Has anyone seen the movie, Notting Hill? If so do you remember the following…
Spike comes in after being photographed by the press being seen in only his briefs. He says, “How did I look? (looking in a mirror) Not bad, not at all bad. Well chosen briefs I must say. Chicks love grey. (clenching his bum) Nice. Firm. Buttocks!”
If you have no idea what I am referring to please check it out and watch the whole movie too!!
“Blossom your buttocks” is a common cue you will hear at an Anusara Yoga class. It generally means for one to inner spiral their upper inner thighs, apart from one another to broaden the buttocks and create space in their hips and low back.
“Squeeze your bottom” is a common cue you you may hear at a Pilates studio. I hope most of you can agree that I refrain from saying “squeeze,” but still note the role and importance the buttocks play in integrating the lower and upper body.
The point I would like to make is that one cue (left alone) is not better than the other nor is one cue(left alone) more correct than the other. Both could be good if used appropriately according to an individuals needs. This is why I always recommend private classes before taking group classes, especially if you are new to the method, otherwise you may find yourself doing more harm to learn your tendencies instead of what you should be focusing on!
The differences between cues struck me this past Friday afternoon after my conversations I shared at my happy hour. My example above clearly shows the difference between Pilates and Yoga. Now, please also understand, that I only stated ONE CUE. I truly believe both methods are trying to bring about similar results in the body and mind; they are just going about it differently!
The quote I put on my Le Bureau shirt says, “do it right, keep it tight.” My good friend, also a pelvic floor specialist, whom I have known since teaching yoga classes to the medical students at Des Moines University in Des Moines, Iowa(15 years a go), was going to buy my Le Bureau shirt and then quickly changed her mind after she saw my quote! She told me, “my duty is to relieve my clients “tightness” not to keep it tight!” I understood her perspective and how she perceived my quote and said no worries (another shirt without the quote coming soon!); she said she would wait. In our conversation she also told me that Pilates and Cross-fit practitioners keep her in business because they get so tight in their pelvic floor. Hmm
Adding on to this, I know several Pilates teachers and practitioners alike that have painful tailbones, and although they love Pilates, it sometimes makes their symptoms worse. Personally, I have struggled with Pelvic floor tightness, and can understand how the method of Pilates could make matters worse. If one is not practicing with an underlying understanding of how to integrate and lengthen through their center. Should one squeeze or should one blossom? That is the question!
I questioned the Pilates method along with everything else I was doing. I was in misery and also embarrassed as a Pilates teacher. As embarrassed as I was, I knew that “nothing lasts forever” and instead of giving up on the method itself and my teachers I decided instead to look deeper and investigate why I was struggling and to also find a way up and out! I firmly believe there is always a way if you have the will. I must have been doing something wrong…(guess what! I was!).
Before discussing whether I personally needed more blossom or squeeze I also would like to mention that when I was experiencing significant tightness, I would also have to say that my life was tight as well! The feeling of space was as non existent in my life as it was in my pelvis. There was a time when I was teaching close to 30 fitness related classes a week; 7 of which were intense 60 minute spin classes, in addition to trying to be “super woman” to my family. Currently, although no longer struggling with significant tightness, I still battle with finding space…it’s very challenging for me to simply let go! Even if you do not understand why you believe in something, NEVER GIVE UP trying to understand.
Back to whether I needed more blossom or squeeze…what do you think?:)
For me, I was extremely good at performing both. I could blossom and create much needed space and I could also squeeze and feel integrated at my center. My problem was that I could not perform the 2 actions simultaneously! In isolation of one another I was a pro, but I believe, looking back at my situation, that I was simply too tired from all my other activities to integrate the space and length and sustain the 2 while I moved! I resorted more to squeezing as it held me together, but my squeeze was not supporting my inner space and length that I needed so much in the movement.
How about you? If you were to take a step outside yourself and observe you, what would you see? Maybe you need to practice with a little more blossom to integrate more space? Or perhaps you have plenty of space, but you instead need to share the goodness and streamline your body with a little squeeze to pull to your midline(of course integrating the whole body in that squeeze!) Or if you are like me, maybe you find that you are good at both but sustaining the work is just too much work! Therefore, maybe consider rearranging your life agenda!
The bottom line is that we all have our OWN work to do and it is ultimately up to us to figure it out! Take former professional dancers as an example, if there is one thing that they know how to do, it is TO STAND TALL, however from all that squeeze, I know several now that suffer from low back pain from the consistent and persistent “squeeze” they would have to maintain to perfect their art. I would say that they would benefit from a little blossoming! They also have other issues with their hips and knees from all their turn out.
I, myself, was not a trained dancer/ballerina and never had a great baseline postural awareness and long lifted posture. I broke my back when I was 7 and was told to focus on swimming. As a swimmer, although easy for me to stretch my body long….I also could sink and collapse just as easy. I have had to learn to prioritize my length and my space and then work to integrate my squeeze, if you will, without crushing my space that I created. It is possible to be too strong for no good reason! For me in particular, a balance of strength is required to keep me away from the extremes of being a “slinky” or too “squeezed out” that there is no more juice left!
I hope my above reflection will inspire you to NOT GIVE UP if you are currently dealing with an uncomfortable situation yourself and catch yourself questioning whether to blossom or to squeeze. I think its easy for people to blame their ailments on a method (pilates, cross-fit, barre, cycling) or also an individual. However, it is not the fault of the method or individual. Instead it is simply a challenge and a great opportunity for you to dive in and learn something to better your experience with something that you love to do. NEVER GIVE UP!
I strongly believe the Pilates method will do MAGIC and absolutely has the capacity to not only make you feel good, but also to HEAL, TRANSFORM, and create more function! However, one should not expect any magic unless they are also consciously aware of their BIG picture as well as their posture of course! Cues are a simple suggestion to get you in a better position, but you are the one who feels your body and therefore the one who should make the ultimate decision if that cue suits your body as well as how much you should negotiate with it! You have to want to feel better and therefore set yourself up for success! Pilates is WORK and requires one to use their muscles to stabilize their bones and joints so they can create length, and space where they need it most. So go out there and squeeze that blossom out of your buttocks!