Disclaimer: The exercises/movements in this post may or may not be appropriate for your body at this time. Please consult your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
With so much talk about inversion technique, it's worth mentioning one powerful force in the body - the back line. The back line is a line of fascia (connective tissue) running from the heels all the way up the back body and over the skull to the eyebrows. Fascial lines of connective tissue allows muscles to fire in a chain of succession, or “link system.” When muscles fire in succession from one end to the other, the body is more supported and can move more efficiently.
In many bodies, the back line of fascia is stretched out and underutilized because our society is forward flexion-focused. Repetitive sitting, driving, or using technology (computers and cell phones) reinforces a hunched posture that prevents us from moving in a balanced way.
But what is balanced movement anyway? Entire books have been written about this topic, but this post will focus on how the front and back lines of fascia should be working together to support inversions.
Here is our balance focus today: When one line shortens, the other lengthens, so the tissues adjust on BOTH sides of the body to create support. For example, when you do abdominal work from a supine (lying) position, it’s not all about the front line shortening - the back line lengthens also to support your movement. This lengthening is a process of toning eccentrically (while elongating). Try this:
1. AB CURL
A. Lie supine (on your back, feet on the floor, knees to the ceiling). Do a small abdominal curl. Take a moment to notice how this movement feels. (I know...I have a little rib flare in this version).
B. Now, try the ab curl again, but this time imagining you have a hammock holding your back. Press your head back into your hands for the entire movement. Lengthen through the spine BEFORE curling. What do you notice? (In the video I am using a deep exhale to fire the transverse abdominals to further support the movement. I am also working in neutral pelvis/spine, not posterior pelvic tilt).
Of course, there are a lot of other cues one could offer to create a more supported abdominal curl. But this post is targeting the back line, so we will stay on topic.
2. TEASER TO JACK KNIFE.
A. Begin in teaser (V shape). Begin to roll onto your back, then lift the legs and hips into a Jack Knife position. Then roll down back to your start position. What did you feel?
B. Now, try the exercise again. This time, press your arms firmly into the ground, and lift the thigh bones away from your center. What does this feel like? (Note - The backs of my shoulders don't touch the ground yet - I'm still working on it! But your shoulders should touch the ground.)
The Back Line in Movement
You can access your back line as a source of support in both of these exercises. The cues in Part B of each exercise hopefully made your back line more accessible, or more apt to engage. When we use both the front and back lines of our bodies, we can access more challenging aerial movement (like inversions) with full support and power.
What did you experience in these exercises? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Want to know more? Try a mentor hour, or get the scoop in one of our live teacher trainings.
Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers
The Classical Pilates Method - The Pilates Center, Boulder, CO
The holiday season and ritual viewing of the Muppet’s Christmas Carol got me thinking about how our past experiences impact the teaching methods we use today.
Have you ever caught yourself repeating things your parents or teachers used to say? I’ve noticed myself speaking in the same rhythms and cadences of my past teachers. One of my teachers said she felt like her own teacher’s ghost was on her shoulder!
The sayings and mannerisms we inherit from our teachers could be supportive and appropriately challenging; critical and unsupportive, or even neutral. It’s amazing the powerful influence of a teacher, and how learnings get passed down through generations.
To clarify a bias, Born to Fly values a supportive yet challenging approach to teaching aerial arts. We believe that learning can only happen when a student is comfortable and generally not stressed. While a low level of stress is to be expected when learning something new, our goal is to give students some choices about participation so they don't enter crisis mode. At the same time, we don't promote coddling students, or letting them do whatever they want because learning aerial arts does require discipline and specific progressions for safety and growth. Overall, we encourage a balance of support and challenge in the aerial class (see yoga instructor Francesca Cervero's work for more on this concept).
When the teaching methods we use from our former teachers are supportive, this is a great thing! But sometimes, unsupportive methods or comments can creep in. Here are some questions you might ask about how you may have been influenced by former teachers and parents, and even how your own self-talk comes into play. Once you've looked at your values and habits inherited from teachers and parents, you can consciously evaluate whether or not these “ghosts” serve you. The questions can be answered in any order, and you are free to skip questions.
What are some sayings or mannerisms you've inherited from your teachers?
List these patterns out on paper. Think about how these sayings influenced you as a student and now as a teacher. List everything, but please don’t judge yourself! This is not the time to self-criticize. Looking at what is there is the first step to finding your power and connecting with who you really want to be.
Would you say these mannerisms are supportive, unsupportive, or neutral? Are these mannerisms serving you as a teacher?
Label each one individually. Most people will have a combination of supportive and unsupportive mannerisms. Please note that challenging a student does not mean being unsupportive - sometimes that student needs to recognize that they can stand on their own two feet, and challenging them can be the most supportive thing to do in that situation. Knowing when to support a student or challenge a student can be a tricky thing, and it can change moment to moment. (This is why reflection after each class is vital to your growth as an instructor, but I digress!)
What were the philosophies/values of your teachers and parents?
Did your teacher use a strict/authoritarian approach? Did you have a coddling teacher who let you do whatever you wanted? Did your teacher offer a balance of appropriate support and challenge? Perhaps you have had teachers with different approaches, and you wish to examine each one individually. Do keep in mind that no teacher or parent is perfect, and that everyone is only human.
How do you talk to yourself when you are struggling?
We often internalize our parents, teachers, and other authority figures when correcting or modifying our behavior. When talking yourself through a struggle, do you say encouraging things like, “I’ll get it next time,” or, “I’m learning a lot because this is challenging"? Or do you say things like “I’m not good enough,” I always mess things up,” or “I’m a bad person”? How we talk to ourselves is not just a reflection of our personality and how we were corrected growing up, but often it impacts how we teach.
Are there any connections between your own self-talk and how teachers corrected you?
You might make a visual representation, drawing lines from philosophies/values on one side of the page to your own self-talk on the other side.
What kind of teacher do you want to be?
Why do you teach? What kind of “ghost” do you want to be for your students and their students, and their students' students? What does a supportive teacher do/say? You could create a vision board (cutting out magazine photos and words) that represent the kind of teacher you want to be, and the messages you want to be passed down through generations.
What action could you take now?
Based on your reflections, what action do you want to take? Could you spend more time with teachers you admire? Do you want to change your internal self-talk so that you are supporting yourself more thoroughly? If this blog post triggered strong emotions, please talk to someone such as a trusted friend or professional counselor. And remember…examining our teaching practice is a lifelong process. You are not alone, and the Born to Fly Network is here to support you and your teaching in any way that we can.
Note: Further discussion of this topic can also be found in the Aerial Teacher’s Handbook in Chapter 1: Why Teach?
Our authors include our Master Teacher Trainers as well as Born to Fly™ Certified Teachers.