Andrea Maida owner of Pilates Andrea explains the Pilates method 2 way stretch in the following article. Well done Andrea and thank you!
2-Way Stretch and the Anatomy of Pilates
I’ve got a secret.
As a child I underwent a series of surgeries resulting in nerve reconstruction on one side of my body. A facial nerve was cut and reattached using an additional nerve taken from my left leg.
It has been my nearly 15 years of study and continual practice of the Pilates Method that has enabled me to “uncover” a series of weaknesses along my entire left side.
Just when you thought Pilates was about sculpted abs and a tight butt…
After many years of Pilates I began to notice a heightened body awareness that developed as I continued to train in this amazing method. Yes, ‘body awareness’ is a chief benefit of the Pilates method.
But this is in fact, an understatement.
The degree of awareness one can achieve through diligent practice of the method is staggering. It manifests in the sensation of many muscle groups working in unison – a seamless reach from the sides of your back up to the tips of your fingers, or down the entire length of the back of the body.
Left Side Story
But some muscles on the weaker left side simply did not respond in the same manner as their right-side counterparts.
Hmmm… How long has that been going on?
The Pilates exercises had revealed along the left side: a weak arch, knee, buttock, lower stomach, back muscle and neck. I remember vividly the workout that allowed me to realize each of these “separate weaknesses” was really one long chain of imbalance.
Can it be coincidence that all these parts are connected?
I decided to investigate.
Joseph Pilates himself believed (and stated vehemently I gather) that his method was 50 years ahead of its time. I completely agree. The connected muscle systems one finds in the 2-way stretch, for example, are articulated and well known today in the study of connective tissues or myofascial meridians in the body.
“Myofascial meridians (also known as anatomy trains, connective tissue planes, fascial planes, or myofascial trains) are lines of bones and connective tissue that run throughout the body, organize the structural forces required for motion, and link all parts of the body.
The idea of myofascial meridians was first introduced by Thomas Myers in his 1997 article ‘The anatomy trains’. In his 2001 textbook Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, 3e, the term ‘myofascial meridians’ was first used synonymously with the term ‘Anatomy Trains’.
Myers claims myofascial meridians were described by German anatomist Hermann Hoepke in the early 1930s.”
From Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers:
Anatomy Trains is a unique map of the ‘anatomy of connection’…the interplay of movement and stability.
Ooooh…the anatomy of connection. Yum yum.
My copy of Anatomy Trains confirmed my Pilates discovery. My long chain of imbalances that the Pilates exercises had revealed is officially known as the Deep Front Line. Anatomy nerds will want to check out this amazingly über-detailed and specific discussion of the Deep Front Line which I quote:
“The Deep Front Line is a key component of all things core.”
The Deep Front Line (DFL) is essentially the lift up the entire front of the body: in Pilates the lift up out of the arch of the foot reaching all the way up the inner leg to the abdomen continuing up to lengthen the neck and to the crown of the head.
So the left side of my core/powerhouse/center was not doing its fair share of the work. Well this solved a bunch of ‘Pilates mysteries’ of the “Why can’t I…?” variety, but sadly it does not make me like the Snake on the Reformer even a weensy bit more.
Please realize that an involved discussion of fascia is not really my gig. I note my experience here as just one example of the depth of information, discovery and jewels that abound within Joe Pilates’ original method.
2-way stretch, yo
The anatomy of movement differs from a study of medical static anatomy. I do not promote an ignorance of the formal study of anatomy, but it does not apply in the same ways to a body in motion as it does to address specific joints, muscles or tissues in a medical setting.
The 2-way stretch is the hallmark of a body engaged in movement. In actuality there are numerous oppositional forces in play during your Pilates workout.
I am a big fan of the 2-way stretch intrinsic to the Pilates Method. So useful, yummy, simple and satisfying, it gives you a particular way of looking at your body in motion.
Teaching the 2-way Stretch
A client of mine, Janet, a former registered nurse, is trained in human anatomy. She marvels that the oppositional forces of the body in motion are quite tangible and yet unexpected given her education in the musculoskeletal systems.
Janet remarks that her knowledge of the traditional anatomy with regard to the individual muscle groups, their function and insertion points is a completely different animal to the anatomy of movement she is finding within the Pilates exercises.
It feels totally different. It feels like the insertion points for the tendons and ligaments aren’t there, the energy [of the lower body] just flows all the way down to my feet, without the different muscles being involved. This is a whole body thing as opposed to picking out an individual muscle group.
I feel like I am using my whole body together and as a result everything works much better. It just flows.
No wonder Jay Grimes has been telling me for years:
“Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in there.“
By Andrea Maida