“I don’t want to control. I want to let go,” are lyrics by the artist Pink, who I recently marveled at in concert. She learned technical aerial dance as an adult and can now literally fly over the audience at Madison Square Garden, which shows that being disciplined takes hard work, and freedom is the outcome.
Discipline requires balance. When it comes to your body, many of you need to learn how and where to be more disciplined, while some of you may need to be disciplined enough to actually stop being so disciplined!
Your body is an instrument that plays movement. The “sounds” you make — the way you walk, leap up the stairs, or the way you simply enter a room — will reflect the tuning of your instrument. But it’s not enough to be disciplined about taking care of your body. You have to apply specificity to your diligence if you want positive results.
Training and Trusting
My thoughts are inspired by a class with one of my favorite ballet teachers, Christine Wright. She compares us dancers to musicians, whose medium is sound. She coaches us through class to think and feel our medium of movement and then not to think so much.
This principle is true on many platforms: Your disciplined child can have extra time to play, or your disciplined dog can vacation at your friends’ beach house with the all-white interior without destroying it. But you don’t attain this freedom by yelling at your kids to do the right thing or repeatedly telling your dog not to pee on the floor. You teach them and teach them well.
Teaching your body is no different. You work on good form while training your body so that you can trust that form while performing. Your performance could be on stage, on the field, in your office, or your home.
In any case, your brain should properly communicate with the rest of you. Otherwise, your body will give into reflexive tendencies, often due to gravity, poor training, or predispositions.
For example, flat feet will fall in on their arches, tight shoulders will lead to a tight neck, or a lumbar lordosis will make it harder to access your butt muscles and may lead to knee or back issues. Butt 😉 the good news is that when you create healthy patterns, you can have fun and trust your body to make better choices on its own.
To feel your fullest, efficient ability when you jump, run, bike, swim, ski, dance, sit, climb, carry, and yes…even sleep, you must allocate some training time to clarify the specific movements underlying those bigger movements that need either improvement or maintenance. When taking care of two precious gifts we hold as humans: movement and stillness, the balancing act begins — literally and figuratively.
Learn from successful dancers and athletes. They don’t mindlessly check the boxes when training. They thoughtfully mold and wire their muscles to play their instrument the way they must.
How to Be Disciplined
Make time for mindful movement: Show up to a class, the gym, a mat at home, or that little space next to your bed. Choose a handful of exercises that help with what you specifically need, applying specificity to your chosen exercises. Know the time and place for this kind of overthinking, and remember to enjoy the gift of moving in your body!
Embrace the gift of movement by:
- Saying yes to yourself
- Saying no to others’ requests of you
- Doing the following exercise series
Unwind (Series 2)
I feel restriction and asymmetries in my feet, my shoulders, and when balancing on my right side. Since I hope to help you avoid the same problems I have, I share this fine-tuning series to help you train your body and minimize aches and pains. Below is a breakdown of the exercises I perform in this video.
#1 – Hip shift
- As you inhale, sit or sink into a standing hip so the outside of your hip will be past your outside ankle bone.
- As you exhale, pull your hip back to center so the outside of your hip aligns with the outside ankle bone.
- Repeat 10x.
- Keep your pelvis neutral, and avoid sticking out your butt.
- Avoid lateral side-bending at the waist.
- Stand your tallest, reaching up and out of the crown of your head (always).
Benefits: Improves your balance, standing leg support, and jumps
#2 – Standing balance
- Staying pulled up on your standing leg from the previous exercise, reach your free leg accurately in line with your sits bone.
- Move your leg front to back.
- Then in a circle: front, side, and back. (In ballet terms, this would be similar to a front and side tendu, and a rond de jambe en l’air.)
- Enjoy the burn of the feet muscles.
- Feel a crease in the front of your hip as your leg reaches forward.
- Feel your glutes and hamstrings as your leg goes back.
- Keep your pelvis and lower back as stable as possible. Abdominals help!
Benefits: Improves your balance and accuracy of leg movements in space
#3 – Jump Prep
- Inhale. Keeping your torso upright, and bend both knees as far as you can to keep both heels down.
- Exhale. Straighten both knees, and reach your leg out to the side.
- Repeat 10x on each leg.
- Can be done with one foot on a yoga block/stair or flat on the floor.
- Press down deeply to stretch the achilles tendon as you bend.
- Spring off into straight legs as if you were about to jump.
- Articulate through your right foot as you lift it off the floor.
- Lift your heel, ball of the foot, and then the toes.
Benefits: Improves jumps and walking up and down stairs
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#4 – 90-Degree Squat
- Inhale, and stand in ideal alignment.
- Exhale, and bend your hips, knees, and ankles to 90 degrees while keeping your knees over your heels.
- Improves squats, sit-to-stand ability, and jumps
- Builds glute strength
- Improves your gait
#5 – Shoulder Retraction + Neutral
- Inhale, retract, or squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping your elbows straight and your neck in line with the spine.
- Exhale, and widen your shoulder blades back to neutral without protracting your shoulders forward.
- Keep your ears over your shoulders, allowing the spine to remain in line through the neck.
- Keep elbows straight.
Benefits: Improves shoulder mobility
#6 – Shoulder Wings (Abduction/Adduction)
- Inhale, and bring your shoulder blades in close to the spine.
- Exhale, and spread your shoulder blades wide like wings, without rounding your shoulders forward.
- Press your entire palm firm into the block.
- Try to keep your bicep facing the floor, creating slight internal rotation of the arm bones.
- Keep the abdominals lifted up and supporting the spine
Benefits: Improve shoulder mobility, and release tension in the neck and chest.
#7 – Thoracic Rotation
- Inhale, and gently press the back of your head into your right hand, and lengthen your spine.
- Exhale, and rotate your upper body to the right, keeping a long waist and neck without shifting your body to the side or back.
- Inhale, and return to center.
- Repeat 5-10x on each side.
- Be satisfied with a smaller isolated rotation than you thought.
- Do not let your hips sway in the direction of your twist.
- Press the back of your head into your hands for a guide on neutral alignment.
- Just do it; it’s good for you!
Benefits: Improves functional rotation throughout the entire body.
#8 – Lumbar Extension (Sacral Extension)
Directions: Place the yoga block under your pelvis in a horizontal direction, allowing the base of the tailbone to release over the block.
- This exercise should not be painful at all. You should feel your tailbone decompress and a weightlessness in your lower back.
- You may need to try moving the block up or down to get the right spot.
- Relax for 1 minute, building up to 10 minutes over time.
Benefits: Releases your lower back and compression in the sacrum
Lynda Salerno Gehrman is the Founder and Director of Physio Logic Pilates & Movement in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Tying together her training, her studios are the BASI Pilates teacher training centers of NYC for which she serves as faculty. As a reputable Pilates educator in her own right, she has appeared on the cover of Pilates Style magazine, for which she’s penned several articles. While she equally enjoys working with the professional athlete as much as the exercise novice, she specializes in using her keen eye to reorganize sport-specific gait patterns, recognize muscle initiation and imbalances, and teach corrective strength training, applying the works of Pilates to any practice.