AIM2: The Words on the Wall
“Feel What You Look Like” - the Motto that has been hanging in my studio since I opened in Marin. That was 1992...a few years after, I had trademarked the name of my business, Bodies Mind™...and by 1995, Bodies Mind® was a registered mark. I was happy with the name I had chosen; it spoke to, and still does speak to, the idea that our relationship to our physical bodies is important and needs to be integrated into our lives.
A main tenet of the work of Joseph H. Pilates is “Balance of Body and Mind.” However, this is not why I chose the name Bodies Mind (more on that in another post). In fact, I first read his books, Return to Life Through Contrology, and Your Health in 1998. Until that time, I was unaware of Joe’s writings on mind and body.
I was aware, though, of the Friedman/Eisen book, The Pilates Method of Physical & Mental Conditioning (©1980). I tell the story of how I found that book in 1984 on a long used book table at the big bookstore on Columbus Circle, just a few blocks from the original pilates studio on 8th Avenue (I had no idea that studio existed at that time, but I digress...). I was probably walking home from a session at Carola Trier’s, also just a few blocks away. I saw the word “Pilates” and thought to myself: I think that’s what I am learning…? I made the purchase (I would buy books before food back then), but when I took it home, it had these exercises done on the floor in it, which only looked slightly familiar, and so, the book collected dust for a few years on my bookshelf.
It wasn’t until later, at Anderson/Kasakove studio, where I apprenticed, that some of the exercises began looking familiar, but, still, only some. I remember being in my W. 73rd Street apartment, looking at the book and marveling that I had picked up the book a few years before. From time to time, I’d ask Brenda or Mary what they knew about the Mat exercises. It went mostly unnoticed, though, among my many other books. When it moved with me to California in 1992, I remember reading it more at that time. My teachers were not there to place me on the reformer or direct me in what to do; the F/E book provided some needed inspiration. It was helpful in learning the original Mat exercises, however, the terms Concentration, Control, Centering, Precision, Breathing, and Flowing Movement seemed, to me, to be broad-based concepts when it came to movement in general.
As I developed AIM, the words that came to my mind were not, oddly enough, the principles in the F/E book. They were different words, and they would change every so often. My clients would remark on the words on the sheets of paper that I had taped to the walls as “reminders”. We’d have conversations about what the words meant...words that had to do with either what I was noticing in my own practice or about my client’s practice or what my clients were noticing during their sessions. It was a long process to find the words that worked for everyone. I found the conversations utterly fascinating - it didn’t feel like work. I mean, I got to go to my “laboratory” each day and have fun and interesting conversations with people about their movement, playing around with words and sensations…how lucky was I?!
I had already developed AIM to a considerable degree, when I attended The Institute for the Pilates Method’s “Certification Transmittal” in 1994. As I look through my old binder now, I do not see the F/E principles listed. By the late 90s, suddenly, pilates websites (mine was one of around 100 sites at that time as shown on the DMOZ, which closed in March of 2017) were popping up, heralding “The Six Pilates Principles.” I don’t remember ever seeing any credit to Friedman and Eisen, who were clients of Romana Kryzanowska. And from recent online discussions, it seems many teachers still do not know that it was journalists, not Joe, who originated those principles.
To me, valid as they may be in developing general movement and body awareness and focus, the adoption of the F/E principles seemed to be taken for granted in our community. It was clear to me that these concepts during pilates practice from the client perspective could also be applied to any movement practice. I wondered how these concepts related specifically to pilates as a movement discipline. It was beginning to come clear to me that the words that emerged from my sessions with clients articulated a deeper physical sense about Joe’s method.
Interestingly, as my apprentices would, of course, also contemplate the words on the wall, I was fascinated by how they would end up cueing the client in the same sort of way as I did. I observed that teaching from principle was very different than focusing on the protocol. And, the kinesthetic sense of “feeling what I looked like” was directing me towards different “principles.” (…to be continued)
Study Group Challenge
1. Did you learn Friedman/Eisen’s Six Principles in your Teacher Training? Do you use them, and, if so, how?
2. What other “principles” have you seen added to the F/E6?
3. What do you notice when you practice or teach...what words would you put on your wall?