany that came out of my inquiry into why I was feeling so "held" in my Pilates practice. I could now see how much tension I was carrying…and that I was over-stabilizing.
Once I saw how much I was trying to do something with to my abdominals, I let go. It became clear to me that the body doesn't care whether we call it Pilates, yoga, Alexander, Feldenkrais, Nia, Continuum or, for that matter, washing the dishes. What it does care about is if we're moving with awareness.
I have spent the past 20 years bringing to life this conversation with the body that has birthed the 3Core Connections Perspective to build on Joseph Pilates' vision of "whole-body health." A special thanks to my mentor, Hubert Godard, for teaching me the "bones" of this practice, which I have further developed. The following Fascial Dog Series, which can be done anywhere, is one of our favorite home practices that we teach at Pilates Center of Austin.
As you move through it, you will experience that, by accessing the portals of your hands, feet, two directions of the spine and soft eyes peripheral vision, you are engaging the body's "movement brain," which creates a deeper sense of being at home within yourself. Your movements will become more seamless as you dive deeper within your Pilates, yoga or Barre practice, re-energizing your body from your biointelligent wisdom.
PROP: chair and mat
PURPOSE: 1 - wakes up the perineural nervous system (the connective tissue body system responsible for wound healing and injury repair, which controls the central nervous system), allowing the "tensegrity" of the connective tissue/fascia to support the muscles and bones in movement
2 - awakens "core coordination" instead of "core control," where sensory receptors in the hands and feet ignite perceptual awareness
3 – evokes an elongated FLEXION as a reciprocal relationship between "stability and mobility" …stimulates the mind body connection by increasing "power" while decreasing "effort"'
4 - strengthens vestibular awareness and “turns on the lights” of postural tone from foot to head
5 - awakens orientation to "gravity as a partner"
SETUP: Place your hands near the front of the chair, with the heel of your hands near the edge. Sensing the texture, mass, temperature, etc of what you are touching to be received through your hands, and send your tail and spine long as you straighten your arms (like a downward dog with hands on the chair).
1. Roll from the inside to the outside of each of your feet, sensing your weight, then come back to center.
2. Allow your INHALE to soften your knees, and open your back to breath. Then, EXHALE, sensing how heavy your feet are, and gently begin to straighten your legs without locking your knees. Notice that your spine naturally rounds your head toward your hands in an elongated FLEXION, and your tail toward your feet, floating your solar plexus (lower sternum) up toward the ceiling (like Knee Stretches – Round Back). Refresh the sensation in your hands and feet, breathing naturally, to notice a deepening of your shoulder blades gliding “like a waterfall down your back”… as your internal belly naturally lifts. Notice how your abdominals naturally follow your diaphragm on your exhale, creating a "hovering" feeling, or scooping action, along your spine with no effort.
This action of "Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly" is the body's natural powerhouse that we can take into any movement. The difference here is that the body's experience of powerhouse is very liquid, like 2 rivers: one flowing “Down your Back”, from shoulder blades to feet, and the other flowing “Up your Front”, from inner ankles to inner ears. So, even though we seem to not be moving in "Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly," the breath is always moving our body internally and the powerhouse becomes a deep fascial connection …where the feet, hands, spine and head coordinate their communication for every movement in any discipline!
3. Float forward onto the balls of your feet, keeping your shoulder blades, tailbone and heels heavy as you float, while sensing the "hover" of your spine. (You are awakening your natural "Domes of Uplift" the connection between the diaphragms of your inner ankles, pelvic floor, diaphragm, thoracic inlet and armpits to your palate!) Keep floating your “hover” forward until you sense the back of your arms (triceps area) connecting with your "Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly" support…breathing naturally. This is an important “Down the Back” feeling that will help your transition to Phase II. Refresh your hands and feet, allowing your breath to open your hands and feet to your whole body.
4. Pressing gently into your hands and leading with your tail, float your "hover" away from your hands. Return to the position in step 1. You may notice that your sit bones can release back further, or you may be able to sit down toward your heels in a partial or full squat with your heels on the floor, since your spine has lengthened and your back has widened, creating more space in your entire body. Do 3 reps of Phase I before moving on to Phase II.
TIP: The "Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly" connection with the back of your arms is our 3Core Connections "Upper Core" platform for any inversion, preventing your neck from bearing the weight of your body.
MODIFICATION: If you have wrist tension, notice if you lose your relationship with space/peripheral vision (the ability to see the sides of the room) as you sense the floating of your spine toward the ceiling. Over-compression onto the wrist joint is the major cause of shoulder and neck problems. By "sharing the load" of the “Down the Back” body, from foot to spine to head to hand, we open our joints and our body rediscovers its self-healing “Up the Front” fascial tensegrity, which unweights your wrists by accessing the “Domes” of your hands.
ADVANCED: By slowing down and sensing "what effort we can let go of," we open to the world of biointelligence, where our body wisdom begins to teach us and will tell us what it needs to refresh itself on an ongoing basis, especially within structured movements like Pilates, yoga or Barre. The question is, are we listening or pushing it beyond its limits?
PROP: chair and mat
PURPOSE: 1 – evokes elongated EXTENSION through core coordination with "Inner Ear and Eyes Leading spine," instead of through abdominal tightening
2 - strengthens the "Upper Core"
3 - strengthens the relationship of the head, hands and spine to the feet
SETUP: Same as in Phase I.
1. Repeat steps 1-2 of Phase I.
2. Repeat step 3 of Phase I, except this time as you float your extension FLEXION "hover" forward toward your hands, sensing the back of your arm connection to "Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly" support, notice that you will come to that “back of the arm” place where you either have to go forward to extension or return. Pause there and breathe naturally.
3. Looking along the floor and up the wall, allow your eyes to lead your spine into extension, chest leading, as you bend your knees, bringing your hips toward your hands. Your knees will be floating off the floor. Your heels are releasing back to support your hip extension forward, which allows your chest to open more fully. Refresh the sensations in your hands and feet
4. As you build comfort and strength with Phase II, remain in the position and press gently into each hand, while looking in each direction as each heel releases back. Notice a deeper relationship with your natural, postural internal lift through your spine, from your inner ankle to your inner ear, as the multifidus (muscles deep within the spine) and other gravity-based spinal muscles are stimulated. Keep breathing naturally with soft eyes as you look from side to side which rotates your torso.
5. Return to the original position in step 1 by looking down toward your hands, pressing gently into them and floating your chest, spine and hips away from your hands. Release your whole foot to the floor, and allow your tail to send your sitz bones away from your hands and toward your heels.
6. Notice the differences in your spine length, back widening, ease of motion in a squat and possible release of your leg and foot tension - as your feet, legs, hips and spine continue to open more deeply. Do 3 reps of Phase II before moving on to Phase 111.
TIP: When we allow the movement of our eyes up the wall to lead our bodies into extension in Phase II, it deepens our relationship with our "gravity-based internal support," opening the shoulder and hip joints to create a more flowing, “Down the Back…Up the Front”, understanding of exercises like Swan.
MODIFlCATION: If you have difficulty moving into full extension with your hips forward toward your hands, be aware of sensing the "Waterfall of the Shoulder Blades Down Your Back" as you build the movement toward full extension by placing partial weight on your hands as you begin to look up, and then return to the position in step 1. If you find yourself locking your elbows, notice if you're preventing the waterfall sensation of your shoulder blades down your back.
ADVANCED: With your hips forward, press gently into each hand, and look in each direction which rotates your spine, while releasing each heel back. Play with ipsilateral and contralateral (when one heel reaches back as the other releases forward slightly, eyes following the movement.
PROP: chair, mat (and wall… optional)
1 - evokes a deeper relationship with SPIRAL ROTATION through the "two directions of the spine" …with gravity and spatial orientation
2 - cultivates the body's innate, contralateral coordination for natural walking and one leg balance
3 - strengthens and balances the foot-to-head relationship through a buoyant pelvis and a deeper fascial breath support
4 - cultivates strength, balance, stability and mobility and "effort with ease"'
SETUP: Settle into a lunge position, with your right foot forward close to the chair, and your left leg extended behind you, with the ball of your foot on the ground and your heel in the air (or against a wall for support). Sense the "Two Directions of the Spine" from the reach forward through your inner ears and the reach behind you through your heel on the wall and ball of foot of floor, while maintaining weight and stability through your hands on the chair and your feet on the floor. Soften your gaze to sense the support of the space around your body.
1. Sensing your spine floating forward through your "Inner Ear". Spring off your back foot, transferring the weight onto your front foot and hands. Reach your back leg into the air (or onto a wall behind you for closed chain feedback), again, sensing the "Two Directions of the Spine" (forward through your inner ear and backward through your foot in the air… or on the wall).
2. Transfer your weight onto the hand of your standing foot, and rotate your head, trunk and shift your extended leg and foot to face toward the same side. Place your arm behind your back to deepen your spiral in that direction.
3. INHALE to soften your knees and sense weight into your feet, EXHALE straighten your legs to create space in your standing hip. Notice that you may be able to spiral deeper in that direction as you are engaging the “elastic recoil” of your fascial breath, which deeply opens your hip sockets. Sense that spiral rotation with breath again if it was valuable for you.
4. Extend your unsupported arm toward the ceiling, sensing the vector of relationships between your hands, feet and head. This is whole body core support where the body's natural coordination is being evoked, but with little or no sense of effort.
5. Standing on the same leg, transfer your weight to your opposite hand and counter-rotate your trunk, head and leg to face the opposite direction. Be sure to lower your leg on the wall behind you so your spiraling hip is not inhibited. You are deeply strengthening the spiralic relationships between your shoulder and pelvic girdles that support a buoyant pelvis, strong "Central Core" and the roots of your arms and legs to your spine.
6. Repeat the exercise on your other side, beginning with #1. Phase III, lunge at wall. Give yourself time to discover the benefits of this foundational practice and how it will contribute deeply to a more flowing Pilates, yoga and Barre practice.
7. Come back to center, float your leg on the wall toward your standing leg, and begin to stand up by pouring yourself into your feet, releasing the weight of your tail without tucking it. Walk around and see what you notice: What feels more fluid? Does each foot feel more naturally grounded?
Notice that, without tightening your abdominals, your belly and internal organs fall back toward your widening back as you stand up with a deeper awareness of your relationship with "gravity as a partner"
• "Down the Back": waterfall of your shoulder blades and sitz bones/tailbone to the tripod of your feet
• "Up the Front": internal lift of the domes of your inner arches, inner thighs, front of the pelvic floor and front of your spine to your inner ears
• "Shoulder Blades to Internal Belly" support: a new awareness for the updated fascial powerhouse, without excess gripping
MODIFICATION: If supporting yourself On 1 leg and arm and rotating your torso is very difficult, begin with no turnout of the leg in the air, placing it on a wall for support, keeping your pelvis level. Inhale and lift onto the ball of your standing foot, then exhale, releasing your heel down and connecting your shoulder blades to your internal belly. This will strengthen and lubricate your hip sockets, connecting your body from foot to head and hands.
ADVANCED: Once you feel more fluid in your transitions rotating from side to side on 1 leg, play with your ability to “have your head be free” by looking toward your down hand and up hand as you rotate, sensing your “inner spiral…head/spinal movement”, supported by your “outer spiral”…without losing the ease of reaching through your head, hands and feet. Also, rising onto the ball of your standing foot will further open your foot to your hip- to-spine connection as you rotate.
Wendy is an International leader in movement education, with a 40 year background in holistic health, and lifelong studies and collaborations with distinguished pioneers in yoga, Pilates, Structural Integration bodywork, somatic arts and sciences and holistic health.
Wendy studied with 5 of the Pilates Elders who studied directly with Joseph Pilates, and has been inspired by the diversity of their teaching expressions. Additionally, her extensive yoga background, along with studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Emilie Conrad, Susan Harper, Judith Aston, Tom Myers, The Guild for Structural Integration, Hubert Godard, Phillip Beach, Buteyko and Carl Stough, with profound breath and fascial studies, helped Wendy develop her own “biointelligent” voice. Her vision has been to illuminate the universal core principles that underlie all great bodymind practices, so that clients and teachers of any discipline discover their own voice, and cultivate the brilliance of their biointelligent wisdom.
A founding member of the Pilates Method Alliance and the Fascia Research Society, she is a PMA-CPT, a guest teacher for Pilates Anytime , and honored to be a Second Generation Mentor in Balanced Body’s Passing the Torch Mentoring Program.
To experience more of Wendy's work: Contact her, and watch her video blog at www.pilatescenterofaustin.com or Via email at [email protected] Or view her workshops and classes on: www.pilatesanytime.com. ..for free for 30 days using this access code: 9447CCS