In Pilates, The Transition is the Exercise

“The transition is the exercise” popped out of my mouth one day in a session a few weeks ago.  It really got me thinking, and I began watching how people use their bodies and minds between sections of the class, both in terms of the groups of exercises and of course, in between each exercise.

As a young teacher I was taught that only clients of a certain proficiency or experience level were eligible for the choreographed transitions that seem to make a Pilates workout flow with a rhythmical joy and seamlessness. At this point in my career, I disagree with this thinking. At the studio, we try to coach our clients to adopt transitions that suit their style and abilities. Transitions can be as simple as moving well in between sections of your class, such as sitting to lie down, turning sideways to sit and standing well, walking tall while feeling the connection to your center, etc.

A new client begins with learning to set up their body by simply centering themselves evenly on the apparatus and changing levels (lying to seated to standing/walking) in a mindful way. As a client’s proficiency grows, the transitions become more important- they allow for a client to tap into their state of flow.

Tapping into Your Flow

What is “flow” you wonder? Flow is the stuff that fuels your life: your energy, your chi, etc. Flow is where we live, work, love and experience our life. Flow is what enables you to respond. I love this analogy, shared by a colleague of mine years ago in a teacher training weekend: If you are walking to catch a bus and you see the bus a block away from you beginning to slow down and arrive at the stop, you sprint or jog to catch the bus and board. You tapped into your flow to catch the bus. You did not step by step analyze how to walk efficiently in calculated ways to catch the bus- you just did it.

Everyone needs to feel flow. I do believe that if more people had greater amounts of flow in their day it would solve many of our stress-related health issues. When we make use of the connectivity between exercises or even sections within a session, we tap into the wisdom that is much deeper and larger within us.

Many of our clients get intimidated when the teacher brings attention to the in between movements that link a sequence on the mat or apparatus. It simply is a skill, and like most skills,  requires intention and practice. Of course, not allowing yourself to get distracted by other elements in the session helps too!

The Art of the TransitionAnyone can be learning to transition. Simply start with mindfulness to feel (not think!) with the center of the body. Transitioning simply means you are tying elements together and moving through and with your center. You can let yourself flow with the rhythm of your movement, breath or even the energy within a group.

I find transitioning to be a bit of an art, and that is truly the part that is fun. The precision of the exercises is where the work lies, but the flow makes it all fall into place.

It can look like choreography, such as the long box series: swan to pull straps, backstroke, to teaser to horseback. It’s actually really beautiful and you can see the connected thread woven between the various exercises of the section.

Learning to transition tests your comfort level to “go with it,” which is crucial to learn because the flow is the rhythm that fuels your life. It supports you and keeps you balanced. For example, we all have natural rhythms for eating, sleeping, cooking, moving. Finding yours makes all of these activities more enjoyable.

When considering flow:

  • To not flow is to be static or rigid.
  • Rigid bodies are not happy bodies.
  • Is it the actual transition that is important or the intention behind it? I hope you can come to your own conclusion behind this one….the intention!
  • The intention to move/work/live from our center and in balance. To establish a rhythm during times of activity- exercising or other things.

Why Transitions Are Important

  1. They teach you how to find the flow or even create a flow. It’s rhythm for your body and mind!
  2. You must focus on maintaining a connection to the center of your body in between big moments
  3. They allow you to organize material or different ideas at once: multi-tasking at its finest!
  4. It’s important to learn to “feel” more versus “think” more. Be present in the moment.

Transitions are not pose-to-pose- they are movement and action. Anyone can do it at any ability or stage. Your transition should match your abilities but also hold you accountable. If it is too easy then you need a more of a challenge. If it’s too hard then you need a simpler one. They are not intended to stress you out but are an opportunity to move through the session or sections of your session or even your life.

When have you experienced that magical state of flow? Share your comments below.

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