Crossover: Pilates and Bodywork

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One of the things I get the most excited about is when I’m working with either a Pilates or Soma client and the issues we’re working on with their body begin to naturally lead into the other modality. I work with many people who do Pilates but have no interest in Soma and vice versa, and it’s important to me that my clients never feel like I want or expect them to do both. But what often happens is the client peeps over the fence, saying “well wait a minute, what’s that over there?”

I’ll be sharing the stories of individual clients in future posts, but for today we’ll just look generally at how and why it happens.

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With Pilates clients, I’ve learned from experience that the idea of speedy results can draw people to Soma. The most obvious example is when it’s a pain issue. Sometimes when your neck or low back or hip is screaming at you, you just want someone to get in there and calm it down, and that’s when we end up doing a bit of treatment work in the middle of a Pilates session. However, it’s often something quieter. A client watches his Front Rowing performance in a mirror and is frustrated that no matter how upright he tries to sit, he still looks slumped. Or a client practicing Hip Release can’t seem to achieve any more freedom in that right hip. I love Pilates, and have seen again and again that mindful, focused practice will bring results, but sometimes there are road blocks like gummed up connective tissue hindering your progress. Soma is all about creating free and integrated movement throughout the body.

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When a Soma client feels a change from the work, the natural reaction is “wow…how do I KEEP this??” A very common phenomenon is standing up and feeling the spine more erect, which means feeling taller, with the head balanced on top instead of straining forward. Or it might be something like a shoulder/arm that can move in a much bigger circle than before. Whatever the change, the fear is that this new sensation could be lost if the client goes back to his habitual patterns. Often, when a joint is freed up and range is regained, the body will naturally incorporate that new range into walking and other movements. But sometimes it’s not that simple. If your brain/body quit allowing the arm to move independently of the shoulder girdle a couple decades ago, freeing up the connective tissue in that area may not be enough. Soma includes some movement re-education, but that’s just a few minutes at the end of your bodywork session, and often THAT’S not enough either. Here’s where a client starts peeping over the fence at Pilates, which is all about learning and practicing correct movement patterns with core support. Perfect!

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The truth is it’s all about cross-over, from work and play and life itself. People seek a modality like Pilates or Soma because they want to improve another activity, whether it’s a golf swing, a karate kick, tending an herb garden,or simply getting a good night’s sleep. The biggest thrill for me is when a client is able to use both Pilates and Soma in some completely unique combination to move toward their equally unique goals. Those are the days when I simply have the coolest job in the world.

Carli Herrs