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(upbeat rock music) Hello. I’m John Marston, and I’d like to welcome everybody to The Pilates Report. Today, my guest is Tom McCook, and we’ll be talking about body wisdom and active aging. Hello, Tom! Hey, John, great to see you. Nice to be here.
Thanks for the invite. Thank you so much. Just before we came online here, Tom and I were chatting, and it’s now been 10 years since Tom first worked with us. So we’re celebrating that 10-year anniversary. That’s beautiful.
I’m so happy that we’ve had this relationship. It’s been a joy all the way along. I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to touch more people and do this work and do it together in community with fantastic people. Cool. And one of the things that we have in common is that we were born in the same year.
So we’re both about the same age. I don’t know if it’s okay to share our ages, but I’m happy if you are. But I would just say that I’m thinking a lot more about active aging, about how to use my body as I get older. Mmhmm, yeah, and we’re both welcome to share our age. We’re in that sixth decade now, and it’s true, it’s true.
It’s more and more, maybe it’s cliche to say, but I don’t think you feel your mortality until you get to a particular age. And as we get older, it becomes more and more important to notice, what do I need to do on a regular basis to have my life feel fulfilling, my body feel good, to have enough energy, and it becomes more of a daily practice. I think the older you get, you gotta be mindful of feeling stiffer and what will actually help us live better, not just when we go to the gym or do our class. How can we up the ante and improve function on a regular basis? So that’s been my mission and passion, especially over the last 10 years as I’ve been aging, but also, the demographic of our clients and what people really need.
So that’s been an exciting exploration, and I think, you know, I’ve been teaching Pilates now for over 30 years, and I think everything, just like the equipment that Joe Pilates developed came out of a need, he had a need to help people. So out of that need, his creative mind created the Reformer, created the Tower and the wall unit or the Cadillac and all these other pieces of equipment to help people. And for me as a teacher, I’ve always been teaching in a class setting, and I’ve always asked the question, how do I level the playing field so that everybody in the class gets the most benefit, instead of just the people that already move well? That exploration led me into, okay, I need to help people or I need to learn how the body’s designed, so then I can share that with other people so then they can direct their own attention and help themselves. Then the exercise form is secondary to their own information and knowledge about their own body.
And I find that’s really what’s the missing piece as we age. If you don’t have some good information about your own body and what you do all the time, what you wanna improve is what we did all the time, you’re at a deficit. And that’s really the question. Okay, what do we do all the time? We relate to gravity, we breathe, we move, we use our mind, we image and dream.
How do we improve those pieces, just even a little bit? And I think we need to have some helpful information how to do that, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Sure, you can do a Pilates class and all that, and that’s fantastic, but if you layer on top of that a little more information about your own body that you can apply to your class, you move better, you’re more efficient. It feels better. You’re more empowered and confident.
That’s been my goal, mostly just to help people live well and feel fulfilled, no matter where they are. If they’re on the road, they’re not at my studio, they’re on vacation, they still get the memo, oh, I need to move today so I can not just feel better, but I can shift my mood. I can become more present and enjoy what I’m up to. So that’s my position. (both laughing) So if you were to write the manual for people, what would be the, you occasionally mention some of the sections that you’d like to see in that body manual, that body wisdom manual.
What would be the main categories that you would encourage people to focus on? Number one would be relating to gravity. So think how we’re an animal that stands upright. So for us to stand upright and be efficient, we need to know, how do we align ourselves with gravity? It’s not by adding excess tension.
It’s just by knowing how we’re designed to stand on our feet, how to stand on the top of our legs, how to position our head over our spine. Now, all of this is built in. You could say posture is an emerging quality. It emerges because it’s in our DNA. But because of modern life and sitting too much and lack of movement, spending too much time in front of computers, that little bit of that knowledge has been dampened down.
So getting people to feel, oh, okay, I wanna be in that relationship with gravity and then give them some key places of where to put their attention, so then they can be not just in gravity where they’re creating a shape, but they can let go of tension, and they can move well, and then learning how to move in the key joints of the body, the hip joints, the spine, the feet, breathe better, free up the shoulders. So mobility and alignment would be number one, and releasing tension. Those three, and I always kinda go, okay, I look at it in terms of, what’s in the way of that? So the three things that inhibit function are excess tension, less than optimal alignment, and mechanics that are less than optimal, not the way our body’s designed, with some substitution or compensation happening. So by just learning how to notice your own patterns and correct those pieces, you’ve already improved function quite a bit.
Then the body feels better, it’s more resilient. You move better, with less energy, more efficiently, and then movement feels better. And when movement feels good, you usually wanna move more. That’s really what’s required as you get older. You need to move more, not less, not necessarily harder.
Like, we don’t need to roll the wheelbarrow up a hill, but we do need to move more, you know, with walking, getting your spine to move, breathing a little deeper, all the things that can shift your mood, shift your energy. Does that make sense? It does. What would be an example of excess tension? Excess tension, so just even sit here just for a moment and imagine you’re on the computer, and you’re taking your head forward to read something and you’re lifting your shoulders up a little bit.
And whatever we do on a regular basis becomes habitual. So now we habitually lift our shoulders up and we’re holding them. Then when it becomes unconscious, it becomes an unconscious pattern. Now, you add to that levels of stress or uncertainty, which is currently alive and well in our current world, and under stress and tension, we tend to add tension in maybe holding the body and going into some subtle contraction. So those things are shutting down our energy and limiting our movement capacity.
So the only way to shift out of that is to become aware of it. So by using a practice of just coming to your senses, coming into your body, you start to notice things. So starting to notice what you’re doing is like step one, going, “Wow, I have a lot of shoulder and neck tension.” And instead of just making it, going straight to, “I need to stretch,” or “I need to go work out,” you can just bring your attention to those areas and maybe do some simple tapping or simple movements, and you’ll notice that you can create change a little easier and a little quicker than maybe you thought. One way to consider it is energy follows attention. So whatever you put your attention on, your energy goes there.
Even sitting here right now, if you put your attention on your hands for a moment, you can just put your attention there, you might start to notice that you start to feel the pulsing in your hands. Now, that is always happening, but you just brought your attention to it and amplified it. So whatever you put your attention on, energy follows attention, but then also choice follows awareness. So whatever you put your attention on is amplifying your choices, because then you start to notice what you found to heal. So we want to move our less than optimal habits more into, oh, everything is a practice when it comes down to it.
Sitting here with my head forward is a practice. So it could be a practice, oh, I’m gonna practice noticing how I sit and sit a little better. That in itself is actually really useful. Then it’s taking it more into your whole life instead of just when you’re at the gym or just when you’re at class. You’re tying it more into your full day, which is, I think, my experience and the people I’ve worked with, it just makes your life more fulfilling and more a choice how to create positive change.
What would the next section of your user manual be? Breathing, breathing better. Like, we breathe up to 20,000 times a day, and that’s kind of the rough estimate. In an uncertain, stressful world, breathing can be shallow and high, and shallow and high breathing is related to increased anxiety, depression, a lack of energy. So learning how to breathe better diaphragmatically by understanding what good breathing is, how our body’s designed to breathe, diaphragmatically, and learning how to maybe as a practice taking 10 to 20 conscious diaphragmatic breaths a day, even when you’re sitting, but then tying that knowledge of how the body breathes into when you are doing exercise, ’cause then you can learn to move better.
It helps you move the spine more efficiently and fluidly. It helps you use your abdominal wall better, because the deep abdominal muscles are related to exhaling and core support. So you start to tie in that function, which is 24/7. It’s the thing that we do the most, breathing. So just getting a little better at it also helps you regulate your moods.
It’s very relaxing; diaphragmatic breathing makes you more parasympathetic in your nervous system, meaning that you’re going into more restoration mode. You become more, in turn, relaxed and calm, and that’s a pretty good skill for all of us to have at our ready, right? (Tom laughs) So if you consider it that way, I think in our culture, just in the world in general, the medical model can be more of, people look for answers around issues they’re having, which is great that they can have that choice, and how about we empower people to amplify their own natural wisdom a little bit more before they go to that reach of applying that type of intervention? ‘Cause I think people can help themselves a lot more if they’re being empowered to do so with uncomplicated things. The big wild card is, they have to be willing to cultivate a practice, a few minutes a day of something that’s gonna really help them.
I think the hurdle for everybody is, it’s still theoretical until you have an experience. But you have to do the practice instead of talking about the practice, because when you talk about it, it sounds great. Yeah, yeah, I should do that, wonderful. But once you do it and you have an experience of the change, now you’ve been empowered. So naturally, what I suggest to people is really explore doing these things and just notice for yourself that wow, that’s actually pretty true, if I mobilize my hips and my spine.
I have a breathing practice that I do where I’m just taking a few minutes a day to do that, daily, often, you’ll see the change. You’ll see the benefit, and the benefits aren’t just physical. You become more responsive and resilient in your life. You have better energy. You can regulate your stress better.
And I say the third piece that I would add would be develop some kind of meditation practice. Now, that can be, mindful movement is a form of meditation. You’re bringing your attention to what you’re doing. So Pilates and Franklin Method and these things that I teach and what you guys offer are a form of meditation, but also having a meditation practice, ’cause meditation’s been proven over the last, especially over the last 50 years, that it’s just basically good medicine. It regulates your blood pressure, it regulates your moods, it helps you become more relaxed and peaceful, restful.
So those types of things. And then I think, especially this time, where we are in our lives, you and I, we’re all aging, right, we’re all going in one direction, (Tom laughs) I just wanna make a point around, and I don’t think the public tends to know this, is three kind of distinctions of exercise. There’s fix, fun, and foundation. So you can think of fix is when you go to a physical therapist, when you go to somebody like me who knows how to work with people who have issues to really get your body more balanced if you’re having pain or you’re recovering from surgery or injury. Fun is when you go ride a bike, you go swim, you go run, you go dance.
Great exercises, but you’re not necessarily paying full attention to how your body’s designed and how it should create a balance around each one of your joints and be efficient. You’re just out there getting your heart rate moving, which is great. Then there’s foundation training. Foundation training is when you’re mindfully and consciously performing your exercises in a way that’s creating balance around each area of your body, and you’re doing your best to train in a balanced way. Then it might be a personal practice that’s created for you by a teacher based on your particular issues.
But if you think of what people tend to do in our world is they go from fun to fix, back to fun, back to fix, back to fun, and no foundation. So if you create foundation as your primary way of exercise to make your body genuinely physically prepared for everything, where again, it could be 10, 15 minutes a day, then you can go do the fun and be more resilient, and you’re less likely to hurt yourself, and that could be a Pilates practice that you guys offer and like what I offer. But that piece of education I think is what people need to know as they get older. They need to know that you need to have some foundational understanding of exercises yourself to keep your body balanced inside of, what I mentioned, gravity, modern lifestyle, how to stand better, how to breathe better, all those pieces. If you just build that into your lifestyle, like brushing your teeth, you’re gonna age better.
You’re gonna age better, and you’re gonna have more energy and more ability to do the things you wanna do, instead of just work and then, oh, God, I don’t have the energy now that I’ve finished working to go do the things that I was planning to do. Going back to the breath for a second, how do you incorporate the breath into your day? Do you have some habit that you can share with the rest of us? I do, I do. Well, I do a couple things.
Like, when I first learned to teach Pilates, they teach you this particular type of breathing, like lateral breathing, which I think is great, but what I learned after that is it’s really important to teach people how you’re designed to breathe naturally. What does that actually mean? How is our body designed? So if you teach people how the diaphragm moves and how breathing is designed to happen, so then they can image and feel and sense that, and I’d recommend that, learn natural breathing, before you put a technique on top of it, because if you put a technique on top of breathing that’s maybe less than optimal, you can still have a slight pathology in your breathing style, and you’re adding a technique on top of it. So, that said, so I just do, class start, I’ll do a technique every morning that I do, but I’ll start with just natural breathing, maybe 10 diaphragmatic breaths and belly, side ribs, chest, fill the container, and then empty, and then currently, my wife and I, especially over COVID, my wife Karen, we’ve been doing Wim Hof.
Wim Hof is, he’s a guy from the Netherlands who has this breathing technique and cold therapy, where you get in either a cold shower or a cold plunge, and you do these 30 to 40 rounds of this deep, deep inhale and exhale, without any holds. So you inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, for 30, 40 rounds, and at the end of the 30th or the 40th round, at the end of the exhale, you hold the breath out, and you wait. You wait until you have to take an inhale. So you’re holding the breath out, you’ve already exhaled, and then when you’re ready, without strain, you take an inhale, and then you hold the breath in for 15 seconds, and that’s considered one round. And what that breathing technique does is it creates better cellular respiration in your body, ’cause you’ve exhaled, but you still have oxygen in your body, and it’s circulating through your body, and you’re making your body a little more alkaline, and it has this great effect on your system where you become more relaxed, and then each round, you can hold your breath out longer.
So now I’ve been doing it for the last 2.5 years every day, and it takes about 15 to 20 minutes, and my third or fourth round, I’m holding my breath out, not that it’s a competition, but I’m holding my breath out for four minutes, at the end of the exhale, nothing I ever thought was possible, and it’s not a strain or a competition. So coming back to why, because as you get older, you wanna find other ways of strengthening your body that are not just musculoskeletal. Like, the breathing is strengthening your respiration without it having to be related to running, biking, or doing a workout. But it’s making your cardiopulmonary, your breathing apparatus stronger. And then cold showers, I do cold showers too.
Didn’t like ’em at first; I love ’em now. And they help your circulation. So they really help your body circulation, and I find, they also, cold showers produces more dopamine in your brain, so it’s really good for your mood. I can get in a cold shower and feel a little lethargic, and I come out of there, and I’m wide awake and ready to go! (both laughing) I actually like getting in the cold ocean now. I wouldn’t have said that to you like, two years ago.
You talked a little bit about foundation, foundational exercise when you talked about fun and fixing. Do you still work on your foundational exercises? Every day, every day. Every day, ’cause think of our, if you look at the wall next to me, that wall’s really stable, but it doesn’t move very well. Our body is inherently unstable.
That’s why we can move so much. So we’re like a fighter jet. A fighter jet is inherently unstable. That’s why it has so many options for movement, like our body. So that means inside of gravity, we need to do things regularly to organize ourselves so we can be in alignment and not go out, like have our lower back go out or excess tension spots, based on how we’re spending our day and based on our history and what other injuries we might have had in the past or what our current posture is, where our weak spots are.
All of those things need to be considered. And I think the more you understand your body as you develop a practice, you start to know what your body needs, moreso than if you didn’t have a practice. So for me, I do stuff, when I get up in the morning, I’ll do breathing practices, and I’ll do some simple movements that actually help me mobilize my spine and my hips, and I’ll do something, I’ll do some stretching, nothing really hard. And then a few times a week, I’ll do strength training, and I’ll do a Pilates. And you can see behind me, there’s a ladder behind me, maybe this way.
That’s something called a CoreAlign, and that was invented by a man named Jonathan Hoffman. I teach that also for a balanced body, and that’s where I learned, he came up with that concept of fix, fun, and foundation as a way to categorize exercises. He’s a physical therapist from Israel. And that’s really related to doing a lot of things upright. So I think the thing that I shifted for myself and my clients is I do a lot more things standing that are related to gait and walking, ’cause, think of the primary movement pattern we have in movement is walking.
So we wanna do that well and do it for our life. So we wanna include our feet, do stuff for our feet everyday. We’ve all lived in a world where we stuffed our feet in shoes for most of our life, and our feet are a sense organ, just like our hands. So they’re usually behind the rest of our body in awareness, and they’re the first part of the body that hits the ground when you walk. The bones of the feet are designed to move and change as you apply pressure and weight to your foot, and that has an effect all the way up to your head, every step you take.
So I think it’s vital to work with our feet to affect the rest of our body in a good way. Our balance, our movement quality, our health, all that, our lower back, all related. And just feeling, you know, you can study, what happens, like, potential pitfalls as we get older, falling and balance is a big one for people as they age. So working with the feet and balancing better and loading the hips and standing exercises is pretty critical. And again, it doesn’t need to be super hard, but it needs to be done often.
Coming back to the joint mobility, embodied learning, what I’ve learned from the Franklin Method is if you wanna learn about your anatomy, it’s one thing to learn about the topographical anatomy. Okay, here’s an anatomy chart. Yep, here’s my femur head, here’s my pelvis. That’s just the beginning. That’s topographical anatomy.
That doesn’t necessarily help you embody your anatomy any differently. So the difference with the Franklin Method is you do embodied anatomy, when you learn where things are, you use touch, movement, and imagery to sense, feel the dynamics of each part of the body, so your nervous system, your attention, your touch, your movement all come together to upgrade how you’re using yourself. And I think that’s brilliant. You know, I’ve read research around the number-one thing that changes our brain is our attention. Then if you have some healthy information, and I firmly believe now that people don’t have an attention problem as much as we maybe thought.
I think they have a lack of understanding of where to put their attention. So in terms of the body, if you learn and really understand how your body’s designed in an approachable, functional way, then you apply some movement, and then maybe some of the anatomical, but then if you add in qualities of movement as images, like fluid, strong, graceful, all of those things enhance your experience and the quality of how you use yourself. And that’s a practice in itself. We tend to focus, because we’re designed to look for the threat for survival, nothing wrong there, but that part of us is really well developed. I mean, how often do we have conversations where we’ll lament about the world?
We’ll riff away on how fucked up the world is, (Tom laughs) and then to talk about what’s going well and apply that to our body, we can be a little bit limited in even what to say. Like, when was the last time you asked somebody how’s their spine and they say, “Oh, my spine’s like a string of pearls. “It feels amazing. “It’s fluid, it’s organized. “It feels so sexy and spacious, and holy crap, how’s yours?” (both laughing) You know what I mean?
But I think we need to do more of that. You might think I’m crazy if I said that, but the truth is, that’s actually healthy. (Tom laughs) You know, the next time I meet somebody, I’m gonna ask them how their spine’s doing. (Tom laughs) I wanna make sure that we have time for questions from the audience today, but before we do Q&A, I’d really like to hear from you, how did you get connected with the Modern Elder Academy, and perhaps for people who aren’t familiar with it, can you tell us about the Modern Elder Academy? Okay, yeah.
I just wanna read you a little piece about the Modern Elders so you can hear what it is, ’cause they write it a lot better than me. “The Modern Elder Academy “is the world’s first midlife business school. “It’s dedicated to helping people navigate the various “transitions that happen in the middle of one’s life. “The academy is a social enterprise “focused on socioeconomic diversity, “because we believe wisdom isn’t taught; it’s shared, “and the more unique souls you have in a room, “the more interesting the conversation. “Scholarships are offered to at least 50% of our students, “and the net result is an active alum community “of mid-lifers from 30 to 78 years old,” that’s the range so far, “yes, midlife has become “a marathon, who are wielding wisdom well.” So that’s really kind of, and you can check it out at Modern Elder Academy’s website.
So that’s kind of their mission. And I got connected ’cause my brother-in-law is an executive coach, and he was asked to go down and be a guest speaker and teacher for one of their weeks in Baja. He was speaking to Chip Conley, who’s the founder of the Modern Elder Academy. He said, “Wow, you should really “talk to my brother-in-law Tom, “’cause he can bring in some knowledge about the body “into your program to make it feel a little more balanced.” So I got on the phone with Chip, and we had a great conversation. Within 10 minutes, he said, “Why don’t you come down and teach?” And I said okay.
I mean, I’d never met him in person. Then I went down and I taught with his co-founder Jeff Hamaoui, who’s another fantastic guy. We had an amazing week, and I’ve been teaching for them since 2019 now. Because of COVID, everything shifted, and they did mainly online programs for the last two years. But now they’re opening up their campus back into their week-long courses.
They also have online courses, and they have something called a “sab sesh,” which is like an extended stay version in Baja, where it’s more an open program. There’s more space in between. So they have all these various options, and they’re actually creating another campus outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Highly recommend people look into it. It’s an incredible community of people that have, I feel like they’re looking at how we collaborate in this world in a way that’s brilliant.
Tell me a little bit about the week-long course that you’re teaching in November. I’ll be teaching, so the week-long course is really looking at where you’re at in your life. Christine Sperber, who’s another one of the founders, will be co-teaching with me. Each day has a theme around stages of your life, like where are you at. Really explaining the life cycle is part of day one, where in reality, if you’re an adult when you’re 20, and you live to 80, when you’re 50, you’re only halfway through your adult life.
So what are you gonna do with that life, that second half? So you get an opportunity to kind of explore that in a community with people, and every day just has these great pieces of ways of looking at your life and what’s important to you now with this real positive inquiry. My piece will be, I’ll be sharing, I’ll be teaching sections, three-hour sections on body wisdom embodiment as part of the week-long course. I’ll bring in movement every day in the classroom along with my longer sessions that I’ll be teaching as part of the program. So I’ve done it a few times down there.
It’s been really a great experience, and the feedback’s been great. Fantastic. I think you mentioned it both being online and in-person. Can you talk about the online course that’s coming up? Yeah, the online course coming up that I’m offering begins next Wednesday.
It’s four 90-minute sessions where each segment will be dedicated to learning specific things about the body. Week one will be the pelvis and feet, how do we work with that, and I’m gonna combine that embodied learning that I mentioned, the Franklin Method, with exercises that relate to improving function with Franklin balls and Therabands, and then also, a practice called centering, which is a somatic practice. I’m also a somatic coach through the Strozzi Institute of Somatic Coaching. Somatics just really means your life in its wholeness, body, mind, spirit, and how do I create a practice around tapping into that natural intelligence by learning to feel myself more, and then tie that to what’s important to you now in my life. And I’ll teach this centering practice, which is really a standing practice.
You can consider it a standing meditation around four organizing principles of length, width, depth, and purpose, like, what’s important now. That’ll be the first week, and inside of that first week, we all connect with the other students in the course. You get handouts for that. The video for every week will be included for you for life. Week two will be the spine and breathing, where we do how that works, practices, and then combine it with exercise.
Week three will be shoulders, neck, and posture, and then week four will be an integration of all of ’em, of how could I do all that in one practice? And you’ll have that video for life, and I think you’ll find it really useful if you choose to join us. Great. I think you said you were gonna help people out with a promotional code, is that right? Yes, yes.
So there’s a, I think I sent it to you guys. It’s like a $50 promotional code. So if any of you guys decide you’d like to join me, you get $50 off of the current cost to help you find it enticing and good for you. And then, yeah, I think the fact that these pieces, for me, teaching all the years I’ve been teaching, the parts that I’m building into the program around embodied anatomy I feel are the pieces that people need to learn to apply to anything they’re doing physical. So that way, you have the skills to fish for yourself, and that’s really what’s important to me at this point in my life, is helping people empower themselves.
I hope you find it. I hope you join. The code is MOVE50, 5-0, not the word “fifty,” but M-O-V-E, and then five, number five and zero, 5-0. We will be publishing the video tonight, and we’re getting a transcription as well. I encourage everybody to put questions into the chat here.
I’m very happy to ask them of Tom. A question for you, Tom. How much do you teach during a typical week? What does a typical week of teaching look like for you? I teach Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays.
I teach Tuesday and Wednesday at my studio. I teach five to six sessions, and then I teach online from my house on Thursdays. I teach another five to six sessions. And then I teach on Friday, either a few sessions, or beginning in the fall, from the fall ’til early May, I teach a series of Fridays of teacher trainings, and that’s both online and in-person. So I teach three to four days a week.
I live an hour from my studio, and my studio is in Silicon Valley, in Mountain View, Center of Balance. So I teach a series of, in those house that I teach, I teach about eight groups a week, a combination of equipment groups, CoreAlign, and then there are some private sessions and some mentoring for students. I have a lot of teachers in my groups that have been working with me for a long time, and we have a great staff at our studio, so I feel very fortunate that I look forward to going to work. I love our studio. Yeah, you are very fortunate.
And you were recently filming with us here at Pilates Anytime, and we talked. We haven’t quite published the content yet. We have ’til September. Can you just give us a summary of what you taught? Yeah, I did six classes.
I’ve got six new classes coming out. That was a body of work in itself. I have one on the mat with a Theraband, one on the mat with upper body strength and balance as a focus, one on the mat related to gait and function, improving gait function, one on the mat with the Magic Circle and Franklin balls. Again, all of these come into the heading of what I just mentioned where I include mobility, and functional approach to the body is the backdrop of where I’m coming from with how I create my sequences. And then I have a functional Reformer.
This is number four. I had three previous ones under that heading of function. The Reformer, this is number four, a nice balanced work out with a lot of hip extension and work on the pelvic strength and gait. Then I have a mat sequence on the roller. It’s a combination of tension release, balance work, and strength work on the roller.
So I think you’ll find those, I hope you find ’em useful. Let me know if you check ’em out, and I’m looking forward to those guys coming out. That’ll be fun. And that’ll put me at 55, 55 videos and tutorials for Pilates Anytime. That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, thank you for all the wisdom that you’ve shared with us. I encourage people to ask any last questions. Tom, I’m not seeing more questions come in. Is there any other wisdom or advice you’d like to share to help us actively age? Get curious about yourself.
Say you wake up with tension in your back. Like, say you wake up and you feel some discomfort. The mistake I believe that we do when we’re in that state is to not move. My strong advice to you is when you’re feeling an area of your body where you have some tension or some discomfort is put your attention on that area of your body and do some gentle, smooth movements in that area in all directions that it’s designed to move, smooth and fluid, until you start to feel the change. Say it’s your lower back.
Put your hands on your lower back, and then flex and extend your lower back really slowly with your knees bent, side bend. Make your range small enough that you’re not amplifying the pain. And you start to notice that it starts to change, and you just start to empower yourself. If you ever wanna join me for mat classes, I teach a tuesday/thursday mat class on centerofbalance.com. It’s just a Zoom class.
There’s no props included, but I include a lot of this stuff in my mat class. So that’s another option if you wanna get a flavor of just doing functional movement on a live class. You can do that with me too if you like. But that would be my suggestion to you, is do stuff for your posture every day. When you’re sitting, get up on your sit bones, and be curious about your relationship with gravity.
Yeah, what else would I say? I find, I think a lot of you probably feel the same, you discover this, is the more you start to understand your body, you get to see how brilliant it is, and then you have a lot more respect for it, and that we are our body. We’re not really next to it. So true. I have another question here from Sarah.
“I’m taking the Pilates instructor certification. “What other certifications “would you recommend to teach Pilates?” Franklin Method year one, I would recommend. That’ll enhance anything that you’ve done, ’cause you’ll get an understanding of using imagery, the dynamics of all the bones in the body, and then it’ll change your cuing and how to lead people into exercise and how to have them touch themselves appropriately to understand their own body. I think you’ll find that really useful. Another question here from Roxanna.
I hope I said your name right. “What are good strategies to incorporate “for sharing this knowledge, “understanding into a group class with older adults? “Is offering about why and how “as we guide the student groups through experiences useful?” Hmm, good question. I always start by asking people what do they want to improve. I don’t make the assumption that they wanna, you know, if you’re a movement nerd like I am, and a lot of you guys teach movement, you can make the assumption that people are really interested in learning all this anatomy stuff, and I don’t think they are.
I think that they can become interested if you can apply the questions to them personally. What would they like to improve? You can even ask the group, “How many of you guys “ever experience neck and shoulder tension?” Everybody’s gonna raise their hand. “Would you like to learn some tools “to let go of shoulder and neck tension? “How many of you guys have pain in your lower back?
(Tom laughs) “How would you like to learn some tools “and some exercises that’ll really help you with that?” They say, “Yeah, okay.” I say, “Here’s what I recommend. “But what we’re about to do next, “I want you to really pay attention and again, move slow “and smooth so you can get the most benefit out of that. “Would you be willing to do that?” Now you’re including them in the conversation instead of assuming that you know what they need, but it hasn’t been communicated out loud. Have them engage with you about what they want and what they’re interested. Let them expose their fears and their decisions they’ve made about their bodies so you can start to give them better choices or more choices that will liberate them a little bit.
It might be still doing the same exercises, but you change the mood, you change the focus, and you’ve empowered them to actually notice that they have some say and that what they want is actually important. So that’s my suggestion, is really include them. ‘Cause you’re gonna get a lot of wisdom from the people in the room, in any room you teach, by asking them questions. They say, “Well, you know, you know, that’s really helpful.” We have another question here from Rosanna. “When you say be curious about your relationship “with gravity, do you mean moving in different orientations “like lying, standing, versus sitting, et cetera?
“What do you mean by “curious about your relationship with gravity?” Okay, good question. So in terms of, one would be, how do you stand? How do you bear weight? Can you have the weight be even on the front and the back of your feet? Where do you hold tension?
How’s your alignment? When you’re moving through space, can you stay low in your body? Can you move through the middle? How do you move in each direction? How do you move into flexion, extension?
How do you hip flex when you lift your knees? So just being curious about, how do you relate to gravity, just in standing and sitting, and also when you move. How is that being performed? Is it a struggle? Is there strain?
Is your balance impaired? Are you kind of top-heavy holding tension? So you can kind of just pose questions and notice, like, when somebody’s standing, just asking them, where is the weight when you stand on your feet? ‘Cause we have three key weight-bearing points in our foot. We’ve got the ball behind our big toe, this is my pseudo-foot, the ball behind your little toe, and your heel.
That’s like a triangle on each foot, and those are your key weight-bearing points in the feet. So you can direct people just to those three points and say, you know, if you’re looking down from the ceiling, and your foot was making the imprint on the floor, what’s the imprint that you’re noticing right now? You might notice one foot’s very different than the other. And that’s gonna inform you as a teacher. Let’s say my left heel and my left big toe are loaded, but my right outer front and my right heel are loaded.
That’s just gonna tell you that’s there’s a little bit of rotation of the body towards the right. So just that information is good for you to know as a teacher, but for the client to know, “Oh, I do. “I kind of lean and twist up.” So that’s like I was mentioning earlier. Choice follows awareness. Step one for all of us is to notice what we’re doing.
How are we relating to gravity? Do we stand on one leg? Do we cross one knee, leg over the other when we’re sitting, which hikes one hip and bends the spine, and we spend a lot of time like that? Those things tend to create more imbalances than what we’re doing while we exercise, how we’re spending long periods of time inside of our days outside of alignment. So awareness is really key.
I hope that’s helpful. Thank you, Tom. A question here from Judy. “You mentioned you have 30 years of Pilates experience. “What other credentials do you have?” I’m a nationally centered body worker.
I studied cranial therapy, somatic coaching. I’m a faculty of the Franklin Method. I’ve done all three years of Franklin Method. I’ve studied ELDOA, which is a form of fascial stretching, resistive stretching. So I’m not a physical therapist.
I’m just a movement teacher. I did a 4.5-year apprenticeship in Feldenkrais, structural body work, and cranial therapy from 1991 to ’95, and I’ve been studying somatics since 1990 with the Strozzi Institute. So the Strozzi Institute and the somatic piece of feeling our own livingness has always been the backdrop for me around exercises and still bringing that inner quality of helping people feel themselves. It’s always been more interesting to me about who we’re being as human beings instead of about just being fit. Like, my teacher would often say, “You know, you can be “really well aligned and still not be a very nice person.
So for me, (Tom laughs) it’s actually, like, that piece is an important piece to include for me, is like, are you cultivating compassion and empathy and a sense of agency around who you’re being in the world? That to me is, especially the older I get, it becomes more and more important. Cool, and I agree with you, thank you. Elise has a question about the Modern Elder Academy. “I’m so excited to try the Modern Elder Academy in Santa Fe.
“Is it already up and running?” I think it’s still in the building stage. They have a big ranch that they’ve purchased outside of Santa Fe, and I think the programs there I believe are gonna happen, you can’t quote me on this, but I believe starting in 2023 or ’24. I don’t believe that their programs are up and running yet, but they’ll be coming. I think they’ll have some information on their website about that that you can check out to see where they’re at in that development stage. But it’s pretty exciting, yeah.
Question from Roxanna. “Where can I find more information on fascia stretching? “What is the name of that method again?” ELDOA. ELDOA is an acronym. It’s E-L-D-O-A.
Just look up E-L-D-O-A, and it’s just a system of stretching created by an osteopath named Guy Voyer. Guy is basically guy in American, G-U-Y. Voyer is V-O-Y-E-R, Guy Voyer. He’s from Canada, and he’s an osteopath. So he has a system of level one, level two, level three, level four.
He has a whole somatic training. It has lots of levels. But you can find some clips on YouTube, so you can look it up on YouTube, ELDOA, and you can find some clips on it. Stuff for L5-S1, some nice stretches for the neck with the lower back that are really effective. Check it out.
If you have any difficulty, just send me an email, email@example.com. I’d be happy to direct you if you have any difficulty finding that. But it’s useful. It’s stuff I use a lot with my clients that are especially recovering from lower back problems or postural issues in their neck. It helps you strengthen the deep neck flexors, elongate and create more space in the spine.
It’s very helpful. Yeah, cool. Thank you so much. I think I’ve got one more question coming in here. As soon as I’ve got it, then I will ask it.
“What are your thoughts about the Feldenkrais Method?” I like it. You know, I studied it in the ’90s and ’95, and for me at the time, it was really useful for me, ’cause I was coming out of a lot of weightlifting ad body building at this time. This was in my, you know, my late 20s. So it was really an exploration on how to let go of tension and explore movement and de-armor the body. So I did an apprenticeship where we did three hours every Monday morning, where we did an hour-and-a-half ATM class, which means awareness through movement class, which is an exploration class, then an hour and a half of table work where we did manual therapy on each other for an hour and a half.
So I did that for four and a half years. So I find it really useful. My suggestion, though, and that comes through in my teaching, because I teach more experientially, and the way that I teach is strongly influenced from what I learned from that, from Feldenkrais. But my recommendation is if you haven’t experienced it, go get a few lessons from somebody or take some awareness through movement classes, just to see your own feel for it. I found for me at this point, I like the Franklin Method.
I found it more appropriate for teaching Pilates or if you’re teaching movement, ’cause I found the structure of the pedagogy I just found resonated with me more, ’cause you’re teaching people a clear way how to understand their body, and you’re applying it to what you’re gonna do with them. The Feldenkrais Method is a little more experiential in the movements, so it’s not as structured. Even though it’s great, you know, sure, it’s changed and improved since I took it, but I thought it was really helpful for me at the time. But I would strongly go for, have an experience yourself and see what you think, yeah. Thank you.
This is gonna be my last question, ’cause we’re running up on the hour here. This one’s from Susan. “My question is about breathing. “Some clients complain about dizziness. “Why is that?” Yeah, so dizziness can be they’re hyperventilating, so they’re not used to getting that much oxygen.
So have them slow down and make sure their breathing’s not forceful. So make sure they’re not forcing breath in or forcing breath out. Have them practice it lying down or sitting so they feel safe. But you can make it very gentle. Like, put their hand on their belly and just like, you know, breathe into your hand, feel the movement.
Put your hands on your side ribs. Now breathe into your hands. It doesn’t have to be, (Tom inhales sharply) extreme at all. Just go slow and smooth, and then let the exhale be slow and smooth where they can feel the belly wall coming in and the emptying of the lungs. So it’s not aggressive.
I think the aggressive breathing in creates vasoconstriction in the brain, so then when you hyperventilate, you get vasoconstriction in the brain, so it actually is taking oxygen away from the brain. So that’s what makes you kinda dizzy. (Tom laughs) I think it’s kinda new for them, like, oh, shit, I’m maybe not used to breathing like that. So have ’em back it down a little bit. Well, thank you so much, Tom, for spending this time with us.
Great to be with you. Thank you, everybody. Take care. (upbeat rock music)