Committing myself more to the ideas that everything is okay in moderation, a little bit goes a long way, “over doing” is just as toxic as “under-doing,” and lastly, there is never one right or one wrong way of doing anything! I call this my “goldilocks principle of Pilates and bread making, but it can be applied to all aspects of my life!
After depriving myself for years, I have been eating and baking sourdough bread for over a year (almost everyday and sometimes 2X/day)!
I do fondly remember loving bread and butter when I was young! However, I stayed away from eating ALL types of bread for several years for health concerns as I knew that gluten interfered with my body’s ability to optimally digest my food. Being hypo-thyroid, I have been coping with a sluggish digestion for most of my life after depleting my thyroid when I was a teenager.
As most of you may remember, during Covid, making sourdough bread was ‘on fire.’ Many people were proclaiming its benefits, one being better and improved digestion! I read that sourdough bread was easier to digest for many people as the acid in the bread from the active starter degrades the gluten. Furthermore, I learned that sourdough bread acts as a prebiotic fiber which means that the yeast in the bread help balance our bacteria in our guts! That is when my interest and ideas around eating bread (specifically sourdough) started to shift.
After learning about the health benefits I was curious if I could be okay eating sourdough bread? I was further inspired from a friend, Giovanni, who my family sees every year in Kona. When we are on the island, Giovanni makes us a fresh sourdough loaf every week we are there. I would eat his bread when we were on vacation and it was so good…I never felt that my digestion was an issue. I asked
him for a book I could use as a reference, (Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, Ken Forkish) and I have been at “work” making bread since. Learning to bake my own sourdough bread has been challenging(especially in the beginning) , fun, and an ever evolving process! I have drawn many metaphors from my experience in baking sourdough to my Pilates practice.
Baking my bread I’ve learned that there is a distinction between under and over proofed bread. In other words, if I wait too long to bake my bread after the bulk fermentation stage my dough loses all structure, so it’s stretchy and slack when turned onto a work surface. The dough is also stickier than usual due to the lack of remaining gluten structure. Essentially, over-proofed means that the dough has run out of food. It’s exhausted. It’s been pushed past its limit and has no strength left. In really over-proofed dough the gluten strands will eventually break down, and the dough will collapse. This can happen before I put the loaf in the oven or it can collapse while its baking in the oven. There’s no strength left in the dough for it to maintain its shape anymore. I have felt this way in my body at times in the past after practicing Pilates and working too hard and/or for too long.
For instance, in Pilates, over working your body in any position for too long will fatigue and weaken your muscles and tissues, so it is necessary to keep moving! Remembering to move is nourishing and ‘feeds’ our bodies so we do not over work one position and break down our structures. Furthermore, continuous not rushed movement will help you stay light and bouyant on the inside, just how we want our sourdough baked bread! That said, continuing to move is easy to forget especially when you are trying to get it right! Maybe you are trying too hard?
In Pilates specifically, over tucking (tailbones) in all the exercises, even when that exercise/position would benefit more from a natural lumbar curve position of the spine is a very common position that is overdone and is held for too long. It can be challenging to know and feel if you are holding your tuck position and when to incorporate more of a neutral or ached position. Although there is a place for the “tuck,” it depends on many factors. For example, in what position is your body in? Are you moving? Where is your center of gravity? What is the rest of your body doing in that moment? As you see, there is much to consider, before you choose to tuck! Tucking our low spines needs more thoughtful attention, so there is balance between the front and back of our pelvis. Most importantly, please remember to keep moving and not stay in any one position for too long:).
A repetitive steady tendency to ‘tuck’ even when the exercise or position you are in (standing for instance), does not benefit from tucking will have consequences that will manifest in the rest of our body that are not necessarily the most healthy outcomes. Tucking promotes the upper spine to round and the front body/chest area to collapse. Furthermore, excessive tucking can tighten the front of our hips and groins causing imbalance in our muscles front to back. Our quads will turn on whereas our glutes and hamstrings will have trouble turning on which can result in the muscles in our glutes/hamstrings and low backs to tighten, weaken and shorten.
On the contrary, If you are in a round ‘C curve’ position, you must tuck to follow the natural movement of the spine and therefore, you must also ‘lift up’ in a round ‘C’ curve that continues out the crown of your head!
In most cases, I believe we over do the ‘tuck’ position unknowingly. For instance my teachers used to tell me to stop tucking and I had no idea I was doing it in the first place. Maybe this has happened to you too? Paying attention and checking in with ourselves and taking time to notice our inner sensations will teach us and give us more and more awareness to how our bodies should be feeling. Changing a habit is hard work, especially for us to change a habit we have been unaware of for maybe years!!! At first it may seem odd and not feel right, but remembering that everything, even this is a process, and finding balance and ease in our minds and bodies is always the goal!
In addition to not having the awareness of whether our tail is tucked or not, tucking our tail bones, could also symbolize our need to ‘protect ourselves.’ When we are insecure, and not living to our full potential of you we are inside, its easy to collapse into ourselves and feel lesser than. It can be challenging to stand tall when we do not even love and believe in ourselves. Just look at animals in nature, when they feel danger they curl up and ’protect’ themselves…
Getting back to my bread metaphor, dough that is under-proofed means that the yeast hasn’t produced enough carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide gasses is what gives the dough its volume and openness. Therefore, for a beginner bread maker and Pilates practitioner who want to see results, it is necessary to have patience and trust in the process. With a regular consistent practice you should see results, but it does take time and practice.
You may be curious, how to know when the dough is over-proofed or under-proofed? This is similar to how to know if one is over or underworking some aspect in their Pilates practice! My answer to this is that you need to be flexible and consider many factors as you bake and or as you practice Pilates!
Specifically for Pilates, reminding ourselves to continue to MOVE the whole body is essential! In fact, Pilates could be described as one BIG exercise, or one movement that is constantly in transit. Furthermore, understanding that there is time for both, tucking and arching. Allowing ourselves to un-tuck and stand, sit, or lye in a ‘tall posture’ maintaining a healthy lumbar spine is as just as beneficial if not more than tucking our tails time to time to round our backs to enhance our powerhouse. Lastly, learning the Pilates method is individual and no set of exercises and or body positions will be ‘right’ for every body. At times depending on the body and the transition at hand, we may need to enhance more round or extension, but never will we stay too long, as this is what creates tension! Life is always in transition as our bodies must be as well.
For sourdough bread baking…Its not as simple as just following a recipe and going off the recipe baking times and various steps. Fortunately, a seasoned baker has baked enough bread that they know what to look for and waits just enough for the bread/dough to tell them when it’s ready! Its worth the effort to pay attention and listen to your body and watch your bread! As you bake bread, and train your body remember that under and over-proofing dough and under or over working your body just happens, even to the best bakers and best practitioners.:)
I truly believe we all are looking for things, people and situations that bring a sense of balance and/or middle ground to our lives. The same is true in our Pilates practice! Through my personal experience with baking bread and practicing Pilates I have had several occurrences when some incident/challenge positioned me to “act” in extremes….maybe starting at one end of a spectrum and then to the other side, and them back again and so forth! Finding middle ground and balance is work in progress and something I strive for more and more in all aspects of my life.
With everything, the more you practice the “goldilocks principle” in your body you will become more curious, sensitive, and open to changing any habits are not serving you. This practice to keep moving while staying present to myself, and live by the “goldilocks” principle is well worth the work!
Here are some things to consider next time you go on your mat:
*It’s important to have reverence for your lumbar spine and remember the goldilocks principle!
Consider finding more balance between the front and back of your spine! The front and back of your spine both need to be engaged and turned on to a degree as well. I find that sometimes there tends to be a misconception, that to achieve a strong core you should feel the burn on the abdominals and sometimes in this process of only paying attention to the “burn” sensation, one may forget and neglect other aspects of their body, in particular, their back body! In fact the low back should stay long, spacious and also participating along with the abdominals. This is difficult to understand as we do not see our and or notice our backs when we are focused on strengthening our abdominals on your font body. Therefore, as we engage our stomach muscles to our backs we need to remember to engage and strengthen our backs too! An example of this would be executing a plank, as the front and back bodies are working together to achieve a strong plank position!
When lying supine and you’re especially not “rolling/rounding” in an exercise, such as the hundred, leg circles, series of 5, etc etc…remember to root your tail bone. Not only will rooting our tail bone help us un-tuck and stay long and lifted in our low backs we will also establish a clear focal point to lengthen and grow out of, achieving a delicious counter stretch we all crave. From our pelvic center we will stretch our lower body in optosition to our spines growing and lengthening out the roof of our mouths! This action is easy to forget. I see it in myself, and others more than I want to admit.
Rooting our tail bones is essential even if your upper spines are lifted and curling off the mat, your tail should stay anchored to facilitate more of a two way stretch. Note that in even this position with your upper body lifting off the mat, you should not be tucking!! Instead you should be working hard to deepen your low abdominals in and up to support your low spines. Depending on the body, some spines will be on the mat and some may be imprinted…everyone is different. I find that when people finally understand and commit to rooting their tail bones, they notice that their low backs are no longer imprinted in the mat. They think however that they have to have their low backs on the mat to strengthen and work their low abdominals, so they will unroot their tail bones, “tuck,” just so they can feel their low backs imprinted! This is not healthy for your low backs and will cause more damage down the road if this pattern is repeated over and over as you are neglecting your back bodies and over working the front of your body in a shortened and more compressed state.
If you feel that you are somebody who easily uproots their tail bone, my advice would be to focus on keeping and creating more space in the front of your hips and more space in your front spine in-between your pelvis and your ribs! This is something we want. The challenging part is keeping this space and length in our bones as we execute exercises. Its definitely not easy, but this is where the work comes in. For example , we need to ‘scoop’ with out shortening and we need to deepen our low abdominals to our spines without dumping and compressing. Again, have reverence for your low spine and sense the “goldilocks principle” in your whole body where your front and back bodies equally participating in the workout.
When you are seated and moving in an exercise you may move in between your sit bones and tailbone depending what shape of the spine you are trying to achieve… if you are tall you should sit on or slightly in front of your sit bones and most definitely in front of your tail bone. If you are rounding your spine you should pay attention to sitting slightly behind your sit bones and in some positions, behind your tail bone, but be careful not to collapse in your upper spine, remembering to find length and space in the round!
BONNE CHANCE TOUS LE MONDE!