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Ask the expert: How do you integrate Fascial Movement Variables into your Pilates sessions?

Did you know that integrating Fascial Movement Variables into the Pilates practice can significantly enhance the overall effectiveness and experience for your clients?

The fascia, a network of connective tissues that supports and integrates every body part, is crucial for movement and flexibility. We spoke with Master Instructor Trainer PJ O’Clair to address a common question among Pilates instructors: How do you apply the knowledge gained from the Merrithew® Fascial Movement Foundation Course to your Pilates practice? With her extensive experience and deep understanding of fascial movement principles, PJ shares invaluable insights on integrating these concepts into your Pilates sessions.

Q: How do you integrate fascial movement principles into your Pilates classes?

A: When I teach a Pilates session, I adhere to the STOTT PILATES® repertoire. However, several concepts from the Merrithew Fascial Movement Variables complement the STOTT PILATES programming. For example, with the fascial movement variable "Expand," we discuss how muscles do not act in isolation but are linked together by connective tissue structures that form myofascial (muscles and fascia) slings or continuities throughout the body.

In a Pilates mat-based class, when teaching the obliques exercise, I highlight how the movement engages the fascial connections. I ask clients to notice the tension that develops across the abdominal wall and extends into the inner thigh on the opposite side as they flex and rotate their spine. This tension arises from how forces are transmitted through the fascia, demonstrating the interconnected nature of our muscular and fascial systems. By understanding and feeling these connections, clients can improve their movement efficiency and overall body awareness.

Q: What techniques from the Merrithew Fascial Movement Course have you found most beneficial in your practice?

A: There are so many useful techniques, but I find swing patterns to be the most beneficial in my practice. Swing patterns tap into the stored kinetic or elastic energy within the fascial connective tissue structures. Simple arm and leg swings promote tissue hydration and can help break down adhesions that may exist in the fascia caused by injury, surgery, poor posture, lack of movement or even overuse. Swing patterns are easy to teach and are great for clients to incorporate into their home routines.

Q: How has your understanding of fascial movement influenced your teaching approach?

A: Understanding that fascia adapts to the stresses placed upon it, just like our bones and muscles, has profoundly affected my teaching. Fascia is often referred to as the glue that holds everything together, yet it hasn’t received the same focus or respect as the musculoskeletal system. Fascia is not only the glue but also the microenvironment in which our cells live. Cells play a vital role in our fascial system as the architects that build our body’s internal scaffolding, responding to internal stimuli. As movement practitioners, we can influence some of this cellular behavior with our programming. We explore this in the course through all four Fascial Movement Variables: Bounce, Sense, Expand and Hydrate.

Q: Do you have any specific sequences that you particularly enjoy teaching based on what you learned in the Fascial Movement Course?

A: Recovery is trending across many consumer platforms, with new boutique facilities offering services such as stretching, red light treatments, compression and subzero cyber chambers. These treatments are all designed to enhance tissue rehydration and recovery. In the Merrithew Fascial Movement Course, you learn simple fascial movement techniques using inexpensive tools and props that can yield some of the same amazing results found in more expensive recovery boutiques. Activities taught in the course, such as focused breathing using bands and balls, contoured rolling, vibration tools and oscillatory movements, all bring about tissue rehydration and greatly assist in recovery.

Q: Could you share any success stories where you have applied concepts from the Merrithew Fascial Movement Course?

A: The most concrete and heartwarming success stories come from my clients recovering from cancer treatments. The two Fascial Movement Variables, Bounce and Sense, have been instrumental in my clients’ physical and emotional recovery. In the Bounce Variable, we use various Mini Stability Balls to create gentle oscillations in the extracellular matrix, which help promote circulation and lymphatic drainage. The Sense Variable has several focused breathing exercises that can help balance the autonomic nervous systems by promoting para-sympathetic activity.

PJ encourages instructors who have completed the Merrithew Fascial Movement Course to incorporate fascia in their classes and private sessions. This focus helps clients better understand their bodies, including how to breathe, exercise and recover more effectively. As more instructors emphasize the importance of fascia in overall health, awareness will grow, leading to increased demand for knowledgeable professionals who can guide clients through these integrative practices.

Now that you’ve gained insight into how to incorporate fascial movement variables into your Pilates practice, dive deep into the Merrithew Fascial Movement Foundation Course to unlock the next level of your Pilates practice.

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