Pilates: Length and Opposition
Fellow dog owners, how many times has this happened to you? You’re enjoying a leisurely walk with your pooch, breathing in the fresh air, taking in the beautiful scenery, when suddenly a ________ (insert: squirrel, bunny, bird, leaf, burst of air, etc.) appears and the next thing you know, your dog takes off–running full speed ahead, ripping your arm out of the socket as he goes. Sound familiar? This is a common scenario for me with one added twist. Now that I’m the crazy -ahem: “proud” owner of THREE dogs (with retractable leashes, so my shoulders can get that good “snap” effect) two are usually walking AHEAD of me and one is typically lagging BEHIND. Add the word you inserted above, and the next thing I know I’m getting BOTH arms ripped out of their sockets in OPPOSITE directions. This happens to me multiple times during the course of our walk, on any given day. But it dawned on me today, as I found myself in “Upright” SAW position, that I was experiencing the pilates concept of Length and Opposition. (Without the canine component. And the discomfort!)
Incorporating the concept of Length and Opposition into your pilates practice will help you deepen your work. The concept of Length alone is fairly easy to grasp. Peak Pilates defines it:
Length – A movement quality of “reaching” an extremity that occurs without tensing it. Lengthening increases the depth of the work in the powerhouse and elongates the eventual appearance of the muscles. A main goal of pilates is to create length in the spine (axial elongation) first, followed by length through the extremities.
Now, adding Opposition to the equation reminds you that pilates is truly about Mind/Body connection.
Opposition – A movement quality that reflects the concept that every exercise in pilates has an anchor (in the powerhouse) and a force reaching away from that anchor, creating opposition. Finding the opposition in each position strengthens the anchors/stabilizers. What are the lines of energy flowing outward from the center in opposition? Imagine the body stretching in opposite directions during pilates, with energy sent outward to those points.
So how exactly do you apply this concept? Let’s look at Saw as an example. Here’s a video of my Advanced Teacher Trainer, Connie Borho, teaching this concept.
So the next time you’re out walking your furry buddy, think pilates! Engage your core, anchor that opposite hip and foot, and embrace the unexpected gift of Length and Opposition.