If you can get in tune with the subtleties in life, everything has more meaning. The act of truly being present can be achieved. The benefits of this art, as applied to any fitness endeavor, gives us endless potential to consistently challenge our strength, range, technique, and mastery of our skills. It is why a professional athlete is not bored with the technical drills they do for their entire life. Metaphorically, I always see a correlation of my work to regular life, so as I briefly digress, here you go… As you pick up on the less obvious you can respond more intuitively to situations by reading between the lines. I believe that by picking up on subtleties of actions and words, we can feel the “vibe” of a place or person that can be so hard to put into words. My favorite correlation is that humor and bliss can be found in everyday routines. If this all seems foreign to you, the example of subtlety adding a splash of color to a neutral decor or outfit of the day 🙂
In movement, the art of subtlety can make the difference between those that get it and those that don’t. It is your breath, your active energy whilst seemingly still, and your dynamic stability in motion. Often it is a quiet voice in your head guiding your efforts for a little more of this or a little more of that; but it’s quiet and you have to tune everything else out. This could be confused with being overly analytical or being too stuck in your head. It is the connection of your mind and body actually dropping out of the overly analytical side to tap into how things actually feel. Being in tune with subtle physical adjustments or somatic nuisances will take you from simply “going through the motions” to “storing the benefits of the motions.” Accessing proper initiation in any given movement will allow for freedom in motion and therefore the benefits of reaching a flow state.
Give this some thought and you will hopefully learn to dig a little deeper and take cues in a more energetic way. Remember that it is not what you do but how you do it that makes the magic.
Examples of subtle cues to effect the alignment within your own body
Breathe to release the sternum when trying to stand tall. The elbows to face outward, think a little bit more about leading with the right foot, exhale your back bottom ribs to the mat, press your heels in and down on the reformer foot bar, lift your back ribs up.
All of these cues, when used appropriately, are examples of how breath and energy can help shift the alignment within yourself allowing for a more homeostatic balance in the body and therefore access to muscles that will breed efficiency and longevity.
To Effect Where Your Body is in Space
Lengthen up through the crown of your head, shift more weight to the inside of your heels, lower your pelvis in space, lead with your hips, move your knees over the heels but in line with the toes, initiate from the first vertebrae.
These subtleties, when used appropriately, are examples of how knowing where we are in space can help us align with gravity and more safely execute movements.
How Can Subtlety Lead to Longevity
Tuning into more subtle details can allow us to always work deeper within the same context rather than being inconsistent and always looking for the next best thing or the latest trend. Trends are good, and they can be fun, but it is important to have a good physical foundation and relationship to your body as you try new things. Longevity will be the result of this because you will never be bored.
How Does the Art of Subtlety Encourage Flow State
Tapping into subtlety especially when performing extreme sports allows for less superficial work and more focus inward while in motion. You simply can’t focus on anything else other than that little voice of your breath. This art of subtlety leads you to a truly present state allowing for consistent challenge to meet the skill you have worked to hone.
How to Subtlety Take a Physical Cue
Realize that often times a correction in Pilates is often to cancel out unwanted movement. For example if your teacher says, “drop your right hip,” instead of a quick or forceful large adjustment, try taking an exhale breath to lengthen the distance between your rib and hip on the right side. Or use your exhale to work the left side a little bit harder. My first ingrained memory of this was when I was studying dance in college, and my teacher kept telling me to breath from my back and move from my back….I kept just trying to make my movement bigger and grander but after some time I realized what she meant.
How to Consistently Integrate Subtlety in Motion
Be observant of the people around you, look for subtle movement qualities. Look for the stand out qualities in art, design or things at home that make you comfortable. Being in tune with the subtleties in everyday life will give you little glimmers of joy, and humor!
When you are walking, play this game with yourself, it will not dramatically change your walking patterns so that people think you are a street performer:) Try rolling through your feet like they are wheels, leading with your hips a little more, floating the head as far above your shoulders as you can, feeling the upper back muscles as your arms swing. There are so many nuisances you can start with but waking is something we all do on autopilot so it’s a great starting point.
The following videos are my attempt to show some subtle changes that make a big difference in how the exercise feels. Stay tuned for my next Mat video on Virtualogic entitled “Subtlety in Motion” .
PRONE 2 SWAN
Subtlety: Think of spiraling the arm bones externally throughout the entire movement which will cause the elbows to angle slightly down.
Reps 1 & 2 are correctly maintaining shoulder external rotation.
Rep 3 shows the shoulder internally rotate inhibiting the ability to extend the spine.
Rep 4 the shoulders begin internally rotation and then correct halfway to allow the spine to extend.
Subtlety: Maintain proper tracking through the center of the feet by thinking of the center of the feet tracking energetically up and out of the crown of the head.
Showing 4 reps correctly tracking the feet, knees and hips and 4 reps incorrectly rolling out on the outside of the feet.
Showing 4 reps correctly centered and 4 reps incorrectly allowing the body to shift to the opposite side.
TRACKING HIP – KNEE – ANKLE
Subtlety: Allow the knees to track properly by rotating or de-rotating from the top of the thigh bones.
Alternating reps correctly maintaining centered knee tracking and incorrectly allowing the thigh bones to turn in.
Showing 4 correctly stabilizing the shoulder girdle and 90 degree elbow joint. Showing 4 externally rotating the shoulder and flexing the elbow beyond 90 degrees, which allow the bicep to take over.
Subtlety: Gently press the head into the hands and use the hands to lengthen the hair up the nape of the neck.
Showing 4 correctly holding the head and 4 incorrectly protracting the chin.
Subtlety: Cancel out the hip flexion and external rotation by allowing the thigh bone to feel slightly turned in from the top.
Showing 4 reps correctly parallel and 4 reps incorrectly allowing the leg to externally rotate and add hip felxion.
Subtlety: Maintaining shoulder external rotation, thinking of the elbows being slightly forward of the hands.
Showing 4 reps correctly in external rotation and 4 reps incorrectly allowing the forearms to drop forward bringing the shoulders internally rotated.