This September we spent some time in Philadelphia with Cara Reeser doing two continuing education workshops. Both days, one on the pole system or cadillac and one on the chair, were filled with wonderful imagery.
We wanted to share the idea of six limbs. Dancers use this approach to the body often and it can help add length and stability to the way you work in and out of the studio.
You have probably reasoned that four of those six limbs are your arms and legs. True. The fifth and sixth are your head and tail. When we address head here we are speaking of the crown of the head rather than chin, neck or focus. So, truly the top of your torso. Inversely your tail limb is the truly the bottom of your torso. We are again thinking center rather than where you would actually have a tail if it grew from the back of your pelvis. If you were to drop a plumb line from the crown of your head or head limb through the center of torso you would reach your tail limb. *See below for a helpful image to investigate finding this limb further. It's as though you are approaching your whole body like a six limbed starfish.
How do these limbs work in Pilates? Many ways! You can stand or direct weight through all six of your limbs, head and tail included. Often times directing length and energy through limbs can organize your musculature to work in concert. Stuck in your laundry list of corrections? Try directing through or standing in your limbs instead.
Here are some examples found in common Pilates Exercises:
In a handstand you are standing on your arms, reaching your legs to the ceiling. If you have tried this, you will know that it is necessary to reach strongly through both ends of your torso--head and tail!
In Leg Circles you lengthen equally through your head and tail limbs to create stability while you articulate your legs through space.
In Cat on the push through bar you stand through your arms and legs while moving and directing through your head and tail limbs.
In Roll up Roll down on the Cadillac you use all six limbs. You need to actively lengthen through your head and tail while moving them, stand in your feet/legs and direct through your arms.
These relationships and intentions are dynamic and alive. They change as your orientation to the springs, gravity and the surface you are working on shifts.
**Cara had a strong and clear image for tail limb. Think of a bundle of balloons and how the strings all collect to one point. Now imagine that you have such a string from your tail bone, each sitting bone and your pubic symphysis. These drop straight down to the floor and pull equally into one point- your tail limb.