“The only actions that do not have an opposing reaction are those that are aimed at the good of all….Consider the totality of the whole” – Eckhart Tolle
I have noticed, that we have a tendency to either ‘push’ or ‘pull’ ourselves in and out of postures, movements, and in general terms, life itself. This either ‘push’ or ‘pull’ action and mentality can not only be tiresome it also separates us from experiencing a balanced and more wholistic posture/movement where the whole body connects and the two actions of ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’ instead become one that encourages more harmony, acceptance, and overall enjoyment. I have found that I have no need to ‘push’ or ‘pull’ when I am truly present and allow myself to feel what I am doing, it is MAGIC! That said, I have definitely had many experiences when I have either chosen to ignore the moment and my feelings and even have resisted my feelings for the sake of my ego and what others might think of me.
In this reflection, I would like to highlight the ideas behind ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling.’ Even though, both actions are needed and necessary, finding the right balance between the two is where the magic is! It takes some awareness, perseverance, the right attitude, and most important, the ability to accept the present moment even though you may not like what you see or feel!
Personally I have struggled with this balance and still do time to time when I do not accept where I am at. Accepting and honoring the reality of my own experience in my body must come before any pushing or pulling for the right balance to take place. Even if I have the awareness, and right attitude, it won’t be enough! That said, if you honor and accept where you are at, you can really begin to unite and feel your body as one integrated piece which is my hope for all of us as we continue to strengthen and lift ourselves up:).
Finding the right balance between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ is quite simple once you allow yourself to accept. I have lacked this acceptance at different occasions in my Pilates practice and in my life; have you? When I lacked the action of ‘pull’ I experienced muscle strain and disconnection in both my pelvis and shoulder centers. On the flip side, I have also experienced overdoing the ‘pull’ action; if you tend to hold your breath, this may be your tendency too? Hopefully you will not follow me and swing from one extreme to the next, but instead continue to accept and find balance between the two. Simply put, keep in mind that every movement you make should be performed in a balanced way. For every action in one direction, there must be a balancing action in an opposite direction.
What exactly should the action of ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’ feel like?
The action of ‘pulling’ is an effort for us to stabilize, connect, and integrate our bodies primarily at our pelvic center and shoulder girdle. ‘Pulling’ our muscles to our bony structures is a very active conscious firming of your muscles to your bones as well as a dynamic drawing of energy from your periphery into your center. This action is essential to the practice of Pilates! Many of you know that some parts of us are stronger than other parts so when we try to pull muscle energy to the core or our pelvis to stabilize it can be tricky, as we need to sync and pull from several muscles groups at the same time. For instance, in order for us to stabilize our pelvis there needs to be a balanced participation of all the surrounding muscle groups pulling and syncing together (abdomen, upper inner thighs, upper inner hamstrings, upper outer thighs, buttocks, etc…). Simply put, the action of ‘pulling’ to our center gives us not only stability in our body but also provides us with boundaries and a framework to work with as you progress in your workout.
The action of ‘pushing’ is much more subtle. Instead of using our muscles to embrace our bones as we do in ‘pulling’ to stabilize our center, we powerfully expand and extend outward from our “center(s)” in our bones, in an effort to create more space and more freedom in our joints and whole body. I am sure many of you have heard me say “radiate your limbs like rays of bright sunshine out in all directions from your center, just how a star and sun radiates from its center”.
I use the breath as a tool, to teach these 2 actions.
Inhale – HUG (another way to say ‘pull’) your muscles to your bones and stabilize at your center
Exhale – keeping your stability and muscle energy supporting your center, expand (nice way to say ‘push’) from that center in all directions through the bones of your body to feel more extension and space within.
The action of ‘pulling’ to create our own firm boundaries in our body is essential; without it, the expansion of ‘pushing’ will not have anything to push out against, which will limit any possible growth and progress. The goal is to find balanced action between ‘pulling’ in and ‘pushing’ out in an effort to create both optimal stability and freedom of movement in the body so energy can flow freely without getting stuck in any particular place; you are constantly working at it. Finding this balance is worth the challenge!
What are your tendencies? Do you pull in more than you push out? Or push out too much? I hope you can work on the balance you deserve in and out of your workouts and most importantly accept and honor where you are at to feel the magic that embraces and surrounds you always.