What is Imagery? One definition reads: “visually descriptive or figurative language.” As Pilates Instructors often do – I rely on imagery when directing my clients. Several years ago, I spent time studying with Eric Franklin, an internationally-known movement educator whose books on anatomy and imaging techniques are often used in university curriculum. In the Franklin Method, when we study and practice Imagery, the definition includes other aspects: multi-sensory and an emotional state.
In Pilates, you often hear the phrase “mindful movement,” integrated when describing the principles. This can be taken very literally about straightening your arm, or activating your core. But coupled with the power of imagination, robust movement or even no movement at all can contain a greater context and add dimension to the quality of the experience. Whatever meaning the imagery has in your mind, becomes part of the action. In truth, Imagery or Imagining is in itself an exercise. So, let’s get that grey matter going!
I challenge you to take advantage of the library of experiences you’ve had in your life and create positive imagery for yourself! Need a place to start? Any place and any time are ripe for application. Here are some examples for you to take into your day.
Clearing distraction to focus: calm waters. The abundance of channels that target you for attention –email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your favorite show’s new app are on consistently on the rise. We get caught up in the hectic pace and “buzz” of status update/info overload, it’s no wonder that clutter might make you feel weighted down.
Visualize your mind as a body of water, and all the input of thoughts, activities, and schedule are pouring in, each representing a choppy wave. Observing the choppiness of the sea, take each thought and let it simply ‘pass through’ eliminating the disturbance and allowing the water to settle down. And as you eliminate each one, resist the urge to take on new information – just allow it to pass through you. Visualize the calm so that the water’s still surface is quiet and reflective like glass, with the little to no movement.
Finding space to breathe: kite-flying. I’ve mentioned a number of times how much posture is affected by our lifestyle today – mainly from the point that any job that requires long stretches of time in a seated position creates stress on the body’s structure. Of course this affects breathing. But another important factor is the state of your mind. For instance, if you’re under a deadline, or you have a loved one who is ill, your breathing patterns alter dramatically. You can use imagery as a strategy to get some breath-space back.
Here’s an image I like to use in class, to help those who hold their breath inadvertently, or tend toward shallow inhale and exhale. Imagine that your breastbone is a kite and that the string attached at the center draws the chest forward and up. There is strong but warm breeze beginning to lift the kite up, and the gusts take the weight of the kite up effortlessly. With your chest now lifted, imagine the wind traveling through open spaces in the kite – as if air wafts through the open ribs, swirling in and bringing in the oxygen.
Tight shoulders: Bars of soap. Oh the shoulders, the shoulders – where so much stress hangs out making us tight and tired! When you find the moment to address your shoulders and arms with some kind of movement, imagine your shoulder blades as sudsy soap – like when you can’t hold onto the soap bar, because it’s so slippery it just comes out of your grasp. Imagine the gentle glide of the soap – as you “clean” your back. Up. Down. Forward around your ribs. Back around toward the spine. Do one side, and then do the other, and then both.
As you practice applying imagery, I think you’ll discover other images that might work even more effectively for you. Whatever imagery you choose, make it your own keepsake to create meaningful movement.
See you in the studio!