‘Cultivating Concentration’ from the August PMA Newsletter

January 2021 /

By Kyria Sabin, PMA®-CPT, Director of Fletcher Pilates® as presented in the August 2012 PMA Newsletter

“Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities.”
~ Joseph Pilates

“When you do not feel movement full and deeply, it is ineffective, because you are not giving your body parts a chance to make their connections and work together with the utmost efficiency and style.”
~ Ron Fletcher

While initially attracted to the Pilates method as the ideal form of “exercise”, I soon realized that the exhilaration I was feeling after each session or class had more to do with my being fully present in the moment than it did with the physical experience.

In very short order, Pilates became my ideal form of moving meditation. Practicing Pilates requires total concentration. Total concentration requires mental endurance and a disciplined physical practice. In time, this dual practice leads to a much greater level of inner and outer awareness, the ultimate reward.

Maintaining focus for an hour or more on “purposeful” body placement, symmetry, movement initiation, precise articulation, and breath integration is a luxury. This is particularly the case in our multi-tasking, forever filled with interruptions world.

“Concentration” is one of the most challenging and, at the same time, rewarding gifts we can give ourselves and pass along to our clients.

Cultivating concentration involves consistently encouraging each of our clients to develop a sense of independence and personal responsibility for attaining their mind body connection.

It is tempting, especially at the end of a long day of teaching, to “do the session” for the client. It can be all too “convenient” to over-teach, to over-facilitate, to walk the client through each step, rather than allowing the client sufficient time to sort out their individual mind-body, body-mind process. This approach to teaching movement limits the concentration required to make these connections.

It can be equally tempting to justify this style of teaching in the name of being caring, understanding, helpful, present and involved in the process.

The truth is that this type of teaching leads to client dependence, and requires very little concentration or awareness on the part of our students. Knowing when to step in, when to guide, and when to step away requires much more thought and concentration on the part of the Pilates teacher. Further, it contributes to a much more productive teaching and learning process, a mutually beneficial outcome.

Within the context of a private session or group class, it’s about doing and saying progressively less. It’s about allowing each of our Pilates students, patients and clients the opportunity to develop their own sense of movement awareness, to feel the rhythm of each movement and to deepen their ability to concentrate.

It’s about continually editing our choice of cues and teaching techniques, with the explicit intent of guiding the client to build concentration, self-awareness and self-reliance. More and more, I find myself channeling my teacher, Ron Fletcher, to keep it simple, keep it about movement and allow the breath to guide the rhythm of each session and class.